In the name of equity

We woke up to two inches of snow yesterday, which quickly melted.

My kids went to Palm Springs High School, one of several high schools in our district. They had a longtime principal who was popular with students and teachers alike. I think the main reason the teachers liked him is he left them alone. He didn’t get in their way of creating curriculum or classroom management.

He retired and a principal was moved from another high school in the district. The new principal immediately made changes. His first move was to tell established AP teachers they would be moved to general ed classes. He was going to appoint new teachers to the AP classes.

He wanted the excellent AP teachers, who had been there for years, to help students who were struggling. The kids in College Prep and AP would do just fine no matter who taught them.

However, he didn’t realize that some courses like AP Calc or AP Chem could not be taught by anyone!

The teachers were furious. They had taught their courses — in some cases — dozens of years. They had developed their curriculum and loved what they were doing.

Parents were asked to go to a meeting with teachers and the superintendent. The teachers wanted our support. It was one of those meetings where parents and teachers voiced their concerns, but we realized the superintendent and principal’s minds were made up. The meeting was a weak attempt to appease us.

Two excellent teachers, the AP Chemistry and AP History teachers, resigned. They decided to retire.

Then the new principal announced reassignment of the Latin teacher to teach English. She had created a four-year Latin program which was used as a model throughout California.

The other high schools in the district didn’t offer Latin, so it would be eliminated at Palm Springs High School. That’s only fair, right?

We had a standing-room only meeting with the school board. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the local paper The Desert Sun about the controversy:

The Latin language isn’t dead, at least not in Palm Springs. Some community members are fighting to keep it that way.

Parents, teachers and current and former students showed up to speak at Tuesday’s Palm Springs Unified board meeting, outraged by the reassignment of Palm Springs High School’s beloved Latin teacher. Svetlana Lazarova has been teaching all levels of Latin for more than two decades, and according to students and parents, Palm Springs High School administration informed Lazarova of her departmental transfer on the very last day of school.

“My greatest concern is how it was handled,” said Anne Hebert, a teacher at Palm Springs High School. “She was told within one hour before the end of the school year that she would be an English teacher.”

Lazarova joined the Latin program at Palm Springs High School in 1993. When she started, there were eight students in her class. Twenty years later, enrollment was up to 200 students across six classes. According to a 2013 interview with the California Teachers Association, she gave up her prep period to accommodate the high demand.

But students say the popularity of her class never prevented her from mentoring students individually. Lazarova’s first year students start with the basics of Latin grammar and vocabulary. By the end of the fourth year, they’re able to navigate the worlds built by Cicero’s prose and Virgil’s poetry.

I’m happy to let you know we won and Lazarova still teaches Latin at Palm Springs High. The new principal was either fired or transferred.

In current news, students in Virginia who earned National Merit Awards weren’t told about them because it might hurt other students. It reminded me of the Latin controversy at PSHS.

What do you think about cutting out courses in high schools like Latin so all schools are the same? Or not informing kids of their National Merit awards?

Even the alligator got topped with snow.

37 thoughts on “In the name of equity

  1. Well of course they have to dismiss productive classes! How else can they fit in classes on “Diversity: the Spice of Life”, and “Racism: A convenient excuse for all things you do not like”, and “Transgender: We all have a little queer in us, learn to embrace it!”, and “White Privilege: Climate Change is their fault”. I am surprised they did not eliminate History, Biology and Physics since they do not conform to the “woke” agenda.

    • I didn’t understand at the time that the changes were based in “equity.” But it’s all around us now, so it dawned on me it was happening in 2014 and 2015 too.

  2. It is hard to be a teacher. Sometimes administrators and parents are terrible here, to be honest. Many have left the profession. You are dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. I am enjoying online and higher ed as most claim responsibility for their behavior without blaming the teacher or someone. Good teachers with empathy and creativity are often chased away by the ogres and the terrible media or whatever. You do what you can and develop shields.

    • and sometimes you have no choice but to walk away. Sometimes bad Admin are promoted to another position but all you can do is find another place or walk away from the profession. And if you are a teacher, know it is not just happening to you but to many, if not all. Thanks for listening.

      • One teacher at my kids high school had transferred from the school where the new principal was from — because of him. It was a nightmare for her to find out he was transferred too!

      • I have not experienced awful parents but I have worked at some very challenging schools. I have managed to handle the parents well but there is always a first. I have heard a few stories from other teachers. Any parents who cared and showed they were willing to listen and work with me were appreciated greatly!

      • My kids’ high school was challenging because the population was so diverse from doctor’s kids to kids with parents in prison. All races and demographics. Most of the parents were involved.

  3. To be honest, I understand your post as I have never had a problem with a parent. I have had some freaky parents working at underserved schools but I can see the empathy they have for their child. It has more often been an administrator not supporting a teacher in the classroom with discipline. I have worked at mostly very challenging schools where Latin was not taught, so this is what I know. I don’t whether they are being political or what but anyway, thank you for posting.

    • My son worked at Richmond High in the Bay Area, a very challenging school. His main issue was lack of administrative help. But also, he parents who didn’t care and if he’d call them, they tell him it was his job.

      • Ooh…….I just found a few disconnects and changed phone numbers which made it challenging to arrange meetings for the IEPs this past year. Sometimes, it was necessary to give the parent paperwork at the car line.

  4. When my kids were in middle school the district decided it was only fair to integrate the students who were struggling and needed more 1 on 1 sessions with the general population. AP was eliminated and the subject matter and style was “dumbed down” so the least capable could handle it. My son soon failed out because he was bored. We had parent teacher meetings were told he refused to do the work. Did he refuse no. It was so easy he could do the math in his head and just provided the answer. This was not acceptable so he must be cheating. We took our kids out of the public school system and enrolled in Catholic schools.

    • Ugh! How frustrating. My son was the same in school. He wouldn’t do his work because he was bored, but would ace the tests. Dumbing down the work never helps anyone! My kids went to Catholic school beginning in Kindergarten then public high school. I homeschooled my daughter for middle school because we got a horrible principal. (My daughter is three years younger than my son). She was a swimmer and traveled for meets missing school. The principal wouldn’t allow more than a certain number of missed days, regardless if she got her work done or not.

      • I appreciate the effort to be inclusive but it at the expense of ALL is not a good idea. My sister’s son is on the spectrum. He started out in special classes then he was forced into the general population. She had to hire an advocate to sit with him all day. Really

  5. I think it is a bad idea to make a good school less so. A good school helps everyone- the students and parents, for obvious reasons, but it also has a positive affect on home values in the area. People will pay more to move where their kids can go to a good school. And that bodes well for businesses and tax money and all the things.

  6. Oh, even the alligator got snowed on!

    Glad to hear that the Latin program was restored. It’s so interesting when someone comes in with a “shake everything up” philosophy. Often seems to be more about ego than good ideas and your story seems to illustrate that.

    • I think you’re absolutely correct! I hadn’t thought about that perspective before. My kids’ school was considered the best in the district and the principal came from a “lesser” school. He came in to make a statement. The Latin program was so amazing. The teacher cared so much about her students. She took them on field trips to the Getty Museum, they learned about culture and history as well as Latin. She’d have Latin night at the end of the year where each grade performed for parents and friends a skit, song or whatever they created. The teacher crowned each senior with a laurel wreath to wear on mortar boards for graduation and a big hug. Then we all had cake!

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