29 March 2012

An Open Letter to the Mayor

Mr. Mayor,
I am writing to voice my complete disgust with the budget you presented.  To ask the school district to come up with an additional $2 million in cuts, after already dealing with the $10 million shortage is just plain shameful.  

Are you truly suggesting that the taxpayers’ money would be better spent purchasing $435,000 worth of recycling bins?  Let people purchase them themselves.  Or, better yet, write it into the contract with the recycling company that they must provide the bins.  As things stand now, our recycling bins will be more technologically advanced, with their embedded radio-frequency identification chips, than our schools.

$250,000 for the Derryfield Country Club?  Again, is our city willing to spend funds for a recreational facility while our schools are languishing?  Let’s take care of basics first, then we can add the frills.

And, to top it all off, you suggest $19,000 (plus any surplus) for Elm Street sidewalks?   This project is already bonded at $380,000 so why are we throwing more money and “surplus” at it?  The last time I walked downtown I didn’t trip or notice any huge disrepair with the sidewalks.  I have seen schools that need to be updated and students who need basic supplies and services.

Let’s be honest, you still have room in the tax cap for another $85,000.  Use it.  Give it, and the funding mentioned above, to the schools.  It wouldn’t cover all  the $2 million you’ve asked the school board to cut, but it would certainly help.

I’m begging you to quit trying to bully the teachers union into doing what you want.  Enough with the political games and need to make everyone cow to your way of doing things.  You have a chance to do something good here.  A chance to invest in Manchester’s real future, it’s children.  Take that chance.

With total sincerity,

**My local friends, please contact your aldermen to let them know that the mayor's proposed budget is unacceptable.  Let me know if you need information on getting in touch with them.

Northeast Middle Eastern

This Victorian home has a certain Middle Eastern flare, thanks to it's ogee arches above the top balcony and lower level windows.  I love the aged copper on the balconies and gables.  I always wonder who lives in this home.

23 March 2012

Dutch influence

Love the stone, the windows, the porches....look at the stone chimney!  And the darling dutch roofline.  And, just to top it off, it overlooks the ocean.  Love!

15 March 2012

They just don't build them like this anymore

I love the look of the original stone foundation on this home.  I don't love the idea of the basement flooding that almost certainly comes with it.

14 March 2012

Happ Pi Day

It's π Day!  We take these things seriously at our house.  Not only is it 3.14, but it's Albert Einstein's birthday.  It's the nexus of the universe!

To celebrate we had homemade chicken potpie for dinner and apple pie for dessert.  I had intended to share pictures, but my CR card has suddenly become unreadable.  So, you'll have to take my word for it--it was delish!

Until next year, when we come full circle (I can't help it, my dad is the punniest man in the world), Happy Pi Day to you!

13 March 2012

School Choice

Let's talk School Choice as prescribed by NCLB.  According to NCLB,
"Children are eligible for school choice when the Title I school they attend has not made adequate yearly progress in improving student achievement--- as defined by the state--for two consecutive years or longer and is therefore identified as needing improvement, corrective action or restructuring. Any child attending such a school must be offered the option of transferring to a public school in the district--including a public charter school--not identified for school improvement, unless such an option is prohibited by state law. No Child Left Behind requires that priority in providing school choice be given to the lowest achieving children from low-income families. As of the 2002-03 school year, school choice is available to students enrolled in schools that have been identified as needing improvement under the ESEA as the statute existed prior to the enactment of No Child Left Behind."
We do not live in a Title I school boundary.  Consequently, our school is regularly the recipient of students from other parts of our city whose parents have petitioned them in.  Here are concerns I have in general, and in specific at our school.

First, what many parents who petition their kids in do not realize is that Title I schools get LOTS of extra money and services.  Our school does not.  I have had teachers tell me that often the "School Choice parents" will come in at the first parent-teacher conference and want to know why their child isn't doing well.  The answer?  "Because we have classrooms at near capacity and no classroom aide.  We are attempting to teach the prescribed curriculum without the advantage of having the supplies and other resources provided for us because we are not Title I."  Or, in other words, if the child attended the school where they live they would be receiving more face-time with teacher, have the materials necessary for the curriculum being taught, and possibly have more instruction time (in our school district Title I schools have full-day kindergarten, others do not always).

Second, good test scores do not mean good teachers.  Yes, a good teacher is important and can inspire and encourage a child.  But, if a child shows up exhausted to take a standardized test because a parent had him out at 10pm grocery shopping, is that child's performance on the test truly a reflection of the teacher?

What I'm arguing here is that labeling a school as Title I does NOT mean that the teachers are not doing their jobs or are "bad" teachers.  Most teachers are doing their darndest to teach and help the children in their classes, despite reduced resources and ever changing requirements.  Instead, the thing that I propose is of greater concern is something that the school or teacher cannot control; the demographics.  It may not be PC to say so, but household income (largely dependent on parental education level) is one of the largest determiners of success in school.  I am arguing that the teachers/schools are not the culprits, but rather the level of involvement or emphasis on education in any given home is.  And, because neighborhoods tend to be made up of households of similar income/educational level, certain schools have large groups children who are fighting against the odds.  Moving your child out of a Title I school in order to have "better" teachers doesn't work because it's not the problem.  Choosing to be an involved parent, no matter the school your child attends, does.

Finally, I have personal, location specific, reasons for being against the NCLB School Choice provision.  Our school district does not bus kindergartners, half or full day.  However, if your child is a School Choice student the district must, by federal law, provide transportation to and from the school of choice.  I personally know of a kindergartener who is being bused all the way across town, an ~30 minute drive each way, for 2.5 hours of kindergarten each day.  One child.  On her own little bus.  My tax dollars are paying for that child's ride every day while my pocketbook has paid for me to drive to the school twice day, for two schools years, for my two oldest to attend kindergarten (next year I'll add a third year of driving for my youngest).

Also, the influx of School Choice students has meant that my children have larger classroom sizes.  One teacher I spoke to estimated each classroom at our school has 3-4 School Choice students, or about 75-100 extra students total in the school.  That means that my kids are in classrooms of 24 children instead of 20-21.  With no aides or additional resources.  The NCLB rules are directly affecting my child's education.

In my opinion, School Choice does not meet my minium standards for logic or feasibility.  It's an unfortunate arrangement that we are currently forced to adhere to.  Boo.

08 March 2012

A spot of sunshine

This Victorian is so cheery with it's yellow exterior.  I love the turret-like projection that includes a porch and multiple windows.  The roofline on this houses is to die for.

04 March 2012

Happy Birthday Dad

My dad, circa 1992
About a month ago my brother emailed the extended family with an idea for my dad's birthday.  He suggested we all celebrate my dad by dressing up as him in all his 80's glory....mustache and all.  

Who am I to deny such a tribute?

Craig honoring Dad's ability to think deeply about the puzzles of life....like how fast you need to drive to hit the minimal number of raindrops.

Me honoring the rancher in my dad--hat and denim jacket included.

Mischievous much?  Both Goosey and Grandpa enjoy a good joke or prank.

 Perhaps Lew's smile was inherited? (See top photo)

Dogger looking the truest to life with that 'stache.

01 March 2012

Attention to detail

Take a minute to really look at this house.  There's a lot going on.  I love the porch, the oval window (just peeking around the corer of a post) on the left side of the vestibule, the bay windows on the first and second floors, the soffit woodwork and the dormer windows.  This home is in the older, but still well kept, part of town.
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