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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Contract not Renewed

Found out today that I am banned from teaching in not only the YISD District but also Socorro because YISD voted to not renew my contract last May. It becomes a black-mark on your record with the bigger districts - they have so many candidates that they don't even ask the details. It doesn't matter that the Principal resigned and left; and, it doesn't matter that coincidently both my H.S. administrator and the school board member who first moved to terminate me either ran the water district for 25 years or are married to the current general manager of the same. Or, that all the punitive steps (the write-up and the scheduling to get the memorandum of termination) happened within about 3 days of contacting certain people in the EPWU about our concerns on water quality (1st instance, we got data that they insisted that they never had; 2d instance, a letter to the El Paso Inc. outlining the water contamination). Coincidence?

There was another punitive step: removing me on administrative leave for a never-named charge, and simultaneously barring me from communicating with anyone in the District. Fellow teachers just knew that I'd suddenly disappeared. I wish that it was as easy to get Asarco contamination to disappear.

I am the only H.S. science teacher involved in trying to find out what Asarco contaminated us with. The only one, in the entire region. I have 4 years teaching experience on the college level (labs), and students who told me that I was the best teacher that they'd ever had; but, can't get past that black mark on the record. Had I been willing to resign, I was told that I could be set up with several interviews - one with SISD. So the black mark has nothing to do with my teaching ability and everything to do with me speaking out when I saw racism and when I see environmental racism in this community.

Was the problem with my teaching (which I was told was typical for a 1st yr h.s. teacher) or was the problem that I spoke out? A friend who has worked on the Asarco contamination problem in her community with me, told me when I called about the termination, "Well, you expected it, No?"
Her community and the children have been literally sacrificed for 3 generations to Asarco contamination. When the Board (2 against because there was no evidence, 2 for (one now facing FBI investigation), and 1 who voted against me not because I had done anything wrong but instead on a technicality) many of the children from the community came to support me. Even with a contract termination and blacklisting, my life is far easier than those kids' lives and they give me courage I would not otherwise have. They are wonderful children in Anapra/Sunland Park. So were my students at Bel Air - excellent caring kids.

A 2001 post about Newspaper/Journalism teachers describes my own situation in teaching real science to kids (Chapter 1 of our state-approved text covered the topic of "conflict of interest" and ethics in science):

"...As Nelson’s example shows, it is possible to stand up to authority without paying the price of your employment. But one adviser who was not so lucky, and has suffered as a result, warned advisers that they should know the risks that come from taking principled positions.

“Tell your students the whole truth; they make decisions that will affect very much the rest of your life,” Lach-Smith said. “We try to teach students to make responsible editorial decisions because they affect their sources’ lives [and] also whole organizations. I think we often fail to tell them how their decisions affect our lives…. Be prepared to lose in more ways than one.”

As for Ransick, he said his sacrifice may have been well worth the price.

“Oddly enough, I think the students learned the lessons better by watching what happened than they would have in the abstract by reading it in a textbook. They’ve gotten the lesson better than they ever could have otherwise.”

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