Sunday, February 27, 2011

School Funding Forum TUESDAY...

Tuesday, March 1st: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm Room C350 at the St. Louis Park High School (6425 West 33rd Street, St. Louis Park, MN - (952) 928-6100)

St. Louis Park Schools Legislative Action Committee will be having a forum to discuss education funding and the current legislative session. There will be an overview of the current state of education funding followed by an open discussion between the audience and the panel. This is an excellent opportunity to get your questions answered by the experts!!

Those who will be present:
Mary Cecconi of Parents United for Education, Former Sen. Steve Kelley, Rep. Steve Simon, Rep. Ryan Winkler, Sen. Ron Latz and Sen. Terri Bonoff. SLP ICARE

Beware the EVIL Corporations !!!

A special thank you to Jon/Hiram !!! I asked him to guide me to a Liberal blog where I could see how the "other side" sees reality. Now I am spending some time commenting there and have added them to G2A's links.

Needless to say, they do see the world totally differently. Here are some of the latest headlines...
Massive Corporations Pay No Taxes
Millionaires did not need tax cut
Companies doing ok, Where are the jobs?
Our media are failing us - not telling Union side

As you can tell, the Liberals seem to be as Conspiracy minded as the Conservatives, so this should make for a great deal of fun. And hopefully a few of them will comment on G2A to add some spice to our dialogue.

So what do you think? Are these Corporations:
  • EVIL entities bent on world domination...
  • EVIL oppressors that are out to take advantage of their employees...
  • GREEDY monsters working to avoid their social responsibilities and taxes...
  • Organizations of individuals just like you and me that are trying to stay in business...
  • Organizations that work to provide excellent products and services to their customers...
  • Organizations that work to balance the needs of their Customers, Shareholders, Employees and other Stakeholders. Knowing that all 4 are critical to their success and on going operation.
Since I work for a fortune 100 American corporation that is ~85 yrs old. I can say with some certainty that the last 3 are much more representative of our organization. We spend a great deal of time discussing the correct balance. And I assume that is typical of most organizations in our connected, no secrets world.

The reality is that within all organizations there are good and bad people. And often they think they are doing something good when it is actually bad. This includes Corporations, Unions, Government, Charities, etc. So blindly labelling and vilifying these Org's as _____ is somewhat pointless and incorrect.


Related Links and Reminders:
G2A Magic of They
G2A Snopes Relativity
G2A Beliefs and Environment
G2A Barstool Economics
G2A Crisis of Credit
G2A Recession Bad?
G2A American Dream
G2A Conflict and Collusion
G2A Conflict and Collusion Break the Cycle
G2A Conflict with Heart
G2A Gratitude and Happiness
G2A Principles

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Attacking Unions or Saving Students?

Somewhere along the line the Teacher's Unions decided to throw the children in front of them like a shield. (ie You need us or the Teachers will stop caring and teaching... ) Then the Wisconsin Teachers decided to shut the schools down to show how much they care about the children's education. I really dislike confused and inconsistent people, though I do truly appreciate the irony. And I am certain it makes sense to them from their self centered perspective.

So I did a little google searching and found that the jury is still out regarding the benefit or detriment to having Unions representing the Teachers in your State. Though it is certain that the Union Reps are misrepresenting the facts. (see links) The key to reading these is to watch for causality. Meaning, the Union causes the benefit or detriment. Versus correlation, Unions just happen to exist in States where the results are good or bad.

A typical example is when I have compared Wayzata and Robbinsdale school district student results in the past. Many would think that Wazata is the better district based on the correlation between Wayzata and good test results. Whereas RAS may actually be the better district due to how well it does given it's diverse student body and challenges. (ie mobility, poverty, languages, etc)

So beware saying Unions improve Student performance if Unions exist mostly in the wealthier Northern states. Unions may still be actually be stifling the results that could be better. Even though the Northern state may have better results than a non-union Southern state. Please keep this in mind and think beyond the headlines.

You know my simplistic view, if Administrators can not fire poor employees quickly and efficiently, there is no way the system can be more effective. The best companies are made up of good and effective employees that work together well. The Company lets employees go that no longer fit the business need, culture, etc. This helps the company thrive and pushes the employee to look for a better fitting position. And there are plenty of laws to minimize unfair termination.

Likewise, the best schools need to be made up of good and effective Teachers !!! If there is no way to purge the poor performers, there is no way the Student's win through Collective Bargaining and Tenure/Seniority. This means the students are harmed everyday they spend with that poor Teacher. (ie loud classroom, lost assignments, unable to answer questions, ineffective lectures, etc.) And remember that the kid does not get a second chance!!!

Is protecting the poor Teachers worth sacrificing the Students?

My old question: Why don't schools have Parents fill out Teacher and class evaluation forms? This is a base expectation in College, Private, business and every other type of training. Could it be that there is no leverage to improve the Teacher or Class? So why bother asking?

Thoughts either way?

Collective Bargaining and ACT Scores
Collective Bargaining and Perf Schools
Collective Bargaining in the Public Schools
Student in Union State Perform Better
Lies about Wisconsin ACT/SAT

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nail in the Fence

Here is another EXCELLENT chain letter I received from a close friend of mine. I thought you may enjoy it if you have not read it before. I am not sure who the original author is, but I thank them.


There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all.

He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same.

When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. But It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound will still be there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.

Remember that friends are very rare jewels, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share words of praise and they always want to open their hearts to us."

To my friends and readers, I am honored to have you in my life.

Please forgive me if I have ever left a "hole" in your fence.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Benefits of Union Practices?

Well, I posted the following question on several Star Tribune articles, a MinnPost article and a Speed post. Still, I have not had anyone take an earnest shot at answering it. So I will try to take a shot at it from a pro-Union point of view. Let's see how this goes.

How does Collective Bargaining and Tenure/Seniority support our common goal of We want an "Excellent" State to live in for a "Reasonable" Cost?

Collective Bargaining (CB) supports the goal in the following ways:
  • CB helps to ensure that total compensation (ie wages & benefits) for MN Public sector positions is higher than that in neighboring States, and competitive with Private sector positions. This encourages highly qualified employees to move to MN to apply for these positions. Therefore enabling the quality of Public services to be higher than neighboring states, which improves the Quality of life in MN well beyond the small investment.
  • CB and the resulting contracts are critical to maintaining a multi-year vision and attaining the goals that are aligned with it. The political atmosphere is too volatile from year to year, and the goals change arbitrarily depending on who is lobbying for what. Without the CB and contracts, stability would suffer and the State would waste far more money transitioning from one whim to the next.
  • By raising the MN Public workers CB slightly, it helps to ensure the Private sector wages are somewhat better than neighboring states. Therefore MN attracts better employees and companies, which improves our ability to compete and our tax base. Which allows for great Public and Private hobbies, education, entertainment, etc. Which draws more great people and companies.
Tenure/Seniority (T/S) support the goal in the following ways:
  • T/S is critical to ensure Professionals are able to stand up to their penny pinching, fickle and inexperienced Managers. Without this the Public would be put at risk because bad decisions would be made in the name of saving a few bucks or because of some hair brained flavor of the week idea. This could damage our quality of life .
  • Years of experience and education are the the best indicators of an employee's knowledge, capability, etc. Without T/S the Management would fire these more experienced and educated employees in order to meet their budgets. Losing these incredibly capable employees would damage many aspects of MN.
  • Without T/S, many highly qualified Teachers and other Professionals would change jobs too often and this would cause discontinuity and excessive replacement/training costs within the School District or Agencies. With T/S, these employees stay in their jobs even when the going gets tough. (ie demographic shifts, funding cuts, etc)
In summary, C/B and T/S are critical to MN being an Excellent state and the minimal investment pays back huge rewards. Support C/B and T/S for the good of your children !!!

So did I do okay? What would you add to the list?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Then is Price Fixing OK?

Yippee !!! This is my 400th post !!!

Often I like to have people look at things from a different perspective. So if explaining why Collective Bargaining, Tenure/Seniority, etc is good for our State is too hard, then help me understand how it differs from the following:

Imagine if all of the Mpls area Contractors got together each year and set a std job rate they would charge for each type of job... And you as the Customer could not fire or sue a Contractor that was performing poorly... You could only hire them, pay the pre-set rate and accept the outcome.

No freedom to pay excellent Contractors more. No freedom to pay for a job to be done faster than normal. No freedom to fire, hold back payment or sue incompetent Contractors. No freedom to negotiate a better deal.

Would this make any sense to you?
How does it differ from Collective Bargaining and Tenure/Seniority?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Collective Bargaining in Wisconsin

On Speed's 1 for you 19 for me post, we have been discussing Gov Dayton's budget proposal for MN. And I think we share a somewhat common goal:

We want an "Excellent" State to live in for a "Reasonable" Cost...

Of course the challenging part is that each of us define "Excellent" and "Reasonable" somewhat differently. And we disagree somewhat regarding who should pay the "Reasonable" bill...

For all the differences, we should be able to agree that we can only attain the goal if Government, Services, Schools and other Societal Institutions operate productively, effectively and efficiently. If giving out welfare checks, building roads, teaching people, and other activities are to be done in this "Excellent" state, then let's do them without waste so that we have more money for the activity itself.

This and the Wisconsin protests raise the question of: How are Union norms like Collective Bargaining, Tenure/Seniority, etc helping us to attain this goal?

From my perspective they raise costs, and reduce quality and performance:

  • Blackmail / extortion is used to secure pay that is more than the market would bear for their skillset, knowledge and experience... (ie close schools, stop services, etc)
  • Excellent employees get paid the same as poor employees.(ie yrs served & education is all that matters)
  • Self motivated excellent employees are often constrained by work rules or brow beaten by peers to perform at less than their best. (ie wasted potential and demoralizing)
  • Poor employees feel little pressure to improve or perform... (ie job for life)
I would love to hear a rationale argument for How Collective Bargaining and Tenure/Seniority support our common goal of We want an "Excellent" State to live in for a "Reasonable" Cost...

It seems these Wisconsin State employees are more interested in their good than the student's good. Forcing schools to cancel so they can demonstrate... How irresponsible and self centered can they get? No wonder Public School and Civil Servant personnel continue to appear less and less Professional in most people's minds.

So what would a "Professional" do in my version of reality? Go to work and do your job like you committed to do when you took the job, then protest on your own time. And if they are not paying you enough or treating you right? Then find a new job, employer, carreer, etc. The free market will reward the capable handsomely and force the incapable to make some changes.


Fox News Teachers March
HP Scott Walker, Wisc Republicans
CNN Wisconsin Schools Called Off
NYT Angry Demonstrations in Wisconsin

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

RAS Conspiracy or Not?

Now I am mostly just having fun with the title, but this is kind of odd since they usually are rather thorough... I take some time like usual to figure out what the board was discussing during their work session this week. ( a strange hobby... I agree) And there are documents attached for all of the topics except the Magnets/Partnerships section...

RAS 2/14/11 Work Session Agenda Packet

So... A intentional conspiracy or a harmless over sight ? Maybe Lori just talked or did hand shadow puppets... I don't know yet I am curious regarding the update.

Check out the other links...

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Magic of THEY

The word THEY seems like an innocent word. I mean according to these definitions and usages it seems quite harmless and weak.
1. nominative plural of he, she, and it.
2. people in general: They say he's rich.

Free Dictionary
1. refers to people or things other than the speaker or people addressed (they fight among themselves)
2. refers to unspecified people or people in general not including the speaker or people addressed (in Australia they have Christmas in the summer)
3. Not standard refers to an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybody (if anyone objects, they can go)
4. an archaic word for those (blessed are they that mourn)

However as I have gotten older, I have developed an intense distaste for the word. It seems that many people like to use THEY to commit the 5 Relationship Cancers or to avoid taking personal responsibility for their own actions. Some examples include:
  • THEY are responsible for me losing my entire retirement savings, though I chose to put all my eggs in one basket. I mean that opportunity looked to good to be true !!!
  • THEY are responsible for me being upside down in my mortgage, though I chose to buy that house with very low equity financing. (ie 0 to 20%) I mean I deserved that very nice home and they only appreciate, right? And everyone deserves a home no matter how low their income. Right?
  • THEY are responsible for me being deeply in debt, though I chose to buy that nice car, take those vacations, and in general live above my means. I mean I really needed and was entitled to that stuff, right?
  • THEY are responsible for me not being able to get a job, though I chose for years not to continue my education, learn new skills, maintain professional contacts, etc. I mean I was valuable just the way I was !!!
  • THEY are responsible for Social Security not being fully funded. I mean I am just a citizen, and I was busy spending time and money on those vacations. Who had time for politics, and I sure did not want to pay anymore taxes?
  • THEY are responsible for the screwed up schools that are too expensive. I mean no one gets involved in that School Board or State Government stuff... Do they?
  • THEY are responsible for me not having enough money saved up for retirement and healthcare costs. I mean I could not be expected to save more and buy the right insurance, I needed and deserved those cool vacations, that dream home, those neat toys, etc. And who wanted to work more or get additional education, life's not supposed to be that hard.
  • THEY are responsible for for my health and medical care, though I drank, smoke, ate wrong and did not exercise. I mean everyone lived like me. Didn't they?
So I have decided that THEY must be a magical word that can remove responsibility from the shoulders of the typical citizen and deposit it squarely onto the shoulders of others. Maybe I can practice this and lighten my own personal burden:
  • THEY are keeping me from learning more, getting a better position and making more money... I am stuck where I am...
  • THEY are controlling the system and keeping me from getting more involved... It would be futile anyway...
  • THEY are preventing me from volunteering and giving more... I barely have enough time and money as it is...
  • THEY are keeping me from attaining serenity and happiness... How can I be at Peace in this chaos...
Well I tried, but I do not think this form of self talk is going to work for me... I CHOOSE TO ACCEPT MY BURDENS AND RESPONSIBILITIES !!! There are certainly things I can not control or have no say in, yet there are far more that I can influence or simply accept with serenity. Maybe someday THEY may become one of my GO TO words, but for now I am sticking with WE, I, TOGETHER, etc... These words seem much more responsible, powerful and proactive !!!

Serenity Prayer
Grant me the serenity to accept things I can not change;
the courage to change things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference...

Wow !!! There is no THEY in my favorite Prayer... See the links below for some background.

Speed No Fear
Speed You can't make this stuff up
G2A Recession a Bad Thing?
G2A Bar stool economics
G2A Crisis of Credit


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Balancing Act: Federal Debt, Deficit and Stimulus

My company's web site pointed me to this presentation. It seems very relevant to what we have been discussing... Now, when should I start stocking my bomb shelter and buying more weapons???

Thoughts on Dave's pretty pragmatic and depressing viewpoint? I thoroughly agree with his perspective. It's not a revenue or spending problem.... It is both... Now let's fix it...

Honeywell - Dave Cote: Everyone Pull Together
A Balancing Act: Federal Debt, Deficit and Stimulus Pres'n

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt Oppositon Demands Wealth Redistribution?

In my shameless search for additional readers that like to post comments, I am continuing to tie my "Titles" to popular events. Since the RAS community seems especially quiet and thoughtful. So let's see what types of thoughts this concept draws.

In these recent posts, we discussed the balance that is needed between "everyone for themselves with no government/society forced wealth redistribution" (~Capitalism) and "government/society cost and redistribute too much wealth". (~Socialism)

The first in extreme means the only safety nets are through private donations. Citizens must work hard and be somewhat lucky to thrive. And if you are lazy or unlucky, you better hope you find a caring person or organization to help you out or you will go hungry and probably die young... (ie effective motivator, but a bit cold hearted for our modern sensibilities)

The second in extreme means that people are taken care of by government/society even if they are lazy or unlucky. And to top this off, the services are paid for by the hard working and lucky. So you are rewarded for little effort and penalized for working hard... (ie kind in theory, but a recipe for failure)

The topic of discussion then is:
  • Is the Egyptian mess an example of what happens when societies err too much to the first extreme?
  • Is it worth redistributing more wealth in order to buy peace and tranquility?
  • Could something like this ever happen in the USA if the hardline Conservatives ever got their dream of really small government and almost no wealth redistribution?
  • How does a society motivate the Free Loaders to work hard and contribute while providing adequate safety nets?
  • Will we ever be willing to just let Free Loaders truly experience the extreme consequences of their inaction? Should we?
G2A Who made Who
G2A Entitlement or Gratitude
G2A Politics in America

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Robbinsdale Projections

The board and administration were busy in January, here are some of the documents I found interesting. My comments and questions are:
  • Now that I have seen the payback table several times, I am still wondering what enrollment projections by school are behind it? Is the district planning on 300 previous students coming home to the District schools, 300 out of district students moving in, and all of the community school kids staying put? Please drop me a note if I just missed them.

  • Since Supt Sicoli came here, I have heard him remark several times that intradistrict transfer should be limited in order to hold more spots for the open enrollees. I am assuming the logic is that Open Enrollees are more likely to attend ZLE than Northport? It probably makes sense though I disagree with the concept. Anybody see anything official on this yet? Is this the year? (Findings) I have some friends wondering if this is a good reason to buy a new house...
Any other questions or comments regarding these documents, or answers to my questions would be greatly appreciated. Have a great weekend !!!

Magnet School Projections
Facility Overview (Olson vs PLE)
Mid Yr Enrollment Report
Enrollment Trends
Enrollment Projections
Mid yr and Projections Presentation
Teacher Student Ratios
Non-Resident Caps
Financial Page

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

I just got through reading "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Sean Covey. It is where Sean takes the incredibly successful concepts that his Father, Stephen Covey, made popular in "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and makes them readable for teenagers.

He does this by using examples the teens can relate too, along with actual letters and stories written by teens. It is excellent, just like the original !!! And would make an enjoyable and informative read for all kids from 13 to 99+.

The challenge I am facing is how to convince my almost 16 yr old daughter to actual want to read and learn from a book that is recommended by her Dad. Especially when it is one of those "Self Improvement" books he obsesses over...

The good news is that I have something that she really wants !!! So being a good Capitalist, I have actually offered to pay her for reading the book and completing the end of chapter exercises. I have told her that the amount of pay will depend on how well she understands the material, and the thought she puts into the homework. The choice to read or not read will ultimately be hers, I am just providing some positive incentive.

Self Improvement / Self Awareness books definitely work best if you are reading them because you want help with something, and are motivated to challenge your long held paradigms. Because it can be scary to think that you or your parents could be wrong after all these years... Doing it for cash may not be as effective, but I am hoping that it leaves little seeds of ideas that will grow with time and life experiences. Then she can always read it again when she is self motivated.

My first attempt with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was an absolute failure. I did not take it seriously and paid for that oversight later. After that payment and with more humility, I read it again... The book somehow got better and more useful...

If this goes well, there are 3 other books I will repeat this exercise for. They are "How to Win Friends and Influence People", "Leadership and Self Deception" and "The Anatomy of Peace". You can find them on the G2A booklist.

Imagine how valuable they are if I am willing to spend my cash to ensure my children are exposed to the concepts... They may be worth checking out...

General Thoughts? or What other books should be on an adolescents must read booklist?

IUSD 7 Habits
Sean Covey
TeenInk 7 Habits
Alex Loya 7 Habits