Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blood on Their Hands

Last Updated: Monday, Sept. 27, 6:55 am

LA Teacher Dead of Suicide: Was One of LA Times' Victims

Here is a news report

Earlier today this email came across from a teacher in LA:
Rigoberto Ruelas is missing.  He is one of our own, a long-time teacher and TA at Miramonte Elementary in South Los Angeles.  With all of my heart, I hope he is well and will make contact soon with his family.  I know all of us feel the same way and will keep him in our hearts untill he is safe again. He called the sub desk on Sunday night to request a substitute for Monday and Tuesday.  He talked to his brother on Sunday and his father on Monday.  He didn't return to school this week and no one has heard from him.  Reports are that he was stressed out from work.  In particular, Mr. Ruelas had been called less than effective(or however they put it) by the L.A. Times valueless "value-added" data base. This for a teacher who had always enjoyed a great reputation at the school.
Of course there could be many, many reasons for his disappearance.  How much of a role the Times played is pure conjecture at this point.  I do not fault those that would say to bring it up for discussion without the facts is perhaps irresponsible or self-serving.  I would ask us to consider the deeper ramifications before leaving it at that.  The UTLA home page calls the Times use of "value-added" data "reckless,destructive."  I do not want to imagine how destructive in the matter of Mr. Ruelas.  Do we really have to wait any longer to point out how awful, not just this latest attack on teachers is, but the entire immoral climate brought on by a well-financed campaign to scapegoat and discredit teachers?
I sincerely pray that the unthinkable does not have to happen before those behind the blame-the-teacher barrage stop and assess the damage.  The wounds to teachers' reputations pale in comparison to the harm already done to thousands of our students. Their stress endured, the blame assigned imprints not just them but their families. These are flesh and blood human beings.  Schools designated low-performing because of the tyranny of testing do, in fact, feel shame. A culture of hate and fear serves no positive purpose. To those who seek to privatize and charterize, however, the instability is key to their tactics.  Simply put, Mr. Gates, Mr.Walmart, Mr. Broad, Mayor Villaragosa, Mr. Cortines(and too many others to list), when is enough, enough?

Mat Taylor English teacher, Elizebeth Learning Center  UTLA South Area Chair

Rest Peacefully, Mr. Ruelas. (Or, #NBCFail, Part II) 

Awesome ubber blogger Sabrina at Colorado-based Failing Schools reports:

September 26, 2010
by Sabrina
I could talk here about my frustration with being subjected to yet another hour of conversation dominated by the same people who hog the normal conversation about ed reform– Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada (in whom I’m sincerely disappointed as of late), and Randi Weingarten.
I could talk about my frustration over the irresponsible “journalism” NBC is practicing by creating a public forum just participatory enough to include rapid-fire snippets of a useful conversation, but not participatory enough to ensure proportionate representation of those whose futures depend on the outcome of this conversation.

I could talk about my frustration at watching a network  wonder aloud about “why shouldn’t we use money to inspire teachers?”. (ETA: Apologies for language, I’m just so angry about this…)
I just learned about this a little while ago, and obviously I don’t know all of the circumstances of this man’s life. But it bothers me profoundly that when this man went missing, the first thing his family thought of were his complaints about his stress at work.

To the spectators and grand-standers in this conversation, especially those who make six- and seven figures a year while teachers toil in some of the toughest places in our country for a mere fraction of that; who send their kids to tony private schools while poor, hungry children sit 35 to a room in public schools that are falling down; who have the leisure time and disposable income to show their children the world, or hire others to help them when they’re unavailable; who can’t imagine why more money couldn’t inspire someone to work harder; who can find a sympathetic ear when they complain of their troubles at work and  beyond, and don’t know what it’s like to be accused of not caring when you give your ALL at a job for which you receive little to no appreciation; who casually reduce children and teachers to test scores, and blame poor parents for not making more hours in the day to read to their children after coming home from scrubbing their floors; who can’t imagine the kind of desperation regular people feel when facing the prospect of losing their life’s work– in any field:

Is this just a game to you, or what? For those of us in the trenches, it most certainly isn’t. Enough is enough. Deal with the real issues, approach us from a place of humility and respect, and offer genuine support. Put up, or SHUT UP.

My heart goes out to Mr. Ruelas and his family. I hope he finds some peace, wherever he is, and that he’s no longer suffering the kind of pain and turmoil that would drive someone to such a desperate act. May you be the last to suffer so.
South Bronx School reports on the breaking news in LA:
There is sadness in education today. Unfortunately, this day was all too inevitable. It had to happen, it had to come to fruition. What is sad it was all too avoidable. Today, Rigoberto Ruelas killed himself. According to KABC-TV, Ruelas was found dead about 9 a.m. Sunday in the Angeles National Forest, and a teacher ratings report by the Los Angeles Times did not score Ruelas well. Family members said the teacher evaluation scores may have caused him to go missing.
There is a whole list of people SBS charges with having blood on their hands. Check out the list.
Blood On The Hands Of Jason Felcha And Richard Buddin

This great piece came in overnight:

Dear Norm,
A short while back, I sent your post about stoning teachers with low test scores to our union rep...thought it was amusing, then...
I will be teaching kindergarten tomorrow, and I am blessed and so fond of my students this year, each one...but I can't sleep for thinking about Rigoberto Ruelas, a young man, obviously conscientious, fighting the odds in the LA Public Schools for fourteen years with almost perfect attendance, taking what must've seemed like the weight of the world upon his shoulders, teaching 5th grade, when kids are really developing a strong sense of autonomy.  Probably to many of them, he was someone stable and constant, perhaps even a father figure.  He must've made many sacrifices throughout the years, as all conscientious teachers do...and then to have his life and reputation sullied by questionable "value-added" standardized test scores surely was stressful, painful, humiliating.  What if the tables were turned and the Billionaire Boys, the hedge fund managers, the privatizeers and education deformers were suddenly to be appraised based on their sense of humanity, of loyalty to country, of devotion to democracy?  Would they dare for one night to take down their guard and unlock their doors?  How must it feel to always have to hide from the people you are destroying?  What if the greater picture were to be seen by looking at the families affected by outsourcing and job loss, by foreclosure and lowered wages?  Would there be any links found between the pain of families, the struggles of students and their teachers, and the policies promoted by WalMarts and the rest of the business world?  What if we were to give them multiple choice, bubble-in tests to measure their knowledge and understanding of the masses they mean to manipulate, for example:
1.  Mark the BEST definition of a teacher:  O  Interchangeable widget, same as any worker
O  Dedicated, educated public servant   O   Bad, commie unionist criminal
O  Stupid person, most likely female
2.  What is a Parent?   O  Someone who a company we invest in has probably laid off
O  A consumer of educational programs  O  Another cog in the big machine of capitalism
O  All of the above.
3.  What is a Student?   O  A sentient, growing human being with unlimited potential
O  A person who is learning and working toward self-development  O  another brick in the wall   O  Anywhere from $5 to $15K per head.
4.  What is Democracy?   O  Something to be erradicated ASAP  O  One voice, one vote per person  O  Equal opportunity for participation   O  Our biggest threat and nightmare.
5.  Who was Rigoberto Ruelas?   O  A conscientious 5th grade teacher  O  A father figure
to kids who needed one  O  a 14 year veteran educator with nearly perfect attendance
O  Just another irrelevant nobody to us, same as everybody.
Rest in peace, Mr. Ruelas.  The LA Times is not the final judge!


  1. Oh, how tragic! God forbid so-called "teachers" are finally required to teach. The only one responsible for Ruelas' death is Ruelas himself. If he were half the great, dedicated teacher his buddies claim, he would have taken steps to improve his students' performance instead of playing the ultimate pity card.

  2. The trouble with teachers is not that they are not "finally being required to teach". The trouble with them is twofold:

    (1) They suffer from the work ethic, and so persevere where others would quit: they have been working far too hard for too long, in impossible situations, and with not only no thanks, but daily abuse for their efforts. This callow idiot, Austin Reagan, would have wet his pants and cried out for his Mama with a week of what some of us have endured for decades.

    (2) They have been far too civilized towards ignorant, lazy nincompoops such as him and his more powerful, but equally brainless, shallow and arrogant alter egos.

    Michelle Rhee and co, are prime examples of the latest breed of puffed up blowhards. Teachers have allowed them and their predecessors, the "educational pundits" to dominate the discourse about K-12 education.

    Rarely have the practitioners had a voice or even a seat at the table. Having successfully taught for decades, sending students to Ivy League schools, is viewed as a disqualification. So is survival, and dogged perseverance, in a tough urban school.

    These people have no decency. Austin's comment is yet more evidence, if that were needed.

    Teachers, it's time to speak out against even more of such revolting filth. Those who put up with garbage are destined to be consigned to the garbage.


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