Monday, June 21, 2010

SUMMER IS HERE...I'll Drink to THAT!

Of course at this point, with everything that's been going on...I'll drink to ANYTHING! (you see Fort got her love for alcohol honestly.....)

For the past few summers, I've gone on vacation with some of my colleagues right after school was out - we've been to Williamsburg, Cape Cope(&Boston, Salem MA, Provincetown, Martha's Vineyard, Whale Watching)....

Our getaway this year got off to a good start when we pulled up to our accommodations....
The Chateau on Mt. Baldhead - Saugatuck, MI. I HIGHLY recommend this place! Josh did good - 5 bedrooms, 3 full baths, all linens included, basement has air hockey, pinball, ping pong table, nice deck overlooking Kalamazoo River...and when you leave? Pack your bags and walk out. They do everything. It was incredible. 350 feet away is the Saugatuck Chain Ferry - the only one in the U.S. Takes you across the river to the quaint little downtown area - shops, restaurants with sidewalk cafes. (The ferry is manually operated - a couple of high school/college kids actaully hand crank the ferry across the river. Cost $1 each time you ride. Very relaxing. Or you can drive around the river to get to the town.)

Look at that...what a GREAT work ethic...I just can't stop working - EVEN on vacation! (actually, I was working on a letter to email to Donny to read at the board meeting that night...I was STILL pretty emotional and wanted to make sure my voice was heard! As it turns out, no one read the letter, but it was mailed to the Board President...hopefully he's read it by now and shared it with the superintendant and board members. Won't change anything, but I WILL BE HEARD!)

Me & Josh...we were hired at Moraine Meadows on the same day 20 years ago. Drew was a little confused when he saw this picture...right away he said "Pamma!...." and he knew that wasn't Pop was pretty funny at the time...

Our visit to Cranes Orchard...where you get the BEST PIES in the state. And apple crisp...Josh and Rodney talked about it all the way to Michigan. We couldn't wait to get there - definitely worth the stop!

These steps go to the top of Mt. Baldhead, where we stayed in Saugatuck. 303 of them. Mt. Baldhead got its name because nothing grew at the top of this sand dune. Now it's completely covered with vegetation and trees. At the top is a landing - when you step off the landing, you're in sand that goes down to Lake Michigan. Beautiful. And exhausting. So finally on a vacation I got lots of exercise. But I made up for it with margaritas and lunches and dinners at some fabulous restaurants!

Enjoying the view at the top of the steps - I actually walked the steps twice in one day...then the next morning...I was hurting for the next 3 days!

Got up early to walk the steps...left the house and two deer were right outside our door, then on the way back, this turtle was crossing the road...he looks like he's been swimming in the Gulf!

Our last night in Saugatuck and we had great weather for a beautiful sunset on Lake Michigan...

I have to say that while the vacation was a nice getaway, coming home after being away is still hard. We use Melissa's room for packing and unpacking, and when I was putting away some clothes, there was a picture of her on her dresser - painting their bedroom when they moved to Finneytown. She looked SO healthy. How in the world can she be gone? Then we have another holiday (yes, Father's Day is a "holiday" now...and holidays are still hard. Kind of quiet without Melissa around. (Believe it or not, Nick has always been the quiet one!) Just not right without her. I miss her every single day.
Someone (whose been there) told me the second year was harder than the first.
So far, that seems to be true. My heart aches every day.

Donny got some good news recently - he will be coaching with Andy "Rock" (one of Melissa's best friends in h.s.)...he's the new Head Football Coach at Fairmont.
Donny will be coaching the tailbacks and fullbacks. He is VERY excited - we both know how excited Melissa would be...I know she wouldn't miss a game and would be DECKED out in Fairmont gear for every game. She never lost her love for her high school....she would be so proud of her dad!

I'm still adjusting to the fact that I will be at a "new" school in the fall.
Already dropped off several boxes (we're only 2 minutes away), which means I can sleep later, that's good. While we only had 150 students at MM - there are 350 at Greenmont - I have a lot of names to learn (not to mention a bigger staff)when my brain doesn't function like it used to! Trying not to think about it too much yet - going to try to relax and get some things done around the house in the next few weeks. I'm pretty sure Melissa would have been VERY upset about this whole ordeal - but would have agreed that Greenmont was the place to go. I really feel like she was guiding me that way...

I have some great video clips of Drew & Max, and someday will figure out how to post them. I look at Drew sometimes when he's sleeping, and he looks A LOT like she did at that age....and Max DEFINITELY has HER personality! (ok...they look like their mom and dad too - I just see Fort in them a LOT.) I'm going with Mere on Friday to get their pictures taken - I'll sneak in a few too and post them soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Good News...IRV turns 80!

It is 2:30 a.m., and AGAIN, I can't sleep. Posting on the blog seems to be therapy for me, and while there hasn't been much good news in my life lately, I finally have something fun to post - my dad's 80th birthday celebration.
I don't know about you, but I don't know many 80 year olds who sing karaoke...on a regular basis. My dad has EIGHT CD's with songs he sings at Karaoke Night at the VFW when he is in Florida.
So for his 80th birthday, we decided to give him something that he would LOVE. A place to sing... ALL...NIGHT...LONG.
His (and Donny's) birthday's are on May 31. We always celebrate together, so we told dad we were having a cookout at our house on that day (which also happened to be Memorial Day)and would be celebrating his 80th. He bought it. On Sunday the 30th we told him we were taking him to the Red Carpet Tavern to get a bite to eat and because they had karaoke. It was a great plan - he came over (CD's in hand) and Sue, Matt, Nick & Mere, me, Donny and John all left from our house - while everyone was waiting at the bar...he was VERY surprised - and loved EVERY minute of it.
(just a note - my cousins from Utah, Jan & Cathy, arrived on THURSDAY - four days before the party - we decided to surprise him with THEM on Saturday, didn't want to
surprise him TOO much all in one day...and it worked perfectly - he thought they were there for the cookout/party on Monday, and he got to spend a little bit of time with them BEFORE the party. Perfect.
Hope you enjoy the photos from the celebration!

SURPRISE!!!!!! (note the CD CASE in his hand!)

Dad singing one of MANY songs...

Dad with his lifelong, neighborhood best friend, Jim

Irv and his girls...Sue, Pam & Donna

Family Karaoke...complete this sentence...The family that sings together.....
(reminds me of something Fort use to say "The family that drinks together, gets drunk together"...I think that was because her dad always took her to Kramer's after his softball games, she and Nick thought it was a Day Care Center...(I don't know WHAT made me think of that, inappropriate as it is... BUT THAT WAS FORT - (NOT inappropriate - it's just how her brain worked i guess -this is ANOTHER Fortener "doesn't make sense moment"...if you know us you understand this...)

the boys (John, Nick and HAPPY BIRTHDAY DONNY! too!)

Tony & Nick sing one (kind of) for grandpa

Fort's friends - Bone & Angie - partying with Grandpa....AGAIN....

Irv's favorite "outlaws"...Mere & John!

Travelled the farthest for the cousins Jan & Cathy all the way from Utah!

GIFTS (it says "a trash can you can get out of! (filled with first aid stuff!)

******* ******* ******* *********


Deb, Josh, Jackie, Pam (the windows to the left WERE my library!)

Leaving our mark at the BEST SCHOOL EVER in Kettering!

a letter from Kindergartners!

THE most beautiful library in Kettering City Schools!


After an AGONIZING TWO WHOLE DAYS (yep, they gave me TWO WHOLE DAYS to make this decision!)...I have decided to continue my career at Greenmont Elementary School, where I began with Kettering City Schools 24 years ago. Greenmont has around 350 students, same socio-economic background as MM, I know some of the teachers there, the MM preschool teacher (Erin, who was a classmate of Melissa's at Fairmont AND a student at Greenmont when I was there 24 years ago)and her aide will be there. Before making the decision, I wanted to call the principal, who just happened to be principal at Moraine Meadows 3 years ago. I was looking for a school directory in a "junk" drawer, and instead found FOUR thank you notes from Melissa, and upon FURTHER searching, a yellow sticky note pad that said "GO TO GREENMONT". (my handwriting - it was a note that I wrote to myself a few years back because I needed to stop there for something before I went to MM...just threw it back in the junk drawer, because that's how i clean!)...and just happened to find it when I was trying to decide where to go! Also, visited the school the next morning, and when we were walking out of the office, I looked over, and on the secretary's desk was a "FIREBIRDS for FORT" cup. I knew that was where I had to be.

...and to end this post, I have revised the letter that I am hoping someone will read at the board meeting next week (I won't be able to make the meeting, unfortuately). I had to make changes, because in their INFINITE wisdom, our administration and school board changed their mind, and decided to send all our kids to the same school...making the grand total of students in an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (drum roll please.....) 600!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable.

Another night I cannot sleep (last 14 days). Although I am very comfortable with my decision to go to Greenmont, I am far from happy about HAVING to make this decision.

Here goes:

I need for this administration to know what MY life has been like since the decision to close Moraine Meadows was made TWO WEEKS ago... TWO WEEKS. I would LOVE to know what you were doing in the last two weeks. This was MY life for the last 14 days:
NO SLEEP. I was awake EVERY night (around 3 a.m.) AGONIZING over where/who I was about to "bump" out of a job. I have cried every night over the loss of not just a "building", but a family. I have packed up a room with 20 years of accumulation. In LESS THAN 2 weeks. Most of which was during the last week of school (with students AND lots of year end activities going on!). It would have been nice if someone from the board or administration would have checked in to see how things were going, maybe even help? They sure spent a lot of time at MM BEFORE the closing!

I still have questions that I believe the public are entitled to know:

*Exactly HOW is $500,000 being saved on closing this building? An itemized list would be nice. As a citizen of Kettering, I am entitled to know.

*Moraine Meadows qualified for Title 1 Funds and MANY of our students received Title 1services (in reading). Because they are blending with such a HUGE school and more than likely won't qualify for Title 1 funds, what will happen to those students who need those services?

*Why wasn't the community of Moraine (or the voters of Kettering for that matte given the courtesy of a forewarning of the closure of Moraine Meadows? It might have made a difference in the outcome of the levy.

*There are unused classrooms in other buildings in the district. Why would you put 600 students into an elementary building and not redistrict when there are classrooms sitting empty in other buildings?

*Is the BOTTOM LINE what is BEST for STUDENTS or is the BOTTOM LINE money?

*When are administrative cuts going to be made? The only to job losses at Moraine Meadows were two aide positions. The combined salaries of these two aides was LESS THAN $30,000. For $30,000, these TWO AIDES made a DIRECT IMPACT on all 150 students!!!! (What a bang for your buck!)

*There are administrative positions that have NO DIRECT IMPACT on students with salaries at least double that of the these two aides. They impact ZERO students.
How can these positions be justified?

*Have there been any discussions about a possibility of some type of insurance buyout for teachers with over 35 years who are hanging on because of insurance costs?
I don't know if it is feasible, but could it be looked at? Retirements from those teachers could save the district a lot of money. New hires would be making a lot less money.

*What kind of planning was done BEFORE the decision to close Moraine Meadows? Any?

Your decision devastated an ALREADY devastated community, a staff that was SECOND to NONE and has literally put many students at risk in an already overflowing building.

How will you ever repair the damage that has been done in just two weeks time?

I am asking that you be willing to take responsibility for this decision if test scores go down at Southdale (which they most likely will if students who have qualified in the past for Title services don't receive them this coming year),
and IF the levy fails.

Are you willing to take that responsibility?

Ok. I am DONE with this. I know I have to move on, but these things need to be addressed....anyone willing to read it at the board meeting for me?
Call me!
******* ****** ******
p.s. In light of EVERYTHING that is going on...I STILL MISS YOU MELISSA.
EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Love you pretty girl...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just needed to get this off my chest...

My apologies to Fort for infiltrating her blog space, but I feel like she is speaking to me or rather through me. I know that she would be very unhappy about the recent closing of Moraine Meadows Elementary School. She LOVED the school and, of course, loves her Mom who was affected greatly by this decision. I would consider myself a bit of an outsider to the school itself...I have never worked there or gone to school there, but I am connected to many of the teachers that were employed there. I know Pam well and I know that the MM kids and teachers were/are extended family to her. I also have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know quite a few of the other MM teachers and I am confident that they each feel the same was as Pam. The school closing has likely affected each of them much like a death would...there is shock and anger and grief...and I'm sure eventually there will be acceptance, but as in death that will come with time. Each MM team member that I have been exposed to has proved to be kind, thoughtful and generous of both their time and efforts in numerous ways. I believe that the traits I have seen from them personally are the same ones that use in their day to day teaching methods. I realize that Moraine Meadows is a small school, but good things comes in small packages and I KNOW that each child who has gone there over the past 50 years has been positively changed through their experience. This blog post serves the purpose of airing some of my frustrations in the manner and the purpose behind this school closing. Fort isn't here anymore to entertain and enlighten us with her words of wisdom and I know I can't even come close to matching her writing talent...but, like I said before, I know she would have been VERY fired up over this subject and I'm just sharing some of my perspective which I am confident she would agree with.

I'm a smart girl, but there are a few things I simply do not comprehend. I understand that the Kettering Schools Levy failed in May and that the district needs to re-evaluate their budget. BUT I'm not sure I understand how the decison to close MM saved a significant amount of money. Thankfully, no jobs or students were cut and to my knowledge the building will remain open. A figure of $500,000 in savings has been thrown out...OK, show us the breakdown??? How did displacing 150 students and all of their teachers save the district money if no salaries, students, or buildings were cut/closed? Truthfully, transportation costs will likely go up to bus the students to Southdale, right? This point is a double-edged sword where Fort's wisdom creeps into my matter how bad it gets, it could always be worse...and I am very thankful that all of the students and teachers will have new homes.

My other beef with the school closing is the manner with which it was done. What kind of courtesy are the administrators providing by swooping in only 7 days before school lets out and announcing its closure? I have been employed in management roles for over 10 years and if I have learned anything its that no business of any kind can operate without its employees...and in this case, its teachers. I know that for ten years it has been rumored that MM had the potential to be WHY was there no more than 7 days of notice given? Why not say at the beginning of the school year that, "if the levy fails, the school could be closed." Why not give the teachers and parents some incentive to lobby voters to hit the pavement and encourage the community to vote YES? Wouldn't that have benefited the entire district? Why not give the teachers time to prepare students for the possibility of this change/adjustment? Or simply give MM the chance to prove its positive contribution to the district, community, and students? MM is a Hall of Fame school for a reason. It may be the smallest school, but I'd venture to say it makes one of the greatest impacts on its kids. And isn't that what education should be about...the kids????

Sure, I understand the need to make business decisions. Every company has to make them. I can't tell you how many times I have listened to people complain about their jobs or companies and the changes that get made. Change is always necessary but the method you use to make them is the key to successfully implementing them and receiving support around them. Going back to my point that you must have employees to make any business run...why is it that most organizations don't ask for feedback from its most valuable assets...its employees?? Most administrators have not been in a classroom for years and the longer they are away the easier it is to lose sight of the priorities. Providing children with a quality education is the goal. Keeping teachers happy goes a long way in having engaged teachers who are dedicated to their role as educators. Why not ask teachers what they think? When a person feels that their opinions and input are valid and heard they tend to take much more pride and ownership in their organization and career...and in turn are much greater contributors. WHY give 7 days notice and ask for ZERO input from the people with the greatest effect and most direct exposure to the kids? Even if at the end of the day it was still necessary to close MM...couldn't it have been done with less disrespect, shock value, and devastation to teachers, students and parents alike? Nothing about the approach to this situation makes logical sense to me. So why?

Why do I care? I care because the kids at MM were getting something special. I know alot of the teachers that were providing them with that extra something that they may or may not get at their new 600 student school. Is education the bottom line here or is it money? Certainly, money is a factor in any business...but I want to see the figures...where EXACTLY is the district saving $500,000 and could they have saved it somewhere more across the board without directly impacting the kids and their education? Saving $500,000 in a large school district like Kettering is a drop in the bucket...why not cut other budget line items and spread the impact and burden throughout the district instead of pinpointing only two schools? Or maybe cut some administrative costs or elimiate unnecessary administrative roles? Fort used to say about politics...If you aren't pissed off, then you just aren't paying attention...that's how I feel about this!

I don't have children yet...but I hope to someday. I also grew up in Kettering Schools and my experience was WONDERFUL! My teachers and coaches were such positive influences and my education was what I would consider far above average. I'd like to think that if I do have children they could have the same experience that I did...however, when education turns into making business decisions without weighing their impact on education and individual student attention and when schools are forced to teach toward receiving certain test scores the value gets lost in the overall experience for a child. The people that impacted me were extremely valuable to my education and development as an adult. They cared...just like I know the MM teachers do.

And finally, I want to leave you with an example that truly shows that for certain people teaching is about the kids and the love of the job and NOT about money. I recently learned of a teacher at MM that has worked there for 24 years. Take a gander as her annual least $30,000 or $40,000, right??? NOOOO...she essentially makes $1000 for roughly each year of her dedicated can do the math. I know what this woman brings to her students and I know she affected EVERY SINGLE ONE at MM over the past 24 years. She went personally and professionally out of her way to add unique experiences for her kids over these years. It was not about the was about the students and the love of her job. And most notably following the devastating loss of her 30 year old daughter to cancer, she got out of bed EVERY SINGLE DAY and went to work. THAT is no easy task. She has lost a second home in the past two weeks. I am sad for her and sad for every other teacher and student that has been displaced from the place they called home.