Middle College High School works on a trimester model to maintain a calendar in sync with LaGuardia Community College that the school is partnered with. Now that the second trimester is in the rearview mirror where my childhood dream of playing sports for money came true (I taught a physical education class in the winter and sorry Susan Sutera and Barbara Cohen, I did more playing basketball and volleyball than teaching them), it is as good a time as any to retire and so that is what I just did. I am one of the fortunate teachers who made it through almost 32 years in the system. It is a time when I am both happy looking ahead and back but also a little sad at the same time.
I was lucky with my big mouth and poison pen to survive in what is too often a corrupt school system that many times treats its teachers like they are garbage. I am grateful that I made it through 28 very memorable years at Jamaica High School, endured a few months as an Absent Teacher Reserve and then had 3.5 generally happy years at Middle College High School. I'm leaving now even though I still feel I have lots left in the tank. The Principal at Middle College, although she appointed me at little cost to the school's budget for this year and last, still looked upon me as a temp and I agreed I would be. She thanked me when I left and told the staff I did a great job "filling in." Once an Absent Teacher Reserve, always an ATR ladies and gentlemen.
I don't blame the principal for no longer wanting to carry me as schools are funded at a level about 10% below what the Department of Education considers full funding so for the last year and 2/3 MCHS had an extra social studies teacher that it really can't afford. There's no need to put a junior teacher at risk of excess so that I can go on working as the subsidy for hiring an ATR decreases and then goes away in 2019. Hence, I quit. I now have a life at home as a stay at home dad with two small kids: Kara age 8 and Matt age 3. They are thrilled that I am home all day. I am adjusting pretty well.
I seriously considered leaving last June but was completely blindsided by the ATR buyout which I was not eligible for as the UFT encouraged me to get appointed while they were simultaneously negotiating a buyout behind the scenes. I didn't retire in part because I didn't want to leave emptyhanded so I came back and I'm sure glad I did as I was able to get to know so many wonderful grade 10 students this year.
I will miss the staff and students at Middle College. I didn't think it would be emotional departing but it was. The kids, particularly Alan Wilk, Cindy Rodriguez, Jimmy Reyes, Daisy Vasquez, Kimberly Vasquez, Eric Fernandez, Asbin Gurung, Ashar Abbasi, Amanda Camacho, Kamar Elsayed, Omar Hernandez, Christofer Narvaez, Joseph Chiang, Jaleya Adams, Anrem Escatron, Jennifer Pintado, Janell Olivera, Jeremy, Juan, Bradley, Fatima, Melanie, House 6A and so many others were so great. Oh and I can't forget Daisy Ramos who was my first mentee for oral defense. No Regents except English as MCHS is a consortium school. Daisy had no idea I was twice as nervous as she was before she faced her Oral Defense panel to defend her final projects. Ixchel Ortiz, Deyssi Lopez and Rishav Osti were this year's mentees and I thank them too as they all excelled.
At Middle College I was in a different world compared to Jamaica High School or the other schools I was sent to as an ATR. For starters, the kids call staff by our first names.
My first day at MCHS I was greeted by former Jamaica colleagues Rachel and Ibeth as well as one time Jamaica Safety Agent, Officer Heath. They made me feel right at home. I so appreciated the support from all three. Ibeth shared her desk, her computer and her keys with me. She showed me where to park safely and cheaply and was so amazing to work with. Luli, Casey and Ilana welcomed me into their office as if I had been there for 25 years so thank you. Thanks also go out to Matt (taught me how to do House and teach phys ed), Virginia, Romia, Jordan (all the pictures), CL John Poon, Rob (I will miss the bus rides to field day) and the entire staff at Middle College. You were great colleagues.
I will never forget meeting with Social Studies Department Chair Felisa (a teacher not an assistant principal is our chair) who was an invaluable resource who became a real friend. Our first conversation when I arrived at MCHS went something like this:
Me- What do I teach?
Her-Whatever you want, just don't go overboard.
Me-What about curriculum?
Her-It's up to you. Do what you think is best; you're a professional. I can help if you need it.
I ended up reinventing myself as a teacher and in some ways became a better one. I still have plenty to offer but NYC would rather pay for bureaucrats than invest to fully fund the schools so although I already miss the students and staff, it's bye bye DOE. Hello new life as a stay at home dad.
It just so happened that on my first day of retirement on Monday I was in touch with several people from Jamaica High School. We feel this real bond and still try to help each other out even after our school was improperly closed. I just want to say thanks to some Jamaica friends: Debbie Saal, the aforementioned Barbara Cohen and Susan Sutera, my officemate Steve Heiss ( I used to boast to Steve how I would act indifferent as an ATR and then when I was an actual ATR and realized how miscast I was in the role, I did everything I could to get out of the ATR rotation), Mike Pallisco, Dena Gordon, Julia Schlakman, Marc Epstein, Nunzio Mostaccio, Rose Slaymaker, Tanya McKetney, Bob Klugman, Jeanne Quarto, Rich Covelli, the incredible Maria Giamundo and so many others from Jamaica and Middle College who I apologise for not personally acknowledging here. Also, much appreciation for Kimberley Walcott, Kevin Gonzalez and all of the other Jamaica students who did everything humanly possible to save our school.
The only question left is do I stay active in the UFT and follow in Norm Scott's footsteps or do I move on completely? I hope everyone who reads this signs our petition to change the evaluation system and if you signed already, spread it to all of your friends and families. Getting five signatures from everyone who reads this would be a great retirement gift.
Finally, thanks in so many ways to my wife Camille and my two kids for putting up with me as I tried to change our little piece of the education and labor world for the better. Your love and support I do not take for granted. Fortunately, Camille will be active for many years as a NYC teacher and we are public school parents too so I guess I can't completely move on.