Letters to Holly

Friday, October 24

Calling Down the Thunder

The reason we missed your call last night was becuase Your Sister was trying to navigate a shitstorm.

The school board held a regular meeting, and more than 50 people showed up to express concerns about teacher treatment and teacher turnover affecting students. The board doesn't want to deal with this. They don't inform attendees that they are only allowed to address the board if they sign up beforehand. They also limited public comment to 2 minutes each speaker. This also isn't made known until the first speaker starts. Also, speakers can't mention specific teacher names, and this is a secret until the first teacher name is spoken. Student complaints are directed back to the school student government.

A former teacher went public with the county's methods of handling weak and unpopular teachers. She was booted from Your Sister's school via an "action plan." This is a teacher salvage project given to teachers who don't follow district or state-specific goal. She came to the state specifically to teach at this school, and she as gone within three years. The action plan she was given directed her to complete 600 hours worth of extracurricular material, including video workshops. She was observed 16 times within 18 weeks. She was denied access to library material to prepare her mandatory work. She was given the choice to wait or be blacklisted. She quit and went to Florida.

All the teachers knew about her circumstance. And there are plenty of other teachers who have been driven out for various reasons. In the 2001-2008 term, the county lost 35 teachers. The majority of them came from Your Sis's school. When the above teacher was sent packing, there were four months left in the school year. Her students were given subs for the rest of the year; other teachers and the parents feel the subs didn't prepare the students for the state exams.

The paper covered all this -- the exile, the board protocol, everything. It also ran a long editorial excoriating the board's behavior for a lingering issue. Of course, this has jolted the school system.

Your Sis is co-chair of a school improvement board mandated by the state. She didn't volunteer. In fact, she was chosen over another teacher who did volunteer, making neither employee happy with the situation. The committee is supposed to be a liaison between faculty and state administration, but the local administration stocked the committee with its preferred staff. That was an ugly enough scenario. Now there's the paper-publicized scandal.

Your Sis doesn't know how to handle this. As a teacher, she wants to foster comment from the community. As an employee, she's advised to leave it be. She considered an anonymous letter to the editor, but she can't trust the paper staff to handle this properly. When she tried to contact an assistant principal, she was rebuffed and learned later that the assistant was reduced to tears.

I suggested we take advantage of the upcoming elections. We know people running for school board and county commission; I recommended calling them for mutual gain. They get a hot-topic button to campaign with, and they can carry the baton on behalf of teachers scared of losing their jobs by stepping forward. One of them is the husband of a teacher. Others are current teachers or principals. There are many candidates who can grab this problem and, at least, provide an outlet for teachers and parents to vent concerns.

Your Sis was on the phone most of the night with other teachers, and her brain was mush by 9 p.m. She's in a distinct situation as a overseer of fellow teachers and an employee who has seen coworkers shuffled out the door unfairly. People will come to her to do something and do nothing.

I, on the other hand, ran in the cold and rolled my ankle. It happened early, and I ran through it, and there's no soreness this morning. I was worried about busting something in the last run before the race, and I dodged a bullet. I'll take tonight off and prepare my costume. It's gonna be cold, and a luchadore mask will protect my dainty ears.

Picture of the Day
But which to wear? The yellow and black masks will give my mouth plenty of air space, so they have the advantage.

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Was the kayak bought at a fall sale?

Thursday, October 23

600 Posts

According to BlogCommand, a fearsome network of servers buried deep in the Nevada desert, this is the 601st post for the blog. I'm treating myself to a lollipop in celebration.

I hoped to exercise Tuesday, but I picked up the weary bug floating around Mayberry's schools. Your Sis had it last week. She made two cake batters last night -- banana bread and pumpkin cake -- using recipes she wrote down in sixth grade. I got to see her handwriting from way back when, and it's immaculate compared to my kiddie scrawlings.

I got home late from work (the magazine process crushes the soul so often) and ran in the very cold air for half an hour. The new stride seems to work, but I think I tweaked my knee. I may take it easy tonight and save the running for Saturday.

We spent the evening watching MSNBC's political commentary shows. The two primetime hosts -- Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow -- are practically siblings; their delivery is exactly the same. Your Sis was curious about the recent election doings, and she paused the programs often so we could debate the new scandals and polls.

For instance, let's say McCain/palin lose in November. If you're the GOP, what do you do with Palin on Nov. 5? You could try to train her for a 2012 run, but she'll be blamed for losing the election. Does the GOP mold itself around McCain or does a new face emerge to lead the party?

I've heard nothing about the play. No idea if anyone else has been cast or bumped me from the two roles discussed on Sunday.

Picture of the Day
It still sounds like he yells "Carrie!" when he exits the X-Wing.

Tuesday, October 21

Running Better

I may have finally found a running form. I know; it only took five years.

Recent runs have established that running faster curtails the rib aches, and slight shoulder swings help me more than just sweeping the arms. I imagine I look now like marathon runners. I always thought their form was counter-intuitive, but I find it's quite natural at a higher speed.

I ran last night for what I thought would be a short course. I was about a mile in when I realized I could run the 5k course in less traffic than I'd see on a weekend. Off I went. Using the new form, it felt pretty good. I had my breath, my ribs didn't ache, and I could maintain the speed. I felt it in my legs, and I called them names for most of the run. The obligatory heartbreak-hill section wasn't nearly as bad as I feared even though it always comes within the last half-mile of the course. When I passed that, I was able to jump to fourth gear and zoom to the finish line. And I kept running. I did a mile after that 5k stretch, making the longest distance I've tried off a treadmill.

I have little shin soreness today, and tonight's exercise will be small stuff. I plan to run a little Wednesday, run the whole course on Thursday, and take Friday off. Saturday looks busy: college homecoming, a script read, the race, and a pumpkin-carving party. Somewhere in there might be a chat with the mentoring student; I've heard nothing from him since Columbus Day.

I still need a practical costume for the race. I might wear my wrestling gear again. The championship belt should help my posture.

Picture of the Day
Hoping for smooth sailing this weekend.

Monday, October 20


Because we were grabbing lunch and coffee right before the audition, I took Your Sis along to the theatre warehouse. She hadn't seen the rehearsal space before. When we arrived, the script committee director said he had just left a message for me at home asking me to come by. It was clear within fifteen minutes of the audition's scheduled opening that turnout would be light. Again.

This apparently wasn't an issue before, and if I had to assign accountability based on specious personal information, I'd blame the director of the courtroom drama from last fall. That audition brought in a large number of people, and many of them were disqualified for bad reasons. Some later quit the show because of her behavior. Perhaps the two auditions aren't related. Or perhaps people really are just showing up for the big-name shows. This version of Christmas Carol has a different title and scenario, and it may have no allure for casual volunteers. When the murder play I did last year held auditions, four people showed up -- the same number of actors as roles.

But back to Saturday. At this show's audition -- wherein Scrooge sues the ghosts for intimidation -- I met the director, and the committee director bragged on me a while. I read a few parts: Fred the nephew, Marley, Christmas Yet To Come. The script calls for doubling of roles, and the Fred/Christmas Future parts are written to be played by one person. Because she liked what I did for Future, she said I'd probably be Fred. They're not big roles.

I was split about that. Future is a comedy role (or rather, a broad role in a comedy script), while Fred is minuscule. I had hoped to be trusted with a big part. Then again I just had two large, large roles. A small part in a play might be a nice change of pace. It's practicality vs. ego, as usual.

A young gal came to read. She may have been in high school. She read quickly and left. The discussions leaned toward not giving her a role, and I think it's this kind of attitude that discourages turnout. She doesn't have to get a large part. When you need warm bodies, you can't afford to turn them away for reasons that can be covered by makeup and wigs.

With about an hour to go in the allotted Saturday time, Doc showed up. We were in Cat on A Hot Tin Roof together, and he was the opposing attorney in the courtroom show. We caught up, and he read for the defense attorney, and I think he won the role. I was glad to not get that part, but he'll do great at it. Because there was so little attendance, Your Sis read opposite Doc for a few pages. She enjoyed it. She was offered a part, but she's terrified the school work will be unmanageable with a play on the side. I think she's right, and I suggested a summer play next year. It's Rainmaker. Maybe we can be the leads.

When I returned Sunday, at the director's request, another young girl was sitting outside. She apparently arrived on time, read, and was waiting for a ride. Inside, she was already disqualified because of age. That's two youngbloods shrugged off. The backseat director was there, and he just won the role of Marley. That role is written to be split with Cratchitt, but the director said she could change that, and then asked me to read for that role. I did, and I had to be told to slow it down a tad. That's my weakness; I read and sometimes talk too fast. Also, I did all my readings with varying English accents with equally varying degrees of credibility.

I might have won the role anyway. She asked later if I'd rather have Bob or Fred, and I said Bob. The majority of audition time Saturday and Sunday were spent compiling names to call and ask for readings. A total of seven people read for ten roles. Two of them are out of consideration; another may drop out because of other commitments. This is our county theatre, and you can count the eligible actors who attend an audition on one hand.

The read-through is next Saturday, right before the 5k race. Who knows if we'll have the play cast by then. At dinner Sunday night, we saw another actor who had worked with the company this spring, and we asked him to call the director for consideration. I don't know what luck he'll have. He was rejected for the courtroom play last year because he's black. I hope they don't make that mistake twice.

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I put up the Halloween decorations, and we're hoping to host a pumpkin party next weekend.

Picture of the Day
I know my English accents are bad. Don't be mean.