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Didn’t see this one coming

sent: 7/04/2005

Howdy all,

Happy 4th of July, and thanks for the replies to my last email.
Notice: Here’s another wordy report.

I didn’t think I’d have anything to say for a while. After all, we kept getting warned not to expect word from Jefferson Parish any sooner than mid-July, and they’re still trying to figure out what’s going on in Orleans Parish.

However, last Tuesday (two days after I wrote), I got a call from the principal of Bonnabel High School, Mr. Ferrand. I had talked to the assistant principal Mrs. Rush at the Job fair a month ago. I noted that they had an opening in math, but several other TGNO members reported being told otherwise, so I didn’t research the school much further. Instead I spent my time trying to find more info on three schools that definitely had openings.

Regardless, Mr. Ferrand said he had just then found out that his 9th grade math teacher was leaving, and his assistant principal immediately recommended me for the spot. He asked that I come over to meet him “tomorrow,” or Wednesday. Caught off guard by receiving a call in late June, I mentioned that my UNO classes were to start up again on Wednesday. We agreed that he’d call me back in a day or two to schedule a meeting while I tried to figure out the best time to cut out of class for a while. I immediately started worrying about my clumsy handling of the situation, since TGNO had always told us that interview opportunities took first priority. On the other hand, part of me wanted to stall as much as possible so I could “play the field” if/when other schools started expressing interest. Wednesday morning, I mentioned the call to several other TGNO members, and all told me that Bonnabel is definitely worth pursuing even though it’s fenced in “like a prison.” I called Mr. Ferrand to assure him that I was interested in speaking with him. Surprisingly, he said it wasn’t necessary – He was going to go ahead and recommend me based on my résumé and the word of his assistant principal. I could choose to wait until August to come meet him if I preferred. Confused? So was I, so I insisted that I would like to come over anyway.

Thursday morning I cut out of class to visit Bonnabel. Turns out Mr. Ferrand had made his recommendation to the school board, since they handle the hiring. Principals are only able to request to the board “Hey, please go get this person for me.” He indicated that it’s pretty much a formality, so I should receive a call from the school board within a couple weeks officially offering me the job. At that time I would accept or decline. If I accept, I could come get a more thorough tour of the school when the staff returns on August 1 (Summer school just ended). The school year begins on August 22. Cool, huh?

About the school: Bonnabel is located in Kenner, which is about 10 miles west of New Orleans. Enrollment is about 1600. One thing that stands out for me is the ethnic mix. Most schools down here are very predominantly black or white, but Bonnabel (per 2003 stats) is 37% black, 37% white, 23% Latino, and 3% Asian. The community is mostly lower and middle income. The Graduate Exit Exam scores are not stellar (36% passing in English, 46% passing in Math in 2003), but aren’t dismal either. The grades are segregated, with 9th and 10th grades each having their own buildings separate from the 11-12th grades. Bonnabel utilizes “small learning communities,” in which the students stay together from one class to the next. In other words, my entire math class would also be together for English, science, history, etc. They have “block schedule,” meaning there are four 90-minute periods each day. I would teach for three of them and have one off for prep. Most teachers there have many years or decades of experience (I assume that’s both good and bad). I would teach the elective class “Math at works (?)” for the first half of the year, which, as I understood the explanation, is intended to ensure that the kids are up to speed on all the material they should have learned in previous years. Then for the second half of the year I would teach Algebra I. The school sounds relatively well-equipped technologically. They have 7-8 Information Technology labs on campus, and at least one computer in every classroom. Grading and attendance are also computerized. They already have a Graphic Arts department, with a print shop modeled after Kinko’s. This is refreshing, after hearing that many Orleans schools don’t even have working copy machines. If I get ambitious, it seems that starting an after-school Graphics club should be very doable.

So, I’m very encouraged by the unexpected good news. Meanwhile I still will try to find out more about some other schools, but right now I’m inclined to accept the presumed offer with Bonnabel. My only hang-up is that the city of Kenner is quite suburban, and on my first glance it looks like it could be any “typical” city in the country. Having moved 2200 miles from home, I was hoping for something distinctly different from what I’m accustomed to. Minor quibble I guess.

That’s it for now. I’ve been working on assignments all weekend, and finally made some free time to share the latest. Things aren’t as worrisome as they may have sounded in my last email.

Love to all,