Friday, March 13, 2015

What I REALLY Said - My ABC15 Interview...

While I don't fancy myself a political activist; if you've ever read "The Bumpy Ride" before, then you know that I'm all about the (say it with me), "GREATER GOOD"; and that first and foremost, I am ALWAYS an advocate for my children, and what is in the best interest of their greater good as well as that of children in general. If you're new to the "The Ride" then  you just received a master class in where the name was derived from.  (Short cuts are rarely taken and I tend to over explain - but I thank you for indulging me and I hope that you'll enjoy it.)  I'll also quickly explain for those new "Riders",  that while I consider most of my writing to be observational humor, I also feel compelled to write about ANYTHING that I believe will promote the "GREATER GOOD".  So here we go...

Now, I've been known to voice my opinion here before, in regard to certain political candidates; I'm not going to pretend that I haven't.  And while I could easily get on my soapbox and rally on about how despicable I find our new Governor, (Doug Ducey) to be; or how appalled I am that someone as inexperienced as Diane Douglas could be elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction when she has never even taught a day of school in her life; THIS post is not about that. No, this post is about the Four day school week that the Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) proposed and what exactly I said during my interview with Channel 15 yesterday.

So let me back this up a bit...  In anticipation of the drastic cuts that would be made to the Arizona education budget, the PUSD put out a survey to ask parents what they thought about a Four day school week. My immediate reaction was "NO!", but when I responded in kind on the survey, it then presented the options of:  Four day school week OR cut nurses, librarians, cafeteria workers, security, buses, extracurricular activities, administrators etc. etc. etc.  The list seemed endless and I was perplexed.  I couldn't imagine our schools doing without all of the services that were mentioned, and so Luis and I discussed it and agreed that the four day week was the lesser of the evils.  We still had grave concerns about it, but we also felt that there was no choice.

I kept the survey and the possibility of the four day week in the back of my mind, as more and more I saw Facebook posts about an effort to Recall Diane Douglas, (and I jumped on that bandwagon). Then more recently, I saw my very own friends Brooke Kistner and Lisa Best start a grassroots effort to protest the proposed Education budget cuts at the capitol.  I was inspired by their dedication and commitment to inform Arizona's parents about the dangers of the budget cuts; and I felt very guilty that I wasn't able to join them at either protest due to work and scheduling conflicts.  So, when Lisa sent me a text on Wednesday and asked me how I felt about the four day school week proposal and if I would be willing to speak with a reporter from channel 15,  I responded and told her that I didn't like the idea of the four day week, and that while I was a pretty good public speaker when given the opportunity to rehearse, I didn't believe that I did very well on the fly.  Lisa called me and we discussed our points of view and she told me that she thought I would be fine to do the interview, so although I was very nervous about it; I felt that the time had come for me to do my part, and I said "yes."

Justin  Pazera called me on Wednesday afternoon and asked me if I was in favor of the four day week and I said "no"; but our conversation was so brief that I didn't have time to clarify my position.  So as soon as we met in person on Thursday morning, I told him not to take his equipment out of the car until I was able to explain my point of view, as perhaps it was not what he was really looking for.  I told Justin that while I don't like the idea of the four day week, I thought it was the lesser of the evils. He went on to take out his equipment (now that almost sounds like another kinda blog right there...) but I digress; and we spoke on film and off, for over a half hour.  Justin asked if I was happy with the PUSD aside from the proposal and I told him that I was thrilled.  I explained that I have three children that attend three different schools in the PUSD and that I was so grateful that they each had the opportunity to get their individual educational needs met.  Nicky is a straight A, honors student at Peoria High School and he participates in MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) in addition to being a Varsity swimmer.  Lyndzi is a great student and an award winning artist who attends Foothills Fine Arts Academy for their Visual Arts program and Kelsie an equally great student, attends Apache Gifted Academy.  He asked why I was opposed to the four day week and I went on to say, that I know there are a lot of children who already have difficulty making it through the school day, so lengthening it concerned me.  I thought that it may be unfair to students and teachers alike in terms of their daily workloads; because Nicky typically comes home with several hours worth of homework as it is.  I explained that while childcare wouldn't be an issue for me, I recognize that their are many parents with young children who may be faced with a dilemma about who would watch their children and how they would pay for it; and ultimately that could effect the economy.  Lastly, I expressed concern for the children whose only meals are the ones that they receive at school, and how missing a day may mean an extra day that they go unfed.

I then explained that although my concerns about the four day week are many; I fear the cuts that would have to be made more.  For children who take medication at school, how could their be no nurses?  How would schools run without administrators?  I want my children to receive a quality education that equals those from other states, and I worry that if extracurricular activities are cut, my son will fall short on his college applications when he is competing for spots with students who appear to be more well rounded.  I mean what is he supposed to say in an essay... "I would have continued to participate in MESA and swim team but the state of Arizona cut the funding."  That's heartbreaking to me!  My children are dedicated students who already have plans for their future and I don't want to see their dreams shattered, because we reside in Arizona and our government is showing us that they don't value public education.  Justin said "So what do you do?"  And my initial response actually surprised me a little... I said "Pray", but then I KNEW that was my opportunity to REALLY talk about what can be done, so I added, and VOTE, and make phone calls and sign petitions and make sure that you help to get the word out that this state is in big trouble and that our children's future depends on people making informed decisions when they vote, and not just choosing a candidate because of the party initial next to their name, as that person's interests might not represent your own at all.

I made it VERY clear to Justin that I applauded the PUSD for coming up with an alternative to the extreme budget cuts, but my bigger concern was that Arizona is in this position to begin with.

Justin asked me to show him photos of my children.  He asked me to flip through them and he assured me that it wouldn't look silly (but I beg to differ.)   I asked Justin to make sure to edit out the part where I used the word "thrilled" three different times to describe the PUSD as I was embarrassed to use the same word repeatedly; and not only did he oblige me there, but he edited out almost everything that I said and added in something that I didn't; which was that I was concerned that my kids would continue to get good grades, if the four day week went into effect.  I said I was concerned about the workload, and scheduling but rest assured, I have every faith that my kids will continue to be good students regardless of if they are in school four days a week or five.

I think my family and I have learned several valuable lessons through this experience:
1.  You have to stand up for what you believe in and not just complain.
2.  You have to do your part when something matters to you - even if it's scary to do so.
3.  You need to be informed, because ignorance may cost you and those you love more than anyone  can afford.
4. You need to share your knowledge, so AZ friends if you haven't already joined the following Facebook communities, please do:  Recall Diane Douglas, Recall Doug Ducey,  and FundAZFuture
5.  The media shows you what they want to show you.  They slant things to fit the story that they're trying to tell.

Here's my very brief  abc15 interview , if you'd like to watch it.   I'm just gratified that I was able to use "The Bumpy Ride" as my vehicle to share ALL of my points of view on this matter, with you.

Till next time...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Changes For Luis

No one has ever accused me of being secretive or closed mouthed; but when it came to Luis' recent job separations, I refrained from making many Facebook posts about the matter.
Because I hadn't publicly documented what was going on, many people were surprised when I made posts related to his job search and I feel like it's time for me to explain the whole enchilada; but not in a Facebook post; right here, on "The Bumpy Ride", because this truly has been one!

A little background info first...  After Luis graduated from high school in Puerto Vallarta, he attended a school for tourism, where he took classes in English and hospitality management.  While living in Vallarta he held various jobs at different hotels and he worked for National Car Rental as a sales agent.  When we moved to Orlando in 1994, (shortly after we were married); he took a job as a front desk agent at a hotel and in no time at all, he worked his way up to Front Desk Manager,  When we moved to Arizona in January of 1997, Luis accepted a position as a front desk supervisor at a hotel (that I will just refer to as "the hotel" for the rest of this story.)  After a short time, he became the Assistant Front Desk Manager and in 2002 he was promoted to Front Desk Manager/ Manager on Duty.

Anyone who has ever met Luis in person can tell you how hard working and loyal he is. The hotel was often short staffed at the desk and Luis did the work of at least three people for many years.  He was an exemplary employee who always went above and beyond for his employers and guests and in reading further, that is something that I want to be sure you understand.

During the late summer of 2014 Luis told me that he believed that the owners of the hotel were looking to sell it. This wasn't something that they made public knowledge; it was just a conclusion that Luis had come to, based on the frequency of meetings the owners were having, with people who in Luis' estimation, looked like people who would buy the hotel.  By late fall, the owner did inform the staff that he was in the process of selling the hotel, and he let them know that he had no idea how that was going to effect the staff.    It's important to understand at this point, that the owners of  the hotel were also the managers.  They worked as the General Manager, Sales Director  etc. while the people who were interested in purchasing the hotel, were planning to do so as an investment and they were going to bring in a Management company rather than work there themselves; so the employees had no way of knowing if they would have jobs after the hotel was sold.

Luis was told that he needed to use up all of his vacation time before the end of November, and on his first day of vacation, he had to go in for a meeting with the company that the new owner had selected to manage the hotel.  Luis was prepared to interview for his position, but they told him that this was not meant to be formal, just a "getting to know you" type of meeting.  The personnel that Luis met with, gave him the impression that he was going to be retained to do his job and that there was room for growth for him within their organization.   Following this meeting, Luis attended a Manager's meeting and was given health insurance information and forms to complete.  On Wed. Dec. 17th, he met with HR to turn in his insurance forms; which is why I was so surprised when Luis called me on Friday Dec. 19th and whispered "It's not looking good.  They are calling several people into the owner's office and letting them go, and these are people who have been here a long time."

Luis went in to see the old owner (whose last day was supposed to be Mon. Dec. 22nd) and although he didn't let Luis go on the spot; he confirmed that it wasn't looking good.  It seemed that the new management company didn't want to pay the salaries that the long time employees such as Luis, had been receiving; nor did they want to have to pay for 4 weeks vacation etc.  So they let  go of the Breakfast Room Manager who had been there over 25 years, and the accountant who had been there 20 something, and the entire sales department, in addition to several others.  Then an hour before his shift was over on Dec. 22nd, Luis was called into the old owners office and just one month and 5 days before his 18th anniversary, he was let go.  He was told that that new management company was bringing in a "professional management team and his services were no longer required."

At first we were angry. We felt that this wasn't the way that a loyal employee should be treated, and we were frustrated that Luis was now unemployed after all of his years of dedication to the hotel owners.  But, upon reflection we realized that while the pay at the hotel was never great, the hotel allowed Luis flexibility with his schedule so that we never needed outside child care; and to us that was priceless.  While Luis didn't receive severance pay, he did  receive "a bonus", and this is much more than those who were let go after the old owner had left, can say; so for that we are grateful.

Luis started looking for a new job, as soon as the others were let go on the 19th.  He really didn't think that he wanted to work at another hotel; so he tried to find something different.  As one of Luis' responsibilities at the hotel had been to drive the airport shuttle as needed; he thought that he might enjoy a job that involved driving and he applied for a position at a produce company that was actually walking distance from our home.  Luis was quickly offered the position and began training, but during the second week of training, he found out that the company expected the drivers to sign a form accepting liability for any damage that was done to the truck while they were driving.  This concerned Luis, as he thought that's what insurance was for; and he didn't feel that he was being paid enough to take on such liability.

We believe things happen for a reason and two days before he was expected to sign the liability paper work; his trainer unavoidably damaged the truck, at a time that Luis should have been driving.  As soon as the truck was returned to the yard, the fleet manager and GM started assessing the damage and  estimated that it was going to cost the driver $1200-$1500, which they planned to take out of his pay check $100 at a time, until it was paid off.  Luis was devastated as THIS could have been his debt to owe, had he been driving as he was supposed to.  He told me that he didn't feel comfortable signing the paperwork and although he is not a quitter, he didn't feel that he had any choice.

He went to speak with the Night Manager to address his concerns and find out how to proceed and the very nice gentleman agreed with Luis and confirmed his decision not to drive.  The next morning, Luis went to see the General Manager and explained that had he been told about the liability when he initially interviewed for the position, he would not have accepted the job.  He asked if there was anything else that he might try within the company, but the GM said "not at this time." So again, Luis found himself unemployed.

Prior to this December, Luis hadn't been unemployed since 1997 and at that time, he was only without a job, because we relocated to Arizona.   Applying for a position now is so vastly different from how it was done 18 years ago; and it's been a real learning process for us; especially because Luis wanted to try to do something new.

Luis is such an extraordinary man with a kind soul and a gentle spirit.  The minute you are in his presence you know that he is exceptional; however, this can't be determined by a computerized job application or a psychological questionnaire or personality profile or whatever they want to call it. We KNEW that as soon as someone would give Luis the opportunity to interview in person, that he would be offered a position and we were right!!  Thus far, Luis has been offered a job EVERYWHERE that he has interviewed, but not all of those positions were ultimately right for him, as companies seem to want experienced people, but they don't want to pay for it, and it is difficult to support a family on $11 an hour or less.  I could go on - but this is already a long story (I know.)

Luis and I have been very blessed to have friends that have made job referrals on his behalf and have helped with interview coaching and decision making.  Luis is currently deciding between two positions that have been offered to him, by two National companies that have great reputations and room for advancement and relocation.  We are looking forward to him getting back to work this month and having a job that he enjoys.

Through this experience we have learned that although it can be scary, change can be good; and together there is nothing that we can't accomplish or get through!   While they always give us reasons to be proud, our children have proven themselves to be the most understanding, thoughtful, and brave kids that any parents could ask for.  We are grateful to all of our friends who have said prayers for us and encouraged us during this complicated time; and we feel confident that 2015 is going to end a lot better than it started!

Till next time...