Hello 2001-2003 pages and those interested in the House Page Program,
I was fired from the House Page Program on June 11, 2003 after almost two academic years of devoted service.
I am writing this to tell my side of the story to my former colleagues and to affect some positive change in the Page Program. I intend to professionally and constructively criticize my former employer. In doing so, I have decided to remove the Page Program from my resume.
I am first and foremost an educator boys and girls, don't ever do this unless you are absolutely certain that you will never need a reference from a former employer. Also, be aware that a letter like this could wind up in your current employers hands. Im not worried about that because Im proud of this document, and my current employer has already reviewed it. (I now teach at a very progressive school).
Please note that I have made every effort to be factual. In the interest of full disclosure, I applied for the position of Page School science teacher last summer, and the job was given to Tom Levatino.
It all started last May at the Page School when the homework burden was reduced and mandatory study hall attendance increased. Math teacher Barbara Bowen reduced her homework to 10 problems per set, and history teacher Ron Weitzel stopped assigning homework altogether. Study hall attendance climbed as students slacked and teachers clamped down. The upshot was a lot of kids in study hall with nothing to do. Because mandatory study hall is not meant to be detention, I asked school principal Linda Miranda for relief. She responded by telling the teachers to assign more homework. They didnt. Then I did something that I regret. If a student had no homework to do, I allowed them to serve only half of their study hall time. For example, suppose a student had two hours of study hall. They would arrive at 7pm, they served until 8pm, and then they signed out for 9pm. On one night I entirely excused several pages from study hall so that they could attend a birthday party. I personally signed them in and out to cover for them.
My supervisor, House Clerk Jeff Trandahl, asserted that I was fired because I falsified the study hall sign-in sheet, and hence I jeopardized the entire Page Program. However, the intent of the study hall sign-in sheet is not to account for the whereabouts of the pages, but simply to take attendance in study hall. The study hall sign-in sheets are not archived. The sign-in sheet in the front office is the official record of the whereabouts of the pages. The front office sign-in sheets are archived. Jenelle Pulis, who manages the page dorm, asserted that these records were never compromised. The whereabouts of the pages was never in doubt, and any page could have been found in an emergency. When I asked Jeff Trandahl to detail exactly how I jeopardized the entire page program, the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives offered the following, and I could not make this up if I tried: if a bomb went off in the Page Dorm office, destroying the front desk sign-in sheet, the falsified study hall sign-in sheet, if it had survived the blast, could compromise the program.
Incidentally, that was not the most incredulous statement that Jeff Trandahl spoke to me. As I was walking out of his office for the very last time -- and again I couldnt make this up if I tried -- after he fired me, his last words were: Come back and visit some time.
I am certain that I was unjustly fired. For most of July I tried to schedule appointments with the members of Congress who are on the Page Board. However, Mr. Dale Kildee, Ms. Heather Wilson, and chairman Mr. John Shimkus all refused to see me. Mr. Shimkus scheduler said that Mr. Shimkus defers to Jeff Trandahl regarding all personnel matters. Because all Page Program employees are employed at will, Jeff Trandahl can fire anyone in the Page Program for any reason and be held accountable by no one. I guess thats why he earned the nickname J.T. Money.
Which brings me to Linda Miranda. Last summer Linda Miranda fired science teacher Bob Nelson. I knew months in advance that Linda Miranda was considering the firing of Bob Nelson. How did I know? Because she told me several times. Discussing the employment status of one employee with another is widely considered to be unprofessional.
After Linda Miranda fired Bob Nelson in June, she advertised for a new science teacher. This is a curious management strategy because most competitive schools start the interview process in January. By April, most teachers have already signed a contract.
Last August, Linda Miranda hired Tom Levatino, who was fired from the Page School after a single year. Curiously, Tom Levatino also worked for a single year at The Georgetown Day School, a prestigious private school in the DC metro area. Before school started last Fall, Tom Levatino told me that he is no longer with Georgetown Day School because of conflicts that he had with students and parents. While at the Page School, Tom Levatino belittled many of his students, including the daughter of Congressman James Greenwood. Mr. Greenwood visited the school to discuss the matter with Linda Miranda.
Incredibly, after knowing for months that Tom Levatino probably would not return to the Page School for a second year, Linda Miranda again didnt start advertising for a new science teacher until June.
Before being appointed principal by Jeff Trandahl, Linda Mirandas highest position was Foreign Language Department Head. For a teacher to be promoted from department head to principal is virtually unheard of. Linda Mirandas administrative inexperience is self-evident.
Which brings me to other adults employed by the Page Program. Every year at page orientation Peggy Sampson tells the following joke to the parents of the pages: "if you give me written permission, I will hit your child." Some parents laugh, and others shift awkwardly in their chair. After processing some paperwork in June, July and August, Its not clear to me what Grace Crews does during the remaining nine months of the year. Darryl Gonzalez frequently surfs the internet during class. Many of Sabastian Hobsons students dont feel well-prepared for the AP History test. Strong math students succeed in Barabara Bowen's classroom, but weaker math students falter as she charges through material and ignores questions. Weaker math students become frustrated and many give up. Why don't they fail? Because students routinely submit tests with almost every problem incorrect and score between 70% and 80%. Finally, despite time limitations, she teaches four weeks Calculus topics in Pre-Calculus class.
And yes boys and girls, I was the one who was fired from the House Page Program.
Last year I earned an outstanding formal performance review. At the end of year meetings with the Clerk, I consistently received more positive feedback than most of the other adults associated with the program. I would often email guidance counselor Donna Wilson if I was concerned about the emotional welfare of a page. I was the only employee in the page dorm who had chosen high school education as a profession and who didn't intend to leave the program after graduate school. I had never before made a major mistake. I dont understand why I was not merely reprimanded.
When I was a Page Program employee, I gently advocated for the pages behind the scenes. As I am no longer an employee, I have chosen to advocate for the pages in a not-so-gentle manner. After an hour-long conversation with a reporter from Roll Call, the reporter is considering writing a story about the Page Program. Additionally, I am very concerned about the amount of time that a page spends in class. I have conservatively estimated that each page spends about 30% less time in class than his/her peers at home. I am filing a formal grievance with the Middle States Association, which accredits the school
I have extracted one funny story from this experience. After Jeff Trandahl fired me, I was in shock. I was asked to return my House I.D. and my dorm keys. I was so stunned that instead of submitting my dorm keys, I submitted my apartment keys. Yes, on the only day that I have ever been fired from a job, I locked myself out of my apartment.
Matt the former Tutor