Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lakota Blues

The operating levy for the Lakota school district was voted down last November. The Lakota school district covers West Chester and Liberty Township, Ohio, in the suburbs of Cincinnati. The population in these two townships is mid to upper middle class and not exactly hurting for finances. For those who do not know, schools are financed via property taxes collected by the county on behalf of the school district, and limited funding comes from the State of Ohio, with next to nothing coming from the Federal Government.

For the last several years, there has been a concerted effort to defund the local school district. Why? Not sure, but it could be linked to a fringe Tea Party group. That faction insists that schools should not be supported by the public and that only parents should be paying for the privilege of educating their children. They've managed to sell the idea that the residents are Taxed Enough Already and shouldn't be taxed.

What has cost so much in the district? Lakota has won Most Excellent District with Distinction from the State of Ohio for the past several years. The schools have produced many young scholars, musicians and other artists. New elementary schools and new high schools were built to relieve the crowding from the growth of population in the area. I guess some are upset that administrating such a large district requires more and more funds.

With the reduction of operating dollars, budgets have been cut. Staff has been reduced and busing has been cut back. Academic programs are threatened and school athletics have been eliminated at the Junior High level. So with all those concerns, what are the local parents upset about? According to a first hand report I got from Junior High PTO meeting, a large portion of the parents were upset about Middle School football being cut and not the reduction of remedial Mathematics.

Unbelievable. These preppy, yuppy, over-achieving dreamers of parents are willing to sacrifice academics for athletics. What values do these parents hold? They are interested in family sports and activities, yes, but they hold these values over academics? My concern for our future has just been elevated further. I guess my new found interest in the Blues is fitting.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

French Connection

Just finished a long week with French colleagues in a good workshop. Two of our colleagues had traveled all the way from The Continent to work with us on technical details.  The details aren't important for this venue, but it was extremely important for me to maintain a continuous presence in the workshop. I had, however, just a few weeks earlier arranged to take a half day off on Thursdays to be part of the honors lab for organic chemistry.

Last Wednesday had come and gone with me taking the time to attend my philosophy class. Arriving that Wednesday evening was a snow storm. The impending "white death" had closed the local public schools on Thursday morning, and I went into the office as usual, expecting to work until 1200 before heading to the University. I decided to wait to head to lab until 1300, so that I could squeeze in some additional work with the French at lunch.

Just before I went to lunch I had checked with the University and classes were still on schedule, even though the snow as starting to be excessive and the accumulations were slowly choking off freeway traffic. I spent most of lunch checking my watch and watching the snow. I finished off my lunch and bade my farewells to my colleagues. As I put on my coat and grabbed my laptop, I checked with the traffic conditions and with the University. And what did I find? University was closing!

What luck! How fortuitous! Here I was, desperate to continue work, yet committed to be at lab and class. Torn between conflicting commitments. And now, 'miracle of miracles', one commitment was canceled due to weather leaving me free to continue my close work with the French. Did some deity throw a favor my way, and inconvenienced hundreds of thousands on my behalf? I doubt it. The Universe does not work that way.

This is the Midwest in January. Several snowstorms had already hit the region. When the French had arrived earlier in the week, it was clear that a snow storm was going to hit at some point later in the week. Coincidences do happen and I was just fortunate that the University officials decided to play it safe with road conditions Thursday afternoon.

In the end, our colleagues postponed their departure by one day and we managed to complete our work. Expectations met, conflicting commitments resolved. This French Connection fell into place because of planning and work.