Stupid is as stupid does: Electricity Edition

Over the years, I’ve learned that if a bad idea exists
somewhere, eventually, it’ll show up at your doorstep. This is especially true
in education where “six-step” theories or acronym-based rubrics often are
applied because the superintendent went to a conference and it was the keynote
speaker’s pet project.

Somewhere during the summer (which is when most bad
educational ideas occur, because administrators have too much time on their
hands and teachers are less likely to pay attention to work), Mom got an email
from the district. In an attempt to stem the tide of electricity costs, all
personal electronics were being banned from district buildings. This included
microwaves, mini-fridges and coffee pots.

The email listed how much each item tends to cost the district
and said that by removing all these items, they could save upwards of $30,000

These figures were based on the estimates of the energy efficiency
expert that the district hired. (It is unknown what the district shelled out
for the efficiency expert.)

Mom, of course, was incensed and figured this was some sort
of locally stupid idea. She figured this was one more chance for her
superintendent (a micromanaging idiot) to exert additional control over her and
her colleagues.

I did a bit of digging and found that, no, dumb-ass
administrators in other areas had already engaged in this behavior. The one
twist, however, has been that either a)they offered to let the people pay for
the “privilege” of having the item
or b)have abandon the idea because they
couldn’t enforce it.
In the case of Mom’s district, the teachers union is a
pretty strong body, so I’m wondering how long this thing would last.

However, that’s beside the point for Mom. She spends from
about 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. locked into a room. While the hours aren’t all that
different from other jobs, the surroundings are. If I get up and leave my
classroom for a minute, no one has stolen my keys, punched someone else or
committed a C-felony.

She can’t take a short break like dozens of other people
in dozens of other occupations. Liquid refreshment, be it water or coffee, is a
necessity in a building that makes the Gobi Desert look humid by comparison. I
swear, I stood in there for two hours once and I could hear my skin cracking.

The place where she will be required to put her lunch to keep it cold now
probably hasn’t been cleaned since the Carter administration. It likely has
stuff in the back that evolved some significant life skills and is plotting to attack the olives at dawn. Imagine 50
educators putting their lunches into a standard fridge that no one cleans.
It’ll be like Thunderdome: two lunches enter, one lunch leaves.

I’m not writing this as a pity party for my mother. God
alone knows, she’s way too tough to want a “woe is she” kind of thing to happen
on her behalf. However, it pisses me off that this is just one more decision in
a long line of decisions that does little good and simply pains educators in a stupid, stupid fashion.

We entrust teachers with one of our most precious
possessions: the next generation that will be required to take over and improve
the world some day. Instead of understanding that, we pay them a tiny
wage, we force them tobuy their own supplies, we subject them to
abusive situations and essentially make themburn to a crisp. It is too much to
ask that they be allowed minor creature comforts?

If we continue to treat teachers like second-rate hacks,
that’s exactly how they’ll behave. If you wonder why the best and brightest go
to Wall Street instead of PS 231, here’s a solid reason in a nutshell: we treat
them like the children they teach.

For her part, Mom wrote a letter explaining that she was
paying $165 to keep her coffee pot and her fridge. If they cashed the check,
she considered it a contract. While she shouldn’t have to do this, I think it’s
going to be interesting to see what comes of it.

8 thoughts on “Stupid is as stupid does: Electricity Edition

  1. A paper I worked at got a new boss, and this guy instituted a dress code. Suits for everybody, ties for the men. Women were to wear stockings if they wore skirts. He sent out this chipper little memo: “Let’s look neat!”
    Now, none of us as it was were coming in in Grateful Dead t-shirts and trucker hats, but we worked 19 hours a day and that day could include a council meeting, a crime scene, a construction site and a church picnic, so we all dressed comfortably and sturdily. The photogs particularly wore whatever was on their floor that morning that didn’t smell TOO bad. Our editor in chief used to roll into the office in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans. It was part of the whole atmosphere of the place, which was small and close-knit, and we were covering cops and firefighters who would laugh if you showed up at a Hazmat spill and sank your heels into the ground.
    We were getting paid basically peanuts and this little directive didn’t come with a clothing allowance. Moreover, it seemed designed to just annoy the fuck out of us, and it did its job: Within two months, five people quit. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to dress up, it was that we didn’t want to work for some fucking ponce who’d rather life us about what we were wearing than what we were doing.
    It showed me something I’ve seen only a very few bosses really understand: When you are asking people to do extraordinary things for you, you let the little things go.
    Somebody’s five minutes late? Somebody left something too long in the office fridge? Somebody’s wearing a shirt with a LOLcat on it? Somebody thinks the company picnic is bullshit? Okay, but can they meet their deadlines? You prize the work and the dynamic over the details. Of course, to run a place like this and still get your work done you have to be an intelligent and engaged manager, know your people well and be able to make allowances for them when circumstances demand (and kick their asses when they start taking advantage).
    You can’t just check off little chits on a chart about how many appliances they plug into their outlets.

  2. If she’s giving them $165 for a mini fridge and coffeepot for nine months, she’s getting ripped off big time. For a full-sized fridge plus lights, TV, DVD player, computer, coffeepot, and electric stove/oven (plus various and sundry other items), I pay about $30.00 a month when usage is heavy.

  3. These figures were based on the estimates of the energy efficiency expert that the district hired. (It is unknown what the district shelled out for the efficiency expert.)
    Probably way more than the $30,000.

  4. Contact Athenae to give you my email address, I will cut a check and send it to your mother.
    I have mental problems so, please, remind me of the amount.

  5. Always looking down for savings vs. looking up.
    How about negotiating up stream for savings?
    “Dear Electric company. We are using a lot of your electricity, we would like a volume discount. Thank you.
    The massive school district.”
    “Dear GE. We are using a lot of light bulbs, we will be replacing them all soon. Please provide us with light bulbs that require less money to use and are cheaper. Then you will get our multi-million dollar light bulb contract.’
    The massive school district.”
    (BTW, this is what Walmart did with GE.)
    “Dear Regents. An energy expert told us that we could save $30,000 dollars a year if we remove our few creature comforts. We took a vote and we would rather you that the $30,000 come out of your salary and expenses budget. If you have a problem with that please quit. We can use the savings from your salary to pay for the electricity. Thank you.
    The people who teach your precious children.”
    “Dear Enron Executives who set up the Deregulation scams but got out before the company was busted.
    Your “deregulation” deals cost the state of California millions of dollars. We never got it back. You got a big chunk of that money.
    Please send us $30,000 a year for the rest of your life.
    Thank you.
    Each Californian who was screwed and now has a nickel and diming school district trying to take away our electricity supplied fridges.”

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