Archive for the ‘School’ Category

Facebook has this interesting habit of reminding you of things that occurred on this day in previous years. The last few weeks have included many things I posted in relation to reading AP Calculus exams in Kansas City which are a lot of fun to look back on. In addition, there have been numerous reminders of things that occurred two years ago at this time. Some of those reminders have stirred up feelings and memories that I had pushed to the back of my mind.

This morning I was reminded that two years ago today (June 18th) was my last day of work at Mt. Abram High School. This picture I stopped to take as I left the school as a teacher for the last time.

My daughter, Annie, had spent the day with me as we emptied my classroom and loaded the suburban with 24 years of materials and memories. When we got home, I walked into the dining room and broke down and cried.

But life goes on. And the change, although hard, has been a very good one.

For the past two years I have been the district math coach in RSU #74 in North Anson. This involved joining the Maine Mathematics Coaching Project (MMCP) at the University of Maine at Farmington, which included 3 graduate level courses, some summer seminars, and visits from a field coach supervisor each semester to observe me while I was coaching a teacher and giving me feedback.

My job as a coach is working with teachers primarily. I support them in their classrooms, sometimes co-teaching or modeling a lesson, while other times I observe and give them feedback. I get to interact with children of all ages throughout the district now, as opposed to having just one classroom where I have 6 or 7 different classes.

This has opened up new opportunities for me as well. Currently I am on the advisory board for the MMCP. In addition, the project has received a grant to expand the coaching project to include grades 9 – 12, and I will be working to help develop those courses. I have also had opportunities to be involved with the College Board on setting standards for the new SAT, as well as a standards alignment for the new SAT.

As I wrap up my second year in RSU #74 I realize how fortunate I am to have made this transition. I have the ability to impact many more students, and at a much younger age, than in my job at Mt. Abram. Although at one point I believed I would spend my entire career at Mt. Abram, this change has overall been a very positive one for me. Although I miss many of the people that I used to work with, I have found some great new people that I work with as well.

It is with the deepest regret that I announce my resignation from my position of Mathematics Teacher at Mt. Abram High School, effective August 21, 2015. I have had 23 wonderful years teaching at Mt. Abram, and one year that has effectively closed the door for me to continue in this job.

Many people, following my statement to the school board on April 30th, concluded that I was unhappy with the salary and benefits in this district. It is perhaps pointless to say this, but I will re-iterate what I said at the budget meeting on May 28th: I know this district cannot afford to pay me what I am worth. I have taught here for 24 years knowing that I could have made a lot more money, either in another district, or in another occupation. I did not go into this job for the money; rather, I have been a teacher at Mt. Abram High School for all of these years because I love this area. I wanted to bring my knowledge and expertise in mathematics to the young people of Northern Franklin county, believing that they deserve as good of an education as students in wealthy communities.

The Board of Directors of MSAD 58 have some wonderful people serving who truly care about education and the students. However, the actions of the Board as a whole communicate a different story. Specifically, in February 2014 the Board of Directors made a decision about the teaching load of the faculty at Mt. Abram High School without any discussion about the impact of such a decision with the faculty, nor with any apparent discussion of the actual educational value. This was done in an attempt to “develop a schedule that takes into consideration the need for more advanced courses, supplemental math, supplemental reading courses, and other electives that would challenge our advanced students, aid our struggling students obtain a standards based diploma, and help graduating students find employment in the workforce.

This decision, made with no input from the teachers, resulted in a schedule that was impossible to build. Although administrators tried multiple times, it was not possible to build a schedule that allowed for “half blocks” for teachers to teach, or students to be assigned to. The end result was a schedule that had teachers instructing 7 periods out of 8 in one semester, and 6 out of 8 in the alternate semester. To accomplish this directive of the Board it required, among other things, AP students to have one semester of a double block (2 ½ hours) of their AP course, and the opposing semester to have a single block (75 minutes.) This schedule also created more conflicts in the master schedule, which means it resulted in MORE students enrolled in study hall during the second semester than the previous year. Perhaps most importantly, this teaching schedule mandated by the school board resulted in ZERO additional learning time for students. Prior to this schedule change, students had 8 blocks of instructional time to choose from. Following this schedule change, students STILL had 8 blocks of instructional time to choose from.

This spring the teachers at Mt. Abram High School, in collaboration and with the support of the administrators, put together a proposal as requested by the board during belated negotiations concerning the extra teaching time. That proposal would have met the goals of the board stated above as discussed during the February 2014 director’s meeting. The teacher’s plan would have provided over 50 hours of additional learning time for every student (almost half a period over the course of the school year) and it would have made better use of the Mountain Time period in the middle of the day.

On April 16th, Principal Marco Aliberti presented to the school board this proposed schedule change. It was imperative that a decision be rendered quickly, as student sign ups for courses for the next year were on hold until this proposal was settled. The board correctly decided that they were obligated to meet with the teachers in a formal “Meet and Consult,” as this schedule would result in a change of working conditions, and Maine Labor Law requires such a meeting.

On April 30th, the teachers of Mt. Abram met with the school board prior to the board meeting for the “Meet and Consult” session to discuss the proposed alternative schedule. All the teachers that I have spoken with were of the opinion that it was a productive meeting, with good discussion and questions. In fact, I would say that we were optimistic about the results. Knowing it was critical for a decision, and knowing that it was on the agenda for the meeting to follow, I was hopeful that this schedule might be considered and even immediately implemented. I was frankly shocked, then, when that point in the agenda arrived to hear the chair state that this had already been discussed prior to the meeting, and then move on to the next item with no decision.

The May 14th board meeting was the final straw for me. Although the agenda called for a presentation about some changes to the high school course of studies, the board raised the question about the schedule change proposed by the teachers two weeks prior. After making a motion to adopt the proposed change to the middle of the day, and then having that motion rescinded, the board chose to make no decision. This had the effect of keeping the schedule the same, regardless of the information showing that requiring high school teachers to teach 6.5 classes does not meet their stated goals. The next day I mailed my application packet to a nearby district.

What I have found most troubling through all of this is that these decisions, which CLEARLY impact students and student learning, are being made with no regard to the input of the professional educators. We as teachers are the ones who see the students day by day. We know their struggles, we know their weaknesses, and we are constantly reflecting either personally or with others about how to improve their education. Nor do we limit ourselves to those within our buildings; teachers talk to colleagues in other districts to find better ways of meeting student needs. All of this experience, however, was ignored by the Board of Directors.

There is a seriously flawed assumption among many in our communities about the teacher’s job. “Teachers work less than 8 hours a day” and “teachers only work 180 days of the year” are common statements made by individuals who believe that teachers are overpaid and underworked. The flawed assumption is that teachers are hourly employees. To the contrary, teachers are salaried employees. This means that they are paid an agreed-upon sum of money to do an agreed-upon job. If this requires me to put in time before 7:45 AM or after 3:00 PM, then that time is part of my time on the job. When I put in time on the weekends grading papers, or in the summer taking courses, that too is part of the time on the job.

Unfortunately, this flawed assumption that we are hourly employees has forced teachers into a position of defending how much time they spend both inside and outside of the school day. Such should not happen. In fact, I have found myself saying that these hours are extra time that I am not paid for. This is actually not true. When I signed the contract to teach, it was for an agreed-upon job description.

In my statement that I read aloud at the Board meeting on April 30th, I mentioned that I had given testimony at a Maine Labor Relations Board hearing in March with regards to the extra teaching period. I made reference to the testimony by the board representative. I now have a transcript of the actual hearing, and there are two quotes that are worth mentioning, keeping in mind that this testimony was given under oath:

  • When asked “Did you feel as a Board member that a financial resolution to the study hall monitor issue was an appropriate–is that something that you can support?”, the board representative answered “No, not me, and I think I can speak that a lot of the Board was also not interested in that. The Board feels that salary employees are paid for the time that they are at their job and not necessarily for exactly what they do within the hours that they’re at the place of work.”
  • When asked by one of the hearing officers “You testified at one point that they were salaried employees and you felt because they were salaried they weren’t entitled to any additional compensation for that time, or did I understand that correctly?”, the board representative answered “A salary employee is paid for the time that they’re at their job, and what duties fall within that time period are determined by the Board.”

This is the fundamental issue for me as to why I can no longer work in this district. A salaried employee is paid, by definition, for the entire job they are doing. This includes time within the day, as well as time outside of the day. For 24 years as a teacher, and for my entire life growing up, I have observed the teaching profession and watched teachers put in countless hours OUTSIDE of the scheduled school day.

The rationale of the board to justify removing planning time boils down to the belief that they can assign whatever duties they wish during the school day. (In all fairness, upon further pressing by the hearing officer, the board representative DID agree that there were some limitations.) To hear that the board feels that our pay is ONLY for the time we are in school, completely re-defines the job. I cannot, from 7:45 AM – 3:00 PM, do a quality job as a teacher. And if I cannot do a quality job, then I will not continue being a shadow of a teacher, just filling the classroom with a body.

Many people believe that high school teachers “do not need 75 minutes of planning time” each day. The people I have heard stating this opinion also do not have any idea about the demands of state mandates, specifically the law requiring Proficiency Based Diplomas. Nor do they seem to recognize how important it is for teachers to have time to meet with students to assist them, to plan the next instructional lessons based on results from the assessments just taken, or to have time to talk to parents about how their students are progressing.

It appears that the board has failed to understand that when they assign an additional class to be taught, they are changing the understanding of what teachers are paid for. If we have been paid, for 15 years, for teaching 6 classes out of 8, to arbitrarily change this is no different than when a contractor gives a quote for a job which is accepted, but then once the job begins the client adds on to the specs of the job and expects it to be done for the original amount.

Because many people will attribute my resignation to the stalled contract negotiations, I wish to re-emphasize, once again, that my departure is NOT about the contract (or lack thereof), the amount of my salary, or the insurance. It is about my inability to work for a board and a community that appears to care nothing for quality education, ignores the recommendations of the professionals they have hired, changes the working conditions without consideration of the educational impact, and as a result demonstrate a lack of caring about the education of the students within our district.

To my students, I offer my sincerest apologies that this situation has reached this point. Although I feel that I personally could not have done anything differently, I also know that you will be hurt the most by the situation within our community. Please try to understand the reasons for my departure, and please hold on to the hope that things will improve. Make every effort to be successful, no matter how discouraging things may seem. There WILL be a light at the end of the dark tunnel you are now facing.

Respectfully Submitted,

Brian Signature

Brian A. Twitchell.

So it has been over 2 and half months since I posted anything here.  I guess I better bring you up to speed on my life over that time.

April is always a busy month, with the Maine State Math Meet.  This year the event was held on April 5th at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.  It was the largest meet we have ever had.  Kathy and I go down on the Sunday afternoon before the meet, and spend Monday afternoon getting everything set up – from registration tables, to putting name tags on the tables for schools, to setting up the computer scoring network, and setting up the grading room.  My team usually arrives shortly after 5:00 pm, and I take them out to eat for supper.  On the day of the meet, I arrive onsite at 7:00, the meet generally ends around 3:00, and I try to be on the road for home by 4:00.

Once I recover from that event, we usually are close to April vacation, which it seems that I managed to get through without spending EVERY day at C-Prompt.

Once we hit May, things start picking up again.  My AP Calculus class took their AP exam on May 5th, so we had about a week of final preparation for that.  I began meeting with each senior Mountain Time to start going over expectations for graduation, including dress code, procedures, and doing some practice marching.  We took the Brigade group from church down to New England Frontier Camp for the weekend of the 20th for the annual Camp-O-Rama, which is a lot of fun.

The last full week of May was not really full for school, as we had no students on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  We had a workshop day instead.  On Saturday we went to Jonathan and Karolyne Sloma’s wedding (Jonathan works for me at C-Prompt), and it was a beautiful wedding.  On Memorial Day itself I ended up spending about 4 hours in school getting things taken care of that needed to be done.

Thursday, June 2nd was our first formal Marching Practice getting the seniors ready for graduation.  Friday morning was our Senior breakfast, and then we had two more Marching activities on Monday June 6th, and then the Senior Farewell Assembly on Tuesday, June 7th.  I actually ended up going home early that day as I did not feel well at all.

Then that afternoon we headed down to Oxford to my folks where we spent the night, so that Kathy could get me to Portland by about 6:15 so I could catch a 7:20 flight out to Kansas City by way of Chicago.  In fact, that’s where I am currently writing this from.  I’m here grading the AP Calculus exam, and have finished 6 straight days of grading.  Tomorrow is our last day, and then I fly back home on Thursday.

Friday is our last day of school, so I’ll be working hard to get grades done and my room cleaned up.  I have very little time for this, as we plan to move on Saturday down to Frontier Camp in Lovell for the summer, where Matthias will be a Senior Counselor, Peter will be a CIT (Counselor-in-Training), Kathy and Annie will be helping out in the Laundry area and ordering food for the kitchen, and I’ll be helping out wherever I might be needed around camp.  I may have to come home each week to tend to things at C-Prompt, but we intend to spend a full 8 weeks at camp.

So – that’s where things have been for me the past several weeks, and that’s where things are going for the next 8 or so.  Maybe I’ll do better at keeping this updated while at camp!.

Wow!  Has it really been two weeks since I last updated?  I think I’ve been a little busy. . .

Let’s see – vacation is long over, and I’m having a hard time remembering what I did.  I know that a snow storm at the end of the week cancelled a trip to Portland, and I spent several hours down at Clearwater working with Philip on the call in thermostat, that allows one to call the camp and turn the heat up before arriving.  As of last night, we STILL don’t have it working correctly.  We ended up replacing much of the phone wiring in the camp, and it still did not resolve the issue.  One would think the unit itself should be replaced, but Philip has already done that and it still isn’t working correctly.

Kathy and I did end up going to Portland on Saturday – kind of a quick trip down and back.  However, that didn’t take care of the reason that I needed to go, so I had to reschedule that for this past Friday.  Before we get to Friday, however, another snow storm extended vacation by a day.  I did NOT need to miss a Gold Day – that’s the day my AP Calculus class is on and every class period is necessary to get kids prepared for the AP exam on May 4th.  Then, Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week were chaotic with no classes due to the scheduled Exit Exhibition presentations by the seniors.  Overall, those presentations were quite good, but they are also quite draining.

We finally had classes on Thursday last week, but then I had to go to Portland on Friday so my student teacher covered classes.  I STILL haven’t seen my Gold Day classes since before vacation!  My brother Doug and I had to go the Civic Center to test out displaying the scores from the Maine State Math Meet on the displays around the Civic Center – that meet is on April 5th and we needed to be sure we could interface with their system.  Once we were done, Matthias (who had come down with me) and I went over to Lovell to New England Frontier Camp for the weekend where we helped out running the Father and Son weekend.  We had a great time, and it was actually somewhat relaxing.

By the time we got home Sunday afternoon, it was looking pretty definite that school would be cancelled yet again, and sure enough at 4:45 this morning my phone rings to tell me there is no school.  So I spent the day on two major projects.  The first was to get seating plans and proctoring assignments put together for the State Math Meet, and the second was to print over 550 name tags for the Home School convention this coming weekend.  I have completed the printing (although we had to go to C-Prompt to finish), and I made good progress on the State Meet stuff, although there is a lot more to do.

Because of the weather ( it was very icy up here today), and because the ISP for the store had an outage all day, we did not open C-Prompt at all.  Hopefully no one came in looking for us!

The real down side of today was when David came inside and told us there was a window broken in the Suburban.  It turns out that a chunk of ice had fallen off the roof, slid down the mud room roof, and smashed right through the drivers window in the Suburban and landed on the passenger floor.  The window is completely gone (actually, it is in hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces).  We are getting a used window at a junk yard tomorrow for $75.00, and Rob will help us get it installed.

This week is going to be crazy as well.  Tuesday after school I have math team practice, then come home for supper and Brigade at the church building.  Wednesday we have a math meet and are leaving school at 11:45 and won’t get home until probably 8:00.  Kathy, Annie, David, and Elias are going from the math meet in Augusta to Rockland for the Home School convention, where they will be until Saturday evening.  That leaves Matthias and Peter and I with one vehicle to get around in, and on Friday I have to leave school a little early to go the Augusta for a math league board meeting.

Boy – just writing about all these things is tiring me out.  I think I’ll head to bed early tonight. . ..

School vacation does not generally mean vacation, unfortunately.  Yesterday at church, one man said he thought vacation for me meant just go work another job.  However, I DID sleep in today until almost 7:00, and am having a relaxing morning, since the store is not open. (Although I just got an e-mail from someone wondering if we open and if he could drop off his laptop today.  I replied and told him that if necessary I could meet him there this morning.  I guess what they way is true – if you own your own business, you only have to work half time.  It’s up to you which 12 hours of the day you choose to work.)

This afternoon we’re taking the boys from the Brigade group at church on an overnight.  We’re going to a friend’s camp in N. Anson this afternoon, where we will have a fun time in the snow, playing games, cooking supper over an open fire, and playing board games.  The cabin has a wood stove for heat, but no running water.  (Actually, there is running water – you can run up the hill to get it!)  Jeremy will come late afternoon and do some winter survival activities with the boys.  After breakfast in the morning we will clean up and get the boys home by lunch.

The rest of the week is somewhat unscheduled except for Thursday afternoon into Friday.  Friday morning I have to be in Portland at the Civic Center to meet with their tech guy about setting up computers to connect to their display screens during the Maine State Math Meet in April for our scoring system.  We will likely head that direction Thursday afternoon, and may schedule some other things on this trip.

Of course, if this is like any other vacation, I will fill it up with plenty of other things to do.  I need to do some projects around the house.  I need to get the taxes at C-Prompt done so that I can do my home taxes.  I need to do some paperwork for the State Math Meet.  I need to grade a few papers in my briefcase.  Somehow, I think I’ll manage to have a hectic week!.

Normally, my day begins about 5:00 am when my alarm goes off.  This morning, I managed to wake up at 4:30 am, primarily due to the fact that Kathy had “stolen” the covers. (Not really, but it’s fun to blame her!).  So, I was up for the day at 4:30.  By 7:00 I was heading out the door to school.  After school, Kathy picked me up so we could go to Farmington to do about 5 different quick errands, and then we came back to New Vineyard to C-Prompt, where I had to get a customer’s laptop ready to ship out.

We then made it up to church in time for the 5:30 spaghetti dinner and the 6:30 Matthew Video Bible Study, before finally getting home again about 7:15.

Now that I look at my day, I realize why I’m exhausted!  It’s (hopefully) an early bed tonight so I can get caught up on some sleep!.