Well its only been a few months since the Wellston School District was permanently shut down. Heck it was still surreal to me until I turned in my keys. Since then I've been on my grind looking for a new job. I can't even say how many apps I've put in, yet nothing seems to appear. I've probably have dealt with more spam mail regarding job inquires than spam in general.
At this time I also can't help but be pissed off everyday when I think of our situation with the district and how it was handled by DESE. It seems we were doomed from the get-go when school re-opened back in August '09. Apparently that summer, DESE had decided mainly with their newly appointed Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro that Wellston would be shutdown. Unfortunately the memo wasn't passed down to the Wellston employees until December, when in fact we should have been told back in August when we had our 2 day workshop at Washington University.
We had a feeling something was going on because normally DESE reps would come to the school in the winter months to see how things were progressing, they didn't last year. Then we started to hear rumors that the school district was possibly going to be shutting down. Staff even asked the Superintendent if that was the case and he lied to them and told them it wasn't the case. Yet more tale telling signs were pointing more and more in the opposite direction.
In all this drama, the biggest sign to me was the lack of supplies for the 09-10 school year. I didn't receive not a lick of supplies unless it was paper. I didn't understand how the main office thought we were suppose to just make due with our heads barely above water. I felt bad for my teachers and rest of staff when I had to let them know that I couldn't even provide them with basic supplies and they had to end up coming out of their own pockets to provide for their classrooms and students.
Then in December we have "the meeting" at the Normandy middle school off of Natural Bridge. Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro is their on the stage along with some other members of DESE, the reason I can remember her is the Bright Blueberry suit she wore that was hurting my eyes and I was sitting in the back of the area listening to the B.S. that was going down.
The main auditorium area where we had the meeting was packed. Parents, Staff, and students from both school districts were there. The Wellston crew knew something was up when we found out how the so called farce of a "forum" was run. They passed out pencils and pieces of paper for you to write 3 questions down. WTF? Normal forums have a microphone for people to form a line and ask questions. Apparently the other school district knew to plan appropriately to control the event. So Nicastro informs us that she has recommended to the DESE board that Wellston School district to be shut down and "merged" with Normandy. Which in all honesty is a joke, its not a merger its a takeover. When Normandy's Supt was talking about the "new" experiences the Wellston students would enjoy at Normandy with the new facilities (weight room, track and field, and other renovations) the Wellston staff and parents were wondering what does any of this have to do with bringing up test scores?
Nicastro barely answered any of the questions that some of the Wellston area had written down, and when others asked about their questions she dismissed them and stated they would be answered in the future. One of the more important questions that was asked, yet poorly answered was, Why you would put our district with another that is not accredited? Her response is that they are partially accredited, we are thinking to ourselves that means nothing, Wellston was partially accredited as well and look at what is happening to us. Finally one of our staff stood up and exploded about how this situation was handled. I along with others applauded. Out of all this mess we felt we had been disrespected not only by our Supt by not being up front and truthful but also by DESE for their lack of respect for us.
After the meeting I went home and just thought about how much politics plays in education. Never saw it before until that night. I thought I was disgusted that night, the following months after provided just as much drama. We found out that our health coverage would end effectively by end of June instead of July or August. We had heard rumors through the grapevine that apparently Nicastro had informed school districts not to hire any Wellston employees. Again I'm not sure if its true or not but given how she handled the meeting that December I wouldn't put it past her.
Another problem I have is that technically Wellston was given 2 more years to show improvement, to me if DESE felt there were problems at the district then they should have replaced the present Supt with another that they felt would get the job done. She could have done that but from what I've heard supposedly she had an axe to grind with the Supt and decided to do away with him and the district at the same time. To me if that is the truth, then she is no better than the people she is supposedly trying to get rid of.
Yet the icing on the cake as far as irony goes is back in May when I found out on the radio that Normandy School district had fired all their staff, I was like wow, at least we found out back in December when some of Normandy staff were clapping and applauding the "merger", I just thought to myself, karma is a bitch n a half. There is no loyalty at all.
After dealing with this situation, I realized that I would not want be an educator at least in the sense of teaching at a school. Times are different from when my mom used to teach versus now. Back then your occupation was more stable and guaranteed. These days you hear not only here but nationwide the school districts that are closing and staff that are losing their jobs.
I guess the main point I want to convey is that people might look at Wellston and say the staff and parents failed those kids. To some degree I will say that there were certain staff that shouldn't have been retained or for that much even hired and it would have helped to have more parent participation yet some parents acted like kidds they damn selves.
Yet the main point is that DESE failed us. They didn't have the backbone to step in and intervene in the situation instead they stayed on the sidelines and pointed fingers and just WAITED for the district to fully corrode itself from the inside without any chance. If this is the kind of leadership that is the head of DESE then unfortunately I have a feeling that Wellston won't be the only school district to close in the coming years. To me DESE not only stands for the title of this blog but also (D)oesn't (E)ncourage (S)uccess (E)nough.
My question to DESE is this. If you couldn't deal with a district the size of Wellston, regardless of the issues, what in the hell makes you think that you are qualified and up to the job to deal with school districts the size of Normandy, Riverview Gardens, and Saint Louis Public Schools?
Even at the end of this crazy & drama filled road, I'll say I will miss my students, staff and parents. Maybe not ALL of them, yet you know who you are. The experiences I have learned I will keep with me forever;)