This is Episode 23 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both the name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might be negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
The Depot on South State Street
In deciding she had to relinquish her role as Misha’s contract teacher, in September of 1988, Karen was assessing not only her own observations of Misha’s academic growth, she was assimilating information that was available to her from earlier teachers. Among these notes was a memo from November of 1987, that figured prominently in Karen’s decision. Here is that memo, with my comments in brackets:
“The following is a synopsis of information developed during a conference between Misha’s contract teacher, Suzanne, and Misha’s tutors. It subsequently was given to Corrine Chintz, both verbally and in writing, during a second conference that included only Imika and the tutors, Marbry and Deb, in November, 1987:
Expectations for Imika for the rest of the school year 1987-88. If this is not agreeable, Misha will not be included in this educational situation.
- (Concerning on-time payment of monthly tutorial fees--not applicable) [With other parents, this might have been a key point; with Imika, it wasn’t even up for discussion, being far easier to just waive the fees. In either case, money was not something that was being considered as a reason for dismissing Misha.]
- Imika will be at home when school is out or make other arrangements for Misha’s care. Bell Springs Collective will not participate in impromptu babysitting, nor in leaving a young child home alone. [Already in November of 1987, the Collective recognized that Imika’s unstructured lifestyle was impacting Bell Springs. Teachers got tired of having to assume responsibility after school, when Imika did not arrive in a timely manner to pick up Misha. This was a major issue, for two reasons: Misha’s safety, knowing Imika’s track record, and the issue of liability.]
- Imika will take policy issues to the Administrative Committee. John or Marbry can be reached Monday mornings to make an appointment. Tutorial class issues will be taken up with class tutors outside of class time. (9-9:30AM or 3:15-3:45PM) Please ask: “Is this a good time to talk?” Do not phone the building during class time. [It was necessary for teachers to build instructions into the conferences, because Imika did not seem to understand that the school was not there for her convenience.]
- (Concerning Collective agreement to bring firewood for the year-not applicable) [Another concession to the delicacy of the personality involved]
- (Concerning use of monthly collective meetings to voice issues and putting items on the agenda well ahead of time-not applicable) [This was still an ongoing issue with the Collective, but not one that would have brought about Misha’s dismissal.]
- Imika will help Misha get to school on time with her homework. [This was not something that had to be stipulated to other parents in a conference memo, but simply repeated the collective mantra, that parental support was a mainstay of the whole collective.]
- (Concerning participation in fund-raising activities when possible-not applicable) [The idea that Imika would have participated in fund-raising activities is laughable.]
At this same conference a contract of expectations to ensure Misha’s success was shared with Imika both verbally and in writing. It read:
‘Misha is not ready for first grade now, but we feel that she could be with extra tutoring and emotional and physical consistency at home. Without this extra support and help, Misha will not be able to go the the second grade next year.’ “[It was nothing more than a “cinch” notice, that message home to parents, midway through any given quarter, that their son or daughter was in danger of failing a class. Without that parental communication, teachers at the middle school could not legally fail a student, no matter what the circumstances. It is/was an honest attempt to let the parent(s) know that an issue exists which impedes forward progress, and may result in retention. Bell Springs was no different in that the teachers wanted Imika to rectify the situation, so that Misha would NOT have to be dismissed.]
What did we do as a collective when Karen’s letter was delivered to Imika, indicating that she was no longer willing to serve as Misha’s contract teacher? The way the system worked was that Bell Springs members made decisions via consensus, with all members voting. However, there was a three-member panel of individuals who met and made logistical decisions that were more focused on the big picture, so that others in the Collective did not have to examine every facet of keeping things flowing smoothly.
I was a member of that Administrative Committee when things began to sizzle between Imika and the Collective. Interestingly enough, in reading over my 47 page deposition, made down in Ukiah, with Imika’s lawyer, Dan Siegal asking the questions, my answers provide a lot of interesting background information. Everything I write is a direct quote, but does not include every question and response, because many were repetitive, many were irrelevant and many were inane. Here is some of that deposition:
“Q: And in September, 1988, you were a part of the Administrative Committee?
Q: And so was Karen?
Q: The Administrative Committee of the Collective was its leadership group. Am I correct?
A: I did not think of myself as a leader of the Collective, no. I thought of myself as a person who was trying to make the Collective work, so that my children could be a part of it...It meant doing all the jobs that nobody else wanted to do, because it was rainy and wood needed to be brought in, etcetera.
Q: It was also taking responsibility to make sure it worked as well?
Q: What’s the distinction between the Administrative Committee and the group as a whole?
A: Very little. I did not consider myself any different from any other member of the Collective. I was desperate to have my sons in the best educational environment possible, and I felt Wellspring was it.
Q: And because of your eagerness, you were willing to take on greater responsibilities than most members of the Collective?
A: That’s correct. I was the new kid on the block, and very anxious to participate in it.
Q: In the Fall of 1988, am I right that Corrine Chintz was one of the biggest concerns that the Collective had to deal with?
A: I don’t know if she was the biggest concern the Collective had to deal with or not. The fact that her child was not fulfilling her responsibility, was my greatest concern. I felt that the child was not in the best situation for her. She belonged in a regular classroom where the teachers could take over her education, instead of her mother.
Q: What was your basis for that conclusion?
A: Because she didn’t do the schoolwork the teachers told her to...it was only a three-day-a-week thing. I felt she would be better in a five-day-a-week venue...
Q: How do you know she didn’t do the work teachers asked her to do?
A: Because that was something Karen made clear to a meeting of the Collective when she said she could no longer be the contract teacher.
Q: Did Karen make that clear in a meeting with the Collective, or just in a private conversation with you?
A: No, I am sure she made it in front of the Collective. She had to explain why she no longer chose to be Misha’s contract teacher. Karen never, to the best of my knowledge, never did the same thing to any other child. There was only one person who was not able to fulfill the obligations.”
Ultimately, the Administrative Committee had made a recommendation to the Collective that Imika not be allowed to continue disrupting the Collective, because the kids were getting scared. The members voted unanimously to bar Imika from coming to the school, and required that she find a liaison who was willing to meet with Misha’s teachers in her stead.
Unfortunately, Imika ignored the directive and the situation worsened. The school issue and the road issue travelled parallel tracks, on their way to the depot, located on South State Street at the Superior Court Building in Ukiah.