Another Frustrating Day For Washington County

This is not easy to write. The reason being that I spent 6+ hours on zoom today watching the state charter school commission hold another session about Woodland Prep charter, in Washington County.

It was sickening to say the least. Woodland Prep brought in one witness after another who had nothing but contempt for the folks of Washington County

The purpose of this meeting was to hear pro and con arguments as to whether or not the charter for Woodland Prep (that was granted two years ago this month) should be revoked.

At the end of the day we heard from the contractor who had nice charts about rainfall, the school leader (who is the only employee), someone who works part time for the school (and had to quit her church because people were mean to her), the board chair who does not live in the county and takes his kids to private school in Mississippi, a woman from McIntosh who has no kids in school, a former educator who has no kids in school, a businessman who has kids in public school, a brand new board member who lives in Utah, like Salt Lake City. And Mike Morley, founder of American Charter Development also in Utah, the company who owns the building and is paying all the bills.

At the end of the day, they were all victims who have been bullied and mistreated by the redneck masses of the county. they are just concerned about bringing good schools to Washington County. (that includes the board member from Utah who has never been to the county.)

Morley was a legislator in Utah for 10 years.  He is “slick.” even though he can’t keep his stories straight. For example he said his company did not get involved with Woodland Prep until their charier was approved.  He apparently forgot his company helped prepare the application.

He was also asked did it concern him that the National Association of Charter School Authorizers rejected the application partly on how lacking their budget plans were.(plans his company helped develop)  He said it did not because a charter should not have to depend on outside money.  This seemed unusual since one of his vice presidents put together Woodland Prep’s fund-raising plans.  So why does a company spend money on something that is meaningless?

Yes, I am biased, but it was a rag tag effort.  And tax payers from this state should not be treated with such disdain as they were today  It was sickening.

Oh. The outcome? Stay tuned. The charter commission will have another meeting on June 9 to decide what to do.

This is how we should conduct state business? Of course not, but who am I?

Here We Go Again

Any good All-American deep-fried “educrat” loves a good study.  About 150 pages on nice, shiny, slick paper, maybe with some charts and graphs tossed in.  Something that will look good when you hand them out at a press conference.  And that will still look pristine a couple years later when a secretary stumbles on a box of them in the back of a closet in some government office.

In fact, we like them so much that here in Alabama we’re about to spend up to $750,000 on one the voters of the state recently said they did not want.

Remember a year ago when the legislature planned to take control of the state department of education by getting rid of the elected state school board?  There was only one problem, the voters had to go along with the legislature by passing a constitutional amendment saying they did not want an elected state school board.

Obviously, someone did not think, the voters could think for themselves so they got the wheels rolling by setting aside $750,000 in the 2019-20 education trust fund budget to hire a consulting firm from Boston.

And as you see by this article, the consultants recently showed up to make a presentation to members of the state school board.  But when things really get interesting is when you to look at the 14-page Executive Summary.  Which you can do right here.

Back to the constitutional vote held on March 2, 2020.  Among other things, if passed we would have created the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.  But it did not pass.  Did not even come close to passing as voters rejected it 75 percent against, 25 percent in favor.

But apparently it takes a while for news to get from Montgomery to Boston because right there at the bottom on page one in the summary the consultants talk about how great it is that Alabama is creating the Alabama Commission on Elementary and secondary Education and doing away with the elected state school board.

Just one small problem.  IT AIN’T TRUE.

On page two of the summary it says the ALSDE (Alabama State Department of Education) must take full ownership and accountability for student progress across Alabama.  But where is the accountability for blunders like this?

 

Last Call For Some “Book Learning.”

According to grandpa, “learning” came in at least two varieties.  One was by “doing.”  Like when you find a flat surface to put down an old, crooked nail and make it straight again.  Of course, it helps if the surface is fairly hard and you are right particular just how you hold the nail.

The other being “book” learning, the kind a school boy should do when they have a desk and a book in front of them.

This is the variety my son Kevin will be doing on June 1 at 4 p.m.  Thanks to the good folks at the Alabama Humanities Foundation, Kevin is leading a discussion of the book, American Nations, by Colin Woodard every Monday of June.

For more info on how you can sign up for this on-line adventure, go here.

As I’ve said before, this is one of the most interesting books I have ever read and I’ve gone to it many times, which is why my copy is so dog-eared.  If you are like I used to be, when you studied the history of the United States you never paid much attention to how this country was settled and how the backgrounds of early settlers had great impact on the various regions of the U.S.  And continues to do so even today.

I can almost guarantee that at some point in this exercise you will have an “ah ha” moment.  One of those instances where a light goes off and you say, “damn, why haven’t I ever thought about that before.”

Hope to see you then.

One Of The Most Amazing Stories You Have Ever Heard.

You tube fascinates me.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked for anything on it without finding what I was looking for.  And then there are all the things I just “stumble” across.

Like this story about Doug White, who set off from Marco Island, FL on Easter Sunday 2009 to return home to Louisiana in a chartered plane.  They had scarcely gotten underway when the pilot suddenly had a heart attack and died.  Doug’s wife and two daughters were also with him.

While Doug had a wee bit of pilot experience many years ago, he was totally unfamiliar with the King Air 200 they were in.   What happened next can only be described as a “miracle.”  Through the grace of the Good Lord and support of a group of air traffic controllers, Doug was able to land at the Fort Myers airport.

You can relive the entire adventure by going here.  It will take you about 40 minutes, but you will be on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Then you can follow this with the equally gripping celebration of the team who got Doug and his family down by going here.  You have to marvel at all this folks who knew what to do–and then did it.  They were not looking for awards or accolades, they were just well-trained professionals rising to the occasion.

And in these very troubled times, their example is a wonderful lesson for us all.

What Makes Children Special

We all know children are special.  But from time to time we need to be reminded of just how special.  So I stole this from Facebook.

What Love means to 4-8-year-old kids

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds

‘What does love mean?’
The answers they got were broader, deeper, and more profound than anyone could have ever imagined!

See what you think

‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.. So, my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’
Rebecca- age 8

‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.’
Billy – age 4

‘Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.’
Karl – age 5

‘Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.’
Chrissy – age 6

‘Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.’
Terri – age 4

‘Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.’
Danny – age 8

‘Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.’
Bobby – age 7

‘If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate. ‘
Nikka – age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka’s on this planet)

‘Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.’
Noelle – age 7

‘Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.’
Tommy – age 6

‘During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.
He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.’
Cindy – age 8

‘My mommy loves me more than anybody You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.’
Clare – age 6

‘Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.’
Elaine-age 5

‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsome than Robert Redford.’
Chris – age 7

‘Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.’
Mary Ann – age 4

‘I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.’
Lauren – age 4

‘When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.’ (what an image)
Karen – age 7

‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross..’
Mark – age 6

‘You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.’
Jessica – age 8

And the final one:
The winner was a four-year-old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.
Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, ‘Nothing, I just helped him cry’

A Special Invitation

I have mentioned the book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard, a number of times.  It has made a big impact on the way I now view this country and the very meaningful regional differences that impact our culture.

For example, there are tremendous differences in the ancestors of us folks in the “deep south” and those who first inhabited New England’s “yankeedom.”  Differences that are impossible to ignore as we mistakenly try to compare education in say, Massachusetts, and Alabama.

And in June, my son Kevin is doing a series of webinars with the support of the Alabama Humanities Foundation, to discuss the book.  These will take place at 4 p.m. central time on June 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

You can sign up by going to this link.

Hope to see you there.

 

From Kansas With Love

We’ve all been heartened recently by stories of fellow citizens and their acts of kindness and charity during the pandemic.  Here is one from the Washington Post that got my attention.  For one, it’s about farmer Dennis Ruhnke of northeast Kansas.  Secondly, it was about a very small–but meaningful–act.

Ruhnke has farmed in Doniphan County, KS for decades.  The county is tucked beside the Missouri River just west of St. Joseph, MO.  As anyone who works the land will tell you, dust is part of the job.  Which is why reporter Derek Hawkins began his story this way:

“Dennis Ruhnke had a mask to spare.

He had found five of them while digging through some old farm equipment — five of the coveted, medical-grade N95 respirators that nobody could seem to get their hands on, not even the federal government. He used to wear them while cleaning out the grain bins. Now people talked about them on the news each night like they were worth their weight in gold.

Ruhnke and his wife, Sharon, needed the protection as the coronavirus pandemic swept through the country and menaced their community in rural Troy, Kan. Both were in their 70s, and Sharon suffered from dire health problems that would make an infection life-threatening.

But four masks would do, Ruhnke decided. The fifth should go to someone else who needed it.

In late March, after watching the death toll skyrocket in New York, he mailed a single respirator to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), along with a handwritten letter imploring him to give it to a healthcare worker.

“Please keep doing what you do so well,” he wrote, “which is to lead.”

It was the humblest of offerings in a desperate time. Cuomo, moved nearly to tears, read the letter aloud during a televised news conference in April, praising Ruhnke’s selflessness and helping the retired farmer achieve a moment of viral acclaim.

And on Tuesday, in honor of his generosity, Ruhnke received an award he’s waited decades for: a college degree.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) presided over an ad hoc commencement ceremony on the third floor of the statehouse, where Ruhnke received a diploma from Kansas State University. The distinction was nearly 50 years in the making: Ruhnke had to leave the university two credits short of a degree in 1971 to take over the family farm after his father’s sudden death.

Lauding Ruhnke’s goodwill as well as his extensive experience in agribusiness, Kelly noted that the degree was official and not just for show.

“He provided a dose of inspirational strength to America just as soon as we felt ourselves beginning to buckle under the crushing, prolonged weight of this crisis,” she said. “He has proved to us that he has mastered all the most important lessons that a university has to offer.”

Ruhnke had long ago written off any chance of getting a diploma. The last time he inquired about it, Kelly said, he was told he would have to start over because too much time had passed.

“Although he never doubted he made the right decision for his family,” Kelly said, “he could not quite shake the disappointment of not finishing what he had started.”

When Kelly learned about his mask donation, she asked university President Richard Myers whether he could award Ruhnke an honorary degree. Myers said his decades of farm work were enough to give him the real thing.

“I guess you call it karma,” said Ruhnke, wearing a purple-and-white Kansas State jersey, overalls and an N95 mask.

Speaking from the lectern, he said he had received many letters from people inspired by his example asking how they could help. “Just pay it forward as much as you can afford to do so to honor all of those who lost their lives to the C-19 virus,” he said. “And also to honor the first responders, who in some cases also lost their own lives in the line of duty — the ultimate sacrifice.”

Ruhnke’s donation came at a time when shortfalls in supplies of masks and other personal protective equipment have prompted widespread hoarding and price gouging. Hospitals and government officials have been forced into bidding wars over the medical gear, which is crucial for protecting front-line workers and patients with underlying conditions from infection.

In his letter to Cuomo, Ruhnke said his wife was diabetic and had only one lung, putting her at extremely high risk of developing a severe or fatal case of covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes. “Frankly, I am afraid for her,” he wrote.

He said he didn’t expect Cuomo to receive the note, knowing the governor was “busy beyond belief with the disaster that has befallen our country.” But he offered the N95, an unused relic from his farming days. “If you could,” he wrote, “would you please give it to a nurse or doctor.”

When the letter reached Cuomo weeks later, the governor read it in its entirety. Choking up, he called it a “snapshot of humanity.”

“It’s that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful,” Cuomo said. “And it’s that generosity for me makes up for all the ugliness that you see. Take one mask, I’ll keep four.”

What a great story.  What a great demonstration of the fabric and heartbeat of this land.  And what a contrast to those media types who spend 24/7 trying to drive wedges between us all.

Remembering Ms. Lanning

Our friend Wendy Lang from Decatur takes us back many decades to a Birmingham kindergarten class and her teacher, Ms. Lanning.  It’s a trip most of us could take, back to our own Ms. Lanning, someone who touched our young lives in special ways and enriched us far more than they might ever have imagined.

And in such trying times as we now find ourselves, such memories are more precious and sweeter than ever before.

“I remember very well the year I turned five. Daddy took a position at Steel City Olds in Birmingham and we packed up what we needed from our home in Decatur and took a one room apartment for the year. Mother signed me up for kindergarten at South Avondale Baptist Church and from 9 until noon each day, I was totally spellbound by Mrs. Lanning, my teacher.

Mrs. Lanning was remarkable. Every day was a new adventure. We learned French and sang songs and took walks that led us to fun things to do right there in the neighborhood. We went to a farm where I refused to milk the cow and rode a train from way far away right in to the center of town at the biggest most elaborate train station I had ever been privy to see. It was also the only train station I had ever seen.

I remember one evening in May Mother dressed me in my Sunday best with my white gloves, black patent Mary Janes polished to shine and crinoline petticoats that put little squares in my rear end when I sat down. It was a special occasion…..my kindergarten graduation. Mother and Daddy were thrilled and I marched in with my class and took my seat and waited my turn. Mrs. Lanning called my name and I walked up to her and she handed me my diploma curled up like a scroll and tied with a white satin bow. It was a proud moment.

At the reception following the ceremony, she took me in her arms and gave me the biggest hug and I told her that I would never forget her. To this day, my tattered and torn diploma is hung proudly with those from high school, college, graduate school and other schools I have been blessed to attend. But the thought that sticks out to me tonight as I contemplate Teacher Appreciation Week is the real impact that she had on my life.

Years later I went on to become a kindergarten teacher in the basement of the old stone building at Eva School. While the building has been torn down, I will forever cherish the memories of those children who taught me while I was there (yes, you read that right), but even more so, I will always remember the love, the creativity and the imagination that Mrs. Lanning brought to South Avondale Baptist Church Kindergarten and to me. She taught me more than 1,2,3’s and A,B,C’s. She taught me by example and I am proud to have followed her lead.

To everyone who touches the life of a child, you have instilled in them dreams, desires and ambitions and have lead by example. Thank you for giving of your heart to our children. You are appreciated not just this week, but every day of the year”

I Wish I Had Written This

Frances Coleman has been a friend for many years.  I met her when she wrote editorials for the old Mobile Press Register, way back in the day when newspapers were printed on paper and were available every day of the week.  A time that now seems so long ago that cars had fender skirts and clutches and gear shifts.

Today she does an occasional opinion piece for AL.com.  Hers stand out to me because they always make sense, which is not praise I offer to many such efforts by others.

She recently did one entitled, Leave the rest of us out of your zombie apocalypse fantasies.  Here is what she wrote:

“I am aware that there’s a virus out there called COVID-19 that has afflicted more than 3 million people around the world. I know that it has killed nearly a quarter of a million people.

I’m also aware, as you probably are, too, that there’s no cure or vaccine for the virus and that, for now, the unknowns outweigh the knowns. And I understand that our efforts to contain the virus are taking a terrible toll on the global economy.

But here’s what I don’t understand about COVID-19: Why, in addition to causing fever, body aches, pneumonia and even death, it can cause some people to act like fools.

When they’re upset about a government’s policy, normal people write letters or make phone calls to their elected officials. Sometimes they attend town hall meetings so they can speak their piece in public. If those tactics don’t seem to be working, they may even march on City Hall.

But normal people don’t dress up in militia costumes, sling rifles over their shoulders and barge into the Michigan state capitol building because they’re angry about the governor’s stay-at-home order. They don’t shout at state troopers and assert that the governor is a Nazi.

Similarly, normal people don’t defy the Alabama governor’s decision to keep restaurants, barber shops and nail salons closed for a little while longer. They don’t post signs like the one in front of a restaurant near Mobile that said, “Kay, let my people go, or else.”

“Or else”? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Is it simply a reminder that they and other Alabamians might vote Gov. Kay Ivey out of office if she runs again in 2022? Or is it meant to suggest something more sinister, that she might actually be in physical danger because she’s not re-opening the state’s economy fast enough to suit them?

Normal people don’t threaten governors. Fools, on the other hand, apparently do. They garner TV reporters’ attention and headlines on the front pages of newspapers across the country. Even if they don’t intend to harm governors here, there or anywhere, they are crude, rude and disruptive.

And fools aren’t content with disturbances and disobedience. They seem to revel in disrupting ordinary people’s lives, too, because … well, because that’s how fools behave.

Normal people generally keep enough paper products to last for a few weeks. But when a fool decides that although one or two giant packages of toilet paper would last his family a month, he (or she) should buy 10 or 12 giant packages, then other fools rush to the store to buy 10 or 12 giant packages, too, and guess what: There’s not enough toilet paper for the rest of us.

Before you know it, normal people are skulking through grocery stores, dollar stores and discount stores, desperately seeking Charmin. Ditto for hand sanitizer, paper towels, Clorox wipes and Lysol spray.

When fools start buying 30 pounds of ground meat and 10 whole chickens at a time, then the rest of us find ourselves staring at empty shelves in the meat department. When a normal family’s upright freezer goes out and can’t be repaired because it’s nearly 30 years old, guess what: That family — my family — can’t find a freezer in stock at the local appliance store or at any of the big-box stores in nearby cities, because the fools who bought all that meat apparently needed new freezers in which to store it.

“For what?” I asked a friend in the appliance business. “I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. “The zombie apocalypse, I guess.”

That’s where the zombie-apocalypse crowd and I diverge. I’ve always assumed that when society collapses, so will utility services, meaning that electric freezers won’t do anybody much good and that toilet paper — no matter how much you’ve stashed — will eventually run out.

To them and the armed protesters and people who post signs that say “Or else,” I say this: The COVID-19 pandemic is a terrible thing, but it is not likely to bring about the collapse of civilization, much less of the United States. There is enough meat and toilet paper and freezers for all of us, and stores and restaurants will open in due time.

If I acknowledge that I may never understand what scares you or motivates you, will you in turn stop making life so hard for us normal folks?

Be foolish on your own time and your own dime, please, and leave the rest of us out of your fantasies.”

Frances Coleman is a freelance writer who lives in Baldwin County, Alabama. Email her at fcoleman1953@gmail.com and “like” her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/prfrances.

George W. Bush: ‘We are not partisan combatants’ in fight against coronavirus

While this country grapples with the chaos and confusion of the coronavirus and political “leaders” put their own self-interest above what is best for the nation, former Republican President George W. Bush, released a statement that should be taken to heart by all Americans.

And in so doing, he graphically shows just how shameless and little so many are who would have us all believe only they have all the answers.

“Former President George W. Bush called on Americans to abandon partisan divides in the face of the “sheer threat” of the coronavirus pandemic in a video released on Saturday.

Bush’s comments come as Democratic governors clash with Republican President Donald Trump over the White House’s coronavirus response, and even drugs that could treat the virus are politicized.

More than a million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus, and well over 60,000 people have died from the virus in the United States. The White House has said it expects total deaths to rise to 74,000 by August.

“Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this sheer threat,” Bush said. “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together.”

In the nearly 3-minute video, shared by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Bush said he saw the nation “embrace unavoidable new duties” after the 9/11 terror attacks, and that “spirit is alive and well in America.” The former president also issued a warning that the impact of the pandemic will not be felt equally.

“Let’s remember that the suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly. In the days to come, it will be especially important to care in practical ways for the elderly, the ill and the unemployed,” Bush said. More than 30 million people have filed for unemployment in the last six weeks, as the economy has largely shut down to combat the pandemic.”

These are the words of a statesman.  A very rare breed in Washington these days.