Wilkes-Barre Area School Board Meeting, October 5, 2015.

       In a previous post I explained that Wilkes-Barre was in a fight for it schools.  Little did we know that the district was in a fight to remain solvent.  The district claims that they are facing a catastrophic financial issue.. It us nit the first time they said this,  in fact they have said it quite a bit.  The difference now,  they are bringing in the Pennsylvania Department of Education to go over their finances. In the next few weeks PDE will be arriving,  they will go through the districts finances layer by layer to help determine what can be done.  This is something the members of Wilkes-Barre Area Save Our Schools has been asking for.  Not exactly the PDE,  but an expert to come in and examine the finances.  It was a concession to the WBSOS.  The state budget impasse has not helped the district in any way,  shape or form. But it has opened doors to this consideration. It is a start.

            While the district is in financial distress,  they still plan to move forward with their $100 million plan to consolidate 2 of our city Schools in a horrible location.  When asked if the district should wait until PDE was finished to continue with the project,  the superintendent responded that PDE coming in has nothing to do with the project. Although the plan is still moving forward,  there have not been any submissions to Plancon for additional property purchase or plans for the public hearing.  Those are 2 important points.  The property purchase would add several million to the price tag and most likely remain unused after the new school was built.  The public hearing was rumored to be either in December or January.  Typically the public hearing is held 9 months to a year after the Plancon process was started. The rumors had it at 6 months.

           Coughlin,  which was rumored to be closed on November 1, will remain open until the end of the school year. The juniors and seniors will remain in the Annex,  newest part of Coughlin,  while 9th and 10th graders will attend Mackin.  This is important because it shows the district is pumping the breaking,  going a bit slower then originally scheduled. We have made progress there.  Important pie e of information to note.  The district will raise taxes to the max amount from now until 2022,  at that point we should see light at the end of the tunnel. Very expensive for the taxpayers. There is also no plan in the works for Meyers.  A board member said that they were looking for someone to partner with in the future.  At least 5 years or more in the future.  Will it still be standing? According to the architects and engineers,  it is in trouble.  The future for the Meyers building could be anything from a sports center to a community center.

           They are looking at possibly 5 administrators in the new consolidated school.  The typical salary of a principal is between $100,000 and $150,000. They are also looking at Dean of Students and Head Teachers.  This despite the engine behind this consolidation being finance.  The superintendent also said that he spoke with the head of the NAACP about possibility if a large portion of minorities remaining in an underperformed school, while other children attend a brand new school with all the bells and whistles.  He told the NAACP local president that finances are driving this.  I am not sure that defense will work if this finds its way into court. 

           All in all it was an informative meeting.  The brakes are being pumped,  at least for the time being.  It is not a victory for the public,  just a concession.  I admire the fact that the board was willing to bring in the PDE.  That is an important step.  I hope as we move forward the board and the people can find a way to work together more.  The concern here needs to be about our kids,  not just money.

        

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Governor Corbett has to defend another pro-business law.

                Governor Tom Corbett is yet again defending another of his Bills. Several of his Bills, which helped make up his conservative agenda, have been found unconstitutional or dismissed by the Commonwealth Court. This time it is his Gas Royalty Bill. Another pro-business Bill from a man who refuses to tax Natural Gas Drilling Companies and gave businesses another $310 million tax break in his new budget. While at the same time cutting funds from Education and Health Care.

Critics of the Bill contend that it undermines landowners negotiating rights. It gives an unfair advantage to Natural Gas Drilling Companies. Many landowners in Pennsylvania have negotiated drilling contracts so companies can get at the Marcellus Shale.

The Bill enjoyed overwhelming support from the Republicans who control the Pennsylvania legislature. Democrats fought against, but like many issues they have fought against the Republican majority will dismiss Constitutional rules to get what they want. Corbett signed the Bill without public comment. Corbett believes the law enhances the efficiency of oil and gad drilling. He also says the Bill will limit environmental damage and protect landowner rights. Governor Corbett said fracking doesn’t cause pollution, in fact the EPA stopped investigating it. That is odd he mentions pollution.

This law like most of Corbett’s other proposed laws, is pro-business. Corbett uses rhetoric to disguise them as helping people. This is designed specifically to help drilling companies get at all of the Marcellus Shale natural gas. The Fracking process which is used to bore horizontally underground that extend thousands of feet from the vertical well bore. This law allows them to cross property lines as well. Fracking is widely known for causing environmental pollution, as well as making people sick. There are at least 23 known carcinogens in the fluid used to Frack. Why isn’t the EPA investigating Fracking Companies and chemicals? Could it be lobbying companies have bought off the top levels of government?

How do you tell your daughter her friends suck.

           I have a 9 year old and a 11 year old daughter. Everything up until this year was easy, no dramas, no fights and basically a group that got along. They go to a Charter School that goes from Kindergarten to 8th grade. There are 50 kids in each grade except Kindergarten, which has 40 kids. Most of these kids have been together since Kindergarten and more have been together since 1st grade.

My oldest is in 6th grade and got a couple of new girls this year. My daughter has been friends with the same group of kids since 1st grade. Most of the girls got along, of course there were occaisonal issues, but nothing big. Her best friend left for another school at the end of last year. She continued to hang out with the other girls. As this school year went on the group got smaller and smaller. One of the new girls got in with the group and within a week they started splitting apart.

My daughter remained with the new girl and her other friend. Everyday a different girl would have a problem with my daughter’s 2 friends. We were only getting information from one side, so we were kind of biased in our opinion. Others kids parents were freaking out on my daughters 2 friends. As the school year went on this continued to happen. My daughter was friends with these 2 girls but started hanging out with different girls. Even the attitude of the 2 girls changed.

It took the whole school year but they finally hurt my kid. My wife was warning my daughter that it would happen and it did. They screwed her good for a kid that they hate. This was the first time my daughter has ever yelled at one of her friends in anger. She wanted to hit her in the mouth. This is a girl she has been friends with since she was 5. My daughter ripped into the girl. The girl called my wife crying and my wife asked if she did what upset my daughter and she said she did. Then why are you crying she asked her.

The next day the girl asked my daughter if she was ok, but wouldnt talk to her. Since then my daughter has branched out and started talking with other kids. Quite a few girls asked if she was ok and said that the girl did the same thing to them. Girls that my daughter didn’t talk to because of her loyalty to her friend. It turns out my daughter gets along with all of them. We told her to branch out, make some new friends and move on.

As a parent you hate to see your kid hurt. But to say don’t hang out with that kid will only make her wantb that friend more. We always try to protect our kids but we can only do so much. I am proud of my daughter, I know she us hurting inside, but she just kept moving on. It takes a person with strong character to do that. She will find her way, now I just have to stay out of hers.

2014, the year we remove Governor Corbett from office.

              Governor Tom Corbett took office in 2010 and no one really knows how. I don’t know anyone who voted for him. Pennsylvania generally votes democrat. We voted for President Obama by about 6% points. Corbett has a pretty spotty record since taking over as governor and he is behind in the polls to any Democratic challenger.

He has cut funding to education, instead of taxing Natural Gas Drilling, which could easily make up the money for education. He has been implicated in receving illegal benefits from these companies. He has also recieved over $1 million from Natural Gas Drilling Companies since becoming governor. Under his watch Pennsylvania is ranked 49 in the country in job creation.

His once popular privatization of the State’s Liquor Stores is losing steam. His Pension Reform Plan has been deemed unconstitutional. It seems every move that he makes is wrong for the state. As a typical Republican he is blaming the people for the lack of jobs, saying that companies cannot hire people because they cannot pass a drug test. He is out of touch with his constituents.

Democrats in the state have attempted to keep his radical agenda in check. Voting to keep his more extreme measures in check, while attempting to work with him on his more bipartisan bills. His attempt to give education money back the year before election stinks of desperation. Hopefully our state votes intelligently this time around and removes One Term Tommy from office. He is in office to help corporations make more money and protect them from responsibility. Just look at the Frackers who are free to do as they will. This is Corporate Pennsylvania now.

How do we handle our child being bullied?

          It seems at least a few times a month I read about a child committing suicide because they were bullied. I am sure it is more frequent but not all make the news. That does not diminish the fact a life was ended early because another person or people bullied them. I ask myself, what should we as parents do to protect our child?

           We all know, having dealt with other children when we were younger, how brutal kids can be. Kids get picked on for being poor, having pimples, the house you live in, sexual orientation, eyebrows, we could go on all day with this. Kids brutalize one another emotionally. Some kids are picked on by large groups, sometimes it is one kid, sometimes it us physical and sometimes its mental. Either way it affects each kid differently.

                Schools create anti-bullying programs and tell parents and children to talk to teachers and administrators if there is a problem. It does not work. I have seen these programs at work and I assure you that they let kids down. School should be a place they feel safe and a teacher a person they feel they can go to. The unfortunate truth here is that most bullies parents are just as bad as the bully. In turn if a teacher attempts to take care of a problem they are then bullied by the parent.

             How to handle a bully parent? I think a parent that attempts to bully their child should have charges levied against them. I am all for protecting your child, but if several kids are saying your child is picking on them, chances are its true. Parents of the bullied child attempt to let the school take care of the problem. Then when the school can’t the problem in some cases is too far gone.

            If we truly want to stop bullying, which will never happen. But if we want to make it less we need to hold the parent, teachers and administrators all responsible. If a child is being threatened by a parent we need more comprehensive protection for that child. I am not a perfect parent, but I try to keep my kids aware of how they treat others. It would be nice if other parents did so as well.

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Bullying, what us our responsibility?

            Bullying is a very serious problem in todays society. With social media kids today do not have an escape from their tormentor. It is a constant issue for the child being bullied. Is it a problem caused by parenting, a chemical imbalance or just mean children? I am not sure we will ever really know, but we need to figure out the right way for administrators and parents to get involved.

                Asking a teacher today to get involved and prevent bullying is very difficult. First most teachers are teaching a class with 30-35 students. Second teachers are not allowed to handle problems in a way that would actually stop the bully. When we got in trouble as a kid, and if it was bad enough you would get paddled. That is no longer an option. Third and this is bothersome it seems as if many, not all teachers don’t want to he bothered. Fourth, I think on some levels teachers are afraid of students because of the harsh way students sometimes react. An example is Columbine.

               Administrators are stuck in a different position. They do not deal with the kids everyday, so they do nit know exactly what is going on. They tend to take the side of the first person to come to them, whether it is right or wrong. In more cases than wecwould like to admit they just do nothing. My child personally did not deal with this, but knows several children who did. Administrators need to be held responsible for what happens in these cases.

             Then you have the parents. Instead of parents trying to stop the bully from bullying they protect them from trouble and bully the people trying to hold their kid responsible. It is in these cases a learned trait, we have been seeing this more lately. Then you have the parents whose child does not do anything wrong and will argue with anyone who says their child is guilty of something. We need to hold the child responsible as well as the parent and maybe punish both in order to get control of this.

            There are way to many young kids taking their own life because of bullying. We need to get a handle on this and protect our children. Holding people responsible would be the first step.

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Education reform.

                Education reform should be one of the top issues being discussed by our lawmakers. For a nation that spends $800 billion per year, 6 times higher than the next closest spender, we rank below Canada in almost every important category. Much of the blame for this goes to the socio-economic status of the districts.

                A kid grower up in a poor or urban area are less likely to succeed in school. The poor kid already starts with a disadvantage, his socio-economic status. Poor kids generally do not eat as well and many come from single parent households. A hungry or malnourished child is not going to learn as quickly because of being hungry, it also erodes a childs ability to pay attention. Kids from these social class or poorer districts have already been put behind the 8 ball.

            Standardized testing, while a good early to evaluate students progress shoud not determine the money a school gets. Poor districts are already providing below average education and test scores, is taking more money away going to improve the situation. The wealthier a district on average the higher the test scores and the more money they would receive. While poorer districts are cutting classes, be it Spanish, Music or Art, wealthier districts are getting more money to use for whatever needs.

              The solutions to this problem may not be easy and will most likely be harder to swallow. Privatizing schools is the Republican idea. It won’t work, look at other privatization models. Democrats like charter schools and putting more money into it, instead of making a smart investment. Here are a few ideas.

           Every school gets the sane amount per child, regardless of district or scores. Every teacher is evaluated and has to stand in front of a board to justify either failing children or success. This way we can find what works and what doesn’t. Public Charter School, they are like a public school, but there is not a teachers union and the curriculum differs. Bear Creek Community Charter School is a fantastic example, it is located in Bear Creek, Pa. We need to hold teachers, administrators, parents and children responsible to move forward.

             We can spend the same amount and get a better education
We can compete globally if we are willing to change our way of thinking. Some all important tweeks and we have a completely different and viable public education system.

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