Thursday, October 29, 2009

If only this were true ...

State Of Minnesota Too Polite To Ask For Federal Funding | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
"Minnesota should just take the spending money, already," Department of Education Undersecretary Edward McPherson said. "It's not like it's a special handout—all schools were allocated extra money under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But they refuse to accept their extra federal funding on the grounds that their schools 'don't need to be fancy.'"

"Frankly, they're just being stubborn and I'm not going to stand for it any longer," McPherson said. "They're gonna get some more funding by the end of the year if the federal government has to airdrop in school lunches and forcibly place new teachers in the classrooms with the help of the National Guard."
Sigh. Or should I say, world-weary sigh.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Luck, part II

Some useful perspective from Jon Katz:
Bedlam Farm Journal: What Positive Thinking Means to Me, cont.
I don't really know to what extent we determine our fates. I think our attitudes do have something to say about it. Recognizing our own worth. Building confidence in our ability to navigate difficult times and bad and sad things.

Unkindest cut

Recently Larry Ferlazzo linked to a London Telegraph story about a study on "lucky" vs. "unlucky" people.

It's seeming relevant today, since I was informed my position is being cut to half time to fix our budget shortfall.

I'm trying to count myself lucky, since I was offered an additional 50% position as a special ed paraprofessional. It's actually a great deal - I will be able to keep my full salary and benefits. It's not clear at the moment what the position would involve, but 50% of my salary would be reimbursed by the state/district.

Meanwhile I have been scouring the job listings every day. I am trying to feel lucky that I have a job at all, because there is absolutely nothing out there for social studies teachers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is N.P.R. (Northern Pacific Railway)

Some incredible old photos of Duluth, Minn. at Shorpy.

Readers point out some fine details on this one, including children on top of train cars, two dudes carrying baritone horns, and what appears to be a horse standing on a roof.

Touch me baby

Yay, MEA break. Boo, waking up early.

I had a weird memory of seeing a TV show at a childhood friend's house that involved non-actor parents and children. Near the end, the host said something like, "Now let's all put on our 'kid gloves,'" miming putting on a pair of gloves. The parents then started touching their kids - like patting them and caressing them. Definitely Good Touch, not Bad Touch, but I remember being a little creeped out by it even then.

Can anyone corroborate this, or did I make it up?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Money ...

Not the sexiest topics, but I wanted to check in with some of you big-picture charter folks to see how common some of our budget woes are around the country:
  • School funding hold-backs: In July the state legislature passed a budget that changed the funding formula: Previously, the state held back 10% of our per-pupil funding - now, they hold back 27%. That means that this October we will receive funds amounting to 10% of the 2008-2009 per-pupil funding from the 2008-2009 school year, but we won't receive this year's held-back funding until October 2010.

    Typically a school would borrow money to fill in that gap, but since we are in Statutory Operating Debt, we are legally required to be paying off debt, not incurring new debt.

  • Property taxes: I recently found out we have a "triple-net lease," which means we pay all maintenance fees as well as property taxes, which come to around $50K each year.

    To help with this, we are going to try to appeal to the county tax commissioner -- some MN schools have had success doing this since as schools they are not supposed to have to pay property taxes. But they have had to keep at it for years before making any headway.

  • Stimulus Funds: Our school applied for - and got - federal stimulus funds this year. However, it turned out to be a wash since the state just subtracted the stimulus amount from our state funding.
On a related note, we informed teachers on Friday that the board had directed the school leaders to cut $60,000 from salary/benefits. Needless to say it was not a good start to the weekend.

You're Fired

From NY Times: Lawsuit over the release of documents from the NYC Board of Education about a chilling chapter of Cold War history, when nearly 400 city teachers were fired for "affiliation with the Communist party."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Board blues

It's quite an experience to be on the board of a school that's in serious danger of being shut down. (I don't have qualms about publishing this because a) I haven't identified my school, and b) it's all in the public record anyway.)

Our board had a visit today from a guy from the state who basically told us to cut $60,000 in salaries/benefits or face the possibility of closing as soon as January.

So what else can we do? The board authorized the administrative team to make those cuts however it deems best. The cuts are for THIS YEAR, not next school year.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Let's call the whole thing off

Today a few of my juniors and seniors were going to a college fair. To prove that they had actually been there, and hadn't been off somewhere doing naughty things, I asked them to bring me back some of the freebies that the exhibitors were handing out -- more specifically, I used the word "shwag."

Apparently, the word "shwag" (also?) refers to low-grade marijuana. My students were like, "uhhh ... you want us to bring you back some WHAT?"

Duh, this is what i meant.

Amusingly enough, this is not the first time the students have had to correct me about this kind of thing. How fondly I remember the time in debate class when I suggested they choose as a topic the legalization of "cah-NOB-is."