Who could this mysterious person be? November 23, 2010

At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to reprint this email, but it is fairly public in nature, so I will post it and post my reply to it as well. LASDI is an organization composed of retired teachers, union people, administrators, and members of the LA Chamber of Commerce who are commissioned to offer help to schools which are placed under the Board’s Public School Choice mandate.

November 22, 2010

The three Co-Directors of LASDI, Jim Blackwood, Shelley Weston, and I, had a conversation this morning about how to best provide LASDI support to Huntington Park HS. LASDI’s mission is to provide assistance to any school team at a PSC school that functions as a united group of administrators and teachers coming together to change the way instruction is delivered to students. Huntington Park HS, at this point in time, has two separate groups operating with different ideas and plans. We would encourage both the administrators and the teachers to form a collaborative and united Design Team dedicated to meeting the needs of the students at Huntington Park HS. When that happens, Jim, Shelley and I would like to meet with the Design Team to assess the school’s needs so that we can provide the strategic support necessary. Until Jim, Shelley and I meet with the Design Team, our two consultants, Carol Perry and Steve Quon, have been asked not to attend any meetings including those on 11/29.

We hope to meet with you in the immediate future.

Best,
Michelle Bennett
Shelley Weston
Jim Blackwood

My reply:

Dear members of LASDI and other sympathetic souls:

When I discuss the use of passive voice with my students, I always point out to them that one important function for this grammatical feature occurs when a person wishes to conceal the subject of the sentence. We are sorry to hear that Ms. Perry and Mr. Quon have been asked not to attend any meetings with us. We are also sorry that our hard fought unity has been undercut and deliberately dismantled. We had things worked out. We had a plan that we forged out of talk and agreement and networking, but it would seem that some mysterious person who shall be concealed by the passive voice had other plans and created this second group of faculty and coordinators which is apparently posing as a representational body of faculty at HPHS. Word in the hallways is that members of our unified team of administrators, faculty, and coordinators have been drawn away out of fear and intimidation to attend the meetings hastily planned at District six headquarters in order to compete with our meetings at UTLA headquarters on the same day.

Our steering committee conducted a straw poll with names and employee numbers at the close of day this past Friday, November 19th. The faculty was asked to choose which plan they favored: a break up into separate pilot schools or a single comprehensive high school with semi-autonomous academies.   Eighty-six faculty members from A and B tracks were polled at the close of the day. Fourteen of these faculty members did not write their names or employee numbers, while 72 did do this. Out of the 72 ballots with names and employee numbers, 66 of them favored the comprehensive high school. Six of them favored the separate pilots. The ones without names still favored the comprehensive high school but those 14 were divided with 8 in favor of one school and 6 favoring pilots.  Six clerical employees also chose to submit straw poll ballots. These employees unanimously favored the comprehensive high school. This does not appear to be a divided campus at all, but it becomes divided when a nameless force who shall be concealed by the passive voice steps into the situation to give directives and implies that special information will be offered at a design team meeting which has been created for pilots at District Six headquarters on the same day that the original design team was scheduled to meet. Suddenly there is division.

Ms. Bennett, with all due respect, the wording of your email seems to suggest that the fault of division lies with the faculty of HPHS. This is not true. We have had fantastic plans. I can testify on behalf of the School Site Council that we had plans to incorporate technology and internet tools into project based learning and aggressive intervention and remediation. We were beginning to implement these plans until this special PSC 2.5 was decreed with its truncated timelines and disregard for previously set up rules. Even with scarcity of resources and time, we managed, a second time, to bring faculty together under the plan for semi-autonomous academies and were under the impression that we received telephoned approval from our local mini-district superintendent only to discover the very next day that directives had been handed down to undermine our work.

We can only hope that this nameless authority who is concealed by the passive voice might yet allow knowledgeable teachers to make real decisions rather than feign involvement for the benefit of some “higher plan” which is in fact being imposed from above.  Until that time it would be rather pointless for them to enter into discussion when compromise is in reality total capitulation to the desires of a nameless force concealed behind the passive voice.

There is something in this situation which reminds me of a moment in the movie (based on the book), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”  Jack Nicholsen is asked about his impression of Nurse Ratchet. He responds with, “She likes a rigged game.”

Affectionately Yours,

Philip R. Keller (Acting UTLA Chair for HPHS)


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One Response to Who could this mysterious person be? November 23, 2010

  1. Whenever you see the Chamber of Commerce involved in something related to public education, watch out. The common thread here is that education as a public good is being undercut whether by LASDI, Cortines, the Chamber of Commerce or whatever they are calling themselves. The reality is that the community is give no choice, none whatsoever as to whether they want a comprehensive high school or “pilot”schools. That tells the tale. Notice that middle class communities are generally not subject to this kind of takeover. I wonder why?

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