Wednesday, May 22, 2013

District 833 Ignoring the Voices of the People Again...

Back in March, South Washington School District 833 voted to eliminate 22 teaching positions, increase walking distances for middle/high schoolers and eliminate four administrative support positions in order to save $2.2 million from the budget.  They will vote on the final budget in June, after they see how much taxpayer money Governor Dayton and his DFL cronies will be giving to the insatiable school districts this year and next.  The district recently presented a survey to 400 residents that was meant to gauge the community's feelings about the district, the superintendent, the board, the teachers and whether or not the community would support a levy renewal this fall and/or an increased levy renewal this fall, as well as community support for providing all students with personal computing devices such as tablets or iPads.

Even though the survey revealed that only 6% of the people support individual computer devices for students in the district, the powers that be have just rolled out a new initiative: "T3=Transforming Thinking Through Technology."  This should be no surprise to anyone who attended Superintendent Keith Jacobus's "Parent University" forums, which basically are a sales pitch for balance balls and more "movement" in the classrooms (exercise miraculously increases test scores; active kids do better in school; if that's the case, my kids should all be geniuses, but I digress...) as well as how iPads will add to the children's learning experiences in the classroom.  Not only add to it, but also (not completely of course...) replace traditional teaching methods, like books, since everything can now be in digital formats and teachers will be able to add content as they please.

The concept, from an education standpoint is interesting, so it is unsurprising that the district is preparing to roll out this initiative, especially considering that Keith Jacobus, Ron Kath, Jeff Jorgensen and Randi Anderson enjoyed an all expense paid (by Apple) trip (except for airfare) to Apple, Inc. in March.  It makes one wonder - if the district agrees to purchase, say, MacBooks for all the teachers, then they get a trip to Apple, Inc. (in California) to learn "How to Bring Common Sense Back to Their District," then suddenly they roll out an initiative that will put iPads in the hands of students in 4K - as in the District's PRESCHOOLS - as well as in select elementary, middle and high schools, with the goal to eventually have iPads available to all 17k+ students in the district, how expensive to the district taxpayers that all-expense paid trip to Apple really was? It would seem that it would be to the tune of about $7 MILLION, which in the end, isn't really a free trip for four administrators, is it? And where does that include "bringing critical thinking back to the district"?

The irony is that if these four administrators were anything but part of a school district - say they were in any other public office - that all-expense paid trip would actually break the State's Gift Ban law, which makes it illegal for state officials to accept anything worth more than $5 from anyone.  Somehow, school officials are not included under that law even though Apple, Inc. is a registered lobbyist in the State of Minnesota.

Once again, our District is happily ignoring the people and what they want - remember the Budget battle where keeping teachers had the most support of the people and that was the first thing the Board and Administration decided to cut? - and are pushing forward with their plan for iPads for students regardless of the fact that 94% of the people in the community said they didn't support that initiative.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cherish Life

I've never been in a tornado.  One time, as a kid, we were on a family vacation in the ol' station wagon and witnessed several tornadoes dropping down, then disappearing back into the clouds as we drove down the highway.  Another time, as a 20-something, on the way home from St. Cloud, my friend and I witnessed a tornado as it hit the town of Monticello one summer evening.  There have been storms when the sky turned green and ominous, the sirens screamed, so we dashed with the kids to the basement, cursing our decision to use Dish Network, since the signal is always lost in storms.  In the summer of '96, I awoke for what seemed to be no reason, looked out the window and watched the US flag outside the local school stand stiff in the wind.  I woke up my husband, jumped out of bed and grabbed my little toddler girl.  We ran to the basement as our house was pelted with rain and debris caught up in the high mph straight-line winds.  We looked for any information on the TV, but once the storm crossed the St. Croix river, the Twin Cities' news stations stopped covering the storm.  The next day, the damage was terrible - whole roofs had been torn off houses and a grocery store, garage doors destroyed, windows broken, litter everywhere.  A line of cars traveled down our streets with gawking "disaster tourists" staring out the windows.  But, our house remained standing,  and the three of us were safe and sound.

Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The devastation caused by the huge tornado in Moore, Oklahoma is a reminder of how quickly our lives can change.  It reminds us how precious and fragile life is - how unpredictable a "normal" day can be.  My heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones, especially those mamas and daddies who kissed their little ones goodbye that day without a thought that those little people may not be returning home that night.  The survivor stories are ones of courage, bravery, and selflessness.  How those parents whose children made it through the storm must be thankful for their families being spared the heartache of others', while also wondering why they were spared and others were not - how does one get over that "survivor guilt"? How does one comfort those parents who's children are still missing - praying for them to be found alive?

It is times like this when Americans show their toughness and generosity - in the coming days, more stories of bravery and heroism will come out, as well as stories of the kindnesses of strangers.  It is times like these that we forget what makes us different from one another, and remember that we are all Americans - countrymen/women - and will help one another in these times of need.

Glenn Beck and a crew of people headed to Oklahoma last night with two trailer-loads of supplies and offers to help the victims of the tragedy.  Please go to his charitable website, MercuryOne, to donate to the 2013 Midwest Tornado Relief fund.  At this time, over $500,000 has already been raised, but the scope of the devastation shows that much more will be needed to help the communities working to rebuild.

We must come together and help one another in times of need.  Please help out by donating what you can.

Feeling Screwed Yet?

Remember this video from actress Lena Dunham comparing her first time voting for Obama to losing her virginity?

I was so outraged by this condescending and ridiculous video, that I chose to make my own appeal to women voters:

Over the last several weeks, America has watched as scandal after scandal has rocked the Obama administration: Benghazi, IRS targeting Conservative and Religious groups, and the AP wiretaps.  All the while, Americans are told by President Obama: "I heard about this when you did...from the media..." Really? He's saying that the most powerful man in the world is learning about things that are happening in his administration at the same time the American people are. Yep, sure, that's believable; just about as believable as that guy who "doesn't know how that lipstick got on his collar..." or "...passed out again at a buddy's house and had to borrow his buddy's wife's deodorant because his buddy was out of Speed Stick - that's why he smells like lavender..."

That "lavender" stink is the smell of the American people being lied to over and over and over again. Either that or this is the absolutely most out-of-touch and incompetent POTUS America has ever had.

So my question for America - especially those who voted for Obama -  is this: Are you feeling screwed yet?

"Fool me once, shame on you...
                         Fool me twice, shame on me...."

Tweeted by Kevin Jackson at The Black Sphere.

Updated 5/21/2013 8:09pm.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Not Going Anywhere

A quote by Winston Churchill has been ruminating in my brain these last couple of days.  It is one of my favorites in general, but lately, it has come to gain significance.

You have enemies?
That means you've stood up 
for something,
sometime in your life.

Judging by some recent comments made on previous blog posts, I've managed to stand up for something and have created some enemies by doing so.  This person, or these people, seem to think that by leveling personal attacks here on my blog and (GASP!) using my actual name, that they're helping whatever cause it is that they support and they see me as opposing.  Rather than having the intelligence to argue their own points in a logical and reasonable way, they've decided to attack me personally.

Ah yes, I do love the way some people's minds work - it's like a "I can't argue my point so I'm going to call you a name"-disease.  This disease usually manifests itself when the attacker has no ground on which to stand and/or no logical reasoning behind whatever their beliefs are, so instead of admitting they are wrong or don't have a clue about which they're talking, they go into six-year-old debate tactics: "Well...well...YOU'RE A BIG FAT LIAR STUPIDHEAD!" followed by a stomp of the foot and sticking out a tongue. And truthfully, no consequence will befall them if they choose to post here. On MY blog. Unless, you count my ability to edit certain comments to remove names of my friends, or those of private citizens of whom they are trying to discredit or insult or the names of my children from the comments, or even remove my own name if I so choose, a right of which I reserve to use when I feel it is necessary to do so. Or there's the consequences of my friends seeing me being personally attacked in a vicious way and then they decide to stand up for me by taking you down (I do LOVE my friends), usually using the same tactic you chose when you attacked me (that'd be called "Tit-4-Tat" debate-style, used by elementary students all over the world).  Otherwise, you know what? You are free to say whatever you want.  Also, if you look WAAAAAAAAAY up at the top of the page, underneath the bulldog with lipstick (I know, it's supposed to be a pitbull, but the bulldog was cuter), you'll see my very own disclaimer: "You've entered my world now; unless otherwise noted, all posts are my thoughts/opinions/musings; callin' it like I see it." That means exactly what it says - I take responsibility for my posts and if you don't like how I call it, well, I guess you'll just have to stop reading and move on to the next blog now, huh? Buh-Bye.

However if you choose to continue reading, you should know that I work hard to research and show factual documentation for the things I post here, and I would expect that since I work hard to research and logically argue whatever point I'm attempting to make, that the polite thing to do if you happen to disagree with me, would be to do your own research and find a way to civilly argue your point, either here in the comments (and take your chances that someone else will come in and disagree with you and expect you to explain your point - you know, a give-and-take of ideas might occur in which you might learn something new or else you might actually teach somebody something new).  That's how things should work here on MY blog and in the real world.

Unfortunately, that's not how they usually work.  What seems to happen instead is that as soon as one person disagrees with another person, the first thing out of the disagreeing person's mouth is some sort of name like "Hypocrite!" or "You have an Inferiority Complex?" or "Hateful!" or "Bi-Polar!" This tactic is used to shut down debate and discredit the speaker/writer.  If the debate is stopped, then whoever shut it down wins.  At least that's what they think.  But the problem is, no one wins when that happens.  People don't hear each other, they don't really listen to each other and the fights go on and on and on and on.  And pretty soon, we're spinning our wheels in the most divisive political climate the country has experienced in the last 100 years. Or that's what we're told.

Funny how I am trying to teach the etiquette of debate or civil disagreement; honestly, etiquette is not my strong suit as evidenced by Buttercup producing "armpit farts" at dinner on Mother's Day.  All I could do is choke back laughter and beg her to quit.  Granted, we were only at "Lenny's" (as the kids call it...what? Mama was craving some Chicken Fried Steak...It was MY day. What can I say? I'm pretty easy to please), and they put us in a far back corner, and Buttercup is still quite young, but....yeah, what I'm trying to say is: use your manners.  Don't come onto my blog and start trying to shut me down by insulting me or trying to intimidate me, because that's not going to work.  I'm not going anywhere.  If you disagree, please feel free to civilly argue your case, but remember, if you choose to do otherwise there could be consequences...after all, the name of the blog is:

A MNHockeyMama's World.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Never Forget

Never forget:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Heroes Among Us: Will You Be One?

The rescue of the three women held captive in Cleveland is a horrible and fascinating story.  The hero of the story is Charles Ramsey who heard the screams and broke down the door to get Amanda Berry and her child out, which led to the rescue of Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight.  I absolutely love this man's honesty and unpretentious attitude:

Seriously, I want to have beers with this guy and listen to him tell stories.  What an incredible person! 

The interview that is also interesting is where Mr. Ramsey discusses how he had felt that "something was weird about that house," a year ago. (At about a 1:32 into the video.)

His friend told him he was being paranoid - I love that he said, "Had I known what was going on, I would have done all this heroic stuff a year ago!"

How often do we have gut feelings about something and ignore them as "being paranoid"? Or we're afraid of stepping on someone else's toes or offending someone? I know it happens to me sometimes, and later, I wish I had acted on the feeling.

Recently, a friend of mine, Southern HockeyMama (aka "SHockeyMama), had a chance to act on a feeling or walk away.  Like Mr. Ramsey, she decided to act.  In my eyes, she too, is a hero:

SHockeyMama loves kids and kids adore her (actually, you can't meet her and not like her or forget her - she's just that special kind of person who has such a good heart that it is impossible not to love her).  She loves to spend time with kids of all ages and will help out her friends with childcare when needed.  Last week, she was dropping off a little friend at a preschool when she was confronted with a sight that she couldn't believe was happening.  An assistant teacher had a little boy, about four years old, pinned onto the floor, holding him down with her knee and restraining his hands, while the head teacher sat and read the other children a story not two feet away from the crying boy.  The little boy was crying and begging for the teacher to let him go.  SHockeyMama was shocked to see this and asked the teacher, "What are you doing?" the teacher said, "He keeps bothering my little friends and he needs to stop." Under the pretense of taking a photo of the child she was dropping off, SHockeyMama took two photos of the situation, then said "Good-bye" to the child she dropped off and walked out of the room.  As she left, she mentioned what she had witnessed to the person working the front desk, noting that there were video monitors displaying the activity of the various classrooms near the front desk.  Then she left.

As she drove home, she contemplated her options: Should she wait until the school day was over and show the little boy's mama the photos and let her handle it?  Should she ignore what she witnessed and not make any waves - maybe there was a reason why the little boy was being restrained? Should she contact the preschool and let them know what had happened? Or should she contact her friend, MNHockeyMama, about the story and let her take put it out to the wide world and let the preschool be eviscerated by the media for allowing that behavior to go on at that location?

Ultimately, SHockeyMama decided to call the main 800 number for the preschool company and tell them what had occurred.  The person she spoke with was as shocked and appalled by what SHockeyMama had witnessed and gave her an email address to send the photos and her information to them, which SHockeyMama did immediately.  Within an hour she received a call back, informing her that the Minnesota office had been called and that the situation was being take care of.  Within an hour of that call, she received another call from the Minnesota Director, who informed her that she was on the way to the location and that SHockeyMama wouldn't be seeing that teacher in that preschool again.  All the people with whom she spoke thanked her for alerting them to the situation and assured her that they would see that this wouldn't happen again.

The next day, SHockeyMama went back to once again drop off the same child at the preschool.  Neither teacher was in the classroom that day.  On her way out, the facility's director called her into the office to tell her "Thank you" and "You did the right thing."

SHockeyMama saw a situation that shouldn't be happening.  She could have walked away and kept her mouth shut, but she didn't.  As she stated on her Facebook wall: 

The reason I'm sharing this because I wasn't going to, is because if you see, or know of a child being abused, or cared for inappropriately "STAND UP FOR THEM ." Sometime their voices are just too small to be heard.
 Both SHockeyMama and Charles Ramsey are heroes.  They didn't have to listen to their guts telling them what they should do - Mr. Ramsey could have ignored the screams and stayed home, and SHockeyMama could have walked out of that preschool and not said a word to anyone.  But they didn't.  They both saw or heard something disturbing and listened to their guts and did the right thing.

If only we all would be as brave as these two heroes, and stand up for those who can't speak and/or act even when we know there could be danger or others who might deride us for acting when they refuse to act, the world would be a much better and safer place for all.

Monday, May 6, 2013

More Questions re East Ridge High School Black Panther Announcement

Updated 5/6/2013 12:31pm
A new development on the East Ridge High School/Black Panther controversy.  According to Robert L. Stephens' blog, his mother, Marquita Stephens, was allowed to go into ERHS on March 21, 2013 and conduct a "training" for the teachers on how they're "processing" the controversy.  According to this infamous OWS protester, the teachers involved in the training had no problem with the Black Panther announcement on February 14, 2013.  This information was confirmed by the FOIA'd emails - it was discovered that there were a series of emails between Ms. Stephens (her information was redacted, but the email's content includes discussion about a presentation) and Principal Harper that included some sort of book, a teacher survey and a 25 minute presentation by Ms. Stephens.  The information referenced in the emails was not included in the FOIA'd emails (the link to the Google doc no longer works), so the concerned parents are very curious as to what was presented on the same day that Ms. Stephens went to the South Washington County School Board meeting and presented Robert L. Stephens' letter to the editor of the Woodbury Bulletin.

At the first school board meeting the concerned parents attended and presented their concerns to the board, Steve Ellenwood also offered to go into the school and discuss the history of the Black Panthers and the concerns of the parents to the teachers.  His offer was brushed aside by the board.  Why, then, was Ms. Stephens allowed to do a presentation? What are her qualifications for this honor?  She is a social worker working (or has worked) with a non-profit adoption agency; what part of that qualifies her to "train" teachers? What about the report by Robert L. Stephens regarding how the teachers expressed no issues with the announcement? Is it that they are all indoctrinated to believe that as long as it was done in the context of Black History month that honoring socialist, militant groups over the school PA system, without including any classroom discussion time, is the right thing to do? Or is it because they were afraid of being labeled "racists" if they spoke out as those concerned parents have been by the supporters of the announcement?  Isn't this a form of bullying by the administration? Or possibly the teachers were concerned about speaking out due to the fact that the district is planning to cut 22 teaching positions to save $1.6 million in the next budget?

There have been researchers investigating the Stephens' backgrounds over the last few days.  Some of what has been discovered requires further investigation, however, one discovery may explain how and why Robert L. Stephens is completely radicalized in his beliefs about America.  There has been some evidence discovered that seems to show that the late Reverend Dr. Robert L. Stephens, Sr. was a proponent of Black Liberation Theology - the same theology preached by Obama's controversial Reverend Wright.  More research is being conducted to verify this possibility, but from what has been unearthed so far it seems likely that it could be true.

So, how does that possibility relate to the ERHS Black Panther issue?  It would seem to make sense that if the Rev. Dr. Stephens ascribed to Black Liberation Theology, that his wife, Marquita, is also a proponent of the same belief system as would be their children.  In that belief system, the Black Panthers would not be viewed as the violent criminals they were, but as liberators of oppressed people.  Is that what Ms. Stephens "trained" the ERHS teachers to believe as well?

How are Marquita Stephens, Principal Harper and Tishanna Brown connected?  From Robert Stephens' LTE, it is known that he graduated not from East Ridge High School, since it was not open in 2006, but Woodbury High School.  Did his younger brother attend ERHS?  Or are the three mentioned above acquainted in another way?  It seems that according to the emails (see below) between Principal Harper and Ms. Stephens that they were working together on the teacher training presentation that Ms. Stephens performed on March 21, 2013.  What exactly was taught during that "training"?  Why weren't the concerned parents notified by the district that the "training" occurred or was planned?  If Ms. Stephens truly wants a "dialogue" between the various groups in the community, why was this training kept secret?  Why wouldn't the concerned parents also be invited to the "training"?

Last week, one of the concerned parents was strongly advised by a school board member (with witnesses) that the parents should remove their children from East Ridge High School due to the concerned parents' persistence in requesting that the school board investigate the Black Panther announcement.  The school board member obviously feels concern for the children, why doesn't it seem to concern the rest of the board?  Why isn't the board seeing the need to stand up and speak out about the possibility of harassment (or worse) of concerned parents' children at ERHS?  Is the school board afraid of the announcement supporters? And if so, why?  Is it the fear of being labeled, like the concerned parents have been, as "racist"? Or is there a more nefarious element at work? Are the administration and school board members being pressured to continue to try to sweep this issue under the rug and allow the concerned parents to receive the brunt of the accusations that their concerns are racially motivated? If that is the case, why are they caving to the pressure? Of what or whom might they be so afraid?

FOIA'd Emails

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Minnesota: Land of Nanny-State Libs Gettin' All Up In Everyone Else's Business...

One of the reason we bought this house was the fact that this neighborhood has no HOA telling us how we must paint our house and whether our trampoline can or cannot be in our yard.  For the most part, my neighbors are pretty cool - we all tend to pretty much stay out of one another's business, and most of them understand when my kids decide to house-jump without telling me where they're playing, and I have to go from house to house to find out which child(ren) they've decided to play with.  My favorite neighbors are the ones to the south of us. I absolutely love them. Since my girls call out "Hey Mr.----" like Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson every time they see that particular neighbor, I'm going to call them "The Wilsons."

Mr. Wilson is one of my favorites in large part because he reminds me of my dad.  He has a variety of cool stuff and hobbies that keeps him entertained when he's not working.  Mrs. Wilson is a sweet woman, a little more reserved than Mr. Wilson, but always has a friendly wave and a smile and totally tolerates my little girls coming to visit their cat (and ferret when they still had him).  Another reason I love these neighbors is that when they have an issue with my family, they are willing to come discuss it with me - in person.  We have spent many an afternoon/evening, chitchatting over beers on the deck or in the yard.  They are kind, funny, down-to-earth people.

Recently, I noticed a city truck park on the street across from my house.  The driver climbed out and walked down the street toward my neighbors' house.  I found out from another neighbor that the city worker stood and took photos of my neighbors' yard and all the fun "toys" they have in the large driveway on the north-side of his almost full acre lot.  We talked to Mr. Wilson and told him what we saw that day.  A few days later, he went to City Hall to have a discussion with them.  When he returned, he was furious.

The City told Mr. Wilson that they do not proactively enforce these rules; rather, they are reactive with enforcement, meaning that they only will attempt to enforce the ordinances if someone complains about a property owner not following the "ordinances."  The fact that Mr. Wilson has lived in his house for almost fifteen years, and has kept his yard neat and tidy, has mowed the city-owned land adjacent to his property every summer (which the city only mows about twice a season), has invested in an asphalt driveway to his workshop, and Class 5 gravel for the area around his shop where he stored his large boat and various other items, including vintage wood-sided boats (one at a time) which he lovingly restored to absolute breathtaking beauty in his shop in the summers, doesn't matter to the city. He has been ordered to

Good Example of a Vintage Chris Craft Boat 

 remove all his recreational trailers but one and his small sheds (housing his lawn mowers and other yard equipment) at the back of his property in order for him to come into compliance with the ordinance.

We have lived next door to Mr. & Mrs. Wilson for almost five years.  At no time has any of their "stuff" bothered us.  The people on the other side of the Wilsons stay to themselves and are rarely seen; and none of the Wilson's "stuff" can be seen by them anyway as it is primarily located on our lot line.  There is a city-maintained walking path that borders the back edges of all our properties, so there is the possibility that someone walking by noticed Mr. Wilson's stuff and decided to report him, or possibly, there are some new-ish neighbors who have brought their "left-coast" nanny-state ideals with them to Minnesota (and who also tend to forgo talking directly to neighbors about issues) who may have decided that it is easier to call the city and report the so-called evil-doer for breaking city rules. (This is conjecture and is only my opinion based upon previous interactions with those particular neighbors, which includes the fact that they felt the need to call the city to report people legally goose hunting in a field a mile or more away from our neighborhood.) One of my fears is that the Wilsons were caught in the "cross-fire"; - that someone reported my yard for our "infractions*" - we have kept our garbage cans in front of our garage since we moved in five years ago; we seem to have somehow acquired a plethora of bikes; I have a stack of flower pots and other garden stuff along with my wheelbarrow and some other tools sitting around my backyard shed - and the city worker, while notating our infractions, also noticed the Wilson's infractions and decided to hit us both.  If that is the case, I am very sorry.

The real issue here is not the fact that there are city ordinances that need to be enforced.  The issue is that the city selectively enforces the ordinances based upon one report from one neighbor or passerby.  If the city feels the need to enforce the rules, then they should enforce the rules on everyone, not just on those of whom had meddling neighbors complain.  This represents a giant infringement on private property rights.

Another issue that stems from this comes from the on-going Second Amendment battles around the country. Minnesota fortunately has not enacted tougher gun control (not that our DFL controlled Legislature and extreme leftwing governor haven't tried) laws like other states like Colorado, New York and California recently have. However, if Minnesota's nanny-state libs have their way, extreme gun control laws are headed our way.  Recently, there have been cases in those states with the extreme gun control laws where people have not only had their 2nd Amendment Rights trampled, but also their 4th Amendment Rights ripped to shreds by the authorities.  Some of these cases involve meddling neighbors who have reported their neighbors for legally owning guns.  There are ad campaigns in some states encouraging people to turn in their neighbors for legally possessing a gun.  If a city is willing to only enforce ordinances based upon one complaint, what is to stop them from doing the same if/when Minnesota enacts strict gun control laws?

Personally, I don't want to live in a state that doesn't respect private property rights and the 2nd Amendment and that is willing to act on a "tip" from a disgruntled or jealous neighbor.  Like Mr. Wilson, we'll be looking for a new place to call home soon.

Example of an Anti-Second Amendment Ad
*Apparently, we all have been breaking certain City ordinances:

From the March 2013 Newsletter:

The city has a rule relating to the storage of trash/recycling bins – they may not be visible from adjoining properties. 
Trash, yard waste, and recycling containers may be placed at the end of your driveway after 6 p.m. the night before your scheduled pickup day; containers may remain at the curb throughout collection day. At all other times, the containers must be located indoors or be fully hidden from view behind a solid fence or wall not less than 5 feet in height.
Recreational equipment storage. Recreational vehicles up to 24 feet in length, such as trailers, campers, boats, snowmobiles and RVs, may be parked or stored outdoors as follows:
•              One piece of recreational equipment is allowed per dwelling unit. When recreational equipment is on a trailer, the trailer and piece of recreational equipment shall be considered as one. Measurement does not include tongue of trailer or motor (if applicable).
•              Equipment may be located on any rear or side lot not within 5 feet of the lot line; it must be on concrete or blacktop.
•              Equipment may be located in the front lot, on concrete or blacktop, and not within 15 feet of the curb.
•              Recreational equipment may not be parked or stored on a public street.
Exterior storage.All materials and equipment – such as lawn mowers, lumber, gardening tools, etc. – must be stored within a building or be fully hidden from adjoining properties. Other items including, but not limited to, play structures, clotheslines, and grills may be visible; however, setbacks may be required and some homeowner’s association covenants may restrict them.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Community Rifts Exposed by ERHS Black Panther Announcement

The Black Panther presentation at East Ridge High School on February 14, 2013 has exposed rifts in the community: the concerns of the parents opposing the announcement have been minimally brushed aside as silly by some, or worse, the parents are being accused (not directly, but by insinuation) of being racist for their concerns about how the Black Panthers were honored during the school-wide announcement at ERHS.  Those who are focusing on criticizing the concerned parents for their outrage have, for the most part failed to understand that both groups have repeatedly stated the same thing:  The Black Panthers and the history of the '60's era should be taught in history classes, and that American History - of ALL Americans should be taught in school.  This has never been something that has been disputed by either group; unfortunately, there are those in the group voicing their support for the announcement who have either insinuated or implied or, in the case of K. Stanley Brooks in an op-ed in the Woodbury Bulletin and in an online column has claimed that the concerned parents were accusing the school of teaching "Black Supremacy" - something that has never been uttered or written by anyone involved with this issue.  Dr. Brooks, has (apparently unknowingly) articulated the point that the concerned parents have repeatedly made

....rather it should engage the reader to understand critically the contents and the purpose of the existence of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Who were they defending? Why was there a need for defense? Were there extreme life threatening experiences that drove them to extreme forms of protection for their families and communities? Do people know that their breakfast program was the pre-cursor to what we currently refer to as Free and Reduced lunch programs? Was it positive that the program rapidly expanded from feeding a handful of kids in an Oakland church, to serving over 10,000 a day before they went to school? They were filling a need in that context that should have been addressed by the school district and state. These should be foundational questions to be answered...
Funny, but that statement should actually be directed at the teacher and Principal of East Ridge for the fact that they used a two minute sound bite of information about the Black Panthers without giving the rest of the teachers any information that 1) The Black Panthers would be the topic of that day's commemoration, and 2) Information and the time to do exactly what Dr. Bro0ks has described: make the announcement into a true learning experience for all ERHS students.  If Dr. Brooks and those who continue to criticize and/or attempt to have this issue swept under the rug would truly listen to the concerns of the parents speaking out on this issue, they would see that in truth, they are all in agreement that the manner in which the Black Panthers were presented to the students did not fulfill the most basic thing school is supposed to do: educate.

As has been endlessly repeated: it is not about the fact that the Black Panther Party was mentioned that the concerned parents oppose, but rather that it was not given the historical context and discussion time for the children of ERHS to fully understand the group and what it was about - and that would include the good the group did as well as the bad.  This truly could have been a great learning opportunity along with the other groups and people picked for the daily announcements would have been.  Perhaps if Mr. Harper would come out and say, "You know what? You all are right: we do need to include notes to teachers about whom we will commemorate in the daily announcements during Black History month and give them classroom time to further delve into why those groups and people are historically significant with their students." Wow! What an amazing learning experience that could be.  One thing that has been repeated by all the people weighing in on this issue is the need for a deeper understanding of our Nation's history (all Americans' history - not just select groups), and that is something that has not been addressed at any time by any of the school administrators or school board members.  There is something that we all can come together on and say, "Hey, we actually agree on this issue.  Now please do something about it."  There's a dialogue we could gladly have.

However, this dialogue is unlikely to happen any time soon because, in my opinion, it unfortunately seems that is not how those supporting the announcement are perceiving the issues the concerned parents have brought up.  Instead of truly listening to the concerns, they seem to be hearing only that something brought up during Black History month is being criticized and are taking that criticism as racially motivated due to the fact that it happened during Black History month, the topic in question is the Black Panther Party, and the announcement was (supposed to be) overseen by not only a principal who happens to be of color, but a teacher who also happens to be of color.  

Lest anyone be confused here: racism does happen.  Sometimes people are motivated for racist reasons. However, that does not mean that anytime someone of one race criticizes a person of another race who also happens to be in some sort of a leadership position doesn't mean that the criticizer is racist. What it can actually mean is that person is looking at the leader and saying "Look, I know you know how to do your job.  You are in that leadership position for a reason. I expect that since you are in that leadership position that you are qualified to be there and therefore, I have high expectations for you to fulfill your duties. So, please do your job."  That has nothing to do with race. That is judging a person based on their character and job performance and not the color of their skin.

As a woman, I'd rather have someone judge me based on my job performance, my merit, my abilities, etc. than to be given anything just because I happen to have a vagina and mammary glands rather than a penis and chest hair.  If someone is critical of me based upon their opinion of my lack of writing skills or lack of ability of follow-through, am I going to call them "sexist" for having that opinion of me?  I don't think so.  That demeans both me and the person of whom I would be accusing of being sexist. I realize there will be people who will say that my life experiences as a woman cannot compare to the life experiences of people of color; that racism is far more prevalent and has affected them much more adversely than any kind of sexist behavior I may have encountered throughout my life.  Which may be true to a point; however, the question then becomes, "Based upon my experiences with sexist behavior, does that mean that I view every man I meet as someone who will potentially be sexist and allow that to affect the way that I will perceive everything that men say or do?" My answer would be, "No."  Why not?  Because I don't believe that every man I meet is a chauvinistic pig just because I have encountered some who have behaved that way in the past.  That, my friends, is the essence of stereotypes: judging everyone who shares a similarity - be it sex, race, political beliefs, etc. - with someone who may have acted a certain way as the same.  No one likes to be stereotyped.  

Going through life assuming that because some men choose to discriminate against me because I am a woman means that all men discriminate against women is a pretty sad way to approach life.  The consequence of that assumption will be that because I believe that all men are chauvinists, I will be more likely to read behavior that truly is devoid of bias as sexist because I'll be looking for that behavior to confirm my belief that all men are sexist.  Furthermore, that belief can also become an excuse: I am criticized for poor performance in something in which I truly did perform poorly, but instead of seeing the criticism for what is truly is - a judgement based upon my performance - I choose to believe that the person being critical of my performance is doing it because I am a woman, when in fact, it truly was me who failed in my performance.  But by believing that it wasn't my performance that caused the criticism but rather the criticizer's poor view of women, I can deflect the blame onto the person criticizing me and absolve myself of responsibility for my poor performance. 

If this can be true of matters of sex or gender, than why can it not be true in matters of race as well?  Is it not an easy excuse to say, "Oh, those parents aren't really upset that violent criminals were commemorated, and the teachers not given the opportunity to discuss the group in class with their students and make it a true learning experience," but rather, "They're upset because the people being honored are black and it was done during Black History month."  That removes the culpability of poor judgement on the part of the administrator and teacher, and places it instead upon the concerned parents by implying they are racist and therefore in the wrong for their criticism.

As was mentioned in a previous blog, there were emails FOIA'd regarding the Black Panther issue. The FOIA'd emails included an email from someone calling themselves "WoodburyVine" in which the writer accused the concerned parents of having a "political motive" behind their opposition to the Black Panther announcement.  The writer also did some research on your's truly and put it out in a "Community Alert," along with eviscerating me for having the gall to post tweets found on the Twitter Public Timeline (if you don't want your tweets or your kids' tweets read by all the world, protect your accounts and tell your kids to protect theirs), which not only showed the fact that Mr. Harper was "protecting" Ms. Tishanna Brown, but how they felt disenfranchised from much of the ERHS school community.  Apparently, WoodburyVine believed that I put those tweets up to a) put the children in danger; b) to somehow make fun of them and/or c) minimize their experiences as minority students in "racist Woodbury."  None of the above is correct.  The reason the kids' tweets were posted was because they were direct evidence showing an effort by Mr. Harper to protect Ms. Brown from criticism for the announcement. Something that should also be noted (as it was on April 25, 2013 during the presentation to the school board) is that the school district administrators and Mr. Harper, while protecting the teacher, threw the kids under the bus by claiming the announcement was "student led." Also, based on the FOIA'd emails between Mr. Harper and Ms. Brown, not only did Mr. Harper not vet the announcement, but he apparently didn't listen to it either, and the same series of emails showed that the author of the language for the announcements was not a student, but rather Ms. Brown herself.  Were the kids tossed under the bus because their teacher and principal hoped that fabrication - that the presentation was "student-led" - would deflect criticism away from themselves? (Worth noting here: within those emails it was also shown that there was quite an amazing variety of historically great black Americans honored in the days following the Black Panther announcement including the great performers of the Harlem Renaissance, Congressman Hiram Revels, etc. for which Ms. Brown and Mr. Harper must be given credit.)

Perhaps the community members critical of the concerned parents wonder if Mr. Harper and Ms. Brown were white and had commemorated a controversial white person or group, would the same concerned parents voice opposition to such a presentation?  Knowing the people who have been vocal in their opposition to the Black Panther announcement, I would have to say "Yes."  Personally, if I found out that during "'60's Week" at my kids' high school a teacher and an administrator decided to do a school wide, two-minute sound-bite commemoration of Charles Manson and his group "The Family," I would most certainly pitch a fit.  If the teacher and administrator used the excuse, "Well, it was during '60's Week and it is historically significant to that era and, you know, commemorate can mean many different things - it doesn't have to mean honor...and it was student led and we really didn't vet the announcement but it's ok...." do you think that I or other parents would just back down?  Not a chance.  And if we didn't back down, would there be people in the community who would be criticizing us and calling us out for religious intolerance since Manson's group was a cult?  If that seems ludicrous to you, why?  How is it any different than a two-minute, sound-bite announcement commemorating a group which was founded by known violent criminals, who advocated for killing cops, as well as the overthrow of the American capitalistic system and the removal of businesses from the people - based on the business owners' skin color - who built those businesses, and which was also on the FBI's most watched list? If you read the history of the Black Panther Party and its founders, would you also have to believe that this was not a group that deserved to be honored in a school wide announcement without including at least some classroom discussion that would put the group into the context of the era in which it was formed? 

Regarding the children's tweets and the lack of connection to the community those tweets showed:  How about a dialogue about why that might be?  How about we as adults sit down and seriously look at our own actions and the values we are demonstrating to our children and consider how those things are affecting our kids' lives and the way they look at the world?  How about instead of constantly focusing on the differences between people, we start looking for the things we share in common with one another?  How about we, as adults, take off the glasses of distrust, and attempt to truly get to know one another as people? How about we start demonstrating to our children through our own behavior that people are people are people - if you take the time to actually talk to someone who may not look or act like yourself or those with whom you associate, you will more than likely discover that you have something in common with that person that you wouldn't have known had you not chosen to talk to that person?  How about we look at ways to teach our children, by our own actions, that most people are generally good people regardless of what race, ethnicity, sex, etc. they are?  How about we start teaching our children that they are Americans first and like family, we care for our fellow countrymen/women regardless of whether or not they look or act like ourselves? How about we teach our children the entire history of our great Nation, including the good, the bad, the mediocre and the ugly? And by teaching them the history of their country, they not only learn to love their country and their fellow citizens, but they also see the mistakes that have been made in the past, understand those mistakes and be given the knowledge on how not to repeat those mistakes?  

How about it - anyone out there up for starting a dialogue about this?