A One Issue Voter

“Nice car you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something was to ‘happen’ to it…”

I am an intentional citizen of the city of Troy, NY. I love it here, and recommend it to others regularly, but my city has a lot of problems. The biggest one is how unwelcoming our city government is to its own citizens.

A perennial example of this is “street cleaning”. Our city government either has a severe obsessive disorder about cleanliness, or uses street cleaning as an excuse to squeeze hundreds of thousands of extra tax dollars out of citizens’ wallets without having to raise taxes. I’ll let you decide which…

On some streets, like ours, you may never park on the street on one particular day every week. On others, they only clean a few times a year, so signs pop up on the curb 24 hours(ish) ahead of time to tell you you can’t park in front of your own house the next day. In the first case, most people are aware if the issue, so they only run afoul of the rules every year or so when they forget what day it is or have some personal emergency that takes them away on the wrong night. In the second case, given that many people don’t drive their car every day, or gasp go on vacation from time to time, they net a lot more.

This regularly results in scads of cars being not just ticketed, but stolen and held for ransom by a local towing company. The ticket is “only” $50, but in order to get your car back, you have to walk or taxi miles into the bad part of town and show up with $200 cash or a credit card to buy back your own car. My understanding is that the city gets a cut of this action, as well.

Understand, I don’t blame the towing company on this, as they are doing a job, and they do it more or less reasonably. For their part, they honk their horns loudly for a while before starting to tow you, and will let you escape if you happen to hear them and come out immediately. If you catch them after they have hooked you up, but before they leave, they will let you buy your car back on the spot for only $40. I don’t know if the city gets a cut of this.

“At least he’s honest!”

And so I find myself, again, dealing with my city’s “cleaning obsession”, already $40 down and with a $50 bill hanging over my head, because my wife left my truck on the street for fifteen fucking minutes while we got my daughter ready for day-care. This happens to my family every year or so. Life happens, and humans make mistakes. Just tallying in my mind, in the thirty years I’ve lived in Troy, I or a member of my household have been towed from in front of my own house about 22 times. Guestimating based on recollection of “saves” like today versus actual tows, that’s roughly $4500 that the city has stolen from my family under the auspices of “cleaning streets” that really weren’t dirty in the first place!

We pay too much for taxes, our city government is dominated by a gaggle of “Republicans” and a gaggle of “Democrats” whose most mutually distinct features are generally only who they hung out with in High School, and who they like or dislike, and our zoning laws are obscenely complex and vaguely written. I hate these things, but at least no one’s lying about them or sneaking up on me in the early morning to surprise me with them. Government is always a pain to its citizens, but this dishonest “we’re just trying to provide you services” nickel-and-dime bullshit is too much! This isn’t really about cars at all, it’s about the principle of government, however rapacious, at least being honest about how it’s taking our money.

I’m sick of it!

As of this moment, I am a “single issue voter” for the purposes of city elections! I will officially vote for ANYONE who makes a “hold-me-to-it” campaign promise to put an end to stealing our fucking cars in order to extort unlegislated taxes from our citizens. I don’t care who you are:

  • Republican? Fine, I’ll tell my foreign friends to steer clear until you’re out of office. Just stop stealing our cars!
  • Democrat? Fine, I’ll let parts of my house fall apart and demand a reassessment before you can raise my taxes again. Just stop stealing our cars!
  • Green/Working families? Whatever, I know you’re a Democrat anyway. Just stop stealing our cars!
  • Conservative/Independence/etc? Whatever, I know you’re a Republican anyway. Just stop stealing our cars!

To make it succinct, at this point, I would vote for Satan himself, revived from Christian mythology replete with horns, brimstone, and pitchfork, if he would guarantee that his first act in office would be to put an end to this conniving bullshit, and STOP. FUCKING. STEALING. OUR. FUCKING. CARS.

Enough, already!

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

USA Dance is an organization in shambles, but we could still save our local chapter!

Hi folks,

Before I begin, I would like to point out that I’m presenting this as an open letter to the Board of Directors for the Capital District chapter of USA Dance (3014),  its chapter membership, and our entire local dance community.  It is very long, but, I feel, very important, and ends with an idea that might help Capital USA Dance immensely!

I have been a member of USA Dance for 25 years.  I served on the local chapter’s steering committee and on every elected Board of Directors for 20 years, the last five of those as president of the chapter.  I have always been, and will always be, a strong supporter of Capital USA Dance.  It provides a powerful resource and unbiased community linchpin for all our local dancers.

It is therefore with regret that I must tell you that I did not renew my membership in USA Dance this year, and will not do so until such time as the national organization completely changes leadership and direction, and supports its own chapters and the US ballroom dance community in general.  This comes as the result of a decade or more of progressively more restrictive and stupid actions on the part of the national organization and its parent organization, the World Dancesport Federation (WDSF).

As many current and former members of the board will remember, I have expressed concerns about the national organization for well over a decade.  While too many to list in their entirety, these are some highlights:

  • Joining WDSF as a way to move US dancesport into the Olympics, at the expense of making significant and not entirely welcome changes to the organizations rules and structure, with almost yearly changes afterward.
  • At the behest of the WDSF, starting a feud with the NDCA , the US’ other major ballroom dance organization (and who belongs to the WDC, the WDSF’s competitor) by disallowing USA Dance (then USABDA) competitors from USA Dance competitions should they choose to take part in an NDCA event.  This was later revoked, but the damage was done, and eventually the cooperative agreement that USA Dance had had with the NDCA for decades previously was eradicated.
  • Ever decreasing flexibility from the national organization in how chapters might be run and structured, along with ambiguously written and usually unnecessary new rules.
  • Elimination of the individual chapters’ already paltry shares of membership dues with the stated purpose of “reinvesting” those funds into a poorly designed, incompetently run “website system” that would provide websites for every chapter, regardless of whether they wanted or needed new websites.
  • Peremptory messages and calls to chapter officers demanding that the chapter utterly change it’s website and social media presences to conform to a new ‘branding’ standard with complete disregard for the fact that our chapter had been building its online brand carefully and consistently over more than 15 years, and all of that work would be lost.
  • Complete disarray in the leadership of the national organization, starting with the election and resignation of a mostly new governing council under intimations of financial impropriety, continuing through an effective “palace coup” where an appointed nominating committee for national elections only allowed voting on a slate basically consisting of its own members and those who initially appointed them, sweeping away yet another governing council, and the forced dissolution by the GC of the New York City chapter over allegations of financial impropriety, after which no investigation was conducted and the chapter was left without even provisional leadership for half a year.
  • Ceding of the American Style Syllabi to the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, a British organization with no particular expertise in American Style ballroom and a history of its devotees putting down American Style as “inferior”/”sloppy”/etc…
  • Complete failure to produce the quarterly “American Dancer” newsletter, even after declaring that they were moving to digital distribution to keep costs down.

For me, the final straw came last week.  You see, after all the US organization was forced to do to conform to WDSF standards in order to “get us in the Olympics”, the WDSF has spent the last two years focusing most of its available resources on promoting Break-dancing as a competitive sport (https://www.worlddancesport.org/Media/Press/Release), and is now touting its success in bringing “Breaking” to the 2024 Olympics (https://www.worlddancesport.org/Media/Press/Release/201903_IOC_Executive_Board_gives_thumbs_up_for_Breaking_at_Paris_2024-2922).  As for it’s abandonment of even International Style ballroom in this regard, the WDSF president, in his “President’s Report 2019” (https://www.worlddancesport.org/Document/465982295585/E-Booklet_2019_AGM.pdf ), called Standard and Latin “niche traditional disciplines” that must be “repackaged” to be “more universally relatable” before they have any hope of inclusion.  He makes no mention of why the organization has spent two years devoting all it’s resources to a sport it doesn’t even have recognized jurisdiction over rather than actually DOING the repackaging he feels is necessary!

I guess we finally won?

I have watched Capital USA Dance struggle valiantly against the roadblocks and willful neglect of the national organization for the last decade, and I have real concerns about the viability of the chapter if this continues, especially in the realm of membership.  If you were not aware, most of our local competitors no longer even attend most USA Dance competitions, and many do not maintain their memberships.  This trend is occurring among both competitors and social members across the country, and threatens the continued existence of many chapters.  A number of chapters have broken away from national completely and set themselves up as separate non-profit entities in an effort to retain membership dues and win back lapsed members.

While I would not suggest such drastic measures for Capital USA Dance, I do have a suggestion:

Why not institute a “local dancer” membership for the chapter, for those like myself, who refuse to support the national organization until they change course?  It could still garner the local benefits of membership, like event discounts and the chapter newsletter, while lacking voting rights and other national-controlled programs, but would be money paid directly to the chapter, rather than national.  Given that a national membership gets those benefits while not contributing to the financial resources of the chapter, this would seem to be a huge win for the chapter, even if this membership had a significantly lower cost than national membership (perhaps $10-15?)!

Should national question this status, it could be sold to them as a way to keep wayward members at least somewhat in the fold, especially on pointing out that they themselves are doing literally nothing to help keep the chapter afloat, while the chapter provides them with thousands of dollars each year in membership dues. 

If this idea were successful, and I strongly suspect it would be, it would serve as a stinging rebuke to national from all who feel as I do about their actions while massively increasing the chapter’s income.

I appreciate your time and attention, reading through my massive screed, and I hope you will consider my proposal.

Thank you,


Posted in Ballroom, For Facebook, Personal, Uncategorized | 1 Response

Primary Schools: Reputation is everything, and I just don’t give a shit any more…

Pressure Cooker

Our five-year-old is going to school. In the fall, he will be a kindergartner. You wouldn’t think this would be a big fuss. After all, it’s just kindergarten, right? No one ever missed out on going to the best college because of a bad choice in kindergartens, right??? That’s certainly what I thought, until we started preparing to send our son to kindergarten!

Because, you see, colleges care about what high school you went to, and high schools (if they are charter or private) care about what elementary school you went to, and elementary schools (if they are charter or private) care about what kindergarten you went to. And there’s the problem. If you live somewhere that the public schools perform significantly below average, and you really don’t want to uproot your family to get better public schools, your only choice is the private/charter schools who perform better, and they have opinions about your child’s previous schools.

So we started shopping. Our finalists were a charter school that performs very well and is “free” (i.e. covered by our taxes), and a private school that does even better and sounds more interesting, but costs $13,000 a year on top of our taxes. Suddenly, “next best” started to sound more attractive than “best”, so we asked around. We heard nothing but glowing reviews. Everyone we talked to loved what the charter school was doing. It seemed like we’d be fools not so send our son.

The next challenge was the waiting list. It’s a lottery to get in, and the only special consideration is given to siblings of those already attending and the children of employees. We resigned ourselves to fate, with public school as our backup plan. But then, an opportunity presented itself. The school was hiring, and my wife was looking for a job, and we had a friend who had a friend who might be able to ensure an interview was given…

This was actually a golden opportunity. All my wife had to do was ace an interview or two, and all our problems were solved in one fell swoop. She would finally have a real teaching gig with a 90% decrease in commute time, the boy would get moved to the head of the line for acceptance, and they could even commute together. Needless to say, she got the job, as discussed at length in my previous article, so we were in.

After our son was accepted to the charter school, we started getting mail and emails from them. To be honest, the tone of these communications was a bit peremptory, full of “parents will”s and “students must”s. At first we assumed that given the high opinion others has expressed of them, they had developed their own high opinion of themselves, but after my wife had been working for the school for a couple of weeks, she had begun to observe a certain martinet-like prickliness in the school’s culture. This was my first concern about the school, but it seemed pretty minor in the grand scheme, given their stats.

Then the time came for our son’s kindergarten orientation. This turned out to be a completely surreal, almost cult-like experience. First, we received a reminder email about a week before the event. It gave us the “requirements” for attendance. We needed to bring the expected stack of documents to satisfy residency, medical, and general government nosiness requirements. It ended with a bizarre diatribe about how the school’s philosophy was that if you were not 15 minutes early, you were late, and that anyone not in the correct room and signed in on time would be ejected and expected to reschedule with the school immediately or face de-registration!

Once we signed in, our son was separated from us by one of the teachers for “evaluation”. This made me vaguely uneasy, but seemed reasonable. Then we were told that parents needed to go to a meeting in another room. We were almost immediately intercepted by another teacher who “offered” to take our two-year-old daughter off our hands for the duration, since we “really needed to pay attention”. Alarm bells were beginning to ring for me, but my wife calmed we down, and we proceeded as asked.

In the meeting room, we were given “classwork” to complete before the meeting started. Afterward, we were shown a powerpoint presentation about the school’s performance, philosophy, and regulations. This included a lengthy speech about what kind of parents “aren’t a good fit” for the school (spoiler: If you have an opinion about how your child should be taught, you aren’t a good fit!). My unease with the situation had begun to grow…

We were told that our kindergartner would be assigned 45 minutes of parent-assisted homework a night, in addition to a required 20 minute reading assignment. They also informed us that the school year was going to start on August 15th instead of the 26th, run later than the regular school district, and that the school day was going to start a half-hour earlier and end 45 minutes to an hour later. This was problematic, as we had finally found a really great summer camp program for our son and this start date was going to cut off the last two weeks of a seven week program. I also expressed concern to the principal over how a child was to find any family time when the school started so early that children needed a 7PM bedtime and parents worked until at least 5PM (6PM for me in particular), but they needed to eat dinner and do an hour-plus of schoolwork every night. Her response was to the effect of, “Yes, some of our families find home-life scheduling a challenge…”. I suddenly felt like I was talking to some incompetent middle manager from corporate America, telling me “That does seem like a problem. I want daily reports until the situation improves.”

Then we were shown a weird video of a school assembly where children from K-through-4th were being lead through a mind-numbing series of chants and recitations that sounded like excerpts from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book of Educational Philosophy. At this point, the alarm bells in my head were beginning to turn into a full-blown anxiety attack.

At some point during all this, I came to the realization that they were using the same creepy crowd-control tactics on us parents that my wife had relayed as those she was expected to use on students at her own job with the school. They were literally talking down to grown adults like they were eight-year-olds, “Glow”ing people (aka “attaboy!”) who were following the rules and reproving those who spoke to each other, looked at their phones, or persistently asked questions that weren’t really being answered (It is left as an exercise to the reader to determine which category I fell into).

Then there were the workbooks. Each family was given a binder full of “life’s work” for their student. This was homework to be completed by the student before they started school. It was a requirement, we were told, that our child be able to complete all of the assigned work before starting kindergarten to ensure that he would not have any trouble keeping up, which might require extra classes or homework to rectify. It had to be fifty pages long!

Let me stop, at this point, to review all the things currently feeding my feelings of dread about this process. We were sending our kindergartner into a clearly high-pressure/high-stress environment where he would be required to wear a uniform and sit quietly in “poses” all day long, for at least an hour more than regular kids in the same grade. He was effectively going to have no home-playtime on weekdays, and limited recess opportunities at school. He would be attending daily “rallies” that looked and felt like creepy evangelist church services, where he would learn to sing and chant slogans in unison with a crowd. He was was going to lose 30% of his summer camp experience and spend what was left of his summer doing homework with his parents. On top of all that, he was going to have to wear a uniform which was indistinguishable, I shit you not, from the awful, tone-deaf, this-is-what-cool-young-people-dress-like-in-their-spare-time-right clothes handed out by corporate “motivators” on “team-building” retreats.

After the parent indoctrination orientation was over, both our children were returned to us apparently safe and happy, with glowing reports on how bright and talented they both were, and what fine additions they might make to the school… I got us out of there as fast as we could, and nearly hyperventilated in the car driving home. Slowly, over the course of hours, we convinced ourselves that the school’s performance spoke for itself, and that while they were a little weird, maybe we should try it for a year, and just see if it wasn’t really as insane and cult-like an environment as it seemed. I was still anxious, but my wife calmed me down and made me see reason (I thought!).

In the three weeks following the orientation, I continued to do research, and made some troubling discoveries. I found several people online who described having posted negative reviews of the school and having had their posts scrubbed from review and social media sites via “reported content” mechanisms. Several of the few I could find, now having a better idea where to look, were horrifying. They contained words like “military”, “exhausted”, and “miserable”. One of them disappeared within a week of my having found it. I assume the rest are gone by now.

Over that same three weeks, the events described in my previous article transpired. After my wife’s experience with the toxic, unreasonable, and frankly psychotic-seeming behavior of the people running the school, we had had enough. In a discussion that lasted for approximately eight seconds (Me: Holy shit, they really are as fucked up as they seem! How can we put our child into that psychotic pressure-cooker?!?!? Her: We can’t.), we decided that our son would be going to public kindergarten with his friends from the neighborhood after all.

My wife turned in the papers withdrawing him from the school and registering for public school around 12 PM the next day. Within five minutes, I received an email from the school telling me that our son’s “application for admission has been rejected”, and if you read nothing else about what kind of a place it is, you could just read the last two sentences to tell you all you need to know!

Our son will be going to public kindergarten. He will have a full summer of fun and actual “life’s work”, like learning to boat and swim and play soccer and hike in the woods, and such. If he needs tutoring to look good on standardized tests in a few years because of it, SO. FUCKING. BE. IT.

Posted in Family, For Facebook, General, Personal, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unethical Schools: Why People Who Read Management Books Shouldn’t Be In Charge Of Teaching Children

Uncommonly Unethical

My wife has a story that needs to be told. She can’t tell it, so I’m going to. It’s the story of a sensitive, creative person who lives to nurture and support others, and doesn’t have a conniving or political bone in her body. It’s also the story of the monstrous world that uses all that against her at every turn, squeezing out all she has to offer and leaving her in the gutter when she is no longer necessary.

My wife is a teacher. She’s a good teacher. She’s the kind of teacher who more than once has gotten letters from the parents of children she didn’t even have in her own class about how much she helped their child. She’s the teacher your kids should have, but rarely will. Apparently, this makes her unemployable!

She’s been working as a substitute, a teacher’s assistant, and a long term substitute for over a decade, all the while desperately trying to get a job as an actual English teacher. One district screwed her out of a tenured TA position because she took a long term sub position that, it was promised, would put her on the short list for the next opening. The opening was simply eliminated without even the offer of an interview, and she had no job to go back to, because the HR department gave her the wrong information about procedures and then wouldn’t admit it. Another time, she finally scrambled her way into another long term sub position that was “almost guaranteed” to turn into a real job, until she had the audacity to have a baby, after which both the long term sub position and the actual job magically evaporated.

More recently, she was promised that if she came and worked as a TA in a new district 45 minutes from home, they would put her first in line for new English positions that opened. She busted her ass for four years, taking on extra duties, working full time while being a mom to two children and spending an hour and a half a day commuting, and generally being exceptional. Then, the year that two English positions finally opened up, the superintendent was replaced, and the promise was reneged upon. One position went to the assistant principal who had sold her so hard on the deal in the first place, and another to an older teacher from another school in the district who just wanted a change of pace…

You need to understand all that to grasp how spectacularly evil her latest saga is. After a decade plus of the aforementioned slogging, my wife got a golden opportunity. A charter school right here in town was hiring an English teacher for the 2019-2020 school year, and we had a friend who had a friend who might be able to increase the chance of an interview being granted, so she went for it.

Of course, she aced the interviews, and was told she’d be getting the English position next year within a few days of her final interview. They even told her they had cancelled all the interviews after hers. We were ecstatic! A few days later, before she could respond, they called again, and asked her if she would also leave her current, tenured position three months early, so she could take over for someone going out on maternity leave, and start “right now”.

Leaving a tenured position (especially mid-year) was a big risk, but even if all she was guaranteed was thee months of one term and the following year, it was a real teaching job with a reasonable commute at the school we were hoping to send our son to. We talked it over, and decided that the chance to do what she had desperately yearned to do since college was worth the risk of not having a job in 18 months. My wife accepted, gave two weeks notice, and the wheels were set in motion.

Fast forward to four weeks later, and the wheels had already begun to come off our plan. I initially got an inkling something was wrong with this place when on her first day, my wife came home and it came up that she had no lunchtime. I asked if they were combining her lunch into her “prep-time”, and when that was scheduled. She told me that she only got a prep time on some days, and that she’d been told that the rest of the time, she should simply eat while she was teaching. I pointed out that as someone who had employees for many years, I was quite certain that while they might not have to pay her for the time, it was literally illegal for them to make her work in excess of 8 hours without a break for food. She didn’t want to rock the boat, so I let it go…

This place was a bit insane. Her work started fifteen minutes before the normal school district, and ended two hours after. This was sprung on her, as she had been told during interviews that school ran until one time, but had already signed on and given notice at her old job when she was told she was required to be physically in school for an hour later than originally stated. She had to get special permission to leave school at the originally advertised time, because she had to pick up our children in the afternoon. In order to get this permission, she was officially docked about 9% of her previously agreed upon salary.

As the days passed, things began to go downhill, and it quickly became obvious that that working at this charter school was like working in Soviet Russia. Within days of starting, my wife told me a story of how she asked a fellow English teacher from a grade below her for advice on some minor issue, and within an hour was being grilled by her team leader to explain exactly what she thought she was doing. It would seem that the teachers for each grade are expected to communicate only with each other on work matters, and execute all outside contacts through their leader.

It should also be noted that this school uses a rather unique teaching technique. The teachers don’t make lesson plans, instead teaching directly from pre-supplied materials, reading, and activities. The teacher’s job is to focus on “classroom control”, where students are constantly either talked to or working on these pre-planned materials, and required to remain silent and in one of a set of poses designed to focus attention at all times. This requires the execution of a massive number of detailed procedures on the teacher’s part, and new teachers are given weeks of training and preparation to do so. My wife, on the other hand, was given a couple of hours of instruction and told to shadow a teacher for a week or so, and that she would get the real training next August, before school started.

A few days into actually teaching, my wife began having observations by her new principal, and getting dressed-down right in front of her students almost daily. Loaded atop the already massive upheaval of our whole family’s lives, trying to settle into the new schedule and decrease of Mamma-home-time, this constant harassment quickly became a majorly stressful issue, resulting in an emotional breakdown where my wife needed to leave the classroom for a few minutes to compose herself.

My wife met with her principal. She told her that she understood that her lack of having been trained meant that she was making a lot of mistakes, and that she welcomed constructive criticism. When she also pointed out that it would be much less stressful to receive that criticism without being humiliated directly in front of her students on an almost daily basis, she was told two things. First, that these public dressings-down were a part of the school’s policy on “in the moment feedback” (apparently a teacher-management technique that involves being publicly and at full volume talked down to like you are a child in front of your students for not executing some aspect of the martinet-like classroom process that the school uses, which she was not due to be trained in until August), and second, that she needed to start responding better to feedback, or it might affect her status in the Fall.

This, of course, caused a panic in our house. This risk had been taken with the understanding that she would be employed through the end of the 2020 school year, not for three months. The fact that this was even a possibility would have been a deal-breaker in the first place! My wife scheduled another meeting with her principal to clarify. She explained that she only took this job on the understanding that it would include the 2019-2020 school year, and that the principal’s previous comment was rather world-shaking. Could she, in fact, count on that position in the Fall? “Absolutely” was the answer given.

That answer was given verbally and in private, where no witnesses could be called upon. It would only later become clear how important that was…

My wife committed to her principal that she would redouble her efforts. I helped her practice at home, and she began working nightly on the procedures book she’d been given, in addition to the hours of homework the school already required of her. She immediately stopped being berated daily, began to get an occasional “glow” (which is apparently their corporate-speak for an “attaboy”), and was occasionally spoken to with respect and seeming appreciation. All seemed well.

Even so, it just kept getting weirder. Along the way, my wife came home with stories about a number of colleagues coming back from meetings with the principal in tears and refusing to talk about what was wrong. There were instances of apparent two-facedness from team leaders as well, and an environment seemingly full of tension and short tempers.

A couple of weeks later, in discussing the classes my wife would be teaching to a group of students who had been deemed unworthy to attend a school trip, the principal blind-sided my wife with roughly twice the weekly workload she had been previously scheduled to complete (for any given class, the teacher must complete all class materials and assignments before teaching it, and submit this work to a computerized system). This was on a Wednesday, and the principal informed her that the new work should be submitted by the following evening. My wife responded that she had no time in her schedule for the extra workload that day, and that she was preparing for a weekend trip that had been scheduled since before being offered the job, but that she would do her best to get it completed while she was away, so that it was submitted well before actually teaching those classes.

On that Friday evening, while my wife was on a plane, the principal sent her an email scolding her for not submitting the extra work the previous day, and telling her that they needed to have a meeting about her time-management skills. Needless to say, my wife was nonplussed. She responded with a fairly benign “per our previous conversation” email, committing to having it submitted before the classes were due to be taught, and got the work done as promised. The resulting meeting was not “constructive”. The principal sandbagged my wife with a litany of her supposed shortcomings, and again made vague threats about her status in the coming school year. This was the gift my wife’s employer gave to my family for the Memorial day weekend.

At this point, I was frankly of the opinion that my wife’s boss was literally a psychopath. She just seemed to enjoy torturing her for the fun of it, and no amount of improvement or professional engagement was even a factor in it. It seemed a lot like what I’ve read of the way people with borderline personality disorder treat their children…

Now, it was previously known that this principal was leaving her position at the end of the year, and moving to a higher one, and that there would be a new principal in the Fall. This was mentioned only in passing to my wife and she was specifically told it had nothing to do with her status. My wife was scheduled to meet with the new principal the day after Memorial Day. In this meeting, the new principal told my wife that there “were a lot of applicants” for the position she had been promised in the Fall, and that while she was welcome to apply, her “record of problems” on the job made it unlikely she would be accepted!

And then came the clincher. She told my wife that the school was focusing on hiring younger teachers, because they would dedicate more of their time to the job…

Immediately after that meeting, my wife was called by her principal to a “debriefing”. Unbeknownst to her, the old and new principals were preparing a double-teaming session. Out of the blue, she was accused of being “emotionally inconsistent”, and any attempts at self-advocacy were labeled as “poor response to feedback”. These “crimes” being in addition to her “time management issues”, she was told, she “should have expected this”. The old principal then flat-out lied about her commitment to a Fall position right to my wife’s face, with a flouncy, pearl-clutching “I have no idea where you would ever have gotten that idea from”. The meeting ended with an admonition not to discuss this issue with any co-workers, but that they would be “happy” to give her a good recommendation for future employment, assuming she finished out the year “without further problems”.

That night, the new principal doubled down on that veiled threat with an email. It reasserted that, “The contract that you signed was for a three month position.” It continued that “based upon trends in feedback”, they were “unable to offer a contract for next fall”, and that they “would need to see a dramatic change in all areas” for that to change.

A dramatic change. In the eleven days of work left in the year. Sure, that’s a serious sentence!

The email continued by codifying the “keep your mouth shut or we’ll torpedo your career” extortion in two further sentences: “We trust you will not share details with other staff or students.”, and “Provided that you uphold these professional expectations, we will support you as you pursue your next position by providing references.”

Now, I still don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but I have some hypotheses:

  1. As I first thought, my wife’s principal is simply a psychopath, who has hurt her for the simple joy of the torture.
  2. An unethical principal just needed to cover a teacher for three months, lied through her teeth about the next term job to my wife to get her to abandon her tenured position to work as a band-aid, and then tried as hard as she could to make her miserable so she would leave, torpedoing her record when that didn’t work.
  3. This principal hired my wife more or less in good faith, but was subsequently told by an unethical organization that they wanted to eliminate anyone over thirty, so she had to find a way to make the firing look like NOT age-discrimination, so she tried as hard as she could to make her miserable so she would leave, torpedoing her record when that didn’t work.

Whatever the reason, this school has acted in a number of sleazy, borderline illegal ways, and I’m utterly disgusted with them. They made sure that their lies were undocumented and unwitnessed and blind-sided her with unreasonable requirements, ignoring reasonable self-advocacy and blaming her for problems they caused. They’ve shown no remorse while utterly upending my wife’s career and our family’s life!

To anyone who is thinking, “well, she should have known better when it wasn’t in writing”, I say this: Fuck you and your implicit support of someone who tricked a gentle, genuine woman who just fucking wants to teach your fucking children to think and learn! You’re an asshole, and YOU fucking try to explain to my five-year-old how Mommy’s crying because a bad person took away her job and potentially torpedoed her entire career, and then threatened her to keep her quiet about it!

Anyway, my wife is going to uphold those “professional expectations”, because these unethical, lying bastards now hold her career in their hands. I, on the other hand, don’t know anyone that works there, and can relate the whole sordid tragedy at will. This abusive place is the very definition of the word “toxic”. In the future, I will go to great lengths trying to make sure no one I do know ever subjects themselves to this fucking hellhole, especially my SON, who was scheduled to attend there in the Fall, but will now not be allowed anywhere near those maniacs!

You can read about that ordeal in my next post…

Posted in Family, For Facebook, General, Personal, Uncategorized | 6 Responses

Office Place

Have you ever thought that maybe there really is a massive universal consciousness, and it has a really sick sense of humor? Like, it just loves to torture you in the most banal ways, so that if you complain, everyone around you just thinks, “What’s he complaining about? He’s got it easy!”

Just in case you ever wondered how realistic a picture of corporate America that old comedy movie “Office Space” was, let’s start with one of it’s main comedic props, the “TPS Report” (a clearly useless, low-information document with ridiculous formatting requirements that had to be produced weekly by every employee to monitor work progress):

I, right now, twenty-some years later, am required on a bi-weekly basis to produce an “ESR Report”. It is a presentation-formatted powerpoint document that must conform to a complex standard. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to produce. It must be manually uploaded to a special folder in a “Box” share that has no relationship to any other work-product storage schemes or company reporting systems. It contains approximately EIGHT SENTENCES of information.

Let’s continue on to how I am also required on a weekly basis to use a byzantine HR system to report my hours worked with unbelievably fine granularity as regards both project and work-type reported. If I use the wrong work-type code, it is flagged as a “defect”. If the code I need hasn’t been added to my permissions, I have to request it be, or I can’t file without a “defect”. The request can take up to ten days to complete, so you miss filing your report, which is, say it with me, a “defect”….

Then, consider that I must spend a half-hour of every single morning in an “agile”, “stand-up” meeting for my primary project. On top of that, I spend an hour every other week in a “team meeting” and have 90 minute “All Hands” meetings at least once but as many as five times a month…

To quote Peter Gibbons: “I’d say in a given week, I prob’ly only do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.”

Did I mention I have five bosses? “Five?” you ask? Five, Bob…

Well, five bosses until last month, when about 30% of my team was “right-sized” out of existence, and my actual direct boss went with them. Of note? We were specifically told that the decisions on who to fire were NOT based upon performance or experience. What were the criteria, you ask? They aren’t allowed to tell us, other than to say it was “strategic”. A strategy that doesn’t require attention to the performance or skill-sets of employees to implement… I suspect there was a D12 involved!

“Office Space” wasn’t satire, it was a fucking ROADMAP!

Posted in For Facebook, General, Industry, Personal, Whimsical | 1 Response
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