Thanks for the Memory, Bob Hope–Now Goodbye

There was a time when the name “Burbank” was nationally recognized.  The TV comedy show “Laugh-In” and The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson made Burbank a household name referencing it with the popular mocking proclamation, “Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Burbank!”

Though a joke, it brought attention to the city.  Now, few people under 40 years of age remember “Laugh-In” or Johnny Carson or Bob Hope.   Which explains why the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority decided to change the name of the airport from Bob Hope to Hollywood Burbank.

According to airport officials, the facility has seen a drop in traffic from nearly six million passengers in 2007 to four million in 2014.

Any Burbank resident would question these numbers by the huge amount of development that has occurred over that time period.   And now the airport wants to demolish the terminal building with an even larger one apparently believing that if you build a bigger airport, more people will come.

Quite frankly, those who live near the airport can only negatively be impacted with increased traffic who don’t desire a mini-LAX in their backyard.

In their quest for money, the commissioners have trashed history.  When the airport took on the Bob Hope moniker shortly after the entertainer died 13 years ago this month at the age of 100, it was an honor well deserved.

Bob Hope was considered by many as the most popular performer of the 20th century, achieving success in all aspects of the entertainment industry:  vaudeville, radio, film, television.   Additionally, through his USO tours during World War Two and future conflicts, he made entertaining the troops the good deed that celebrities should do for Americans fighting overseas.

Hope taped most of his television specials in Burbank at NBC Studios.  Plus, he lived most of his life in Toluca Lake.  His name attached to the airport is a tribute to his link to the city.

Sometimes changing names from the past makes sense.  It wasn’t until the 1970’s when Burroughs High revised its Injunettes cheerleader squad to Indianettes.

And just last year a town in Spain finally changed its name “Castrillo Matajudios” meaning “Fort Kill the Jews.”  Well, that only took 500 years since the Spanish Inquisition.

Other times replacing names eliminates the history of an area.

Back in 1993 the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors changed the name of Brooklyn Avenue in East Los Angeles to Cesar Chavez since the demographics went from Jewish to Spanish. In a few decades from now when a different demographic is predominant, surely there will be another rebranding.

I work at a school named after Herbert Hoover who often appears on lists of the worst U.S. presidents. Hoover High opened just a few weeks before Black Tuesday, the beginning of the Great Depression.  Even students who attend there don’t know who he is.   Should the Glendale Unified School District rebrand the school with a more well respected chief executive in order to attract more students?

I understand the appeal of the name “Hollywood” but its geographical location is Burbank, so the proper name should be Burbank-Hollywood Airport. Or, if the main reason for the change is to attract travelers, call it the Ikea Hollywood Airport since the city will soon be home to the largest Ikea store in the USA, and charge naming rights.

Glendale High recently named its auditorium as the John Wayne Performing Arts Center.   That makes sense since Wayne was an alumnus.   But if the goal is to attract people, calling it the Kim Kardashian Performing Arts Center would have been better.  Sure, she never attended the school, but she did consider running for mayor of the city once.

Meanwhile, Burbank has the Robert R. Ovrom Park and Community Center.  I wonder how many years it will take before people scratch their heads not knowing that Ovrom was a city manager.

By the way, has Burbank ever named a building after a teacher?

Tom Marshall taught history to thousands of students for more than 50 years at Burroughs High School.  Yet his lifelong dedication to kids is not memorialized.  It’s as if he never existed, his past vanished.  You would be hard pressed thinking of a worthier individual who positively affected people’s lives, not some city employee who opened the floodgates to the daily traffic jams that clog Burbank streets.

At least Burbank still has a Bob Hope Drive though it is the shortest street in town.

Every generation has a duty to maintain, not eliminate, history regardless of its marketability.

It behooves all of us to remember Hope’s most famous song, “Thanks for the Memory.”


More Like High School Completion Than Graduation

“Graduation rate at Glendale’s high schools tops 90%” read the Glendale News-Press headline recently.  On the surface, this statistic is celebratory, something Glendale Unified should prominently display at the top of its website’s homepage.

Before we pat each other on the back for a job well done, keep this in mind:  many high school graduates are not ready to start college or get a job.

For too many, a high school diploma only confirms that an individual met minimum standards.

If the purpose of a high school graduation is to give a thumbs up for job accomplished, i.e., you attended school kindergarten through 12th grade, then we should call it “completion” rather than “graduation” because disturbing trends lurk beyond high school.

There is a high remediation rate in colleges.  Some surveys say 20 percent of those attending 4-year colleges and 60 percent attending community colleges take at least one remedial class, meaning that whatever knowledge and know-how students were to absorb and practice through their high school career is not evident.

Such retraining often continues when college graduates enter the workforce.  According to Washington Post reporter Jeffrey J. Selingo, employers say that young people lack “problem solving, decision making, and the ability to prioritize tasks,” skills needed to excel on the job.

Somewhere in the education pipeline, especially in high school and college, young people are just getting by with underdeveloped abilities that delay future success.

Much of the hype surrounding the Common Core standards is that its higher expectations on what skills teachers should be teaching at certain grade levels will produce a higher caliber of student.  In reaching for an elevated learning level, we should see a drop in graduation rates due to students struggling with the more rigorous work.  So what accounts for the rise?

A push to ensure that every last senior crosses that stage at the end of the year.  No district official or principal wants a less than stellar grad rate for it darkens the reputation of a school.

At the high school level, there is pressure on teachers to pass students (a grade of ‘D’ or higher).

Some administrators contact teachers who have too many students with failing grades.  In other words, the teachers are questioned why they are failing the kids rather than the kids being questioned why they are failing the classes.

Then there is the wide variation among educators on how they evaluate student work and calculate grades.

Teachers are permitted, rightfully so, to determine their own amount of work to assign, and what percentage of a class grade is based on participation, homework, and tests.

But when some ingratiate themselves with their pupils by grading easy, the result is that an ‘A’ in one teacher’s class does not signify the same level of achievement as an ‘A’ in another.

Years ago when California developed the High School Exit Exam its original intent was to make a diploma not attainable but meritorious.  It didn’t work.   Soon after piloting the test, results showed more than half the students not passing it.  So, the test was whittled down to the point that it would merely rubber stamp the diploma not elevate it, adding a bureaucratic hoop for students to jump through, wasting millions of tax dollars and hours of classroom time.

School should not be the place where kids survive but where they thrive.

All of us—educators, parents, children—need to accept the challenge and work towards meeting higher expectations so that more young people finish college and perform well on the job.

Maybe if students knew that there was a realistic chance they may not cross the graduation stage, more effort would result so that the diploma would not simply be a piece of paper.


Winding Things Up at End of School Year

The misnomer about the end of the school year is that things are winding “down.”  Actually, things are winding up.

During the last couple of weeks, especially the past few days, a mad dash occurs to evaluate student work and compute final grades.

Every year I feel like I am running a 10-month marathon, and the closer I get to the finish line, hurdles rise up from the ground, each one higher than the next.

This is the time when I speed read through student essays.   Since they will not be returned, I don’t frequently stop to write pithy comments.  Instead, I hunt for a thesis, transitions, and specific details.  And still it takes several minutes per paper to grade them in this abbreviated fashion.

Once I’ve evaluated all student work, I agonize over determining final semester grades.  Yes, the computer software automatically generates the numbers, but these numbers represent students’ academic lives.

If a student earns an 87.9 percent, she may deserve an ‘A’ over another student earning 89.9 percent depending on absences and participation.

If a student’s performance during the final month shows improvement, then it’s safe to assume if the semester went beyond another month, her work would continue at the higher level.

Once I’ve pressed “submit” for the last time, now I have to tidy up my classroom.  After wiping the whiteboards with what’s called an eraser day after day, it’s time to use heavy duty cleaning solution to wipe away the ghosts of dozens of colored markings that haven’t quite vanished from the board, remnants of lessons gone by.

It’s time to turn off all computers and printers, wipe down the keyboards, clean the screens.

The “in” box on my desk is three in-boxes high and teeters to near collapse.  It’s time to file away the leftover handouts in their proper folders in their proper drawer in their proper filing cabinet.

It’s time to move the tables and chairs within an equal distance of one another.  Peculiar how students move tables forward when they sit down at them; if only I had an assistant to move them back on a daily basis.  So I wait until the front row of tables have barely left me enough room to squeeze through to adjust them.

It’s time to dash off to Office Depot to replenish post-it pads, tacks, colored paper, staples, tape.

Then there are students who will come to my room on a student-free day to ask about their final grade, or email me inquiries about it, often multiple requests from the same individual.

And I’m still not done.

Now I have to get 12 signatures from eight different locations before I can leave work—keys, textbooks, attendance logs, computer, etc.—all turned in and accounted for. This reminds me of trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles, snail-like and bureaucratic.  Just because teachers work with students does not mean that we are students.

Over the years I have suggested that this obstacle-course checkout system be simplified for teachers by having all the clerks and administrators who need to sign off stationed in one central location for one hour at different tables.  Imagine how efficient this would be if it were done this way.

If administrators want to truly celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day, show it by making the last day of work less harried for teachers who have put in long hours.  I’d trade my miniature fan with a “you are fan-tastic” saying on it any day for that.

By the time you read this, all the hurdles will have been jumped over, all the student grades inputted, the classroom spick-and-span.  You can find me doing a crossword puzzle, still putting letters into boxes.