The rumour mill about me had preceded me. I was greeted with hostile and suspicious eyes. It was a set up. I was there for the killing. District staff were in and out fuelling the fire and gathering dirt to spread far and wide. The lengths to which people went were scurrilous and malicious. Fortunately, I wisely developed a supportive network which included several School Trustees. Here, were people who believed in what I'd done and what I was doing. At best, they were my advocates. At worst, they kept me informed. I fought back against the apparent vendetta by directly exposing and confronting those who spread malice. There was an Assistant Superintendent competition. Al Stables was surprised to find my name on the short list. I didn't get the job but I did survive only to be moved to Marigold School in June. Stables described the school as a grey lump in desperate need of leadership. What he didn't share was that it was an even greater cesspool of intrigue than Oaklands. The staff and parent community had just finished assassinating my predecessor. They had "got rid of him." The vice-principal was a man who had been moved from South Park when I arrived. He resented me deeply. He felt that twice I had been given positions that were rightfully his. He spent the year trying to undermine me and destroy me. Even when he was moved to another school he counselled parents on getting me removed. Two District Counsellors who were my supporters moved into a room in the school and kept me apprised of "the jungle telegraph" within the school district and the school community. Within the school, I adopted a group of lost boys and introduced them to basketball. They were largely unskilled except for Andy Chow, who was our star. From night time, Pre-Midget, they morphed into the school team. I borrowed the neighbouring Spectrum High School Gym for a big game. I knew we were outclassed and the boys knew too but they were a gutsy group. What disturbed me most was: three male members of my staff showed up to cheer openly for our opponents and to belittle my "losers." Then, In the late Spring, I planned and executed a school-wide Outdoor Education program. It was held at the YMCA's Camp Thunderbird and supported by Bill Conconi and Mount Doug High's Outdoor Ed students. It was highly successful. At the end of the year, I lived to fight another day.
The next year 1979, I recruited two members of Oaklands staff, Eberhard Doehnel and Merv Campbell. Merv replaced the malicious bastard I'd endured the previous year. He was a breath of fresh air, a supportive friend. The assault of parents was quelled in a meeting with my Assistant Superintendent where parents clearly identified the aforementioned malicious bastard as the source of all the bad chess. Their fears were put to rest. The next five years with Merv were a period of growth. He was a tireless worker with zany ideas. One day he appeared with a tape driven personal computer that fascinated him. It really didn't do anything. I had the prior experience with main frame computers at UVic. I wrote a do loop in Basic and got the machine to request your name. When it received the input. It returned a personal greeting. This was the first use of microcomputers in elementary schools. We moved on to two Apple 11e computers with a dot matrix printer. I modified units of the Grade Seven Math to include rudimentary Basic programming and we were on our way. We created a database to manage the school. It generated such items as class lists. Intermediate students began to use software, strange stuff like Microsoft Works and MacDraw. That year the school underwent an assessment. The external review team's report included a section on the microcomputer program. Here, the administration (Merv and I) was commended for the program, but it was recommended that the program stop because staff and the review team felt that $1000 had been wasted on an enterprise that would never be important.
While all of this was occurring in my professional life, on the personal front, a life-shaping event had taken place. Driving up Laval Street one November morning, I encountered a most beautiful woman. I offered her a ride to work. She refused. I left. I knew it was risky, but something drew me back the next day. Laval was just around the corner from where I lived. She was there again. I pulled over and uttered the best line ever. "Hi Neighbour!" She bit. Other rides followed and we became friends. One day she was taking Christmas stuff home and uttered the phrase "I just love to nest!" I was done for. Diane had arrived.
Shortly after this, my wife unceremoniously gave me custody of my sons. She. then. sued for divorce. I countersued. After three days in court my marriage was over. My new lady, Diane had three children by her failed marriage. Through a friend, I found a house for lease on the ridge in Cordova Bay. My boys and I were going home. I invited Diane and her kids to join us. At the end of 1981 we moved in together. Blind luck shined on me at last. I had found the perfect mate, a beautiful woman with strength and integrity who has loved me unflinchingly for these many years. At the end of 1982, i forced sale of the property occupied by my ex-wife and Diane and I purchased the house we still live in on the waterfront in Cordova Bay.
Over the years our non-blended family has endured and become somewhat homogenized. It now includes eight grandchildren. It seems that Diane and I now have the semblance of the family we've always wanted. It certainly feels that way. From 1982 onwards both Diane and I focussed on work and home. I still needed to stay on top of things at Marigold but I was thoroughly fed up with the politics of public education. Then as a parent and advocate for my children I was exposed, first hand, to some of the glaring shortcomings of my profession and public education in general. It put parent frustration in a very different light. As parents, Diane and I were seen as lacking. We weren't married. I was a questionable "boyfriend" not a real father. The stereotypy of my youth raised its ugly head. We were, in effect, seen as misfits. An early incident begins to illustrate this situation.
We found out that Diane's eldest daughter was truant from her Grade 12 classes at Mount Doug High. The principal was a "friend" and colleague. I asked him to intervene. He began by informing me that his staff treated minors as "majors"(adults). Gently, I explained the School Act to him. He, then, interviewed our wayward student. He prefaced his remarks to her by saying in context "Dave is different." I guess he wanted her to know that he sympathized with her in having to live with me. Another daughter was having difficulty. I intervened countless times only to be informed on one occasion by a fellow Normal School graduate, that his people had been known to perform miracles. In response, I told him that I didn't want a miracle. I wanted a program. I never got a program and I never got a miracle. One of our offspring took a bottle of beer to school and got suspended. I attended a "Student Review meeting. It was a farce overseen by an autocratic omnipotent twit. Later Diane and I were called into a meeting to hear "The Twit' s Determination" from the mouth of a counsellor. We were directed to engage in "Family Counselling" immediately and once we provided proof of doing this, consideration would be given to reinstating our errant child. I informed said counsellor that she should tell the Superintendent that we were not going to family counselling and that our child would be back in school the next day because his and the Saanich School District's actions were in contravention of the Public Schools' Act. Our action effectively put an end to the issue
There were many incidents over those years where I studied for my street Phd in Education from the other side of the fence. The learning curve was huge and amazing. My days in Community Education stood me in good stead. The thoughts in Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society" were planted in my brain. Alinsky's "Rules For Radicals" guided my actions. Once again, I became a staunch critic of public education. Finally, one final glaring illustration of my trials as an unacceptable parent is worthy of mention.
One of my sons was completing Grade 12. He was a good student and an athlete. So, he was enrolled in Community Rec: a course where high school students went to local elementary schools to help out. Transport was not provided by the high school. Without my knowledge my son had been sharing his buddy's mother's car. He only had a learner's permit. Leaving the high school yard to go to his assignment. He jumped a low stone wall across the street, damaging the vehicle and killing a cat he had known since kittenhood. He did this in full view of the whole school. He was beside himself his world was ruined. Fortunately, the young Saanich Police constable who attended was compassionate. He allowed time for my son to get his driver's license and he simply got a ticket, went to court and paid a fine. I saw to the damages and my son worked to repay me. What troubled me though was the school. I approached the counsellor wondering how my son could get into this situation while attending class. I got the same song and dance I'd heard before about minors being treated as majors . I wondered where the teacher of record was when my son took the car. In the staffroom, I was told. So, the teacher did not supervise. He did not have a record of those who had drivers licenses, He had allowed a minor in his care to break the law. I was not trying to blame the school for my son's behaviour. I was, instead, questioning their diligence in assuring student welfare. The counsellor's response was surprising. He told me that the staff were very supportive of the teacher in question. Should I make "trouble", it was likely that my son would be victimized by the teaching staff. The rule of "Good or Bad' applied. In tribal terms: Staff Good! Some Students and Parents Bad! This was also in evidence when I asked to have my daughter take part in Work Experience. I was told that a program designed to assist needful students was restricted to honour students and athletes who would act as acceptable ambassadors for the school. The flock has its rules.