Stress at Work

There's been so much stress at work this whole year. Every job I had before becoming a teacher I would wake up fairly regularly and lie there thinking, "This could be a sick day...why not?" Teaching hasn't been like that. I've generally felt fulfilled and needed. This year, however, has been one continuing wave of stress after another. At the start of the school year we had to all write formal curriculum guides in our grade/subject areas. I personally and all on my own had to write two of them ... one for grades K-5, and one for grades 6-8. These amount to two separate 80+ page documents outlining what I intend to teach and how it will ensure I cover all of the NJCCCS (New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards -- the state Dept of Ed requirements for what must be taught in each and every subject area). No one else does anything with technology, so I was on my own here.

After that, the school was "QSAC-ed." (Quality Single Accountability Continuum ... the field of education, being a government-run entity, just ADORES acronyms) This process happens to every single school in NJ on a three-year cycle. This was our year. It meant that representatives from the state came and inspected our school -- the physical structure of it (safety issues, making sure we don't use extension cords, that the room numbers are clearly labeled, etc), the teaching (classrooms were observed in action, and teachers were interviewed regarding "best practices" and other topics), the administration (our principal and head teacher were basically given the third degree on a million different topics), and the curriculum (remember those guides we wrote...yeah, they actually checked a few of them randomly to make sure we were doing what they said we'd be doing, and that we're meeting the Standards). It was several days of stress and anxiousness.

And now, the clincher ... we're going through a bunch of drama about whether or not (and if so, how so) Stow Creek and Greenwich Township schools will "share services" or merge in some fashion. (Article here.) The students are upset and agitated, the teachers feel as though we've had no input or say in what's going to happen to us, and that all our jobs are in jeopardy, the administrators are overwhelmed. Supposedly, the two administrators (principals and superintendents in one, in effect) of both schools have been meeting for months now and had submitted three plans to the two Boards of Ed. The Boards allegedly rejected all three of those plans and came up with the plan outlined in the article. I'm generally an upbeat, positive person (you may have noticed), but I can't help but think that this plan 1) does not delay the state and/or county taking action to merge the schools in some more drastic fashion in another year or three anyway, 2) does not put the welfare of the students first, and 3) pretty much only ensures that all 18 Board of Ed members for both schools keep their positions of "power." I think everything should be left alone and Greenwich (which next year will have fewer than 60 students in nine grades K-8) will just have to keep muddling through somehow.

Each county is being appointed an Executive County Superintendent who will have the power to do whatever they want to the schools in their counties (budgetary decisions, whether or not schools may add staff, all sorts of things). These execs will be specifically charged with consolidating small schools into large schools. Apparently the ideal size for a school district (K-12, all students) is roughly 5,000. If all the schools which send up to Cumberland Regional and the high school were all merged into one school district, we'd still have only about 3,700 students. So, we're obviously going to have HUGE targets painted on us for action. But ... for whatever reason, Cumberland County hasn't had their exec appointed yet. So, we don't have someone doing that yet. So, the two Boards of Ed decided that taking this action will "maintain local control" and give the state the impression that we're trying to fix the problem, buying us more time to be who we are the way we are. (in my opnion, this is utter bullshit ... they'll do what they want to us even after we take whatever action we take)

At issue is something called the Administrative Cap. Each school district is only permitted to spend so many dollars per student on Administrative costs (this includes principal, superintendent, custodial, and secretarial salaries; office supplies, utilities, etc ... everything not directly spent on student instruction (teacher salaries, books, etc)). Greenwich is required to have their administrator in the classroom 40% of her week, so that 40% of her salary can come out of the "instructional" budget rather than the "administrative" budget. This causes no end of difficulties, as you can imagine. Stow Creek is close to, but not yet having problems with our cap. So, the thought is by "sharing services" (the don't want to actually merge the school districts ... in my opinion this is because then we'd only need one school board) we'd come in under the cap and the state would ignore us for awhile.


I don't make tenure until next fall. I'm one of the newest teachers in both schools. Those facts don't bode well for me. However, I do already teach at both schools and they don't really have anyone else who could teach technology. But, there's no requirement that there actually be a technology teacher. They could decide that the classroom teachers can get enough tech stuff into the kids' brains without having a specifically designated teacher to do it.

Hence...the stress.

Have I rambled on enough for one morning? Yes. Is it past time I got off my duff and got ready for work? Yes. Is this even remotely something that interests anyone outside the two schools? Probably not.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds as if you have quite a " handle" on this situation. There is a long term history of this situation covering the past 30 years. The state DOE has always felt small school districts are not efficiently operated and wants to eradicate them. The simple fact is small school districts do operated much better do to the local involvement of all its citizens. Unfortunately, we base all our decisions on ME ( MONEY and EGO.).