And Remembering Our Departing Friends
Holiday Musings From Dr. T.
Dr. John R. Alston Trotter
We are into our 15th year
at MACE and currently into oremember how the brave Charley Waggoner of Clayton’s
Babb Middle School suffered with cancer for a couple with the utmost grace. I remember
how Don Carson’s sudden death shocked all of us so much. I knew Don back
when I coached against him nearly 30 years ago. He was teaching at Clayton’s Alternative
School when he died about four or five years ago. ur Holiday Season.
So, a time of reflection seems in order. I remember that MACE started
with a veritable bang on September 1, 1995! .”Within a few months of MACE’s
beginning, a central office insider in one of the large school systems told me that the school system’s attorney was
stating that “MACE terrorizes the principals Good. Don’t
the principals and assistant principals often terrorize the teachers? Our MACE Field Force
was picketing at Fulton County’s Randolph Elementary School today, and one of
the teachers was telling me that she heard that the assistant principal was inside the school crying and the principal had
been away at a meeting but when he returned to the school, he rode into the parking lot and then quickly rode out. I
don’t know if this is true, but this teacher told me that she saw the principal do this.
Why does MACE picket? Do you really think that MACE just pickets for
the fun of it? Pickets are the most requested service that MACE gets from its members.
We try to accommodate these requests at the schools where we think that the teaching conditions are
so egregious that the Superintendents need to have their attention focused on these schools. Heck,
we picketed Principal Teressa Watson at Cobb County’s Hayes Intermediate School three
times in less than two weeks this Fall. Let me re-emphasize the message for Cobb Superintendent Fred
Sanderson: “Teressa Watson Must Go!”
We have come a might long way – from
the earliest days where we rented literally one room next door to the current Jonesboro City Hall, then two
rooms, and then that August moved to a larger suite of offices (with actually two restrooms!). This was all within
the first year. MACE did not have banks or traditional lenders lining up to loan this new organization
monies. We scrimped and scraped money together as MACE kept getting bigger and bigger.
Our message was resolute about the atrocious teaching conditions in Georgia and about the inextricable link between teaching conditions and learning conditions. We
said forthrightly and unequivocally that you could not have the latter until the former was in place first. (Go
to our Archives Section, and you can read our bold articles in the first issue of The Teacher’s Advocate!
magazine of 1995.) Our resolute message resonated with the teachers. MACE has kept
growing through the years, despite the many cynical and devious rumors started in the early days by self-serving admininstrators
that MACE was not going to last. No, the question today is: Are the other groups
going to last? MACE has that uncluttered, unequivocal, clear-cut, and unapologetic mission…to
protect and empower teachers, one member at a time. This is a teacher’s agenda.
It is not an amalgamated agenda, one where you are trying to please all people at all times and really just irritating
everyone because you will not take a stand. As a result of our focused mission of protecting
and empowering teachers, MACE has continued to expand, but our expansion these last 14 or 15 months,
even in economic hard times, is nothing short of remarkable and is an expansion for which we not ashamed to thank the good
Lord! One of our next goals at MACE is to help feed the hungry of the world, both here in
the USA and abroad. We will be coming forth with more information on this
very shortly to let you know that we will be sending a percentage of your membership fees each month to a very reputable organization
where I believe over 90% of the money goes directly to feeding those poor souls who are literally starving for
food. To those whom much is given, much is required, and MACE will be trying to do a little
to relieve the misery of so many. Please pray for our efforts!
In May of 2002, MACE
moved its Services Center (where most of the MACE Staff is located and where the teachers
come for service work) to Fayetteville. This year, MACE
opened up a Communications Center where so much is accomplished relating to videos, the internet, the website, letters and articles are
written, and calls are made. Most of the calls are still made out of the Services Center so
far, but I imagine a day when MACE will have a stand-alone call center because of the huge volume of calls
each day – and MACE is always committed to returning each call that day, unless, of course, the weekend
is involved (though we do make calls on weekends as well). I am at the Services Center a couple
days a week, but most of my work is done out of the Communications Center. We are generally booked three weeks in advance for nightly meeting with teachers at the Services Center.
As Chairman/CEO of MACE,
I want to take this time to thank the tireless MACE Staff and Associates,
under the leadership of our Chief Operations Officer Norreese Haynes and Associate Executive Director
Jeff Cox, for their unswerving dedication to our MACE Members. I want to particularly
thank our Office Manager Renee Bishop for encouraging me to delegate more and more to the competent personnel
of MACE, but this is hard when, at one time, it seemed that, along with Attorneys William Woods
and Keith Walton, I was everything from “chief cook and bottle washer.”
I am learning to grow (by delegating more) as MACE grows, but don’t ever think that I can’t
still “throw down” in a hearing (as will be evident at a hearing this Friday!), write a cogent and blistering
letter, tote a picket sign, and punk out a police officer if he or she tries to abridge our rights under the First
Amendment to picket on a Category One Free Speech Forum! I will be 56
on New Year’s Eve of this year, and I figure that I have a good 40 more years
on the picket line – even if they have to wheel me out there on a Medicare Scooter!
At this time of year, I think about our many fallen MACE colleagues.
I remember when former Atlanta Braves pitcher Larry Bradford died. He
was working at Fulton’s Banneker High at the time. Our Vice President,
Dennis Yarbrough, presented the family with a beautiful plaque from MACE at the funeral.
I remember that Dennis and I visiting the sweet teacher of Atlanta’s Perkerson
Elementary School, Bernice Barnett, while she was suffering in Intensive Care
in the hospital over in South Fulton, and she died within a few days. I
remember two of our young male teachers dying abruptly, without warning, one in North Fulton and one in South DeKalb, the
latter of whom I knew at the University of Georgia. I I spoke at Don’s funeral
service and got all choked up because I was reflecting on how loyal to MACE that Don and
others were from the very beginning. I attended Martha Wilson Johnson’s
funeral this past January. She had just attended President Obama’s Inauguration,
returned to Atlanta the next day, taught her children at Atlanta’s Price Middle on
Thursday (proudly giving out Inaugural souvenirs to her students), and did not wake up on
Friday morning. Martha was a proud MACE Member from the beginning,
a great teacher, and didn’t put up with much foolishness! I remember that I was on the phone with Martha
at the original MACE Office when I was biting down on my pipe and broke the only capped tooth that
I had! It’s funny how we remember things like this! I can still hear her saying on the other
end of the phone call: “Now Trotter [she always called me “Trotter”],
this shouldn’t be happening…”
In July of 2006, our founding
attorney, William (Bill) Woods passed away. There’s hardly a day that goes by that we
don’t comment about Bill and our famous “Bill stories.” Mr.
Woods had been a teacher before becoming a lawyer and came from a family of educators. He loved representing
teachers, and he kicked some major league ass in hearings for teachers! We keep Bill’s memory
alive. We have many photos of Bill in the MACE Office and have his law degree
hanging on the wall, and we have named our Person of the Year Award after William L. (“Woodman”)
Woods, Esq. He will always be part of MACE.
In this past week, we all were saddened by the passing of two our retired members, Pamela Gardner
only Thanksgiving Night and Craig Bankston this past Sunday. Pam
and Craig were such special people, especially to their MACE Family.
The spouses of these MACE Members, A. J. Gardner and Cathy Bankston,
have their own special connections with MACE. While Pamela taught for years
at Morrow Middle School before she retired this past school year, A. J. was and is a regular
on the MACE Picket Line! A. J.’s first picket with MACE,
I believe, was at the old headquarters of the Atlanta Public Schools at 210 Pryor
Street, in 1997. He and
Pam were a very lovely couple who thoroughly enjoyed the MACE BASHes! Pam
hardly ever called the MACE Office for service work, but loved knowing that the protection was thereif she
needed it, and she was even talking about the up-coming MACE Holiday BASH the day that she passed away.
Craig Bankston also joined MACE in the early days
of MACE when he was a teacher and coach at Babb Middle School (Hines Ward’s Middle School, by the way) in Clayton County. I have known Craig before MACE ever began.
He first came to MACE because he told us that he had called and called GAE
and it took 30 days before one of their reps even called him back. He had an issue at Babb.
I told him that Attorney Woods and I would be at his school the next afternoon. He called
us at the MACE Office the next day and said that the principal was upset when he told him that we were coming.
We said that we were still coming. Before it was over, the assistant principal who appeared to be harassing
Craig suddenly left him alone. After this, other Bankstons joined MACE!
Craig and his sweet and dedicated wife, Cathy, were regulars at
the MACE BASHes, and Cathy did part-time work at the MACE Office from time-to-time.
Even after Craig retired from teaching (he had taught in Clayton, DeKalb,
and Florida), we
still heard from him and Cathy on a fairly regular basis. Oh, one other note, after the aforementioned
situation at Babb Middle, I think that the principal retired before the school year
was over. We will miss Craig and his humor and his smile. He once told me that
a principal in DeKalb with whom he was fairly close told him that the DeKalb Superintendent
was trying to get him to accept a transfer into Southwest DeKalb High School as the principal. But, Craig’s friend (the principal) told Craig:
“No, I don’t want that principal job because MACE is down there, and once they get hold of
you, they don’t ever let you go!”
These are just a few my musings on a December 3rd,
2009 evening. Take care and have a safe and enjoyable
Holiday Season! December