The voice on the other end of the phone line was polite, filled with the conviction of youth and disappointed that all people claiming to want the best for children are not sincere.
I’d heard the same voice hundreds of times before. Young people who had planned all their life to work with children, who had been “called” to do so. Voices full of both enthusiasm and innocence. Their mission was to save the world one child at a time. To give love and care and lots of hugs.
And so it was with the young lady I was talking to.
Except, she took a job at Montgomery’s LEAD Academy charter school and within a few weeks came to the jarring conclusion that what she faced each day was NOT what schools should be. A place were promises were not kept, administration was haphazard at best and money seemed to drive every decision.
She had a master’s degree and taught in a private school in Birmingham before joining LEAD. Why a charter school I asked. “Because I heard they offer more freedom to teachers,” she replied.
That was not what she found. And only weeks after going to work, she left behind a school she believes is not doing a good job of educating their students and one she would not recommend as a work place for another teacher.
She taught kindergarten and was so dedicated to her new job that she communed daily from Birmingham. She was interviewed by now dismissed principal Nicole Ivey and hired by the school’s board in June. She spent $650 on classroom supplies, but was not reimbursed after being told she would be. She was told she needed teaching “centers” in her room–but got no funding for them. Her paycheck for August was a week and one half late and about $1,200 less than she thought it would be. She got the remainder of her August check in September.
She did not get a contract until Sept. 27. To her surprise, it stated that she would be an “at will” employee, someone who could be terminated at any time. She did not sign it and resigned three days later. She was the second of five teachers to leave, along with the school nurse and special education director. When she left, all remaining teachers except one, were first year, including one with no education degree or certification
Two of her students also left.
The climate at the school? “Extremely chaotic,” she said. “Teachers got little support from the administration which was primarily LEAD board chair Charlotte Meadows and consultant Soner Tariim. “It was not a pleasant place to work,” she told me, “there was a feeling of discomfort and Soner Tarim was rude to teachers.”
Meadows would visit classrooms and tell faculty what to do. Who did she report to I asked. This brought a laugh. “We were constantly told different things by different people.” she said.
Finally the chaos and broken promises and lack of a clear chain of command were too much. She resigned.
Amazingly, when I talked to her she was not bitter. (Young people are like that you know.) But she was definitely disappointed that her motivation to help children in any way possible was obviously not the motivation for why this school began.
She is now looking for another teaching job. She will find one I’m sure. Let’s pray her dream of helping children still burns bright, which I think it does, and that at her next stop she will find administrators with the same desire.