Friday, November 30, 2007

Putting it in Perspective

Today was the kind of day that puts it all in perspective. Another of those "Ah ha" moments in education. (The last time I had one was watching my "too cool for school" crowd sing along with "Where is the Love" years ago in an assembly.)

My latest revelation came during yet another assembly. Watching the kids perform projects they created to demonstrate learning from their mistakes nearly brought me to tears. A group of girls presented steps to problem solving and a poem on friendship after a bullying incident big enough to involve DPS. A group of boys presented a research project on the negative effects of the use of tobacco (including a graphic photo of oral cancer). And my all time favorite, MY former class presenting a song they wrote about negative behavior in the library. Up to and including "Remix....Oh oh oh oh oh oh...why'd we have to go and kick him on the floor? We laughed. Oh oh oh oh oh oh... The entire audience was humming along. They followed it up with a poster about library behavior.

Looking at in writing, it doesn't seem so special, guess you had to be there. I guess the point I'm trying to make is how amazing children can be when given the freedom to express themselves. They demonstrated genuine learning through the restitution process. (I'm not gonna lie, I was worried they get up there and fall on their faces! But, they really blew me away.)

Tonight, I went to watch my students in the First Ladies Tree LIghting Competition. I was completely at peace listening to student performances, singing Christmas carols, and celebrating our third place win. There was something so soothing about just relaxing with the kids.

As if this weren't enough, a teacher volunteered to pay a $600 deposit out of her personal account in order to ensure the location for our staff Christmas party is secured in advance.
Days like today renew my faith in my profession and committment to my new position.

TODAY I LOVE MY JOB!! Quick, write that down before I change my mind! ; - )

For those who are struggling with the many pressures of our profession, keep the faith...your "ah ha" moments will come. Have faith in your students, as the community has faith in you.

Happy Holidays Teachers

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Education Day and Turkey Day!

Another Education Day is behind us! CONGRATULATIONS to our new TEACHER OF THE YEAR, ANDREW GOLDEN, from Saipan Southern High School!! Did anyone mention Space Camp for him this year? I heard a lot of other things, but not that. Enjoy the free gas for a year, or will it be raffled off to get classroom supplies?(HaHaHa!)

There were many awesome performances from our schools! Congrats to all!! Some put a lot of hard work into it. Others, did not, (in my opinion),because of the school's choice of Teacher of the Year. I hope that all were able to relax and enjoy themselves this year!

As we ready ourselves for tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, let us all stop and remember to be thankful for all the things that God has given us. The things that I am thankful for are; my family, the job that I have with PSS, my individual school family, the parents of my students and last, but most importantly my students. I wish all a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

BS Piled Higher and Deeper

This article appeared in the Variety over the weekend.

By Moneth G. Deposa
Variety News Staff

EDUCATION Commissioner David M. Borja on Friday said that without “clear guidance” from the Board of Education regarding the Public School System’s budget shortfall, PSS management will have no choice but to enforce a “salary reclassification” to cope with their limited personnel funding.
Last year, the board adopted a new salary scale for PSS personnel.
This was to apply to classroom teachers and school administrators who pass rigorous tests, obtain teaching certification and earn degrees.
Borja said the move to suspend this pay increase is in line with the PSS budgetary shortfall this fiscal year as a result of their budget of only $35 million and the administration’s failure to return the $2 million it “borrowed” from the school system.
“At this time, there is a need for us to consider that there is not adequate funding made available to PSS to process the pay hikes,” Borja said. “We would like to wait until there is some direction from the board on what PSS needs to do.”
PSS was supposed to issue the pay hike suspension memorandum to employees last week but decided to temporarily delay it until the board took action.
“We are informing the affected teachers on an individual basis that we are preparing the notice of personnel actions,” Borja said. “Our concern is that there is no way we can provide this (pay hike) because we have no funding.”
According to Borja, the board “needs to act now and identify solutions.”
He said the planned reclassification and modification will not only affect those who are waiting for their test results, but also highly qualified teachers.
“This will affect those who have met the certification steps, and attained the years of service and the degrees. The affected number increases on a daily basis,” Borja said.
PSS records show that there was a total of $37.3 million transferred by the finance department to the school system, of which $3.9 million was allotted to the “all others” category during FY 2007, or from Oct. 1 2006 to Sept. 30, 2007.
But PSS said the “cash” transferred totaled only $33.6 million.

Jeff posted about it on his blog. This is probably another incident of PSS shaming the government by exploiting teachers' and their families' fears of not being able to pay rent or buy groceries. Someone posted a comment on Jeff's blog about how we all need to sacrifice a little for the common good, about how there are plenty of teachers from the states who have been here for 15+ years and seem perfectly content, so therefore Jeff and others shouldn't be whining about not getting a raise. The author of the comment even implied that those of us who don't stick it out are just in it for the money and shouldn't be here anyway.

I can't think of anyone who has ever taken a teaching job for the money!!! That's funny and really, really pisses me off! My dad tried to talk me out of it. He wanted me to pursue medicine or bio-genetic engineering, which I could have done, but I didn't want it. He saw dollar signs, prestige.

This isn't about frivolous pay raises in a time of economic crisis. PSS, under Federal mandate, implemented criteria for teacher qualifications and a new salary schedule was also created. Several things happened all at once. Some teachers, like myself, quickly jumped through all the hoops to maintain certification because that's what I would have to do in any stateside school dist., and once the salary schedule was implemented, I got a pay increase to match my years of teaching, Masters degree and PRAXIS/CNMI classes etc. That pay increase closely matches what I got in Washington State where the cost of living is about the same as here.

Last year, PSS following timelines established by the Feds for hiring highly qualified teachers, cut teacher salaries down to the entry level 28,000 if they didn't have their PRAXIS completed. Those teachers were told they would get their pay back if and when they passed the test. Some of them have been teaching for over 15 years and were making over $40,000 a year. Many did as they were told and are not getting their pay back as promised. Others retired and now are double dipping as subs. Another group of teachers, mostly new hires, were told they'd be given a sub contract of $100 a day, no benefits until they get their scores in. Then they'd be given a contract with retroactive pay. This won't happen either, if Borja follows through with his threat.

This isn't about group sacrifice, which is a load of crap anyway. This is about following through on your word, honoring a contract and agreement made in good faith on the part of the teachers who did stick around even after the pay cut and restoring their pay. It is the ethical, moral and scrupulous thing to do.

A year ago, I was prepared to take the 10% cut. I was willing to lose a little to help make sure others kept their jobs. But every year a little more gets shaved off and then what's left? The everyone sacrifices for the common good line is starting to reek of self flagellation. I'm not a martyr for PSS and I won't sacrifice my personal health and wellbeing for the common good of a community that doesn't support what I do in the first place.

It's unethical for PSS to go to recruiting fairs in the US, paint a rosy picture, get teachers to move 6,000 miles from their homes and families, offer no assistance finding housing, furniture etc. and then 4 months into their job tell them they won't be getting the salary they were promised. If new recruits ask me, I would say come with caution and look at like a Peace Corps assignment with better benefits. And you'll either love it or hate it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Last Presentation Before the Elections

I'm sorry it has taken a few days to get around to this, but as teachers know we are busy people. We did hold the last forum before the elections and I was drafted to respond. I was/am torn in writing this, but I'll get into that later.

We had three from the Casino Initative show up to inform us of their position. They did give a good presentation, and did answer questions given to them. Several sides of the topic was discussed. In my opinion of what they said, their reasoning for starting this and trying to see it through was as follows;

1) They want the indigenous people to be employed,
2) Keep the control of Casino's/gambling in the hands of the indigenous people,
3) To try to give something back to the community, by putting money into education, and other things,
4) To make a profit!!
That is the short and sweet version of what they said.

My opinion on the topic differed from theirs, because of my experiences with casinos and promises of money for education, in my home town. I do not condone or promote the idea of casino's on Saipan. I personally do NOT want to see anything else that will take anything away from our kids! Many of our students do not come to school with lunch money, or proper supplies for school. I also do NOT want anyone else breaking their promises to schools saying they will support us or the kids with more funding and it NEVER show up!

I hope that all who are registered to vote will get out and VOTE!!! No matter which side you are on, PLEASE VOTE THIS ELECTION DAY!!!!