Monday, September 8, 2008

Great Big Urban High School

Can I tell you about Great Big Urban High School? Well, you're here and still reading, so here goes...

GBUHS is a wonderful place. It's also huge -- two blocks long, a block wide and four stories high. When I was there all pregnant with Urban Kid 1, I stayed in great shape hustling around that building.

Also, it has 4,000-plus students. Being a magnet school, they come from all over the city. But really, all over the world. There's a significant immigration population, and a lot of these kids are bilingual in something -- Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Urdu, Farsi, Polish... name it, it's spoken there by somebody. It's like a Bennetton ad!

And there's something for just about everyone... Advanced Placement classes if you want college credit, auto tech classes if you want to learn to fix cars, and just about everything in-between.

U-Dad has been there for sixteen years, since he bagged being a trader at the Mercantile Exchange for what can only be described as his calling. Plenty of teachers start out in the city system, then head for the greener pastures of the suburbs for 1.) more money and 2.) a system that can get their paycheck correct. Not U-Dad. He likes it at GBUHS and is happy to stay put.

But I digress. U-Dad has seen a great many people come and go. And a great many Department Chairs. The last two have been complete flakes who used the position to bounce out of teaching at GBUHS. One went on to be an administrator, and bets are currently being placed on when she nails a job in the 'burbs (oh hey, did i mention that in a meeting she mocked a parent's letter expressing concern about a book selection? classy, huh?). The last one did it for about two years before bouncing out to a Leafy Northern Suburb.

This is the largest department (appx 40 teachers) of one of the largest schools in the country. And they keep giving the chairmanship to gossipy, self-important id-jets. In fact, the last one was her predecessor's drinking buddy! After her appointment, several colleagues approached U-Dad and expressed their stunned amazement that he wasn't tapped for the job.

So we come home from our summer roadtrip and find a message on our answering machine from GBUHS. The English Department Chair was gone. Would U-Dad like to interview for the job?

This thrilled me -- Chairs don't get more money, but they get two fewer classes. Which means less work to bring home. And some dude wants to be U-Dad's student teacher in January, so that would mean another class gone for a while. Hallelujah!!! The man busts his ass every day of every school year. He now has two small kids at home. And wouldn't it be cool to have a year of lightening up a bit?

Also, U-Dad makes **** get done at GBUHS. He created a relationship with a publisher to get paperback books at 40% off retail. He was just doing this with his own classes, but it's expanded to the whole department. Due to U-Dad's business background, he actually gets the bills paid, so the publisher actually continues this relationship with him. Now all kinds of books are in the hands of GBUHS's students. Also, he has about six gazillion sick days saved up since he actually shows up every day. He's been teaching AP for years, and kids jockey to get him. He's been voted Teacher of the Year for the last two years by the student body. And 25 out of 30 days a month, the copiers work because he's fixed them.

U-Dad was not thrilled. Why do they need to interview me? I've been there sixteen years. They don't know me yet? And if there is an interview process, why wasn't I called in two years ago? And I like being in the classroom. I don't want to dump off my classes.

But the thought of having a say in new hires hooked him.

And off he went to chat with GBUHS.

And they wanted to pay him less for the job than what he's bringing home now.


He gets paid a bit more for the book program out of a lovely stipend that was created for it. And he's made it clear that if that stipend goes away, so do his hours of work. Each teacher can buy their own books and forge their own relationships. This program ain't The Lord's Work. He was puttering along minding his own business until word of what he was doing leaked. He's willing to go back to that, if necessary.

Oh yeah, they also want him to mentor first-year teachers. He's done this before and been paid a token sum for it.

But if he accepted the Chair position, he'd somehow be double-dipping. And so those dollars would go away.

Once he choked back a blunt, "You're ****-ing kidding me, right?," he came home to give them 24 hours to consider their options. He then called and said that he had a great conversation and blah, blah, blah. But gas and groceries are going up, and that we couldn't afford to let go of the additional pay he gets for the programs that he does. But thanks so much for thinking of him.

I know, I know... a bad decision came out of the Chicago Public School System. Shocking, isn't it? Just stunning.

Ah well, he keeps two classes. About sixty more kids get to hang with the U-Dad.

And I shouldn't really complain. Lord knows he carries his weight around here. I just know that he was truly the best choice. And that GBUHS blew it. It makes me a bit sad for both of them, I suppose.

Any bets on how long the newest Department Chair lasts?


melissa said...

Grrrrr....It's one of the hardest parts about being a wife, isn't it?What a difficult position for Urban Dad. It makes my blood boil to know that he makes the same $$$ as some sit-on-your-hands-collect-your-paycheck teacher. There is something seriously flawed with a system like that, no?
His students are fortunate!

G said...

What an unfair situation!I am at the same time sorry he won't get to be Chair, and glad that he had the sense to know when to say no.

LWA said...

That IS sad. I hope at some point that he gets recognition for the work he does.

Laura said...

And that is the reason why we should all have a growing anxiety about the future of education.
What kind of logic was that? Another opportunity will come along. That was too weird. Just wrong.

Jenni said...

That sucks! Well, at least those kids get to have your dh teach them. I'm sure they'll be better for it.

Happy b-day to UK1, too!