Thursday, September 30, 2010

RAS Pairing Schools & more

I don't pay attention for a few weeks, and nearly miss some very interesting topics from the 13Sep10 Work Session. RAS Board Work Session 13Sep10

The budget committee update had some fascinating concepts contained within it. RAS Budget Committee Updates The 4 most interesting to me were:
  • A revisit of Pairing Elementary schools. (K-2 & 3-5) To me this is an excellent idea that many parents are vehemently against. They dislike having to deal with multiple schools. (ie volunteer, drop off, pick up, staffs) Also, there was a lot of concern regarding how the bus schedule and process would work. The idea was thoroughly trounced by vocal parents a few years back. I am a fan because schools, libraries, equipment, staff, etc can be specialized for the age bracket and it is much easier to optimize the number of kids in a classroom if you have more classrooms of a given grade in the same building. (ie less volatility and a few less teachers) What do you think? (Forest & Lakeview, Northport and Meadow Lake, Neill & Noble, Sonnesyn & Zachary Lane, RSI1 & RSI2)
  • RSI1 & RSI2 ??? What do I mean by that? They are also reviewing the possibility of expanding the popular immersion program. I assume in the Pilgrim Lane or Olson building.
  • Which would leave the other building available for a possible STEM magnet school. This possibility is also under consideration.
  • Do we really need all those TOSA's? Is their funding source covering their true costs? Is it a worthwhile activity that aligns with the RAS priorities? (fyi TOSA = Teacher On Special Assignment... Not in the classroom... I think...)
Now for the big questions: Would the new Magnets bring enough Open Enrollees and Money into the district to cover the costs? Or will they allow more folks to leave/escape their community schools? How many more buses would pass by my house each morning? (ie currently 6)

The challenge of renovating Northport with "free/no vote" Alternative Facilities money was also discussed. I still think we should build a new larger Northport and close Lakeview... Now, how do we get the NE residents to vote for it? And those frustrated SW residents?
RAS Northport MDE Letter 27Jul10
RAS Northport Budget 9Sep10
SUN MDE has questions... Northport

And the GAP goals & plan was reviewed. Looks like they are focusing. Let's hope they can find ways to succeed.
RAS Achievement Gap Plan

Thoughts on any of these?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Blood Letting

As I signed in this morning for my regular date with ALYX, I noticed the sign that was hung to remind the employees at the Plymouth Memorial Blood Center of the urgent need for O+ and O-. And the reminders to promote the benefits of giving via ALYX. (ie give more, while giving less often) Being both O+ and a regular ALYX donor, I felt good and chose to spread the word.

I started giving regularly about 5 years ago, it was silly that I delayed that long. Think... I get to give something that people really need and appreciate without spending a penny... Okay, that is not quite true. I have to drive 5 miles and donate ~1 hr of my day a few times a year. However, remember that you get free treats and drinks after donating!!!

Now, I do have one regret about donating... Ever since I started my mid-life crisis many years ago, I have contemplated getting a tattoo. Unfortunately, I can not give for 12 months if I have it done... And I have not been willing to delay donations for this basic animal urge... Though having the following outrageous words on me sure is tempting:

First: Seek to Understand
Second: Seek to be Understood
Conquer Fear !!!
Behold Wonder !!!
I am sure these tough tats would help me to fit in at the biker bars...

Now make some time and make blood donating a habit !!! Many people are depending on you !!! Maybe even yourself !!! MBC Home MBC Centers

If you are a regular donor, please share your stories and help these scaredy cats understand that it doesn't hurt a bit... (well... maybe just a little prick...)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Teacher Compensation

Well folks,
I have been curious about how Teacher compensation increases with experience and education, so I finally took a few minutes to graph it out. I wanted to understand if the younger teachers got bigger raises, how well additional education was rewarded, etc. I know... I am a nerd...

The table data came right off the 2010-2011 RAS Teacher's compensation table.
RAS 281 Salary Information

Also, we have been having a lively discussion regarding the adequacy of Teacher compensation at:
281EE Another Letter

Overall, the system seems to reward newer Teachers faster. Which makes sense since they are learning faster. (everything is new to them...) And the system really rewards continuous education and learning. Since I am an education junkie, I think this is a good thing. Now the question is whether that education can be correlated to "improved results" in the classroom. (ie worth the money?)

What do you think? Do they make too much or too little? How should the graphs be adjusted? Please join in at either site...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Waiting for Superman

This sounds very interesting... A self proclaimed leftist liberal reporting on the challenges with the Teacher's Unions... (ie not necessarily the Teachers...) Besides, the portion of the trailer regarding the confidence of American kids is hilarious and so true...

Waiting for Superman home page
Fox News Story
Oprah Coverage
Politics Daily
Education Week

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Balanced Life & Giving

I believe that being self aware and monitoring our choices is critical to living a fulfilled life. For me there are 3 aspects to accomplishing this:
  • Knowing the Principles that are important to yourself
  • Knowing the various roles and activities that are important to you
  • Monitoring your thoughts and actions to ensure you are achieving balance
Imagine the work centric person who spends too much time at work, and sacrifices their spouse, family, health, etc. Some people may die satisfied when they look back at their choices, however I am betting most will have regrets and may even harbor resentment toward their employer.

Or imagine the adult child that lives to care for their aging parent, even if this requires sacrificing friendships, hobbies, etc. Isn’t it more likely that the adult child will at some point feel burdened, burnt out, and possibly grow to resent the parent.

I truly believe that one must take care of themselves in order to freely and happily give of themselves. I learned this the hard way… My previous priorities were Family, Work and then John. This went along fine for many years, however I finally exhausted my energy reserve and ability to give, resulting in my needing some significant help. This helped me to truly understand that my priorities must be John, Family and then Work. My batteries MUST be charged if I am to effectively help others.

Since most of us play many roles and engage in many activities, here is a tool that will help you identify them and keep them in balance. I learned about it in some training by the Pacific Institute, however all it requires is a blank piece of paper and 5 minutes to create…(see below)
  • Draw the lines
  • Label them with roles/activities that you think are important
  • Score how you think you are doing against your criteria
The challenge is then to start spending some more time or effort in the areas that you have determined are coming up short. The goal is to create a round circle. This may require you to say no to some things. And isn’t it good to say no proactively, rather than waiting until you are fried…

And once you have the balance under control, you can begin improve your capabilities and increase the diameter of the circle.

Below is an example of the one I did today… It looks like I have some work to do. (ie exercise, volunteering and hobbies) However remember that it is okay to go out of round once in awhile. LIFE HAPPENS… It is just nice to have a simple way to start managing our life rather than having it manage us. Thoughts?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Principles, Tolerance and Success

J's version of reality got me thinking....

"You can content yourself with the fact that your kids are receiving a better education than the kids you left behind in that other school; that your schools are the "best of the worst." Or You can complain loudly and at length that your school is not all that it ought to be and that its failings are as follows, in a very lengthy list. "

Is he correct? or Is there a way to do both? What will be more productive and help your child to be more successful? Which behavior do you want to model for them?

Now, I am a huge fan of "How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. His theory is pretty simple regarding Influence. Develop a true concern for the other person's situation, share your concern with them, prove to them you are capable and then you can influence them to look at the situation differently, because they will trust you. It is not manipulation, it is influence because you are seeing things from their perspective and trying to help.

Of course, Sun-tzu and Michael Corleone had a different perspective. "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." Which probably is good if you want to manipulate or destroy them...

Sticking with Carnegie's healthier concept, I feel a person needs to spend time with those that they disagree with, work with them, develop empathy for them and strive to understand. Only then can you understand their perspective, and possibly get them to value your perspective and ideas.

Therefore I try to balance both of J's extremes:
  • I work with the Teachers and Administration to help where I can. (ie funds, volunteer, etc)
  • I am thankful for the good things that the district offers. (ie Facilities, Programs, Teachers, etc)
  • I continually critique the key concerns I have regarding the District. (ie Tenure, Bldg retention, Monopolistic tendencies, etc) While posting ideas for improvement...

Is this failing to stand up for my Principles? Or is it living my Principles by showing Tolerance and Respect while continually working to improve a situation? It is an interesting thing to ponder. I hope my children are watching and learning as I strive to reach balance in this endeavor...

To me it seems like what most of us have to do everyday at work... Live and succeed within the company/system, while slowly improving it where we can. Probably a pretty good skill to learn.

Or.... We could go to the President of our company with a list of all the things we think are wrong within the company... I mean many of us are stockholders in the firm... How dare they mismanage our comapny... I wonder how that would impact our success? Or improve the company?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where are the Parents?

Last night the wife and I attended a cool event at Armstrong High School. Between 6 and 8 PM, we got to walk through my 10th grader's day. We spent ~15 minutes in each classroom, where her teacher would tell us about the class, methods, priorities, expectations, etc. Also, they were open to answering questions. It was an excellent experience that will help us better support and coach our daughter.

Now... Why is the post entitled "Where are the parents?"

Each of the classrooms held 35 to 40+ desks, therefore I assume each class has 30+ students... Therefore there should be 30 to 80+ parents related to those students.... I think this a pretty straight forward and reasonable assumption.

Well the number of parents at each session varied from 2 to 10, with the norm being ~5. Two of which being me and my better half.

Any thoughts as to why attendance was so low ??? The Admin and Teachers did some great prep and work, however the Parents failed to show... Yet they'll be the first to complain the "THE SCHOOL" is failing when little Joey gets a poor grade.



Sunday, September 12, 2010

G2A Principles

I have my Trying For Balance graphic to the right. Here are the affirmations and related values that go with it. I often fail to meet these high standards that I set for myself ~4 years ago, however they do act as a solid anchor that keeps me from going too far adrift. They help me stay self aware, and are incredibly valuable when strong emotions surface or I am faced with difficult life choices. Finally , I hope they show up in my writing....

I owe the general concepts to and their discussion of Principles that appear across almost all formal religions and forms of sirituality. It seems if we get past all the human documentation, tradition, ceremony and interpretation issues, the core Principles are pretty unviersal. I have to wonder if God is laughing or crying over all the conflict that humans create in God's name.

My Principles have been stable for the last couple years, however I am always up for improvement ideas. Thoughts?

I align my thoughts, words and actions with truth and have the courage to act with sincerity and honesty. This strengthens me and my relationships. (ie, impartial, objective, open/full disclosure, honor confidences, meet professional and personal responsibilities, loyalty, authenticity, trustworthy, due diligence, no conflict of interest)

I work and strive towards self-improvement, because wholeness is not realized in a moment. I need the confidence to endure all situations in order to reach my goals. (ie diligence, initiative)

Self Discipline
I restrain my lower desires through determination. And through obedience to my higher self, I develop inner control and greater confidence. (ie health, behaviors)

I maintain a feeling of calmness and concentrate on higher thoughts. By focusing on higher thoughts and actions, I am better able to connect with the divine. I also take the time to go within my heart, where I find my true self and creative energy.

I accept my present situation as a necessary part of a grander plan. This new freedom allows me to surrender my wants and desires and welcome whatever comes into my life. With this new awareness comes contentment and peace. (ie compliance, patience)

I choose moderation in all aspects, because it brings balance into my life and helps maintain my inner peace and true reality. The alternatives would be burn-out, stress and illness, which would hinder my productivity and creativity. (ie abstinence, temperance, emotional/spiritual/mental health)

I maintain my trust and hope even though I live in the midst of uncertainty, because God pervades all things. Faith is my willingness to take the next step without fear or looking back, and yet have the patience to trust God and not try to force the results myself.

I am grateful and appreciative for what life has given me. I think magnanimously and act generously because abundance is the universal reality, therefore what I give to life returns to me. (ie family & friends, home location, financial security, great job, personal successes, health, hobbies, experiences, prestige, recognition, pleasure, joy)

I maintain an attitude of unpretentiousness and modesty, and realize that God in his own way and time will reward me with whatever I need. As long as I rid myself of pride and maintain an attitude of gentleness toward all life. (ie questioning, humble)

I am alert to highly significant events that cannot be explained, because I then have an opportunity to go beyond the daily occurrences in my life. I am also receptive and have the courage to act on my inner promptings, thereby supporting my transformation into a higher self. (personal freedom/power, independence, creativity, experiences, spontaneity)

I choose a new understanding of my situation, because forgiveness is a conscious act that frees me from the damaging image of myself as a victim and dissolves the poison of resentment. This frees me to extend mercy and compassion to myself and to those who have wronged me, which reconnects me back to my real self.

I work to be discerning and self-aware, so I can distinguish between beneficial and destructive things that I attract into my life. I need courage to take the next step toward wholeness by eliminating the negative desires that attract chaos into my life. If I do not curb my destructive desires, life becomes increasingly difficult. (ie personal development, wisdom, expertness, self renewal, vision, values)

I choose to see the beauty of the simple things in life and perfection all around me, instead of complexity and distortion. Therefore I retain the innocence and joy of life that uplifts me and reconnects me to my true inner self. (ie chastity, live now, notice)

Cause & Effect
I am accountable for my every thought, word and deed, and recognize the wisdom of restraint and being aware of the intentions of my actions. For every action there is an equal reaction. (ie karma, awareness, consequences)

I use positive inner dialogue to bolster my self-esteem and self-respect. This frees me to nurture all individuals by being the caring, compassionate, thoughtful and kind person I truly am. (ie empathetic listening, understanding, concern, affection, protect, friends, family, affirm, support)

I strive to treat all whom I meet with courtesy, tolerance and cooperation, because everyone is part of the divine family and deserves my respect. No matter their religion, sex, culture, age or status. (ie justice, fairness, win/win, trust, open minded, honor autonomy of others, acceptance)

I came into this life with a special plan or purpose to help elevate humanity. I am responsible for successfully executing the plan and infusing my service with the creativity of my special God-given talents. (ie benevolence, leadership, community/society/environmental responsibility, interdependence, mentoring, contributing)

I choose to be optimistic, cooperative and enthusiastic, rather than a victim of my negative emotions, so I remain in control of myself and maintain inner happiness. The alternative would be to choose negative feelings, which would make my life infinitely more stressful and complex. (ie praise, affirm, appreciate, congratulate, collaborate, motivate, cheer, empower, positive)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Last Lecture

Well if you have not read this book or watched this video, I definitely recommend that you make the time to do so. If Randy can be this upbeat, positive and wise while expecting to die a painful death in < 5 mths, leaving behind his wife and young kids, what excuse do any of us have for being depressed, frustrated, hopeless, etc. We must put our challenges into perspective and look for those silver linings.

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams (video)
Randy Pausch Last Couple Years
Randy Pausch Web Site
Randy Pausch Wikipedia

As for "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams". Randy did it right... He wrote his dreams down and kept them in front of him. I did this about 5 years ago and am slowly ticking off the ones that still interest me. It is very fulfilling and rewarding. So take some time, write them down and get going!!!


Friday, September 3, 2010

ACT/MCA Difference Means ???

I realize this old news, however it is good news and worth repeating.
  • ~75% of the students at Cooper and Armstrong took the ACT test !!!
  • They scored (22.6) slightly higher than last year (22.4), even though the demographics continue to shift !!!
  • The avg score (22.6) is just slightly below the MN state average. (22.9) However the differences are probably statistically irrelevant. (ie very small compared to noise factors)
  • Minnesota scored (22.9) higher than the national average (21.0)
  • Minnesota scored higher than all of our neighboring states (see MN Dept link below)
RAS 281 Students' ACT Scores Improve
Sun: 281 Students' ACT Scores Improve
MN Dept of Ed: MN Students Lead on ACT Scores
MN Office of Higher Education: ACT Scores
Insight: ACT Scores and College Readiness
ACT: National and State Scores by Year

Now for the thoughts and questions from a guy who thinks too much:
  • 75% (~8,250) of the RAS students are interested enough in their education to take the ACT, and their average score is at approximately the MN state average
  • The average MCA score of 100% (~11,000) of the RAS students is below the state average (G2A Data Manipulations)
  • Does this mean that 25% of the RAS student body is dragging down the average score for the district?
  • Does this mean that RAS is teaching the 75% differently/better?
  • Does this mean that the 25% are not as teachable? (ie capability, interest, behavior, etc)
  • Does this mean the 25% have non-school factors that are impeding their success? (ie minimal home support, shortage of academic resource, little for good role models, etc)
  • What can we do to help the 25% reach the average academic success that is being attained by the majority (ie 75%) while enticing the majority students/families to stay in the district?
Thoughts, answers, more questions, etc are encouraged as always !!!

Have a great Labor Day Weekend !!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Making Money Via Taxes

Here is the latest conservative link and email I have received. This one seems pretty rational and worth discussing. I am very close to the person who sent it and they asked me what I thought. So you will see my serious and not so serious comments below. Good luck telling the difference.

Yahoo Finance: Millions make Money

"This is an interesting article, to which I can testify. Last winter I was a volunteer with AARP, doing taxes at no cost for people. One of my early clients was a single mother, I'd estimate 30-35 years old. My impression is that she wasn't the brightest, but was honest and tried to do her best. She had one job, a cleaning lady for a local motel, sometimes working in the breakfast bar. It may not have been a full time job. Her W-2 showed income of just under $13,000, with about $800 withheld for IRS.

She was able to file as single, head of house hold. She received:

  1. Making work pay credit
  2. Earned income credit
  3. Additional child tax credit
  4. There may have been others, I don't recall anymore.

When I figured her final tax form, her refund was approximately $5,600, including the $800 withheld. She essentially received a "welfare payment" of $4,800 through the IRS tax system. Admittedly, her income was about the right amount to maximize some of the above credits. Now I felt good for this lady, as I felt she needed the help, that she had been working and trying, to the best of her ability. But I also realized what a welfare system our IRS tax code has turned into for may folks."

G2A's Serious and Smart Alec Replies/Thoughts
I would prefer that the money be transferred to these people via Social Services, just to keep the book keeping separate. (ie collections and expenditures) I enjoyed reading the Yahoo Finance explanation. It was interesting that much of it was a side effect of the Bush tax cuts. Including the "per child tax credit" with which citizens generously subsidize my raising my 3 daughters.... (sure kind of you)

As for whether, we should provide support for a single Mom who is making $15,000. My answer would probably be yes. Here are some reasons:
  • Values basis: It sounds like she is trying and still can not earn a livable wage. (ie its only fair)
  • Equity Basis: Sales tax, government fees, social security taxes, etc are a huge portion of her tiny income. (ie offsets these plus some)
  • Christian basis: Jesus would want us to help the needy and the children. (ie rich in this life will suffer in the next... and vice versa...)
  • Pragmatic basis: We need motel house cleaners, even if the job is low paying. (ie subsidize the industry and keep the rooms cheap...)
  • Political basis: Keep feeding the destitute so they do not rebel or beg in the streets.
  • Image basis: It would look bad if working people were starving or homeless in the richest country in the world.
So what do think regarding this topic?