We’re almost back!

Transferring the blog has been an epic struggle – man versus microprocessor.  If you tried to read the blog in the past few days you noticed that the transfer didn’t go smoothly.  I’ve still a lot of file transfers and some instantiation and bunches of cypherin’ to do before Flashpoint is fully operational – please be patient.

HCS Superintendent Interview – Springston

Brett Springston, Superintendent of the Brownsville TX Independent School District interviewed for HCS Superintendent on Tuesday, May 24.

My opinion:  Coach Springston is a hard-working, passionate, and bright candidate.  He has a record of improving student academic achievement and system financial  performance.  He started coaching basketball at a junior college for a scholarship to UT – Tyler.  Just like candidate Brigman, his approach to education includes every good lesson learned and proven technique that I’ve read about.  I was unsure about Springston from my online research – he seemed to be good but some of his current school board was trying to get rid of him – turns out he is good and the school board situation is beyond his control and not of his creation.  Brownsville’s school system is more than twice as large as Huntsville’s.

Assessing Springston against my new standard of letting food rot in an emergency:  Springston would have kept the frozen food frozen, gathered students to help prepare and serve still-good perishable food at relief centers, and organized sports programs for the children of tornado victims and relief workers – all in a safe environment.

Much more below (updated with even more muchness!)…

Continue reading

The shot heard round the world

April 19th is Patriot’s Day, which commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord that began the American Revolutionary War.

These days, Patriot’s Day is a Massachusetts State Holiday (celebrated on the third Monday in April) and festivities include reenactments, parades, and the Boston Marathon.  When I lived in Massachusetts, I worked a block away from Lexington’s Battle Green, and I’ve seen the reenactment of Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battle of Lexington.  Paul Revere rides (with Police escort) the dozen miles from Boston up Mass Ave and gives the alarm, arriving at Lexington about 5:30 AM.  As he rides through town, the British get off their buses and assemble.  A few reenactors yell at each other then the shooting starts.  The British get back on their buses and head to Concord, while the people of Lexington start serving pancakes.

In 1775, the Battle was much different.  The British planned to raid Concord (17 miles from Boston) and destroy rebel weapons (including artillery).  Even though the raid on Concord was secret, Patriots knew something was up by the increased activity.  About 800 British Light Infantry and Grenadiers marched from Boston at midnight, crossing the Charles River on naval barges, landing at Cambridge in waist-deep water.  Paul Revere started his “midnight ride” as the British assembled for the crossing.  The British  column was followed six hours later by a relief column of about 1,000 line infantry (good move by the British, even though they started later than planned).  Note that the numbers of soldiers on each side is very fuzzy…

As the British advanced through the towns and countryside, they saw that the region had already been alerted.  At Lexington Green, an advance party found a band of colonial militia – amid the confusion and noise a shot rang out and the British fired a volley into the militia.  The colonial civil unrest had become the Revolutionary War.

While Lexington likes to claim “the shot heard round the world”, none of the American militia are thought to have fired their weapons.  The Battle of Concord is where the Patriots fired on the British at the North Bridge.   The British left Concord after destroying three 24-pound cannon and numerous arms, but were harassed by colonial militia almost immediately.  Independent companies of town militia started firing on the British until the Redcoats broke and ran back to Lexington, under fire the entire way.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (of Concord – his family home of many generations was beside the North Bridge) wrote “Concord Hymn” in 1836:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free…

The British relief column had marched to Lexington and deployed on high ground.  The survivors of the rout from Concord were organized, fed, and rested, then the whole force marched back to Boston under withering fire from all sides.  However, they fought while retreating, for example killing eleven militia who tried to ambush the Redcoats at Russell’s Orchard.

4,000 Patriots drove the British back to Boston, and the alarm raised about 20,000 Patriots who started the siege of Boston leading to the Battle of Bunker Hill. But that’s a story for another day…

Lessons from DeKalb County Schools

DeKalb County Georgia may be near Wild Heaven, but the school system there is in chaos: indicted Superintendent and Central Office,  racial imbalance, school closings, rezoning, principals and teachers removed (but not yet fired) for helping students cheat on State tests, legislators introducing bills to change the school board, getting visits from SACS, failing academic performance, and “morons” for Superintendent and school board members (turns out the Super was (allegedly) a criminal – sometimes what seems moronic is a cover for criminal acts).

DeKalb County high school teacher William Blackwood wrote “Raze DeKalb’s education ghetto” for the AJC; his article painfully illustrates the frustrations of teaching in a failing school:

Disassimilation and disintegration are having a big impact on the high-school population of hyper-segregated south DeKalb county. Many young people from this area will have difficulty acclimating themselves into the mainstream. Many will find it hard to develop and maintain a sense of cohesive belonging within the larger cultural whole. A critical factor in this disturbing sociological dynamic is the public school system itself.

My school employs five assistant principals who make high salaries that, in the private sector, would be inconceivable for comparably educated individuals. Yet, they neither teach classes nor interact significantly with students. They also embody a cumbersome and inconsequential discipline system whose hallmark is the repeated failure to respond effectively to transgressions that, elsewhere, would beget serious action.

The bloated assistant-principal caste characterizes a system that employs more non-teaching personnel than it does teachers. This dysfunctional jobs-creation program is complicit in the invidious perpetuation of the hugely disenfranchising notion that black students are to be taught in a special way.

…DeKalb administrators talk around the conspicuous numbers of high-school students who suffer from varying degrees of illiteracy and innumeracy. These students remain alienated from the fundamental function of any solid education — the inculcation of critical thinking via reflective interaction with a competent authority figure able and willing to guide them through various tasks in a sensible manner.

The nostrum that it is necessary to focus on “doing social studies” as opposed to explicating the subject reduces teaching to a form of crowd control that is hopelessly over tasked when confronted with the need to explain such concepts as the social contract, selective incorporation, equal protection, federalism and limited government.

When a majority of south DeKalb students fail to succeed in college and, indeed, would be hard pressed to pass the military’s basic-skills examination, it is surprising that the military’s successful model of using serious remediation coupled with consequential discipline goes unmentioned while dubious educational “theories” are touted over and over.

Meanwhile, the pressing need for intensive, remedial, small-group instruction in reading and math on a massive scale makes the continued employment of so many overpaid non-teaching personnel seem appalling.

I mentioned the DeKalb County School Watch blog earlier; they have been going through this for years and I’ll try to highlight some of their good ideas as I read through their years of archived posts and comments (some of which are quite good). 

Here are some rezoning ideas they’ve noted from seven community groups (who were responding to the rezoning plan – these are the ideas we should insist on before the rezoning plan is made – IMO once the plan is generated it will be too late for community input):

  • Keep neighborhoods together
  • Keep feeder systems stable – no split feeders
  • Don’t move from passing schools to failing schools
  • Be mindful of travel times and congestion

Here’s a thought about “transfer students”:

…the “AYP bubble” which she claims will not be relevant soon because no schools will ultimately be able to meet its 100% success mandate and remain a transfer school. “If you remove the AYP bubble, there’s no need to restructure—and the middle school and some elementary schools can be rebalanced (within the zone)…

Whether that comment reflects insight on a bureaucratic solution – ensuring that all schools fail so they don’t have to hassle with the paperwork and costs of transfers, or just on the results of the transfer policy, it shows how little trust and confidence citizens have in that school administration.

Here’s the DeKalb County School Watch summary of a “study on educational spending sponsored by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress” (Return on Educational Investment report):

Strong community relations
Many of the highly productive districts worked closely with their communities to help maximize education spending.

A willingness to make tough choices
Reducing spending while maintaining strong outcomes takes fiscal acumen, political savvy, and a willingness to make hard choices.

A priority on quality instruction
The country’s highly productive districts devoted 3 percentage points more of their budget to instructional costs than did the least efficient districts.

Smart use of data
Most of the highly productive districts reported having sophisticated data systems that provided detailed information on a variety of school outcomes, from parent satisfaction to student success in college.

Near Wild Heaven

Not near enough…

Getting nearer to Wild Heaven is easier than you may think.  Wild Heaven Craft Beers are available at The Nook, 801 Franklin, Mason’s,  1892 East, and to go at Liquor Express.  The brewery is moving into a building in Avondale Estates in DeKalb County Georgia.  Wild Heaven is working on bottling their Ode to Mercy imperial brown ale and Invocation Belgian style golden ale (currently available on tap).  Wild Heaven will also be able to conduct tours and tastings – something that Free the Hops is trying to bring to Alabama with the Brewery Modernization Act.

I met Nick and Eric when they came to Huntsville for their rollout – both of those guys are truly gifted.  Eric Johnson has the GardenSmart PBS show, shown on APT Create (I watched it today at the gym – they toured the Cave Hill Cemetary in Louisville).  As a gardener, I appreciate the advice provided on the show, even more so that Eric and our own Harvey Cotten agree on garden philosophy (plant considering full size, appropriate for area, color, texture, water).

BTW for the youngsters out there, “Near Wild Heaven” was a song by the Athens GA band R.E.M. released in 1991.

Rocket City Brewfest – Volunteer Signup

Free the Hops is hosting the First Annual Rocket City Brewfest!

The festival will be held May 8 (Friday night) and May 9 (Saturday afternoon) at the Depot Roundhouse in Downtown Huntsville.

Here’s where you can sign up to volunteer at Brewfest.

If you volunteer for one session, you get into the other session for free. If you would like to volunteer, please fill out the form below. Each session is 4 hours. Volunteering does not involve setting up or tearing down. You get to just pour beer.

Rocket City Brewfest will feature good people, good music, and great beer.

And politics!  Proceeds from the event will help fund Lobbying efforts to change Alabama’s beer laws as well as funding more Public Awareness events.

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – attributed to Benjamin Franklin