Monday, 7pm -
Wife: I have to meet with the principal at 8am tomorrow morning.
Me: About what?
Wife: I don’t know. She just said, “See me at 8.”
Me: I’m sure it’s nothing.
Wife: She’ll probably tell me that I’m losing my job.
Me: No… not yet. Wouldn’t they wait until the summer?
Wife: Yeah, you’re right. Why would she tell me at 8am on a Tuesday in March that I won’t have a job next year?
Me: I know. It’s probably something stupid. You’ll be fine.
Me: Well, whatever happens, you know we’ll get through it.
8:10am Tuesday – Phone conversation -
Wife: Yeah, I don’t have a job next year. [cries]
Some backstory – The school district is in all sorts of financial trouble – even though it’s one of the fastest growing school districts in the state. People move to the county just to have the option of sending their children to the schools. A few months back, they announced that they were in a budget crises (having already spent their stimulus money on God-knows-what and who-knows-what-they-do-with-their-lottery-money) and needed to eliminate teachers and increase class size, along with getting rid of certain programs and other staff. Something like 45 million in cuts. Heaven forbid the county raise taxes, because no one wants to PAY for their children to have a decent public education. But let’s not get into that.
So anyway, my wife (and I’m not just saying this because she is my wife), is the most dedicated teacher a child could have. You know the old saying, “first one there in the morning and the last one to leave at night”? That’s her. Truly. For a school that dismisses at 2:50, you’d think she’d be home by 4. Or 5. No. Try 7:00 on most nights, planning the next day’s lesson or cutting little frogs out of construction paper.
She’s a good teacher. No – she’s a great teacher. Don’t take my word for it – take into account the emails she receives from parents who say that their child is lucky to have her. Or the parent who’s child hated school until she was transferred into my wife’s class. Tell me that she isn’t devoted to teaching when you look at our bank records and see the amount of her own money she’s spent in the past year buying books, crayons, glue and other supplies. And even after hearing this news, she is still taking nightly trips to the dollar store or to Michael’s to buy little crafty things for her kids’ activities.
Forget about her being a new teacher with a low salary. That doesn’t count for anything because these cuts are seniority-based. Which I sort-of understand, I guess. But at the same time, wouldn’t it seem more beneficial – at least for the children’s sake – to asses teachers individually? I mean – good teachers should be rewarded, right? Shouldn’t these cuts be performance-based? Is that not in the best interest of the students?
When it comes down to it, my wife is just one statistic out of the HUNDREDS of county faculty and staff who are being let go due to budget cuts. And we’ve already been through a trying unemployment spell with me last year. Oh, and we just bought a house. Remember? But we’re not the ones who are going to suffer the most – it’s the students. They’re losing good, caring, passionate teachers. They’re losing a smaller class size. They’re losing after school programs. They’re losing the best damn kindergarten teacher Chesterfield County was ever lucky enough to have.