Category: school

School Votes without the Bulldog

It’s the school budget vote today. So first off, if you haven’t voted yet, get out there and vote. You can find out all the details about the budget and where and when to vote over here. But beyond that, it’s a strange year for the vote. Yes, last year we had the whole COVID thing to deal with, which swallowed up any recollection I have of the vote. (It passed the first time? I think? I honestly can’t remember what happened.) But every year before that, the community had its annual flamewars on the local online paper, The Daily Bulldog.

That was all before the Bulldog stopped allowing comments on its articles. I am still very pleased that they did that, though I also know all it did was sweep the problem under the rug. There’s still plenty of disagreement in the community, ranging from people earnestly trying to do the right thing on both sides down to people who really just want to troll the other side, down to people who espouse some pretty base ideas. They’re all still there, only very much muffled.

So in a way, it’s disconcerting to have this vote happening today and to not have any real idea how much opposition there is to the budget. It’s another increase, so you have to assume there’s a fair bit of chatter and consternation, simply judging by the fact that there always has been, and the trend has been toward that increasing, not decreasing. Budget uncertainties elsewhere will only compound the problem.

Without all that bickering back and forth, it’s hard to know what will happen. How do you convince people who aren’t inclined to vote that there’s a need to vote? Though at the same time, that door swings both ways. I imagine it’s just as hard for the budget hawks to really feel like they’re getting momentum when there’s no tangible way to gauge how it’s going.

So what will the end result be? I honestly have no idea, and I’m worried about it. I suppose we’ll find out tonight just how big the feeling on each side is in a vacuum. I do understand the desire to keep the school budget nice and svelte, and I also understand the arguments that it’s much bigger now than it was before. But at the same time, so is every budget. In my book, as long as the increase is under 2%, then there’s no cause for alarm. (It’s 1.76% this year.) Things get more expensive. Salaries. Technology costs. Energy costs. Equipment costs. Just because they’re non-profit doesn’t mean schools are immune to that. And if the increase is more than 2%, then I think it’s worth listening to hear why it’s as big as it is. In my experience, there’s always been a good reason for that. But the argument that the budget needs to flatline or be cut is one that willfully ignores many extenuating circumstances.

Anyway. We’ll see how it turns out tonight. Go vote!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Thankful for School

I was listening to a story the other day on NPR about how different areas of the country have implemented school during these days of the pandemic, and I was struck for a moment about how grateful I am for my school district and the efforts they’ve made to keep kids safe but also keep them learning.

Back when the pandemic first hit, I was disappointed with how the school transitioned to online learning. Anything that was done once kids moved to at-home learning couldn’t be officially graded, and so a lot of kids just checked out of the learning process. It felt like from mid-March through June, school was more of a joke than a real learning experience. I was worried we’d have more of the same when things started back up in September.

But they did start back up. True, there weren’t all the afterschool activities, but my kids have still been able to do cross country and now nordic skiing. There have been some virtual music groups. They’re in class every day, sometimes in person and sometimes online, but learning as actually happening.

I know there are parts of the country where schools are still shut down, and I know this is a topic that’s incredibly sensitive with many different people, both for and against the decisions that are being implemented. I was definitely worried how in-person schooling would go, but in practice, I’ve found the kids handle it sooo much better than the adults. We’ve had some COVID cases in the district, but due to social distancing and masking measures, none of them have really broken out into a huge problem.

Is school normal for my kids? No. But it’s much more normal than it was at the end of last year, and for that I’m very grateful. There’s enough bad things happening around the world these days that I’m trying to take some time and think about the positives that are here. I’ll take any positives I can get at this point . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

To Sport or Not to Sport?

Last night, our local school board made the difficult decision to call off competitive sports this year. The Maine Principals Association had given a green light for sports to continue in some districts, depending on what each individual district felt was best, and so it shifted to a local decision.

Honestly, my reaction is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it seems to me that some sports (cross country being a prime example) surely could find a way to compete in a socially distant fashion. You’re outside, runners generally don’t clump together too much, and you could take steps to make that clumping even less frequent. Additionally, the case rate in my county (as I’ve noted multiple times before) is very low. We have 4 active cases today in the whole county. There has been 1 death. When you have colleges running entire football seasons in areas with much higher case rates, it’s easy to wonder why we couldn’t reach some sort of a compromise that would let competitive sports continue here. (Other districts in the area are moving forward with seasons, after all.)

On the other hand, I look at the potential “worst case scenario” outcomes on both sides of the argument. If you don’t have competitive sports, this might result in some very upset students and parents. Some students who are passionate about sports might grow less engaged in their schooling, and there could be some resulting depression or mental illness. (I’m trying to think as “worst case” as I can here.) On the other side of the coin, if you hold sports anyway, you might bring COVID into a community that has little evidence of it right now. It catches hold in the community, and multiple people die.

That might sound outlandish, but it’s 100% happening across the country now. The only difference between Maine and other states is that in Maine it’s easier to trace exactly where the COVID came from and what happens as a result of it. Case in point: the wedding in Millinocket that has since directly resulted in 176 COVID cases and 7 deaths. If that family had chosen to not have a public wedding, 7 people would still be alive today, and our case count would be at least 3.6% lower than it is right now. From one single event. I’m not sure who it was who got married (definitely safer for them not to be publicly known), but imagine making national headlines for the way your marriage ceremony ended up impacting your entire state.

With sports in Maine, you could potentially have something similar happen. And where in other states, COVID is rampant enough that you can’t be sure where a case came from and what it resulted in, you could see news stories in Maine about how a school that held sports ended up killing members of its community due to that decision.

Public workers are being forced to make calls that are beyond the level of responsibility they signed up for. A doctor might expect to have to make life or death decisions. A pastor or a superintendent? Not so much. Sure, any one of us might be thrust into an emergency situation where lives are on the line, but this is different than that. These are decisions you know about ahead of time, and where your judgement will be directly responsible for the outcomes. The preacher who married the couple in Millinocket has been unrepentant. It baffles me that someone could take that stance in light of what happened, but it is what it is. I don’t think a superintendent would have quite the same leeway.

I want my kids to have a great school experience. I want them to be able to be in school plays or go to school dances or perform in school music groups. But while we’re stuck with COVID (due to the gross negligence on the way the pandemic was handled in this country), this is the hand we’ve been dealt. I’m going to still try to do things to help my kids have fun, but it’s going to have to be different than it would have been if we’d handled this better. (Though that said, it appears other countries are having resurgences as well. Maybe their good actions just bought themselves a breather, not a solution. Time will tell. But a breather would have been lovely . . .)

Am I 100% happy with the school board’s decision? No. But there’s no decision they could have made that would have resulted in everyone being happy. They have to make the best they can with what they’ve been given, just like the rest of us. Maybe something will change in the future to make it possible to reevaluate the status quo. For now, we carry on.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

First Day of School, COVID Style

It’s a week later than we would have been having the kids go back to school, but they’re officially started now. It’s crazy to think about everything that’s happened since their school went on a planned two week “pause” back in March. That two weeks turned into the rest of the year, and the summer is gone by now as well. I’m grateful to be living in a part of the country where there are still low numbers. (6 active cases in my county at the moment. 53 total since this started, with 1 death. Our population in 2010 was just over 30,000. On the New York Times tracker, that puts us at .6 cases per 100,000.)

Tomas (11th grade) will be going to school in person every Monday and Tuesday. The other three days of the week, he’ll be attending all his classes synchronously (Wednesday and Thursday are for the second half of the alphabet to go in person, and Friday everyone is virtual). MC (2nd grade) and Daniela (7th grade) will be going in person every other day. The days they’re not there in person, they’ll be working on their studies asynchronously. For now, there are no after school activities, although sports is still up in the air. (For the record, I will be disappointed if football is allowed to proceed but things like music and drama are not. If they can make sports work, they can make other activities work. I believe solutions could be found.)

I have no idea how this will all work in practice. I believe our school district has gotten grant money that should pay for laptops for all kids from 7th grade up. It should be . . . interesting to see how each class handles the different constraints. I try to be as good of a support structure for my kids as I can, but we’re heading into uncharted waters now. Who knows how it will all shake out.

But really, I’m happy to have some semblance of normalcy returning to our lives, even if it’s also in many ways unsettling. We’ve all been home together for so long that it felt very strange to think we’d all be heading different ways today. (Ferris, our puppy extraordinaire, is not happy with the change. I’m working at home today, and I finally had to put him in his crate. There’s only so much attention I can give a puppy and still get work done. We’ll have to see how that goes too . . .)

Anyway. That’s all I have time for today, but here’s hoping this is the start of a successful school year, even if it will be very different.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Shouting a Lie Doesn’t Make It Less False

The school budget vote is coming up on Tuesday, which means (you guessed it) the “Vote No” crowd has broken the glass on their “In Case of Emergency” boxes and removed their pitchforks and torches. You can’t drive around town without seeing their signs along the side of the road.

This, despite the fact that the school budget this year has reduced the local tax burden by 1.69 percent.

Honestly, there are times I think the “Vote No” crowd would not be satisfied until the school district is earning a surplus and paying them to send kids to school. I know it’s not the most charitable thought, and I know there are some of them who must have very heartfelt (if possibly misguided) reasons for what they believe, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I have little patience for people trying to make a big deal about a budget decrease, painting it like an increase instead.

Except that seems to be a growing trend, especially at the highest echelons of government. If you just state a lie with authority and confidence, there are people who will believe that lie in the face of all contrary evidence. Whether it’s the crowd size at an inauguration (which doesn’t really matter) or the trend of COVID-19 in the country (which very much does). All you have to do, it seems, is give people something they can believe in. An “authority” to point to. It works for pretty much anything you want it to: climate change, flat earthers, anti-vaccination, conspiracy theorists, and more.

Entire industries have been built around this propensity of people to believe what they want to believe, and to look for evidence that will support that belief, no matter how tenuous. Yes, you could say the same thing about religion, but the whole basis of religion is outside the realm of simple facts. It requires faith and belief in God, a being whose existence can’t be proven one way or another. And in many ways, people who buy these blatant lies and choose to believe them are putting the people who spout them up on a similar god-like pedestal.

But I don’t want to get into that. For today, I just want to focus on how this is impacting our schools on a local level. I’ll worry about the rest of the mess after Tuesday, once the school budget has passed. If you’re local, please remember to vote on Tuesday July 14th. You can still request absentee ballots until Thursday July 9th at 5pm. After that, you have to vote in person. This is a reasonable budget, regardless of how many signs out there want to say it isn’t. Forcing the community to go through another round of budget meetings out of spite seems like the worst justification for a misleading campaign I can think of.

Let’s vote this budget through on the first time. Vote yes!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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