Questions, Questions

On very rare occasion, I hear through the grapevine that somebody is reading this blog and hoping for updates. Such an occasion occured yesterday when my cohort called to tell me about this. Fine. If you are reading this and you are not commenting then you have your answer as to why I don't keep this blog updated.
You have to realize, I don't write to bloat my ego as big as it can get. I have many ways to do that without relying on this blog. I write when I have something to say, in the hopes of creating dialog. Okay, I admit, protest too. But not the kind of protest that means a street riot. I wouldn't condone such things, but protest as we have the right to do as American citizens. The exercise of freedom of expression without fear of retaliation. If you can't do this against Aspira then you can't do this say against a Bush bailout. Protest people, not complacency.
I wrote and I wrote and I had silent agreement from many and some comments and some dialog. But the dialog should not have been limited as it was. it should have led to action but it couldn't because there were too few willing to stick their neck out and some chose to be anonymous. All fine and dandy.
At the time, it was about kids and parents. Over time, it has become about teachers and administrators too. See how things get out of hand when everybody is shaking in their boots? The problems only got bigger and now you have a deluge. Don't say this Chicken Little didn't warn you. And as long as the sky fell on me and my cohorts, well too bad, everybody else is safe. Now it is falling on "professionals" and guess what? We can't stop it now. If you want to talk, this blog is still open for comments or you can start your own blogs. If you want to keep silent well then, don't look here. I can also keep very silent all by myself and be none the wiser.
If you are a teacher who is reading, or an administrator or work for CPS and you have kept your mouth shut and been complacent and looked the other way, well "Shame on you". How dare you sacrifice parents and children? The very people you dare to say you serve? Honestly, not to be hostile, but really, why should those of us who tried to help when it was half way feasible to win this thing, keep trying? Why should I sacrifice my neck when all of you quiet ones don't bother? I am worthy of being safe and happy too. I also have a lot to lose. I can forgive fear, but I can't abide those who stay frozen by fear indefinitely or those who want others to do the dirty work for them or those who come here for gossip about Aspira and nothing more.
I do prefer to think that those who come here fall into several different categories. Those who are just checking to see if I have anything libel like to say, in which case there could be legal trouble for me, or those who are actually curious and want to see if anything is happening in a sincere way, or those who are looking for rumors, or those who may be looking for help. The first one, please leave this blog alone and go stuff your rear end with your hatred, the others, as I said, comments people, except for rumors since that could fall into the libel category.
And yet, when I think of the prospect of reviving this blog, I would rather discuss the things that really matter now. Like the economy and how people are planning on surviving. If that is what you are about, visit me elsewhere. Email or comment and I will be most happy to give you my new and permanent blog which is rarely Aspira driven (since they failed to inspire me entirely), but still brutally honest, when I feel like it. Until then, I hope you can understand my point of view on why I don't care to keep going.
I didn't say anything about those of you who did not turn your backs. To those, a heartfelt thank you.And to my one cohort who worked your butt off, worked much harder than I ever did, you are a hero.

Head Out of the Sand

Okay, I submerged for a while and actually will resubmerge after this post for a while longer. I just wanted to update all on the fact that jollygreenmom is defunct for the same reason I rarely write to this blog. My head is in the sand.
I do not give up, I just live my own life. There is too much wrong in the world and most of it is right here in Chicago, for one person to keep going like this. With most of the readership lurking, there is no stimulating motivation for me to take time to write.
However, if you should decide not to lurk and to come forward as anonymous or with a nickname, go for it. I will publish all comments. Nasty ones will be edited for nasty words-sometimes, but not nasty opinions. We all need a good laugh now and then so go for it if you dare.
Have a great day.

hello again

"It isn't that the almighty aspira was doing anything bad on a grand scale..." I really wrote that so now have to own up to the complacency that led me to write such an ignorantly naive thing. Was I so sick of mind and spirit that I had tuned out entirely? I think anybody who has to fight like a minority with minorities against what happened that year is bound to eventually burn out. But I was mostly just happy to have escaped with my children intact.

I apologize now to the few readers who might have been waiting in the shadows for a post from me. I am not back, because I didn't go away. I just chose to not post here. I am still blogging elsewhere: I am still anti charter thanks to direct experience with a charter. I am not anti in general though. If you visit the other blog-please do not expect it to be clean. I am sick of walking on eggs on my own blogs. I am not a vulgar person so the other blog isn't going to be full of filth, but it isn't going to always be pretty.

I have plans to create a full website of my own at some point. I think the content here is enough to warrant its own archive on the new website, for the sake of being a responsible scribe. I think there is enough content to publish my own book titled "Charter School Survival Guide for Parents....A Satire in Community Empowerment"

"It isn't that the almighty aspira was doing anything on a grand scale"...yeah right. It isn't as if we knew what they were doing on a grand scale. We knew what they were doing on the stage in the forefront and doing it without once looking over their shoulder to make sure that nobody was watching....because even if anybody was watching, who would really give a damn and who couldn't be made to look the other way with a little bit of encouragement? Happens all the time.

That is more like it. More like me and smells more like the truth.

Interesting news gleaned from the District 299 blog.....Aspira Haugen got rid of one of their principles. It didn't surprise me that the one they kept is the one most likely to continue to throttle the charter proposal into oblivion. Oh wait,that proposal was thrown into the metaphoric shred pile the day the city approved this campus and looked the other way. I told you, it happens all the time. Oh well. Lets say they chose to keep the principle who is now apparently in full charge of the school (I would prefer to say that they chose a figurehead, like the Queen of England, since some of us know who is not in charge and more importantly, who is at that campus), anyway they chose him, because he is taller than the old principle and can therefor do a better job when looking down his nose at parents and community members.Of the two principles, he would not have been the parents choice last year. Did I say parents choice? What is that?

According to the same blog, Aspira also let the merta remirez principle go. I wonder if this has to do with how small their first ever graduating class was? One source who was there and graduated said that it was around 80 or so kids. I wasn't there, but if this is the case, and I think merta started out with 350 or so kids, what happened to the rest? Can anybody provide actual numbers? I thought student retention was important for charter schools to retain their contracts.
Oh and all of a sudden the merta parents are fed up. Really? Oh yes, really.

Anyway, it ain't over till the fat lady sings.
I wish all you dear readers happiness and more happiness. thanks for tuning in now and then.
and more importantly thanks especially to those of you who admitted openly to tuning in now and then, even if you didn't always agree with me.

Life is Bigger Than This

It is always good to look back at a period of ones life and put things into percepective. I look back at the 2005-2006 academic year and see how little those issues are in actuality. It wasn't that the almighty Aspira was doing anything bad on a grand scale. It was more that they were doing and/or not doing the smaller things that added up to one big failure. Think of it, mistake after mistake after mistake without once stopping to fix or even acknowledge that something was amiss. On the other hand, refusing to uphold a charter contract is no small thing. I am speaking only of the day to day matters at the school when I say little things.

I learn from my experiences or that of others, so looking at the whole picture more objectively now that my children are safely tucked away in a school that is accomplishing everything that Aspira said they would do, has helped me to analyze my own life in general. I see now that while the efforts me and a few other parents made seemed to have no impact on Aspira, that we still succeeded. Looks can be decieving and I know the nature of the beast is to pretend that they are doing things because they feel like it, not because they were asked or told. I see that Aspira would never acknowlege openly that a few parents did manage to shine a light on the issues in a truthful way and that is enough when dealing with people who do not, for reasons of pride, arrogance or ignorance, want to hear the truth. To be silent and mute as we parents were expected to be would have been failure.

For me and my children, the mess is over with. We are all moving forward and on in postive and productive endeavors, the way it should be and the way it should have been all along. We all landed in a place where our talents, intelligence and skills are respected and valued. I don't have the time to post here lately but will most likely begin another blog that pertains to more interesting things or I might not. Life is too big and wonderful to continue to waste it on forcing changes in a place that wouldn't budge.

Re; Stupid in America

I tried to unscreen this post from an anonomous reader, but it was too long. I decided that it was really too intelligent and interesting to just let it go so I am putting it here for all to see and ponder. Anonymous wrote:

"I didn't watch the program either but would have liked to. I did read and watch the website you posted previously and was appalled at the narrowness of his research. Did he again compare international scores with us scores? I have some questions about his data.

1. In the first segment he pointed out that at age 10 on international test scores the US children scores were well above the international average. (He doesn't mention what place the US children took or how many and what countries participated.)

2. At age 15 he is a little more specific stating the 40 countries tested and Americans placed 25th. (But there are many different types of secondary schools for different purposes, which type did he select in the study, perhaps the highest level. US children are all bunched together except for the selective enrollment schools.)

3. He states, "American schools don't teach as well as schools in other countries."

My question is how much research has he done to know how schools in other countries are structured? What are there standards? How do they enforce these standards? Without this information his comparison is like comparing the nutritional value of sugar with meat as though they were similar (they are both ingested into the body) but one has inferior nutritional results.

If the US operated like international schools there would be no room for "No Child Left Behind." However noble the idea is, it directly affects the level of education in the US.

In other countries, the elementary level student grades are critical in determining what kind of secondary type and level of school students get into. If the student doesn't maintain a particular grade that student repeats the courses until the grade is accomplished. In the variety of secondary schools throughout Europe students are tested and must be proficient in the language of their country. Asian countries send their elementary and secondary aged children to school after school (they have a special name for these schools which I don't remember) to keep up with the fierce competition to get into the best schools resulting in the highest suicide rate in the world among children. From Americans living in Japan I have heard that the parks are empty of children save for international employees' children.

Here is a government website and some excerpts about education in Poland and Belgium since those are examples in the reports. However this is a US government web and again what we know of our government how accurate might this info be.


There are no procedures in schools to protect children from abuse by teachers; in fact, the teachers' work code provides legal immunity from prosecution for the use of corporal punishment in classrooms.

People with Disabilities

There were approximately 5.5 million disabled persons in the country by year's end, and the number is expected to reach 6 million by the year 2010. During the year, the Central Bureau of Statistics (GUS) reported that 17 percent of disabled persons able to work are unemployed. Advocacy groups claim that the percentage is much higher. GUS data from 1999 indicate that 48.7 percent of the disabled have no more than an elementary school education, compared with 33.7 percent of those without disabilities, and that only 4.2 percent have a university education, compared with 8.2 percent of the nondisabled.

Minority groups in Poland have a particular disadvantage and many do not even complete primary school because of economic disadvantage, language barriers and parental illiteracy.


Undocumented asylum seekers arriving by air whose claims do not appear legitimate are not allowed to enter but are held in a closed detention center at the airport for up to 5 months while awaiting deportation or voluntary repatriation. The children of such asylum seekers do not attend school. Those applicants whose claims appear to be legitimate are released to 1 of 27 open asylum centers for shelter and assistance. These centers have a total capacity of 5,000 beds. The centers, funded mainly by the Government and the Belgian Red Cross, have been overtaxed by the increasing numbers of asylum seekers, and the Government has solicited assistance from municipalities to handle the overflow. Municipal assistance commissions are expected to provide an additional 1,400 beds.

In November a working group created by the Minister of Interior to reform the Government's immigration and asylum procedures issued its report. Its recommendations included: Ending financial aid to asylum seekers (only aid in kind--food and shelter--will be provided); increasing by 10,000 the number of beds available at open shelters; establishing 10 registration offices at the borders (applicants will have to apply immediately upon entering Belgium and also will have to supply information on the route they followed to get to Belgium); creating a "fast track" processing procedure for applicants whose claim appears on the surface to be noncredible; and increasing funding and manpower for the regularization effort. The Government's goal for implementation of the new procedures, many of which must be approved by Parliament, is January 1, 2002. Some human rights groups criticized the new policies as being "repressive and restrictive."

Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment of children is 15, but education is compulsory until age 18. Youths between the ages of 15 and 18 may participate in part-time work/study programs and may work full time during school vacations. The labor courts effectively monitor compliance with national laws and standards. There are no industries where any significant child labor exists. The Government prohibits forced and bonded child labor and generally enforces this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.c.); however, trafficking in children is a problem

Trafficking in Persons
Belgium is both a transit point and destination for trafficking in women and children. In September 1999, the three government-designated nonprofit organizations involved in assisting victims of trafficking in persons reported 185 active cases of trafficking in women from over 30 countries. The largest number of victims were Albanian. Cases on 28 children from 7 different countries also were active; the largest number were from Albania and Macedonia. According to statistics compiled by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 2,000 unaccompanied minors requested asylum in 1999, most from the former Yugoslavia and central Africa. Because of the difficulties involved in traveling to Belgium from those areas, the International Organization for Migration believes that many of these unaccompanied minors were brought in by traffickers or assisted by professional smugglers.

Even utopia (Belgium) seems to have problems. Couldn't find any specific details on their education system on the web. Their embassy or consul might have more useful information on educational standards. Test scores, test scores, and test scores, that's all the rage. Comparing test scores from other countries with the US isn't fair unless you examine the culture itself and sees what it’s doing to get those test scores. We talk about diversity; well what about the diverse application of learning between countries that are developed to promote optimal learning for high test scores. We think the world is teaching just like us. Not so. Can we expect equivalent test scores? No.

The US's humanitarian position is largely responsible for "Stupid in America." It is unfair to blame the teachers for "Stupid in America" when they have to teach students of all different levels, esl students with a variety of different languages, learning disabilities, behavior disorders in the same class and keep up with teaching standards on a timely schedule. Parents are often hostile to teachers. The public in general because of such narrow press information that have targeted teachers as the source of "Stupid in America" for many years, believe teachers are responsible for what has happened to student achievement. Higher school administrators only care about test scores because that measures them. Good teachers have to deal constantly with in class behavior disorders and have little or inadequate means of dealing with these students and have to keep them in the class because if they report them, the teacher is considered poor with classroom management. Classroom disruptions take time away from learning. Smaller classrooms would help although "Stupid in America" thought not. But small means 10-15 students if you have to implement "No Child Left Behind." "Stupid in America" states that veteran teachers are not necessarily the best; well I wouldn't have heart surgery if that surgeon weren’t a veteran heart surgeon. The veteran teachers simply are stuck in a system that doesn't work. Oh yeah, there are probably a few bad apples that the system has actually created. So what are the answers to improving test scores of US students with other countries, maybe we should implement some of their standards instead of creating ones that don't work. And maybe the educational reformers and the press need to learn how to do their jobs better."

stupid in america again or "Sleeping in Chicago"

I must be really stupid because I went to public schools my entire life and actually graduated two years ahead of my class because my teachers were so bad that my standardized tests reflected that I was more than ready and capable to go to college. But then maybe my union teachers in regular public schools didn't know how to interpret my test results. I don't regret it and neither did my parents who packed me off to college without a qualm and I proceeded to study broadcasting and some film.

I missed Stupid in America, because I was sound asleep after a long day of intellectual thinking and discussion with my publicly educated children and husband.

I then forgot about it due to getting my kids fully prepared for their first day of school and taking them to the bookstore to buy them each a book which I do at the beginning of every year as a good luck thing. Stupid me, until this morning when when I recieved yet another edition of the charter movement newsletter once again proclaiming a victory cry although I sensed that this cry was a little less committed and alot quieter. This time they quoted parents who the newsletter said the show successfully "woke up". One(parent) demands to know how educational standards are allowed to be dictated by a union, those horrible monsters.

A parent that I know actually did watch the show, but she said that Stossel stated that he wasn't blaming the union or union teachers. He actually went out of his way to clarify that, since he updated the segment probally because he recieved enough flak that he had to back down from the controversy he unwittingly created with the original segment. I know that he and the network are happy creating inaccurate information that leads to controversy or outright panic since that is how they get people to watch, but either way, he apparntly re-evaluated his position in the hopes of repairing the damage he did by alienating some viewers and losing some credibility in the process. This time around, he made sure that one and all understood without a doubt that he is blaming the educational "system" so now the rest of us can get on board the bandwagon and rest easy.

I have always loved watching investigative reporting segments and documentaries. I think it is interesting to see that some points of view in documentaries are openly opinionated while others stick to the old national geographic type of film that literally "documents" things in a truthful manner based on cold hard facts. I would like to see more of this type of objective reporting when it comes to what is wrong with our educational system on a national and local level, both in public schools and in charter schools. A visual evaluation of sorts. Send in the cameras, do the research, but use primary sources, and then tell us what is wrong or what is right. I guess though, if you want the job done right, you might have to do it yourself. Any takers?

Declaring My Position

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about my experience at Aspira when out of the blue, I got a phone call from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. They got my number either directly from Aspira or from the unanswered phone call to their then Director, Elizabeth Evans which I made so long ago that I forgot I ever tried since she never bothered to return the call. Either way, they were barking up the wrong tree. The phone call was an attempt to round up parent volunteers to help the movement. I think the caller asked me to lobby, but I can't be sure because the call exasperated me once I found out what it was about.

I explained that I had taken my kids out of Aspira and that since Aspira is a charter school I thought they should know that I was highly disatisfied with our experience. The caller, was in turn, stunned for a moment and honestly didn't know what to say other than to apologize. I then went on to explain that I was highly dissatisfied with the lack of concern on the part of Elizabeth Evans since a friend had actually spoken to her once and she seemed concerned and asked my friend to keep in touch, told her she would be happy to come to meetings and help out. My friend made numerous calls back, but Evans never returned her calls either. She does have a voice mail, and my friend left messages, just like I did. The caller apologized again before ending the call but not before I asked that my name be removed from their call list.

I have said before on this blog that I didn't have a problem with the movement, that some charter schools are doing well and more power to them, etc. But that phone call made me rethink those statements because it reminded me that the whole reason Aspira is allowed to get away with so much is the lack of accountablity on the part of CPS, but I forgot that the movement should also be held accountable. While they send parents down to Springfield to lobby for more funding, and that funding is for students, I can't support a movement that doesn't support its stakeholders-parents and children. I can't support a movement who indirectly or knowingly or unknowingly supports charter schools that are not fit to be called a prison much less a school either. You would think that parents and children have opinions and experiences that should be taken seriously in this educational experiment and when evalutating a schools performance but that isn't so, and the joke is on us at every turn of the road.You would think that it would be in the interest of the movement as a whole to help weed out the bad eggs.

As a result of that phone call, I came to the conclusion that while I support school reform, I cannot remain in the middle ground. Not in Chicago. I am not so convinced that the few good charter schools are as good as our public schools. I am not convinced that charters are an answer at all. I think they have created worse conditions for our children and that there is no such thing as accountability. There is a lot of looking the other way on the part of CPS as can be seen by the fact that Aspira has been granted other charters based on "reports" that CPS reviewed. That is what I was told by a CPS person the other day. I asked "What kind of reports? Who wrote those reports in the first place?" the very weak reply was that they got good test scores. So where are the test scores?

I also asked this person if he thought that CPS was so invested in seeing Aspira succeed while our children suffered the consequences. He said he didn't understand the question as if the implications weren't clear enough so I reiterated- Aspiras success simply means that they open more campuses and they are allowed to do that despite the fact that they are not fullfilling their charter proposal and our children are suffering the result, so how invested in Aspiras success is CPS? It seems to be "at all cost". He still didn't understand.

I explained that to my knowledge, nobody from CPS ever bothered to come to the campus and talk to parents and children.Nobody bothered to check beyond test scores which until posted publiclly, I will see as a rumour. I also told him that I would not be sending my kids back to that place because I had higher standards for them, that Aspira didn't deserve my kids. While he listened, he had no real comments to make other than the recommendation that I make an appointment with Beatriz Rendon.

I will try to do that, more out of curiosity to see if I will be granted an appoinment than actually caring to get one. I removed my kids from a charter school and will never set foot in another one as long as I live. Neither will my kids. There are still parents at Aspira who want the school to succeed because their kids have no choice. This is their neighborhood middle school.They have gained a so far powerless and disrepected PTO, but they are smarter than that.I have faith in these parents and leave this situation in their able hands, since it is their children at stake. I look forward to eating my words with a fork on the day that Aspira post their test scores publicly. I have no problem admitting PUBLICLY that I am wrong.

RE: Stupid In America

John Stossel of 20/20 did a piece on education in America which originally aired in January of 2006. I missed it but thanks to the charter school newsletters that I subscribe to and recieved just this morning, I see that this segment will re-air on Sept. 1 at 10pm. Check local listings for actual time because the newletter doesn't state if that is eastern or central time and I haven't looked yet. this particular newsletter urges parents to watch this episode to see for ourselves how terrible our public, non charter schools really are. This segment is their victory cry! After reading all of this, please follow the link that I provide at the end because it raises a few questions about who it is that qualifies as being trully stupid in America.

You can also read a write up of the segment here:

while the segment has some good points to make,the article keeps those points as shallow and one sided as possible. I personaly resent the over emphasise on putting the blame on teachers in public schools because they have the union backing them up and therefor keep their jobs regardless of whether they do a good job or not. By contrast, I notice that he didn't go into charter schools which are non union, leaving the good and bad teachers unprotected and subject to the whim of the internal politics of their place of employment. Does that sort of environment make for better teachers? Further, in any profession, union or not, there are people who know how to abuse the system and are there to collect a paycheck and nothing more. Being a union member does not make you less passionate about your work or less committed either. In some cases, it makes you more qualified and in others it does not. I am sick to death of hearing that issue brought up by the overly pro choice who are usually simply pro charter and have their own agenda, to continue to brain wash unwitting parents into lobbying for them. Just like the charter schools themselves where every head counts , parents are just a number and there is safety and power in numbers.

And I question the idea of school choice being the Final Solution to our ailing school system. While I believe in school choice, the way it is happening here in Chicago is not working as of yet. We await the good news, as CPS is buying time to prove their theory of privatization correct at the expense of our children. If the choices provided to the student were of high quality across the board, we might be making progress and everybody would be on board. I won't repeat all the reasoning I have to justify why I feel that way since I have already done as much.

In Chicago, school choice is simply taking one segment of students from one demographic area that has been pre-defined as having need for educational improvement and putting that population in the hands of an organization that also needs to make substantial improvements and then calling it a school. In Chicago, such an organization is allowed not only 5 years to prove itself but in the meantime they are granted more charter contracts.

In the article, Stossel talked to a parent whose 18 year old didn't know how to read yet. He finally went to Sylvan and started improving almost immediately according to the mom. I don't know how this boy went for so long without any intervention on the behalf of the parents and teachers of his schools. If it were my child, by 3rd grade I would have raised holy hell and he would have been tutored or else diagnosed with a learning disability and recieved the services he needed.I wouldn't wait until he turned 18 and faced a dire future before I intervened.

Our children are not as well educated as the kids the piece compared them to in one school in Belgium, but we dont' know the background of the kids in Belgium or the kids in the New Jersey either. We don't know what criteria was used to select these particular kids to participate in what turned out to be public humiliation for the American kids.

But we are told that our children are lagging behind. We know that college freshman are going to school not knowing how to write. We have identified all of the symptoms but nobody talks about the real cause, probablly because we havn't figured it out yet since we are so caught up in heated debates that we end up spending more energy on defending our positions than finding out any substantial truths. My position as a parent is that my kids are not part of this stupid experiment and will not be the product of the stupid solutions provided to parents. And I might add, my kids are not stupid.

When Michael Moore put out his documentary "Farenheit 911" it didnt' take long for pro Bush young republicans to make their own documentary in opposition to Moores film. They called it "Farenhype 911". Why wouldn't competing media giants do an opposing view to Stossels story? Isn't competition a GOOD thing? Apparently, only in our ecuactional system and only when it targets our union teachers and puts down our children. I propose the title to the retort "Stupid is as Stupid Does", except wait! The title was already taken,

Math Puzzles

My dad is an obsessed book collector and as such, comes up with some gems that me and the kids would never come across or think to pick up on our own.

Here is one:
The Moscow Puzzles, 350 mathematical recreations,
by Foris A. Kordemsky Published by Charles Scribner's Sons/New York copyright 1972
Thsi book can be purchased at so is still in print. The previous owner devoured it as can be seen by the personal notations made throughout my copy.

The introduction says that this book was first published in 1956 in the Soviet Union, first in Russian then into the various eastern block languages and finally into the various languages of Europe, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, before making its way over to us in the U.S.

Some of the puzzles are probally not as novel to math buffs, while others are standout more by the story they tell. Here is an example, reproduced in full, and the title is NOT made up.

"When the Fascists Attacked Our Country

During WWII, Russian cities near the front were blacked out. Once when it was time to darken the windows, schoolboy Vasya's parents could not find a shade for a window 120 by 120 units. All that was available was a rectangular sheet of plywood. Its area was correct, but was 90 by 160.

Vasya picked up a ruler and drew quick lines on the plywood. He cut it into two parts along the lines he had drawn. With these parts, he made a square covering the window. How?"

While the math in this puzzle is fairly simple, what intersted me was the Soviet party line, fully intact in the title, and in addition, my childrens generation and their age meant that they were unaware of the what this guy was talking about, so they got to learn a little bit about history and politics.

The book is peppered with such stories, life after the war, life during the cold war, the reconstruction of a war torn country, and hints as to what life may have been like during those years for children in particular since the majority of the puzzles were targeted at children.

Go ahead and solve the puzzle if you want, post the answer if you care to, but try and locate a copy of this book.

"Next Year" is Here

I was told that today marks the beginning of Year 2 at ASpira Haugen Charter Middle School. Next year.

As some of you may know, at the end of last year, Aspira consented to allowing the parents to have their first ever parent organization-the PTO. The parents who volunteered to join the PTO were to meet over the summer to discuss and trouble shoot the problems that parents were identifying. They were also there to ensure that ASpira would make good on their promise to make "next year" a success by meeting their stated goals.

Parents have largely put aside the High Tech model by the way because other issues were so bad that all our energy had been concentrated on safety and communication. I presume that Aspira is therefor relieved that the pressure to meet the High Tech standards has been put on the back burner. I hope that the parents who sit on the PTO realize what is going on here. by not improving security and communication all your work and focus will remain on those issues and away from academics. This is year 2, and Aspira should have solved the security issues enough to have a safe and orderly campus. Dont' forget academics, thats why our kids go to school.

At any rate, a friend of mine informed me that the PTO wasn't going well. At the first meeting 5 parents came. Not a bad turnout since it was over the summer. At the second meeting which was about school security, 4 parents showed up. Then finally, at the most recent meeting in mid August, some parents showed up but the principle did not. My friend told me that Velasquez was calling the parent volunteers himself to remind them of the meeting dates. Parents, exchange phone numbers, this is your organization.

Let me state here clearly- Quintana has been on sick leave so she was not obligated to be there. With her gone that left one principle-Velasquez who has the list of parents and their phone numbers and he could have had the courtesy to make a few calls and reschedule the meeting. He apparntly didnt' do that.

I also want to note here that a friend of my daughters recieved a phone call over the summer from somebody from Aspira who talked to the parents in an attempt to convince them that if her daughter stayed in the school, they would be pleasantly surprised at the changes. These parents at first believed the caller, but chose to move to the suburbs shortly after. Not sure if they did or not, but they really didn't want their daughter at Aspira for one more year. I asked several children over the summer if they got a call from Aspira. They believed they hadn't, but who knows for sure.

Another student went to transfer out of that school into a neighborhood school and the mother was told that since her son didnt' have good grades a certain Aspira person would help him get into Lane Tech if he stayed. The child is a high academic achiever and I saw his last report card, which I recall was all A's and one B. The mother has high standards and goals for her son and was apparently made sufficiently doubtful of her sons future that she complied to the "request" that she not transfer her son. this matter was brought to my attention by a phone call from another child who was smart enough to be alarmed after he read the news on another blog posted by the student by the way. He called me and asked me to go on the blog to read it myself. Just days before, this student had posted a happy goodbye to Aspira.

I have no problem with this if the mother had made the decision based on the schools satisfactory performance, but a parent who needs to be scared into staying and had gone in to transfer her child out could not have been very happy in the first place and her decision should have been respected. This is a charter school and our children are only there by choice. The promise of getting the child into Lane Tech should not have happened but why would a high achiever with a good report card have a problem getting into Lane Tech in the first place? Because he spent his 7th grade year in Aspira, thats why. to that parent who believed the promise, get it in writing from the person who made that promise. Then call Lane tech and ask them if they can give you the same promise in writing as well.

When I say good luck to the kids and parents who freely chose to go to that campus this year, I mean it sincerely. They will need all the luck that they can get.