The  Beat: True Stories From the Streets

Page 6  Stories by Harry Martin Polis
                Artwork by Jaynee Levy-Polis

 Having worked for over 16 years for the School District of Philadelphia, I have this to say.  I have never seen such a bunch of incompetent, mean-spirited misfits in all my life.  The School District promotes people who would be better suited for heavy-duty psychiatric care.  I’ll give you an example.  For six months, I have been waiting to get my separation pay.  That is money due to me for the time off I accumulated over 16 years.  Over the six months, I talked to people in Payroll on numerous occasions.  I was left holding on the phone line for up to 40 minutes many times.  I had to return calls over and over to check on the status of my money.  They mess with people’s money without a conscience, or an “I’m sorry”.  They stink!  They gave me the run around over and over; saying the check was in the mail.  It never arrived.  Ever!  I tried to talk to the main supervisor.  She wouldn’t get on the line.  I was shunted to a lower ranked person.  Only after six months and the last day Judge Dembe had allowed them, did they even answer me?  I got results after having to scream over the phone that I was coming in to get my money, even if I had to see the Superintendent himself!  I guess because they were over the judge’s deadline and I was screaming, they told me to come to 21st and the Parkway—School District Headquarters—to Payroll (after 2:00 PM), and get a check.  They were to “cut” a check for me.  They had never ever mailed me a check for the pay owed me, despite being ordered by a judge to pay everyone by December 24, 1999.  The Union had taken them to court. 
 What a bunch of creeps they are!   I don’t know how they can live with themselves.  This is not the first time I have seen chaos reigning in the School District.  Any teacher will gladly tell you the insanity that runs through the whole operation.  Over the years, I have seen administrators who cover up students who have drugs because the administrators wanted to preserve their little fiefdoms.  The same response occurs with assaults, robberies, and an assortment of mind-chilling experiences our children have to experience at school.  The best thing that can happen to this Philadelphia School District is for it to be dismantled and replaced by an organization that is there really for the purpose of educating our children.  That is the school district’s ostensible reason for being, but its true reason is to perpetuate itself and expand like any other unwieldy bureaucracy.  It doesn’t even do a good job at that.  
 I have pages of stupid behavior examples from the school district.  I used to make a lot of money for our school in the school store.  The “new” principal closed it down so I would be free to guard a door.  That shut off the extra money for the students’ organizations, projects, and sports.  No thought was given to alternative means of running the store so the kids could still benefit.  
 The best thing a parent can do if they can possibly afford it is to send their children to a private or parochial school.  The Philadelphia School District has loaded up on the administrative personnel in the guise of making each school responsible for itself.  That’s nonsense!  The only people who are still in touch with how our schools are functioning are the kids, their parents, and the teachers.  No one asks them what should be done.  Instead, we here pronouncements from above that can help no one except aggrandizement of the administrators. 
 So here is my belated Christmas gift to the School District.  They richly deserve it.  
Copyright 1999 by Harry Martin Polis
Harry is available for lectures and entertainment with stories and poetry.  Contact SCOOP USA, or e-mail Harry.

(by way of South Philadelphia)

 I just heard about a strange uncle of mine who passed away at 85 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma?   What was he doing in Oklahoma?  Uncle Lester worked behind the scenes in the theater all his life.  My dad used to say Uncle Lester was never around.  My dad had had to fix their toilet seat for them, and do all the other repair work that Dad thought should have been done by Uncle Lester.  Dad used to intimate Uncle Lester “ran around”.  He was a smart-looking man and had a well-paying, glamorous career.  I can remember, as a kid, hardly seeing Uncle Lester.  His dowdy wife and four children stayed home while he traveled the United States.  For a long time, until Uncle Lester started making a good living, they had nothing.  Dad said they did not have a pot to “go” in or a window to throw it out of.  In those times especially, Dad spent time there, fixing things for them.

 Later, my uncle starting raking in the money and they moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  Quickly, they forgot they still had relatives in South Philly.  We never heard from them, and when my aunt died, they actually called and told her family, including my mother, not to come to the funeral.  When my brother Bernie moved nearby, they sent him a letter asking him to please not mention to anyone that they were related to him.   This spring, we attended a family birthday party and Uncle Lester’s daughter was there.  She matter-of-factly mentioned that the family had been dis-invited to her mother’s funeral and that her father was living in Tulsa.  Of course, when he died last week, the family was not called nor was they invited to his funeral.  I read about Uncle Lester in the newspaper obituary.  
 I should tell you my mother’s family is normal decent people.  They are intelligent, educated, and friendly.  They have good morals and family values. We see these people so rarely that Jaynee never recognized them as our cousins.  None of us know why we have been rejected by Uncle Lester’s crew.  We were wondering if Uncle Lester could have had another family out in Tulsa.  He could have had two more families.  Maybe he and they are the ones without family values. 
 Sometimes we have strange relatives.  (Maybe that should say “Often”!)  Since people rarely tell us why they do things, we just have to accept their behavior at confusing face value.  Uncle Lester had a nice write-up in the newspaper.  It did not mention four more children and other wives, but of course this was in a Philadelphia paper.  It did say that he worked over 50 years for the Union, and detailed his career in show biz.  I guess he was a talented and intelligent man who made good.  You can’t tell it by me!  All I can say is, “Uncle Lester, we hardly knew you!”
Copyright 1999 by Harry Martin Polis