Taji Gibson started Election Day in fear of losing her job as a ninth grade teacher at Bloomington High School North.
Her day began at about 6:30 a.m. when she voted at the Bloomington Free Methodist Church. The main concern on the ballot for Ms. Gibson was the Monroe County Community School Corporation tax levy referendum.
If the referendum did not pass, Ms. Gibson could have lost her job. But she had already been in that position before.
Ms. Gibson was reduction enforced in April, which is what happens when a school district releases a teacher from a pending contract for reasons such as changes in the district finances or demographics.
She was offered a job at the Center of Education and Lifelong Learning, but she turned it down once she was rehired in June.
To Ms. Gibson, teaching in the classroom was more important than job stability.
Tension was “cut throat” within the school district from February to March when people were checking their seniority status. The administrators kept a running list of when people were hired. Teachers who had a seniority of only one minute from the time they were hired were able to stay on staff while 70 positions were cut.
On Nov. 2, Ms. Gibson was in a similar situation again. She just wanted to know if the referendum would pass or not, and she said she wanted the day to go quickly.
There was a lot at stake. If the referendum did not pass, school programs would be cut, teachers would be laid-off, class sizes would increase and schools could close.
“As teachers, we will go on with our lives whether this passes or not, but the effects of this will reverberate onto our kids and community,” Ms. Gibson said.
After Ms. Gibson voted, she bought herself a drink at Starbucks. She glanced at a local newspaper where she saw the MCCSC referendum front and center.
The teachers weren’t supposed to discuss referendum issues with their students, but a senior approached Ms. Gibson to let her know that he had voted.
“Did you do your research?” Ms. Gibson asked.
“Yeah. It was empowering,” the student said. “I waited in line to vote. I cared about the referendum.”
“I wish every student was like you,” Ms. Gibson said with a smile.
Though Ms. Gibson was nervous about losing her job, her day had to go on. She had a job to do.
Her ninth graders had a test on Thursday, and she needed to prepare them for it.
Ms. Gibson led a game of Jeopardy. In this game, Ms. Gibson developed categories, such as Lil’ Miss Alaine E. Us, Say What?, Vocabaholic and Son of a Mugs.
Although Ms. Gibson was worried about her job, she was able to joke around with her students and demand nothing but the best from them.
“I tried to be hip like you,” Ms. Gibson joked.
Ms. Gibson has been concerned about her students’ performance in the
“I’m worried about this test. And this test is cake,” she said to one of her groups
“I like cake,” one of her students responded.
To that, Ms. Gibson replied, “Me too.”
Ms. Gibson entertained her students by breaking into song, “Every time I do it, I do it for my hood.” When she said the name of the category “Say What?” she made sure to exaggerate it.
But just because she jokes around with her students doesn’t mean she goes easy on them. If someone did not follow the rules of Jeopardy, she docked points.
Ms. Gibson’s word is law, and she reminded her students of this every time they argued with her about points.
When Ms. Gibson calls on her students, she calls them doctor and says their
She said she does this because a doctorate is the highest degree one can obtain, and she wants her students to be the best they can be. When she calls her students by their first names, that means they are in trouble.
Her second group of students followed the rules and didn’t complain when she didn’t give them points.
“All of you are positive,” Ms. Gibson said. “This hasn’t happened yet this year. Give yourself a hand.”
All of the students smiled and laughed, and so did Ms. Gibson.
“This time around I did not let it bother me all day,” Ms. Gibson said of not knowing whether the referendum would pass. “It worked out positively last time, and I knew it would work out again.”
Ms. Gibson started watching the election results unfold at 7 p.m. She kept the TV on, checked online and checked everyone’s Facebook statuses.
It wasn’t until 10:30 p.m. that she felt a sense of relief.
The Bloomington community voted yes for a 14-cent property tax increase for the next six years. This means the average Monroe County property owner will pay an extra $95 in property taxes each year.
Since the referendum passed, she no longer has to worry about losing her job.
“It’s game time,” Ms. Gibson said. “This community is depending on us to do our jobs well, and they are trusting us enough to invest their money in our education system.”