Monday, September 28, 2009

RDale 281: Chickens or Eggs

After reading about "Why Pay More?", Christine and I worked ourselves into an uncomfortable question. Which came first the chicken or the egg?
  • Egg: District 281 has failed to provide adequate programs, performance, results, stability, etc. Therefore middle and upper middle class families and students are fleeing their community schools by moving, open enrolling, intradistrict transfers, private schools, charter schools, home schooling, etc.
  • Chicken: Middle and upper middle class families and students are fleeing their community schools for many good and poor reasons, leaving the community schools with a higher percentage of children that are harder and more expensive to instruct. Therefore the district has less funding to provide adequate programs, performance, results, stability, etc for the rest of the students.

A point to remember when considering this puzzle. For the previous period of economic growth, many young middle and upper middle class families were thinking of that "dream home". There are few new home developments in the RAS borders, therefore many families moved to greener developments... With this in mind, who in our modern time wanted to move into a small old ranch home with a one car or detached garage?

Also, it seems most folks think diversity is good, unless that diversity could maybe possibly cause some disruption in their child's classroom, development, school, etc.

Finally, has RAS and the local communities kept their heads buried in the sand as the diversity and poverty rate kept increasing? I don't know, however this was, is and will be a huge challenge that needs to be faced.... Probably through the schools, community programs and housing redevelopment.

Being one of those middle to upper middle income households, I can quite honestly say that the dream house and referendum woes almost had us moving several times. However I kept wondering what the "fighting for your community" meant with regard to the choice??? Still here and pondering... Thoughts welcome !!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Selfishness That Makes Sense

Well, my latest book could have saved me years of stress and that nasty panic attack I have mentioned before. Unfortunately, the reality is that I would have ignored it like all that "nonsense" folks tried to beat into me about living a balanced healthy life, stretching, exercising, and on and on and on...

The book is "One Minute for Yourself" by Spencer Johnson. The premise is pretty easy:
  • Take a minute several times a day to ask yourself. "Is there a better way, right now, for me to take better care of myself?"
  • And asking with regard to our relationships. "Am I asking another person or our relationship to do the impossible--- to take good care of me--- or are we each taking better care of ourselves and thus enjoying an even better relationship together?"
  • Then act on taking care of yourself and encourage people you care for to make time to take care of themselves.
  • This allows each person to be healthier and happier, therefore the relationship becomes happier.
  • As compared to each person expecting the other to "fulfill" them... Which they are not even doing for themselves. (ie impossible)
Now, the brief history or testimonial in hopes of helping people avoid the rather painful path I followed to learn what this short enjoyable fiction book can teach you in about 2 hours.

As a farm boy, I was raised to become a workaholic and put others needs before mine. (ie most of the time) Now this was fine when it was just my parents, wife, kids or work. The problem was that year after year of putting them all before myself became draining. Then of course there were additional kids, additional pets and the work got more demanding. Worse yet, it came on so slowly and gradually that I did not feel the stress growing unbearable. I would have sworn I was doing great until that one day I popped!!! Then I got to learn all about anxiety, depression, SSRIs, counselors, etc. Things that I never ever would have thought "I", Mr stable and in control, would ever need to deal with . (drop me an email if you want more details)

Now as I have said before... This was the best thing that ever happened to me !!! Without it I would not have learned the critical importance of taking care of myself first. And I likely would have been facing some serious health problems in the future.

If you still think that taking "care of" that Parent, Spouse, Employer, Child, etc, is more important than taking care of YOU, keep this in mind. ALWAYS PUT ON YOUR OXYGEN MASK BEFORE HELPING OTHERS !!!! The people you take care of will adjust, though it may be rough for a little while as things shift. However you will then do a much better job of helping and caring for them. I mean who wants to be around a crabby, burnt out, on the edge person...

As always, Dr Johnson tells the story better than I. So check out the book. Thoughts welcome as always.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

School Funding Forum: 9/29 at 6 PM

The Legislative Action Coalition (LAC) of Robbinsdale Area Schools will host a public forum titled "A Working Knowledge of Education Funding is Possible!" on Tuesday, September 29 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Golden Valley Library. School Funding Forum

Definitely worth your time if you are interested in being an informed voter.

Monday, September 21, 2009

RAS School Board Mtg 22Sept

RAS School Board Mtg is 22Sep09 with a Dialogue session at 5:30 and the mtg at 7. Looks like the RSIS Policy Docket and Budget/Levy are on the docket. Could be interesting!!!

I mistakenly reported there is a listening session tonight... I was incorrect. Please see JJ's comment regarding the Dialogue session.. Sorry

Friday, September 18, 2009

District 281: Why Pay More?

Now, this is likely to surprise some readers. I am going to pose an argument that explains why "Choice" and "Transportation" are worthwhile RAS expenditures.

Now remember that the numbers in the attached tables are very rough, however I am pretty certain they are +/- 10% on the average for these general 4 "types" of students. Also remember, the general 4 "types" are not clear lines in reality. The real student cost varies dependent on their specific situation and required services.

For simplification I used 12,000 students and applied rough percentages to them. The 20% of Higher Risk & ELL students is spread across all demographics, though often it is indirectly related to lower income households. The 10% Choice/Transport students include IB, AP, RSI, College classes, etc. 10% is approximately the Special Ed number and this leaves 60% in the General category.

For the "average funding", I took the budget divided by the number of students. In reality, Special Education & Title 1 will fund the Spec Ed, Higher Risk and ELL somewhat higher. However I am usually told that the funding difference does not nearly cover the cost, so I kept it simple with one number.

As for the "Est Cost by Student Type", I worked it by breaking apart the spend and allocating the categories to the student Type that would get the majority of the funding. Regular, Vocational and Overhead apply to all students. Special Instruction applies mostly to the Special Education students. Pupil Support Services applies mostly to students that need psychologists, social workers, etc. Finally, I noted that the Choice/Transport students are ~$800 more than the Regular students because of the additional transport, overhead, curriculum, training, etc that is necessary to maintain these "different from the norm" offerings.

Then using the number of students and their "Est Costs", I made sure that the total "Rolled Up" cost matched the 2009/2010 Budget.....

With all this said, why would we actually want to pay $8,500 for some "Lucky" students, instead $7,697 for all the "Lucky" students?
Well, the magic word is "Retention".
If those "Choice/Transport" students are not satisfied and leave the district, we lose ~$11,000 per head. Of which, ~$2,500 is currently used to subsidize the higher cost type students. And we would lose ~$2,200 that helps cover the fixed overhead costs. These would then be spread over the remaining students, thereby increasing their costs.
Thoughts on the table, methodology or argument?
Ps. By the way, I still think those that can should pay some of the difference. However, I do want to help folks see why "Choice" can be important....
Also, remember that Special Education law and NCLB force the higher Spec Ed and High Risk/ELL student spend... These are not negotiable, though the High Risk spend rate may be reduced of the long term if we start working with the parents and kids earlier...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

As Rich as You Can Do Without

Well a brief history lesson about John. During my life I have lived in:
  • a beautiful home on Priest bay on Lk Mtka
  • an old farm house with only an out house, and no heat in my bedroom. (thank God for that mummy sleeping bag)
  • a large beautiful farm house with all the amenities
  • dorm rooms and the basement rooms of 2 different "college" houses
  • and several other apartments and homes

Being a "function matters" person, I was very happy in all of them. Now I live in a nice middle to upper middle class home in Plymouth, and am trying to figure out how to keep my daughters flexible and accepting of whatever their environment is at the time. My goal is that they are equally comfortable and happy in a tent, hostel, rustic cabin, dorm, basic hotel, upscale hotel, hovel, mansion or middle class home.

Now I am not saying that they should not strive to have nice things when those things make sense. However in my opinion, working for and choosing nice things occasionally within your means is much better and healthier than feeling, "they need" nice things to make them happy, comfortable, relaxed, successful, etc.

My current technique is to expose them to many of the above mentioned environments while they are having fun. Hopefully exposure will help them understand the importance of flexibility and have a greater appreciation of their pretty nice typical environment. (which is nicer than that of most folks in this country and around the world) I think this flexibility will help them honestly enjoy many adventures that some people either do not undertake or are "out of sorts" during....

By the way, so far they are doing great at being flexible regarding some of the strange places I take them !!! Any additional thoughts on how to keep up this belief system? (I thought about more volunteering in less affluent environments... help folks and promote gratitude for their own circumstances...)

Here are some other closing questions:

  • Are Americans becoming too "particular", "fussy", etc in your opinion? Or is better and particular a good thing?
  • How do you think this is supporting/promoting the consumer and personal debt problems in America? Or are they not related?
  • How many 4000+ sq ft homes are necessary and what does this say about our culture? Or are big homes for small families a good thing?
  • Any good or funny personal stories?

RAS Transitions Updates?

So after a week of excitement and experiencing the change:
  • How is the transition to your new school going?
  • How are the changes in your existing school working out?
  • Does my blending hypothesis / formula make any sense?
Just Curious !!!

Transitions - Realistic Expectations
Transition - Fears and Thoughts
Don't worry be happy !!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Atlas Teaches

With the excitement this Summer, the AYP results and the School Board elections, I have fallen behind on my book reports... My sabbatical read was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. If you are a fan of Speed Gibson, you have heard mention of it before with good reason. It is an excellent book that is filled with love, hate, suspense, fear, joy, sensuality, intrigue, explosions, caring, greed, philanthropy and philosophy.

It tells the story of what may happen to the world if the industrial leaders, innovative experts and wealth creators finally get tired of carrying and paying for the looters that despise and mistreat them. The looters in this case are those that believe they are owed "something for nothing" and pass laws to ensure they get it. In summary, it is an enjoyable read about the benefits/detriments of capitalism and socialism.

I was speaking to someone in the education business that had read it in college. My perception is that he did not find the philosophy very compelling. I mentioned that he may want to try it again now that he is older, and with the following perspective adjustment.

The people he perceived as self centered, uncaring and self serving "industrialists" in the book. Well, they are always willing to make time for and support people that want to learn about the importance of rationality, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, productiveness, and pride. They just don't have any time for those that do not want to try, or those that want to get something for nothing...(ie oppose the listed values)

Specific examples are when Dagny Taggart offers to help her sister in-law, when Hank Readen helped the boy who was his company's "Wet Nurse" change his philosophy, or when John Galt speaks to the country. They definitely believe that teaching people to fish is more important than giving them a fish.

If you have not read it, it is definitely worth the time. If you have, what critical ideas am I missing? (pro or con)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Test Results and Relationships

If you missed these in the Sun Sailor/Post, they are opinion pieces that I enjoyed.

Collette gives some excellent comments in "Response to Test Results". Though I disagree with her thoughts that "passing kids" should be opted out of the state tests. My rationale is that it could lead to grade inflation and may lead to some excellent student cramming, instead of really learning it. (been there done that...) Also, I think she lets the community off by not including them in her list of things that are needed to help improve the situation. (maybe they were in the School Board / State categories...)

Sue reminds us why teachers really do matter in "Student/teacher relationships - priceless". Though I am sometimes critical of Teacher's Unions and the "questionable few" percentage of teachers. I want to remind the "incredibly capable and dedicated many teachers" that I do truly notice and appreciate them !!!

Finally, how are you doing on your homework? "Whatever It Takes" I just finished the book by that title and it was fascinating to learn about the massive undertaking they are accomplishing.

Thoughts welcome as always !!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

RAS School Board - Now or Never !!!

Now or never for RAS board candidates. MN Sun Filing Update

Also, after 3 school tours in <3 days, and receiving literature from Tom and/or Patsy at all of them. I started to wonder.....

What do you want to hear from the candidates?
  • Do you want to hear about how great things are and how they will protect or increase programs you support? Even if it means another operating levy in a couple of years?
  • Do you want to hear how they will manage to the budget and ensure the District's fund balance remains constant or grows somewhat? Even if it means the loss of some choice or school offerings?
  • Other?
Remember: If you live in the RAS boundaries, they are investing your money via district 281 expenditures. It is probably time to get involved and speak out, whatever your position... Have a great weekend !!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No Dental Patient Left Behind

For the anti-NCLB folks, here is an interesting analogy. Compliments of Sue.

No Dentist Left Behind

Important note: In AYP the expectation is lower in areas with poor dental hygiene. At least to start out with... Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

God vs Science

Though I have become highly spiritual, I often have questions when it comes to religion. I rarely tread this area in my blog, yet this is an interesting dialog I learned of via a "please forward" email we received at home and a link provided by a reader. Definitely worth a read no matter your viewpoint on the topic and no matter who "actually" wrote it... Enjoy.

God vs Science Dialogues