Saturday, July 27, 2002
Whatever it takes.
Recent reports have shown the Springfield public school system to be in a lot of trouble. Even though my youngest daughter is about to enter her last year of high school, this is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart.
One of the schools (the grade school my daughters and I went to) in our district is so bad, that parents are being given the option of pulling their kids out and putting them in a different school. What solution this will provide, I have no idea.
This past spring, the school board put a referendum on the ballot to increase the tax that is paid to the school district. They could have opted to do a 20 cent referendum and another 20 cent referendum next year, and so on, but they put forth the maximum increase allowed by law — $1.00 per $1,000 of assessment (real estate taxes). Needless to say, the voters voted it down big time.
To me, this says the voters don't trust the school board. To the school board, this was a signal to go on the attack. The next day the superintendent of schools could be heard on radio, television and the newspaper saying that there would have to be major cuts next school year, i.e., sports, music, art, teachers, number of classes, number of class hours, among other things. It was as if he was seething inside. It was as if he wanted to teach the voters and parents a lesson they would never forget. He was so sadly transparent. He retired about a month ago, having moved onto another educational venue.
The school board, as it's first order of business after the vote, issued lay-off notices to about 100 (I can't put my finger on the exact number right now) teachers and administrative staff, with a promise for more in the future.
One thing school reports like to point out is the poverty rate in the school district. Apparently, our school district has an excess of a 50 percent poverty rate. My old grade school has the highest at about 85 percent. I really have to question why these figures are brought into the issue. What valid point is there to be made here? How will knowing these figures help the problem? Maybe someone can explain it to me.
I think it's very interesting to note that while the school board is about to enter into contract negotiations with the teachers, they say they have a $1.2 million dollar surplus built into the fiscal 2003 school budget. The surplus is unofficially earmarked for teachers' raises once the district and the Springfield Education Association reach an agreement. That quote from the State Journal Register will disappear after this Tuesday, because, well, because it's the State Journal Register and they only keep articles on line for a week.
Anyway, this is the first I've heard of a surplus. School funding and teachers' contracts are apparently very complicated.
This article from the Washington Post, entitled Success for Some, makes me think that if a school system finds something that works, keep doing it and don't back down.
Within a couple months of my oldest daughter starting first grade, her teacher determined that my daughter had a reading problem. What this stemmed from, we never knew.
We moved to Springfield, Illinois, from Muskegon, Michigan, in April of her kindergarten year. In Muskegon she was in the Norton Shores School District. Norton Shores was touted as one of the best, if not the best, public school district in Muskegon County. Some people told me the Norton Shores high school was reputed to be a University of Michigan prep school. If this was actually true, I never saw any evidence of it.
Kindergarten at Norton Shores was half-day. But it wasn't really a full half day. Class started at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m. Full-day kindergarten was not an option. The school day, for lack of a better word, was divided up into various activities. A main daily activity, such as music, arts and crafts, and physical education, was rotated throughout the week. I didn't realize it until we moved to Springfield, but teaching the children how to read was not on the kindergarten curriculum in Norton Shores at that time.
When we got to Springfield, kindergarten was a completely different experience. The most notable difference was that it was full-day kindergarten. And, the kids in her class were already reading.
To teach reading to the kindergartners, they used a thing called "sight words." As best as I can understand it, sight words entailed the child seeing a word on paper and visualizing what the word represents. For instance, seeing the word "dog," the child would visualize what a dog looks like.
On the last day of kindergarten my daughter brought home her report card. Inside was a note from the teacher and a list of 30 sight words. The note said that if I didn't teach my daughter these sight words over the summer, that she would be behind the other children when she got to first grade.
Immediately, I hightailed it over to the drug store and bought a pack index cards. On one side of each index card I printed one sight word. On the other side, I pasted a picture which I cut out from magazines. My daughter and I spent every day that summer studying her sight words. It didn't work.
By the time first grade started, I learned the school district had dropped the sight word form of teaching reading. They were now on to a thing called phonics.
Come parent/teacher conference time, her teacher made mention that my daughter was behind the class in reading. But, she indicated she was hopeful she could catch her up to the rest in short order. Silently, I hoped that with hard work and a positive attitude, my daughter would become a good reader. That's the attitude I tried to convey to my daughter.
Then one day in the middle of October, just before report cards were to come out, the teacher called me at work. She said my daughter was so distraught over her inability to read, that when daily reading time came around, my daughter would just sit at her desk and softly cry. My heart sunk as I pictured my precious little girl.
The teacher told me there might be a solution. She wanted to put my daughter in a special program called Reading First. She explained tht the program included daily one-on-one sessions between the student and a reading teacher. That sounded great to me, and I immediately agreed. She said it was a new program to the school district. She was concerned about my daughter's feelings for being singled out since she would have to leave the regular class for an hour a day. I told the teacher not to worry, that I would discuss it with my daughter so that she understood what was going on.
And so it happened. My daughter learned how to read. She loved her reading teacher. And she loved to read. By the end of the first week she was reading little stories to me and my other daughter at bedtime. By Christmas break, she was reading at a fourth grade level. In January, the reading teacher called me and said she wanted to take my daughter to the University of Illinois at Urbana for a meeting and demonstration. She said there were going to be some very important people there to evaluate the effectiveness of the Reading First program. She said my daughter was an outstanding example of how well the program worked. I agreed to the trip.
In March the reading teacher called me and said she thought my daughter was ready to graduate from the Reading First program. She said, originally my daughter was slated to remain in the class until the end of the school year, but since my daughter was now reading at a sixth grade level, she wanted to use the time for another child who needed special reading attention. I agreed.
When my daughter entered the second grade, the school district had expanded the Reading First program, and she was picked to be a student tutor in the reading program.
Not only did that remarkable program help my daughter to read, but it gave her a tremendous love for reading. To this day, she loves to read.
I don't know the current status of the Reading First program, but I suspect like a lot of the good programs that work, it's been reduced, if not cut. Granted, it would be a very expensive project to maintain because of the one-on-one situation, if nothing else. But, I can't imagine the nightmare my daughter's educational career would have been without it.
3:18 PM | LMC | link
Lazy Saturday. My kinda day.
11:09 AM | LMC | link
Friday, July 26, 2002
Doin' the Friday Five thing.
1. How long have you had a weblog?
2. What was your first post about?
3. How many changes (name, location, etc.) of your weblog have there been, if more than one?
4. What CMS (content management system) do you use? Do you like it or do you want to try something else?
5. Do you read people who have both a journal and a weblog? Or do you prefer to read people who have all of their writing in one central place?
9:02 PM | LMC | link
News journaling. Sorta.
Microsoft says no to music swapping. Well, yeah. What?
Another good reason to refrain from using Hotmail.
8:58 PM | LMC | link
Thursday, July 25, 2002
Hollywood watch. The Hollywood Hacking Your Computer Legislation I mentioned yesterday was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives today. Other than that, nothing much new on that front. However, it's interesting to note that according to the news.com article, Professor of Law at the University of California - Berkeley, Howard Lemley, and I are pretty much in sync on our opinions on this.
On a totally unrelated note, I'm not usually one to ogle men on the Internet, but Professor Lemley is very much worthy of ogling.
11:37 PM | LMC | link
My first Monday Mission, and only two days and an hour late.
1. Do you remember your first encounter with computers? Tell me about that.
2. How late can you stay up and still be functional the next day? Do you do that very often?
3. When was the last really good hug you got from another adult? Who was it and what was the situation?
4. One thing about children is that they all like to draw. We all shared the same ability and skill level at one time. Do you still like to draw? (Not do you think you draw well, or do others, but do you like to?) If not, how come? Did you get discouraged at some point?
5. I way overslept today. I had to head to work with no shower (don't get too close), and I am not in the best of moods. Have you ever overslept on a day you had something important going on? What's the story there?
6. Ever go shopping for something you know you can't afford? You look at it and even think about how it will look when you get it home, somehow you justify the cost and believe it can happen? And just before you get to the counter come to your senses? What was the last thing you almost bought, but thought better of it? And why the heck do we do that to ourselves?
7. (It begins again...) It's all such a blur now. I'd asked you to help me wake up but the alarm didn't go off. It was 10 till and just I knew I'd be late. Somehow you got me here on time. How did you do that? Door to door service? By remaining calm.
BONUS: Can't you see, you belong to me? If only....
1:00 AM | LMC | link
Beyond using up my own bandwidth when photos appear in the Blogger edit screen, the post texts do it too. But, for me and for now, it's still the best game in town.
12:04 AM | LMC | link
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
From the outrageously unfreakingreal department. U.S.. Representatives Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Howard Coble, R-N.C., are sponsoring legislation that, if signed into law, would allow copyright holders to disable your computer if they believe that you are using your computer to pirate copyrighted materials. According to the article on news.com entitled, Could Hollywood hack your PC? "The legislation would immunize groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America from all state and federal laws if they disable, block or otherwise impair a ‘publicly accessible peer-to-peer network.'" And, if your computer is damaged in the process, you would have to get the permission of the U.S. attorney general to sue.
This goes way beyond big brother just watching what you're doing. This reeks of turning the MPAA and the RIAA into police, judge and jury.
One question that comes to mind right off the bat is, how are these organizations going to determine whether or not you paid to use the materials? There are legitimate ways to obtain copyright material for use on your computer, right?
Another question, how are these organizations going to get past firewalls?
I am totally against pirating copyright materials. But, there's got to be a better way. I don't want these organizations and their henchmen poking around in my life, determining I'm not worthy of what's on my computer, and shutting me down.
11:55 PM | LMC | link
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
From the very interesting, but not funny department. When I post a picture to my main journal page, it also shows up in the Blogger posts window, which means I'm using up my bandwidth. Which reminds me, I did find another blog client that I may be able to use. However, I can't seem to locate it at this time. Ahh. Here it is. bloxsom. Making note to check it out more later tonight.
7:38 AM | LMC | link
Scenes from the train station at dawn.
Take me to the station...
And put me on a train...
I've got no expectations...
to pass through here again. (No Expectations copyright Jagger/Richards)
7:18 AM | LMC | link
Monday, July 22, 2002
The cat in my neighbor's yard. I had hoped to get a picture of this tonight, but we had some major weather and the cat is no where to be found. It's not my neighbor's cat. It's just a cat from the neighborhood. Every night for the last couple weeks, the cat has parked itself at the base of one of my neighbor's two pine trees. The cat stares up into the tree. Sometimes the cat puts its front paws up on the trunk of the tree like it's going to climb the tree. Something is up there. What it is, I don't know.
There's a strange nest in the tree. I first noticed it about a month ago. The nest is pretty big as nests go around these parts. It's bigger than a squirrel's nest. And, unlike squirrels' nests, it's on one of the lower branches. The nest appears to be built of materials from a blue spruce. Not sure, exactly.
A couple weeks after the nest appeared, there was a sound coming intermittently from the nest. Something like, "meweep, meweep." But the last couple weeks, I haven't heard anything up there.
I'd love to get up on a ladder and see what's in that nest. But, I probably wont.
8:25 PM | LMC | link
Sunday, July 21, 2002
Elevator Operators. That is, the people who sit in an elevator all day and, well, operate the elevator car. I would imagine in most places human operators have been replaced by the automatic elevator.
When I was a kid, S.A. Barker's, a ladies' fine department store in downtown Springfield had an old manual elevator. The store was only three stories, including the bargain basement, and it had stairs that were easily accessible to the public, but it was more fun to take the elevator. The elevator had two doors, one to the right, and one to the left of the elevator operator, depending on which floor you were exiting.
And then there's the beautiful Ridgely Building. The Ridgely Building is a 12 story office building. It was originally the Ridgely Farmer's State Bank Building. Prior to the Depression, it was a five story building. The bank survived the Depression, prospered, and rebuilt at the same location. Unfortunately, shortly after that the bank folded. As I recall (not that I was actually there), at some point it was taken over by a land trust in Chicago and continued to operate as an office building.
From the time I was about ten, to when I turned 18, my dentist was in that building.
In 1974, at the age of 17, I went to work in the Ridgely Building. It had two passenger cars, both operated by little old ladies. One of the ladies was out sick quite often, which left the other lady to carry all the passengers. Her name was Pauline. Pauline and I did not hit it off too well in the beginning of our acquaintance together. Something about her scared me. Okay, she had an unsightly growth on her nose, and at the age of 17, I was very shallow. However, after a short while, I got to know her as a person and I found her to be very likeable. Sometimes she would make me little gifts like potholders. I worked in that building for four years. When I told her I was leaving, she told me, that in that case, she would retire. And she did.
The building manager, a farmer by trade, had two sons, both of whom worked in the building in various capacities. And, both of whom, impacted my life. But those are stories for another day.
Where am I going with all this. Oh, yeah...
Sunday's Chicago Tribune has an article entitled, Help line spawns new breed of elevator operators. It's about the people at Otis who take calls when something goes wrong with one of their elevators somewhere.
From 1981 to 1984, I worked on the 72nd floor of the Standard Oil Building, now known as the Aon Center. The SOB, as I call it, is a fascinating building with a fascinating, if short, history. When I went to work in the building, I quickly learned that the building facade consisted of white marble which was taken from the same quarry Michael Angelo used for his sculpture of David, and that the pylons are as deep into the Earth as the Empire State Building is tall. I don't know if either of those "facts" are true or not. Apparently, the first "fact" doesn't matter any more, since, according to skyscrapers.com:
From 1990 to 1992 the building's 43,000 marble cladding panels were replaced by two-inch-thick Mt. Airy granite panels at a cost of about $80 million.
As you can imagine, the SOB has lots of elevators and they are all automated. The bank of elevators I used to get to the 72nd floor consisted of a bank of eight cars. As I recall, those eight cars each stopped on the lower level, the mezzanine level (which I think was also the first floor), and the second and third floors. From the third floor, it was express all the way to the 68th floor. From the 68th floor, it was local all the way to the top (80).
The 50 or 60 secretaries at my firm each had a typewriter on their desk. The word processing department consisted of a Wang with ten terminals scattered around the office. The general procedure, if you wanted something done on word processing, was for the secretary to type the first draft of her document on pink paper. From there the document went to word processing where it was scanned. The document was then printed on dot matrix sort of printer. Actually, I don't know what type of printer it was because I had never seen anything like before or since. It operated on a sheet feeder and each page was printed with a single bang in about a second. Quite impressive. From there the document went back to the secretary for minor editing, then back to word processing for corrections and reprinting, then back to the secretary who gave it to the lawyer for major or minor editing as the case may be. Repeat until the document was finalized and ready to be printed on one of the daisy wheel printers. It was a long process. Word processing was strictly for lengthy documents and briefs. Since I developed a good relationship with the girls in word processing, they trusted me to operate the Wang system on my own without them being there. One of my bosses had a big appellate practice and I found I could get a lot more done if I did the word processing myself outside of the regular course of business.
It was a quiet Saturday sometime in about 1982, the exact date of which I can't recall. I had gone into the office to grab some computer time and some overtime pay. About 1:30 in the afternoon, I left the office and boarded the elevator to the main level. I watched the floor numbers descend past 68 and, in what was probably one or two seconds, the car stopped. I pushed some buttons, but nothing happened. Calmly I opened the little box below the control panel and there in all it's saving glory, was a brown telephone. I picked up the receiver and was immediately connected to the guard desk at the after hours entrance to the building. I told the guard who I was and what had happened. While the guard kept me on the line, he called Otis from another phone. After about ten minutes, someone from Otis showed up, the car lurched upward, and the doors opened on the 68th floor. After the Otis guy made sure I was okay, he disabled the car I was in, and we rode down to the first floor together. Yeah, the experience was a little rush.
End of elevator stories. For now.
7:10 PM | LMC | link
My hometown. Springfield, Illinois, is where President Abraham Lincoln made his home. He practiced law here. And, he's buried here. Springfield gets about a million visitors a year from all around the world. Not bad for a town of a little more than 100,000 population. Thanks Abe. In honor of the height of the tourist season, here's a list of the major tourist attractions:
Lincoln Home National Historic Site, 8-6 daily. Tickets, required for admission to home, available in Visitor Center, 426 S. Seventh St. Free.
12:42 PM | LMC | link
Sunday morning. I finally got the format the way I want it. Hopefully it looks okay on most other browsers. Enough talk about this journal.
11:04 AM | LMC | link