Oh, Canada! Eh, Canada?

Once upon a time it was October in the city of Chicago, located in the sorry scandal-ridden cheapskate state of Ill-A-Noise, and there was more than the customary amount of angst to go around.

The weather was too hot — global waaarming!!!

Then there were spectacular storms — the sky is falling!!!

Then it was suddenly too cold — another Ice Age!!

Finally, the leaves began to turn to the traditionally lovely burnished colors of autumn as they fluttered away, and the days dwindled down to a precious few, as they did every year. September was gone.

A traditional milestone of the Chicago Public Schools had been reached: the extremely important Twentieth Day. Oooh. This was an established rite of passage, or perhaps non-passage, for the membersheep of the CTEwe, since it signified the date when school enrollment and class size determined which teachers could stay and which teachers would be told to go away.

Although it was sometimes a shock, and it was a very baad thing for the students, and although it was difficult to be uprooted once the school year had creaked into gear, it was not necessarily a bad thing for the aforementioned membersheep to be culled from the herd. Sometimes it was the proverbial blessing in disguise, since the newly released employees could look for alternative employment, perhaps to find a more pleasant, more secure job with working conditions that were more conducive to teaching and learning than in the Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, as it was affectionately acronymed.

Once upon a time, though, the Big Baaad Bored of Education had many other things to worry about, and was late in selecting the sacrificial goats, who were actually hardworking CTEwe membersheep in scapegoat costumes. Anyway, they, the downtrodden membersheep of the CTEwe waited in vain for an announcement about who should assign homework and who should polish up an old resume; who should distribute books and who should polish up an old resume, who should finalize locker assignments and who should really get to work on that resume, and who could actually start teaching instead of marking time.

Saaadly enough, at the very same time, most of them were also waiting to be paid at the proper previously agreed-upon contractual salary, instead of an ongoing hit-or-miss mess that was rapidly becoming business as ewesual.

Once upon a time things were really, really screwed up at the Castle on Clark Street, and the membersheep paid the price for the incredible ineptitude of the typically overpaid, underworked financial consultant- and consultantesses who told the Big Baad Bored members what to do.

Meanwhile, baack at the good old attendance center — a/k/a school — Ewenice, who was still Toonice for her own good, was very upset. She was waving her check stub in the air, which was all she had to show for anything, since everyone had been forced to accept direct deposit. “I almost never miss a day of school,” she said, “so how can I have minus 12 personal business days? How is that even possible?”

“Let me see that,” said her friend, Millicent Militant. “Maybe you’re reading it wrong.”

“No, I am not. It says right there. Minus 12 days. And besides, my salary is all wrong, too. I didn’t go into teaching to get rich, but I do think that fourteen dollars and 12 cents is not adequate for a pay period.”

“Are you kidding?” asked Nancy Naive. “My check is perfectly accurate, as usual. And I got 12 extra personal business days, too. What a nice surprise.”

Millicent and Ewenice exchanged glances.

“I hate to say this, but I think it’s time to call downtown,” said Les Izmore. “My checks are incorrect, too. And I have minus 4.67 sick days left, somehow. Back in June I had 150. What’s going on?”

“And by the way, Nancy,” said Millicent, “since you are so knowledgeable about the CTEwe, where is our raise?”

“Right,” the others concurred

I don’t think I got a raise, either, now that you mention it.”

“Of course, it’s difficult to determine when your pay is wrong.”

Nancy was angry. “You people are so ungrateful. Our leadersheep brought you a wonderful contract, and here you are, complaining about money. Exactly what do you want?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” answered Scott Skeptic, journalism teacher-in-exile, who had just walked in with a nice box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for everyone.

“We want to be paid in an accurate and timely manner. It is not right to withhold pay from working people.”

“Do you think this is being done on purpose? Do you actually think that a few teensy little mistakes can’t creep in now and then? Do you honestly believe that there is some sort of conspiracy going on to deprive you of your salary? Like, maybe to punish those of you who always vote the wrong way?” screeched Nancy, who was obviously emulating Pammy Pottymouth, the triple-dipping lobbyist formerly known as Pammy Pretty.

Millicent and Ewenice exchanged knowing glances once again.

“How did you get those extra personal days, Nancy?” asked Ewenice.

“I don’t know. I’m not in charge of that stuff. Maybe they reward the really good workers,” she


“More importantly, how do you know how we vote?”

Nancy stomped away, muttering.

Les cleared his throat. “I heard that some of the new field drips are helping out at Bored headquarters. I understand that there is a new software program that handles the payroll, and the regular Bored employees were unable to access the necessary information in a timely manner.”


“And so the CTEwe offered to send additional staff members over to assist with payroll in conjunction with the new contraact.”

Nancy was glaring at Les. “And exactly how did you find out about this? It was supposed to be a secret—”

“What? A secret what?” asked Scott, whipping out his handy-dandy reporter’s notebook.

“I found out about it when they fired my aunt Betty, who worked in payroll for the last forty years. That’s how. One of the new field drips was given her position and she was let go. Terminated. Fired.”

“But—” “But nothing. They told my aunt Betty that she wasn’t metamorphosing quickly enough. But it seems that the field drips all were given extensive in-service into the new software. How do you explain that?”

“Well,” said Clara Clark, the clerk, in an effort to fill the deafening silence, “how about we call the CTEwe to see what they can do to straighten this out?”

Meanwhile, downtown at the opulent riverfront offices of the CTEwe, things were humming along peacefully. It was like the fabled good old days. The hundreds of newly assigned field drips, with the exception of those who were simultaneously employed by the Big Baaad Bored and the CTEwe, were lolling about in their offices, napping, shopping on line, or doing any of the other extremely important and useful tasks required by the CTEwe leadersheep. None of them even bothered to answer the phone when their teachers called in with questions about salary or sick day problems.

Since most of them actually were required to physically show up and work once a month, as sergeants-at-arms at the CTEwe House of Dull-a-Gates meetings, they did have to hone their security skills. There was a menu of courses from which to choose. Included were beginners level tasks, such as hovering threateningly over short people, pushing, shoving, and learning to properly display their armbands.

Intermediate courses consisted of blocking entry into the hall, demanding to see meeting badges that were already clearly visible, snatching microphones away from any Dull-a-Gate not on the UPC-approved list, and causing minor disturbances in the rare event one of THEM actually did begin speaking. The most difficult course to master was the miscounting of votes on the floor of the House, because they were supposed to make it look legit, although almost evvyboddy knew that it was anything but. It required several field drips to stage diversionary distractions so that the visitors in the baaalcony, who had a clear view of everything, would not be able to accurately count who was standing and who as sitting, and who wasn’t even supposed to be voting in the first place.

There were still echoes of the grumbling that followed the hurried adjournment of the September meeting, when the top-secret super-duper contract was approved, “overwhelmingly” and “enthusiastically”, as stated in the local newspapers. According to the membersheep who were there, however, it was quite a different story, pretty much of the same old same old, with screaming, yelling, refusals to take an accurate count, and total disregard of the dull-a-gates.

Things were becoming more and more contentious at the House meetings. After a fun-filled day of teaching, the membersheep had little patience left for a leadersheep team that never presented useful information and always refused to let them ask questions. Frustration was building.

And then there was the new software at the schools.

Once upon a time, someone whose cousin worked for the CTEwe knew someone who worked for the Bored, whose brother-in-law knew someone who worked for Da Mare, who knew someone in Streets and San, who suggested that our neighbor to the north had all the answers to computerized student attendance and school management.

“Wisconsin?The Cheeseheads?” asked Ewenice. “I’m impressed. I didn’t think that was one of their specialties.”

“No. Really North,” said Scott. “Caaanada.”

“Oh,” said Ewenice.

And so, once upon a time, it came to pass that the Big Baad Bored, with a desperately underfunded school system, decided to spend untold tens of millions of dollars on software that worked for a school district in Caaanada, population 523. The program was highly touted as the solution to everything: it would handle daily attendance, tardiness, class cutting, student programming, progress reports and grade reports.

“What is it called?” asked Scott, who was doing research for a future article.

“IMPASSE,” came the reply.

Of course, no one ever considered trying it out in Chicago, where almost half-a million students and 30,000 teachers were going to interact with it on a daily basis. And, at the same time, the Bored decided to simultaneously go paperless.

“We want our record books baaack,” the membersheep complained. “Where do we list student information?”

“On the computer.”

‘How can we take attendance when we don’t know who is

in our classes?”


“How? If attendance is so important, when are we supposed to enter it?”

“My students don’t even have class schedules yet!!”

And always, they received the same impassive answer. “Impasse.”

Even Ewenice had had enough. “I need my blue green book!! I don’t even know what day it is any more!!” she bleated.

“That’s OK,” she was told by the princessipal. “We have a special guest, who is here to help us with IMPASSE.”

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Shirley Ewejest. I’m part of the development team, and I’m here to help in any way possible.”

Millicent and Scott and Ewenice and Clara and Les exchanged glances.

“Oh, I see,” they said in ewenison. “O.I.C.” 