Monday, January 31, 2005

Teachable moment: The gubernatorial contest

Two teachers at school have capitalized on the historic moment this week of the hearing on whether the Nov. 2 election for governor should be set aside and a new election called.

Feb. 1, a local attorney who is a member of the legal team for the Democrats, will speak after school to the Political Awareness Club. He'll be explaining the proceedings and the cases each side is arguing. I suspect he'll also be emphasizing just why the Deomcrats are correct and the Republicans are not.

Then, Friday, these two teachers are taking their classes of highly capable students to court -- really the Chelan County Auditorium -- to witness some of the proceedings. (Coincidentally, one of the two teachers has been called for jury duty this week and may not be able to make the trip.) Apparently the spark for much of this came from a student, ChAt, who holds a special interest and a Republican point of view. Regardless of the outcome and how long the hearing lasts, these students are witnessing history: If the election is set aside, it will be the first time in the nation's history that a re-vote is called for governor.

More to come, for sure.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

'Girlie, sometimes tough ain't enough.'

I don't think I have enough superlatives to describe my feelings after returning home just a few minutes ago from viewing "Million Dollar Baby" with Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Simply put, it is among the best films I have seen in several years.

Good film does more than just tell you a story. It inspires. It makes the viewer think. It stirs emotions. It lifts the spirit. It suspends the viewer's recognition of time and place and makes the viewer experience what the characters experience.

I went to this show expecting to see a good story with excellent acting. I left feeling satisfied -- satisfied about the performances, about the themes and about the message of the film. Clint Eastwood has crafted a movie of quality that has a message of loss and redemption, of dealing with guilt and personal demons, of taking a risk and taking a stand. The biblical allusions alone could keep an English teacher working for hours. To see a film with just one or two themes and messages or strong performances is an exception today; to see a film that combines rich performances with strong ideas is rare and deserving recognition.

I hope this picture receives many accolades. All those involved deserve it. Eastwood, Swank and Freeman are all nominated for Academy Awards, and the film is up for Best Picture of the Year. Eastwood has never been better, and I hope the Academy voters acknowledge that.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

What's wrong with education Part II: What a zoo!

Well, today was the first day of the semester, and if the number of students iwth screwed-up schedules is any indication, the term is off to a rocky start.

School seemed to begin without troubles, but apparently that was just the calm before the storm. My prep period is second hour, and I stopped by the room used for schedule corrections and noticed the line outside the room contained about 30 people. I popped into the room just to get a sense of how many students' schedules needed immediate attention, and there must have been at least 60 students inside the room.

What is most maddening about the chaos at the beginning of the semester is not that some students need a schedule fix. Of course there will be problems -- students who failed a class and need a change, students whose interests have changed since requesting courses last year and so on. However, the process by which changes are made is frustrating. Seniors were helped today as were those students who had missing courses or duplicate courses scheduled. Tomorrow is the first of the month, so no changes will be made because officials need to conduct the enrollment count for state funds. Wednesdsay juniors get a chance to change schedules, Thursday is for sophomores, and Friday if for freshmen.

That means that a student is forced to sit through several days of a class they know they propbably will change -- and will mniss several days of a course they probably will add -- just because of the logistical problems.

My other main conern and rant has to do with the way the problem is approached. It seems perfectly acceptable that students will miss several days of class because the procedure is outlined that way. If I have a problem in my teaching or with my grades, I am expected to do whatever it takes -- how many extra hours it takes -- to complete the job because student learning is the top priority. However, the official attitude seems to be that if it can't be solved by 3 p.m. on the school day, then it has to wait until tomorrow -- no matter who else it affects.

It's frustrating to say the least. Here are a few numbers to help drive home the importance of being ready to start classes on the first day of the semester:
This semester is 89 days instead of 90 because of calendar convenience. Although school will be held for all 89 days, we won't meet each class 89 times this semester. We'll miss a few for the WASL and ITED tests in April; a few more will be shortened for assemblies; some classes won't meet for teaching because they'll be used to schedule for next year; and the finals week schedule eliminates a couple sessions, too. We don't have anywhere near the number of class sessions we should have, yet students are expected to learn more and we are expected to teach more.

It's all maddening.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Mr. Speaker, What's the State of the Union?

We get to find out Wednesday night.

The Bush Administration may have pulled off the political play of the week by successfully keeping speculation about the SOTU speech off the Sunday morning chat shows. I listened to "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" for a few hours Sunday and there was no mention of the pending address to a joint session of Congress. Instead, it was all glowing praise for the success of the election in Iraq.

My favorite part of the annual event is when the sergeant at arms announces the president: "Mr. Speaker, the President of the United STATES!" There could easily be some sort of game made of the number of times the president is interrupted by applause, if only Republicans stand or if Democrats do, too, and how many times GWB will say these words: freedom, liberty, democracy, and social security. I doubt he'll mention "privatization" or "screwing the next generation" in those terms, even though that's what he really means.

My current state is being sick, resulting in me being extra-cynical, so I will leave it there until after Wednesday night.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

I hate being sick

I knew it was coming. Last Tuesday, I had the slight tinge of feeling sick. I dismissed it as just the stresses of finals week coupled with the demands of my master's classes as they heated up. Thursday night I fell asleep on the couch for three hours, prompting a restless night of sleep. By Friday, I was definitely feeling sick.

Enter the pain medication. The Advil Liqui-Gels eliminated the sore throat pain and allowed me to have a pretty normal day. I was feeling no other symptoms. By Friday night, I was run down and then had another restless night. I hardly slept at all and got up roughly every hour to repeat the routine of sip of water, swallow painfully, check the clock, roll over. I decided I needed to get to the clinic to see what the problem was.

After a long drive home from Seattle and another long wait at the walk-in clinic, I found out that I have some sort of viral sore throat. The nurse said she had been seeing quite a bit of it. At least it is not strep throat (although that could be cured faster). Now I basically just have to "ride it out" for a few more days.

My kitchen counter looks like some sort of alchemist's lab with various home remedies and methods to mitigate the pain in my throat, including Chloraseptic spray, hard candies, Tang and salt to gargle. Tylenol PM made Saturday night a lot more bearable, and I think I have rounded the bend toward recovery. Probably another day of rest and not talking would be best, but I think I can bear being at school instead -- it is the first day of the new semester, and my absence would most likely just add to the confusion I already expect.

Of course, I could also be headed for a relapse. I hope not.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Friday, January 28, 2005

"Hotel Rwanda" is the new "Schindler's List"

I went to see "Hotel Rwanda" this afternoon in Seattle with my friend The CIB. All I can say is "Wow!" This is one of the most moving cinema experiences I have had in many years. I experienced mixed emotions -- outrage at the world for not reacting sooner, shock at the tragedy, sadness for the loss.

Simply put, Don Cheadle is amazing, as are the other performances. Well, Nick Nolte was a bit off, but I can let that slide.

This movie should be shown as frequently as possible, to as many people as possible in order to spread the word about this historical travesty. If enough people make a request, it will open in wider release.

See it soon.

-- Seattle

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A face in the fighting

I received an e-mail today that prompted both good and bad emotional reaction. It was from a student I had in my class several years ago who, now in the U.S. Air Force, was headed to Iraq in a couple weeks. He had sent the e-mail to say that he was headed there and would try to stop by and say hi to me at school while he was though Wenatchee.

One line struck me hard: He said he was "mostly excited." Of course he was excited to be sent to a challenging new mission; he would also be in a dangerous environment with much greater risk than at the base in Tacoma.

I reacted with both pleasure and fear. I am so proud of the young serviceman he has become. This is a student who worked hard during high school, had his share of discipline situations and was pretty rough around the edges. His articulate message saying he wanted to come and visit me would make any teacher proud. At the same time, I fear for his safety while he is stationed in Iraq. Suddenly, all the nameless soldiers and marines deployed to Iraq have a face, one I know and can see only as a kid sitting two rows back in Freshman English.

I didn't tell him I am opposed to this war and the misdirected mission he will be assigned to implement. I'm not sure how that would go over. Just beneath the bravado of a young serviceman is the young man who has his doubts and questions the unknown.

I hope he and his company are safe and successful during their tour of duty, and I'll look forward to seeing him come home.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Republicans think they've got it now

The Seattle Times is reporting that the state Republican Party has found more than 300 illegal votes in the Nov. 2 election. Full story

I still don't think it matters. The Democrats are right -- any improporieties needed to have been challenged during canvassing, before certification. It's too late. My prediction is a very short hearing Feb. 4 here in Wenatchee -- just long enough for Judge Bridges to throw the case out.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

It's finally over -- a crappy week

I made the mistake of telling too many people about this online forum, so I can't go into details about just why this week was so crappy, but it was. And I am glad it is done. Suffice it to say that I started the week with newspaper layout night, which consumes a bunch of time; a very frustrating staff meeting; a negative situation with a yearbook picture, which I oppose to my very core; students and their end-of-semester course-failing situations (involving the alternative high school and also students who just did not do what they needed); me being just a slight bit sick; and an online class that is very complicated and has a workload that is going to kick my butt this semester.

So, I am taking a couple days off. After getting a much-needed haircut (always makes me feel better) I plan to spend some of the time at the movies in another city where I can forget the stresses of my job and school life. I also plan to spend some curled up on the couch reading, writing and watching stupid, fluffy movies. There may even be adult beverages involved.

Next week begins a new semester. If the total bedlam at the counseling office is an indication, most of the first week will be a complete waste of time because students will have schedule changes galore. It would be funny if it weren't so serious.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Suppressing the "conservative" voice in the school paper

A reader posted this comment to one of my other entries:
"I too, congradulate you on reaching the spectacular number of 90 issues. I am a student and enjoy reading certain parts The Apple Leaf. Therefore I am sorry about having to post a negative review. There is no denying the fact that this paper is turning severly liberal, which I have no doubt you commend. I believe this because you are a pronounced democrat yourself and probably push your political ideals mercilessly onto your poor, inocent students untill they break under the strain and become brainwashed liberals. Don't get me wrong, there are many articles in your paper that are still worth reading, and I apreciate these. It is a fact, however, that the annoying liberal students have a monopoly on the opinion section. It is okay for people to have their opinions, and they are placed in the appropriate spot, but either let some conservatives at the opinions section or obliterate it completely. I have had enough of a paper more than half of the student body is unable to enjoy.
Again, great work on maintaining the quality of our treasured paper."

I felt this was an issue that deserves its own strand of discussion, and I encourage people to sound off on this topic. I also encourage each person to post his or her name; it helps understand the context. I am reluctant to respond to someone who says he or she is a student (without knowing who it is), but here goes:

First, anyone who knows me or the philosophy of The Apple Leaf knows that I seek as much of an open forum as possible. That means I want to read as many different opinions and perspectives as space permits. I know the editors welcome letters and guest columns.

Second, I don't mandate or limit the topics that are addressed on the pages of the opinion section. The writers select their own topics. I help them develop their topic -- and I frequently try to guide them to an original topic instead of just expressing a duplicate of an earlier column from someone else. I sure as heck don't force my ideas or views on a writer, and I have not mercilessly pushed my views on poor unsuspecting students. That is ludicrous.

Third, the newspaper staff currently has some very outspoken students -- young writers who have intense political beliefs. Those beliefs, this year at least, tend to lean to the left of the political spectrum. However, past years have included numerous students -- top editors, even -- who have had "conservative" views. There are arfticulate and intelligent conservatives on the staff now. They each have the same opportunity for a commentary as anyone else on staff.

In conclusion, if you have something you want to say, come out in the open and say it.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Funny, I don't feel 90

As usual, every third Monday night is layout night for the newspaper, The Apple Leaf. Tonight was a pretty seamless operation. I told the group of editors as I walked out the door with them at about 8:30 p.m. that this was one of the best issues in the last several years from top to bottom. I think that every page has something good on it. Sure, the last few years have had some pretty spectacular issues with a nice centerpiece section, a cool commentary or a great feature, but Volume 88, Issue 6 is as solid as it gets. With just 20 students on staff, it's even more remarkable.

And it was pretty cool that it was the 90th edition I have advised since 1997. That's a lot of late nights; third, fourth and fifth drafts; trips through the drive-thru; red pens; and times I've yelled "Get to work!" Now, things pretty much run themselves. That's a good feeling.

It's not that any of my previous students were better or worse, just that they had different experiences and talents and worked with me in a different time. I've learned a lot these past 90 issues, and I hope I keep learning.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

I don't know anyone who would buy these

If you can tolerate some stupid and distasteful stuff, check out this site: The Nut Shop

I come from a small town with farming roots, and I am pretty sure no one I know would attach one of these plastic items to his or her vehicle. Come on. I do know several people who would find these absolutely hilarious, including most of my male students. This is the perfect gag gift -- something everyone wants to buy and laugh about but that no one with any self-respect would ever install.


-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Cool Blog Alert: Vestal Vespa

Now here's a gal who thinks like me. Well, at least we share a lot of beliefs in common. Check it out at Vestal Vespa.

I was particularly amused by the posts "Gross" and "Freakin' Weird". Funny stuff. Funny stuff.

My life, my Blog

To all of the readers out there in Cyberspace:

Thanks for reading. I get an e-mail message every time someone posts a comment to the Blog, so I do read everything that is left here. I want to make it clear that I really enjoy and appreciate the many comments. If you feel like it, please do leave your name and home town -- just for context purposes. I promise I won't hold your comments against you!

As for the visitor who suggested that I include more personal, diary-type entries, I think I am happy with the direction of the Blog so far. No one really wants to know what I had for breakfast or that I just came in from setting the recycling at the end of the driveway. I'm not as compulsive as former Florida Sen. Bob Graham for goodness sake.

That said, I realize I have been very focused on politics and work-related items. Those are my interests, so I expect they'll continue. But I'll try to add some other stuff, too.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The gubernatorial election plot thickens

Information reported in The Seattle Times Jan. 23 adds a shocking new wrinkle to the Nov. 2, 2004, election. The Times reports that 129 felons apparently voted in the election -- just in King and Pierce counties. In a remarkable coincidence, that is exactly the margin of victory of Gov. Gregoire over her opponent, former state Sen. Dino Rossi, in the election.

Read all about it here.

So, according to a comment posted by a reader of this Blog, the straws the Republicans have been grasping have become more sturdy. I agree to a certain extent. However, the Democrats interpret the state law this way: The petitioners will have to show not just that the votes could have resulted in a change in victor (because the number of disputed votes could potentially have changed the outcome). Instead, they must show that the votes would change the outcome. Furthermore, the Dems maintain that the voting by felons is a registration error that should have been challenged before the election was certified in each county. Now, it's a done deal.

As for felons voting, let's also keep from pointing fingers at the winning party. Plenty of these folks voted for Rossi, and there are errors such as these in every election in every county. There should be a reform of the procedures, for certain, but we can't undo results simply because we think the results could have been changed.

I say it's still not enough to overturn the election. The person who posted a comment here earlier also said that Gov. Gregoire could end all this by, one, calling for a revote, and, two, appointing 49.99 percent Repoublicans to her administration. Are you kidding? That is absurd. I did not expect President Bush to do that when he took office, and I would not expect Rossi to do so if he were in Gov. Gregoire's position. It simply does not work that way. Period.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Powell says seeya to FCC

From The New York Times:

F.C.C. Officials Say Chairman Plans to Resign Today

Published: January 21, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell plans to step down, an agency official said Friday.

Powell, who maintained a light regulatory hand as the nation's chief media watchdog but collected some of the largest indecency fines against U.S. broadcasters, plans to issue a statement but was not expected to hold a formal news conference, this official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Powell, the son of departing Secretary of State Colin Powell, does not plan to immediately step down, said the official. However, he will leave soon.

-- I say good riddance.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Take the WASL early!

The Seattle Times reports that the state superintendent of public instruction will allow freshmen to take the state's proficiency test, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, a year ahead of schedule, beginning next year.

Although Superintendent Terry Bergeson sees the opportunity as a way for students to practice the test, if a student passes any of the four areas, he or she would not be required to take those portions in Grade 10.

Read more including about the level of proficiency being deliberated now and options for repeating the test by those who don't pass with the first attempt.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Governor election court case opens with a whimper

According to The Wenatchee World, the opening hearing of the case to determine whether the election for governor should be set aside and a new election ordered opened without much excitement. The hearing had been moved to the Chelan County Auditorium to accommodate the throng of spectators that had apparently been anticipated. The World reported that, at most, 60 people attended. The reporters from all sorts of newspapers around the state and television reporters from at least four stations also were present. I heard, but did not confirm, that former state Sen. Dino Rossi, also the former governor-elect, was in Wenatchee, but I doubt he attended the hearing; he peobably just met with some supporters.

The World indicated that a full report would be in Friday's paper because of a morning press deadline. KING-TV reported that a follow-up hearing would be in two weeks.

And so we wait.

--Wenatchee, Wash.

Bush's Second Inaugural -- My Highlights

Well, a raspy-voiced Chief Justice William Rehnquist swore in George W. Busg for a second term today. I note he added the line "So help me God" at the end, which is not part of the official oath but hasa been customarily added since George Washington did so.

I caught most of the speech this morning live, and I've pieced together the rest from news coverage. I noticed:

Bush had a great line about race: "And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time." In an ironic twist, the camera panned the audience -- a sea of white faces.

Read the complete text here.

Near the end of the speech, applause erupted from the crowd assembled below the platform. President Bush, looking slightly started that a line had garnered that much applause -- it was slightly out of place at that point -- paused for about a half second. The camera cut to the audience, and law enforcement officers moved across the screen. This from The Washington Post: "Those who came to celebrate Bush's second term weren't about to let anyone ruin their day. When the president neared the end of his inaugural address, several women stood up from seats in front of him and began shouting anti-Bush slogans. As security guards moved in, a man in suit and tie rolled up a snowball and hit one of the women in the face. The crowd stood and cheered."

A colleague noted today that the theme of the speech was American liberty and freedom. This at the same time protestors were corralled well away from the Capitol and the tightest security ever resulted in searches and other restrictions.

One of the "entertainment" pieces was a rendition of "Eagles Soar," a song written by John Ashcroft, the so-called "Singing Senator." At least he didn't sing that dreadful ditty himself.

It's all downhill from here, folks. Let's get on with it.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Rice to be confirmed after thorough grilling

My hero this week for being the standard-bearer of the Democrat Party: Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. Man, did she give Dr. Condoleeza Rice the what-for this week during Rice's confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State. More...

Boxer held Rice accountable for having a distorted view of the truth. She and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts were the two votes against her in the committee; both strongly oppose President Bush's strategy in the war in Iraq. Sixteen other voted for Rice. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's ranking Democrat, reluctantly voted for her, but also admonished her to come back and be honest and to avoid listening to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld because "he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about." Biden was referring to the rosy picture painted by the Pentagon about how many Iraqi troops had been trained to replace American soldiers. Biden said the number was far fewer than was being reported.

Other Senate Democrats said they would attempt to delay the floor vote on Rice's nomination until late Thursady evening, when inauguration parties commenced, hoping Republicans would rather adjourn and get to the partying.

Another bright spot this week was the delay of the committee vote on Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts placed a one-week hold on the vote until Gonzales asnwered questions to the satisfaction of the committee's minority Democrats.

As a snub to the president, it could be that neither of these high-profile cabinet members would be able to assume their jobs when the president begins his second term. Perhaps the Democrats are finding their backbone again and will emerge from the 2004 election as a true opposition party.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Jan. 20, 2005, is a BIG day in electoral politics

Thursday, Jan. 20 is a big day when it comes to the election results. George W. Bush will be inaugurated for the second and final time at noon, Eastern time. Meanwhile, about 30 minutes earlier, here in Wenatchee at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges will hear a request from Republicans to speed up the time period for finding information in the case to set aside the election because of how it was conducted. The state Democrat and Libertarian parties have joined the suit as defendants, by the way.

The Republicans allege that ballots were mishandled, that votes were cast illegally by prisoners or by those who were deceased, and that provisional ballots were improperly included in the tally before the voter's registration could be validated.

According to The Wenatchee World, Judge Bridges will consider allowing some of the 39 Washington counties to leave the lawsuit as well as House Speaker Frank Chopp and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who are in the midst of the 105-day legislative session. A timeline will also be set. We could be luck, of course, and Judge Bridges could dismiss the whole thing. I doubt it.

Stay tuned, folks. Bush II: The Next Chapter begins Thursday, and Washington Election 2004.2 -- Rossi's Revenge -- moves forward. More to come, fer shure.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

New movie from JibJab

Those funny satirists are at it again. The special Inauguration edition JibJab movie is now available. It's called "Second Term."

When I tried, it did not stream fully and some of the animation froze. That was probably due to heavy traffic, since I saw the site was featured on "The Tonight Show."

Regardless, I think it's great.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

The new SAT writing test is on the horizon, and it will kick most students' butts

The March 12 SAT will ask students to respond to a prompt and in just 25 minutes create a logical argument supported with evidence.

I participated in a similar test when I took the GRE last summer. My assessment: It will really shock some of our students because they have not been asked to much like this in classes. That's not a problem. We can prepare them by adding similar situations -- in prompt, test format and assessment -- in our classes. And, I don't think we'll sacrifice anything by "teaching to the test."

Read more

Monday, January 17, 2005

Freezing rain encrusts town

After I switched off the movie earlier this evening, I heard a slight tapping outside. I discovered that a storm of freezing rain had created a crust about one-quarter-inch thick atop the light, fluffy snow accumulated on the ground here.

I recall playing with this ice layer when I was a kid. I'd see if I could scoop out the snow beneath the ice and then just play around as kids will do. I also remember, when I lived in New Hampsire, that a colleague of mine from the school used the frozen crust to joke with her father. He slammed a brittle sheet of ice against his head, pretending it was "stunt glass." No wounds were evident.

At this point, due to the slick roads, I wonder if the schools' start time will be delayed at all. It could be a real challenge to the transportation department and to parents bringing their children to school. We'll see.

Update: Tuesday morning at 5:55, the phone rang, and I knew exactly what it was -- two-hour delay. Yes!

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Joint Chiefs

For a bit more than two years, I've called the social studies teachers at my school the Joint Chiefs. I don't have a particular reason why I call them the Joint Chiefs -- something along the lines of aqll sharing power and eachthinking he is the head dude. At lunch, they guys sit around in their cluster of desks and debate the issues of the day. Each has a different perspective, and sometimes things get a bit heated. Not often, but sometimes.

This school year, I began eating my lunch with the Joint Chiefs. The election campaigns of the autumn provided daily fodder, and the Washington governor's race is still a topic from time to time. Of course, we also talk about any issue that's in the news or buzzing around school from Jon Stewart to the despised policy of the week.

It's a fun group, and there's a lot of give and take. Usually a few laughs, too.

I use some of the lunchtime discussions as the beginnings of postings for here, and lately, I have taken to saying "I just wrote about that on my blog last night." Some of the Chiefs don't know how to get to a blog, but they smile and nod anyway.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Another blog?

Two girl students of mine (one current and one formerly in my class) told me today that they thought I needed some outlet, so they set up a site for me on I told them I already had a blog, but I promised to check out what they chose. Gotta admit, that's sweet, especially seeing the name they chose and the password. Hilarious. They know me too well.

Bless their hearts. But I am happy here, thanks. I mean, really: Do I need to be able to indicate my current mood and the song I'm listening to? Nope.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

As of Wednesday, Jan. 12: Governor Gregoire -- but maybe not for long

Sometime mid-day, Christine Gregoire, a Democrat and three-term attorney general, will be sworn in as Washington state's 22d governor, just the second woman ever to serve in the post.

Repoublicans, meanwhile, are absolutely grasping at any straw in an attempt to convince a Chelan County Superior Court judge that this election should be set aside and a new one held. Regardless of that decision, the loser will likely appeal to the state Supreme Court (see more below). Also, it has been revealed that Dale Foreman, a Wenatchee attorney who had served as state House Republican leader and a 1996 primary candidate for governor, has been advising the Rossi campaign and the state Republicans. Apparently he convinced Republicans to file the case in Chelan County. I'm sure Clyde Ballard, the retired House speaker from East Wenatchee, had a hand in some of this as well.

The Seattle Times reported some trouble with the delivery of ballots to military members serving overseas. The ballots were mailed in October, after intense pressure and threat of a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice to get a move on. Still, one soldier in Iraq complained that the ballot was finally delivered and was partially burned because of an attack on the delivery truck. I expect the Republicans to now blame an insurgent attack on the King County Elections Department.

To those who say the state can't afford a new election: A letter from a Republican activist in Douglas County printed in The Wenatchee World Jan. 11 reminds readers that the state saved $4 million by cancelling its presidential primary last winter. It had been determined that the primary was meaningless because the parties were allocating delegates from caucuses.

The state Supreme Court seated a new member Monday as well as a two who were re-elected. One, Richard Sanders, had been absent during the two cases since Nov. 2 dealing with this election. One decision was against the Democrats and one against the Republicans; both were unanimous. Sanders apparently is a libertarian who leans conservative. The new justice, Jim Johnson, is very conservative, though he apparently has bucked the state Republicans. However, he was introduced Monday by former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, for whom Sanders worked for 10 years when Gorton was state attorney general. Gorton called for a new election last week and has been a vocal Dino Rossi supporter since November.

The new crazy-but-not-impossible scenario: Gregoire is inaugurated Wednesday. The losers of the Chelan County Superior Court case appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sets aside the election and calls for a new election. Gov. Gregoire campigns as governor (can this be called running for re-election?). Or would she be removed from office and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen serve as governor? What if he wants to run? Then imagine if we have a virtual tie again or if Rossi should win convincingly? Imagine the power struggle with Gov. Gregoire, Acting Gov. Owen and Gov.-Elect Rossi! My goodness, but Washington would blast Florida right off the map as electoral laughing stock. In fact, Ukraine and several banana republics would look more stable than Washington.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Others' thoughts on solving education

In my random blog-clicking adventure tonight, I came across this site, which is interesting because of its group-post format and because the toipic turned to education reform.

Check it out: Blog Spectrum

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Saturday's all right with me

Ahh, Saturday.

Woke early because of the light reflecting off all the light and fluffy snow outside. Watched a bit of morning news and slept on the couch for another hour.

Back at home this afternoon, I listened to a new CD and watched the snow outside. CD is "Simon and Garfunkel: Old Friends." It is a two-disc recording of their concert tour last year. I attended the Seattle concert, so it is especially enjoyable.

The snow is the dry powder that the skiers enjoy so much. I shoveled the driveway twice yesterday. The grater finally cleared the street this morning, and a neighbor with a snowblower was nice enough to clear much of the cul-de-sac, including the piles blocking driveway access to the street.

Snow, Simon and Garfunkel and a nice neighbor. It's a good Saturday.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Ground Zero in the Washington governor contest

Wenatchee and Chelan County are now at the center of those who are contesting the election for governor of Washington. That election was eight weeks ago. The basics:
  • The Nov. 2 ballots were counted, and the Republican candidate, state Sen. Dino Rossi, won by 261 votes. That triggered an automatic machine recount.
  • Rossi won the machine recount by just 42 votes. Democrat candidate Christine Gregoire, the 12-year attorney general, sought a hand recount. The Democrats paid for it, knowing that if the results changed, the state woulf refund the money.
  • Gregoire won the hand recount by 129 votes, including some votes from a set of almost 800 ballots in King County that had previously uncounted. Even without the King County votes, which were allowed to be counted by the state Supreme Court, Gregoire led by 10 votes.
  • Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, certified Gregoire the winner on Dec. 20. She is set to be inaugurated Jan. 12. Meanwhile, Reed has been chastised by his fellow Republicans for not doing more to help Rossi.
  • Rossi and other prominent Republicans (notably Ralph Munro, former secretary of state, and Slade Gorton, a U.S. senator who lost a 2000 re-election by a very slim margin) have called for a new election. State law allows this if fraud or other improprieties can be determined in court.
That gets us to Chelan County. Adjacent to King County, Chelan County is among the state's most conservative. Rossi won the vote here by 63 percent. A hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 14. One possible result from the Chelan County Superior Court would be that the election is set aside and a new election called.

Keep in mind that a new election is just that -- a new election, not a re-vote of the same candidates. Anyone would be eligible to run. Gregoire would be able to run as governor if, in fact, she is sworn in Jan. 12. And the Democrat-controlled legislature is unlikely to stop that.

My take: Gregoire won. Or at least we think she did. No election is perfect. There is not much in the way that is compelling to support setting aside the Nov. 2 election. What makes anyone think a second election would be any more clear?

And so we wait and watch history in the making, right here in Chelan County.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Outrage in the Bush "Education" Department

Some senator or representative ought to call for a name change over at the U.S. Department of Education. Please change it to the Department of Propaganda. (Oh, wait, we already have that at the Department of Defense.)

I discovered this outrage Jan. 7 when I learned that the Education Department had paid a black commentator $240,000 to support the so-called "No Child Left Behind" Act (really called the far-less-rosy Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Even more outrageous: He said he supported the law anyway. I don't know if it is worse that the government paid him or that he would have said nice things about the flawed law even without the quarter-mil.

Finally, we don't have the money to fully fund the law, but I guess we have the money to pay people to say they like it.

Read the full story here.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

To a new sofa

To a new sofa

Thick cushions under my rump
Make me relax , thankful when I come home
From a stressful day of work and chaos.

You comfort my shape, supporting and warming,
Taking the pace of a twenty-year veteran
Who has served well from home to home.

A nod to the sleeper and off to the Goodwill
With hardly a second thought as I stretch
My full length along the new microfiber upholstery.

Thank you, old friend, and welcome home, new Natuzzi.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Good news for a change: A new award

Over the winter holiday, I received word that the school newspaper, whose staff I advise, had been included among the 83 nationwide that will receive a Crown Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University. The 2003-04 paper will receive either a silver or gold Crown at the annual convention in March. This is a prestigious award, and the newspaper earned this accolade in its first entry to the contest.

This adds to the previous recognition for last year's paper, which earned top national ratings from CSPA and National Scholastic Press Association as well as a National Pacemaker from NSPA.

I am fortunate to work with such talented young people. They impress me every day.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

What's wrong with education. Part I: Completion

I went to school today and finally plowed through some student work that had accumulated for too long. Well, at least I felt it was too long. Others are much slower than me. Anyway, I entered a bunch of scores in the computer gradebook I keep and was disappointed to see that in one class I have eight of 26 students below 70 percent; in another I have six of 16. Here's why: Missing work.

I am disappointed because I saw my class sizes at the beginning of the semester and was interested to see if class size had anything to do with student success. Of course it does -- I can cruise through a set of 24 papers much faster than one of 32. And I can get around the room to answer questions, students are less intimidated and so on. But it does not account for lack of completion by the student. And there is the problem.

It's not that students don't learn. No, it is that I have not had an opportunity to assess the learning fully because work assignments have not been submitted. On one hand, the student has failed to meet a certain standard. I don't know of he or she has failed to learn. The problem then causes others to draw the conclusion that students aren't learning, teachers aren't teaching and so funding should be eliminated or staff should be replaced.

Ask any teacher at my school what is the top reason for students to fail a course. I bet every one says lack of completed work is the culprit. Perhaps some acknowledgement should be given to the idea that I have assigned too much work or it is too difficult. That has happened before. But this much is an irregularity.

A larger issue is that the system for assessing student work is the one area of education that has not been reformed in the push of the last decade. Legislators and school staffs have retooled and remodeled our testing system, our accountablity system, our teacher-training system, even our school composition. But we still give letter grades with intervals of 10 percentage points and 60 percent is passing. Colleges still look at grade-point averages. We still publish the honor roll.

I don't know the solution to combat the Culture of Incompletion. Perhaps we should look at the idea of dropping current grades altogether and replace them with a standardized test at Grade 10 (the Washington Assessment of Student Learning) and a culminating project where students have to prove what they know. As long as they have to demonstrate their knowledge in the end, who cares whether they turned in each essay or lab report?

At least I never made a resolution to be less cynical in 2005.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New year

I feel like I should post at least something simple for the first day of 2005.

Spent New Year's eve with Cokers. We had a nice pleasant evening of relaxing conversation, good food and beverage. Watched "The Bourne Supremacy," which we paused for the 30 minutes of countdown revelry. It included a few minutes of Regis Philbin trying to be Dick Clark, fireworks from the Space Needle and listening to the neighbors light firecrackers in the street while it snowed. Then we finished watching the movie.

I spent most of the day being lazy, watching TV and reading. I also had lunch with two former students. That was fun.

That's it. Happy new year. Vacation over; back to the grind.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.