For the first time in 11 years I will not be driving to Ligonier to start a new school year in August. This makes me sad. I have been at Ligonier Elementary/West Noble Primary for 10 years plus a year at West Noble Elementary in the middle of that decade.Â The people there are amazing and it is a great place to work. I made a lot of friends and I’ll miss being part of that team.
Now I will be working at Jefferson Elementary, part of the Middlebury Community Schools. This makes me happy. Mostly happy to have a good job. My wife worked at Jefferson for a number of years until she decided to stay home with our kids. There are a lot of great people there as well.
I will be a Title 1 teacher just as before. Jefferson is in the midst of changing their Title 1 program to school wide. I, and they, hope that my experience in a school-wide program that has implementedÂ tier time wellÂ and generally runsÂ an all-around pretty sweet Title 1 program can be put to good use. I have learned from the best after all.
So Why Switch?
There were a number of variables and it was probably the toughest decision I’ve ever made.
Variable 1: Distance
Jefferson is 84-86% closer to our home. Clear winner: Jefferson. But I will miss my time in the car listening to podcasts and audio books. Hopefully I can transfer that driving time into time in my clay studio where I can keep listening to podcasts and audio books.
Variable 2: Money
Jefferson holds a slight edge here currently. The edge gets larger the longer I stay there. Part of the edge comes from a lot less gas money and car maintenance.
Variable 3: People
WNP currently has a stranglehold on this one. I know a few people at Jefferson but WNP is like my family. Okay, WNP literally IS my family. I might not meet, much less work for, a better leader the rest of my life after working for Mr. Shepherd. And the best example of his leadership is his staff.Â Those people would do almost anything for the students and each other.
So hopefully I’ll find out that Jefferson can even up this score. But even if I make all kinds of new friends at JeffersonÂ it’s still tough to leave WNP.
Variable 4: Job Security
Who knows?Â It’s hard to tell.Â A lot can happen from year to year. I have at least one year for sure at each school. Even though the same thing could happen at Middlebury that happened at West Noble, I’m going to give a slight edge to Jefferson on this one due to recent developments. To explain, I’ll have to tell the whole story.
(This is a long story but I’m going to leave it here for historical purposes. Also, this is all from my perspective and there might be some details that aren’t as clear as they should be.)
So last year, all the Title 1 staff at West Noble got called in for a meeting where it was revealed that we were probably going to take a cut in the Title 1 funding from the state. This was due to slightly less Title 1 students at WN and the funding formula change in Indiana. The superintendent laid out some possible plans which were as grim as you might expect. One of the original plans was to payÂ all Title 1 teachers at the bachelor zero level, meaning you don’t get paid for any years of experience. That would be unfortunate for my familyÂ but my wife and I could have tightened things up a bit and survived since I had only been there for 10 years. For some teachers that have been teaching a lot longer it would have beenÂ about half their paycheck!
After a few months of hand wringing, surveying our options, fighting for our rights, and a couple more meetings they gave us the new and improved plan. Some people would be shifted around, some positions would be eliminated and Title 1 teachers could take a 10% pay cut or go back into the classroom. Not as grim. In fact that sounds almost appealing when considering the original plans.
But then I was asked to stay after the meeting.
The superintendent told me that I wasn’t highly qualified for the position I was teaching and that I would have to go back to the bachelor zero level. Remember that time I paid a lot of money and spent a lot of time to get a reading certification added to my license to make me highly qualifiedÂ to teach Reading Recovery and Title 1? Apparently they didn’t. I’m not sure what changed between then and now. The funny part is, they were not paying forÂ my experience anymore, the part that actually made me a better teacher. I would be RIF’ed at the end of the school year but then re-hired as a classifiedÂ staff member at the beginning of the next school year.
So after 10 years I was getting a new position!
I would still be doing the same exact work, everyone would still treat me the same, IÂ would still beÂ part of the team I love… but I would be getting paid less, I would be classified instead of certified, and I would have less personal days, less cumulativeÂ sick days, and less life insurance.
Crap, that sounds almost like a demotion instead of a promotion.
But I tried not to complain. First, because I know my principal did everything he could to keep that position for me. He is probably the only reason that I had a position for next year at all. He said it would be available as long as he is around and I trust him. He always said something about “there is no security in a job, there’s only security in a person.” So, basically be a person that they can’t get rid of no matter what positions come and go. I also tried not to complain because I know there are plenty of people who can’t get a job at all, much less a good job at a public school.
I received my RIF letter on May 15th. Or at least a letter addressed to some “Swartz” character.
I had begun to consider other possible options. I interviewed at an elementary in Goshen. I talked to some people at Jefferson. I thought about a job outside of public education. I talked to people at Jefferson again. They seemed really interested and wanted to get me on board. I was interested. I interviewed with a panel of Middlebury administrators. They were impressed. They offered me the job. I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. I said yes. I still wonder if I made the right decision. But I am beginning to realize that the decision isn’t right or wrong. It’s more about what looks like the best option for my family and I. And I think the choice we made will be just fine.
So I could have stuck around at WNP for another 5 years. I almost did. I think things would have worked out. But I didn’t like the idea of being classified instead of certified. What would happen the next time we are short on funds? Hey, this guy over here is only classified, we can have him take another pay cut and there’s nothing he can do… I also really like the idea of working in the community where I live. When working in Ligonier, I always felt a little bit like an outsider because we didn’t make it to many community events. I hope at Jefferson my family will be able to come visit the school more and be a part of the activities.
On a side note, weÂ learned a little bit about health insurance. Apparently some school corporations cut off your insurance almost as soon as you clean out your desk. And most school corporations don’t offer insurance until you’ve actually done some work for them. So that left us in need ofÂ insurance for a month or two. That doesn’t sound too bad. I looked up some temporary insurance prices online. A few hundred bucks per month. We can swing that if we need to.
But apparently Obamacare may giveÂ you a tax penalty if you use those temporary solutions. So we now get to pay 4 or 5 times as much through COBRA to keep the previous insurance until the insurance for my new job kicks in. I can now see why some people don’t like Obamacare. I’m not sure if we would have gone with COBRA anyway or a much cheaper option but if I want to get some cheap insurance, I think I should be able to. This is America!
So if you’re thinking about leaving a certain school corporation, maybe wait as long as you can to make your decision?
As I look back on my time at West Noble I have a lot of good memories. I’ve learned so much and I’ve grown so much as a person. It would be fun to see a side by side comparison of the person I am now and the college kid I started out as.
I’m a little disappointed. I always thought I would “retire” from WNP. Or at least go out on my own terms. You know, ride off into the sunset after telling all my friends it would be my last year. Be able to say goodbye to my friends face to face. High five all my fans and sign autographs, Jeter-style. Okay, maybe not autographs…
I’m going to miss manyÂ of those people so much. Acting goofy and laughing a lot. There was a lot of humor atÂ WNP. Talking basketball and football with some of the guys. Hearing about the glory days of running careers with others. Eating lunch with “the crew” and eating outside on nice days.
But life is change. People come and go. I look back at the “good ol’ days” years ago when there was a group of teachers my age that ate lunch together and had an awesomeÂ time. Most of them have moved on. Now I guess it’s my turn.
But I’m proud to have been part of the WNP team. Nobody can take away my memories, friendships and the fact that I was part of something really great.
Looking to the future, I’m a little nervous, a little excited, but mostly trying to enjoy every last bit of summer breakÂ as much as possible. I’m looking forward to meeting new colleagues and new students. I’m also looking forward to having an extra hour or two every day. Most of all, I’m looking forward to being the best Title 1 teacher that I can be and starting something greatÂ at a new school.