Great Blogs of Fire

What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Should an Expensive Cordless Power Drill Break in Half After Falling From Four Feet Up?

So, this happened to my expensive drill gun after falling to the floor off a counter. Bummed, but hoping that Hitachi Power Tools will hook me up. Feel free to help by emailing them on my behalf. I only had the drill for about a year when this happened. It had never been mistreated and hadn't even been used that much, due to the fact that I wasn't teaching theatre last year.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chicken on the Fence

I have been on the fence. Not about Gay Marriage. There's no question, gays and lesbians should absolutely have the right to marry. I've never heard a relevant or reasonable argument otherwise.

No, I have been on the fence as to whether or not I should demonize, or more specifically boycott Chick-Fil-A over the recent remarks made by their CEO, Dan Cathy. There's other people to think about, like local franchisees and employees who are innocently stuck in the middle of this controversy.

I've always been aware of the Evangelical Christian nature of Chick-Fil-A, and despite some minor annoyances when I get a chicken craving on a Sunday, I've always admired the way they seemed to conduct business. I felt that they represented Christ well, without being in everyone's face about it. I'm now hearing about lawsuits due to wrongful termination of women and gays, but I don't know enough about those to really use it as a basis for any stance I might take. So I won't comment on the lawsuits further, except to say that it's reasonable to assume that a company that size would be ridiculously lucky to avoid litigation of that kind, from time to time.

The money they donate to anti-gay organizations is certainly troubling. I've heard a myriad of claims about what these groups stand for, from wishing death on homosexuals to their imprisonment. I didn't dig deep enough into their websites to verify any of the harshest claims for myself, but I took a look at the website for the Family Research Council, and the rhetoric and fervor with which they demonize homosexuals and same-sex partnerships got pretty ridiculous to the point that I believe it falls way outside the mainstream beliefs of most Americans. Still, there are lots of companies that likely give money to organizations with whom I might disagree. A Facebook friend of mine did some looking and listed all the oil companies that purchase from Saudi Arabia, a country with laws that degrade and sanction violence on women, not to speak of their stance on homosexuality. Would it not reason that, unless I'm willing to do the research on every single company I patronize, wouldn't it be hypocritical for me to boycott Chick-Fil-A, simply because it is fashionable to do so in this moment?

Then I read this article that another Facebook friend posted. And, it made me realize, if I really believe what I say that I believe, if I really do love my gay friends and family, if I truly believe that they should be given the same rights as I have, and that it matters whether or not they are treated like a second class citizen then I need not support organizations and companies that actively support such oppression of gay Americans. To be clear, there is a difference between a company with a CEO who is against same-sex marriage and a company that gives money to organizations that are dedicated to making life more difficult for homosexuals.

As for other companies that might support misogynist governments or other social problems with which I disagree, perhaps I need to be more vigilant, and do a little more research on these companies before I give them my business. But I already know where Chick-fil-A stands on this issue that I believe is a matter of civil rights. They make no apologies or qualms that they are against giving gays a right that all straight people take for granted. The groups they support financially go even further by rallying against legislation that would simply allow gay people to keep their jobs and not have to fear for their safety. I don't have to guess or shrug and say, "who knows how they are spending my money?" because I do know. To say that I disagree with them, but they have the right to disagree would to put it on the level of an opinion regarding taxes or economic theory. They do have the right to disagree, but they should not have the right to discriminate or infringe on the rights of others. It's a matter of right and wrong, rather than simply agreeing to disagree.

So, as for future visits, I can't say whether or not I'll ever set foot in a Chick-fil-A again, but, to be perfectly honest, it is very likely that I will, I'm sorry to say. Amanda and I are bound to break down amid the regular indecisiveness and "where do you want to go" routine. I certainly wasn't going to go today given the amount internet activity surrounding "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day." Going today would have been tantamount to a cruel stance of betrayal to those gay people in my life for whom I care, dearly. Every Facebook post I read from a Christian boasting of their haul from Chick-fil-A broke my heart a little more, because it was an open display of their allegiance to a chicken store above the feelings of their LBGT peers. With the new amount of knowledge I now have about the company of Chick-fil-A (including the way the "f" in "fil" is not to be capitalized), and where my chicken-dollars are going, it's far more likely for me to think twice about eating there, and choose to go somewhere else. Here in Abilene there's a Rosa's Tortilla Factory right next door. They serve chicken there, too, although I doubt they can do a Peach Milkshake. But, the Chick-Fil-A can't really do tortillas, so we'll call that a draw. All I can say is that I'm urging Cane's to open here ASAP.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Best BLT Sandwich in Existance

I just created a BLT Sandwich that was so awesome I want to share it with the world. I made this sandwich with lower fat ingredients due to me being on Weight Watchers*. However, as you'll see, it's not really that good for you. Oh, we'll. Here it is.

Ingridients:

2 slices of whole wheat bread
4 slices of Center Cut Bacon (or regular bacon, but center cut is lower in fat, but that probably doesn't matter)
2 slices of American Cheese
1 leaf of iceberg lettuce
2 slices of tomato
1 sandwich stack sliced Clausen pickle (Clausen are crunchier than regular pickles)
2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of light butter or margarine
Spicy brown mustard
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Fry the bacon like you normally would in a frying pan. Do not microwave or bake or do some other kind of ridiculous thing. Once the bacon is finished place on a paper towel covered plate to cool and collect some of the fat. I'm not really sure what the point of soaking up the fat is, given what is about to happen. (DO NOT throw out the bacon fat that remains in the frying pan.)

2. Spread butter or margarine on one side of each slice of bread.

3. Place a slice of cheese on the buttered side of each slice of bread.

4. Place the bacon on one side then close your sandwich.

5. Spread mayonnaise on both sides of the outer side of the sandwich. Make sure you still have about 1/2 Tbsp remaining.

6. Fry the sandwich in the bacon fat remaining in the frying pan. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Place on a clean paper towel to soak up some of the bacon fat. Again, this is sort of a laughable thing to do, but it might give you some sense that you are a reasonable person.

7. Carefully open the sandwich. It's okay if the bacon doesn't all end up on the same side. Just don't let the bread tear. There will be cheese all over the place. This is a good thing.

8. Place the lettuce, tomato and pickle (in that order) on one side of the sandwich.

9. Slather the remaining mayonnaise on top of the pickle.

10. On the non-vegi/mayo side squirt a respectable amount of spicy brown mustard.

11. Salt and pepper the mayo/vegis to taste.

12. Close the sandwich.

13. Cut the sandwich in half at a diagonal...A DIAGONAL!!!

14. Eat that thing and thank me in your dreams. Chips go well with it.

15. Go to the gym.

*Weight Watcher PointsPlus: 25**

**Based on 7 points for the bacon fat. It may be more or less, for all I know.

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Beauty of E=mc2

Yesterday I watched an 80 minute video of an interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, but more importantly (and the reason I knew who he was) a frequent guest on the Daily Show and Colbert Report. The interview, which was conducted by Steven Colbert, himself, out of his normal egotistical character he plays on his show, was held at a local middle school as part of a series their PTA holds as a way to help inform and cultivate knowledge to their students, faculty and community. (Educators and lovers of knowledge in Texas may sigh with jealousy now.)

I highly recommend spending an hour and a half watching the interview, which I've linked below. The whole interview is fascinating for lots of reasons, and because it is hosted by Colbert it's pretty funny (Tyson is funny, in his own right). but a few key points really stuck out at me from the interview.

I posted a couple of quotes from Tyson on my Facebook page yesterday after hearing them in the interview. The one that got me the most is at about the 22 minute mark. Colbert had asked Tyson if he sees beauty in science and, if so, which is the most beautiful. Tyson answers with very little hesitation that E=mc2 is the most beautiful thing in science. After his explanation, one would be hard pressed to argue that it may not be the most beautiful thing in the world.

Not just a famous equation that is a cliched "sciencey" thing to quote and throw about, E=mc2 is the concept that connects all human beings to each other, the earth and the cosmos. If you aren't aware, E=mc2 essentially means that if we (or anything, I guess) could travel at the speed of light times itself we would become energy. Read that sentence again and wrap your head around that for a moment or two.

Energy, which for my non-scientific brain is easiest to understand as light, and matter are essentially made out of the same thing. All of the elements in the world, in space and throughout the known universe are biproducts of the same material and can, infact become that material again. We are all connected in a very real way.

This struck me from a spiritual perspective, as well. Tyson, from what I've been able to gather is either an aetheist or agnostic. And yet, when he speaks of physics and science, he does so in a way that is reminiscent of theologians and spiritual leaders. He sees hope and beauty in the world through the lens of science in the same way that I, myself have learned to view it through God and through worship. I don't want to speculate or come to conclusions as to what this means for religion or Tyson, himself, but I find it incredibly fascinating and oddly coincidential. I love when he calls us "stardust" referencing back to the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song "Woodstock" that says, "we are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." The way that I interpret these lyrics refers to the grandest idea of the hippy movement and Woodstock, itself as a time and place when the idea of coming together and recognizing our spritual and psysiological link to each other. This idea reinforces the need for us to not hate, not hurt, and help each other. This is a concept that is understood by Christians and scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson alike, whether or not they recognize it on a normal basis or not.

Finally, after reiterating his expertese as an astrophysicist and not as a poet, Tyson said this:
"Some of the greatest poetry is revealing to the reader the beauty in something that was so simple you had taken it for granted."

Tyson is specifically referring to the relative simplicity in Einstein's E=mc2, but the grand and wonderful conotations that are revealed because of it. However, I loved this quote so much because it is very true in a much greater sense. Often the best art, whether it be plays, films, paintings or poetry, are that which ask us to look at something simple or common with a new perspective.

Here's the link to the interview.

1/4/2012 UPDATE: So, I likely misinterpreted E=mc2. Regardless, watch the video and you will get what I'm talking about. Maybe.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Defense of The Arts

This is quoted from an article at Theatre Ideas the blog of . I'm taking it out of context, but I loved the quote, nontheless.

"Culture and the arts are essential means by which all people explain their experience, shape their identity and imagine the future...People need the arts to make sense of their lives, to know who they are. But our democracy needs the arts, too. The arts animate civil society. They stretch our imagination. They increase our compassion for others by providing creative ways for us to understand and deal with differences. The arts protect and enrich the dignity and the public discourse that are at the heart of a healthy democracy."


This is a quote from Holly Sidford of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. The quote is made in reaction to the disparity between the amount of funds that go toward large theatre and arts in big metropolitan areas and smaller, rural communities.

The article on the Theatre Ideas blog addresses this issue in a 3 parter on the similarities between the financial disparity that Occupy Wall Street protesters are arguing against and the disparity in arts funding. Read all three parts if you have the time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How Life Decided I Needed to Stop, Part 3

I had just left the Administration building after turning in my resignation notice, and placing myself a pool of teachers who would receive a financial incentive for saving the school district the task of firing us. The mood in the Human Resources office was understandably sad. I stood there with young and old teachers, all visably shaken and bewildered. The ones who were talking were rambling and flustered, unsure what the next move was.

The news of losing my job couldn't have come at a worse time. In late March, early April every theatre director in Texas is focused on the One Act Play contest. The week before our play had advanced past the first round of competition for the third year in a row and that Saturday, the day after I was told I was being let go, was the next level of competition. The year previous we had gone on to the third round and hoped to move even further this year. The play we were performing was August: Osage County, the play de jour for the theatre world at the time. I felt like we were really stepping out with this production, due to it's edginess, it's brilliance, but mostly because it had never been done before in the UIL One Act Play competition. It was right in the sweet spot of being well-known, but not overdone, and impressive without being out of range. Or, at least I thought so. The point is that I had very high hopes for our production's success at the competition.

By the time a play has already had been through 5 weeks of rehearsals including several clinics, and one round of competition, hopefully it is self-sustaining and the job of the director is over. If that were the case my own state of mind wouldn't have mattered much, as I would have simply told my students to do the great job I knew they were capable of and left it at that. Unfortunately, high school theatre, especially when traveling a show to a competition, is an ongoing process. That Friday afternoon and into the day of the contest, dispite the students' ignorance of my situation, there was an aura of chaos. The kids were a talented bunch, and very much wanted to do well. While no one has told me this, it's always been my feeling that they could sense something was wrong with me. I had a feeling they were cueing from me, even unwittingly, to be unfocused and haphazard in their preparation. There were missing props, confused sound elements, disorganization throughout the preparations on that Friday and the morning of the competition. Perhaps it was just because they are high school students and it's a lot to handle, but my feeling all weekend was that it was because of me.

As much as I wanted to continue our run of success and show the school district that they were getting rid of the wrong guy, we didn't advance that night. When we got back to the school after the contest I gathered the students and the parents that had stuck around and told them the news. There were a lot of tears and hugs and parents asking what could be done. I genuinely thought, at that time, that it was a done deal, but told them anything they wanted to do would be appreciated.

By Monday word had spread and the general population knew about my dismissal. I recieved lots of support from other teachers, students, and parents. Before I was told I was being let go my ego had elevated some, and I started thinking of myself as the goldenboy of the district's theatre teachers. Within some exclusive circles, this might be considered a big deal, but I'll understand if the gravity of this distinction doesn't quite land with all of the readers. After all, I had been in the district now for 4 years and had built a theatre program that consistently won in UIL, but also had made a reputation for producing daring materials and pushing students to go beyond what was typical for high school theatre. Being let go kind of put me in my place, as I was extremely humbled, left wondering if I had actually made an impact, at all. The support that I was being shown and the way that everyone seemed to think I was being wronged made me feel very good about what I had done there. Regardless, I knew I had some cosmic humble pie in my belly.

Nevertheless, I still didn't have a job for the next school year my focus now turned to looking for and applying for jobs in the Houston area and throughout the state. While only a few years back I was being approched by other schools wanting me to join them, now it seemed that the jobs were going to be very few and far between. Every school district in the state of Texas was cutting back and the arts were not in the sites of any school to be able to hire, let alone expand. So, I also began looking at other types of jobs doing other things. I had worked the previous summer setting up lights and sound for trade shows for an audio/visual company in Houston. The General Manager was a students' parent and he told me he might be able to hire me full time in a project manager or sales capacity. Maybe this would be an opportunity to see if there was something other than teaching theatre that I would like doing.

As it was, even without being RIFd, I had been considering a possible change in scenery. I taught at a very large high school and every year more students were signing up for theatre. My second year there they had hired another theatre teacher to take on a couple of lower level classes, but she didn't help out very much after school. The next year we hired an honest to God assistant theatre director, but after two shows, she decided that she didn't want to work with the theatre program after school and wanted to focus on teaching English. So, for the majority of my time there I was a department of one. The next year looked to be even worse as the other theatre teacher wouldn't even be taking theatre classes all of my sections would be filled to the brim, and overflowing. For the third year in a row, my advanced theatre class would have to combine with another class, making it very difficult to establish the high level of theatre I knew was possible. I had thought that I would just ride it out the best I could, but with this new development, I began to see returning as a very scary proposition, fraught with large inconveniences and even more time spent at school, away from my family. Leaving began looking more and more appealling.

While I was going through all the stages of grief, (disbelief, anger, blame, depression, acceptance... are there more?) there were apparently things working in the background. My students parents had organized a letter writing campaign on my behalf and were inundating the Human Resources office with emails and phone calls. The students went in mass to a school board meeting, along with band and orchestra students, who also lost teachers, to tell them what kind of teacher they were losing. Even more importantly, and to my surprise my principal was working behind the scenes to affect the final outcome. I was shocked when, only three weeks after I'd been told I wouldn't have a job next year, my principal stopped me in the hall to tell me that I had gotten my job back. She told me not to worry about why, but just to know, while it wasn't official, it looked like I would be back next year, after all.

But, in my mind, things weren't that cut and dry. I had multiple applications in to various school districts, including two districts in Abilene, where my wife was from. I had even lined up an interview for a theatre job at one of the high schools, where I would head up a much smaller program, at a smaller school, with less stress, teaching well-to-do, well behaved kids. I decided to go to the interview, which I was confident I could get, and then decide if I would take the job or stay in Houston.

But, as the year drew to a close, and the district was asking if I was going to accept the offer to stay in my position, I became more and more confident that I would be staying. After all, starting over at a new school, doing the same thing wouldn't necessarily fix my problems. Even small schools have issues, of course. I even decided to hold auditions for the first show of the next school year. On the second to last day of school I got a call from the principal of one of the high schools in Abilene. He had a job for me. It wasn't teaching theatre, but I would work with a new grant-funded program at the school helping struggling students recover credit they needed to graduate. It would be less hours, allowing me time to work on my Master's Degree, which I'd put off due to the hours I was spending at the theatre. The job didn't require planning, after school hours, or weekends, which I'd spent mired in for 4 years.

My initial reaction was a big "no." I couldn't see myself working in something not remotely theatre related. I felt like I would miss it too much. Furthermore I had a strong sense of loyalty to the students in my theatre program. It was my baby, after all. But, that was the problem. I had an actual baby at home. This new job would give me more time with her and with my wife. I had always been heavily involved in theatre, and as a teacher, I had always been very busy. But, over the last 4 years, my job wasn't just a part of my life, it had become my life. I was neglecting several things that I had always been passionate about. This included my family, but also music, exercising, writing and doing things in the community. I hated that I had lost all of this, and moving into this new job would give me time to do all of these things, again.

I talked to Amanda to get her opinion, but I knew what she wanted to do without asking. This was going to be my call. I thought about the stress of running a theatre program, and about how much I've always envied people who had time for hobbies. Then I thought about how the next year was already shaping up to be difficult and frustrating, with even more on my plate than before. I thought about how happy this would make Amanda. Every now and then in life, an opportunity comes along that a person just has to follow their gut and take a plunge. It was this same intuition that brought me to where I was to begin with.

So I took the plunge. I wanted to tell the school before we let out for the summer. I felt like I owed it to my students and my principal to let them know what I planned as soon as possible. I especially didn't want my kids to find out over Facebook or when they got back in the fall. So, on the last day of school I went into my principal's office and informed her that I'd been hired by another school district and would take the job. Later that day I gathered as many of my students as I could and let them know my plans. I thought they would hate me, but to their credit, despite their disappointment, they were happy for me. A few weeks later they even threw me a going away party.

I still went to the other job interview in Abilene. The job wasn't for me, and even though I didn't get it, I had decided that I would definitely take the position in the credit recovery classes. I figured that if I was going to take a break from teaching theatre that I needed to really take a break from teaching theatre.

The move was fairly painless. I know my parents were sad to see me move away from the Houston area. We had been there for 8 years and it had become common to meet them for dinner or to schedule a Sunday afternoon together with extended family. I knew I would miss that. Amanda and I had also become close with several people at our church in Sugar Land. It was sad to say goodbye to them, but finding friends in Abilene wouldn't be too difficult. We already had Amanda's sister and one of my best friends from college there. While I had never fully fallen in love with Sugar Land, I certainly would miss many of the people I had come to know there. With Facebook and Twitter we could stay in touch, but of course, it's not the same as being able to walk down the street and share a beer. It's not the same as handing your daughter over to the same person who has cared for her since she was born, then seeing that same person at school to work on costumes. It's not the same as knowing that any day you could just get in the car and drive less than an hour to see your brother. That is, if you have the time.

So, that brings me to where we are now. It's been 5 months since Amanda and I moved here. In that time we've rented a house, been to Fort Worth to see Amanda's sister, twice, started new jobs, and helped host a party for my 10 college reunion. Personally, I've lost 15 pounds by eating better and running, written the first few chapters of a novel and generally relaxed. I've also been working on my Master's Degree and read 4 books. These are all things that I wanted to do before, but didn't have the time or energy. Things are quantitatively looking pretty good. I would like to do more to meet more people, get involved in church and travel on the weekends, now that I have the time. But, all in all, I can't complain.

Sometimes I think about the stage at my previous school. I think about standing on the stage when no one else is there and looking out at the empty seats. From there I can look up and see rows of batons, hanging silently from the high ceiling above. Behind me are old set peices, placed against the back wall for storage until we need it again. The black floor, newly painted, clean and free of marks, is the perfect surface to recall some of the old tap moves I learned in college, made difficult by the rubber soles of my running shoes, that I rarely run in. I walk around the edge of the stage into the house and sit in one of the auditorium seats. Sitting in the dark, looking at the shadowy stage, florescent light from behind the curtains spill out and create an erie, but calming mood. It was never given to me by any authority, but it was mine. I controlled that space as if I had bought and paid for it myself. It was, without any sense of metaphor or exageration, a second home. And, when those students whom I had trained and watched grow in talent as well as character and maturity walked out on that stage and performed under the the halogen lamps (I had to fight tooth and nail for the district to pay for) songs and speeches and dances that would have never occured if not for a confidence they did not have when they arrived in my class their freshman year; and sound cues and scene changes happen at the exact right time, set in motion by students who had come to me only months before with only a vague sense of wanting to belong to something larger than themselves; when all these things happen at once and all I have to do is sit back and know that the whole process has been rehearsed over and over, and the students who are backstage barking orders into their headsets feel as much of a sense of responsibility toward the outcome of the production and the future of the theatre program as I do--when I can sit in the seats and feel confident that I have had an impact by setting these peices in motion, the sense of pride that builds in me is very real, even when the their existance only survives in my imagination and memory. And I miss it.

The past five months have convinced me of three things: One, I needed the break. The time I've had with Olivia and Amanda, not to mention the time I've had to run and take care of my health, has been extremely valuable. I don't regret this year and the break from theatre, at all. Two, I'm not finished with theatre and theatre isn't finished with me, and I will be back there someday, directing and teaching and building sets. The question a theatre major is always supposed to ask himself is, "Can I imagine myself doing anything else?" If the answer is yes, you shouldn't do theatre. I can honestly say that, for me, the answer is no, I can't. It's what I'm meant to do on this earth and the legacy I should leave behind. Finally, when I do eventually get a chance to either teach theatre or run a theatre company, or wherever I'm led, I need to learn to control the program and not let the program run me. Theatre is what I do, and it's what I know, but it won't always be there when I need it. The theatre program I ran, the job that I left and the art form itself may run through my blood, but my heart will always be lying next to me at night and bringing me coffee on Sunday mornings. My soul will greet me tomorrow morning with big blue eyes, a wisp of blonde hair and a big grin saying, "Wake up, Daddy!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Life Decided I Needed to Stop, Part 2

I took a long time to write this part because as I started writing I became unexpectedly emotional and filled with anxiety. Partly, I think because it was only months ago, and the feelings are still fresh. Also, I started to wonder if I wasn't crossing a line by divulging the manner in which I was dismissed. The proceedings and criteria by which teachers were RIFd are public to anyone who seeks them out, and I don't work for this particular district anymore, anyway. So, why care? Something just told me that it wouldn't be wise to go on at length on my personal opinions regarding the district and their methods, even if I keep them anonymous. So, I'm leaving out a lot of details that might help explain how I was let go, but really only act as more of a diversion to the main story. I also found that as I write about certain details I tend to sound defensive and legalistic, like I'm trying to prove that I was wronged. That is not the purpose of this story. The story is about how I found myself in my current job, not teaching theatre. The real purpose is to tell how I made a choice in my life for the betterment of myself and my family.

The principal was sitting at her desk, looking sullen and serious. This was not normal for her. Furthermore, our Associate Principal was also in the room. He always seemed serious, if not a little pissed off. This time he was uncharacteristically gentle. My principal did not greet me in her normal fashion, with energy, piss and vinegar. She was quiet and calm. I have never really been the most punctual person in the world, and while I was always at school before the kids arrived, I did sometimes come in after the time I was supposed to be there. I know that other teachers had been called in to inform them that they needed to do a better job at getting to school by 7am, so I thought that this is what I was going to be addressed. Even so, it seemed a little too formal for even that.
My principal spoke about budgetary concerns in the district and the problems facing all districts in the state. She spoke of the need to cut back in certain areas of the school. Maybe she was going to tell me that our funding was being deminished or cut. We were never given enough money from the school district before and had learned to supplement the budget with fundraising. We had even formed a parent booster club for that very purpose. Less money would mean we had to raise more and use it for the actual plays and less on extras, but it was nothing I couldn't handle.
Then she said something completely unexpected. "Kyle, your position in the district is being cut, and you will no longer have a job here, next year." My heart felt immediately empty and I could feel my pulse beating in my ears. This made absolutely no sense.
"There's not going to be a theatre program next year?" I asked.
She explained that they would still offer theatre, but that one of the schools, not ours, decided to cut a theatre position for the following year. There were 11 high schools in the district and several of these schools had more than one theatre techer. All of the theatre teachers in the school district were measured against each other on various criteria. The measure that seemed to matter most was the yearly teacher evaluations (the PDAS) and the one with the lowest score was the person who was let go. It didn't matter that it wasn't my job being let go, or even that I was the head theatre teacher on my campus, I had apparently received the lowest PDAS score of all the theatre teachers that year.
Again, this didn't make sense to me. That year I recieved an unusually low PDAS, but still it was not a bad appraisal by most observers' standards. I mentioned that there might be a mistake due to the fact that my evaluator had given me a low mark in a single category, that I had subsequently contested. The evaluator agreed to change it, but this was not reflected on the evaluation that was used to determine my place in the Reduction in Force. My principal assured me that the decision that had been made was final, regardless of anything else that might be discovered at a later time.
There was seemingly a silver-lining. The district was offering an insentive to resign for teachers who would do so before April, and they were only allowing so many. I was told that I needed to make a quick decision about whether or not I would take the resignation incentive, as many people were being let go the same day and I didn't want to sign up for the incentive too late. I was told that I didn't want to have the blight of a "non-contract renewal" on my record.
I found out later that my principal was reading from a script and that she was instructed to tell me these things. But, I trusted her and so I dutifully went to the administration building to turn in my resignation and incentive agreement. Before I left, though, my principal told me through tears how sorry she was, and that this wasn't my fault. She looked over my evaluation and confirmed that it was a good evaluation and that it didn't seem to make sense to her, either.
I had to tell my wife, Amanda. Her school was only a few miles away from my own and I regularly dropped by, if I needed to. Normally, I might just sign in at the front then go to her room. I didn't want to tell her the bad news in front of her student's, though, so I told her principal first, and asked if she could have someone cover Amanda's classes. Amanda's principal would have been aware of the district RIFs being done that day. I waited by the offices while Amanda's principal went and got her. Amanda was understandably worried that I hadn't just walked down there myself and thought the worst. She was almost in tears as she came down the very long hallway from her classroom. Her principal already assured her that Olivia was okay, which was Amanda's first thought.
The principal let us use her office, where we sat at a conference table. I held her hand and told her about the budget cuts and that I was one of the people the district was letting go. She began to cry, and I decided to let her for a moment. Then she started asking all of the regular questions. Why me? Who was going to replace me? How dare they do this after all the time and energy I put in? A good wife has your back, for sure, as I would always have hers.
Of course, I didn't have a lot of answers, except what I'd been told, which was that it wasn't fair, but it didn't matter. She agreed that I should take the incentive if there wasn't anything else to do. It seemed that there wouldn't be any use fighting it. I noticed a page at the back of my resignation incentive agreement indicating that I could resend the agree within a week, so with this as a seemingly solid safeguard I went to the administration building and turned in my incentive agreement. I had now officially resigned my position of theatre director at Travis High School. What I would do next was a complete mystery.

End of Part 2