April showers and misplaced powers

Once upon a time it was April in the city of Chicago, which was still stuck, saadly enough, in the sorry, scandal-ridden, cheapskate state of Ill-A Noise. In many ways it was a perfect month, starting as it did with April Fool’s Day. April Showers and an April Fool's for the membersheep.

For the downtrodden and increasingly depressed membersheep of the CTEwe, it was the beginning of the end. In many ways.

To begin with, the Spring Break had already come and gone, even though spring was still nothing more than a glimmer of hope on the still-frozen tundra known as Da City Dat Works.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in the good old days, there had been a paid holiday known as Good Friday, and, while it held significant religious importance for many of the membersheep, and leadersheep as well, no one of the many other religious persuasions ever resented it, or bothered to question its political correctness. Until the dreadful day that good old Miss Dumdum decided to make a federal case of it, claiming that it was a religious holiday and that her students were missing a day of school and they didn’t know why. Boo hoo. As if.

Well, the Big Baaad Bored of Education knew a good thing when they saw one, and decided to press forward with the elimination of the shameful practice of forcing all of the membersheep to accept a paid holiday for the religious needs of only some of them. This was obviously an intolerable injustice to all of those who did not actually observe the aforementioned holiday, and who had to accept their daily pay and skip one whole day of work because of it.

The leadersheep of the CTEwe, who had other fish to fry, as ewesual, such as padding their obscene expense accounts with xeroxed copies of questionable receipts, were either (1) asleep at the switch; (2) uninterested, because they already had a whole bunch of contractual paid vacation days for Really Important Occasions, such as their own birthdays; or (3) totally disinterested, and in league with the Bored with a baackroom deal of their own. Consequently, four things happened, and none of them were good for the membersheep. Good Friday, as a paid holiday, was lost forever, allowing the Bored to save some money. The membersheep who observed the holiday were now forced to take a day off to honor their religious convictions, so the Bored got more money via the convoluted rules of religious holiday leave (wherein pay for a substitute is deducted from the teacher’s pay, even though the substitute is rarely, if ever, present, because they are rarely, if ever, called), or the gotcha sick day rule, (wherein some prince- or princessipals would withhold pay because the teacher could not produce a doctor’s note verifying their absence). So far, it was win-win for the Bored, lose-lose for the CTEwe membersheep, and yawn-yawn for the leadersheep.

After some Bored fumbling and bumbling with the oxymoronic idea of “Teacher Appreciation Day” on Good Friday, wherein the students had a day off while the teachers reported for work, to be tortured by day-long sessions with the multitude of consultant- and consultantesses that the Bored continued to support, it was ultimately decided that the Spring Break would always and forevermore coincide with Good Friday: that is, Good Friday would always be the last day of the Spring Break, even in weird years when it occurred early in Maarch. This left the membersheep with a long, long three months until the end of the school year, with only Memorial Day to look forward to.

And the fourth thing? Miss Dumdum, having done her dumb dumb duty, promptly retired — immediately — leaving everyone else to ruminate on her lasting legacy.

But, once upon a time, there were more serious concerns for the membersheep of the CTEwe. Worst of all, the Office of RE had been resuscitated yet again, not unlike the terrifying creatures in horror movies who refuse to die, no matter what. It was a sobering shock to the membersheep, who had just started to feel semi-secure in their positions.

The Big Baad Bored was busily destroying as many LSCs (local school councils) as possible, in order to impose its own power at the local level; it was closing “underutilized” school buildings and transporting children all over the city to other schools, forcing them to wait in the freezing, dark, winter mornings for a bus to take them miles away to other schools, where they were often at placed at great disadvantage, such as being stuck on the third floor of a building filled with really tough seventh and eighth graders.

This, of course, allowed the Bored to “release” many teachers, since their schools were being closed. The CTEwe leadersheep, still dozing, did nothing. They were too busy working with the Bored in a perverse and pernicious partnership, ewephemistically referred to as “collaboration” by Mumbles herself, right there in the CTEwe newspaper, CUD.

Soon, the news and print media were filled with all of the resurrected terms from the Office of RE: re-structuring, re-organizing, re-engineering, re-defining, re-arranging, re-modifying, re-constructing, re-validating, re-constituting, re-locating, re-certifying, re-incarnation and, best of all, re-inventing the Edsel.

At the same time, rumors abounded regarding the creation of a parallel Bored division, known as the Department of DE, which would deal with such things as de-certification, de-construction, and good old de-rangement.

Meanwhile, baaack at the opulent riverfront offices of the CTEwe, there was still Trouble in Paaradise. Reliable sources had independently confirmed that one faction of the ruling caucus was in open warfare with the other. There were secret meetings and clandestine conspiracies, and occasional hostilities at the monthly House of Dull-a-Gates meetings.

There were rumors of money problems, as well. According to some unnamed sources (who would be instantly beheaded in Her Royal Highness in the Royal Golden Throne Room, formerly known as the CTEwe conference rooms east and west, if their names were even whispered), auditors from the AFT and the IFT were buzzing about, searching for their allocation of dues money, which was seriously overdue. It was also being bandied about that several million dollars were missing. Unaccounted for. Somewhere out there.

No one fortunate enough to work at CTEwe headquarters would admit to giving the idea serious consideration, but the sudden disappearance of the recently appointed, newly anointed Chief of Staff to Her Royal Highness, President-for-Life of the CTEwe and all Surrounding Territories, was somewhat strange, and to some of the old timers, and a trifle suspicious.

Some of the overpaid underworked field drips were seen whispering around the imported-water coolers, mentioning the fact the the new Chief of Staff was not even a ewenion member, and that he was suspected of crossing picket lines at some point. No one had seen him for the last few weeks. Not even the seven people who showed up to work on time, every single day. It was a mystery.

Actually, since he was not, and never had been, one of the membersheep, it was not outside the realm of possibility that he was unaware of magnitude of his misdeed. His widely circulated statement, the so-called Mumbles Manifesto, aka the Machiavelli Memo, wherein he had emphasized the importance and omnipotence of his new position as Chief of Staff, and wherein he also stated that he, and he alone, would be in charge in the absence of Her Royal Highness, could have possibly caused some consternation among the underlings. Some of them had ambitions of their own, and some of them were known to be braggarts and bullies.

“So,” said Scott Skeptic, journalism teacher-in-exile, as he dropped in for his customary visit. “What do you think is going on with our leadersheep?”

“I don’t know,” answered Ewenice, who was still Toonice for her own good. “Marilyn keeps writing all sorts of balderdash in that silly newspaper. What a waste of trees.”

“How can you say such a thing?” accused Nancy Naive, darling of the PeeYu caucus, and staunch defender of whatever they did.

“Have you read this thing lately?” asked Millicent Militant, waving the offending publication in the air. “There is only one useful item in the entire issue.”

“Oh, really?” said Nancy. “And what would that be, in your opinion?”

“Well, that would be the little box on page 19 of the February issue, where it states how much we pay in dues. So we can do our income taxes,” Millicent explained.

“Right,” agreed Clara Clark, the clerk, who was also paying a hefty portion of her salary for PSRP dues.

“And do you know what?” she peered over her eyeglasses at Nancy.


“Every time I call with a question, no one answers the phone. Never. I let it ring 47 times one day.”

Nancy was indignant. “It’s nice that you have that much time to waste. The people at HQ are always working. I’m not surprised that they didn’t have time to answer the phone. You shouldn’t be bothering them,” she concluded smugly.

“Funny you should say that,” said Millicent.

“Really? Why?”

“Just the other day, I tried to make a call for one of our teachers, who is having a problem restoring his disappearing sick days. I finally was connected — mistakenly, I suspect— to one of the privileged few. Do you know what he said?”

“Of course not,” said Nancy. “How would I know that?”

“Ooh, ooh, I know,” said Ewenice, eyes all atwinkle.

“Tell us, Millicent, “ said Scott, with a mischievous smirk.

“He said that we should stop calling the CTEwe and bothering them. They were told not to file any more grievances, because that causes trouble, and the Mayor wants labor peace.”

There were several open mouths. “What?” said Clara. “Is that true?”

“Would anyone make that up?” asked Scott.

There was a brief discussion, followed by the only logical conclusion.

“Of course not,” they said.

“What’s going to happen to us?” wondered Clara, as the rest of them thought the same thing.

“While you’re pondering that,” said Scott, “maybe you’d like to take a stab at the mystery of the missing CTEwe Chief of Staff.” He looked around the room. “Anyone want to make a guess?”

“We have a Chief of Staff? Since when?”

“What’s a Chief of Staff?”

“Doesn’t she have enough lackeys on the payroll already?”

“Does the name Jimmy Hoffa ring a bell?” “Oh, I see,” they said.

“O.I.C.” 

This article originally appeared in the print edition of Substance published in April 2008.


January 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM

By: John Stewart Whitfield Cutler

Who is Sister Grim?

I am ashamed to say, that, though I have been a loyal reader / subscriber of Substance for decades, I have for forever been wondering who the hell is "Sister Grim?"

And why do I always turn to the back of Substance to find Sister Grim to read first, even if it says "Whittier" on the front page?

I know, it must be because I need some comic relief, after giving 100% to teaching my kids all day, I mean students, after all they are not baby goats.

What I mean is: somebody has to write the column. What, you're asking, what is he talking about?

Please subscribe to Substance, for just $25. / yr., and be more than just one of the "membersheep".

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