Saturday, April 25, 2009

When Thank You Isn't Enough to Convey Gratitude...

Yesterday was quite a day! In a typical day in the life of a principal, the range of emotions can be unbelievable. One minute you are laughing at something darling that a child said, five minutes later you might be dealing with an angry parent. Then a staff member may come in with a personal difficulty that you listen to and empathize with. Two students will be in a fight and you must deal with that issue. So in the course of an hour you may go from laughing, to sternness, to.........

Well yesterday was definitely that kind of day. In this pos
t I am only going to talk about what in incredible day it was for me. The morning started when our wonderful student newscasters, Riley and Briley, announced on the morning news that I had been named Gilbert Education Foundation Administrator of the Year. I had found out about this award about a week ago. The students in my school had all written a word to describe me and made a "wordle" for me. A wordle takes all of the words and mixes them together to make word art. The really cool thing about it is that it takes the words that are used the most and makes them stand out more. I had never seen one before. Then they invited each class in our school to send their two best huggers to the office to give me a hug. In the next few minutes, I was visited by about 50 kids and got the best hugs. I was so touched by this. Thank you, Riley, Briley, Cade, and Tom!!!!
Last night was the Gilbert Education Foundation dinner where the awards were given out. My wonderfully supportive family was there and I thank them for being there with me. Teresa, Judy, Glennie, Kerri, Yaya, Pat, Cecilia and Jay were all there. It meant a lot to me. Thank you, Judy, for paying for everyone.Two of my wonderful teacher friends were also there, Dottie and Carol. They had written nomination letters for me and Dottie put them all together in a wonderful scrapbook. I had not read them until this morning--I don't know what to say. Thank you, Dottie, Carol, Barb, Louise, Kathy, Nurse Barb, Shirley, Heather, Shannon, and Dolores for the letters you wrote. I will cherish them forever!!
I was honored along with two colleagues in the district--one teacher and one support staff. I couldn't think of anyone better to get an honor with than Sherry Hornby from our district testing department. Sherry is one of the nicest human beings that you would ever want to be around. She is at Gilbert El quite often as she participates in our Tiger Buddy mentoring program. She is a wonderful mentor to a student each year and always goes above and beyond. Thank you, Sherry, for all that you do!

The Gilbert Education Foundation has given financial assistance to many of our families at Gilbert El over the past several years. They have been generous and have always given when I have called. I feel so honored to have been chosen by them for this award. Thank you to Darcey, Shane, Jeff and everyone associated with the Foundation!!!

Something else happened yesterday that I think says everything about what being an educator is all about as far as I am concerned. I am going to give a little background first. There is a mom at our school who has terminal cancer. She has two elementary age children, a high school daughter, and a four year old son. This is their first year at our school. They have no family in the area. Our social worker and nurse and our parent liaison have gone above and beyond for this family, as have several of the teachers and parents in the children's classrooms. Above and beyond doesn't even begin to explain what they have done. Last weekend, one of our teachers, Nancy, arranged to have her daughter-in-law who is a photographer, take pictures of the family so that the children would have a lasting gift of their mom. Jan, another teacher, took mom to get her hair done for the photo shoot. I am putting the link to the blog so that you can see these beautiful pictures and read what Tami wrote on her blog. I can guarantee that it will bring tears to your eyes. Here is the site: It is the post for Sunday, April 19.

About noon, I walked out of my office and saw a deputy sheriff come in the door with what looked like an envelope in her hand. There was a lot of activity in the office right then so she waited patiently. I stood out there for a minute to see why she was there as law enforcement visits aren't always "fun." I heard her tell Cris that she went to Gilbert El as a child and that her mother had died when she was 10. She told Cris that everyone had been so kind to her when her mom died and she has always remembered that kindness. She went on to explain to Cris that she had found out about the mom with terminal cancer from Tami's blog and she asked about what school it was. When she found out it was Gilbert El, she wanted to do something. So she handed Cris the envelope and said that it was for the family. When Cris asked her name, she said she didn't want to give it. She just wanted to give back because of how she had been treated as a child. In the envelope were five $20 bills....

This says it all to me and the fact that it happened yesterday....... This just confirms my belief that what we as educators do each day makes such a profound impact in so many, many ways and in ways we may never know.

I am very grateful that I have the job that I do, at the school where I am, with the teachers, staff, and students that I work with each and every day. Thank you just doesn't seem to be enough to convey all of my emotions, but I will say it anyway...........

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Surfing AZ Way!

It has been a very long week at school this week. So much going on and so much to still figure out. In the past, April and May have been planning months for next school year. With all of the budget crisis, no one has any answers about what will be happening next school year. I had two meetings this week that were very long. We needed to have them, but we really didn't find out anything that will help us with planning at this time. It is very frustrating for everyone involved!!

Tonight I had the first grade musical, which was absolutely darling. Our first graders presented "The Mice from Outerspace" for all of their families. It was followed by the PTSO meeting. We are in need of parents willing to be officers on our PTSO. For some reason, we have had a difficult time finding parents who are willing to commit to this. I think it is so much uncertainty with the economy.

In my job, I must deal with everything that is happening. It is so hard to hear all of the sad stories that are happening right now......

So when I got home tonight about 8:15, Cameron and Kerri were in the pool. Pancho, with is obsession with balls, was running around the pool with his yelping bark in hopes that they would throw a ball for him to fetch. You can hear him for blocks!! Cameron yelled at me to go out and see my little Lucy who had gotten on the little surfboard and was riding around the pool without a care in the world, providing some laughter in a yucky week!

What would we do without the joy that our pets bring to us? I know my life would not be the same!! They bring such unconditional joy and love to us each and every day. I can tell you that "I LOVE LUCY!"

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Michael's Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Michael!! April has been a busy month for family birthdays. Today is my cousin Michael's birthday. Michael is one of my Uncle Bill's seven children. Michael, his wife Rebecca, and their darling little boy, Vincent, live in San Francisco.

Michael is our "television star" cousin. Michael starred in the show "Animal Cops, San Francisco." I found this bio on the internet about Michael:

Lt. Michael Scott was born and raised in San Francisco, where he attended college and worked in retail sales before coming to Animal Care and Control. Lt. Scott has attended Humane Academy courses, both standard and advanced, and is also post-certified in peace officer standards and training. During his 14 years at the agency, Lt. Scott has enjoyed working with dogs and wildlife, and has adopted a Maltese-poodle mix named Mango.

What are your thoughts on animal cruelty? "Until I came to ACC, I didn't think animal cruelty was a large problem. I thought it was just kids picking on cats or pulling dogs' tails — things like that. However, the things I've seen in the past 14 years have proved to me that humane law enforcement is a necessity. A person that takes out anger on an animal is of the weakest character. It's my goal to educate people and to prevent animal suffering."

This show can still be seen on rerun. The tall, dark, and handsome one is our Michael!

Michael and Rebecca were married in San Francisco a few summers ago. Of course, we all went out for the wedding. We were very proud when Michael asked Patrick to be in his wedding. We had a wonderful time!

So, Michael, hope your birthday is very happy today. And we are proud that you are the movie star in our family!! It is definitely better to be FAMOUS than INFAMOUS!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy 16th Birthday, Ryan!

Happy 16th birthday, Ryan! It doesn't seem possible that you are really 16 today. I will always remember the day that you were born. It was a half day at school and we were having a potluck lunch. I got the phone call just before the lunch had started from my mom saying that you were a boy! Your mom and dad waited so long for you and everyone was so thrilled for them.

I have seen you grow from that little boy to the wonderful young man you have become. I am so glad that we have been able to be a part of your life and see you grow up.

Last summer when you drove with me for the first time up at the cabin was such fun (and a bit scary). My mom taught all of the "cousins" to drive down in Douglas before they were able to get their drivers' licenses. It was so fun for me to be able to carry on that tradition.

It is so great to hear how well you are doing in high school with your good grades and your dedication and the hard work that you put into diving. Hope you have a wonderful birthday today!! Lots of love from all of us!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sometimes Things SUCK!! (Yes, I am using the "S" word)

About two weeks ago, all of the principals were called to a meeting about the budget, or lack thereof. It was on a Thursday at the end of the day. I know that I was dreading getting the call to come to this meeting. I knew it was inevitable, but that doesn't mean I was prepared for what we were going to be told.

At that meeting, our superintendent told us about the latest budget projections that the district had been given. The Arizona Legislature has a long standing history of not being friendly to public education. So the projections and outlook were very bleak. Based on the information that they were given for this time, our district alone has a projected deficit of $27 million. That is mind boggling to say the least.

April 15 is best known for tax day. However, according to state statute, that is also the day that teachers have to find out if they have a contract for the next year. For the 38 years that I have been in education, this date was just that--a date. Yes, we always had to type our list of teachers that were being recommended for reemployment. Yes, that always went over to the district before a Governing Board meeting in April. Yes, it was important if there was a teacher who may not have a contract renewed because of inadequate classroom performance. But on the whole, it really never seemed to be that significant to those of us in the trenches.

When it became apparent to districts that the legislature was not going to be even close to any kind of a budget by this date, many of the districts and the Arizona School Board Association asked the legislature to change the April 15 date until June 15. District didn't want to have to lay off teachers based on insufficient budget information. The Arizona Education Association opposed this change of dates. It was defeated in the legislature by the minority Democrats. At the time, I thought that was probably a mistake as June 15 would have given us more time to figure out what to do and maybe we would have some definite information about the money allotted to our district.

In order to find $27 million in a budget, salaries are the biggest source of funds. So we were told that all first year teachers, as well as phased retirement teachers, teachers on end of year contracts, future teachers who were given a letter of intent... would all need to be told that they would not be given a contract for next year at this time. In all, there were nine teachers at my school that I had to meet with on Friday after school.

I truly thought that last year when our school didn't make AYP and had to go through school improvement just because we gave accommodations to special ed students was the hardest "thing" I have had to be a part of as an educator. I can say that this meeting was the worst. We are talking about teachers' lives!!!

That Friday meeting was heart-wrenching, to say the least. There is a general pervasive feeling of gloom every day when I go to school. Gloom about these wonderful educators, some of whom are the finest, most experienced teachers I have ever worked with. Some of whom have such awesome potential for our children! Some who have dedicated themselves to working with our Autistic children and are fabulous at it. And worry about what is going to happen next year as far as class size is concerned, will there be enough supplies and books......a sense of foreboding.....

This is when I changed my mind about the April 15th deadline. Maybe the general public will FINALLY get up in arms and do something--write their legislators, bombard them with emails and phone calls, enlist the help of their friends and neighbors --whatever it takes.

We need to educate our children. That is what our country is all about. It is a cliche to say that children are the future. BUT THEY ARE!!!!!!!

I have come home exhausted over the last few weeks. It is an exhaustion that I have not felt before. I feel so powerless...........

Then to top it off, I spent today down at the Arizona Department of Education listening to teachers who have done something "immoral or unprofessional" as part of the committee that I have sat on for the last nine years. We listened to two different teachers who had come to school drunk. They are both sober now and realize the mistakes that they have made. It is really sad when these things happen. I think today it was harder than normal.........

I know that writing this post won't really help with any of these situations. However, it is always therapeutic to me--at least a little bit....maybe?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Special Birthday Greeting for Eddie!

Today is my cousin Eddie's birthday. Eddie is the youngest of my Uncle Bill's seven children. Bill was my mother's youngest brother. He grew up in San Francisco and is really closer to my kids' ages than to mine.

There was a time when his family didn't know if he would make it to another birthday. Eddie's story is truly an inspirational one and I am proud to be able to write this post about him today. Eddie has overcome many issues in his life and he should be commended for doing what he has done.

In March I wrote about Romy, his sister, and her daughter, Angie. Angie is Eddie's biological daughter. Because Eddie had some very serious addictions, he was unable to care for Angie. Romy got guardianship and later was able to adopt Angie. Giving Romy custody of Angie was probably the greatest gift he could have given his daughter.

Eddie's addiction caused him many problems. He spent time in jail and eventually in prison. I know that the last time I saw Eddie, I was very concerned about him and about his future, as was everyone in our family.

About five years ago Eddie was released from jail to a drug and alcohol treatment center in San Francisco called Delancey Street. Delancey Street is considered the country's leading residential self-help organization for substance abusers, ex-cons, homeless, and others who have hit rock bottom. This program has been a salvation for Eddie. He spent three years in the facility in San Francisco. He was so successful that he was moved to the facility in New York. The past two years he has been in charge of the program in Brewster, New York.

Two of his sisters, Romy and Lena, along with Angie, went to New York last October to see Lena's daughter, Sam, who attends Wagner College. Sam is a volleyball player. While they were there, they were able to visit with Eddie. He even came to one of Sam's games. Lena told me that it was wonderful to see him so at peace with himself. Eddie has an incredible personality and such a loving side to him. It is so great to hear that he is doing so well.

Before I wrote this post, I asked Lena about what to say. She told me that his siblings are so incredibly proud of what Eddie has done to turn around his life and that she knew he would like to have his story shared. As I write this, I have to say that it made me a bit teary.

I know that I have thought about Eddie so much over the years and this is so wonderful to hear. The prayers that have all been said, especially those from our Aunt Teresa, along with the tremendous support of his siblings, have all helped Eddie get to this place in his life. However, the key to this has to have been Eddie and what he has done for himself. He is an inspiration and I know his parents are looking down on him with pride.

When I do a post, I try to find a song to go along with what I write. I think this song fits what has been written about Eddie and what he has done with his life (Mariah Carey's "Hero"). He has overcome some substantial set backs and his made his life better. I am sure he has also enriched the lives of others at Brewster House.

I hope that this is a wonderful birthday for you, Eddie. Lena says that you miss San Francisco, the Giants, and the 49ers and that you can't get a real burrito in New York. So, Eddie, when you get back to this side of the world, I will go out to San Francisco and fix you all of the burros that you can eat!!! We are all so proud of you and what you have done. It hasn't been easy, but your tenacity speaks volumes for who you are and the family you come from!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April 8th--A Great Day in Family History!

Today is my cousin Marion's birthday. Marion is my Uncle Matt's and Aunt Gyp's third daughter. Marion is six years older than I am and I always looked up to her when I was growing up. Our Phoenix cousins spent a lot of time in Douglas during the summers and we had so much fun. They always let me hang out with them and I loved every minute of it. I am sure I was a pain in the "you know what" at times, but those summers were great times.

During those days the Southern Pacific Railroad was in Douglas. Our grandfather had been a conductor on the railroad between Douglas and El Paso. The Sunset Limited came in to the train depot every evening at 7:00. I remember going to the depot to watch the train come in at night. The depot is only about six blocks from 858. Marion, Cecilia, our neighbor, and I were able to go to watch the train. I was too young to be allowed to go by myself.

I mentioned in the post I did for Cecilia's birthday that we had a club called the Death Boys. We had a clubhouse, fake names, recipes, and a chant to go along with our club. We were talking recently about all of our names and we can't remember who we were. (At least we all haven't gotten old enough to not remember who we really are!!)

Marion and her husband Ron have four children (Marty, Scott, Nate, and Maggie) and six grandchildren. They live in Turlock, California. Marion comes to Phoenix often and it is always so good to see her. I look forward to her visits. I know she loves to come visit her sisters and I count myself as one of them. Their youngest--Maggie lives in Gilbert now so Marion comes to visit even more often.

My mom and your dad (and mom) have to be smiling down on us and be so proud that our family relationships continue to be so incredibly strong. I know it makes our Aunt Teresa very happy!

So, Marion, I hope you have a wonderful birthday!! I love you and I am glad that we are not only cousins, but friends!!! When you came to my party last month, it meant so much!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Blame It on the Bossa Nova

I have a wonderful group of friends who are and were administrators in our district. Jill, Susie, Sharon, Bev and I try to get together for a "Girls' Weekend" as often as we possibly can. We go to Susie's cabin in Pine, or Jill's house when George is out of town, or find a nice hotel or resort in the valley for these outings. I know how much I look forward to these weekends.... It is a time for us to laugh, talk, and solve all of the problems of our world and the district. And believe me, we always have all of the answers!! It is a time to unwind with very good friends!!

Bev retired several years ago from Gilbert and then went to work in Chandler. Jill and Sharon retired at the end of last school year. Susie and I are still plugging away (and we are both hoping we can for a few more years). Jill is officially in charge of planning our get-aways and Sharon is in charge of the food. After all, they have all of the time in the world for this!!!

At our last Girls' Weekend, Susie and I had spent the day interviewing people at the district job fair while Sharon, Bev and Jill spent the time planning a
nd getting ready for the two of us to get there!! Jill and Sharon have been taking tap lessons since they retired. We always have a laugh about it. The best part this time was that they were actually going to have a recital.

So today I went over to Susie's house around noon and met a couple of other friends to go to the recital at Sun Lakes. Susie had our tickets. They
cost $7.00--this was going to be a real event!!! They had a 2:00 recital and a 7:00 recital--big time!!

When we got to the ball room at the clubhouse in the Sun Lakes Retirement Community and got to our tables, all I could think of is that when I retire I just can't imagine myself taking tap dancing lessons and being in a recital. I remember doing that 50 + years ago when I took tap and ballet from Mrs. Bond in Douglas!! I am sure those of you who know me can't imagine it eith

There were four groups of "tap dancers" and Jill and Sharon were in the "Taps R Us" group. The recital consisted of the tap dancing groups, as well as various other singers and comedy skits. The first singer between tap dancing sang "Blame it on the Bossa Nova," hence the title for this blog. I couldn't decide between that for a title or "Just Shoot Me!" The recital was kind of like a cross between "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Lawrence Welk Show."

Jill and Sharon were the stars of the show as far as I am concerned. They did an awesome job!!! After the show was over, Jill said that last year at this time when they had completed AIMS testing, she couldn't imagine that this year they would be performing in a recital. I can tell you I didn't think that would happen either!!!

So thanks for the laughs and fun today, Jill and Sharon. I am glad you are enjoying your retirement so much. You both deserve it. However, today will make for great stories for our future Girls' Nights Out--lots of material there!!!!

(In order to view this video, go down to the player and turn off the playlist music. All you have to do is hit the = and it will turn off. There is music that goes with the pictures on this post.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rambunctious Rabbit Relishes Role as Rebel or Bunny Suspended for Disrupting Testing

Earl, the fourth grade bunny, was suspended from school this week. He was sent home from school on Monday for being disruptive while the children were trying to take their AIMS tests. Earl did not realize the importance of this test and was unable to refrain from making noise during the test. Earl continually tries to draw attention to himself which is absolutely not acceptable when it comes to high stakes testing in schools. Even if he is the class bunny, this is behavior that will not be tolerated!! Obviously, Earl needs to be tutored on test-taking strategies.

On another testing note, one of our wonderful teachers told the story of her second grade daughter getting dressed for school this week. As they were picking out her shirt to wear, her daughter was very concerned that the t-shirt had words written on it and didn't think she should wear it during testing!!! Classrooms have to cover the alphabet and any posters or word walls during testing week and this little one was worried because her t-shirt had writing on it!!

Although both of these stories are humorous, they are also sad in a way. I think testing has caused us to lose our perspective as to what is important!!

Albert Einstein said, "Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts." Something to think about......

A P.S. to this post: Then to top it all off, my wonderful administrative assistant didn't have time to check a PTSO flyer that was put in all of the teachers' boxes. The flyer was advertising the jog-a-thon that will be held next week. The flyer says, and I quote, "Your student should ASS everyone they know to sponsor them for every lap they jog." Fortunately, one of the students noticed it and we were able to get them all collected before they went home. WHEW!!!!!!!!!