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A night at the opera

<p>Chip Mosher</p>

Chip Mosher

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx

Regardless of what’s been said in the local media lately, those 100-plus teachers attending a special School Board meeting May 16, regarding next year’s education budget, were actually quite tame. True, at one point, as teachers stood up and silently turned their backs on the board in protest, a couple of older, heavy-set females bent slightly over and shook their booties at the board. Hot stuff. However, given the reformist terror against teachers conducted mercilessly by the board for the past decade, dropping one’s sweatpants and openly mooning board members might have been more appropriate.

Throughout this meeting, board President Linda Young kept erupting into paroxysms of invective. Threatening them with police action, Young issued multiple tongue-lashings upon the emotionally vocal but essentially docile crowd of teachers in the audience.

“I’m disappointed in the teachers,” Young said, chastising them for successfully protecting their contractual agreement with the district through an arbitrator. Talk about a sore loser.

After Young belittled them once too often, though, teachers simply walked out en masse during the proceedings, frustrated, as one teacher said, that “the district’s honchos aren’t very good leaders.”

School board meetings are an acquired taste. They are like opera without the music, yet with all the Sturm und Drang. And the plot this night surely thickened when top officials of the administrators’ union, Jeff Geihs and Stephen Augspurger, president and executive director, respectively, joined the misguided reformists on the board to trash teachers even more — lock, stock and two smoking barrels.

“[The administrators’ union] encourages the board to stay the course. In these scarce financial times, serious consideration ought to be given to principals … to have more autonomy,” said Augspurger, after stridently siding with board members against the teachers’ union. Translation: Give principals more power.

This is interesting because in the book Breaking the Silence: Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers, researchers Joseph and Jo Blase reveal that, nationally, about 40 percent of principals systematically bully teachers, often severely. The book chronicles how excessive power given to principals severely hurts education. In Las Vegas, itself a magnet for psychopaths, this figure probably runs higher, up to 50 percent. And although Augspurger publicly has stated, in a token gesture, that he believes a system should be in place to deal with “bad” administrators, he seems clueless to the large number of nutcase principals who are running our schools here — into the ground.

Geihs, for his part, gave a bizarre, anti-teacher speech opposing the traditional “last-in, first-out” model for laying off teachers. Very odd, from a union guy himself.

No doubt the intention behind Geihs’ and Augspurger’s nasty little performances was to shamelessly suck up to their reformist masters — as both these men’s reportedly mutual former nemesis, ex-Superintendent Walt Rulffes, also used to love doing. But remember, this ongoing opera ain’t over until the fat ladies shake their booties. At those who probably deserve it.

CHIP MOSHER is a teacher and union member.