WCSD and the SBAC

So, in a fit of masochism I went to Washoe County School District Board Meeting last week. I went because the agenda included a discussion of the SBAC assessment tests, which the school district has adopted. More specifically, I went because I wanted to understand why parents do not have an option to opt their children out of the test. We’ve been going in circles with the principal and the school district.

I’ve never attended a school board meeting, so I didn’t know what to expect. Just prior to the SBAC discussion was a discussion about finding a new superintendent. Naturally, this discussion turned into a vote to place interim superintendent Traci Davis into full-fledged rock ’em sock ’em superintendent. Of course, to keep form, the board rescinded the vote because of concerns over possible probable violation of open meeting laws. More on this later.

boardmeetingAfter spending five hours listening to the board – actually, make that four since one of those hours was a secret, closed-door meeting that the public wasn’t allowed to attend – I started to get a feel for the different personalities in the room. There were multiple trustees with whom I would likely disagree severely on a lot of things, but I felt like they were making an honest attempt to do a good job. There was a least one go-along-get-along personality and one monster. I’m being very careful not to say anything that would reveal who is who because with my luck the monster might eventually stumble on this page. And he/she/it knows who/what he/she/it is. The board member who stood out the most was Nick Smith. He found me wandering around outside and helped me get to the meeting. I don’t know much about him, but I like him.

Although my original plans included attendance only, I ended up making a public comment. As the hours wore on, I made a few notes on my phone. I had a pretty good idea what I was going to say during my three minutes. Most of the people had left following the Traci Davis excitement, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal. Besides the board there were only a few people hanging out in the room. Still, it was a nerve-wracking experience.

Once they called my name, I went up and made my comments. I didn’t use my notes, which was quite foolish. As I recall, I blabbered and bumbled while struggling to make at least one single point. We watched the recording of the SBAC portion of the meeting at home because Emilie wanted to see the presentation given by Ben Hayes and Sandra Aird. I told her how electrifying it was and she had to see it for herself.

Inevitably, she wanted to see the comments following the presentation and board questions. My piece was pretty shaky, but not as bad as my memory had me believe. Here’s the gist: 1) Testing does not help children since results are not returned until the following school year when it’s too late for teacher’s to make use of the information, 2) the information is seemingly only used by the federal government when deciding who gets money and how much and 3) where is all this money going?

For the record, I don’t like getting money from the federal government. Once you take their money, they get to call the shots. This amounts to selling our kids and their future. When you consider the tremendous national debt ($18,159,901,810,448.37 currently), how can you possibly justify saddling these kids – who you say you’re trying to prepare for the future – with additional crushing debt?

Speaking of money, where does this funding go? My children’s school has a playground full of portable classrooms. Some of the kids are forced to meet in the common areas of the school because of lack of classroom space. There doesn’t seem to be an immediate plan to build a new school. When we complained to the principal about having around 30 kids in a kindergarten class with only one teacher and no aide, the principal explained that if we wanted an aide in the classroom we would need to pay for the aide ourselves at a cost of several hundred dollars per child.

So, where does the funding go? Overcrowded schools would suggest to me that there is an increase in people paying taxes. To be honest, I don’t know the numbers, but it seems that tax revenue should be up. And we are supposedly getting millions of dollars from Washington. So, where does the funding go?

While researching the SBAC test and our school district, I unintentionally stumbled on TransparentNevada.com. I was surprised to find that there are 12 pages of WCSD employees that have total compensation over $100,000. And thats’s with 50 employees per page. I’m not very good with Common Core math, but I think that puts the number at around 600 employees. I’m not going to beat a dead horse. I understand that running the district is a huge job. Having to budget for school buses, supplies, fleet vehicles and so on. Managing school police and groundskeepers, etc. I get it – it’s a big job. But, c’mon. What happened to public service? We’re being a bit generous with sacred taxpayer funds.

Which leads to what you can only hope will be my final point. While discussing the matter of finding a new superintendent at this board meeting, multiple plans were proposed, which ranged from a fairly small-scale exploratory campaign costing around $15,000 to a full-scale national candidate search costing around $50,000. The matter came to a vote because several board members just couldn’t justify wasting $15,000 when a good candidate sat right in front of them.

I’m against needless waste as much as anyone, but seriously? We’re getting money from the state and federal government, it seems that compensation is competitive and we’re not spending money on building schools. It seems like there should be plenty of money in the bank account and we’re going to quibble over $15,000? After the Pedro Martinez fiasco, the school district should not be opposed to doing their homework.

If any parents actually read this: Please do your homework about Common Core. We’re selling our kids; we just aren’t sure who’s buying. You should not be willing to trade the education of your child for a few extra bucks.

If anyone from Washoe County School District actually reads this: You need to let parents choose what’s best for their children. If a test will not help the child then they shouldn’t be forced to take it. We should be able to agree on that. But to take it a step further, you need to embrace school choice. WCSD admits they aren’t very successful as schooling kids; that’s the reason they embraced Common Core so whole-heartedly. As parents, we need vouchers. We need competition. The only reason you should oppose this is because you feel you can’t compete. If you truly care about kids, stop treating them as a statistic to be used to get funding.

Blogging about Books is Not Gluten-Free

So, if this isn’t worth blogging about then what is? Yesterday I busted out the wheat grinder and made bread for the first time in my life. It became quickly apparent that I have mad lack of skillz when it comes to making bread. Nevertheless, it turned out pretty well.  I’m eating some right now. Yum. Wheaty.

In completely unrelated news, I pretty much gave up on reading. After busting out 51 books last year I made a conscious decision to become voluntarily illiterate. Although I enjoy an immense feeling of freedom, I somehow end up reading anyway. Sadly, I started reading a borrowed book, which had to be returned before I finished it. So I’m left hanging. And the library doesn’t seem to have it. I guess I could buy it, but I’m just thinking out loud here. Why am I trying to read again?

In completely unrelated news, I started a different job at the beginning of this year. Same company, different digs. So why do you care? You don’t! But as of the beginning of this month I get to go in at 8a, which is downright glorious. For more than two years I was starting my work day between 5:45a and 6:30a, which meant that once the kids were in bed I usually crashed. Well, now I can sleep in a bit, but more importantly, I can stay up later. And when I stay up later I have time to blog! Especially since I’m not reading! It turns out that all is not so unrelated after all!

Tell Me a Story

It’s no wonder that our world is falling apart when you consider what kinds of things we read to our kids. I’m shocked as I read to the kids; the stories can be quite startling. But the kids like the stories so I keep reading them anyway.

One story they love is the story of Peter Rabbit. Anthropomorphism suits this story well for the most part. Until you get to the line where Peter Rabbit’s mom warns Peter Rabbit to stay away from Mr. McGregor’s garden because

“Your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.”

Imagine being a child and having your mother say this to you.

I’m also unnerved by the Mother Goose nursery rhyme “Goosey, Goosey Gander”:

Goosey, Goosey Gander,

Wither shall I wander?

Upstairs, downstairs,

In my lady’s chamber.

There I met an old man

Who would not say his prayers;

I took him by the left leg,

And threw him down the stairs.

As parents are we supposed to use this story as a threat? As odd as this poem is, I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than the story of the frantic woman who is chased by handicapped mice before she finally cuts off their tails.

Perhaps the creepiest story of all is the disturbing “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. It starts off nice enough but quickly degrades into a tale of an aged woman dragging her son, who is a grown man, out of bed after breaking and entering into his home. She then holds him down and rocks him back and forth while singing to him. It’s just like a scene out of a horror movie. Not the “Saw” kind of horror movie – I mean the really freaky movies like “The Sixth Sense” or “The Changeling“. It may just be a rumor, but I heard that the original version of this book ended with the mother’s ghost coming back to haunt the son. She whispered the song in his ear every night until he finally went crazy. They were going to print the story anyway but Sheila McGraw’s illustration showed the mother’s ghost with no eyes in her sockets and it freaked everyone out.

A lot of ladies think “Love You Forever” is a very sweet book but there’s a lot they don’t know about Robert Munsch. First, and most awkward, is that he’s a Canadian. An American-born Canadian, actually. I’m not sure how that works. Second, he wrote a book called “Good Families Don’t”. Since this is a family blog I will limit what I say about this book. Suffice it to say the plot involves beans and the effects of eating said beans.

Now that I think about it, a book that combines the stories from “Love You Forever” and “Good Families Don’t” might actually be a good read.

Venus Flytrap


Venus Flytrap, originally uploaded by nevadabrad.

A little more than six weeks ago I acquired a Venus flytrap while at The Home Depot. I think I was there looking for stuff to revive certain parts of our lawn that are less than spectacularly healthy. Anyway, I was inspired to spring the few bucks to buy this plant by the fact that our house is constantly full of flies. It could be because the kids leave the back door open all day. It could be because we have four kids in diapers and that makes our house a particularly delectable resort for these pests. Whatever the reason, I was intrigued by a plant that murders flies to live. I mean, I love to murder flies but I have yet to test whether it is truly a matter and life and death to me.

As it turns out, the plants they sell at The Home Depot are pretty much meant to played with for a few days and then tossed. At least that’s the impression I get. I’ve taken it upon myself to try to make the plant a healthy one. I re-potted the plant, arranged for sufficient lighting and moisture and so far it seems to be doing very well. I’m currently in the process of trying to propagate the plant through a couple methods. First, I’m using a cut flower that I’ve been working on for a few weeks. Second, I just started a pulled leaf today. It remains to be seen whether either method will work.

The plants are very interesting so it’s been a lot of fun to watch and experiment. I’m embarrassed to show a picture of it because it’s not very attractive. First, I had it in sort of a mini-terrarium and the shape of the container was making the leaves grow in strange directions. I cut the top half of the container off so that the plant is free to roam, but it’s looking pretty crazy. Also, it seems that there are at least three plants growing based on the number of traps. If my propagation attempts are successful then I’ll try experimenting with splitting the main plant.

You can see in the picture that there is one trap with a fly corpse in it, another with just the head showing and less obvious is one with a yellow-jacket in it. The plants caught the flies on its own, but I gave it the yellow-jacket (I heard that’s like ice cream for these plants). In the background you can see a round container with the flower in it and in the far rear is the pulled leaf.

Watch for more exciting updates!

The Number 30 – One Year Later

What was happening last year about this time? Here’s a refresher:

  • Sam was turning 30 – (link removed)
  • Birds were waking us up at 4:30 in the morning (and a squirrel posed for a picture) – original story here
  • Emilie and I announced that our new baby would be a boy on July 30original post here

While all these exciting stories that included the number 30 were happening, I was also setting a goal to read 30 books within the next year. I finally achieved that goal today. In a house full of kids and chaos I’m not sure how it happened, but miraculously it did.

Some of the books were outstanding and some were stinkers. There will be a clear bias apparent in the books I chose to read. I’m always willing to take suggestions, but I’ll state that I’m not a big fan of fiction. Soooo, for those dying to know what sort of trash Brad reads, here’s the final list:

You can always see what I’m currently reading over at Shelfari.

Ow. Ee. Too.

I never really finished up what I was talking about in a previous post. So, I had finished the physical part of the exam and had to go back two hours later to take the written exam. All would have been well except for one problem. The running portion took place on a road that was a short distance from the gym where the other tests were completed. To get to the road we walked through a field full of brush of the rabbit and/or sage variety. The run was completed and I went on my way to grab some lunch before going back for the written exam.

By the time I showed up for the written exam I was starting to get the sniffles. It didn’t appear to be much of an issue initially, but shortly after starting the test I had a full-on allergy attack. I had my pocket full of paper towels from the bathroom and still had to get up half a dozen times to “clear” and restock. It hit me so hard that I thought I was going to have to excuse myself and take the exam another time. I pushed through and completed the test, but felt horrible. It was certainly one of the longest and most painful drives home ever. I can’t remember when I’ve had any allergy attack that bad. I hit the bed as soon as I got home, but once the Excedrin kicked in I felt a lot better.

I finally got the results just yesterday and I passed handily. I thought for sure that my little outbreak would be my demise.

I donated blood last Thursday. Once again, they wouldn’t let me do a 2RBC donation because they needed whole blood in my blood type. Or so they said. I begrudgingly complied. The guy who stuck the needle in me was quite aggressive and had to back the needle out after it popped through my shoulder. He didn’t really have to back it out, but it did hurt so bad that I was fighting back tears. Not really, but it did hurt a lot. Really. But for all my pain I got a complimentary box of 4 poison-laced compact fluorescent bulbs. Yay! There is still some mystery about how many pints I’ve donated. My theory is that when I go to United Blood Services they tell me how many actual donations I’ve made. When I go to bloodhero.com it shows the number of pints donated. This would make sense since I know I’ve done at least 9 or 10 2RBC donations. If this is true then my May donation was number 40, which is 5 gallons. And I didn’t get a pin. I need to get to the bottom of this. The numbers just don’t…add…up…