Teacher Strike Update…

As of today, my kids have missed a full week of school due to the teacher walkout. I was pretty frustrated last week with the whole situation. Fast forward a week and we got a call that kids wouldn’t be going to school tomorrow – for the 6th day. My frustrations have escalated and my support of this movement is in rapid decline.

There was a town hall meeting Monday where parents and educators were told if they could be back in the classroom by Thursday there wouldn’t be any make up days for elementary and junior high. We’ve now missed that window.

Meanwhile – we are in full summer break mode around here. Kids are pool hopping, late nights with friends, going to parks every day. I’m doing everything I can to entertain these kids while school is looming over their heads – but unlike summer break, we can’t really go anywhere. We have no idea if tomorrow is the day they’ll have to return so we’re hanging around and trying to make the best of it. The problem is the kid’s educational momentum has been completely shot. Good luck trying to get these kids to come back and really focus for 2 1/2 weeks of school – especially when we all know the last week is anything but educational.

Hallie’s ginormous and capstone world fair project has been sitting on the dining table mostly done for a week and a half. We got an email from her teacher this morning saying it was likely we would be back in session tomorrow  – she started putting the finishing touches on it until we got the phone call about no school tomorrow so the project was immediately abandoned.

Bennett’s star student project has been sitting on my desk for a week and a half – his star student day has come and passed. Bennett’s also supposed to have his end of the year math testing upon his return – which I’m sure the kids will feel totally prepared for.

Whenever they do end up back in school I doubt a whole lot is going to get accomplished – its going to take the kids at least a week to adjust to being back at school. Its the whole reason our district chooses to have spring break and fall break in between quarters. Too much is lost in a weeks time.

I’m frustrated. And every parent I’ve talked to is in the same boat. Ironically, we got an email flyer this morning advertising teacher appreciation next week and all the things we should do for the teachers specifically every day. Hmmm…poor timing on the email. Lets just hope we are in the classroom next week.

We love our teachers. We support our teachers with our time, talents and financial contributions. I think my frustration has shifted in feeling as though the teacher’s right to walk out has superseded my kid’s right to his/her education. What right do we as parent’s and students really have in the situation? The government’s voice has been clear – they’re working on it. The teacher’s voice has been clear – we’ll go back once you show us that you’ve actually worked on it. And then you have the parent’s and kids – what’s our right? Where’s our voice?

Teacher strike…

Be prepared – rant ahead. Not something that I typically focus on here – but it’s been heavy on my mind for a few weeks and it’s all coming to a head.

If you’ve watched the news recently, you’ve probably noticed that Arizona is struggling in the education department. Today marked day one of the teacher walk-out – which closed the schools. (We are a right to work state and being a part of the teacher union is voluntary. Less than half of teachers are part of the AEA.) We got a call this evening that we’ll be closed again tomorrow. In fact we’re closed until the teachers come back.

What started as a rally to support teachers has blown up into something much larger than they could’ve ever imagined and it still might not work out how they’re hoping. It’s a mess and I’m frustrated.

It seems to be the perfect storm. The state cut funds when the recession hit and schools have a taken the hit, even with the recovery of the economy, the money hasn’t made it’s way back into the schools. Teachers haven’t had raises. Schools need updates and repairs. They need more teacher support. The list could go on and on…and it does. We spend far more money incarcerating individuals than we do educating them. It’s sad.

Add to that we have the largest school district in the state, with almost 64,000 students, in 84 schools and I wouldn’t say they’re managing their budget very well. I spent a lot of time reading through the 2016 financial audit of the school district and it opened my eyes. It takes a lot of money to run a district this size but there is also so much waste. There is no getting around it – the district has put money into programs that they’ve put as a priority over the teachers.

On top of it all – the district has it’s back against the wall because it feels the need to provide so much where they feel it isn’t being provided at home. It’s one thing to provide food while at school, but then also free after school programs for working parents and busing situations outside our district and laptops for the students to have at home…its all so expensive. Yet the district obviously feels the need to compensate for family situations, but that ends up being the majority of our district. We are a high needs district. Unfortunately, they can’t do it without sacrificing something else and I can’t help but feel the teachers have partly been that sacrifice.

Of course the district blames the state. If they were to get more funding, they would pass it down to the teachers. But I’m not confident that would be the case. Throwing more funds at an already mishandled financial situation is not going to solve the problem. We have passed several bonds over the years and every time they’re advertised as making up for lost funds from the state. The 2012 bond was for $230 million dollars for capital improvements and buses and technology. And yet it’s never enough. It never will be.

Lets be clear – teachers deserve the world. They are shaping the future and making a difference in our children’s lives. They deserve active parent participation. They deserve our support in the classroom, they deserve our support in helping our kids at home. They deserve to be compensated well.

When this movement started they really pushed that this was for the kids. To create a better school environment for the kids. And I was all for that. Pay our teachers more. (even better is if its based on merit and qualifications instead of a blanket raise like originally requested.) Give them the support they need. But then when the prospect of getting what they asked for was being pushed to them, the demands started to change. Even my kids teachers are not in support of whats taking place now. It’s not about the kids anymore. It’s political and there’s a power struggle and the kids are no longer the purpose of it all – instead, they’re the pawns.

It has become ridiculous and the longer it goes on the more angry and less supportive parents are going to be. When a teacher from our school was asked, “what’s your end game? When are the teachers going to be willing to walk back in those doors?” She didn’t know. She’s not sure at what point the know they got what they wanted. That’s frustrating as a parent. Fight for what you know is right but you’ve got to know what you’re fighting for exactly. If the state turned around tomorrow and gave you and your support staff a solid raise would this be done? “Well, how do we know how sustainable that raise will be?” How does anyone in any industry know how sustainable a raise will be 5 or 10 years from now. Once again – the kids are just pawns at this point. (especially when this took place during their large curriculum testing week and we’re told because of the walkout there wouldn’t be any make-up days – they would just not be tested on certain sections).

It’s the perfect storm and it’s ugly. There are heated arguments and discussions coming from both sides and it you don’t support the walk-out then you hate the teachers and if you support the walk-out you’re ignorant and selfish. It’s exhausting and consuming on all accounts.

And now the district wants to make sure we’re all aware that every day the teachers aren’t willing to teach is a day that will be made up at the end of the school year and into the summer. The days that many families and teachers have already planned to be on vacation and won’t be in attendance.

Here’s to hoping our legislation can come up with a solution quickly and that the teachers can get back in the classroom and that our district can start plugging the holes in the bucket of expenditures that is spilling out money. Because if not we’ll be in this position again 10 years from now. All wishful thinking I suppose.

Rant over. For now.

Flat Stanley…from Minnesota…

We had a special visitor straight from the snow of Minnesota. Flat Stanley was more than willing to visit us during the most beautiful season that Arizona experiences – and thaw out for just a little bit. Like most spring visitors he frequented the pool daily, working on his base tan.

Flat Stanley

We showed Flat Stanley all the beauty of the season; oranges picked from the tree, the most sweet and fragrant orange blossoms, and beautiful blooming flowers.

We also introduced Flat Stanley to the dangers of Arizona – don’t get too close to the cac…too late! It didn’t take him long to learn that you never try to smell a cactus.

He hung around long enough to enjoy Easter egg hunts in luscious green grass – a luxury not enjoyed by most.

Sadly, our adventures with Flat Stanley had to come to an end. We bundled him up in his nice winter jacket and snowboots and sent him on his way. I’ve got a feeling he’ll come visit again!

As we tucked him away in his envelope I reminded Hunter of his Flat Stanley. He had no recollection of ever creating one or sending him off. We sent him to Colorado and my brother and his wife showed him a great time – the poem they wrote was the best. Any other Stanley’s want to come for a visit? He’ll learn to swim!

When I was searching for Hunter’s Flat Stanley pictures I came across a similar thing Steve did for our kids. It was before we knew of Flat Stanley – Steve gathered a little toy from each of the three kids (at the time) and he took those toys on the most amazing worldwide adventure and he chronicled their whole journey.

Grandparents day…

Although we live just a mile away from Steve’s parents, it was grandparents day at the school and my kids didn’t have any grandparents to go with them. Steve’s parents are out of the country and my parents are a thousand miles away which left them grandkid orphans. We’ve been in this situation before and we live in an area where so many grandparents are able to participate. Instead of watching all the other kids have fun with their grandparents – we adopt grandparents for the day.

grandparents day

This year, the kids chose a neighbor and good friend to be their stand-in grandma. She doesn’t have any grandkids that live close and we needed a grandma so it was a win-win. She brought lunch for them and sat for over an hour outside in the grass. Talking with the kids, watching them play and even adopting a few more kids while she was there that needed some love. Grandmas are in high demand!

My kids love their grandparents dearly – and wish they could be with them more often. But they also realize how fortunate they are to have people like Lynnette in theirs live to fill in the gaps.

grandparents day

All about me…Hunter style…

It seems as though every new school year my kids are assigned a get-to-know-you project. And when you stay in a school system with multiple kids you start to see the projects recycled. Hallie did an “All About me” poster and sure enough Hunter now in third grade had to make an “All About Me” poster. (Too bad we can’t recycle the material 😉 Kidding…kind of!)

Hunter was happy using his baptism announcement as his picture because he knows he looks good in that picture. After coming up with two sentences, I was born in…and favorite food… he thought he was done. I got him to think of just a few more so his all about me poster wasn’t empty. In no time he was done. No stressing. No worry. No dragging it out. It was done. Love this creative and efficient kid!

All about me poster

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