Jim Farwell, a school psychologist, wrote this essay about his decision to leave the Oakland school district.
I will never forget a staff meeting in which it was announced that children in the middle and high schools who are mandated to receive speech and language services would no longer receive services through the school district. Instead, the parents, many of whom were living under the poverty level, would be given a list of local agencies. The parents would have to pay the $100 fee per visit up front and would be reimbursed at a later time.
How can many parents afford to pay $100 to $200 a week for their child to receive speech and language services?
Then there is the way that Oakland mistreats its teachers. New staff is hired fresh out of college. They are given a six-week “orientation” the summer before the school year begins. These sincere, motivated young people are then placed in special education classes as teachers. They know nothing about class room management, curriculum, teaching strategies or testing procedures. They are not provided with the ongoing “coaching” that is mandated. They are not given materials. At the middle school level these newbies are expected to teach five periods per day with just one period for preparation, testing, report writing, meetings and consulting with staff and parents. Such an approach promotes the “use ’em, abuse ’em and lose ’em” phenomenon that presently exists in Oakland. We cannot keep staff. Is it any wonder?
I’ll end with a final example of the administration’s priorities: In one severely handicapped class, a student had a condition that demanded she have her own aide. The administration instructed the teacher to not say anything to the parents about the need for such support because it would cost the district too much money. This placed the teacher in an ethical bind. To not provide for an individual aide would potentially place the child in harm’s way. If he did what he felt was in the child’s best interest, he would be reprimanded and written up. So he resigned, after just one year.
I have decided that I, too, can no longer support a district that doesn’t focus on the best interest of children. That is why I have tendered my letter of resignation.