Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My letter to the School Board about the JCPS transportation mess

After watching the horror stories of lost kids and terrified parents yesterday, I have some questions that I'd like answered and comments I'd like to make. 

  • Dr. Berman was quick to lay blame at the feet of three principals, calling them ill prepared and noting they had not practiced the plans.   Berman then acknowledged later they needed to make sure principals printed out the tags before the first day of school.  Why was this not a requirement of Rick Caple and his transportation team to follow up on?   Why isn't Caple or his staff suspended as well?
  • Will there be any analysis of ALL elementary schools to see if perhaps King, Lincoln, and Chancey were impacted by their own special circumstances as much as they were being unprepared?   Is it possible other schools weren't prepared but got lucky by virtue of the makeup of their student body that they weren't impacted?    Berman himself said, "This is about how you deal with a magnet school and how it interfaces with a regular transportation system.  Is that pretty clear?"  If Berman thought magnet schools were an exception, why didn't he or his well paid transportation staff give them special attention?    
  • Dr. Berman pointed out that many of the students at these schools were ESL.   Does this speak to the need to provide better outreach to these students and parents to try to avoid this problem in the future? 
  • This happened at the END of the school day.  Were schools required as part of that first day's housekeeping to make sure that EACH student's afternoon transportation needs were identified early and that if they weren't clear, that parents were contacted?  If they weren't, why not?  Seems like a great time to try to clear this up rather than 5 PM.  
  •  Dr. Berman didn't know the circumstances surrounding the worst incidents of students being late, nor did he know if the children who were delivered late received any food.  In fact, he seems angry at the question about food.   Why?  How can it not dawn on the leader of an organization devoted to children that one of the most important things might be the child's comfort?   Does it bother any of you that Berman didn't know this fact almost a full day later?    He said "the children were well cared for".  How does he know that?  
  • Dr. Berman's comment about if principals were adequately prepared for the plan, he mentioned monthly meetings and said he told them, "Thank you for all of your effort, this is the most critical first day we've had, and I know you're all behind it."    Having spent the last ten years managing projects, I know that a blanket statement to dozens of individuals is a lot different than making sure that people are prepared individually.   Does Dr. Berman really think lofty statements like this are a guarantee everything will go smoothly, and does he think that it's better to punish principals than to make sure they're going to follow through on the thing he considers so critical? 
  • Dr. Berman said "I think the press exaggerated the situation to some degree."   Really?   Which part?   He then tries to point to statistics to show that all but 200 students got home by 6:30.   Isn't that 2 and 1/2 hours after school lets out?    Is it okay to the School Board that Berman seems to think those 200 are simply a statistical anomaly and not worthy of outrage?   
Since I've had a child at JCPS, I've seen Dr. Berman blame his staff and principals for suspending after school programs.   I've seen him blame weathermen for not accurately predicting rush hour weather on a day when buses were skidding all over the ice and snow.  And now he places the blame on principals for additional transportation failures.   It's time that YOU hold Dr. Berman accountable since he seems incapable of doing it himself. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trying is the first step toward failure.

I read a book awhile back that talked about the differences between kids who were told they were smart and kids who told they worked hard.    Using experiments they discovered that kids who had the idea reinforced that their successes were "because you're smart" had a more difficult time working through difficult tasks than ones that were told their success was because they worked hard. 

As someone who spent his childhood classified as "gifted" and "smart", this hit home.   I certainly worked hard in school, loading up on advanced classes, putting in lots of hours on homework, papers, and more.   But certainly in my head every single time I hit any snag I wondered why I wasn't smart enough to zip past it, and found my desire to give up great each and every time.  

Reading this book at the age of 38, I realized how much of my life was ruled by the idea that I was smart, and not that I worked hard.   I seldom equated my successes with hard work, even though there were plenty of instances where the two matched up, from weight loss to getting a full tuition scholarship to college.     Instead, I've dwelled on the failures, which have mostly stemmed from giving up too easy, or assuming that the fact that I am/was/iz "gifted" means doors should magically fall open. 

The truth is that as I've thought about becoming more successful and living my dreams, I realize I've spent most of my life being Homer Simpson, thinking that trying is the first step toward failure.   I never seem to realize that failure is the first step to success. 

I say this several weeks after saying to myself, "I need to start writing again."    Here I sit again having not made that first step.  Why?   The book could suck.   Or I could hit a wall.    Or I could write something that friends and family don't like.    Or I could waste a lot of time on nothing.    Or maybe I'll hate it. 

All excuses.   All lame.  

What about you?  What's holding you back?   Is trying the first step toward failure for you? 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Annoying Friend

It's been 20 years since I last saw my friend. She wasn't a friend in the sense that we were close, but we had several classes together in high school and got to know each other well enough to think kindly of each other. She also was close friends with people I considered myself close to.

Secretly though, I found her annoying. You see, I can't remember this girl ever looking unhappy. She wore a big smile on her face, acted silly, and was one of those irritating people that always seemed happy.

Oh, I could be happy, but I could also be a first class grump. What was she so damned happy about. Seriously? Obviously she was oblivious to what was really going on in the world. Didn't she see what was going on around her? Always sweet, friendly, and upbeat. Never had a bad word to say about anyone. Who can stand people like that?

A year or so ago I started organizing our 20 year class reunion with a friend. We used Facebook and another website and slowly began to reconstruct the connections to the 400 plus people we graduated with. People I'd known since I was four but hadn't talked to in two decades began to surface. Friendships also blossomed with people I thought were too snobby to talk to me, or I was too snobby to talk to. I saw lots of pictures of kids,heard hints of classmates with grandchildren(!), saw skinny people who got fat, fat people who got skinny, and guys who once had proud heads of hair suffering the same fate as me. The odd thing was that for most of us, I think the twenty years melted away in an instant. And while we were all still kids and nursed the same insecurities, we'd grown up.

To be honest, I didn't really think much about my annoyingly happy friend during that time. She joined the reunion website and Facebook, and we exchanged pleasantries, but she was just another one of the 400 people I was trying to track down and collect as a Facebook friend. Then, a year ago today (something I just realized when I went back and looked through my e-mails), the smiling, laughing, always happy girl shared this news:

I wanted to reach out and let you know about something going on with me. I’ve been diagnosed with stage IIIb melanoma. For those of you that don’t have experience with cancer (and I hope you don’t!), melanoma is an extremely aggressive skin cancer and stage IIIb means it’s spread to my lymph nodes.

I’m doing okay, but it’s been a tough few weeks. My husband Mike has been wonderful, my parents have come down and have helped out, and even my 3-year old Nathan has been extra-sweet and loving.

Cancer. The disease that killed my cousins, grandparents, and a beloved uncle. How was this even possible at 38?

When I read these notes and her updates, I would often go to her Facebook page and look at her picture. I wonder if anyone else did. The picture was a way of assuring us that she was okay, still the same old happy Allison, even though it was clear from her updates that the disease was winning against everything she threw at it. Surely the person in that picture (who looked little changed from the person I knew 20 years earlier) could not be brought down by this disease.

It was that happiness, optimism, and smile that I think probably kept all of us who knew her hopeful. When we heard the end was near right before Christmas, that optimism made the blow impossible to stomach. I thought of what it would mean to leave my own young child behind and not be able to be there for them. I thought of Allison's parents, who so many of us knew, and the unspeakable pain that comes with having your child suffer and not being able to stop it. And I thought of how, even though so many of us still considered part of ourselves to be the mixed up teenagers we were 20 years ago, we'd truly done a lot of growing up since then.

Almost a year ago, Allison wrote a "25 Things About Me" post on her Facebook page. She ended it with this:

One day far in the future I want to be able to look back on this tough year and see how it helped me become a better and stronger version of myself.

Allison Godbey Crupi died on Christmas Day, 2010, leaving behind a loving husband, son, and family.

I hope those of us who knew her, cared about her, and survived this tough year will be able to find themselves a better and stronger version of themselves.

And Allison, it took me twenty years to realize that your smile and optimism was not annoying, it was simply enduring.

Jay Leno Tonight Show Outline

Monologue -- Run out, greet audience, tell several obvious and often cruel jokes. Repeat stupid punchlines three or four times each while laughing so that people realize it was supposed to be funny. Be sure to include your bandleader in the monologue by saying, "Did you hear?" several times.

Band and sidekick -- Make it a point to find people with whom you have no chemistry. It is important to find people who sort of look hip, but without any edge. Above all, make sure that sidekick/band leader is pleasant but is incapable contributing any laughs on his own and kisses your ass at every turn. YOU are the comedian and star. That's why you constantly laugh at yourself, so that people never forget that.

Bits -- Assemble comedy bits stolen from other funnier people. When people don't get that you've taken several bits from Howard Stern, steal his former intern.

Interviews -- Ignore what made Carson great by ignoring your guests. If you shake your head occasionally, laugh, and say, "uh huh" or "is that right?" nobody will notice. Your job is to take the guest from point A to commercial.

And oh yeah, and if a football player savagely murders two people, never miss the opportunity to turn it into comedy gold night after night after night after night after night.

Rinse, repeat, and continue to laugh at yourself because nobody with a brain cell will be.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Things I'd like to see less of in the 201x's.

In this coming decade (yeah, I know, 2011 is officially the start of the new decade, but I go by the third digit), here are some things I'd like to see less of:

  • Self-mutilation as an attention getter (multiple piercings, huge tattoos, big holes in the earlobe)
  • "Expert" commentary from people on polar opposite sides of issues
  • The idea that any one person's entire line of thinking can be summed up by one political party.
  • Republicans vs. Democrats
  • Stupidity explained as "controversy". Climate change is real. Evolution is real. Neither is a controversy.
  • The United States rising to challenges instead of pretending they don't exist.
  • "Reality" Television
  • Celebrity granted to people with no talent or ability. (Balloon Boy Parents, Kardashians, Sarah Palin, this means you.)
  • "Breaking" News
  • Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Michelle Bachman, and the other hundreds of representatives who put the pandering to the party over what is best for the country.
  • Musicians who attempt to shock us. Nothing you can do short of murdering a bandmate on state will have an impact anymore.
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Weather Fearcasters
  • "War on" everything
  • Any word that ends in "-gate"

Friday, January 1, 2010

My New Year's Resolutions

I never try to set goals, except when it comes to winning Powerball. In fact, my sheer inability to hit Powerball is scientific proof that goals don't work.

Since we're in a new year and a new decade, perhaps it is actually time to start setting some goals. Time to make some resolutions I can break by January 2nd, so that I can move onto remaining a mediocre person surrounded by better people.

So, here are some things I hope to accomplish in 2010. I'm not going too big, in hopes of not crushing my spirit when I look back a month from now and don't remember writing half of this.

  1. To be a happier person with more positive thoughts and disposition.
  2. To be more patient.
  3. To write something every day, be it a blog post, article, a page for a book, etc. (Note: This doesn't include Facebook statuses.)
  4. To stay employed.
  5. To find a more engaging job or at least more engagement within the job I currently do within my current company.
  6. To finish my Christmas story by June.
  7. To lose 30 pounds by June.
  8. To read 36 books by the end of the year. (Three a month should be doable, right?)
  9. To try to get at least six hours of sleep a night.
  10. To spend less time aimlessly surfing the Internet.