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Maaaarching Along

Once upon a time it was the merry month of Maaarch in the city of Chicago, which was, saadly, still located in the scandal-ridden cheapskate state of Ill-A-Noise. However, due to the Windy City’s newest sobriquet, Glacier Gardens, there was hope that the entire metropolitan area could slowly slide off to the east during the spring thaw, what with global warming and all.

It was a dreadful time for the long-suffering membersheep of the CTEwe, as they baattled the hideous elements of sub-zero temperatures, sleet, snow, freezing rain, mountains of ice, and interminable traffic tie-ups, just in order to arrive at their designated attendance centers (formerly known as school buildings), where they encountered leaking roofs, dripping ceilings, drafty windows, sneezing children, coughing children, shivering children, and understandably absent children, along with all the other difficult conditions that made their tasks so challenging in the first place.

Their struggles were made all the more trying under the ever-present looming specter of Adenoidal Arne, CEO of the CPS, who seemed bent on destroying the entire public school system as we know it.

With the help of his evil puppeteer, Richie Daley, eternal Mare of Da City Dat Works, and the tacit approval of the leadersheep of the CTEwe, Arne was masterminding a policy of closing schools and firing teachers throughout the system.

At the same time, however, the cash-strapped CPS seemed determined to continue to bail out the archdiocese by purchasing its shuttered school buildings, and then encouraging charter schools to set up shop on the same sites. There also seemed to be plenty of money to create more magnet schools, most of which catered to either (1) the children of parents living in upscale, newly gentrified areas, or (2) students who were already high achievers and/or former products of pricey private and parochial schools. It was becoming very apparent that regular, ordinary, neighborhood kids just didn’t matter.

The membersheep, who had realized long that they didn’t matter, either, were never quite certain whether they were coming or going or just plain gone. It was very unsettling. There was an unrelenting barrage of baaad news from the media, with almost weekly press conferences being held in order to announce more school closings. Nothing was the same as before, with one exception.

“I never can get through the to CTEwe,” said Clara Clark, the Clerk. “The line is always busy. It’s amazing. No matter what time of the day or night I call. Once it almost went to voicemail, but then there was a funny noise, and a tinny little voice told me to hang up and try again if I wanted to make a phone call. You know,” she mused, “it was odd.”

“What was odd?” asked Ewenice, who was still Toonice for her own good.

“Well,” answered Clara, “you know I answer phones here all the time. I could have sworn that a live person was pretending to be a recording. Isn’t that strange?”

“Sounds like someone slipped up,” said Scott Skeptic, journalism teacher-in-exile, as he strolled in for his weekly visit. “Maybe a new employee picked up the phone when it rang.”

“Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?”

“Oh, no. That is expressly forbidden in the new Mumbles Manifesto ,” said Scott.

“What??”

“Are you making that up?”

“It isn’t funny,” chided Clara.

“I am serious,” intoned Scott in most serious manner. ”There is a new rule book for CTEwe headquarters. It is being printed and bound as we speak. And, as I understand it, anyone who strays from the Royal Rules will be terminated. Immediately.”

Once upon a time, membersheep who had been summoned, and who thereby had actually received royal permission to appear at the hallowed headquarters, were amazed at what they saw, from the time they were ushered into the inner sanctum by the uniformed guard until the audience was concluded. While most of them never saw any of the leadersheep, they did discuss issues with their field drip, either in a small conference room, or in the office of the field drip. It was always an eye-opener: the membersheep were able to see (and touch!!) smoothly-finished, new furniture with all of the legs not only the same length, but properly attached as well; state-of-the-art computers and copiers; reams upon reams of paper just sitting there. There were smooth floors, nice carpets, walls and ceilings without hunks of hanging plaster. There were clean, unbroken windows. It was like being in heaven, even when the field drip would sigh saaadly, and say there was nothing to be done.

Scott, of course, had never been invited in. He was usually invited out, as a matter of saaad fact. But from time to time he managed to don a disguise, grab his trusty little notebook, and do some research.

He originally had intended to get some background information on the Mumbles - Teddy rift, which was getting worse on a daily basis; there were now at least two distinct factions, along with several minor fractions, within the ranks of the leadersheep and their respective minions. And, amazingly enough, no one knew for sure what had caused the original problem.

Once upon a time, Teddy, the Obsequious Toady, had tried to regain his leadersheep status, by subtly reminding Mumbles that he was an elected official and therefore could not be fired. Mumbles retaliated by reminding Teddy, and all the other assembled leadersheep, under conditions of the newly-minted CTEwe Leadersheep Top Secret Act, which threatened death — or even worse, a return to the classroom — to anyone who leaked information from the secret meeting, that his election was certainly open to interpretation.

Once upon a time, Teddy reminded them all that it was he, himself, who had engineered the CTEwe elections, making sure that Chicago tradition was upheld, so that everyone, dead or alive, present or absent, voted at least once for the Pee-Yu caucus. “You know. Vote early and vote often.”

“And your point is?” glared Mumbles.

“You were all elected in the same way,” said Teddy. “You can’t just try to obliterate me because I called you stupid. I could just as easily call the AFT about you, you ewe,” he snapped.

“It won’t work,” she countered. “I have friends in high places. I made deals — I mean, arrangements — with all of them, and they know who’s the brains of this organization,” she concluded smugly.

“Oh really? And precisely who would that be?”

Scott was scribbling furiously, so as not to misquote one syllable of the heated exchange. He had managed to switch jackets with one of the minor assistants to the assistant field drips, and went largely unnoticed because Mumbles never really looked at anyone who wasn’t immediately important to her, and therefore could not recognize anyone in the inferior echelon.

Baack at school, the membersheep were seriously depressed. It was partly the weather, and partly the incessant political campaigning, but primarily it was the conditions under which they were forced to work.

The problems of September had never been solved; things had simply grown worse with every succeeding week. Some students still didn’t know what classes they were taking, and some teachers were still roaming around without a classroom. The elementary schools, in particular, since there were so many of them, were constantly threatened by rumors of closings.

Even more confusing was the dizzying merry-go-round in the high schools. First the schools were too big; then they were too small. Then they started classes too early in the morning; then the same students had to stay too late. There were study halls, and then there weren’t study halls. Then they had to have block programming. Or maybe not. And the famous time-wasting paper-chomping farce known as “advisory”, which was the brainchild (brain orphan?) of the late great Our Pal Paul, who was currently trying to curry favor down in the Big Easy, having rapidly outworn his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love, which was pretty amusing if you stopped to think about it. Or forty-five minute class periods. Or fifty. Or the atrociously odious flex-time fiasco, whereby all the prince- and princessipals were allowed, by CTEwe contraaact, to micro-manage the whole sorry mess and force the membersheep to stay late, or report early, or, pretty much whatever they wanted.

It should be noted that, once upon a time, this particular aforementioned contraaact was the creation of the Tom Reece regime, and its “overwhelming” acceptance was always questioned in certain circles.

Once upon a time, some of the membersheep were chatting as they tried to thaw their frozen extremities before class, although, to be honest, many of the classrooms were almost as cold as outside. They were disappointed in the response of the CTEwe when they needed help.

“We are paying $832 in dues now,” observed Millicent Militant. “I just stared assembling my income tax materials.”

“It’s over $500 for us,” concurred Clara Clark, the clerk. “We should be getting something for that in return, like support.”

“They have no time for that,” snapped Nancy Naive, darling of the Pee-Yu caucus. “They have internal difficulties to solve. That terrible Teddy actually went on a school visit the other day, along with that awful Linda Pilton-Morter, after he was fired. The audacity!! ”

“Our CTEwe should be helping us, with all of the school closings and position cuts,” said Ewenice. “Maybe they should keep their internal problems to themselves, and deal with the external ones instead. We have serious questions.”

“Oh, just look it up in the contraaact,” said Nancy, with a dismissive wave of her hand. She had been practicing the royal hand wave in secret, having watched Mumbles at a press conference. The dismissive wave was similar in style, and she just loved doing it.

Millicent looked up sweetly, batted her long eyelashes, and asked, “What contraaact? I still don’t have a copy of the Agreement? Do you? Does anyone?”

“It’s available online,” said Nancy.

“Really. Since when?”

“Since last week.”

“What took so long? It was allegedly finished in July. Of 2007. And why don’t we all have our own copies? We always had them before. Remember? Nice little booklets, very convenient, very useful.”

“The CTEwe leadersheep are trying to save money.”

“I thought the Big Baaad Bored paid for printing.”

“Oh.”

“And exactly how am I supposed to find what I want online? It’s almost 200 pages long. Am I supposed to print that out? Are we all supposed to do that?”

“You get money for supplies,” smirked Nancy. “Use your own paper.”

“Where? You know we can’t use Bored printers or copiers for ourselves.”

“Oh, just sneak around when no one is looking,” suggested Nancy.

“And then what? Walk around like a CTEwe Dull-a-Gate at a house meeting, waving a giant clump of loose papers around? This is ridiculous!!” said Millicent, who was truly outraged.

“You know what’s even worse?” asked Scott.

They thought for a moment.

“Ooh, ooh, I know!!” exclaimed Ewenice. “It’s a five year contraaact!! No little booklets for five whole years.”

“Right,” said Scott.

“Oh,” they agreed. “Oh, I see.”

“O.I.C.” 



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