Saturday, September 13, 2008

...If You Let Him

On Wednesday I had a training session to go to at 825. That's what everybody calls the main office building for District of Columbia Public Schools. During the lunch break I decided to accompany a Shaw U graduate to the payroll office to check on her 'stuff.' Basically she did some of her paperwork late and wanted to ensure that everything was on the up and up and that she would be getting paid. She gave the man her social and he printed her a check stub that showed what would be deposited in her account on Friday. Since I was there, I decided to try to get a sneak peak at what would be deposited in my account as well.

When I gave the man my social he said that I wasn't in the system. Thinking it was some mistake or that he had typed the number incorrectly I gave him the number again. Same response. Not in the system. I was floored. Here it is Wednesday and I'm expecting a check on Friday and I'm not in the system.

He instructed me to go to my staffing specialist and let her know. This woman has to be the most aloof person I know. She is just so not on it. When I approached her to tell her about the situation she was not very bothered. She acted as if this sort of thing happened all the time and that she'd get to it when she could. I told her her nonchalance about my business was unacceptable and that she absolutely had to take care of my paperwork today. As a matter of fact I told her within the hour. I had to control my emotions because she kept flipping a piece of paper over as we were talking and staring at it. At one point she wasn't saying anything. It's hard to describe the scene on paper but suffice it to say I was annoyed at her inactivity. Once I told her I wasn't in the system she should have IMMEDIATELY sprang into action to get me in the system to get me paid. Finally she remarked at the end that she 'guessed that she should go and work on this now.' Of course I'm thinking hell yeah itchbay, go handle my shiznit not now but right dang now!!!

When I returned to payroll to let the guy, let's call him Mr. Helpful know what had transpired he gave me some more directives. As he was speaking an e-mail came in from my staffing specialist asking what she needed to do. Mr. Helpful decided that this required a face to face visit to make sure that Ms. A Loof understood what she had to do so that I can get paid. Let's interrupt this story to remind you about what else I had been contending with NCA&TSU. Yeah, if you read that already you understand more about why I would be extremely frustrated at this point. She had to regenerate a document that should have been generated a long time ago. She had sent it up to payroll but they returned it because it was incomplete/incorrect. She didn't realize they had sent it back to her and at the moment didn't know where it was. So like I said she had to reproduce the document. Mr. Helpful informed me that it would only take five minutes to do it and that he had spoken with the head of HR to let him know what was going on so that she would be forced to handle my business. As he and I spoke in the hallways for 21 minutes I remarked to him that she should have been able to produce four 4.25 documents in that amount of time. We chuckled about it but I was serious. I need people to have a sense of urgency especially about your money when they have dropped the ball.

Update to the A&T situation: I received a call on Wednesday and another one on Thursday from two different individuals that informed me that the check was cut on Thursday and would be mailed on Friday. We'll see. Is it just me, but if it was cut on Thursday, why wasn't it mailed on Thursday?

Also while I was down at payroll I had Mr. Helpful find out if they had record of a time sheet having been submitted for me. Interestingly enough they had a time sheet. In my twisted logic I would think that if you have people on the time sheet but have no record of them existing that you'd investigate why. Maybe it's just me. I did learn that payroll is short four people so they just don't have time to track down a bunch of stuff like that right now. That's the same reason they sent my paperwork back down to my staffing specialist on August 6. They don't have time to correct people's mistakes and run stuff down because they are so short staffed.

I spoke with the Business Manager at my school (we called them Treasurers in NC and GA). She didn't think it was realistic for me to expect a paycheck on September 12th. I told her that Mr. Helpful who she knows very well and who her office mate (not really her office mate but he's in there all the time) knows very well assured me that I'd get paid on Friday because he was going to personally walk the paperwork through the process. All day Friday it was touch and go. I tried not to think about it so that I could get my work done. I managed to do that until the BM called me down to her office to find out if I had gone to pick up my check because her contact down there told her that she didn't see the check. I told her no. The BM let me know that there were so more checks coming in after 3:00pm. It was at that point that I said I wasn't going to give up hope. I finally went down to her office after school so that she could call and check. Bless goodness my check was there. (That's something my grandma used to say. I gotta find some pics of her that I can post.) Look at God! People don't believe it but He'll do it if you let him. That's on of my favorite churchy sayings.

I forgot to mention that I shared with a friend about the A&T thing and now the DCPS thing and she remarked that I needed to pray about why God was allowing my finances to be attacked. I side eyed her (ala Opinionated Diva) and told her that it wasn't that deep and that people just needed to do their jobs. Don't you hate it when people wanna make stuff deep that really isn't?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What's Happening Now

For those of you who don’t know that stands for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. It is located in Greensboro, NC, where I resided in a former life. This summer I worked in a pre-matriculation program for them teaching two classes. The goal of these types of “bridge” programs is to help students shore up skills that may be lacking or enrich the skills that they already have. One section of students learned precalculus and the other section learned calculus. The program ran for about five weeks, so it was rather intense. I had no choice but to put it on them. I thoroughly enjoyed them and I know that they enjoyed me. I mean, who wouldn’t? ::reflective pause to ponder the question:: Exactly. I can’t imagine either.

The last day of class was July 30, 2008. At this present time I still have not been paid for the service that I rendered. I attended and HBCU so I know how things sometimes have a tendency to work when it comes to processes and paperwork. About a week and a half into the program I spoke with the program director to inquire about us doing the necessary paperwork so that I could be paid. Before the program started she had already gotten a copy of my driver’s license, social security card and one of teaching licenses. (Remember when somebody questioned my credentials?) I am the bonafide truth. Meanwhile, not the point of the story, although she’d obtained some copies of some documents, presumably for my file or whatnot, I still had not signed any papers. I was expecting to complete a W-4 or something. The program director assured me that everything was okay even though I hadn’t signed anything. In my heart of hearts I knew something was awry, but I was trying to sit back and trust the process.

About 3 weeks into the program I requested my check. No haps. She called over to the payroll office or somewhere and found out the check wasn’t ready. She apologized profusely. I was disappointed—not so much in her, but in the system. Again, I attended an HBCU so this didn’t surprise me. I checked in every other day to learn the status of the check. Each day it was more of the same. XYZ office hadn’t done abc. If you’ve been to an institution like this you probably understand all too well what I ‘m talking about. It’s like no one knows what everyone else on the campus does. I propose they close school for a day and just get everybody together and talk about what happens in each office. They even need to simulate the course that a form takes from initiation to completion of whatever task the form is intended to accomplish. About two days before the last teaching day of the program I went into the office and the lady’s assistant was like, “Look at all these forms that we have to fill out to get you paid.” A few things popped into my mind:

  1. I don’t care how many forms it takes to get me paid. Complete them so I can get paid.
  2. I told you all to start this paperwork a long time ago, so why at two days before the program ends are you just now getting the paperwork done? Is it because we’re at an HBCU?
  3. Tales of you incompetence do not interest me.(What movie?)

Of course now I’m in Maryland so I can’t just go up to the school to check on the status of things. Everything I do has to be done over the telephone. I have talked to the Department of Biology, Contracts and Grants, Payroll, Accounts Payable and the Office of the Chancellor. Some lady in the OOC told me that everyone was aware of the situation since I had called quite a few people on campus. Okay, are you thinking what I’m thinking? If everybody knows why the hell don’t I have a check yet?!?!!!! Further, far be it from me to work and expect to be paid. Am I reaching for the stars? (Same movie.) The latest update is that another lady in the office of the chancellor has spoke with the department, contracts and grants and accounts payable and she still doesn’t know when I’ll be paid. This type of stuff is what gives out institutions a bad rep. I purposely referenced HBCU a couple times prior. Not to offend anyone. I’m probably one of the most pro-black people you’ll ever meet. I just hate when stereotypes seem to ring true.

Prince George’s County
Since I have been a resident of the county I have been towed twice for the same reason. The registration decal on my car had expired. I decided that I wouldn’t renew it in North Carolina since I was moving to Maryland. It was only going to be for a little over a month that I’d have expired tags, and I didn’t think that in Maryland they would be concerned about what was going on in North Carolina. Boy was I ever wrong. I finally decided to get my cousin to purchase the decal and mail it to me so that when I took back what the enemy stole from me, I wouldn’t have to keep going through this drama.

There’s a guy on my job who is in a higher position than I but who concerns me greatly. He has loftly ideals but they aren’t appropriate for the population of kids who we serve. There is a different mind set that one must embrace when working in a title one environment than when one works for a more affluent population. What trips me out is that he be calling himself schooling me on stuff. Make no mistakes, I am a content expert and a pedagogical genius. I know curriculum and instruction. Where he and I differ is that I have practical experience in this environment whereas he wants to use the textbook approach to attacking issues. I won’t go into details because it would bore you to tears, but I will say this. At some point you have to let go of idealism and look at what is pragmatic. Also, when you are entering a situation, it is rarely a good idea to go in an impose a bunch of new practices on people all at once. You have to gradually roll stuff out. Schools don’t get in horrible shape overnight so it’s quixotic to think that you can turn them around overnight. I’m not being funny but these people have had years of practicing bad teaching. It takes much longer to unlearn something that to learn something. The guy has lots of potential. I recognize talent when I see it. I’m just not sure if he understands what it takes to be successful in this setting. I just thought of a quick example that I could share. He wants teachers to teach for mastery. Groundbreaking. Who doesn’t? His argument is that when teachers teach for mastery, students are able to pass any test. He claims he used to teach for mastery at this affluent school and students did relatively well on the standardized tests. I’m not going to have an educational debate right now but everybody knows children in poverty are different from children with money. You don’t have to like it, but it is a fact people. If you wish to discuss it further feel free to call me at 240.619.5751. I’d be happy to break it down for you. The point is this population of kids is not affluent. You have to engage them slightly differently because the playing field is not exactly level. And with the performance of this school in the past few years, why the hell would you think mastery teaching is possible at this point? It’s clear that the teachers aren’t even hitting knowledge on Bloom’s taxonomy. We need to focus on getting students to perform well on the standardized tests to get the man off our back. As we do that we’ll phase in strategies to help teachers become masters of their craft. Lofty ideals, just not applicable for what we need to do right now. It’s at this point that I have decided that I cannot let this persist any longer. I have got to shut this mess down.

Cable and Internet
I finally got my stuff turned on. That’s why I decided to post an update. Now that I’m back in the current century after a three week respite, I’ll get back on track.

Hope everyone is doing well. I have already started making my blog rounds. Look out DC/Maryland area bloggers. I’ll probably be sending something your way for us to hook up. Be safe. Much love.