True or False: You decide


Passport to Nowhere: Samuel Blessing

 

It is often been said that if the inmates ran the asylum things might not be so messed up. Imagine what would happen if teachers, more educators like the author and myself had been given the respect, power and authority to educate, handle and even appropriate funds, create curriculum, design programs and actually teach according to the guideline and standards real educators set up and low and behold students successes would rise. Imagine actually teaching students what they need to succeed in life and not worrying about their scores on a test! Sorry if you think politicians, the government, not all or district superintendants are ever going to hear the voices of the mainstay or backbone of any school: THE TEACHERS Principals (not all) sit in their ivory tower offices, pass judgment over their staff members, rate them accordingly (based on their definition of productivity and test scores) and never really make too many appearances in classrooms to assist struggling new teachers but often chastise them for handing in a document or lesson plan late. Such is the premise or main theme of a creative, innovative and quite revealing book titled: Passport to Nowhere, which presents the inside, scoop to what really goes on in one high school but in reality could be any school right in your own backyard.

 

Knoward High School is barely making the grade. Just a tad short of being taken over by the state. So, why would any want to send their kid there or even work there? As author Samuel Blessing allows the reader to enter the hallowed halls of this school you will hear many different voices as they explain their lives, their relationship with other staff members, and why so many turn a blind eye to what is really going on in the schools today. Welcome to Passport to Nowhere: AKA: Nowhere High School where those entering students and teacher alike cannot assume that they will rise to greatness or even be a success. So, let’s meet the staff and find out more about the inner workings of this school.

 

Bob McCloud is a staff member who seems to have it all under control. Understanding the curriculum, able to control the students and yet knowing that hiding from the department chair was definitely a necessity since she has only one quality: Domination and total control of those working for her. Added in she has a dimwit assistant that threatens others, brow beats teachers and enjoys gatherings with students at the chair’s home. Lizbeth Gleem is the not so honorable chair of his department. She hates men and people in general. Her skills not the best but sometimes you settle for what is there. The assistant is Sandy Cooper whose behaviors are questionable to say the least followed by Frank Bottoms a really smart guy with an IQ of 180 and friends with McCloud. Next we meet Lenny Lake and Kelly King the Principal of this school.

 

Lenny Lake is opinionate and loves to get under the skin of Frank Bottoms. Discussing politics, the Gulf War and very old school when it comes to respect for teachers and being the head of the classroom, he was calm, creative, reasoned with difficult students and called parents when more assistance was needed. Guidance support was there but did not really help and the Assistant Principal along with others would pass off the problem. Honest, trusting and open that’s where the rest went to find out what was really going on. Rich Gillette was flamboyant, loud and loved to gamble. Rich and Mac had some things in common. Both have a sense of humor and both a sarcastic view of life. Finally, let’s get to the head honcho of the school, Kelly King the Principal. The author describes her early life in Chapter 8 and you get to know where she came from and her reasons for staying at Knoward High. She knew how to run the ship but the mass among of inept Assistant Principals made her job harder and placed the school in danger of having the state take it over. Let’s not forget the miserable Lizabeth Gleem. Hiring Mac to Frank with the football team was smart. Lizabeth is the head of the science department with Sandy Cooper who knows very little about anything. The classes run about 50 minutes and the rest is described on page 27.

 

Next the author gets down to the nitty gritty. The ASC committee and the politics involved in getting anything done. ASC: Accreditation of Schools in California) arriving to put the school under the proverbial microscope. Hearing the discussions at these meetings learning the ins and outs of the politics and the truth behind what is covered up and what is revealed you being to wonder just who is running the schools and for whose benefit. As the team met they pretended to agree on some things and the committee told them what needed to be improved. But, somehow they managed to skate by. Next we learn more about the deceit and betrayals caused by one member of the faculty to ruin the football team and their lack of wins, and finally we meet Mac when he first started, Lenny when he first started and the inner workings of the mind of an inept head of the science department and how she used her treachery to blackmail not just the principal but teachers too. Lizbeth was relentless and after three years of dealing with her she decided to go after more staff members at full speed. Imagine having one teacher or head of a department have a group of students decide which teachers measure up and which don’t. Unprofessional to say the least but for some reason she got away with it. Why? Added in are several incidents involving Mac and Lizbeth that you have to read for yourself to appreciate just how devious she is and what she gets away with each day added in we learn how the teachers deal with parents and the reign of King Blump the new principal. Net we meet Quentin Harris the latest addition to this dysfunctional staff and soon to be Lizbeth’s next victim so why were his first few weeks uneventful and just what was she up to? Wait until you find out and learn what she and her lackey do next? Part Four brings us to Traveling through Nowhere and begins with some interesting and humorous chapters dealing with the antics of Sandy and Lizbeth followed by Attrition and Very Special Ed that focuses on students with learning problems. Since Mac was good with these students and treated them like everyone else, she became the dumping ground for students with learning problems and much more. Quentin gets the lazy award, Lizbeth started to take interest in Mac’s work. Why? Let’s not forget the interaction between teachers and students that should not have taken place, teachers pitted against each other and a new principal with no leadership skills. But, let’s not forget the bureaucrats who deal with finding out who is qualified and who is not. Credential Coordinator whose job it is to keep records on each teacher. Read what happens when she collides with Mac and her totally unprofessional remarks. It is hard to believe that so many get away with so much. Think about the fact that district personnel never got fired, were allowed to mess things up and certainly never enter a classroom, which would be beneath them and definitely not in their job description. Throughout the book you begin to get frustrated, understand the points of view of the staff that has survived all of the inconsistencies within the system and the reasons why so many leave. The end result of Chapter 25 will send any real educator over the top and reeling. Imagine not being able to hold back students that do not make the grade. Failing students would have a way out. Imagine cost cutting and no campus suspensions. Let’s not forget tenure and those who get it and those who do not. The end result of what happens when one staff member goes off and what he does you have heard before but how it is handled you won’t believe. Cover-ups, lies, deceits and where they all wind up you have to read the Epilogue for yourself. Passport to Nowhere: Sad that so many never got anywhere. Just what the end result is for this school you have to read the book to decide if the end justified the means. Passport to Nowhere is a sad commentary on the educational system in America but not really so far from the truth. I was lucky for most of my career and fortunate that my students had great respect for me. Working with children with learning disabilities in reading and writing I can take pride in knowing I made a difference. But, what the author describes and the truths behind the administration and their lack of interest in some cases, not all, it’s too close to the truth. This is one book you want to read. Why can’t the educators have a louder voice? Why are students not accountable and why are we to blame for the failing grades? Why are principals and administrators so far removed from the classroom? Why don’t they spend some time modeling lessons? Passport to Nowhere: A must read!
Fran Lewis: reviewer

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