Hello Library fans. I’m of two minds as I write this but only one school. You’ll get what I mean in a second. Back at the start of this in June I told you what I knew to be true: we are two schools in one building. Greenville High School and Indian Valley Academy. We’ve always had the full support of Indian Valley Academy and its leadership at Plumas Charter–the umbrella charter that IVA operates under. At GHS however, we had the principal’s consent, the superintendent’s consent, buy in of perhaps 3 teachers. What am I missing in this scenario? A school board and a ‘curriculum director.’
For those of you well versed in bureaucracy you can probably tell where this is going. But just play along for the story.
Last night I attended a monthly board meeting of Plumas Unified School District in Quincy, CA. I don’t normally attend such meetings as I thankfully as a reporter do not have the school board as my regular beat. I attended because I got last minute word that the Library Project was an agenda item. I’d received no phone call or email from the district, no inquiries whatsoever. As this was my idea and I’ve been heading up the volunteer effort (we’ll let my 17 years experience as a college instructor + knowledge of books, music, and film go at this point). So I show up there because um…my library, OUR library is on the agenda.
So I address the school board and give them a brief history of the project. As the board only has one member who regularly engages online, they were not all completely aware that we exist. So I spend my five minutes of public comment time on facts of our project and I answer a few questions.
The curriculum director–who has never set foot in our library, nor called me or emailed me to ask questions–gets up and makes a brief presentation whereupon she states that she’ll “approve” students to check out books as soon as we produce a list of titles so that she can decide whether they belong in our library.
[THIS IS THE POINT IN THE STORY IS WHERE MY MIND TRAVELS BACK IN TIME AND STARTS REMEMBERING ALL THE BULLIES OF CHILDHOOD AND EARLY JOBS. IT’S WHERE I DAYDREAM AND WONDER WHAT BOOKS ARE ON EVERYONE IN THE ROOM’S SHELVES AT HOME–I’M IMAGINING BOOKCASES THAT HOUSE PRECIOUS MOMENTS STATUES AND INSPIRATIONAL PLAQUES. I BET SHE LOVES EISNER ERA DISNEY. SEE? MY MIND IS JUST GOING THERE. IT’S THE MOMENT WHEN I THINK ABOUT MOVING BACK TO THE COAST TO PAY $5K FOR A STUDIO APARTMENT FOR THE FOUR OF US AND TWO CATS. IT’S THE MOMENT WHERE I REALIZE WHY HARRY POTTER’S ORDER OF THE PHOENIX RESONATES SO MUCH MORE THAN SOME OF THE OTHER HP BECAUSE THE DOLORES UMBRIDGES OF THE WORLD UBER ALLES. MY MIND DRIFTS TO THE ELECTION OF TRUMP. HANDMAIDS’ TALES. TO MEAN GIRLS WITH BEADY EYES AND CLEAR SKIN SMILES. WAIT. I’M SORRY. DID YOU SAY SOMETHING?]
America. This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why Holden Caufield whines about how every time you see something beautiful someone else has scrawled an OBSCENITY upon it.
None of this comes out of my mouth however. I do remind however that we are two schools, not one. That all summer 98% of my volunteers have been from community members and Indian Valley Academy students and parents and that we have no such stipulations concerning censorship and approval. Our goal –which we had thought and hoped was shared–was to get kids reading–especially kids who don’t read. And we’ve already been achieving our goal.
In the photo you’ll note 5 kids. The two boys on the right? Are not typical readers. But the manga and comics attracted them. And so the two kids whom I’ve worked with that one would never see just sitting for 40 minutes and reading are now sitting for 40 minutes and reading. They just came in to do so. No summer reading gimmicks. Just interest and curiosity and cool colorful stuff. But the curriculum director would not, could not appreciate this. Whatever they are reading is not on her ‘approved’ list.
I left after my brief presentation as I had a services district meeting to cover for the newspaper which IS on my beat. In the audience of that meeting were some of my library volunteers. We talked during the break. Shaking our heads.
So you know how this blog is called Throwing Chanclas? I’m throwing it right now. In Latina households, the mother takes off her house shoes and either threatens or throws the shoe at your head (you’re supposed to intentionally miss the head and just be firing a warning shot as I understand it). Why does mama throw the shoe in the first place? Because someone did something out of line and needs to be called out for it. Because someone is acting entitled to something they should be grateful for. Because someone needs to feed mama a hard liquor with a low glycemic index. [I’M TOTALLY UP FOR TAKING DONATIONS OF WINE OR VODKA. JUST KIDDING. MAYBE I’M NOT].
Right now? I’m super thankful for Indian Valley Academy and for all their teachers , staff, and administration do to put kids learning and kids experiences in education first–above egos, above titles. I love knowing that I can drop my kids off and know they will be challenged and thinking and having fun and learning how to reconcile their idiosyncratic quirks with the outside world and be embraced for it not chastised for it.
But I digress.
After I left the board meeting and after I got home after my second meeting, I learned that the school board is playing a familiar Californian real estate move: price gouging. They want IVA to pay four times the amount of rent it currently pays to remain in the building with no authority to put up so much as an inspirational poster in the space. What school could possibly do that when school starts in two weeks?
I write to you this morning a bit crestfallen and dumbfounded. My mind races again. Will there be two libraries? One vibrant in a nearby rented building, while another one languishes in a giant space with 200 hundred “approved” books? What child ever wanted to read something ‘approved’?
[SIGH. SILENCE. SWIG OF COFFEE WHICH WILL NOT ADD TO MY WEIGHT WATCHER POINTS. EXPLETIVE. EXPLETIVE. I CAN HEAR MY KIDS WAKING UP AND PLAYING PANIC! AT THE DISCO. DUDE. I BREASTFED YOU TOM WAITS. WTH? MORE COFFEE. FUCK. STOP THINKING ABOUT CHEESECAKE AND WHISKEY IT’S BARELY 8 AM. AND DAMN MY OPTIMISTIC AND TRUSTING NATURE].
So…I’m going to keep plugging along and my volunteers will keep checking in books. I keep shelving. Worst case scenario is me slipping real books to 1/2 the students in the dead of night like a superhero, while maintaining a smaller library for the other 1/2. Best case scenario is that the centaurs teach Umbridge a lesson that sinks in (although from books 6 and 7 we know that’s not the case).
The real best case scenario? Both schools and their supporters compromise in a reasonable fashion to the benefit of students in both schools. IVA should have a sane rent increase instead of a San Francisco/DTLA-style one. The curriculum director needs to remember the goal for us is literacy and a curious, questioning mind –and that if she can’t embrace our goal she should at least respect it.
I’m headed for another cup of coffee and then a walk over to the library to meet up with today’s volunteers. It never ceases to amaze me how a few people can try and hold the rest of us hostage. But then again–witness the American election. The macro. The micro. I am craving silence and serenity so my mind can focus. Like the kind you can find in a library.
Here’s the link to Plumas Unified School District if you’re interested. Here’s the link to Indian Valley Academy.
Thanks for listening.