Archive for September, 2012

Why Parents Turn to Foundations for School Funding

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

eagletrekidentfinalThis is the shameless plug for money for my kid’s school. It is also a fundraiser for two organizations dear to my heart:

The Evansdale Education Foundation – I am a founding board member and OMG, I have put in so many hours on that board.
The Evansdale PTA – I am a committee chair on the PTA and they are just a great, hardworking group, with only the kids’ best interests at heart.

I won’t bore you with the details, because if you read my blog or follow me on FB, you probably know about the dysfunction in our county school board, about budget cuts, etc.

Actually, I will bore you with a few details, because I wonder if people not involved at the schools really understand why these foundations (501c3 organizations) are created by parents to make up for the lack of funding by their counties! The money that each and every person in the county pays (in the form of property taxes) to fund schools should be more than enough to make things work. When we are in an economic situation like the one that we are in now, our county school boards should have been saving for a rainy day. They didn’t. So, now, parents (and teachers) have to step up and fund much of it themselves. (Sit down with a teacher and ask how much of their school supplies are paid for by the county, and how much is paid for out of their own pockets.)

  • Teachers are making less and expected to do more, with less time. Rather than cut exorbitant administration costs, the county makes budget cuts on the teacher’s backs. We hear a lot about ineffective teachers, teachers who don’t care, etc., but in my experience, that is the exception, not the rule. My kids’ teachers have really, really cared. They have handled the crap they are given with grace and aplomb. I want to help them. And raising money to hire teachers and take more pressure off them so that they concentrate on teaching is one way to do that. Let’s just say that having 25 kindergarteners in one class can be too much. Or, if you look at the high school level, they have classes with upwards of 40 students. The county is very slow about alleviating crowding, too, when classes go over the max size. The kindergarten at our school is STILL waiting, a month into school, for an added teacher so that they can relieve overcrowding in the existing four classes.
  • Class sizes are OUT OF CONTROL. Our county raised maximum class sizes again this year. So, every class can have two more students than they did last year. Doesn’t sound that bad, but they raised class sizes last year, too. They just seem to keep going up.
  • Why cut costly administrators making $80,000 or more, and who never come into contact with a single student when you could just CUT PARAPROS? Parapros, or paraprofessionals, are the extra hands on in the classrooms. They help to reduce student/teacher ratios. They allow for differentiated instruction, and focused learning groups. They cost a drop in the bucket compared to administrators. The county cut a TON of them.
  • Did i mention the overcrowding? To alleviate overcrowding at a nearby school, some of their students were redistricted to our school. We were pretty much at capacity. Now we are at, last i checked, about 120% capacity.
  • Lots of those kids redistricted to our school don’t speak English as a first language. Some of their parents speak little to no English. What does the county do? Cuts translator positions. Brilliant.

You get the picture. There is more, but these are the issues that schools, parents, teachers, principals are dealing with all over the county. This is why my fellow parents and I created a foundation – to give us a padding when we have to pay for things ourselves. Should it be this way? No. The county should be a good steward for our money. But it’s not, and we are left to scramble to give our kids and the rest of the kids at the school, a great education.

Want to help? Please donate to our fundraiser. It’s easy and you can do it all online. It’s 100% tax deductible. Every dollar helps. And believe me, I realize that in these times, a dollar is a lot for some people. And when you’re done with that, think about following local education politics. We would not have to do this if more voters and taxpayers held our politicians’ feet to the fire on education funding issues and management of tax dollars.

Thanks for listening if you got this far. You’re a pal.

All in All Okay

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Day 2 of Todd Johnson’s two week absence:

# of hours slept last night: maybe 6?
#book reports completed: 0
# cat poops cleaned off carpet: 2
# cats still living: 2
# pissed off neighbors: 1
# of favors owed Lauren Sullivan Shankman and Scott Shankman: 4
# times i cried about 9/11: 3
# of nights i’ve gone without doing dishes: 2
# miles run: 0
# old friends I got to hug: 1
# episodes of Buffy watched: 2
# points over for day in Weight Watchers: Five million
# vodka tonics: 1 (large)
# children still living: 2

But it’s okay. We have our health. . .

Never Forget: What is your 9/11 Story?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

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I sit here every year, read a few news articles about folks who lost their lives, families whose loved ones never came home that day, and heroes who saved others, but lost their own lives. I never quite know what to say. It is a sadness that will never go away, and as someone I know said (and I apologize for not remembering who), the whole “never forget” thing is patently ridiculous. As if anyone could ever, in a million years, forget what that day was like. It was one of the most emotional days i have ever lived, full of anger, relief, disgust, horror, fear, disbelief, confusion, and a heartwrenchingly deep sadness. It is a waking nightmare that I take out like a worry stone once a year, just to remind myself that it was real, it really happened, and it happened to us all. A mass consciousness nightmare from which we will never quite awaken.

It also gives me one ray of hope . . . We have it so easy in our country, in so many ways, that we don’t know true day-to-day horror. I never want to experience something like 9/11 again, but I also never want to forget that given the right circumstances, our country might once again come together and stand undivided. It happened in those days after 9/11 and it might one day happen again.

Never forget. Here is what i wrote about my experience on 9/11 for the 911Digitalarchive, back in 2006. (OMG, i have been blogging for too long, i think!) I often revisit what 9/11 means to me and how my views about it have changed over the years, but i always come back to the story of what happened, of the event itself, and what it looked like from my little corner of the word. I always come back, like a stone that I worry in my palm and fingers, always studying it, but never quite figuring it out.

What is your 9/11 story?

Even Echoes are Good

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Wow. I am really flattered by the number of people who liked and shared my last post. (Most especially the strangers, because they didn’t have to share out of pity, friendship, love, or familial obligation.) I almost didn’t click “Publish” on that post; i felt it was rambling, inflammatory, too revealing of my political leanings. It is nice to know that others feel similarly about politics these days; I sometimes feel that I am on an island, politically. I do wish more people I know who are firmly on the right or the left read it and shared it. It seems that the people it most struck a chord with are the ones that mirror me politically, and are stuck in the middle, wondering why things can’t be different. I wonder if it just didn’t ring true to the others. I also think that perhaps those who did share it did it less because they support civility and more because they relate to what it feels like to be a political paradox.

A few other things to mention, that have come to my attentions since I published it yesterday:

My Mom was not offended by the “asshole” comment. She’s pretty thick-skinned, I guess. She spends enough time around my Dad and I that I guess she needs to be. It really wasn’t about my mom, or the friend who made the comment, in the first place, but more about the unintended consequences of being rude on Facebook for God and everyone and their Mama to see.

A commenter pointed out that there is a children’s book, The Crayon Box That Talked, which promotes diversity using the Crayola analogy. I had never read it, but thought i would mention it. There are no new ideas, I guess.

Again, thanks to those who shared on Facebook and who weighed in there, and to those new folks who left me comments. I used to blog every day, and I fell off the wagon through a combination of fear of speaking out about things, a busy life, and wrestling with some things in life that, if written about on my blog, might cause pain to those I love. Hell, writing about them might cause pain to me! So, I fell out of the habit, and lost my mojo, or at least my fearlessness. I think I might be getting it back a little. It is true that time helps heal things. But the response to this post has helped with my confidence, too – It is hard to pen these posts and then send them off into the ether, with no response, not even an echo. So, a big thank you to those who responded to this one. It did not go unnoticed, and is much appreciated.

On Civil Discourse in Social Media, or That Time My Friend Called My Mom an Asshole on Facebook

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I read this post by Ginger at RambleRamble today.

There is a PERSON behind the things you are saying. When you say that all liberals, or all conservatives…when you say that all Democrats or all Republicans…when you say that ALL of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., you are saying that about real people. Honest to goodness, flesh and blood people. Not just ideologies. Not just platforms. Not just issues. Not just politicians. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. Your coworkers.

I was about to say “this amazing post,” but, really, isn’t what she is saying just common sense and common courtesy? Still, she said something that needed to be said, because people need to be reminded that actions often make a difference, and words sometimes make scars.

Take Joe. Joe is gay. He can’t vote Republican, because of the anti-gay rights issue. But he also thinks that Obamacare will bankrupt the country, so he’s not too jazzed about voting Democrat. What kind of choice does he have? And either way, he gets lambasted by the side he doesn’t pick. He votes for a Democrat, and suddenly, he’s “on the government dole.” Just because the poor guy couldn’t bring himself to vote for the people who refused to recognize his civil right to marry whom he wants! Or he votes Republican, and gets to hear all the time about how much he hates gays. He is gay, for fuck’s sake. Does he hate himself? Or maybe he just feels that healthcare mandates will sink his business, and that is slightly more important to him in this election.

Or then there’s, oh, I don’t know . . . my mom. She is voting for Romney (I guess. I didn’t actually ask.)
When I post the article above on Facebook, voicing my agreement, folks weigh in. I think, well, it’s a post about civility on Facebook. People will respect that. They will be civil.

An *acquaintance replies: “I think name calling is ugly, but I will always use my voice for Civil Rights.”

I’m down with that. I do that myself. But i try not to fall into complete and total name calling. I try.

Me: ‘”Civil” – emphasis on civil.”

Acquaintance: “true dat. I stay civil for the most part. but if you are arguing with me that Romney is good for women, I will most likely call you an asshole.”

More posts from other people, in agreement or disagreement.

Acquaintance: “Intolerance is intolerance.”

Why yes, it is. Except, evidently, if you feel that you are right. And then it’s okay.

More posts about “liars,” and “can’t we all just get along,” and “everyone’s already decided who they’re voting for, so what’s the point,” and “isn’t Facebook for venting?”

My Mom: “Just read all of the above. All I learned is that [acquaintance] thinks I’m an asshole.”

Well, yeah, Ma. That’s pretty much all I, or the rest of Facebook, got out of it too. We continue to be raked across the coals by others who believe that if you aren’t with them, you are against them.

So what was the point? Other than for me to be like, “Damn, Acquaintance. I think you’re an okay person, but you did pretty much just call my Mom an asshole.” Along with PROBABLY MORE THAN HALF THE PEOPLE I GREW UP WITH, 3/4 OF MY FAMILY, AND HALF OF AN ENTIRE COUNTRY.

And you know why? Because their priorities are different, and one is intolerant of another’s choice in priority. Or maybe you both care about women, but one of you think that means free birth control and freedom of choice, and one of you believes that it is more helpful for women to live in a country that isn’t going to be crumbling in debt in 20 years.

What is the answer? Hell if I know, but I know what it isn’t. It definitely isn’t some friend of a friend calling my Mom an asshole on Facebook.

I should probably heed this advice a bit more myself. I am not perfect – not even close – but when it comes to politics, I try to be thoughtful and eloquent and not to cuss like a sailor, because I am constantly appalled at all of the people who make sweeping generalizations about huge groups in our country.

“Right-wing Christians won’t stay out of my uterus.”

“Democratic Socialists want to destroy our country from the inside.”

If you vote Republican, you are:

“A moron,” a “nazi,” “uninformed,” “racist,” “unintelligent,” “materialistic,” or “downright evil.”

If you vote Democrat, you are:

“A moron,” “unpatriotic,” “bleeding heart,” “godless,” “communist,” “atheist,” “Muslim-masquerading-as-an-American,” “socialist,” “marxist,” or a “terrorist.”

It’s just ridiculous. It’s like only seeing a world colored in with the 8-color box of Crayolas. Try the 64-color box with the sharpener, folks!

That is what a Crayon Box Should Look Like
That is what a Crayon Box Should Look Like by BenSpark, on Flickr

There is more than one shade of Red, and more than one shade of Blue. Some of us are Purple. Some of us are Green. Some of us are not even crayons; we are those pens that have four colors in them, and the color changes depending on which button you push when you need a particular color.

Bic four colour pen. Classic doodle biro.
Bic four colour pen. Classic doodle biro. by MikiStrange, on Flickr

I tell you, people exist in more than eight colors. Where do these crayons fit?

  • Fiscal Conservative who votes Democrat because of civil rights issues
  • Social Conservative who votes Democrat despite civil rights issues
  • Christian Democrats
  • Pro-Choice Republicans
  • Gay Republicans
  • Gay Christians
  • Republican parent with a gay son or daughter
  • Person who eats Chik-fil-a, but thinks two men or two women should be able to marry, have children, adopt children, and be afforded equal rights
  • Person who believes that the government should not recognize any marriages at all
  • Democrat who is anti-choice
  • Agnostic or Atheist Republican
  • Democrat for the death penalty
  • Independent who chooses the lesser of two evils, because they just don’t want the “really bad guy” to win, and to do anything else throws away their vote
  • Independent who decides to vote on principle, and is continually frustrated by other Independents who don’t do the same

I didn’t just create this list out of thin air. These are examples of real people, with real lives, who really struggle with voting on “the issues,” because their lives are not black, or white, or an 8-color box of crayons. And someone thinks every one of those people is an asshole. They said so. On Facebook.

Everyone just keeps trying to jam these Lavenders, Neon Carrots, Manatees, Burnt Siennas, Mahoganys, Crimsons, Flaxes, Forests, and Navys into the 8-color box. We don’t fit. We just don’t fit, and then you tell us we are wrong, evil, stupid for not fitting.

*Person I know. To be fair, she didn’t say, “Hey, Anne. Your mom is an Asshole.” But my Mom thinks voting for Romney is best for our country. Not sure if she thinks he is good for women, but I assume so, because she took offense at the statement. And that happens every five seconds for someone on Facebook. I’m not writing this post to call out this person. (Believe me, when I call people out, I do it by name.) This person is simply an example. This person is not an isolated incident. This person is most of us. Not a friend exactly, but the friend of friends. We have mutual acquaintances. We have mutual friends. Our kids have played together. I think she’s interesting and nice. I would never think she would call my mom an asshole. But she pretty much called my mom an asshole. On Facebook. In front of me. It’s cool. She’s not the only one. She just happened to be the example that happened in the thread where i posted about an article pleading for civility on Facebook. She just happened to be the one who missed the point completely. Am I mad? No. Do I still like her? Yes. Will I ever forget she called my mom an asshole? Nope. Will I forgive her? Yes. Do I hope she, and everyone who reads this, will think twice before making a sweeping generalization or hurling an insult on Facebook? Yes.

Update: Ginger, the author of the original blog post that prompted my post, has posted The Inevitable Follow-Up Post. Well worth a read.