Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: Pacific Palisades High School placed an unusual message on their school telephone answering system.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2002]
Variations: A March 2009 version (circulated with an MP3 recording) identified the institution with the unusual phone message as Maroochydore High School, in Queensland, Australia, and added a further "menu option" of 'If you want this in another language, move to a country that speaks it.'
Origins: The Palisades Charter Schools are a consortium of public schools in Pacific Palisades, California, that have received charters from the
The purpose of these schools is to improve student learning; encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods; create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the schools site; provide parents and students with expanded educational opportunities within the public school system without the constraints of traditional bureaucratic rules and structure; and provide schools a way to shift from a rule-based to a performance based system of accountability. In essence, charter schools allow for increased flexibility in exchange for increased accountability.In 1998 the sole high school in the Palisades Charter Schools group, the 2,400-student Palisades Charter High School, instituted an attendance policy mandating that any student absent without a valid excuse ten or more days per
After vociferous complaints (and threats of lawsuits) from parents who contended they were unaware of, or didn't agree with, Palisades High's attendance policy (even though every student and parent had been informed of it), LAUSD officials said the failing marks might have to be voided because the attendance policy was not submitted to and approved by the school board. Without board approval, the school must follow the policies of the LAUSD, which states that students must be graded on the work they do and attendance may not be used as a reason to fail them.
Palisades High officials maintained that LAUSD district administrators had a copy of Palisades' attendance policy in their possession when they approved Palisades Charter High, and that in any case, Palisades' charter school status allowed school officials to set their own rules without inteference from the district. As Education Week noted, the LAUSD's "decision rankled the teachers, who argue[d] that their charter school
The putative answering machine message for Palisades Charter High quoted above was concocted in part as a reaction to the brouhaha over the school's attendance policy, and in part as a sardonic expression of all the usual frustrations teachers experience in dealing with students and parents: fabricated excuses for students' absences and uncompleted homework, blame that teachers are solely responsible for the failures of non-achieving students, complaints from parents about not having received information already sent to them several times, etc. However, the staff "voted" for the message only in the sense that they agreed with its sentiments (the circulating version of this piece often omits the introductory line "Too bad they can't actually use
(In fact, the Palisades Charter High phone system didn't have menu options when we checked in December 2002 — a switchboard operator fielded calls when the office was open, and a recording invited callers to leave voicemail or press keys to access a specific extension directly when the office was closed.)
Last updated: 9 July 2009
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