"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's with Slovenia hits exceeding US hits?

OK, I have been mystified for months by the demographics of my readers. The all time stats are listed below. Seven countries that aren't even native English speaking outpace the UK! You can see that the US outpaces Slovenia by about 10 to 1 since the beginning of the blog. This week, however, Slovenia has outpaced the US 38 to 36. This is interesting if nothing else. This week began the Slovenian Surge! You Slovenian readers, I'd be interested in finding out what drew you to my blog. Send me a message. Enquiring minds want to know!

United States
South Korea
United Kingdom

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Disquiet" on the Janesville Front

Click on the post to see the GazetteXtra article and comments about nervous Janesville teachers worried about layoffs. Well, good grief, what the heck did these teachers think would happen? Ten million in the hole, nothing left to cut, balanced budget required. I'm underwhelmed with the level of brilliance on staff in Janesville. It seems the teachers can't follow the clues to the inevitable conclusion. I repeat, what did they think would happen? Another bailout? Well, I've been wrong before, but that "blood from a turnip" ship has already sailed twice. The comment thread is all over the map on this one. It's interesting to see the level of misinformation regarding education and funding out there in Janesville, which I believe is representative of any old town. There is no option about funding special education, yet people post hateful remarks about that on blog forums. It would be almost amusing that one poster considers foreign language and arts to be unworthy of public education funds, but for the deep abiding assurance I have in my heart that the selfsame blogger would rail at any cuts to sports. Ah well, the year of the axe has begun. I am completely empathetic to the role of school boards and adminstrations all over the country this year. I hope you can budget with the least carnage committed to actual educational programs. I pray that you have strength to do what has to be done, and damn the political consequences. I plead with you to avoid special interests from here until your budgets are done in the spring so you can do the right thing regardless of the fallout. That's my New Year's Wish to school board members everywhere.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Upside to a Down Economy

Last week, my kids wanted to go Christmas shopping for their friends. Naturally, this involved going to at least four stores in addition to the shoe store we had to visit to buy b-ball shoes for the two younger kids. Every store we went to had stellar customer service. I didn't even notice this, my 16 year old did. As I thought back on this experience, I could honestly say that I never had such good service in my whole life! She was right. Two stores even apologized for not having what we were looking for, but directed us to the nearest store to purchase it. That's what I call service.

My friends believe it's because of the economy forcing employers to be more mindful of the "service" aspect of their job. I'm more inclined to believe it's because the employers can be so picky about who they hire when they get 50-100 applicants for one job opening. Whatever the reason, the sheer pleasantness of the shopping experience was incredible. I was sick and not really feeling in the holiday spirit. Shopping is a task I normally avoid at all costs but that's not an option this time of year. The realization after we collapsed at Rocky Roccoco's that the shopkeepers were trying to make our experience the best possible one while we were there really picked up my spirits. That and laughing at the woman who was complaining about how spicy the pizza was. Really!?! You order pizza and complain when it's spicy? What did you expect? Sheesh woman.

So, if you really want to get good service at the mall, go to Hot Topic, The Finish Line, The Pottery Barn, Wisconsin Craft Market, Hancock Fabrics and don't forget to finish it off with the family meal deal at Rocky Roccoco's at Westgate Mall. These people know how to lure customers back to their store, truly the meaning of customer service.

How exactly does this connect to education? I'm willing to wager that a lot of these kind folks who helped us last Friday are college students and maybe college graduates. They are getting another important part of their education working at a department store during the holidays. People skills, problem solving under duress, kindness were all delivered with a congenial appearance. Any employer will be lucky to keep such employees. As these young folks grow in their careers, they may not realize how important this part of their career was to strengthening their overall marketability. They might even complain bitterly about how hard working with the public was back in the day. But to these young men and women who helped us all so much last Friday, thank you for your kindness and thoroughly professional way you helped us make the perfect purchases. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Expanding on Chasin's Post on 4K

I can't blinking figure out how to comment on Chasin's blog anymore, so I'll expand on her posting on 4K here. Sorry chasin'. I'm not trying to steal your thunder. A lot of people don't grasp that from the moment that little bundle of joy draws a breath, and even before, he or she is a sponge for information. Sitting in a classroom is not the only way children are educated. When you read to your child, they learn more than reading. You are willing to spend time with them to share a love of the printed word. You interact with them. "What color is her hat? Is the puppy BIG or SMALL?" All of this teaches. Baking cookies with them teaches infinitely more than learning fractions in school. Taking them with you to the grocery store begins a lifetime of connections. Pictures on food with printed word, printed word on the list corresponding to the one on the food. WOW, people. You are your child's preschool, whether you're ready or not. Step up to the task and DO IT! AND, just because your kid sits in 4K every day doesn't guarantee that they will learn. It must be important to you for the child to have a chance at a love for learning. It all starts at home. Everyone is capable of providing this love of learning at home. It's only a matter of priorities. It doesn't take a lot of money or formal education to instill a work ethic that includes lifelong love of learning. I still love it and I'm an old bat now. My mother and dad read to me and we read to our kids from the time they were babies. My daughters read to the kids they babysit for. One of them has a friend in the child development class at school. Her friend came back from observing a toddler/baby room at a local child care facility absolutely appalled that the teacher read to the babies with headphones on and was grumpy the whole time. Now, the parents of these babies are paying plenty to provide a quality preschool experience for their kids. Do you think they are getting it? Of course not. I reiterate, just because they are in a formal program does not guarantee a kid will get an education. It's up to you. It always has been.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

4K Discussion Subdued, and This and That

Well, there wasn't really much discussion regarding 4K. I was glad because I wanted to attend my daughter's choral concert. It has been brought back on the agenda because of a petition brought forward from a group of parents in the district. They're working on getting up to date research on it as well as a summary of the previous 2006 extended discussion on 4K. They are only investigating at this time. Do not panic.

The program based budgeting process is about to go into full swing with a vote next month on the parameters to use as they go forward with each "cost center" budget. I hope to do at least one article, maybe a series, for the Review, addressing each cost center to help citizens better understand the process. School finance can be an elusive concept and I think the series could be informative.

Check out my tax bill article in the Review tomorrow. My goal in summarizing the tax bill was not to open a wound, but to begin the program based budgeting process with this stark reminder of the bleak economic outlook. At least we didn't get a 13.1% increase like Madison Property Taxes, according to a letter to the editor in today's Wisconsin State Journal. Holy camoli, that's an enormous increase. Those poor people. Keep the faith. Our 3.1% was relatively tiny compared to Madison. Doesn't make you feel better, but some perspective is instructive.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12/13/10 School Board Meeting at 4:30 p.m.

Click on the post to view the agenda for Monday night's board meeting. Note the early start time of 4:30 p.m. There is a 7 p.m. choir concert at the high school and the early start time is intended to enable board members (the majority of whom have kids in the high school choirs) and administrators the opportunity to attend the concert.

There are a number of items of note on the agenda for discussion. Most controversial is 4K. The open enrollment class size limitations will be proposed and the program based budgeting parameters will be introduced. I hope they finish the business by 6:45 because I also have a kid in choir.

If any of the agenda items pique your curiosity, I encourage you to attend the meeting if you can.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sending Energy to the Family of Samuel Hengel

Click on the link for a discussion of how this school and community had done all it could to prepare for the unthinkable situation. I send positive thoughts and energy to this family in their hours of sorrow and unmitigated grief. Clearly a mental health emergency had suddenly developed in this young man, unless some deep dark secret arises. He seemed to have a lot of positive things going for him, strong community and family support and involvement, responsibility and much more. I hope some answers can be found for the family's peace of mind.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Parkview considers consolidation

Click on the post to read about the latest small local school district to face excruciating choices in the budget wars. Parkview District is reluctant to destroy "family feeling" in their small elementary school by consolidating schools that are half empty with one another.

OK, OK, so it's not my district. But these people are asking taxpayers to do what they themselves probably would not do if it was their own money. Is "maintaining a family feeling" worth more than ensuring the best possible education for your kid? Really?!? The district is nearly half a million in the red, seeking federal funds for relief and yet there is a SMART board in every classroom. I know, I know, they were a PTO donation. But that 5 grand was misspent, in my opinion. These interactive whiteboards are coveted in the ESCD. They are parceled out with great care and, I might add, rarely. They are expensive and require a great deal of training for teachers to get the most benefit from them. How much money did Parkview have to spend to train the teachers? Or did they just present them and leave it at that? Are they used as glorified white boards? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I do know that a district so deep in the red needs to learn to prioritize. I know that that good old country charm isn't in the budget. When textbooks are 10-20 years old and outdated and students have languished in performance on the ACT, the district needs to tighten their belt and wise up the citizens to the realities of school finance. Things will only get worse under the new governor, who is intent on making a spectacle of himself even before he takes office. "You better not do this in your lame duck session or I will undo it posthaste." So do it you so and so. You don't have the right as governor ELECT to dictate the current administration's actions. And a little charm would go a long way in smoothing the transition. Threats simply raise hackles. Mine are raised, did you notice?

So, Parkview school board, please stop worrying about "family feeling" and start considering things like student achievement, in which you trail the conference on ACT scores. Think about how many textbooks you will be able to purchase so those kids can have current science information or even a book to bring home with them with which to do their homework. Make the hard choices and let the chips fall where they may before you end up a million in the red. If they vote you out of office, then their budgetary foresight stops at the end of their collective nose.