Given the surreal aspect of LAUSD reality that I was finally able to substantiate during my trial yesterday on the 25th floor of edspeak central, I immediately thought of the 1967 popular British television series with Patrick McGoohan called The Prisoner, and with misguided egocentricity and a touch of feeling sorry for myself, I planned on making myself the hero of this bizarre daytime soap that teachers might crowd around to watch in the faculty lounge at nutrition or lunch. The folks at the studios in Hollywood always like to greenlight projects with a built in audience and what could have a higher TV quotient than the neverending story that is LAUSD -- the original Lost.
Just when I thought I had the idea squared away to a indispensable one-sentence pitch, "Teacher held captive in Miracle Mile resort-like house from 8am to 3pm, Monday through Friday, which is run by Stepford Wives like LAUSD administrators who are always "directing" him to do something with a smile on their faces that makes absolutely no sense," I sat down this afternoon to get it all down on my computer when the phone rang and everything changed.
It was Superintendent Ramon Cortines on the other end of the line. I must confess that I initially thought that he was calling to apologize for the hell his subordinates have been putting me through for the last nine months, which I have been religiously cc:ing him copies of the latest atrocity as it transpired, always hoping that Ray would somehow come galloping down my street on a white horse and rescue me from the evil doers at LAUSD, who don't ever seem to get enough of dreaming up newer and even more outrageous bogus charges to lodge against me. Recently, I was actually worried, because even in the alternative reality of LAUSD, I wondered how they were going to hit me with more charges, since I no longer reported to work at a school campus, but only call in at 7:30am and again at 3pm. Would I have to invite my principal over for nutrition or lunch to give her an opportunity to file more charges?
And then it hit me, with the sweet voice of Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines telling me that it was National Teacher Appreciation week... or day, he didn't seem quite sure. He told me to "Thank a teacher" and "If you can read this, thank a teacher" and "Those who care teach," although I had corresponded with Ramon Cortines starting from the time when he answered the email I had sent to Thomas Saenz, head of MALDEF and Mayor Villaraigosa's attorney, the only time I was ever really sure that I had actually talked to Ray was when I chatted with him for a moment out in front of my class at Palisades Charter High School, when he was briefly LAUSD Superintendent for one year in 2000, which got him full vesting in the District's retirement program.
Maybe it wasn't me that was a prisoner of LAUSD, but rather my old buddy Ray, who a college professor friend of mine from Claremont says is really a good guy. In thinking back to when I first reported the fraudulent graduation at Central High, it dawned on me that I had never really talked with Ray, only his Chief-of-Staff LAUSD good-old-boy Jim Morris. And although I occasionally get very polite acknowledgments of the cc:s I have continued to send Ray of all these months of sturm und drang, I have never really had an opportunity to talk man to man to him nor have I ever been sure that it was him responding to my emails. Could it be that he really didn't actually know what was going on and that I have been wrong to think of him as a jive ..........?
Then all the evidence of Ray's innocence started to come down on me like an avalanche. Superintendents and Board members come and go, but Jefferson Crain, the Executive Officer of the Board and the secretaries and failed teachers that fill LAUSD's administrative ranks stay -- the bureaucrats that move like lemmings from one generation of part-time $45,000 a year Board members or superintendent to the next generation. It seemed so clear, like Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, poor Ray was a pawn of surreal LAUSD bureaucracy and more than likely had spent the last 50 years of his professional life having been The Prisoner of San Francisco, San Jose, Pasadena, LAUSD, and NYC Boards of Education in addition to the Department of Education totally oblivious of the nefarious deeds engaged in using his good name.
On the other hand, Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince said, "My bureaucracy doesn't work well for me, but it also doesn't work well for my enemies." While all of my life Ray and I have been trying to be the best educators we could be, maybe Ray understood from the beginning of his career that the real power over time clearly seems to be more attainable by the unanimity of mediocrity one finds buried in the ranks of LAUSD -- that's what really has staying power. When Eli Weisel was reporting from the trial of Adoph Eichmann in Israel, he said, "I had expected to see a powerful monster like Dracula, but what I saw was a meek and banal accountant sitting in the dock."