Teacher: Stockton Unified is harrowing

Responding to today’s column, Maria Sanchez writes:

“I worked in SUSD for three years and left to work in another district.  When stats show students are from a lower socio-economic level, it is not just about money.  While working in an SUSD school, I had a drunk parent wander into my classroom to disrupt the class and reminisce about his school days with mean teachers.  

“That day I lost those students. They no longer saw my classroom as a safe haven to learn. I had no phone in my classroom. Three of us teachers shared a walkie-talkie and that day I did not have it.  This parent left when he felt like it.  

“On Halloween, I had to confiscate brass knuckles and an iron hook in my classroom.  Students who wore these were belligerent about surrendering them and saw nothing wrong with it.  

“Another time I saw a switchblade  in a student’s purse and I had to report it immediately.  Security later came sheepishly to ask me about it.  The student was not disciplined because there was no room for her in the office.  

“Another time a parent came to the office insisting on bringing her fat, over-sized pitbull to her meeting with the counselor.  I was in the office and I was scared and left quietly.  The parent was obviously a drug user who saw nothing wrong with her insistence on bringing her pitbull to school.  I later talked to the office about the fact there were students in the hall whose safety was compromised.  

“There were daily fights in the cafeteria and fights in nearby streets.  

“Students disappeared for days.  

“Another time a student came into my classroom with a heroin baggie; he wanted to show his friends.  

“Another time I was talking to the counselor when he spotted something in a hedge and pulled out a bloody, ten-inch carving knife.

“ Also, at lunch time, gang members in bright red would pick up our students and take them to shoplift at a nearby K-Mart.  Then the kids would come in with 18 sunglasses, showing off to classmates.  

“One time a student that was suspended sneaked back into class and played hide and seek with the counselor whom I called about this right away.  That killed that class period.

“This is what people do not realize about SUSD:  they are dealing with more at-risk students than Lincoln Unified or Elk Grove Unified or Tracy Unified.  At-risk and low socio-economic group means students come from homes that carry different teaching challenges.  I left the district when my blood pressure went up and my doctor told me to get out.  I took a $300 pay cut but my health went back to normal.  I went to another district in which I had students that worked on their assignments; several were top athletes and were heading for universities; one was a geek and had been accepted to Harvard one year ahead of graduation.  

“SUSD teachers have special challenges; they even have alternative schools for fourth graders!  

“People who have not taught in SUSD do not get it.  My college ed teacher used to say, “SUSD is a tough district to teach in.”

I freely concede that Stockton Unified is burdened by extraordinary urban pathologies. But the writer makes no mention of the Stockton Unified kids “that worked on their assignments; … (are) top athletes and (are) heading for universities.” They deserve equal time from teachers.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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