Category: school

School Students Shouldn’t Be a Revenue Stream

I get it. There’s money to be made in high schools and grade schools. Between school pictures, sports pictures, yearbooks, and the like, I understand there are businesses that crop up surrounding our students, and I don’t (for the most part) begrudge them the chance to carry on their business, or at least make it available. But this year, something seems different to me.

It started with the early request to buy athlete pictures for Tomas and DC. No big deal. Seemed like a fine request, so we ordered a package for each of them. Then came the reminder for school pictures. I ignored that one, because Denisa and I decided to get private pictures done this year for all the kids. It was less expensive, and the end result was much better, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us.

I deleted the first reminder. The second reminder. The third reminder. I’ve got three kids, each of them in different schools. I didn’t pay too much attention to which school was reminding me about what. Except the reminders kept coming. And coming.

I just went through my email to check. I’ve received TWELVE reminders since August 25th. That’s four reminders per child. That’s . . . beyond excessive. And then that email search reminded me that I was asked to buy “spring portraits” last March. How many class pictures does one child need? And did I really need to be reminded I could buy those spring portraits nine times? Five of the emails this fall have been from my children’s actual schools. (Seven from the company taking the pictures.) Two of the nine reminders came from the schools in spring.

But it isn’t just pictures. Yesterday Tomas came home with a big packet advertising class rings (the cheapest of which starts at $200). Apparently in the middle of school, they were sat down for an ad pitch from the ring company, in which the company said, “All you’ll need to do is go home and even mention class rings to your parents, and you can watch as they run and get their class ring and start telling you all about it, and that’s when you should ask them for the $75 deposit so you can get yours.”

I never bought a class ring. I think they look gaudy and dated. Tomas has no interest in getting one, but I recognize they’re something that might be desirable to some. I get that my personal distaste for them might not be shared by all. If the company wants to send home a flyer about class rings, fine. If they want to send home a half-inch thick packer all about it, I might say that’s a wasteful use of resources, but it probably wouldn’t get me to “I need to write a blog post about this” territory.

But taking up my child’s school time (or even a break during school time) to pitch them on sales techniques to get their parents to buy them a $200+ piece of silver or gold? That went beyond the line for me. At that point, I have to assume the school district is getting a kickback on the rings. (They better be, for the sort of access they’re giving to my child.) Even then, I find it objectionable.

I don’t live in a wealthy area. The median household income in Franklin County is around $45,000. (The median for the US is about $59,000.) There are many, many families who can’t afford a $200+ ring. Why is our school district letting companies market directly to our students this way? Yes, I get that budgets are tight. And again, I realize some kids or parents might really want a ring. But still, send a flyer home. Let students opt-in to hear the ad spiel. Anything other than the approach that’s currently being used.

There are times I feel like the district has started seeing me more as a revenue source and less as a parent of a student.

Am I the only one noticing this?

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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.

Back to School: 2019 Edition

In many ways, heading back to school can’t come soon enough. After a summer at home, filled with fun activities, there comes a time when everyone just needs to get back into a routine and have a return to normalcy, if for nothing more than a return to peace and quiet at home. In other ways, of course, it’s shocking that this year we’re sending out a Sophomore, 6th grader, and 1st grader, and you wonder how it is they all keep getting older . . .

It was a fun summer. Since the end of school in mid-June, we have done the following:

  • Headed to Washington DC for a week
  • Gone to Lancaster, PA
  • Visited New York City
  • Stayed in Pennsylvania for a week
  • Gone to horse camp
  • Gone to fiddle camp
  • Had swim lessons
  • Taught swim lessons as a first job
  • Started up sports for the first time (cross country)
  • Gone camping with the cross country team
  • Gone on pioneer trek
  • Renovated the front of our house
  • Landscaped the front of our house
  • Renovated our wood shed
  • Stacked 3 cord of wood
  • Prepped for classes for the coming academic year
  • Decluttered most of the house

When you line it all up like that, it’s no wonder it’s felt like a very busy summer. In an ideal world, we’d all be heading into the school year feeling rested, relaxed, and ready to take on anything. In reality, I think we’re feeling harried enough to the point where we’ve actually convinced ourselves that the school year will be a nice break from the summer. Experience reminds me this isn’t the case, of course. But it takes some time to really have this set in.

The first day of school changes as a parent over the years. I still remember going with Tomas to see Kindergarten for the first time. How he got to get on a school bus for his first time, and how excited he was to explore it and be so grown up. I always waited with the kids for that first bus that first day. Today was particularly busy, and Tomas needed a ride to the high school early, so it didn’t happen this year. I missed it, and I think I’ll do my best to not miss it in the future.

I’m sure it’ll be a busy year. DC is at the middle school now, and MC is now taking the morning bus on her own. Tomas’s schedule is all over the place. Keeping track of all of it is almost a full time job in and of itself. But for now, it feels good to get them all back into a routine, and I’m looking forward to not having to worry about wildly different schedules from week to week, with kids leaving for days at a time to go on camps and expeditions.

It definitely helps that this means we’re coming into my favorite stretch of the year. September through the beginning of February is pretty much the Best Thing Ever. Yay for being done with summer!

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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.

School Budget: 2019 Edition

It’s that time again, boys and girls! Time for approving a new school budget. Last year’s voting was blessedly non-confrontational, but on the theory of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I think it’s important to stay out in front of any negative messaging around the budget, especially when it’s as reasonable as this year’s proposal.

The biggest thing voters should focus on is the bottom line increase to local taxes, since that’s where the biggest amount of sound and fury has been generated from budget hawks in the past. For this budget, that increase is .27%. Please note the decimal. This is an increase of a quarter of a percent. In fact, 3 of the towns will actually see a decrease in taxes this year. Per the article in the Daily Bulldog:

Specifically, if the budget passed as proposed, Chesterville would see a $8,723 increase, or .83 percent; Farmington would see a $50,102 increase, or 1.05 percent; Industry would see a $8,695 increase, or .94 percent; New Sharon would see a decrease of $3,201, or a reduction of .31 percent; New Vineyard would see an increase of $21,846, or 2.94 percent; Starks would see an increase of $17,989, or 3.88 percent; Temple would see an increase of $7,347 or 1.73 percent; Vienna would see an increase of $8,559 or 1.19 percent; Weld would see a decrease of $27,352, a reduction of 5.22 percent; and Wilton would see a decrease of $56,657, or a reduction of 2.01 percent.

The budget changes for individual towns from year to year based on town valuation. Basically, the state calculates how much each town can bring in through taxes each year and then portions out how much each town owes for school funding accordingly. So if your town starts bringing in more money than it did in the past, it owes proportionately more for school funding. This makes sense. More taxes coming in means more people living in that area, which means more people able to contribute. If towns do better, they chip in more. If they do worse, they chip in less.

But this potentially opens up the budget to manipulative messaging. For example, you might hear someone say something like “The budget is going up $1.58 million AGAIN! That’s another 4.4%! When will these fat cat school administrators learn that ENOUGH is ENOUGH!??!” But that’s looking at the overall budget, not the local assessment. Overall, the district has 177 more students in it than three years ago. When the district gets bigger, it costs more to teach those students. Lucky for us, the state recognizes that, and so it gives the district more funds from the state level.

Of course, if you point that out to the strawman we’re arguing with, he’s quick to respond, “But local taxes are going up 3.88% in Starks and 2.94% in New Vineyard!” as if that proves you’re wrong, and that local portions are indeed rising.

Just remember: that argument has nothing to do with overall state budgets. That’s based on town valuation. So to respond to that, congratulate Starks and New Vineyard for having growing populations and property tax values. Huzzah!

Anyway.

My hope is this year will be non-contentious again. But the meeting to set the budget is this coming Tuesday (5/28) at 7pm at the high school. Come on out and vote YES to this ultra reasonable .27% increase for local tax payers. And if you hear any naysayers, try to get out in front of the messaging. Sure, the data can be manipulated to seem like it’s another big increase. But if you look at the real figures, there’s no getting around the fact this budget is more than reasonable.

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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.

Graduation Day!

Denisa and I had the chance to go to graduation again yesterday. Not for us, mind you. Our graduation days are almost definitely behind us at this point. Last year we went to graduation, but we didn’t march in the procession. The offer was on the table for us to do it, though, and this time we decided to give it a shot.

We enjoyed our time at the ceremony last year, but it was even better being so intrinsically involved in the festivities this time around. For one thing, it was the first time Denisa was able to earn the hood she earned for her Masters in Teaching English in a Second Language. (We were already in Maine when her graduation ceremony was happening.) So in some ways I think it felt for her like a much delayed celebration.

I remember when I was graduating with my Masters in Library Science, I didn’t care to attend the ceremony at all. I was done with graduations, literally and figuratively. (And why would I fly to Tallahassee just to graduate?) But now that I’m a bit longer in years, my thoughts are changing about things like graduation ceremonies. I think it’s increasingly important to celebrate accomplishments. To take some time and recognize you achieved something that involved a lot of hard work and effort. Sure, the reading of names can be long, and some of the speeches might be boring (not on Saturday, though!), but if you’re not celebrating something as momentous as a graduation, what are you celebrating?

And being able to watch it all from the ranks of the faculty was that much sweeter, though there I need to digress for a moment. I am not a faculty member. In the University of Maine system, librarians are staff, despite the fact that in many other systems, they’re considered part of the faculty. But I had asked the provost last year if I could march with the rest of the faculty, in my graduation robes. (An MLS is considered a terminal degree, after all, but I’m not going to go into the weeds too much.) So I was hooded and robed on Saturday, as was Denisa. And all was proceeding swimmingly. I am friends with many faculty members, and I felt very much part of the group. But then all the faculty were asked to rise and be recognized. They took up the front two rows of the seats, and all of the people in those rows stood.

Except for me.

Because while I might not have felt out of place at all, I also know I am not a faculty member, and I did not want to stand up to receive recognition for something I had not earned. Which is fine. You don’t stick out that much when you’re sitting among a group when everyone else is standing. But then I faced a new dilemma.

The faculty sat down, and the staff were asked to rise. And there I was, sitting in middle of the faculty section, robed and hooded, and wouldn’t it just be easier to stay sitting down and not make an idiot of myself?

I stood up. Second row. The only person (that I could see) in the faculty section to be standing. I’m told there were other staff members peppered around the audience standing, but there hasn’t traditionally been a “staff section” at graduation, so it wasn’t like many people were near me. I felt no sense of solidarity, and I felt very much different.

I’m not bringing this up to make a stink about things. (Although as I write it out, I realize that’s sort of what’s happening.) I’m bringing it up to explain why I stood. I was President of the Staff Senate last year. I know very well how staff can feel at UMF. There are times that it feels like Faculty vs. Staff, something which is almost inevitable, I think, when budgets are on the line, and staff are one union and faculty are another.

Last year when we went to graduation, it was the first time I’d gone in the 10+ years I’d been working there. I remember looking around when the staff were asked to stand, and being surprised at how relatively few of us seemed to be there. But why should I have been surprised? I’d never gone before. It had never felt like something I really needed to do. But when I was there, it had such an impact on me that I wanted to do it every year.

I stood up on Saturday not because I like being singled out. (Anyone who really knows me knows how far from reality that is.) Rather, I stood up because I want staff to be recognized. In my ideal world, there would be a staff section at graduation (and I spoke to some about this after the ceremony, and maybe there’s a chance that will come to fruition). I stood up because staff are a huge part of a student’s college experience, and we often get (or at least feel) overlooked. An asterisk compared to the learning that goes on in the classroom.

Again, I don’t mean this as a slight to any faculty or administration. I think some of this has been done the way it’s been done because that’s how it’s always been done. But without someone standing up and speaking out, how it’s been done is how it always will be done. (Also, please note that I’m sure I wasn’t the only staff person to stand up. There were a slew of staff people there, many of them already standing, because they were the ones keeping that ceremony rolling. Huge props to facilities and IT. It’s a ton of work, and if it all goes off right, no one notices it at all.)

Perhaps if staff were invited and encouraged to come, with a section in the audience just for them, more might come. (They’re invited to a breakfast beforehand. Some did come to that, but many more faculty.) Maybe if more staff were there at such a great celebratory opportunity, it would be a chance for some of those us vs. them walls to come down a bit more. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into things.

Any which way, it was a great ceremony, and I’m glad I could go. Always wonderful to see all these students who worked so hard over the years, finally achieving their goal. At BYU, faculty and staff didn’t really feel like part of my life, with one or two significant exceptions. At UMF, the relation is much closer, and I love that. Faculty here all take very immediate roles in their students’ lives. Staff do too. So graduation becomes a very immediate sort of affair.

Anyway. There are my thoughts for the day. Go Beavers!

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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.



Teacher Appreciation Day

I was just trying to come up with a good topic to write about, when lo and behold, I see all these lovely teacher appreciation posts on Facebook. It’s a topic I haven’t really written that much about, which means it’s a perfect topic for me to write about today. I present to you, with no further ado, a list of some (and only some) of the teachers who have had the most impact on me and my life. Presented chronologically.

First off, you have Mr. Kosmo. A teacher whose name lives in infamy in my memory, but who nonetheless was very impactful. Why? Because in eighth grade, he was my English teacher. I was new in the school district, and they had refused to let me register for honors English, because their English classes were so demanding or something something. So I was in Mr. Kosmo’s class. It was . . . less than good. But I got through it. At the end of the year, I went to him for a recommendation so I could go to Honors the next year. He refused. His reason? “You can’t write well enough.” Yeah. Would I have devoted so much of my life to writing if Mr. Kosmo hadn’t told me I was bad at it? I’m not sure. I’m a very competitive person, and this was the first time a teacher had ever told me I was bad at something and that I should just give up. So naturally I did my best to prove him wrong. (Sadly, methinks that wasn’t quite the response Mr. Kosmo was going for when he tried to tell me I should just not try so hard in life . . . But hey! He made it onto this list, so . . . win?)

Mr. Lineberry was my high school music teacher, and he definitely was a huge positive influence in my life. Symphonic band, marching band, Dixie band, regular band . . . I was in that band room a ton for those three years, and he was always there with a cheerful smile and positive attitude. There’s a lot of tumult in high school, and his room was a place you could go to have some stability. Music was always a significant part of my life, but it because a huge part of my life in no small part due to him and his example. (Though I should give a shoutout to Mr. Bogle and Mr. Z, who both also contributed significantly to that. And Mr. Maiello in fifth grade also did wonders for me.)

Louise Plummer taught Writing for Children and Young Adults in college, and it was in her class that I decided I really wanted to commit to the whole “writing thing.” She was tremendously supportive and encouraging and patient. Her classes were always fun and engaging, and it was through her encouragement that I began to think that not only did I want to commit to writing, but that I might one day be successful at it. (Mr. Kosmo, please take note.) I ended up taking . . . four other classes from her? Three? Multiple.

Lanell Rabner was not a teacher of mine per se, but she was my first library supervisor in college. She ran the periodicals department at BYU, and because of her enthusiasm for the work, I began to take interest in working in libraries. It was infectious. I probably wouldn’t be in my current career if it hadn’t been for her, so I say she definitely counts!

Dennis Cutchins wins the award for most classes in college for me, though. I first took Film Adaptation from him my . . . sophomore year, I believe. It was on “Adapting the Western,” and it was such a blast from start to finish. So much of college (for me) consisted of finding the professors who I really connected with and then taking every single class I could possibly take from them. (Glade Hunsaker was another (Shakespeare and Milton!), as was Dallin Oaks, whose passion for linguistics was enough to get me to add it as a second major.) But Cutchins went on to teach me throughout college and my masters program. He was my thesis chair. We went on road trips together. (San Diego, San Antonio, and Albuquerque!) I got to know his family, and I still visit them when I go out to Utah. He was funny and encouraging and insightful, and if I say much more it’s going to sound like a eulogy, so I won’t.

These are just some of the teachers that helped me become who I am today, and even listing these few makes me want to take even more time to talk about the others. Sandy Chantry (high school drama), Leslie Norris (poetry), Mrs. Allen (third grade–where I started writing my first book), Mrs. Chapman (AP US History), La (AP English), Bruce Young (CS Lewis), Dave Wolverton (Writing Sci-fi/Fantasy), Doug Thayer (Creative Writing). It feels like I’m missing some other great ones as well, but time is only so long.

Teachers can and do make a huge impact on us, for good and for bad. (Bad teachers? I could call them out as well (beyond Mr. Kosmo), but I’ll say there was only one teacher I knew who actively seemed sadistic and antagonistic to students. Mr. King. Ugh. The less said about him, the better. But let’s keep this post positive, shall we?)

So a huge thank you to all those fine teachers who helped me get to where I am.

Who are some of your favorite teachers? Why?

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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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