What I want you to know. Which is everything.

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


Kim said...

I look forward to Part 3.

Mary Lou said...

This made me cry. Again. And it makes me mad because we lost you living closer to us. All that to say, good writing, Kyle. I too look forward to part 3, if I can stand it.