Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lament. (Lay-Offs Part I)

I'm heartsick for you.  I've been laid off before, and I know well those feelings of loss and uncertainty.  There are many of you who put your heart and soul into the work of educating our children, and many of us are grateful.  Grateful for your years of service in the face of a revolving door of short-time superintendents, unpredictable and sometimes foul-mouthed supervisors, constantly changing standards of performance shaped by the wind of whatever trendy un-tested education reform has come into vogue, unexpected promotions for questionable colleagues, a County Commission that undervalues the worth of educating our children or how much it costs to do so, and school boards up to their eyeballs in politics.

In the name of your commitment to our children, you've lost sleep, worked more hours at more difficult tasks than we paid you for, given up family time, comforted criers, maybe shed a few tears yourself, tried to decipher how to do your job better, assisted children with problems that we could not have imagined at that age, and often taken some level of abuse from our children, our elected (and appointed) state and local officials, parents, your bosses, and often self-proclaimed state and local "stakeholders" who have decided that they simply know better than you do.

I'm a supporter of the merger, and I remain a supporter of the merger.

There are a lot of folks who can directly blame the merger for their job loss, and are correct to do so.  Either s/he, or their counterpart on the other side of the building, was going to be notified that their service was no longer needed.  When both of those people were more than qualified, wonderfully talented, and so committed to their jobs that they worked in favor of the merger of their departments knowing that their job, and those that report to them, might not survive that merger - it's just heartbreaking.  We knew that day would come, but it doesn't make it less hard.  Thank you for your service.  It is valued.

But there's another batch of folks who have been made casualties not of the merger, but of unwillingness to acknowledge what it takes to educate children, what it takes to provide the educational services to which all of our children should be entitled, and who has been pulling the purse strings.  We just didn't have the votes, in the end, for the financial support to keep your job - and for a lot of jobs both in the classroom and the office.  I didn't see that coming. 

I thought that there might be some political games, some grandstanding, some cheap shots.  But I thought that when it came down to it, our politicos would act in good faith and fully fund the cost of public education in Shelby County.  Instead, they've used the merger to punish those with whom they disagree, hoping to lay the blame for the loss of your job at the feet of others.  They haven't convinced me that it's about fiscal responsibility, or about what tax burden we can bear - it's been about what political cost they can extract. 

And so you suffer.  And I know that your sense of loss is not just for yourself, but also reflects your concerns about whether the services that your position or your department provided to our children will continue with the remaining staff, and how the kids will respond, personally and academically, to reduced or discontinued services.  I share your concerns.  This level of funding will bear out a dimunition of educational services, and under Norris-Todd, I thought I understood that it simply couldn't happen.  Even after the Transition Planning Commission recommended increased class sizes and reduced educational services, I still thought that our elected officials would stand in opposition to actually forcing a reduction in educational services for our children.  It's no comfort to me that I'm not the only one who was wrong.  For this batch of folks, I am particularly heartbroken.  Your service is valued, and I wish our local elected officials valued it the same way, searching for a path for you to continue in your service of our children.

I'm praying for you and your families, hoping that you land on your feet, and sending you strength to keep your head high in honor of the work that you did and what you accomplished for our children.  Thank you for your work and for your sacrifice.

Here's Part II.

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