So a brand new year is here. Once again I will work hard to remember to get the date correct when I write checks. (Yes, there are some among us who still write checks, address envelopes and buy stamps.)
But before moving on, I’ll take one last look at the year I became 72 years old.
I published my first book. Well, kinda sorta. I wince when I say book because it is only 22 pages in all from stem to stern. “Booklet” fits it better. But hey, you can find it on Amazon and that gives it some validation I suppose. Titled In the Land of Cotton, it’s a look at how our values are still shaped by the land. Of course I am hardly impartial, but I still think it is insightful.
And I began this blog last April without a clue of what I was getting into. It’s been quite a trip and I’m grateful for all the comments and emails I’ve received from readers. Thankfully, 99 percent of the response has been positive. I posted 235 times and had more than 115,000 views. Now with the expert help of my friend Deb Geiger in Daphne, we’re doing some re-designing and increasing the blog presence on Facebook and Twitter. Many tell me they repost articles to both of these and that is appreciated.
And I certainly encourage feedback. If you have a thought you wish to share or know of something good going on in your local schools I am right here at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-787-0410.
Numbers wise, 2015 was a year I wrote 23 articles for newspapers across the state, made 26 speeches all the way from Huntsville to Mobile and drove nearly 19,000 miles to listen, learn and make new friends.
One I made who stands out is Warren Callaway of Birmingham who runs the Scholarships For Kids scholarship granting organization. This may come as a real surprise to some, given that I am constantly writing about the shortcomings I see in the Alabama Accountability Act. But Warren is a genuine good guy with a good heart. Obviously there are things we disagree on, but that does not lessen my respect for him.
It was also the year some guy on the other side of the Atlantic decided to stop by my computer and lock up all my document and picture files. This was my introduction to a world I had no clue existed. The “underbelly” of the internet if you will. He used the name of “David Blaine” who is a well-known magician. I suppose because he made my files disappear This story had a semi-good ending as I recovered most of my files, but not all. My advice, the “cloud” is your friend.
When I spoke to the Retired Educators group in Marion County I had lunch sitting with a delightful couple from Guin who were both retired teachers and both in their 90s. The amazing thing is that they have spent their retirement years traveling the world on mission trips and were planning their next venture.
I was humbled each time I spoke to retired educators because I knew I was looking into a sea of faces who had devoted untold hours working with young people. Not to get rich, but because it was what they were supposed to do. One lady I met in Birmingham worked more than 50 years in education.
Of all the things I encountered last year, none impressed me more than the seven students from Russellville who won the international rocketry contest at last summer’s Paris Air Show. This was after defeating 700 U.S. teams. They are amazing and certainly a testament to what happens in many schools daily.
I thought about these students when a legislator wrote a blog comment saying we have “awful schools” in Alabama. Me being me, I sent him an email asking him to name some of these “awful schools.” He told me I was just trying to be argumentative.
One of my talks was to a Republican group in Vestavia. They were very warm and responsive. Several legislators were there. One later emailed a friend and said some of the things I said were “false” and “untrue.” Once again, me being me, I sent him a copy of my remarks and asked that he point out where I misspoke. He said he would. He didn’t.
I sat in the office of principal Debbie Devours at little Berry Elementary in Fayette County while she told me how she has to fund-raise to pay for the school’s telephone service and copying machine rental. At the same time I thought about lawmakers who insist we have a surplus of funding for education. Obviously they have never been to Debbie’s school.
The most poignant moment came when I sat in a hearing at the Statehouse about amending the Alabama Accountability Act so that scholarship granting organizations could pay up to $10,000 for a high school scholarship, $8,000 for middle school and $6,000 for elementary. Hope Zeanah, assistant superintendent for the Baldwin County system was there with her two grandchildren, one in kindergarten and one in first grade. She had them with her when she addressed the legislative committee and asked why the state only sent $5,400 to Baldwin County to educate one of her grandchildren, but was OK with giving $10,000 to a student going to private school.
No one responded.
HAPPY NEW YEAR