School Calendar Deja Vu

This year school began on Aug. 8.

Back in August of 2015, thousands of parents signed an online petition pleading with the Glendale Unified School District to begin the school year later.  For many, the early creep of the first day of school infringed on summer plans and enrichment programs.   Besides, it wasn’t that many moons ago when school began after Labor Day in September.

After months of meetings at school sites and the formation of a calendar committee comprised of teachers and parents, the new school year will start on Aug. 16 – a mere six weekdays later than the current start of school.

The new calendar, revealed before the Thanksgiving break, was approved by the school board with a 3-2 vote.  The end of the school year will be three days later meaning that the complete school year calendar remains at 43 weeks.

Summer vacation stays at 9 weeks, 4 weeks for those children enrolled in summer school.

So, what was the point of all the machinations of seeking input from all stakeholders and then coming up with basically the same plan that has been in place for the past few years?

That’s what parent Sarah Rush would like to know.  She and many others are dismayed that despite the protestation of starting school later, nothing changed.

“It was an overwhelming consensus that our 18,000 families wanted a longer summer and a start date after the third week of August,” Rush said.  “If public outcry is unheeded, then all of the meetings were a waste of our time and taxpayer funds.”

Board Member Greg Krikorian who along with President Armina Gharpetian voted against the new calendar sympathizes with those parents who are upset that the start of school wasn’t delayed later.

“We need to put students and parents first,” Krikorian said.  “Family time is crucial.”

Rush encourages parents who feel likewise to let their opinions be heard by emailing school board members and attending the Dec. 13 meeting.

Curiously, school districts neighboring Glendale have easily figured out how to plan 180 instructional days that accommodates the wishes of families.

While Burbank schools have pushed the start of school up to mid-August, they have kept the year to 41 weeks due to fewer days off, leaving 11 weeks of summer vacation.  Next year Burbank children return Aug. 14 but end May 24 before Memorial Day.

And La Canada schools while providing two additional days of instruction still contain the school year within 42 weeks.

Yet somehow Glendale can’t seem to keep schools open long enough between August and June so that school can start later and end earlier.

While the curious Friday day off before the Labor Day weekend has finally disappeared, the full week off during Thanksgiving does not help to shorten the overall calendar.   And as many educators can attest to, ever since GUSD has been closed for a full week, a teacher never quite gets the kids’ attention back since in a few weeks they will be off for nearly three weeks.

Think about this:  From Nov. 11 through Jan. 8, amounting to 55 calendar days, students are in school for 21 days, or 38 percent of the time.

Here is how the calendar can quickly be fixed.  By eliminating the three days off before Thanksgiving, school could start on Monday, Aug. 21, or end on June 1, cutting the calendar to 42 weeks, providing an additional week of summer vacation.

There.  Problem fixed.  No meetings needed.   A year’s time not required.  Less than ten minutes really.

In this space, I have proposed a joint meeting of GUSD and BUSD school board members to see if a common calendar could be agreed upon.   That never occurred.

For those parents who feel that their voices are not being considered should keep in mind another calendar, an election one that ends on April 4, 2017.  That’s 110 days away—without days off.

 

 

 

 

Why Do You Think They Call it Dope?

Before you vote for California’s Proposition 64 that will legalize recreational marijuana, read over the 32 pages in the state’s Official Voter Information Guide.  You may change your mind.

Like a tsunami that transforms the landscape, expect life to change:  more impaired people on the job, on the roads, and on the public assistance for health issues related to the drug.

Look for marijuana ads to appear on television, on radio, on billboards.

Watch for swaths of agricultural areas to start growing cannabis instead of vegetables.

Get ready for pot stores to pop up all over town.  Prop 64 mandates no establishment can be within 600 feet of a school or day care center.   That’s the length of four city blocks. Children will walk by the pot outlets, guaranteed.

Considering that the vast majority of Americans do not use marijuana, it is bewildering why voters would legalize something that is detrimental to the health of society.

Why would citizens who view cigarette smokers as lepers put out the open house sign for marijuana smokers?  I thought Californians were health conscious.

The state still lists marijuana as a carcinogen.  Tax dollars should not be used to approve the sale of more cancer-causing substances.

What concerns No on Prop 64 campaign spokesman Andrew Acosta the most is “how little people know about the industry” that they are about to legitimize, an industry involving investors whose sole desire is to make money cultivating and distributing a drug.

California, having lost companies to less regulated states, is on the verge of a new gold rush.   Instead of third world nations delivering drugs to the world, it will be California.

It has taken 20 years for Sacramento to figure out how to properly regulate the medical marijuana industry.  Prop 64 allows only one year to get it done correctly for recreational use.

“The only reason that California is rushing into legalization is to make money for the industry,” Acosta said.

The New York Times reports that “the market for both recreational and medicinal marijuana is projected to grow to $22 billion in four years from $7 billion this year if California says yes.”

Steve DeAngelo who runs a marijuana dispensary in Oakland told the newspaper that “my ultimate objective is to get this plant into the hands of every single human being on the planet,” calling marijuana “a religious spiritual thing.”

This is the mentality of those who are pushing legalization.

Just like tobacco companies, these firms care only about money, uninterested in repercussions to our society.

A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that fatal traffic accidents involving drivers who used marijuana more than doubled in the state of Washington since the drug was legalized.

And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nationwide nighttime weekend drivers high on marijuana increased almost 50 percent from 2007 to 2014.

The AAA Foundation says that “there is currently no scientific way to predict impairment due to marijuana based on a blood test result.”  Still, voters are willing to roll the dice that eventually a test for impairment will magically surface as we use the streets and people as experiments.

Proponents of Prop 64 have faulty arguments.

  • That legalization will make the illegal market go away. Not true.  In Colorado, the black market for marijuana has increased after legalization.
  • That young people will be protected from trying the drug since the initiative stipulates that edibles cannot appeal to young people. No to lollipops and gummies, but yes to cookies and brownies.
  • That passing Prop 64 will stop the incarceration of people caught with marijuana. False. If you think our prisons are full of potheads, you probably are smoking something.
  • That marijuana is not harmful. Wrong again.   You don’t need a medical degree to know that smoking anything is not healthy.

Brains are not fully developed until age 25.  But at age 21, a person can start using marijuana, a drug that remains in the body’s tissues, including the brain.

Last week 60 Minutes aired a segment on the negative impact legalized pot has had in Colorado.   One doctor described the spike in babies born with traces of THC.

While I don’t want to put the potheads in jail, I do not want the government to validate their drug habit.   Leave the “look-the-other-way” system currently in place alone—no change necessary.

Someone who chooses to abuse their body does not have a right to harm society.

 

 

 

Anti-Americanism of Donald Trump

Words can inspire or they can injure.

Donald J. Trump’s words do the latter.  He gets the loudest ovations for using the most hurtful words.   If someone was deliberately trying not to be a role model, Trump has succeeded.

He mocks immigrants, the disabled, and women.  It’s as if Don Rickles is running for president, except that Trump isn’t that funny, his act isn’t in Vegas, and the audience isn’t in on the joke.

I understand the Mt. Everest-like aversion some have to Hillary Clinton.  As an independent voter with no political party affiliation, it is a shame that both the Democrat and Republican parties nominated candidates this election cycle who have high unfavorable ratings.

However, how much anger must you have within yourself to get behind such a despicable person as Trump?

Parents used to encourage their children to pursue their dreams, that one day maybe they could become president of the United States.   What parents would want their child to grow up emulating Donald Trump?

In the debates, it appeared that Trump was saying the first thing that came to mind, often interrupting Clinton with a childish “no, you’re wrong” rebuke.

While people continue arguing whether Donald Trump had ever sexually assaulted women or if it was just “locker room talk,” it doesn’t matter.

Words matter.

In order to talk that way, you have to think that way which is even more disturbing.

If Trump was that comfortable using slang for parts of a woman’s anatomy to a man he barely knew, that means he speaks that way to those intimate with him.

A student of mine told me that her 9-year-old brother heard the Trump tape and asked what some of the words meant.

If a videotape were released with Trump murdering someone, would people still support him?

Even elected Republicans struggle doing the right thing:  coming straight out and without reservation rebuking the nominee of their party.  It makes one wonder if there are any clear thinking people left out there where a sense of duty to one’s country overrides party loyalty.

When a twitter hashtag “#repealthe19th” surfaced referencing the constitutional amendment allowing women the right to vote, it is clear the one thing Trump does well:  bringing out the worst in people.

Like lifting a rock in a backyard to discover bugs underneath, Trump’s hateful messages that receive widespread play in the media he says opposes him have unleashed below the surface racism.

The irony is that Republicans, who view themselves as the family values party, support a candidate who has awful morals.

And this is why I do not belong to any political party.   Too many people ignore the character of a person running for office, focusing on the parenthetical letter that comes after a candidate’s name when casting their vote.

It wasn’t that long ago when Republicans and Democrats would work with one another respectfully.

A letter from former President George H. W. Bush written to his successor Bill Clinton on the day of his inauguration on January 20, 1993 has received renewed attention due to Bush’s civility in losing the election and wishing Clinton “great happiness” as “our President” and that “your success now is our country’s success.”

He finishes the handwritten note with “I am rooting hard for you.”  Apparently for Bush, “a kinder, gentler nation” was not just rhetoric.

Can you picture Trump using such non-locker room talk in a concession speech?

Instead, Trump threatens to jail his opponent if he wins, and not abide by the will of the American voting public if he loses.

If Trump wants to “make America great again,” he first needs to act as an American.

 

The Anti-Gender Gang At It Again

Last week Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1732 requiring by March 2017 that all public places, including those in schools, have a single-user bathroom “designated as all-gender.” Just another one of those new laws that makes you scratch your head.

The Williams Institute reports that 0.6 percent of the U.S. population identifies themselves as transgender.  That means that 99.4 percent do not.

Surely there must be more pressing issues facing the 99.4 percent of Californians than this.

The groups behind this—California NOW, Equality California, Transgender Law Center (and don’t forget the ACLU)—must be bankrolling the campaigns of enough state legislators to allow such nonsense to be enacted.

Single-use bathrooms already exist for families and disabled people at several places. Even Starbucks has them.   So why is this law needed?

Only one reason:  to push the agenda of very small but vocal and politically charged groups whose ultimate goal seems to be to get the government to outlaw recognizing people as men and women.

The NBA made a big stink about North Carolina’s law that mandates people use a gender-specific bathroom that matches their sex at birth by pulling its All-Star Game out of Charlotte.

Are there that many transgender basketball players?

In its support of AB 1732, Equality California stated that “we must change our focus from segregating access to equalizing access to this solitary room [enabling] everyone to get in and out on the same terms.”

Talk about a sentence that sucks dry the humanity of people. What these anti-gender groups want is for people to no longer be identifiable.  Already stores like Target no longer categorize toys according to gender.

The bill’s backers point to “the bathrooms in people’s homes” as proof that all-gender restrooms are not novelties so it shouldn’t be a big deal for any establishment open for business to have a single-user toilet not marked by gender.

Actually for schools to meet the new law’s requirement will require more than replacing the sign on the door; except for some faculty and nurse station bathrooms, the vast majority of schools have only multi-user facilities.   So this will require money, money better spent in the classroom not on the toilet.  Unless you allow all kids, boys and girls, to share the same restroom.

Over at Santee Education Complex in downtown L.A. there already is a multi-stall restroom so males, females, and others may use the facility.    I wonder how parents feel about that one.

Where I work there are single-use faculty bathrooms for each gender.  I like that because, without going into too much detail, men and women have different plumbing and toiletry needs.

Equality California claims that people have become “accustomed to the traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’ designations in order to determine the appropriate restroom facility to use.”  Yes, that is correct.  And there is nothing wrong with that as long as the word “traditional” doesn’t get twisted into a slur as has happened with the word “normal.”

Even though I am “traditional,” I still try to cause the least attention when using a public toilet—I don’t want to look at anyone, and I don’t want anyone to look at me.   That would be more challenging in a multi-stall, multi-gender facility.

I don’t mean to be insensitive to transgender people.   But this notion of forcing a large majority to go along with the will of an infinitesimal minority must stop.

God forbid we identify ourselves as men and women because it might hurt the feelings of 0.6 percent of the population.

You Can’t Judge a Historical Figure by Today’s Standards

Some people take it upon themselves to make wholesale changes to history by applying contemporary sensibilities to those who lived in the past.

Matt Haney, San Francisco School Board President, made headlines a couple of weeks ago when he recommended that George Washington High School be renamed due to Washington being a slave owner.  He suggested replacing Washington’s name with Maya Angelou’s.

As much as I admire Angelou, she worked as a prostitute and a madam when she was young, not exactly noble professions.  However, overcoming these obstacles as well as a childhood rape makes her story of survival and success quite compelling.   There should be a school named after her, but not at the expense of removing the name of the father of our country.

Back in the 1770s, wealthy men typically were slave owners.   To his credit, Washington had written in his will that his slaves were to be freed.  The Mount Vernon website states that Washington was “the only slave-holding Founding Father” to do this.

Think of all the schools, streets, and cities named after George Washington.

Since half of Washington, D.C.’s population is African-American, should that region be renamed as well?

It is wrong to judge a person from the past based on current mores.

One could make the case that all historical figures have something in their past that would not pass the 2016 litmus test.

John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, probably would not have been in favor of same-sex marriage in 1960, but that was not even an issue in his time so it is unfair to judge him on it.

Who is to say that something people do now may be viewed as abhorrent 50 or 100 years from now?

Some people protest the teaching of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in schools because of the frequent use of the n-word.   Those ignorant of the book might even label Twain a racist without understanding that what Twain was writing back in 1885—a white boy sharing a raft and a life’s journey with a black man who serves as a surrogate father—was quite progressive in 1885.

Flash forward 130 years later, and people wish to denigrate Twain’s legacy.  However, he was not living in the 20th or 21st century.

This weekend the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington, D.C. with artifacts about Bill Cosby including a note about the current sexual accusations against the entertainer.

Some people wanted all mention of Cosby to be expunged from the museum.

If he is convicted, should he be wiped out of history?

Evidently there are not enough legitimate issues for the San Francisco School Board to grapple with, allowing them the luxury to raise issues that do nothing but put their district in the news for the wrong reasons.

Ask students what they want from their school and changing the name of it probably does not appear on their to-do list.

Mr. Haney and others like him should cease the high and mighty posture and stop altering with what people did before they were born.  That’s not their job.

Let’s hope removing George Washington’s name from the history books does not appear on the next school board meeting’s agenda.

 

A Tale of Two Football Players

There is always more than one way to make a difference in people’s lives.

Some people donate to charities, some protest or march, some write newspaper columns.

And some people choose more controversial ways.

Colin Kaepernick, back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has garnered massive attention in recent weeks due to his refusal to stand for the national anthem as a protest to the way people of color are treated in America.

By latest account, his jersey ranks near the top in all NFL sales.  Not all people buying his jersey are wearing it; some are burning it.

While his story has lit up headlines, talk shows, and social media—even President Obama chimed in that Kaepernick has a constitutional right to his silent protest—another story about a different football player has received less attention.

Travis Rudolph, wide receiver for Florida State University, along with a handful of his teammates, visited Montford Middle School in Tallahassee on Aug. 30 while the students ate lunch.  Rudolph picked up a couple of slices of pizza and sat next to a sixth grader who was eating by himself.  It turns out that 11-year-old Bo Paske has autism and, because of that, often eats alone.

A photo was taken of the encounter.  Upon viewing it, Leah Paske, Bo’s mother, posted on her Facebook account that “this is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”

“I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say it will not soon be forgotten.”

When all the parties appeared on “Fox and Friends,” Bo retold the moment when Rudolph asked him, “‘Hey, can I sit down with you?’  And I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ and just like that we were eating lunch together.  And he even signed my lunchbox.”

Rudolph said, “We clicked.”

When watching the interview, it is curious how uncomfortable Rudolph appears, as if he really does not want all this attention for doing something that to him must have been second nature. He had no idea a photo would be taken and that it would go viral.  He did not seek publicity.

Compare that to Kaepernick’s endless stream of tweets about his protest.

Performing acts of kindness isn’t a box that is checked off on a form of doing one’s duty as a human being.  It has to come from within one’s soul.

Rudolph told ESPN, “I feel like maybe I can change someone’s life or I can make someone a better person or make someone want to be great or be like me, or even better.”

One major distinction between these two football players is the avenue they chose to make a difference. Kaepernick’s choice—a football game on national television.  Rudolph’s choice—a lunch table with a solitary boy.

What adds a deeper meaning to this relationship is that Rudolph, African-American, and Bo, Caucasian, are building a bridge between the races, one relationship at a time.  The only bridge Kaepernick is building is pledging to donate $1 million along with proceeds from his jersey sales to communities dealing with racial injustice, but so far no action has happened.

Bo summed up his feelings about Rudolph eating lunch with him: “It was kind of like me sitting on a rainbow.”

Meanwhile, Kaepernick is sitting on a bench.

 

 

The Workers That Make Life Worth Living

With Labor Day approaching, this would be an appropriate time to acknowledge working people who we see and talk to on a regular basis, but who are not part of our inner circle of family and friends.

The cashier at the market, the waitress at the coffee shop, the person who cuts our hair—all play an integral role in making our lives flow smoothly and adding a depth of humanity to our existence.

What is peculiar about these brief encounters is that for the worker, one customer is just one of hundreds while for the customer the interaction holds more meaning; it’s easier for us to remember them because we only have one hair stylist, one mechanic, etc.

Take Tony, the owner of Cornejo’s service station for over 40 years.   This is where I get gas and have my car serviced.   Mechanics have a notorious reputation, but I lucked out finding someone who does quality work for reasonable prices.  Beyond that, we keep up-to-date on each other’s families, and Tony’s views on the political scene is worth the visit alone.

For the past 28 years, Petite holds down the fort at Handy Market.  She knows me as the syrup guy since she special orders a maple syrup that my kids can’t seem to get enough of.  When she was in school, she was a slow reader and because of that many classmates made fun of her.   Now, she is the face of Handy Market, entrusted in opening the store up each morning.  The girl who was teased at school has become an integral part of the Burbank community.

The epitome of customer service, Marti works at the Tallyrand coffee shop.  Once you sit down in her area, she acknowledges you within a minute with bright eyes and a happy grin.  For regulars, she doesn’t take your order; she tells you what your order will be from memory, including special requests like “crispy bacon” and “hold the avocado.”

Her energetic personality—“are you ready, ready”—puts a smile on the grumpiest customer.  She often shares segments of her life story, some good, some not, yet retains an optimistic outlook with her faith in God.  May she be there another 20 years.

For over a quarter of a century, Don cut my hair at three different hair salons that he owned.   During that time, we learned a lot about one another’s lives even though each monthly visit lasted barely 30 minutes.

Interesting how we often share intimate details of our lives with service providers, sometimes things we don’t share with people we live with.

When Don retired seven years ago, I panicked, not just because I needed to find someone to creatively cover my bald spots, but because the history we shared vanished, and I had to get to know a new stylist unsure if we would hit it off conversationally.

Fortunately, I met Armand at the same Joseph Lamar Hair Salon. Once a month we converse about how the Dodgers are playing as well as how well he plays golf.  Just as he has gotten to know about my family and career, I’ve gotten to know the career trajectory of his two musical sons.

I feel an emotional investment with these individuals.   I dread the day when I go where they work and discover that they are no longer there.  How hollow my life will be.

What makes these folks stand out is their pleasant attitude, willing to go the extra mile in performing their job with nothing but kindness to motivate them.

As we travel life’s journey, the road would be less familiar without them. Clearly, it is a labor of love for these dedicated folks.