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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do you sometimes get the feeling that our government is schizophrenic?

The decisions of SCOTUS, as we lazy folk like to abbreviate the highest court in the land, have baffled me a bit this week. Earlier this week, I was somewhat aghast that they labor under the foolish delusion that the states that needed help with setting up fair voting registration and gerrymandering law for all their citizens had learned their lessons in "nearly fifty years." And yet, the US still doesn't allow Japan to have a military force. If they are attacked, the US has to fight their battle. It's been 70 years and we still don't trust them to be able to wield an army without trying to take over the world. Ask the people of color who get followed until some cracker finds a violation they can be charged with if they think the deep south is ready to fairly administer voting rights to them. Hell, I knew somebody I worked with in Milwaukee who got pulled over on the way to work (6 AM). The cop passed him going the opposite direction, did a u-ey and pulled him over for a broken tail light. Hoping to see something juicier in the process, I'm sure, and making my co-worker late for work. He was devastated and felt very embarrassed. I told him he wasn't the one who should feel embarrassed. Driving while black is what this experience is called in Milwaukee, and other places I'm sure. The Trevon Martin case is an extreme example of this bias: privileged groups threatened by the mere presence of a minority. But of course, all the people in charge of voter registration are enlightened folks and would never suppress a vote.

So this was my thought process as we careened toward the DOMA decision: Surely this court will never overturn DOMA. And this morning I was so blasted happy to see chains beginning to fall away. Naturally, there are drawbacks because states that don't extend equal rights to LGBTQ citizens do not have to acknowledge a couple's marriage in a state that does. There are legal conundrums this will cause, but it is surely going in the right direction for mankind's quest to treat all with dignity and respect. I am happy to be able to say the SCOTUS surprised me with its decision. Given what's at stake, I'm glad these two decisions came down as they did. The citizens in places that have not been historically kind to those of color still have the ability to file complaints for voting irregularities. The very essence of eliminating law that screams "you are less than" to all LGBTQ citizens helps restore my faith in humanity. The vulnerable LGBTQ youth no longer have to endure people rationalizing their bigotry and hatred with DOMA. The haters will still be around but they no longer have federal law to hang their hat on. Carry on, Supremes!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Achievement Gap in Madison: Money not the Answer.

Click on the link below to read how the new Superintendent for MMSD has spent her first few months studying a documented problem. Please note that, ala our own new superintendent, she has not spent the time since she was hired trying to argue that there is not a problem (open enrollment anybody?), or blaming any number of entrenched problems in order to minimize the effect it has had on the district. The title for the electronic version doesn't have the impact of that the paper version has: Money not the answer. Restructuring the resources already available is the answer, according to the consultants.

I have always had a serious issue with blaming lack of achievement on poverty. Students can come from economically disadvantaged homes that are headed by adults who recognize and support education as one of the tried and true mechanisms to overcome dire circumstances. Alternatively, students can come from economically advantaged homes that are led by parents that are emotionally and/or physically absent in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Or, worse yet, parents who believe money can solve every problem. Which student do you believe will naturally excel in school? For better or worse, kids strive in many ways to please their parents in an effort to become them, which is the scary part of parenting. Every move you make is scrutinized by the little urchins and one false move will undo years of training, or at the very least ruin your credibility for a long time. This fact makes counting to 10 all the more important when dealing with the umteenth time your toddler asks "Why?"

I hope Dr. Cheatham has outstanding success with the MMSD. The bone structure is sound and she just needs to flesh out the programs to better meet the needs of the students.


Friday, June 21, 2013

No School Board Meeting Until the End of July: Create a Strategic Plan, ECSD!

Having a six week gap between School Board meetings at the end of the fiscal year is an unusual development for the ECSD school board. It has not occurred in the seven years since I have been scrutinizing school board activities. There has always been a meeting the last week of June to close the fiscal year and to pass a preliminary budget. Due to the inability of the administration to present an acceptable budget to the board last year, there wasn't a working budget model going into the new fiscal year in 2012. That failure forced the administration to bring every significant expenditure to the board for approval until a preliminary budget was approved in mid-July. Since they were facing a deficit situation, it was certainly something the board should have been overseeing anyway. The administration was less than pleased by what they perceived as the board "second guessing" their professionalism. That topic is a post in and of itself. This year the district has circumvented the established process by not having the "end of fiscal year close-out meeting." I have a feeling that these meetings were a waste of time anyway. Too many variables comprising the budget remain volatile in June. The final expenditures aren't set in stone until June 30, so trying to extrapolate for the board the exact results for the end of the fiscal year is a waste of the business manager's time, the board's time and the administration's time. As for significant expenditures between July 1 and whenever the final budget is adopted (October 31 is the drop dead date, methinks), they should be dealt with on an as needed basis anyway in lieu of an adopted budget.

This new process seems to be a win-win-win for everyone. It could lead to less community outcry because there will be fewer unfounded budgetary "crises." There are sufficient economic challenges for the district without manufacturing crises due to budgetary unknowns at the state level. Take a breath. The backdoor deals going on at the state level right now could produce between 90 and 270 thousand dollars in additional revenue for the district (between $50 and $150 per pupil increase in revenue cap). Of course, this all depends on the ones in charge keeping their end of the bargain, for which I shan't hold my breath. The levels of vindictiveness and immature "payback" demonstrated at all levels by those in charge staggers the mind. There is no longer even the hint of trying to present an equitable facade. On one level, it's refreshing to see that rare bird of truth in politics. It's just so damned infuriating that the focus of their substantial efforts has been ultra-conservative policy as opposed to significant economic improvements. Indeed Gov. Walker, indeed. It's patently obvious that you are more concerned about a presidential bid in '16 than in the economic health of Wisconsin.

The political upheaval which has enthralled public employers has especially rocked the Evansville Community School District because of its lack of a long term strategic plan. All successful businesses have strategic plans. A strategic plan is the compass to guide leadership in wise decision making. Such plans create a route to achieve the vision and are regularly revisited to make sure all parts of the company are aligned. The considerable time and effort put in by the board, the community and the administration to create the vision two years ago needs to be honored. The end goal of that process was not the vision statement but rather a strategic plan. Development of the plan was thwarted first by Act 10, then by Heidi's retirement and then by Jerry's hire. A strategic plan would have helped dampen the magnitude of the winds of change. The leadership would have had a clear path by which to achieve the vision of excellence. This in turn would have minimized the knee jerk reactions the district made while being buffeted from crisis to crisis for the last two years. With no lodestone, the board had to make decisions based on administrative recommendations, an administration that was lame duck for a year followed by one that was led by a rookie for a year. Strategic plans are valid in both times of want and in times of plenty. Just as a plan can shelter areas of community core values in times of trouble, it can enable a district to focus spending in flush times in order to reach the vision of excellence. Now is the time, ECSD. Go forth and strategize!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

She's baaaaaaaack....

Flag day marked exactly two months since our serious car accident. My memories of why the accident happened remain stubbornly trapped in the recesses of my mind, which I have taken as a sign that it's best I don't remember what happened. I am grateful beyond words that the semi driver was unhurt and my husband and children sustained only minor injuries.

My own injuries defy logic considering it was a "van vs. semi" accident. I have various foot and ankle bone breaks and a broken hip, all "subsequent" to dislocations of my ankles and hip. I'm guessing osteoporosis isn't a big issue for me. The rapidly deploying airbag cracked three ribs, "cause you're so short, mom" according to my tall daughter.  I took a substantial hit to the noggin, which many would note to be the hardest part of my anatomy. The only symptom to remain there is a damaged nerve that runs the muscle that pulls my right eye to the right, sticking me with perpetual double vision which we manage using an eye patch or a piece of tape over my glasses, depending on how many folks I will encounter that day. It can be disconcerting for folks to see my eyes pointing two different directions. I have been that person, wondering which eye I should meet with my own gaze. Perhaps there is some karma involved here. The high priced neuro-opthamologist explained this injury so well to me I happily paid the higher deductible. He got extra points for using low tech diagnostic tools and showed me how to tape my glasses with a specific kind of tape so I don't lose all my right peripheral vision like I do with the eye patch. He said it can take 18 months for a nerve to heal and we just have to wait and see. Worst case scenario is that the nerve doesn't regenerate and they have to do surgery to pull the eye so it looks forward instead of to the left as it does now. In that case, it will never look to the right. I hope that won't be the case, but would consider it a small price to pay for all of out lives.

I get stronger every day. I have learned to use a walker for short distances. I would like to make it to the pool this summer as I think that would be good therapy for me. I see the ortho guy in a few weeks so maybe I can go to the pool after that. I'm hoping to upgrade from the Herman Munster boots he put me in a month ago to the "lite" version. Literally. I was so dang happy to get my casts off a month ago, I failed to realize the boots weighed as much if not more than the casts. The advantage is that I can remove them to air out and clean my feet. Also, my nerves are soothed by the boots.  By the end of the day, I am so tired of dragging around those boots. I air out my feet for an hour or so and cuss about putting them back on to sleep. I even tried to sleep without them one night and I was so worried about violating orders that I couldn't sleep. Who'd a thunk I was such a stickler for the rules?

Thanks to everyone who has helped our family during this challenging time. The Blue Shark family, Boy Scout troop 514, Becky, Mindy, Sue, Heather, Stephanie, Cathy and the many people who have brought food and sustenance to us and delivered me to my appointed rounds. We are so blessed to live in such a caring community and I look forward to paying it forward.