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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Porter and the School Board as Tragedy

Tragic Mask

I had hoped for some type of conciliation between Porter and the board. I imagined a scenario where wrongs would be righted, lessons would be learned, and all would be reconciled one with another.

I knew the scenario was almost impossible, and it was: the board settled with Dr. Porter and he, along with school board President Cliff Hudson, resigned. The outcome I hoped for only really happens in comedies. What happened was a tragedy, but that doesn’t make it all bad if we understand what a real tragedy is.

In literature, a tragedy, and I’m talking about those found in the works of Sophocles and Shakespeare, often comes about because good people do bad things because they are human and therefore flawed. I believe that in this case, we had many people, basically good, who made bad mistakes. The school board made the decision to hire Dr. Porter believing that he would be able to continue the progress begun with the MAPS for Kids project. Dr. Porter came in and made decisions based on flawed assumptions of board policy. He also made enemies unnecessarily because of his personality and management style.

Both can be blamed for their errors, but I believe both parties acted in good faith. Both exercised the best judgment each had. Both suffered the kind of fall that happens in a tragedy. Those of us given the awesome responsibility of educating the children who are our students must pick up the pieces and go on.

So, where do we go from here? In a classic tragedy two things happen which may provide us a model for how we must respond: recognition and catharsis. In a tragedy, those involved recognize their faults and take responsibility for the situation those faults have created. School board members, administrators, principals, teachers, and school patrons must recognize how we got here and how we can move forward. Ignoring the lessons taught by a tragedy catch one in a tragic cycle.

We must also rid ourselves of the angers and animosities this situation may have created. That’s what catharsis means: cleansing and renewal. We will have new leadership in the district. We should not saddle that person with our old divisions. Instead, we must take upon ourselves the responsibility of being agents of healing and change, For Our Children’s’ Sake.


DivineJoy said...

tl;dr ... Maybe you should apply for the job.

Lynn Green said...

I wouldn't mind the pay, but I work best while in the classroom.