How strange that someone as passionately in love with the outdoors as me would wind up living in a big city. And how strange that I would venture into the teaching profession—and discover that I love working with children.
Stranger still was my love affair with political activism, which didn’t have a happy origin. In fact, my hatred of Seattle only continues to grow stronger.
Ironically, that hatred keeps me glued to Seattle. Let’s just say I have unfinished business.
What could give one a better sense of freedom than flying? I earned a private license while going to school in Bellingham, and I decided to get a commercial license in Seattle.
Ironically, I felt like a prisoner. I was instructed to fly over a sparsely populated area where I could practice various maneuvers. But repeatedly flying over the same nondescript piece of real eastate was boring. Flying is expensive, and I wanted to get my money’s worth. I wanted to travel.
However, the Pacific Northwest is often foggy, and I was a little nervous about flying north or south over a largely metropolitan area. As an inexperienced pilot, I didn’t want to fly east over the Cascades, and I certainly didn’t want to fly west over the Pacific Ocean. Was there no escape from Seattle?
At the time, I was working as a volunteer at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, which was then one of the nicest in the world. (It was later privatized.) One day I learned about an international primate conference in San Diego when a crazy idea flashed across my mind. Why not fly to San Diego?
That turned out to be one of the most exciting adventures of my life, largely because I wasn’t qualified to make such a trip. I was young and stupid and didn’t really think things through. At the same time, flight schools can be incredibly amateurish, offering little in the way of supervision.
And so I took off one fateful day with a very poor knowledge of aerial navigation and communication. Making matters worse, I arrived at the airport only to discover that my plane needed to be refuled. It was Sunday, and I had to wait for a flight school employee to get out of church. Thanks for screwing up my schedule, idiots!
And so my already amateurish flight plan was messed up further with a delayed departure, and things were about to get worse. Much worse.
The high point of that experience was a cross-country solo flight from Seattle to San Diego, then to Tucson, Arizona and back to Seattle. I had several close calls, beginning with getting stuck in thick fog in Portland, Oregon. Confused and a little scared, I finally pulled back on the steering wheel and began climbing. Fortunately, there was nothing more than low level fog. Once above it, I easily followed the snow-capped Cascades south into california.
I had more adventures with mountains and desert windstorms in southern California and Arizona. On the way home, I flew out over the sea to avoid a vast forest fire burning in California. But I had a strong tail wind and got home amazingly fast.
I was becoming more confused about my career goals. in the meantime, aviation was simply expensive and
time-consuming to pursue simply to pad my resumé. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to spend more time around airplanes, anyway; too loud — and dangerous.
But it wasn’t just flying that was bothering me. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my career in wildlife biology. I had been through the Navy and college, and I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with myself. more than anything, I knew I wanted to be self-employed. So I began writing.
Despite my confusion, I knew that animals and Nature would remain a big part of my life somehow. I began working as a volunteer keeper at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, which was the beginning of an interest in zoo biology.
Some people think zoos are tacky and even immoral. I would have to agree. And yet they exist, and they can be hard to resist. What better way to see secretive and endangered animals up close and personal?
I worked in a number of areas, but my favorite animals were the orangutans.
One day, I was cutting some bamboo outside the building that housed the orangs when a visitor made a comment about them. I said, “If you want to see the orangutans, you need to go to the other side of the building.” The man replied, “There’s an orangutan right there.”
I looked up and saw a young female orangutan (I can’t remember her name) climbing through a window. She was escaping!
So, I walked over and picked her up and began carrying her back towards her enclosure. When she started biting me, I put her down. She immediately became docile. Suddenly, we were holding hands, and she was staring intently at her surroundings. She appeared to be fascinated by everything—people passing by, their dogs, trees, and just about anything that caught her eye.
I was allowed to enter the orangutans’ enclosure a few times before the zoo director decided it was inappropriate. The young female and her brother were polar opposites. The female was very shy, while her brother was obsessed with wrestling. He was too small to be really powerful, but, armed with four hands, he was a virtual octopus. Every time I peeled him off, he would immediately attack me again.
On another occasion, I was helping a keeper tidy up, wiping down some tables, for example. She let the young orangs out of their enclosure, and they immediately set about helping us, picking up sponges and wiping the tables!
My chances of landing a full-time job at the Woodland Park Zoo seemed very good. I already had a BS in ecology and abundant experience as a wildlife biologist. The icing on the cake was a scholarship to study endangered species at the famous Jersey Zoo, in the Channel Islands.
After leaving the island of Jersey, I visited Paris, where I spent about a week. I was utterly shocked at Paris’ primary zoo, the Vincennes Zoo. It looked more like a medieval museum than a zoo.
The Woodland Park Zoo’s giraffes lived in an outdoor enclosure patterned after the African savanna. However, their French counterparts were housed in a Gothic metal structure that was downright creepy.
The biggest shock of all was the chimpanzee exhibit, which could be broadly described as a metal box housing a lone chimpanzee. There was nothing for the chimp to climb or play with. All it could do was sit in its rectangular metal cage staring at the walls. And that’s exactly what it did; it just sat in a stupor, staring listlessly at the lifeless world around it. The poor animal’s brain was probably irreparably damaged.
Though I hadn’t opened my eyes to politix yet, this was an eye-opening experience. How was it possible for such a blatantly cruel exhibit to exist in a supposedly enlightened modern city like Paris?
Back in the States, I visited two other zoos, the San Diego Zoo and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
The world famous San Diego Zoo has an impressive menagerie of exotic animals. Curiously, it seemed the inverse of the Woodland Park Zoo.
While the Woodland Park Zoo was renowned for its exquisite exhibits, the San Diego Zoo was surprisingly drab, even tacky. On the other hand, the San Diego Zoo had a wealth of activities behind the scenes, including an impressive research program. In contrast, Woodland Park Zoo almost scored little more than a zero in that department.
Located near Tucson, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum was one of the nicest zoos I’ve ever visited. Funny how Tucson could trump Paris.
In the meantime, my efforts to get a paid position at the Woodland Park Zoo never paid off. It seemed like they kept playing games and changing the rules. But it was no big loss. Sadly, the Woodland Park Zoo was privatized years ago, and I haven’t visited it since.
The Education Wilderness ˆ
During my second year in Seattle (1995), my money ran out, and I needed to find a job. I was sharing a place with a friend I met in the Navy before we went to school together at Bellingham. He discovered that a teaching degree wasn’t required to get a job as a substitute with the Seattle School District.
I followed his lead, little suspecting how my life was about to change. I was amazed to discover how much I loved working with children. The flip side was the school district administration. It was unbelievably corrupt, dysfunctional and tyrannical. It was seething with conspiracy.
For five years, I worked as a substitute, putting up with almost daily lies from everyone from the school district employees who dispatched substitutes to school principals and downtown administrators. Seattle Schools was and is a truly sleazy organization.
On the positive side, I loved the lengthy summer vacations, which allowed me to continue working in Alaska. I also learned to at least partially satisfy my desire for revenge (God, I love the R word!) by documenting the school district’s crimes on my websites. Utterly fearless, I wasn’t afraid to name names.
After five years as a substitute, I was hired full time.
Though full-time teachers are treated with far more respect than substitutes, I still found myself bruised and battered by the bureaucracy. I spent three or four years at Loyal Heights Elementary School, which was a pretty nice, stable school—until the Seattle Schools administration began playing games.
Loyal Heights got hammered pretty hard. When my position was cut, I was forced to transfer to another school (Highland Park Elementary School). Things got even worse after I left when a derelict principal named Sharon Aune was assigned to Loyal Heights.
Highland Park was an odd school. The principal was actually a pretty nice guy, but the school seemed to be run by a clique of authoritarian bitches, apparently led by a weirdo named Sally Hedges. I considered her the most disgusting teacher I had ever worked with until I encountered one Jennifer Kotler a few years later.
On the other side of the fence, I fell in love with the kids at Highland Park. We really bonded with each other. I always felt sad at the end of each school year, but I was especially sad to say farewell to the students at Highland Park after my one-year sojourn there. I also suffered a personal tragedy while working at Highland Park, which ironically made it easier and harder to leave at the same time.
It was during this period that the derelict retired general John Stanford became the Seattle Schools superintendent, coinciding with my political awakening.
The next year found me assigned to the nicest school I’ve ever worked at, Dearborn Park Elementary School. Many of the students were Asian, which partly explained the school’s peaceful atmosphere.
Have you ever seen the movie Papillon? The hero escaped from a living hell, finding refuge on a beautiful tropical island. But his tropical paradise was but a brief reprieve, as he soon found himself back in Hell.
My first year at Dearborn Park was reminiscent of Papillon’s tropical paradise. The second year we got a new principal, Evelyn Fairchild. She was one of the utterly disgusting derelicts the school district has long recruited as principals.
Fairchild would often work half days, either taking the morning or the afternoon off. She never told anyone where she was going. What kind of school principal is AWOL half a day several days a week?
One day I contacted a local TV station that was soliciting tips regarding derelict public officials who might make juicy stories. They agreed to investigate Dearborn Park’s mysterious disappearing principal. When I contacted them a couple days later to learn what they had discovered, they said they had to abandon their investigation. Why? They couldn’t confirm Fairchild’s presence at the school because they never saw her van! What kind of logic is that?)
As I embarked on my journey in political activism, I heard about a teacher who was being persecuted by the school district, Kumroon Maksirisombat. He was a very talented and well liked educator who was being discriminated against by the Black Mafia. Eventually, he hit the school district with a discrimination lawsuit. I became his #1 ally.
I had scarcely heard of the propaganda rag Forbes until it published an article about the Seattle School District, focusing on Dearborn Park Elementary School and John Stanford. The article was spiced with lots of de facto lies. By this time I had begun attending teachers union meetings, only to discover that my union—the Seattle Education Association (a branch of the NEA)—was just as corrupt as the school district.
One of the highlights of my career in education was the day General John Stanford himself paid me a visit.
I was working in a room we called “the computer lab” when Stanford walked in, accompanied by Evelyn Fairchild and some other bimbo. I knew why he was there, so I just ignored him. The big dummy made two huge mistakes.
First, he kneeled down next to a student, pretending to be interested in what she was doing even as he stared at me. Suddenly, I spun around and stared right back, catching him by surprise. He looked like an idiot as he nervously averted his gaze.
Finally, Fairchild walked over to me and told me that Stanford wanted to talk to me. So I walked over to Seattle’s biggest charlatan, sho said something like “We’re going to have to have a man to man chat one of these days.”
Then he made the strangest face. I think he was trying to intimidate me with a major league scowl, but it just didn’t work out. Instead, it looked like he had some sort of nervous disorder. I could scarcely keep from laughing as I walked away.
To make a long story short, Evelyn Fairchild did everything she could to help Corporate America degrade Dearborn Park School, a process that continued after she and the head teacher (another derelict educator named Romana Crilly) stabbed me in the back and forced me out of the school.
Dearborn Park was my favorite school, and I have never been closer to the students. I was utterly broken when I left that school, and I felt like a shell of my former self for the remainder of my teaching career.
Ironically, my next assignment was Olympic Hills Elementary School, the very school Evelyn Fairchild had come from. There, I heard horror stories about how she had fucked that school up, too.
A couple years later, I started the school year with a brief assignment at Sacajawea Elementary School. Its former principal was Louise McKinney, wife of Samuel McKinney, the pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. I knew she had a reputation as a tyrannical racist asshole even before she came to Loyal Heights to give our staff one of her self-serving lectures one day.
However, Sacajawea had a very different principal when I was there, Harry Nelson. He was one of the nicest principals I ever met.
I had announced my candidacy for a seat on the Seattle School Board, though I never mentioned it at school. So I was surprised when Nelson mentioned it in the lunch room one day. I was even more astounded when he volunteered information about one of the school district’s endless scandals.
He said the school district exploited its eminent domain rights in taking possession of a family’s home. But Sacajawea Elementary School didn’t make use of the property; instead, the school district turned around and sold it for a profit. Go figure.
I then had a long-term assignment at Beacon Hill Elementary School, which appeared to be sort of a refugee center. I encountered several teachers who said they had either transferred there to escape derelict principals, or they had been forced out of other schools.
My assignment for the rest of the year was Rainier View Elementary School, the southern most school in the Seattle School District. It was utterly mind boggling.
The school was utterly sterile, like a big warehouse. I saw no pretty pictures hanging on the walls, no fluffy toys or sparkling posters in the library.
I arrived in the wake of a card-carrying member of the Black Mafia named Cothron McMillian (she has had a variety of last names), a Godzilla who reportedly left a battered school and demoralized staff in her wake. The new principal seemed nice enough, but the school had problems.
The teacher I would be working with was Jennifer Kotler. She would replace Sally Hedges as the biggest asshole I’ve ever worked with in the classroom
On the first day of school, Kotler gave me a two-page contract she wanted me to read and sign. She apparently drew up the contract herself, and it was frankly amazing. She wanted me to promise to treat her with respect (no mention of her treating me with respect), and I also had to promise to never talk to parents!
Needless to say, I didn’t sign it.
Another amazing thing was the cafeteria. The food they served looked like shit. The students, most of whom came from relatively poor homes, obviously agreed with me. Every day, they would line up, waiting for a turn to throw their pig slop in the trash can.
When I commented on it to the lady who worked in the cafeteria, she agreed with me. She said they used to prepare meals right there, but the school had just begun trucking food in, probably part of one of the many corporate fire hydrants John Stanford had plugged the school district into.
To this day, I feel so very sad for the kindergarten students who spent one of the most important years of their lives sitting in a classroom with a dour teacher they were afraid of (I can’t remember ever seeing Kotler smile or say anything nice, not once) until it was time to go throw their lunch in the garbage.
My last year in education was at Van Asselt Elementary School. Many, if not most, of the students were Asian, but the principal and assistant principal was black. the principal’s hand-picked pit bull was black. The woman who was in charge of after-school tutoring was black. And they were all assholes.
Originally, the school just had a principal. However, Hajara Rahim reportedly had a lot of problems. So, instead of replacing her with a real principal, the district hired an assistant principal, ElDoris Turner, to do her job while Hajara hid in her office.
A decade after I got laid off, I learned that ElDoris Turner was eventually promoted to principal. The revelation was buried in an article titled “Seattle principal’s handling of funds probed,” in which media whores Jim Brunner and Brian M. Rosenthal relate how Turner retired on March 16, 2012, two days after being placed on administrative leave following the release of an ethics investigation that found a “gross waste of public funds.”
The racist pit bull I referred to was Vivian Grice. I remember teachers complaining about her strolling into the lunch room before the students arrived and shoving her hands in food receptacles, then shoveling food into her cavernous mouth. Could the same Vivian Grice be working for Seattle Schools today? This Seattle Schools web page not surprisingly sheds little light on the subject, but it does offer a clue.
The black woman who was in charge of Van Asselt’s crappy after-school program? She came to school one day grinning from ear to ear. She got up on a stage and gloated about getting a new job, letting everyone know she wouldn’t be doing her crappy job at Van Asselt any more. She never said anything nice to the students. She never hugged any students, and no one hugged her. I think most of the students sensed that she was just another shallow asshole working for Seattle’s privatized schools.
On the last day of the 2001-2002 school year, I was helping a teacher close shop. We started talking about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and I mentioned some of the conspiracy theories that were circulating.
Suddenly, something strange happend. I could almost hear the sound of breaking glass in the teacher’s head as the conversation ended and her demeanor changed. She looked at me and said, “David, you have to stop saying these things before you destroy yourself.” She kept saying those exact words over and over in an eerily robotic tone of voice. She continued repeating her pre-recorded message as I got up and walked out of the library.
Since I was one of several teachers who were laid off that year, it was my last day in public education. I didn’t bother checking out with Principal Hajara Rahim, who was probably busy stealing money from the student fund.
It wasn’t the worst day of my life. I felt worse when I left the kids I had grown to love at Highland Park. But leaving Dearborn Park was worst of all. After that I just felt numb. And that pretty much sums up my feelings when I left Van Asselt.
Depressed and confused, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. I almost felt like blowing my brains out. Yet getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It forced me out of a hopeless situation and allowed me to begin healing. Still, I felt a deep sadness every time I thought of the children who were still trapped in Seattle’s derelict public schools, with no one to fight for them.
In 1995, I experienced what I can only call a political awakening. What a strange thing!
I had witnessed racism and right-wing politics back in West Dakota. My enlistment in the Navy was facilitated by a lie. And I had been tyrannized by the Seattle School District for a decade.
Some people may find that statement a little over the top. Sure, teaching can be a tough job, and teachers don’t get a lot of respect, but “tyranny”?
If you were lied to, deceived, insulted, libeled, harassed, and intimidated almost every day you worked in the classroom, with your own union betraying you, it would take a toll. You would understand why so many young, enthusiastic first-year teachers either quit after their first year or quickly turn into aging hags after getting stuck in the meat grinder.
That the Seattle School District and perhaps teaching in America in general stink was quite obvious. The big question is why?
I endured five years of extraordinary abuse as a substitute teacher, followed by five more years of constantly getting the rug jerked out from under me as a full-time employee, and it never occurred to me that there must be something driving all that bureaucracy and tyranny.
Then, one magic day, a little light bulb suddenly flicked on inside of my head. I wish I could remember the details, but, as I recall, it was an instant awakening that occurred on a specific day in 1995.
The timing was uncanny, because that was the same year a derelict retired general named John Stanford was recruited to serve as the Seattle School District’s new superintendent. He was recruited by the business community and charged with giving the district a corporate makeover. (He called the principals CEOs—“chief education officers”). It would be another quarter century before I discovered clues that Stanfordmania may have actually been orchestrated by the Jews.
“Stanfordmania” refers to the almost maniacal coverage Stanford received in media, which described him as everything from a comic book hero to a philosopher. He was toasted by Seattle’s elite, and you never knew when a tribute to St. John Stanford would suddenly erupt at a basketball game or a shopping mall.
The scandals and conspiracies that unfolded during Stanford’s fairy tale reign of terror were disgusting but educational. I felt like a Spanish language student living in Spain.
I was a changed person, with my eyes and ears wide open and my mind locked in skepticism mode. I became a whistle-blower, then a political activist, fearlessly roasting my own employer on my websites. I soon learned that the enemy wasn’t the education bureaucracy alone. Rather, it was a sinister coalition of corporate scum, corrupt politicians, media whores, an army of souless attorneys, and seemingly ordinary citizens who served as spies and “gatekeepers.”