Posted in Catholic leadership, School Leadership

Routine

Most everything to be done is on hold or being done by people higher up than I am.  The Diocese is working on spinning this.  My pastor is on a two-week vacation.  We can’t very well merge the kids right this exact moment, and so we wait.

My days are filled with throwing away things that should have been tossed eons ago and shredding.  A lot of shredding.  A lot of questions as to why this is even here for me to shred, and then I realize it; this was a very bad school.

My nights consist of trying to exit the building as close to 3 as possible, getting into my nightgown, and moving into bed, watching Survivor reruns while I game a little on a laptop or just stare mindlessly.

I sleep better than I have, but not enough.

When I can move forward, I have energy to keep going.  When I am stuck, waiting and worrying, I feel anger and frustration.  I feel abandoned, and useless.  I can’t use my Autistic powers to plan a solution because I must wait.

And in the meantime, we’re on the front page of the paper; below the fold, at least, but still.  With a half-true account concocted by the Diocese who is scrambling to figure out just what the heck my boss did before he left.  Whatever he did do, as I understand it, it was not exactly what he said he did, so we’re guessing a lot, and the story that they gave is wrong in several places, and I can’t correct it.

It doesn’t matter.

See, the thing is, to me, what’s happening right now is what was meant to be last year.  The school I inherited was a bad school, where gossip and malice and the other tools of the devil ran rampant.

We changed that.

But not fast enough.

The headline should read, “Satan wins!” because that’s what happened here.  We finally got ourselves together and were making progress toward doing the right things by our students, and for our whole community.

We were flushing out the gossips and the people keeping the school stuck in the 1970’s.

We were changing things for the better.

We were making a difference.

But the years of neglect added up, financially, and the parish would soon crush under the weight of the school expenses.  The devil robbed our coffers until there was nothing left.

But I still had hope.

I believe God wanted this school to succeed and would have helped us turn this around because we were finally spreading His message of love to children and teens, regardless of neurological difference or whether they were rich or poor, or whatever their ethnic backgrounds.  He would have helped us to find a way.

But the devil has a strong hold on this parish, even still.

This year, this parish has become my safe place, where I could, until recently, focus on doing what’s best for my kids and spreading God’s message.  I could withdraw from the hateful rhetoric espoused by our current president and his minions and instead focus on building things up, from our parish to our neighborhood, and beyond.  I could spread hope.

Now, if I am to believe hope still exists, I believe it resides elsewhere, since my pastor has surrendered to the devil’s attack.

I know many of you don’t believe in evil, at least not in this “devil attack” type way.  But it’s real.  It’s very real.  He is the beast who sows dissent and hate in this world to keep us from working together.  He spreads malicious gossip and rumors to keep people to busy fighting with each other so that they can’t do the right thing.  He sows doubt and despair so that we give up fighting.

See, it’s a lot more productive for the devil to work through rumors and backstabbing; he sets the ball in motion and we just take care of it ourselves.

God knows this, because remember when Jesus did that healing of the official’s daughter and he told people not to tell anyone?

We all know he knew full well…they were, in fact, going to tell everyone.  Especially since Jesus told them not to.  Who can resist that tasty gossip?

We are easy marks for the devil because of our love for gossip.

I don’t know what I’m going to do next, or even how I can get by, through this time while we wait for our pastor to come back.  There is no Mass here now, save on weekends, nor Adoration, so we have little spiritual nourishment.

We do currently have the daily readings and prayer.  The readings have been focusing on gossip, leaders making poor decisions, and not being appreciated in one’s own town lately, which my teacher and I find rather interesting.  I see they will next include Jesus telling his followers to spread his message, but if the people won’t hear it and don’t welcome them, to leave that place, and to shake the dust off their feet to indicate their scorn for the people in that place.

Everyone is telling me to leave, and shake the dust off my feet, except the parish secretary, who would really rather I stay and help, to give the parish the best chance of continuing, even without a parish school.  This is flattering, but he didn’t ask and instead expected that I would stay to volunteer my help. Part of me thinks that it will be possible to shore this place back up and maybe someday a school will be here.

But they just let Satan win and he didn’t think to ask me to stay; he made it clear he did not want me to stay except as free labor.  In this reality, I really do need to shake the dust from my feet and move on.

This is all still part of God’s plan, I know, but I suspect what He’s asking us to do is to show the other parishes that unless they take care of their schools, they, too, will close.  If they do what we did, allowing the devil to take a foothold and ignore sound educational principles and gossip more than they cooperate, their parish schools will close.  And they ought to close because they can’t get the message out that God loves them.

Yesterday, we went to the parish we’re hoping to help through delivering as many students as possible to them, and things went well from the kids’ perspective.

From my perspective, I was worried.  I saw a way over staffed school, and understand, therefore, why they will close in 2-3 years unless they do something.  They have already made some of the poor decisions we made, in hopes of righting themselves, and are having the same results we did.

But they’re at closer to 100 kids which should give them more time.  However, when this large graduating class of 8th graders (18!) leaves, they will not be in a good position.  Schools close when you get much under 150, and so they are not in a good place at all.

All I can do is do my best to talk to them about these issues; that we want to bring our kids here and they seem eager, but we’re worried they will close next because of overstaffing and because of trying to rely on school district income for their 4-year-olds.  There’s probably more at stake here, but I’ve only had a few minutes to look.

What I think, overall, is this is what Autistic leadership is: we can ferret through a lot of data, and quickly, and come up with a solution or set of solutions that might help and might help quickly.  The problem, of course, is will my suggestions be taken seriously given I just had my parish close because it was too late?

I feel like I would have a possible career as a consultant; to hang out at a school, to assess what’s happening in the classrooms and to look for things of concern with regard to Catholic identity and/or financials and helping to find a way for schools to save money without freaking out parents while they have time to do so.  Unfortunately, I’d need to fix a school or two first, and right now, I’m toxic. I can see the problems, but only a desperate school would take a chance on me.  Most schools don’t know they are desperate until it’s too late.

Neurotypicals seem to go about a little too free of worry, while we Autistics end up mired in an abyss of anxiety.  It is in this anxiety, though, and learning to live with it day-by-day as “background noise” that we can see the things others cannot.  It is a strength, when we become eventually numb to it, and can harness it to help people find what they ought to be anxious about, but are not.  But how do you tell people this?  That you can live peacefully with anxiety, so long as you become its master, and not enslaved to it?  That this anxiety can turn into a strength as it gives you warnings about where to look and why?  See, I think one of the things some of Autistics can do best is to use our worry to benefit others, to strengthen them, by helping them to make changes they don’t even realize they need to make.

But inevitably, people see me more like Cassandra the Prophet from Greek Mythology: cursed to see the future, but no one will ever believe her.

And this is why I wish I could just write, instead.

So, I think the kids are going to be all right, if I can get the money to help pay their tuition and set them up with uniforms (*sighs*) to give them a cushion.  I remain worried about my teacher’s prospects due to the overstaffing (she saw it, too), but I am bleak about my own and the future of Catholic education in this town.  This will continue to get worse unless our Diocese does as Lansing, MI and Milwaukee did, and has the Diocese go “all in” on education.  They righted themselves.  But half-done support isn’t support.  We have become a broken system, and we’ve been in the water so long, we don’t remember what land looks like.

This, too, is the devil at work.

And I can just watch while he plays on the corpse that is our school, and waits to dance on all the other schools’ bodies as well.

May you never have to go through a school closure, but if you get even close, may your “cousin” parishes raise you up instead of alternately ignoring you, or celebrating your defeat.

Yesterday was the feast day of St. John Bosco, who believed amazing things about education, and it is Catholic Schools Week, where Catholic schools celebrate their existence.

I cannot celebrate, not just because of my own school, but because of all of the other schools teetering on the edge, and all the families and educators who won’t do what it is they need to do to move back from the edge because of their turf wars.  It is not about our own children, or our own parish, but about the whole system.  If we work to save us all, we will also save ourselves as individuals.  If we only care about ourselves, we will surely fall.

This is why I watch a lot of Survivor.  Maybe I can learn from it why neurotypicals do these selfish things.

 

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