Waldlaw Blog

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Living La Vida Loca, California Public School Style

So here's what's been going on in my life the last week: My younger son is in a very well-respected public elementary school -- the same one my older son graduated from last year. There are two separate programs in the school, sharing the same site but with separate teachers and classrooms. The program we are in has long run with one dedicated 4th grade, one dedicated 5th grade, and one 4/5 combo. Last spring, our 4/5 teacher retired and -- due to school closures -- his position was made available to any teacher with seniority who wanted it. We had absolutely no role in the hiring process -- it was simply a matter of the District posting the job and then our waiting to see who took it. Fortunately, someone stepped up for the position who was well-qualified for the job, and we all breathed a big sigh of relief. Over the summer, the "someone" who had taken our 4/5 job was offered a better-paying administrative position, which she took. The District then scrambled to fill the 4/5 teacher slot at our school, ultimately filling it with a very nice, experienced teacher who had taught middle school social studies for the past 25 years. Now she was expected to teach both 4th and 5th graders simultaneously -- after not having taught either 4th or 5th grade in over 25 years -- and she was expected to teach them social studies PLUS math, science and language arts. A tall task for anyone. The first weeks of school were chaotic, with everyone scrambling to try to make this classroom work. The teacher worked hard to get up to speed, and parents stepped in to try to both help the teacher out and figure out ways to supplement where necessary. And then.... Last week, slightly over a month into the school year, we were informed that our elementary school had just lost approximately $63,000 in funding for this school year. That is equivalent to one teacher. All of a sudden, from one day to the next, my son's teacher was being dispatched to another school and his class disbanded, with the kids divied up between all remaining classrooms -- from both our program and the other program -- so that every 4th grade and every 5th grade in the entire school will run with 34 children in a class. That's a 34/1 teacher/student ratio for every 4th and 5th grade. And this is at one of the best public elementary schools in the San Francisco Unified School District. So -- I've spent the last week preparing my son for a new classroom and a new teacher, and trying to figure out how any public school can be successful under the current budget conditions. Thoughts, anyone??


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