Appreciation

New Orleans        The Iraq debacle proves to most of us every day the tragedy that accompanies a loss of irony and perspective.  We go on a mission of mayhem and somehow expect to be greeted with open arms and parades, then after turning everything topsy turvey in the chaos, we are surprised that the government can not keep it together, and furthermore sees us as intruders, invaders, and virtually enemies.  Meanwhile Bush and the boys walk around saying “where’s the love?” and “why can’t they do this by themselves?”  Huh?!?

I was thinking of this the other day as I read the front page “pity party” that Robin Jarvis, the state imposed acting Superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans, was giving herself.  She was whining that she was not getting enough “community support,” that some people wanted the state’s Recovery School District to fail, and that people were giving her a rough time and didn’t appreciate how hard she was working.  She said she had been working 7 days per week, 20 hours a day, and had been away from her family, and darned, if she couldn’t “feel the love” then she might resign.  

Wow!  This is breathtaking!  The State takes over 26 schools in New Orleans.  Jarvis does not start hiring teachers early enough, so there is a constant and continual teacher shortage, and refuses to recognize UTNO, the teachers union, so the schools open (finally!) last September short-staffed.  Then she does not do a good enough job to ensure that the children have books in school or get hot lunches or that the bus pickups and drop-offs are done on time.  Let me know when we are supposed to show the love for this kind of pitiful performance?  Please!  

Add to this her other problems like the fact that she can not open the schools quickly enough because she can not get the state to expedite repairs.  But, who is to blame for this?  Not Superintendent Jarvis, no indeed, she says her boss, the Governor, is to blame for not fast tracking the repairs.  The Governor’s office says that they never got the request.  Who is right?  Who cares!  If Jarvis was serious, she could have stalked the governor’s office.  The governor is no bright light on all of this, but the truth is that when you really want to make something happen, you make it happen.  The bottom line is that recently Jarvis got burned (again!) because there was a waiting list of 300 children who could not get into school.  What a scandal!  So, Jarvis had to lickety-split open a couple of more schools, after she finished trying to point the finger this way and that as long as she didn’t have to take any responsibility or be accountable, because, hey, she’s all about the love.  

In fairness this is becoming a cultural and governmental problem of domestic and worldwide reach, rather than just being about Robin Jarvis and her personal pity party.  Why would anyone ever believe that when you manage an intervention, like an invasion or like an entire school takeover under No Child Left Behind that leaves out the citizens, parents, voters, union, teachers, community, and elected school board, that you should expect thanks?  

Or, even more to the point, when did thanks and appreciation become an entitlement anyway?  Public service, like education, used to be seen in fact as part of the common good, and in fact as a service without expectation of appreciation or reward.  In organizing we often joke about the fact that in membership organizations, the day after the biggest victories, the members will be asking the organization, “What did you do for me today?”  We always thought that was fair.  It’s at the very nature of accountability after all.  Working with people and appreciation are casual coincidences, not prerequisites of the work.

Of course “Superintendent” Jarvis also believes in the perfect circle here.  In the newspaper article she argued that if she failed it was not just because there was too little support for her, but also that nothing would happen in education in New Orleans until the community supported the schools.  Heads, she’s never responsible, and, tails, it is our collective fault.

I take it back; you have to appreciate the way she has created the perfect rationalization for her life and work.

Here’s the love!  

And, don’t let the door hit you, as you leave.

Robin Jarvis, New Orleans Recovery School District Superintendent
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