Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The rest of the story...almost!

After working at the same job for over 11 years and then moving too far away to drive there almost 2 years ago (and believe me, I seriously tried to figure out how to do that!), my exhausted quest for a job around here that is a good fit for me has been, well, exhausting.

I have said it before, but I loved my previous employment situation.  I loved my co-workers/friends, the environment, the families.  I know that is rare which is probably why it hurt even more than it already did to leave.

Since arriving here, I have worked at the hospital, for a home health agency, for two nursing homes, and for an educational shared services/school district.  Many times these things overlapped.  The home health agency and the school district did allow me to work with children.  Originally, I worked 2 days a week at the hospital from June-September 2008 until the census didn't warrant me being there.  Since I am considered a PRN or as needed employee, my work there can come and go. 

Around that September, I learned of a possible OT need at a neighboring school district.  The job was actually a shared services situation (typical in small communities) which means that one special education department served, in this case, 7 school districts.  This department had not had an OT since the school year began and the director was happy to have me for the 2 days a week I could offer.

I had never really worked in the school setting, as in, having to abide by all the educational mandates that come with working in that setting.  I was used to working in a private setting where I was able to serve kids because they needed therapy, not just because and when it was educationally relevant.  That being said, I was happy to at least be working with children again.  I played by the paperwork rules, but also knew that during my time with the kids, I was providing them (as much as possible) with what they really needed.

I had that job from October 2008-November 2009.  The situation that warranted me leaving that job is a story too long to tell in full, but the condensed version will do for now. 

Have you ever worked in a situation where you enjoyed most of the people you work with, but there is that one person who just messes up the whole good vibe thing?  Well, unfortunately in this case, that person happened to be the special education director.  Loud, brash, extremely disorganized, underhanded, unprofessional, forgetful, and dishonest are my nice descriptive words!  I am also thinking bipolar.  The other unfortunate detail is that this particular person had somehow embedded herself into this job just enough that no one dared question her...out loud.  Everyone just did their job AND those closest to her made sure it looked like she was doing her job.

For me, everything was going along ok.  I had really gotten to know the kids and the various staff over that year and I felt like they trusted me since I wasn't the "new OT" anymore.  However, I knew that my 2 days a week was not enough to serve on the kids on the caseload.  I even repeatedly inquired and encouraged the director to find an additional OT.  In May of last year (2009), obviously pregnant, we talked about the next school year.  I shared that I would like to come back in August, continuing my current schedule.  And I was made to feel like I was wanted back.  We talked about my schedule and SIGNED A CONTRACT.  Just wanted to be clear on that point!  :)

In August,  I returned to my job, even arriving a few days early to do an in-service for the teachers and aides as I had promised and scheduled back in May.  Won't even get into the fiasco surrounding that situation, but it should have been my first clue.  As I worked the first few days to get all my kids on a schedule for the semester, several times I was met with pleasant surprise that I was back.  And of course, everyone asked about the baby.  At some point early on, I heard that an additional therapist (OT) and therapist assistant (OTA) had been hired.  I was thrilled because now I knew that all the current, and any new, kids could be served adequately.

After the first week back, several people mentioned that they were surprised to see me.  Apparantly, they knew the other therapists had been hired and didn't think I was coming back.  Several teachers were curious about two different therapists seeing the same children.  After being told directly by the two office managers that the director had told them I wasn't coming back, I decided I had better investigate a bit. 

My hindsight version is that I gave the director two opportunities to tell me what I was hearing from others.  Both times, she chose to tell me that I indeed still was working there and that I was to continue with my schedule.  I also tried to get her to sit down with me and the other therapists to review our kids, schedules, etc.  That never happened.  The final straw for me was the day I was seeing kids and these two therapists showed up to work on scheduling the kids I was already seeing.  I was surprised to see my kids on their schedule and they were surprised to see me in general.  Apparently, they had been told that I quit or was fired; never really got the whole story about that one!

Anyway, after the awkward encounter, I made haste over to her office.  After inquiring about the situation with her assistant, I found out that every conversation I had had with the director had been twisted into something else when she was questioned by her assistant.  A she-said, she-said shenanagans!!  Crazy stuff!  Bipolar stuff!  I would walk out of her office being told to work on as planned, no change.  She would tell her assistant that I would only be there 2 more weeks or that I was just finishing up my paperwork and then be gone.

I was MAD!  But it took me forever to nail her down because she was never around.  Usually, she was running around putting out the fires that she had caused.  In the mean time, I had finally confided in a woman at one of the schools who happened to be the aide to one of my students.  We had come to know each other on a more personal level and I knew her to be a kind and Godly woman.  Once she heard my situation, she told me things about this woman and her work history in the district that made me cringe.

After finally confirming an appointment with her and her assistant.  I requested her assistant be in there so we both heard the same thing.  After the fact, I learned that despite her assistant appearing to be understanding of my situation, she may not have actually been a "good guy" either.  WHO KNOWS!!  The meeting was a joke.  I had to show her my contract because she said she didn't remember signing a contract with me back in May.  OH AND, didn't I get her letter to me over the summer stating that they had hired other therapists and were no longer needing my services?  UH NO!  Do you think I would have showed up to do in-services?  Don't you think I would have called if I had received that letter?  Funny thing though, she just happened to find a copy of the UNdated letter she mailed to me over the summer.  YEA RIGHT!  So, why didn't you say all this when I showed up OR when I gave you TWO opportunities to say it in your office?  AND THEN, if that wasn't enough, she tried to pull some lame excuse that I had offended an employee at one of the schools I went to and wasn't welcomed back.  WHAT?!  IF that had happened, don't you think a LEGITIMATE Special Education Director would have looked into and handled the situation sooner than TWO WEEKS LATER!!  GIVE ME A BREAK!!

Basically, it ended with me getting her to apologize for any "miscommunication" and her having the decency (and I do use that word VERY lightly!) to give me the 60-day noticed as outlined in my contract.  Don't you know that next 60 days were so much fun for me!  And while I didn't directly bad-mouth her, when I told people that my last day would be in November and that it was not my decision, they were disappointed, which of course made me feel good.  Many gave me the "I understand" nod in reference to her.  That is what gets me....if everyone knows WHY OH WHY is she still allowed to be there!!  Sadly, I learned that she is one of those "don't mess with" people who basically had her heels dug in and it would take major shovels to pull up the bad weed!

In the end, the benefit came for the kids.  During those 60 days, each of the children on my caseload actually received double therapy.  Rare in school districts!  The director had to honor both contracts! 

I will be really honest though.  As much as it wasn't my ideal working situation and as much as I would never work for that system again as long as she is the director, it s*cks (the truth here!) that I lost such a sweet paying job.  I don't know how they could pay therapists so much, but I imagine that had to in order to get anyone to work out there.

Several weeks before my school job ended, I worked on securing other consistent employment.

Oh wait, I said this was the condensed version, right?

Hmmm, not so condensed!




Jennifer said...

OMGoodness Stacey! Sorry you had to go through all that - it just isn't right! Looking forward to the rest of the story and hoping there's a happy ending!

Jenna said...

That stinks on so many levels. Hope your new job is wonderful.

Kimmy said...

Wow, Stacey. It sounds like you had to put up with a lot of unpleasantness working in that situation! It is unfortunate when "sweet" jobs can no longer work due to relocation, etc. I'm hoping that part 2 is better. Can't wait to read it!

Cara said...

My goodness! I hope you can find a good job! It's interesting to see it from your perspective... I know there's a lot of office... um... whatever.. where we get services. I just deal directly with our OT, who knows my quirks and doesn't mess up the scheduling ;) That special ed director... Exactly why we're homeschooling!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! That is all.