Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love is....

Yesterday was Valentine's Day.  It is a day that is intended to recognize expressions of love between people, but like most "holidays" has turned into another commercialized, Hallmark-laden, economic engine.  Just like has happened with Christmas, the expectations, guilt, and stress that are associated with perfect gift giving, have replaced the true meaning of the day, which is love.  But if your expressions of love are defined only as chocolate, jewelry, flowers (only on a holiday, not an average day), expensive dinners out, or the like, you are missing it.

I spent my Valentine's Day cleaning up vomit and cleaning my house, for the 15th time this week. Of course having two children hit by a stomach virus in one week will incentive a parent to deploy all disinfecting means to make this shit go away, literally, without claiming the large humans.  Because as any parent knows, the only thing worse than taking care of a sick child is doing it while you yourself are sick.  

I also had the privilege of spending my Valentine's Day assisting a wonderful couple in finding their new dream home on a day whose weather quickly dissolved into hazardous road conditions.  

But to me, that is what love is.  It is cleaning up vomit and scheduling tours of homes to make sure everyone is home before the dangerous weather your clients weren't even aware of...hits.  It is making a relatively healthy dinner for your kids when feeding them a bag of Oreos would be so much easier and make everyone happier, but not healthier.  

So my dear readers, I will take a stab at how I define love and I invite you to return this kind of love to those who need it so desperately in this life, whether they are those closest to you or those who currently are the most foreign. And let's not wait for Valentine's Day to show others that we love them as we all need it, year round.  

Love is....
  • installing a whole house humidifier on a 10 year old furnace, after years of filling a portable one from the tub faucet
  • changing and laundering vomit covered sheets at 2:30, 3:45, & 5:07am
  • caging tomato plants to protect tomatoes you will never eat
  • wiping noses, tears, bottoms, etc.
  • holding vigil at a hospital bed for hours and days at a time
  • changing diapers, infant and adult
  • brushing the teeth of tantruming children
  • spending your own money on needed classroom supplies
  • donating organs
  • finding a new pair of my favorite 5 year old Levi jeans on ebay
  • stopping to help change a stranger's flat tire
  • helping a laboring mother breathe through natural childbirth, giving her the time and terms she needs
  • baking decorated cakes for needy kids whose parents are unable to afford them
  • donating a warm winter coat 
  • serving in a soup kitchen & serving the homeless wherever they are
  • reading that last bedtime story when you desperately want your own bed 
  • shopping for tylenol, humidifiers, cough syrup, milk, bananas, or goldfish at 3am
  • playing one more game of Uno
  • saying "yes", when everything in you is saying "no"
  • saying "no", when it would be so easy to say "yes"
  • building the 8th sandcastle
  • applying the sunscreen for the 5th time
  • holding the hand/leg/arm of a child for a vaccine while staring in their eyes that show disbelief & betrayal
  • running behind the bike without training wheels with your hand on the seat
  • keeping the epi-pen at the ready, always
  • sharing the organic green beans that you raised from seed & canned yourself
  • using your powerful voice, when it needs to be heard, when there is nothing in it for you, and you would rather stay silent
  • starting and scraping your spouse's car on a cold & snowy winter morning
  • programming the coffee pot the night before
  • buying my organic half & half because you notice I'm running low
  • plugging my phone into the charger when you notice it needs it
  • unclogging a slow drain 
  • cleaning the cat litter, for the 20th time in a row, when it's everybody's cat
  • insisting on the extra layer of clothing when the complaining ensues
  • providing complimentary child care to weary and worn out parents
  • making and taking homemade chicken noodle soup to a sick friend
  • replacing the burned out bulb in the left turn signal
  • shoveling your neighbor's walk
  • serving on the school accreditation committee
  • being a shoulder to cry on
  • going back for "blankie" when you are already running late
  • handing down your children's clothes to little ones not far behind
  • putting yourself "out there" when the risk is real and palatable
  • ignoring your own discomfort to lessen the discomfort of another
If you find yourself living a life without love expressed in ways similar to the above, but instead only filled with boxes of chocolate and with Kisses that only "begin with Kay", life is going on around you and you should become a part of it.  

In my mind Valentine's Day should be renamed, Sacrificial Love Day, but then that wouldn't sell much stuff would it?  But then again, as they say, the best things in life are free.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dear Alan Stein & are blurring the lines, quite badly.

Well, Tuesday was the day.  I enrolled my daughter, the last of the Waterburys, in Kindergarten to begin her education journey in public school, more specifically Lansdowne Elementary.  On that cold February morning when parents of the "have" schools lined up out the door on the first morning of Kindergarten registration, to make sure that Thurston Howell the 4th is enrolled at a public school where 9%-13% of the population receives free or reduced lunch, I experienced no lines at Lansdowne where our free lunch population trends around 56%.

There should have been lines, hell people should have been camping out to register their children in this amazing school.   But in this town, people camp out for basketball tickets, not Kindergarten. (And #BBN, don't be hatin', for those who know me, I love me some UK basketball, and because I am a glutton for punishment, football as well). 

Because if you look close enough, you will see that this amazing school is simply getting it done for those that show up, often unregistered on the first day of school, speaking one of many different languages.  Although violations of the over capacity policy and "Out of Area" policy are common in some schools, using it to cherry pick some students while conveniently deploying the policy to keep the less desirables at bay, at Lansdowne they simply follow the rules.  They are achieving amazing things with the kids that show up to be loved as much as they show up to learn. They don't break the rules, they don't spend precious school or PTA resources on branding their own drinking water (yep, this is happening!), but when asked, they ask the United Way for new underwear and socks for our kids.

I can't say that I blame these well intention-ed parents for wanting what they perceive to be the "best" elementary experience that Fayette County has to offer, in their own neighborhoods. But we have a capacity problem and an achievement problem here in Fayette County. They don't know that there are other many wonderful schools in this county, because it is all they know.  They "know" it is because it is what they have been told by their Realtors (don't even get me started on how this shouldn't be happening!), by their new neighbors, and if they grew up in Lexington, what they just "know" about the "have not" schools. They don't realize that if you actually look at the data, that these "have" schools, although distinguished, should be absolutely killing it in achievement as the deck is stacked completely for them.  They should have amazing scores and they should be held to a different standard.  How do you truly normalize achievement between schools with high percentages of children of affluence against those with high percentages of ESL, hunger, abuse, & neglect?  You simply can't.  But when you do, don't even begin to act like it is the same. 

But I digress...and just like with anything in life, when the exception to the rule becomes the rule, the whole system balloons with inequity, favoring the "haves" even more. It is the few bad apples, spoil the entire public school barrel analogy. And if no one is truly watching or policing, it just continues.  They can say that policies are being followed but I have a real estate client that has been repeatedly lied to about the over capacity &  "out of area" policy by two different "have" schools and a district representative that misrepresented the continuation policy that you were yourselves were "schooled" on in the grandfathering meeting this week.  What is supposed to happen with these policies and what truly happens depends on, well, who you know.  Not that this is unlike real life either. But when it is tax dollars that are supporting these endeavors, is being held accountable to policies wrong?

I realize that most of you don't know me, and you don't know my daughter.  You don't know my son, and from your poorly considered and hastily crafted, proposed attendance boundary change to the Lansdowne/Southern Elementary southern Wilson Downing boundary and grandfathering suggestions, you don't understand what is truly going on in your school district or how the approach to elementary redistricting and grandfathering should be considered differently than that of middle and high.  But who can blame you? After all, your committee elementary representation has been shamefully absent with the exception of one parent representative from a "have" school. 

And on an afternoon when I considered not attending your committee meeting since it was high school free lunch percentages that were the "soup du jour", I knew better and went anyway.  Our buddy Scott in California was otherwise occupied so understandably, grandfathering was the topic of the day.   I knew that there was a certainty that 2 of the 3 elementary voices on your committee would not show up and sadly the 3rd, the ONLY elementary school principal on the committee, didn't show up either.  So I got to watch as one educator at the high school level proclaim that she wasn't even sure her child even realized he was attending Kindergarten at the time (Yes, she actually said that!) and another member use her own personal experiences dominate the policy suggestions for grandfathering at the elementary level.  And in your infinite non-elementary wisdom, you decided that only 5th graders and one trailing sibling that are the recipients of your boundary changes will be allowed to remain in the building. 

Just so we are all on the same page...our small humans spend twice the number of years in elementary as they do in middle school and 1.5 times as high school. In these first 6 years of public school, Parent/Teacher Relationships are built, habits for success are formed, trust is established, routines become sacred and achievement is assessed and tweaked.  Why is it that I keep hearing "kids are resilient" when little kids are discussed but when middle school and high school kids are discussed well, they need to be protected above all? 

Do any of you have a child with an IEP?!  Do you know what IEP stands for? or why these children and families will be disproportionately damaged by school boundary changes?  If you answered no to two of these questions, please refrain from making grandfathering decisions for small humans until you understand the ramifications of your decisions. Will you not consider grandfathering back to 3rd or 4th grade?!

So here is my suggestion, to bring to life a great line from a movie... "help me, help you" Because you see, I know Lansdowne Elementary and from where I sit, it is the perfect example,  of how you are in fact violating your guiding principles in this bastardized process, instead of understanding why you should be protecting it.  

I have watched almost all of your elementary committee meetings in person and if you think that what you are doing is hard work, you have no idea. These Lansdowne educators are doing the hard work of transforming a child who showed up at school without supplies, in some cases may not speak English nor write it, NOT Kindergarten ready, hungry, and many times needing love and compassion.  

Let me break it down for you very simply, here is what I know that you evidently do not:

  • Taking two schools with roughly the same socio-economic balance currently but now raising Lansdowne's free/reduced lunch 20 percentile points to 76% and lowering Southern Elementary's to 42% is a clear violation of your socio-economic balance guiding principle. You are purposefully creating more INEQUITY!
  • The neighborhoods of Southpoint and Pickway are not close to either Southern or Lansdowne.  NO ONE CAN WALK, NO ONE IS WITHIN A MILE TO EITHER SCHOOL. Their children MUST be bused somewhere and the schools are less than 1 minute drive time away from each other.  Lansdowne has been the "neighborhood" school to these neighborhoods for 20 years and there is a huge sense of pride and love for this school in these neighborhoods, yet you are destroying a powerful school culture to make a map look "pretty".  
  • It has been brought to my attention that unbelievably, the school board did not ask your committee to consider achievement levels in your redistricting.  I don't even know where to start about how stupid it is to ignore achievement when crafting school boundaries.  But in any case, you didn't write the guiding principles, you are just charged with following them.  But, your newly proposed, only 5th grade is a protected class grandfathering policy ignores the incredibly unfair reality you are creating in achievement measurements in 2016.  3rd grade scores are the first measure we have of "official" school achievement and as such the ramifications to Lansdowne Elementary of losing these Southpoint and Pickway 3rd graders in 2016 that they have educated since Kindergarten, and against which they should be measured, will create a disparity in achievement scores for this school which will be counter productive and unfair and will take many years to remedy, if it ever rebounds. 

Being held accountable for the scores of large numbers of children, they have had no role in educating, and disproportionately more disadvantaged in demographic, is just adding insult to a potentially life threatening injury for this particular school. Will you not consider grandfathering back to 3rd grade?!

I realize that life is simply not fair.  I share this reality with my children quite often, but when the policies of a committee charged to create a more equitable school system, while protecting neighborhood schools are flagrantly violated, is goes beyond unfair, it begins to appear incompetent at best, and intentional at worst.

If you won't fight and use your guiding principles to protect, and not endanger Lansdowne Elementary and others such as Julius Marks, Dixie, Picadome, & Harrison Elementary, you should be asking yourself why you are serving.  If the reasons you are serving are truly altruistic then carry on with your bad self but if you can't bother to show up to meetings, advocate for kids when you are qualified to do so, and use your voice when you have something educated to say, and more importantly realize when you should keep your mouth shut when you aren't qualified to speak, do us all a favor and stay home.

One thing is for certain, I will be at the public forum on 2/16 at Tates Creek High School. Hopefully, there will be a line.