Why at 55 years-old Mr. Everts? Why in the middle of the school year?
Good questions. I will give you the reader’s digest version.
On October 6, 2021, I had a meeting with the principal, district administrator, assistant principal and union representative. There were five complaints from the guitar class.
I made the mistake of speaking. I should have said nothing.
I spoke about two of the five complaints.
Since January 1989 in Santa Cruz teaching music at three elementary schools, I have literally told my students I love ya. To this day, I tell my students I love ya. Well, a student was upset that I said the following, “I am moving you away from those two boys, not because I am mean, not because I hate you. No. I am moving you away from the two boys because I love ya kid. You are failing and I want to help you.”
District administrator, “Mr. Everts, did you say, “I love ya kid.”
The answer is yes. The context does not matter. The student was upset. So, instead of counselling the failing student, the teacher gets in trouble. Let me say, I know CS Lewis’s “The Four Loves.” I am about AGAPE love. Sure would have made sense to teach the student what the teacher meant by, “I love ya kid.”
Reminds me of Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER:
“Do you love me?”
There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. “Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!”
“What do you mean?” Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated.
“Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it’s become almost obsolete,” his mother explained carefully.
Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory.
“And of course, our community can’t function smoothly if people don’t use precise language. You could ask, ‘Do you enjoy me?’ The answer is ‘Yes,'” his mother said.
“Or,” his father suggested, “‘Do you take pride in my accomplishments?’ And the answer is wholeheartedly ‘Yes.'”
“Do you understand why it’s inappropriate to use a word like ‘love’?” Mother asked.
Jonas nodded. “Yes, thank you, I do,” he replied slowly.
It was his first lie to his parents.”
District administrator, “Let’s talk about your use of social media. You promote your social media in class.”
“On August 18, 2021, a week after the first day of school, my first day back following a severe bout with COVID19, I introduced myself to the class and told them, if you want to know more about your teacher, I have a website. It is October 6, 2021, and we are addressing a concern that happened 48 days later?”
“So, you did promote your social media!! You are upsetting students. You are placing the principal, school, district and even you in a bad position. Therefore, I am going to direct you to not use social media.”
During that October 6, 2021, meeting, the union said nothing about the “directives” given to me. A sign that this “conservative” teacher was not going to have the union’s support. Which is okay. Truly. It is okay. I did not want support from a union that believes in defunding police or Critical Race Theory being taught K-12.
On October 15, 2021, I met with a district administrator and was given nine directives. Two of them I WILL NOT FOLLOW:
1). Refrain from using the word “LOVE”.
2). Refrain from promoting or discussing your social media, in part, because it controversial and too political (my thought: it is controversial and too political because you (California Public Education) disagree with what I believe … I get it)
Following a thirty-minute presentation, the district administration said, “Do you have any questions or anything you want to say?”
“Sure.” I look at the union rep. and asked her if she was taking notes. I wanted to know if she was taking notes because until that day, I had not seen notes (affidavits from students) from the August 25 meeting / the October 6 meeting.
“First, I love God.” I look at the union rep., “Did you write that down?”
“Yes. I wrote it down.”
“Good. Secondly, I love my wife, Diana.” I look at the union rep., “Did you write that down?”
“Yes. I wrote it down.”
I look at the district administration and I say, “I retire.”
District administration, “Woah! Wait. I think you need to take some time this weekend and think about it.”
Fighting tears, I respond, “On October 6, district administration said, ‘You need to go home and do some soul searching.’ I have had nine days to think about it. We have talked to STRS. I could retire November 1st, but I believe I need to get the student through the semester.”
The district administration’s response, following all he said about me prior to the announcement of my retirement, “Well, Paul that (staying to the end of the semester) is what I expect from you / your character. Finish the job. I appreciate that.”
As we leave, he taps a 5×7 framed photo of “Half Dome” with scripture, “See Paul. We think a lot alike.” Now what was significant about that? One of the things I was reprimanded for was telling my students I believe in God and God has me here for a purpose. And as we are leaving his office, here is the district administrator tapping a photo with scripture on the photo. Irony.
I told you this would be the “Reader’s Digest” version. I have more to share and will as I RETURN TO BEING ABLE TO UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA.
I will leave you with this: if you are good leader be ready for the opportunity to stand-up for who you are and what you believe. Be ready for folks to respect you and what you believe. AND BE READY … for those who believe you are awful and are ready to vilify you. A leader cannot be a leader with everyone loving him / her (I know “such binary thinking”).
As recently as these last two-weeks I am so very grateful for all the love that has been shown to me!! My goodness! I definitely have had a “death by a thousand cuts” experience. The hundreds of comments have been great balm / salve for many of those cuts!
Please be sure to let people know you care about them / love them. As I told my current students, those who ‘hate’ you / don’t like you will be more than happy to tell you and others. Why? Because hurting people hurt people. Telling you how awful you are helps them with their hurting soul / spirit. Do all you can not to allow their hurt to harden your heart. Know this … NOT EVEN READING THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE — I will have a couple of hurting people let me know how happy they are that I am gone and then I will turn to God and pray for those people to soften their hearts and hope their hurtful actions help their spirit find Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ has the power to soften hearts!
Beginning in January 2022, I will be making a more intentional return to the social media. One of my “paths” will be: WHAT TEACHERS ARE NOT / WILL NOT TEACH STUDENTS – such as – HOW TO LOVE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA THROUGH THE FOUNDING FATHERS’ DOCUMENTS. Should be a great path to walk together.
Merry Christmas and yes, because now I can now write this without being terminated: I LOVE YOU and THANKS FOR VISITING MY SOCIAL MEDIA 🙂 🙂
* Names purposely changed, including name of high school.
October 21, 2021
To: Dr. Principal
From: Paul D. Everts, Instrumental Music Teacher
Since July 3, 1989, I have had the pleasure / blessing to teach music to thousands of students. Someone reminded me how fortunate / lucky / blessed I am to have had a career that I wanted since I was a high school junior. NO DOUBT.
Since July 3, 1989, a lot has changed. We have had desktop computers merge into handheld computers / phones. We have had several wars. We have experienced many cultural changes. How about COVID19? A lot has changed … including public education in California and many other states / parts of states.
The changes in public education have caught up to me. To the point where I am “not of this world.” To be a part of this “world,” I have been given directives that simply do not fit with who I am and frankly, who I want to be – in public or private. With very few exceptions, I tend to be the same in public as I am in private. When my actions and words do not represent my Christian faith or me, I am good to no one and that is simply not good for those who are close to me and … me.
Throughout my entire career, I have always wanted what is best for the students. Currently at Pinecrest High School, it appears to this administration (school site & district) I no longer meet their definition of what is best for the students. For other schools / people, I do meet the definition of what is best for them. I love my students. Therefore, beginning December 23, 2021, I will be retiring from public education in California.
I had hoped to wait for this to happen until the end of the school year. However, the directives given to me, as well as the direction the state / local education leaders are heading do not line up with whom I am. Similar to what Ronald Reagan said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic party. The Democratic Party left me.” I did not leave California’s public education system. The California public education system left me.
Thank you to all of the Pinecrest High School students who were a part of our experience here. Thank you to the choir director for being a wonderful colleague. Also (although too brief), thank you to drama teacher and dance teacher for being wonderful colleagues.
To all my students where I taught previously to Pinecrest High School, thank you for being a part of my life. Appreciate your support for me during your high school years and following your graduation. I really appreciate you. I wish you all the very best in this critical time in our nation’s history.
And, finally, a loving thank you to Diana, our son PJ, his wife Ashlee and their sons / our grandsons – Jason (Three Years Old) & Wyatt (expected to be here sometime in February) and Katy and her Fiancé Deven. Since July 3, 1989, Diana has been a part of every good and every bad moment of my career. There is no way I could have been a teacher for this long without Diana’s love and yes … patience. PJ & Katy are not only our children they were also band members. Therefore, they were a part of many fun events and the “unfortunate” events.
I wish my successor and the students who are in the Pinecrest High School instrumental music program all the best. There are few gifts as great as the gift of music.
Many Blessings / Agape,
Paul D. Everts
cc: Jon Doe, Assistant Superintendent; Some High School District