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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mick Zais - Public School Advocate? We Think Not.

Here were are, well into Mick Zais's term as State Superintendent of Education.  How has he done so far?   My belief is that he has done a poor job of advocating for our state's public school.  He has declined federal money that could have been used to improve instruction in our schools.  He said that he did so because of the strings attached to the money, but I doubt that.  Even if true, that is no justification for giving needed funding back to the feds, or for declining to apply for it.  It's not as if we saved that money for taxpayers.  It simply went to a different state to use to improve its schools.  In other words, SC taxpayers were screwed into improving someone else's schools, when we could have used the funds here in South Carolina.  When the State Board of Education called him on it, and asked for a monthly report of available federal grants, he refused to comply.  They threatened to sue him but eventually backed down. I gotta side with him on the report issue.  HE is the State Superintendent of Education and the responsibility to apply for federal grants is HIS as the Constitutional officer designated to be the advocate for for South Carolina schools.  He has failed in that role. 

Most recently,  He submitted his budget request to the General Assembly for the next fiscal year.  In it, he basically caved to the Republican leadership and did not even ask for an increase in the Base Student Cost, nor for an increase in the Minimum Salary Schedule.  Even if fully funded, the BSC will still be about 1000 dollars per student and teachers will have gone four years without a raise.  I understand that the BSC suffered under the recession, but the time has come to begin its restoration.  If any raise in pay or per pupil expenditures is to come, it will be left to individual districts to pay for it on their own.  This is altogether unacceptable.  The state has a constitutional duty to provide a free, quality public education.  Teachers and other school personnel are heroically trying to do that, but it seems that the state's leadership is far less interested in doing so. Worse, they often become obstacles to improvement.  So, I have reluctantly concluded that Mick Zais is more party hack than school advocate.  He seems to care more about the Republican party than about the state's public schools, and by extension, the children in them.  Shame on us if we give him another term to abandon South Carolina Public Schools.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reflections on Past, Present and Future

Got his from my first cousin Greg Turner and thought it was worth sharing.  The author is anonymous.

I grew up with practical parents. A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it... A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.
Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away..
I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, and dish-towel in the other. It was the time for fixing things.. A curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep.
It was a way of life, and  sometimes it made me crazy.. All that re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there would always be more.

But then my mother died, and on that clear summer's night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any more.
Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away...never to return.. So... while we have it..... it's best we love it.... and care for it... and fix it when it's broken......... and heal it when it's sick.
This is true for marriage....... and old cars..... and children with bad report cards..... and dogs with bad hips.... and aging parents..... and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.
Some things we keep. Like a   best friend that moved away or a classmate we grew up with.
There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special........ and so, we keep them close!

I received this from someone who thinks I am a 'keeper', so I've sent it to the people I think of in the same way... Feel free to share this with those who are "keepers" in your life.  Good friends are like stars.... You don't always see them, but you know they are always there.  Keep them close!

1.... God won't ask what kind of car you drove. He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation..
2.... God won't ask the square footage of your house, He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
3.... God won't   ask about the clothes you had in your closet, He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.
4... God won't ask what your highest salary was. He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.
5.... God won't ask what your job title was. He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
6... God won't ask how many friends you had. He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
7.... God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived, He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.
8.... God won't ask about the color of your skin, He'll ask about the content of your character.
9.... God won't ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation. He'll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of Hell.
10.... God won't have to ask how many people with whom you shared this article.  He may asked how many people you you shared him with.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Only through better people will we become a better nation and world.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Outrageous Conduct

As always, the news is full of examples of outrageous conduct.  Lately, though, it seems like the world of sports has provided lots of them.  The allegations at Penn State are a case in point. A retired assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, is accused of molesting eight boys, using a charity he founded to meet his victims and Penn State athletic facilities to carry out his despicable intent.  Others witness his acts in person and report it only to their superiors.  As it goes up the chain of command, a cover up ensues.  The results?  While still developing, Sandusky has been arrested and charged, despite his denials.  His victims have their wrecked lives.  This is the most tragic result of all.  We have all known abuse victims, and we know what carnage abuse produces.  The President, Vice President, and Athletic Director have all been fired, along with legendary Head Coach Joe Paterno.  The reputation of a great university has been destroyed and will take years to recover.  An Assistant Coach, McQuery, witnessed an act in person and told his superiors a day later and did nothing to stop the act in progress.  A fine example of outrageous conduct from beginning to the still-to-be determined end.  Take your pick of villains in this story.  Easily Sandusky is the most despicable of the lot, but what about about McQuery?  How is he still working.  What about Paterno?  Did it not matter that when he was told, he did nothing to follow up on his report up the chain?  What about the administrators, why did they do nothing to stop the abuse?  Every single on of these people are mandatory reporters by law and each one broke that law.  Would the two who witnessed sex acts not be guilty of depraved indifference for not having stopped the activity in progress?  Having been a mandatory reporter myself, I cannot comprehend how so many in positions of responsibility and authority could be so callous about the suffering of children.

Later in the week, we learned of allegations that Bernie Fine, assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University molested ball boys for the team over a period of years.  Fine has since been fired. If true, his acts are outrageous.  He was in a position of authority with these boys and he used basketball trips to carry out his nefarious business.   His boss, Jim Boeheim issued a statement calling the accusers liars and defending his friend and colleague.  I learned a while ago that defending your friend under such circumstances is bad business.  If you are in a position of influence or authority, never say flatly that allegations are not true.  You don't know everything, even about close friends and colleagues.  They may be.  Today he was wiser, saying that we all need to let the investigation and legal system run its course.  He toned down his rhetoric in the face of new allegations and the "discovery" of an audiotape of a telephone conversation in 2002 (important detail) between one of alleged victims and the wife of the accused.  In the audiotape, she states that she knows all about her husbands behavior and that he has issues.  Clueless.  Was he thinking that these actions were some sort of benign, victimless crime?  Now for the really interesting part.  The victim, Bobby Davis, gave this audiotape to ESPN (yes that one) in 2002.  They felt that it wasn't enough to run a story.  OK.   But they also did not pass the information along to law enforcement at the time.  They sat on the information in this audiotape for 10 years.  Ten Years!  When asked why, their spokesman said that they did not see it as their job to turn over evidence they uncovered.  Really?  This isn't a sports story we are talking about here.  It's a story about a coach using his influence and authority to get sex from young boys associated with the team.  Talk about depraved indifference!  Casually dismissing the possible suffering and exploitation of children because it's not their job?  ESPN's conduct is outrageous and worthy of scorn, just like the abusers.  Hey ESPN, it is all of our jobs to protect our children from abuse.  Got it?

As these stories develop and new ones emerge, as they surely will, I want to see how all these characters pay for their apathy towards the victims of these alleged crimes. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Man on the Moon

Yesterday, Casey Anthony was released from jail and promptly vanished into thin air.  Can't really blame her for that, I suppose.  Despite being found not guilty by a jury of her peers, she is widely believed to have killed her daughter, Caylee, and gotten away with it.  I have no doubt that some would like to take matters into their own hands.  I am not conflicted on that point.  The jury spoke and we all have to live with it.  On one hand, she stood trial and was found not guilty.  I tend to respect jury's findings just because that is how the system works.  The prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence and they failed to establish the facts beyond reasonable doubt.  We have all seen people convicted with less compelling circumstantial evidence, and her behavior, whether guilty or not, was appalling.  I thought she did it and still do.  Why else would you not report your missing daughter for thirty days, party during that time, or lie to police?  With so much about the case we don't know, this I know for certain.  Even if she killed Caylee, she will not get away with it.  First, she is a pariah and will have to keep a low public profile, before the book and movie come out, course.  She will be reviled for the rest of her life.  Secondly, she will not be able to fool God on Judgement Day.  That is when  she will pay for killing Caylee, if in fact she did.  Then, justice will be served, no matter who killed the child or behaved with such depraved indifference as Casey Anthony behaved. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Finally Feel Like Writing Again

March 31 was the day I last blogged, mourning the death of Wanda Warner.  Yours truly has been in a blue funk since then, but I feel myself coming out of it now.  Obviously, losing a friend to cancer is hard, but her death, while difficult to bear, was not the only reason for my state of mind.  Don't want to take time to enumerate the reasons, but suffice to say that I feel like writing again.  Writing has long been an outlet of mine since the Clemson Writing Project back in 1983.  Dr. Virginia Stanley (V) and Dr. Ron Lunsford got me to think seriously about writing then and I have done that since.  One of the greatest things I ever did was to join CWP ad get to know Virginia.  She is a smart, funny, wonderful person.  Composing, evaluating, or assessing - it makes no difference to me.  I love to talk writing instruction, but I love reading good writing more.  This causes me to read books like a maniac, then slack off for a while.  Some books challenge my beliefs, some my intellect, and some my sense of humor.  I want to write like that and I try.  Composing, organizing my thoughts, and word-crafting give me a clear mind and a happy heart.  Success in the effort is rare, but I have to keep writing.  It is a big part of my sanity strategy - to stay sane enough to stay out of assisted living as long as possible.  So expect to hear from me more often.  As always I invite and want your comments - even if they say, "you suck - turn off the computer."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

When Great Souls Die

My friend Elizabeth Bost turned me on to the following poem when another great soul died. I thought of it when I learned of the death today of my good friend and wonderful colleague, Wanda Warner, following a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. Like everything else she did, she fought cancer with a positive attitude, great courage, and grace. Wanda was a rare breed, possessing rare intellect, rare compassion, rare leadership skill, and rare fortitude. Having known her for ten years now, I can tell you that she was exceptional human being. We grieve because our families have become good friends. We hurt for her husband Dick and son Andrew, and we hurt for ourselves. I am glad that she suffers no longer and is in the arms of her Saviour. I miss her already and will for some time to come, but I am grateful to have worked with her, known her, and been her friend. So I share this wonderful poem but they exceptional Maya Angelou.

When Great Souls Die

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests
small things recoil into silence
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe briefly,
see with a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls
dependent on their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed and informed by their
fall away. We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable
ignorance of cold dark caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
--Maya Angelou

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is This What They Meant?

During the last election candidates all over SC, sspecially Nikki Haley, beat the drum for transparency in government.  In the March 19-20 Edition of the Seneca Journal, one page in particular caught my eye, because all of the stories were about Gov. Haley and Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.  The first story was about Gov. Haley removing Darla Moore from a state board, I forget which one, and replacing her with a campaign donor of hers.  Now, she is entitled to do that, but you gotta wonder if the appointment was more about campaign donations than qualifications.  Mrs. Moore is a noted philanthropist, having given significant money to both USC and Clemson.  Now you may say, "That's not so bad."  You would be right about that.  By all accounts Mrs. Moore was a good member, but she is a mite independent.  We certainly would not want that standing in the way of the new governor, now would we?  The next story involved her replacing the entire SC Arts Commission Board with her own appointees.  A different approach to the Arts for South Carolina?  I should say so.  Their task is to de-fund the Arts Commission of state money.  In other words, get your own people in office to do your bidding.  That cleans up the old way - having to lead people to see the wisdom of your ideas.

The final story about Governor Haley was most troubling.  Her application for a Lexington County hospital job claimed she had made 125 K as accountant for her parents' business, when, in fact, tax records show that she made 22.5 K.  When asked about it she simply said she didn't do it - that somebody else, at the hospital, must have completed the application for her.  The hospital released a statement saying that was not true, and that she might consider involving the authorities regarding her stolen identity, since someone else completed the application.  As a retired principal, I must say that a 3rd grade student often uses the "I just didn't do it" defense.  Quite often, it isn't the truth.
Coupled with the use of the same defense when accused three times of infidelity, it makes me wonder if our new governor plays fast and loose with the truth.  Those three men did not confess to their wives if it were not true, just to protect a political candidate.  At first I thought, Mark Sanford in a skirt, but I think that gives the former governor too little credit.  What will she not do to get her way?

Ken Ard is accused by the Ethics Commission of 92 violations of the state Ethics law.  According to the report, he bought clothes for his wife, vacations, including flights, for his family, and other violations involving the use of campaign money for personal expenses.  I feel particularly aggrieved because I voted for the guy.  If true, these accusations represent an egregious disregard for ethical behavior.  If I read the news right, his response was that he had done nothing illegal.  Well, Bless Your Heart!  Once elected, all officials OWE US their most honest efforts at good, ethical government.  Come to think of it, this is about as transparent as it gets.  Do anything to get elected, then do anything to get your way.  Finally, do anything to get re-elected.