It's been a while since I've updated the readers of perdaily with what has been going on in my own personal war for public education justice with LAUSD. So I thought that I would spend today's post telling you what has transpired since you tuned in last. It has been a little over 2 months since I was removed from my classroom after being handcuffed and searched and, after a brief stay at empty Local District 6 offices at Slauson and Eastern in the lovely City of Commerce. Since then, I have been installed in my home between the hours of 8AM and 3PM, Monday through Friday -- except school holidays. While seniors are allowed to leave campus for lunch, it was only 3 weeks ago that LAUSD finally conceded that I too could do the same.
While it should be clear to all of you who have either followed my saga in earlier daily posts of perdaily or had the misfortune of suffering a similar fate at the hands of LAUSD Administration Party Members, I have engaged in no word or action that is not consistent with trying to bring excellent public education to the predominantly minority students -- think 73% Latino student population -- who continue to be systematically and consciously pushed through LAUSD without even the bear minimum of what would constitute a good education that might give them a real chance at a productive future as opposed to gangs and criminal justice.
In one sense, I have learned that I am in a no-win situation, because although I am not responsible for my present situation of having to remain at home in lieu of going to a school site and teaching, teachers and others resent my present house bound reality, because I am essentially being paid my fully salary and benefits for doing absolutely nothing that has to do with what I was originally hired 24 years ago to do. Unlike many of my colleagues, who are not so secretly envious of my situation, I have always had a passion for being involved in that moment when I have experienced the magic of seeing the lights go on in a student's eyes -- the fire of learning in a student's eyes gets you through a great deal of shark eyes from students, teachers, and administrators that either never had or somewhere along the way lost the passion that comes from the excitement of knowledge -- without nurturing, it just died inside them. It seems that LAUSD is far too amorphous and powerful for anyone to actively hold responsible, no matter how culpable they continue to show themselves, so I win the resentment award by default.
Even with the insanity that is cultivated and allowed to exist by the LAUSD administration in my last classroom at East Los Angeles Occupational Center, I still had some great moments after Christmas break -- before being removed -- where my vatos admitted that they were bored over vacation when they were not in class. The time we were discussing the parasite schistosomiasis and its transmission in Africa by fecal matter and snails -- there was only fascination without the usual jokes and disruption. I will always cherish that as one of the brightest moments in my teaching career.
So hear I sit with my supposed UTLA Area Representative Ed Kaz in his first year out of the classroom trying his best to be my advocate. The problem is that he is a social studies teacher without the slightest notion of what is at stake or the skills necessary to do his job. From the beginning, it was clear that he naturally deferred to LAUSD Staff relations. Right from the beginning, there was no talk of justice, rather, he immediately talked about seeing if he could stall long enough for me to vest in my health benefits under the rule of 80, where you get lifetime health benefits if your age and years of service equal 80. Given the impossible caseload he has at UTLA, given the reality that I am not the only teacher LAUSD is on the warpath against, he has not really had the time to read or understand the bogus nature of the charges against me and the solid testimonial and documentary evidence I have to counter these outrageous fabrications.
In one sense, what makes it worse is that he knows from the brief time he has spent at UTLA as a teacher representative that the whole system -- UTLA and LAUSD are corrupt -- but he has come to the conclusion like the majority of my other educator colleagues that you cannot change it -- "Just try to make the best of it and maybe I can get LAUSD to give you $40,000 and your medical benefits." There is never any proactive action taken by anyone at the union on behalf of teachers who pay close to $60 a month to be sold out to the interests of LAUSD. It is clear to anybody who has been where I am going that UTLA rarely proceeds with grievances, rarely recommends that the arbitration you are entitled to under the contract is sought, and has never to my knowledge actively litigated on behalf of a teacher in the situation that I am in. Extrapolating from my brief sojourn at Local District 6, I think that it is possible that there are as many as 200 teachers in various "rubber room" situations throughout all LAUSD mini-districts.
Given the impossible job Ed Kaz is given by the UTLA administration -- his daily version of Ray Cortines and Co. -- I can understand why he asks for documents that I have already given him at an earlier time that he has either not bothered to read or not had the time to read. One time, in trying to justify why I should immediately try and make a settlement with the District that would cost me my job and teaching credential for a pittance, he cited documents in my file that actual concerned discipline charges against students that some of my teacher colleagues at my school had actually written against students that administration never acted on.
What I cannot forgive is militant ignorance. Although I continue to tell Mr. Kaz that I will not settle with LAUSD in a situation where I have done nothing wrong, he keeps asking me what would you take, so at one point I mention to him that before all this went down, I had planned to work for at least 5 more years to help defray the cost of my son's college education, which starts this year. So the first thing Mr. Kaz does is calls Ignacio Garcia at LAUSD Staff Relations and tells him that Isenberg would settle for 5 years of salary. Now think about it folks, if you were going to negotiate anything, like let's say the purchase of a house, would your broker/representative/attorney/out-of-classroom teacher working for UTLA make an offer without your permission? Worse yet, if you wanted to pay a certain amount, would that be the first figure your representative mentioned to the other side?
So, on March 16th, I get called to another discipline meeting by Principal Janet Seary along with Staff Relations ex-3rd Grade teacher Ignacio Garcia, who looks a little like a deer caught in the headlight. Even though the charges against me could have been dropped if Seary had bothered to call the student and parent involved, she refused in her never ending battle to get me fired at any cost. Staff Relations Ignacio Garcia has even told Ed Kaz of UTLA that "The District is probably going to go for dismissal," so I wonder why we are having meaningless "due process" when their minds are already made up.
Nonetheless, Principal Seary promises that she will send the usual certified letter with the charges by mail that same day. As of this writing, I have yet to receive them. And yet, my UTLA Representative Ed Kaz has. To make LAUSD's job easier in harassing me, he sends me the charges and tells me I'd better respond to them ASAP. Even Principal Seary's immediate boss Janice Davis said I could wait until after Spring break, since for some reason they were not able to get it together in the time frame promised by Principal Seary. I even suggested that the same legal notice could have been accomplished by sending me an email and my acknowledging it by return email, but Janice Davis would have no part of it, since it deviated from LAUSD proscribe policy, which no one who has risen in the LAUSD ranks would ever have gotten there if they allowed something like logic to govern their actions.
In the meantime, A.J.Duffy is making the radio show circuit without ever proposing a proactive union approach that might finally get LAUSD to take UTLA seriously. Duffy confines himself to setting up empty chairs in front of 333 S. Beaudry to represent the teachers that risk being terminated if LAUSD budget cuts go through. This is UTLA's clever finesse of not being able to actually get enough teachers to show up to anything UTLA proposes, because Duffy and the other leaders of UTLA have continued to roll over for LAUSD on a regular basis. Hell, if he actually acted like a union president, LAUSD might not give him a job when he terms out this year at UTLA. You cannot have a real collective bargaining reality with a union, if UTLA leadership has never bothered to build a rank-and-file consensus based on a democratically arrived at platform as to what the union stands for and is willing to ultimately walk out and strike over. While I get thrown to the lions and LAUSD teachers continue to get burned, UTLA officers fiddle for who will be the next to reap the benefits of presiding over UTLA.
A reporter friend of mine once said, "Don't worry Lenny, LAUSD cannot get rid of child molesters, how are they going to get rid of you?" My response to him at the time, which seems more prescient today was, "They will get rid of me a helluva lot quicker than a child molester."
Flickr: Anderson Mancini