Thursday, March 28th, just after the first bell, my principal called all faculty to the computer lab for an unscheduled meeting. We had all been waiting for this day but thought it would be after Spring break. The decision of what would happen to our school and to us was about to be announced.
The principal started out by saying that no matter what he was about to tell us or what we hear from anyone; the community, cps, the union, the media, he knew that we were all valuable to the education of these children and that we are a strong family. Then he took a deep breath and said with tears in his eyes (this is a proud marine), "I don't know how to say this, so I will just read the letter from Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Then he read the letter that states that our school is going to be turned around through the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and that we are all being displaced/replaced at the end of the school year.
As what he had just read started to penetrate my head, my heart sank. We had all seriously thought we would be safe. He had led us to believe we were all safe because Barbara Byrd-Bennett had led him to believe we were safe. Since he took over the school 2 years ago the school statistics have made the highest improvement of all elementary schools in the city. The population of the school has doubled in 2 years and the Chicago Housing Authority is building housing 2 blocks away that will feed to our school in the next 2 years.
The others in the room started to ask questions. Two of our teachers are new this year from the displaced teacher pool after their schools were turned around previously and I have been through the application and interview process with AUSL. We 3 know what no one else in the room knows. We know that we will forever have a stigma attached to our names because our school is being turned around. We know that we will have to swallow whatever pride we might have and re-apply for our own jobs, hope we are asked to an awkward (group of 30-40 applicants) interview, hope that the 2 interviewers take notice of us as individuals and ask us to continue in the process, make it through 2 more interviews and then if hired, go through training on how to educate urban children successfully...haha. We know that 3 of our teachers who are only a few years from retirement will probably not see a happy end to their almost 40 year teaching careers.
My principal, the community, parents, students and our faculty/staff are fighting this decision. It is not a done deal until the final school board hearing at the end of May. If this does happen, as a part time teacher, I will be on my own with no union support or extended assistance from the school district. I will lose my tenure if I am not rehired in the district within one year of my hire date.
All I keep thinking is that it took me 12 years of teaching, 8 schools and 8 principals, some mediocre and a couple truly evil, to finally find one who is amazing to work with. He is a true leader and a cheerleader for us all and I have the utmost respect for him. The sadness that comes over me when I think of losing this principal and my school family is overwhelming. For today, our first day back after Spring Break, I am going to teach as best I know how and give my students the best of myself, because no matter what Mayor Emmanuel and the Chicago Board of Education thinks of the kids/people of North Lawndale, they deserve the best of me and the best of every other adult who loves them.