The Continuing Saga of Life

On Thursday, January 29, I wrote a memorandum, but before I was able to finish and translate and send the document, I received an email that announced the school’s decision to terminate me immediately. Here are the reasons the school gave and my responses to those reasons:

You used the LOGO and name of LIFE School without permission to call a personal public meeting.

Because I would not disclose to the director what I would be saying at the meeting, I was told that I could not have it on campus. I then decided to hold the meeting at Casa Cakchiquel. I never claimed it to be an official meeting of Life School. It was my meeting about Life School.

The meeting’s attendee were: myself, my husband, all five of my fellow female expat teachers, one of their husbands, three members or former members of the Board of Directors.

You publicly admitted to using illegal drugs, and this is offensive to LIFE School parents and the Board.

I made this “public” admission, in an email, in defense of a colleague, Nekia Wright—a competent teacher who had been abruptly fired in November, without warning. It had recently come to my attention that she was ultimately fired due to gossip among the parents and leadership of the school regarding her use of drugs.

For the record: Yes, I once smoked marijuana at a party in the past, but I didn’t inhale.

You left the school during duty hours without notifying the administration and receiving prior permission.

That is true.

You have created instability in the school community and emotional distress among students by telling them your personal problems and that you expect to be fired. Third and fourth grade students should not be involved in helping to manage or solve adult problems.

I didn’t ask my students for help with any problems. I told them, “If I’m not here tomorrow or next week, it’s because I got fired.” There is a great deal of turnover at the school and many teachers have left mid-year under unclear circumstances. I wanted the kids to know that my disappearance, if it happened, was not my choice. They had a right to know.

My 32 third, fourth and sixth grade students showered me with love, hugs, handmade cards and gifts. Whenever I see them on the street in town, they run up and hug me.

You sent emails to 35 people claiming that our students have social and emotional problems – giving a bad impression of them to people who have no right to private information about the students. This is damaging to the students and damaging to the school.

I did not give any specific names or details. I shared no “private information” about any individual.

The fact is, I went from part-time (22.5 hours/week) back to full-time in January 2015. The day before classes restarted after winter break, it was decided that I would be teaching 6th grade English/Language Arts, instead of the considerably easier 8th grade Social Studies class that I had been told to plan for in December. This was due to the fact that yet another teacher abruptly left the school and therefore her classes needed to be covered.

Several of the sixth graders were in my 4th grade class when I started at the school in 2012; a lot has changed in these two years. They are now adolescents going through puberty. In other words, they have social-emotional issues, individually and as a group. Several serious issues had come up this year, especially related to bullying and cyber-bullying. One financially-sponsored female student who had been at the school for six years was forced to leave in December, because she was seen as the perpetrator of bullying when in fact two other students (whose parents pay their tuition) and who were also guilty of bullying remain at LIFE School. There is no school psychologist or counselor to help students with these types of issues.

You have caused days of stress in the school through your erratic behavior that has lead to a loss of instructional opportunity of the students and loss of tranquility among the staff.

Sorry, not sorry.

How about the loss of “instructional opportunity” and “tranquility” that resulted from letting go, right in the middle of the year, a qualified, experienced and beloved teacher and colleague?

If you continue contacting LIFE students or by any means of electronic, paper, or in person communication , the Board of Directors reserves the right to take legal actions.

I continued communicating with parents. Which is why the presidenta of the Board, who happens to be a lawyer, went to the Justice of the Peace and filed a denouncement against me—a restraining order to keep me from communicating with any members of my former community. Fortunately, LIFE School has no jurisdiction over my social life.

I investigated my legal rights through the PDH (Procurador de Derechos Humanos, the national human rights organization in Guatemala). I was directed to the Ministry of Work, which provided me with documentation saying that LIFE School owes me a significant amount of money, according to Guatemalan labor law.

On March 6, LIFE School and I had a morning meeting, mediated by the work inspector. The school’s position is that I was a volunteer teacher, and I am entitled to zero. They claimed that they would have to shut down the school if they pay me the severance, which amounts to approximately $4,000 US, at most.

I was not given a written contract from the school this year. While I was technically a “volunteer teacher,” I received a monthly stipend on which my family and I were dependent.

I was wrongfully terminated due to poor leadership, lack of communication, and corruption in the form of total power of the parent Board of Directors and a total lack of rights for teachers.

justice

Mi Redacción en Español

Yo pedí una reunión en la escuela con los maestros y el personal para el martes a las 3:00 de la tarde el martes 27 de enero. Porque yo no quise decir a la directora lo que estaría diciendo en la reunión, me dijo que no podía tener la reunión en el campus. Entonces me decidí a hacer la reunión fuera de la escuela, en la Casa Cakchiquel. Yo nunca he dicho que fuera una reunión oficial del Colegio LIFE. Fue mi reunion sobre el Colegio LIFE.

La reunión se celebró. Asistieron a mí mismo, mi marido, todos los demás profesores expatriados femeninas dy una de sus maridos, así como tres miembros o ex miembros de la junta directiva de la escuela. La conversación se calentó a veces; en general, me dio la sensación de esperanza de que era el comienzo de un buen diálogo entre el profesorado extranjero y los miembros de la Junta.
Hice una admisión “pública” de utilizar “drogas ilegales”, en un correo electrónico, en defensa de una colega, Nekia Wright, una maestra competente, que había sido despedido abruptamente en noviembre, sin previo aviso. Para el registro: Sí, una vez que fumé marihuana en una fiesta en el Mayo de 2014 en Panajachel, pero no es una parte de mi vida cotidiana.
Yo no le pregunté a los estudiantes en busca de ayuda. Yo les dije: “Si yo no estoy aquí mañana o la próxima semana, es porque me despidieron.” Habían salido una gran cantidad de maestros del colegio en los últimos tres años, con muchos maestros que abandonan a mitad de año. Quería que supieran que mi desaparición, si sucedió, no fue mi elección. Tenían derecho a saber.
Mis alumnos me colmaron de amor, abrazos, tarjetas y regalos hechos a mano.
El hecho es que me fui de a tiempo parcial (22,5 horas / semana) de vuelta a tiempo completo en enero de 2015. El día antes de las clases se reanudaron después de las vacaciones de Diciembre, se decidió que iba a estar enseñando sexto grado Inglés, en lugar del octavo grado de la clase de Estudios Sociales, lo que me habían dicho para planificar en diciembre. Esto se debió al hecho de que otro maestro abandonó abruptamente y por lo tanto sus clases necesarias para ser cubierto.
Varios de los alumnos de sexto grado estaban en mi clase de cuarto grado cuando empecé en la escuela en 2012; muchas cosas han cambiado en estos dos años. Ellos son ahora adolescentes pasando por la pubertad. En otras palabras, tienen problemas emocionales y sociales, como individuos y como grupo. Varios problemas graves habían llegado hasta este año, especialmente en relación con el bullying y el acoso cibernético. Una estudiante patrocinado financieramente, que había estado en la escuela durante seis años fue obligado a abandonar en diciembre, porque ella era visto como el autor del acoso escolar cuando en realidad otros dos estudiantes cuyos padres pagan su matrícula y también eran culpables de intimidación permanecen en el Colegio LIFE. No hay psicólogo escolar o consejero para ayudar a los estudiantes con este tipo de problemas.
La escuela ha causado una gran pérdida de “oportunidades de instrucción” y “tranquilidad” como resultado de dejar ir, a mediados de año, dos maestras cualificadas, con experiencia y amada.
Seguí la comunicación con los padres. La presidenta de la junta directiva presentó un denuncio contra mí para que yo no comunicarse con los miembros de mi comunidad anterior. Afortunadamente, no tienen jurisdicción sobre mi vida social.
Investigué mis derechos legales a través de la PDH. Me dirigieron al Ministerio de Trabajo, que me proporcionó documentación diciendo que el Colegio LIFE me debe una cantidad significativa de dinero, de acuerdo con la legislación laboral guatemalteca.
El 6 de marzo, el Colegio y yo tuvimos una reunión de la mañana, mediada por la inspectora de trabajo. Posición de la escuela es que yo era una maestra voluntaria, y no tengo derecho a nada. Maria dijo que tendrían que cerrar la escuela si me pagaron la indemnización, que asciende a aproximadamente $ 4,000 EE.UU., a lo sumo.
Yo no había firmado contrato con la escuela. Mientras estaba técnicamente un “maestro voluntario” que recibieron un estipendio, mi familia y yo dependían del dinero que recibí del Colegio LIFE.
Yo estaba despedido injustamente debido a la falta de liderazgo, falta de comunicación, y la corrupción en la forma de poder total de la Junta Directiva de los padres y la falta total de derechos para los maestros y docentes.
Muchas gracias.
Escrito por Michelle Margaret Fajkus
8 de marzo de 2015

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