By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
EDUCATORS, DISGRUNTLED AND OTHERWISE
If you read Erin Aubry Kaplan’s rather disingenuous article “A Famed Reformer Resigns” [August 3–9], you can easily recognize the real reason behind reformer George McKenna’s resignation: “McKenna is technically on paid administrative leave from his $150,000-a-year job through next June, when his two-year contract expires.” Wow! Talk about fringe benefits! With a perk like that, who wouldn’t resign?
As one of those educators handpicked by McKenna to teach at Washington Preparatory High School (please, Erin, get the name right), I was constantly reminded that I was a “child advocate.” As such, I had to dismiss any personal concerns about working conditions, health, personal safety, economic security, etc., and put the interests of the students first. Very well. As an ardent believer in Chairman McKenna’s Great Leap Forward, I willingly accepted these conditions. Still, I can’t help thinking about what I could accomplish as a child advocate if I could get my hands on the $150,000 the LAUSD is paying McKenna to stay home and watch reruns of Denzel Washington in The George McKenna Story.
When former Mayor Richard Riordan’s handpicked candidates took control of the Board of Education, they awarded generous 20 to 40 percent raises to themselves and to high-ranking administrators. Then they recruited “reformers” to save the district. Suffice it to say, each reformer had his or her own personal agenda, one that involved hiring a small army of aides and assistants, including community activists, flush with a sense of pride, power and a God-given mandate. Naturally, those aides and assistants expected generous salaries, with bailout provisions in their contracts, and the community activists expected jobs for all their relatives. (With a limited number of high-paying sinecures, it’s no wonder we witness the sort of infighting and political intrigue documented in Kaplan’s article.)
In addition, what Kaplan labels “reforms” are often no such thing. Take McKenna’s requirement — apropos of nothing — that all teachers begin submitting weekly lesson plans. As a classroom teacher, I wouldn’t dream of setting foot in a classroom unless I’d prepared a syllabus for the entire year, not to mention daily or weekly updates when necessary. During the first month of school, however, I could expect my teaching assignments to change several times without prior notice, making my yearly lesson plans an exercise in futility. Then I would find much of my teaching time arrogantly pre-empted for other, nonacademic activities. As a consequence, I would accomplish in class only a fraction of what I had intended. As one of my colleagues put it, “We plan. They un-plan.”
I do not mean to deprecate McKenna. He’s a brilliant man — certainly more intelligent than stooges like myself who are lame-brained enough to choose to teach in the LAUSD’s worst schools because that’s where they’re “needed.” That mentality is a lousy way to get ahead in the LAUSD, and an excellent way to get an ulcer. The lesson for teachers is clear: Quit teaching. Instead, become an educational “reformer.”
—William Joseph Miller Los Angeles
Re: Howard Blume, Dave Perera and Dennis Dockstater’s “Manual Dexterity” [August 10–16]. Any attempt at balance when reporting on recent events at Manual Arts High School was artfully whisked away at the end of the story when the Weekly writers — choosing to leave readers with a sense of pervasive “despair” and “hopelessness” they erroneously believe exists at our school — quote a solitary faculty member “who said simply, ‘I hate my job.’”
That person’s truth is not shared by most of our staff, and I sincerely hope that my quotable colleague is professional enough to mask his or her true sentiments while working with our young people each day. And I pray fervently that this person finds suitable employment elsewhere sooner rather than later.
I think I speak for an overwhelming majority of the teachers at Manual Arts when I say, “I love my job.” It has its challenges, to be sure, but the rewards are plentiful enough to make it all worthwhile. The students we serve deserve the best, and despite considerable odds and adverse factors that are often beyond our control, we consistently deliver quality instruction. The mood here on campus is decidedly upbeat. I defy any objective reporter to spend quality time in our classrooms and conclude otherwise.
Let me issue the same caveat to Weekly consumers that I impart to my students: Read defensively. A selected quote may say it, and writers may write it, but that doesn’t necessarily make it so.
—David Williams Teacher, Manual Arts High School
Wendell C. Greer Jr. and Irene Anton did much to better Manual Arts High School. Under Dr. Greer’s leadership, Manual was recognized as a California Distinguished School. He is recognized and respected for his leadership in integrated technical education. And indeed, he probably helped some teachers more than others. Dr. Greer tended to aid those who brought added value to their â program or school, or provided something extra for their students.
Yes, it is not a perfect system. If you look for dirt, you will find it. But when was the last time you sent three reporters to cover some of the unique and successful programs at Manual Arts?