By Lou Phelps
All vigilantly fought adequate funding this year for the public schools, a system that is finally making long overdue improvements, with measureable improvements and results occurring every month. Ultimately, Lori Brady acquiesced and voted in favor of the final budget and small millage rate increase, while Cox and Gerbsch voted against the 2010-2011 budget.
Ask a leader in the Savannah business community – the people creating jobs here - and they’ll tell you that they support funding the public schools, because without an educated workforce, they can’t run their companies and our economic development leaders can not bring new jobs to Chatham county. Or hold onto the ones we now have.
Take a quick look at the most recent CRCT test results for the public schools in Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties, reported only here in Coastal Family Magazine, on page 14. Now, imagine that you’re a company in Minnesota that’s interested in adding a plant in the South, and being next to either the Savannah or Brunswick ports and along Interstate 95 for easy truck routes.
Then decide which county to locate in.
It’s tough to make a case for Chatham County when trying to explain the quality of the county’s workforce OR to convince executives from the Minnesota company that their own children can be well educated in the local public school system.
Chatham County has a wealth of private schools, but for many families, they are not an option or a preference. In most areas of the country, a private school education – unless chosen for religious reasons – is not the norm.
The Chatham County public school system is improving under Dr. Lockamy’s leadership, but it has a long way to go. It needs funding and support from the community and our board members.
African American members of the board led the way in support of an increase in the tax rate to fund the schools, as Chatham County faces cuts from the State of Georgia for the year ahead as well as a cut from local property taxes due to property devaluation.
Member Floyd Adams reminder the audience and his fellow members, during one particularly contentious moment of debate, that local parents who pay rent are also affected by property tax increases – property tax increases are passed on to tenants by building owners. It is an inaccurate stereotype to believe that black families who do not own homes are not affected by property tax increases.
We continue to hear stereo-typing comments made about African American families or less affluent parents by those in the more well-to-zip codes that are ill-informed. Cox and Brady may be playing to their Republican-led bases, but they are not serving the children of the district, their ultimate responsibilities.
Member Julie Gerbsch has maintained that she was against supporting an increase in the tax digest for the school system, stating that she remains unhappy with the budgeting process and the budget itself, which she believes should come from a “zero-based” approach, versus the current method she believes is being used.
No budget process is ever good enough. But, her passive aggressive approach to the bigger question of what was needed to adequately fund the schools, did little to advance the debate. And, ultimately, she voted against the budget. If she is convinced that the budget is ill-constructed, then she needs to gather support of the majority of her board to form a task force to begin immediately to develop a new budgeting process of which she approves.
Large cuts will still take place for the school year ahead despite the small increase in the millage rate that was ultimately approved. One of the worse losses is the cut in EIP teachers who work with students who are not performing at par. The loss of these teaching positions not only affects the individual student that needs help, but will affect the total classroom in which the student is placed…and strain every teacher that has students in their classroom who is behind.
Susu Cox, Lori Brady and Julie Gerbsch are sending the wrong messages during a time where unity amongst public education leaders is sorely needed.
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Q: Our 13-year-old daughter recently told us that she wants to be like everyone else even if that means doing the wrong thing. She gets as close to trouble as possible and lots of times goes head on into it. We let her "hang herself" and then suffer the consequence. And the consequences are not pleasant. We see a very turbulent future ahead for her. Any advice?
That turbulent time in my life taught me several things that have proven valuable in my career:
Second, there comes a time when some parents need to accept that they have done and are doing all they can possibly do to help their kids learn that happiness and responsible behavior go hand-in-hand. These parents need to accept that they are not the appointed agents of change in their kids’ lives; that those agents may not show up until their kids are well into their adult years. The older I get, the more convinced I become that something one might call Fate is active in each of our lives.
The third lesson is what I call the “Keep on Keepin’ On Principle”: If a child does the wrong thing, and parents do the right thing (which it sounds like you most certainly are), and the child willfully keeps right on doing the wrong thing (like your daughter), the parents should simply keep right on doing the right thing. And yes, they should keep on keepin’ on even though it seems to be having no effect.
If you haven’t already, you need to sit down and have what I call a “defining conversation” with your daughter. Begin by telling her that you understand her desire to be accepted. Unfortunately, she’s decided she wants to be accepted by the wrong people. As a consequence, she ends up doing wrong things. In which case, you are forced to punish her.
Say, “You’re much too young to understand this, but we punish you because we love you. It would be irresponsible of us not to punish you when you misbehave. You probably know kids who have parents like that. You are trying to be like those kids. We are not going to be like their parents. So when you misbehave, we’re going to take away your freedom. That’s what’s going to happen to you if you misbehave as an adult, and we’re trying to help you learn that lesson now, not later.”
The purpose of this one-sided conversation is not to change her thinking, because you probably can’t right now (as you’ve already discovered). It is simply to put your cards on the table, so that she knows that you are going to be purposeful for as long as it takes.
There will likely come a time—it may be next year, it may be years from now—when your daughter will tell you that she finally understands and appreciates what you are doing or what you did. Until then, just keep on keepin’ on.
I happen to believe that a family is more important than any one person in it. There are certainly times when the needs of a certain member of the family trump all other considerations, as when someone becomes dangerously ill, but those situations are exceptional, not the rule.
If you can find the time to think in terms of that big picture, I think you’ll have to conclude that the children’s activities schedule is taking a toll on your family’s quality of life. In the final analysis, that’s not good for anyone. It’s not good for you to be so consumed by kids’ activities that you have no time for yourself. It’s not good for your marriage that you are probably in a state of near-constant exhaustion by the end of the day. It’s not good for your toddler to be dragged around so much. It’s not even good for your older children to be the focus of so much parental energy. They aren’t learning to put themselves into proper perspective. They’re learning that what they want to do, they deserve to do. That attitude is certainly not conducive to give-and-take in relationships.
Worst of all, your family is slowly fading into non-existence. You have Susie time and Billy time and so on, but you’ve all but admitted that you have no truly family time, which is the most important time of all. In my estimation, you’d do well to cancel most of these activities and use the time to go on picnics, take trips to museums, and the like.
I recommend that you begin your family’s rehabilitation by sitting down with the kids—both you and your husband should be present—and simply present them with the facts: Their activities have become too much. You need to take a permanent breather from being a chauffeur. You need to have some time for yourself, and you and their father need time for just the two of you.
Then set the limit. For example, you’ll drive a maximum of four hours a week (including wait time). That’s one hour for each child. That’s gracious plenty! Then have them help you work out what stays and what goes. There’s bound to be some complaining, so you’re probably going to have to make the final decisions. Keep in mind that none of these activities is going to make much difference when your children are adults. But putting your family first now may help them do the same when they have children.
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Summer is a great time for reading, including a good time to buy some special books that your child will cherish, or plan some family time at your nearest library branch. Here are good ideas for kids…and parents, too!
Teaching our children about ethics is never easy. Simon and Schuster has published a new book entitled “E Is for Ethics,” which has 26 read-aloud stories that teach the values of respect, loyalty, perseverance, honesty, kindness, integrity and courage.
Each story encourages young people to become strong, moral adults and includes questions at the end that Mom or Dad can talk about at bedtime, including sharing examples from their family life. Parents will welcome the help the stories provide in talking about these important topics, aided by creative illustrations with each story.
The author is Ian Corlett who is a veteran of children’s television programming such as the hit shows “The Adventures of Paddington Bear;” the publisher is Atria Books.
There’s no denying that kids love Banana-grams, the obsessive new puzzle craze and Game of the Year at the 2009 International Toy Fair which has become a stable in classrooms and homes everywhere. It’s a simple idea: it’s an anagram game that starts with 144 letter tiles in a banana-shaped bag that combines the fun of crosswords and word games like Scrabble and Boggle.
The creators have now published a new book series, “Banana-Grams! For Kids,” that has 130 smart, fun word games for any age children who can read. What’s invisible to children is that behind the silly names and clever formats of the puzzles, are games that have a strong educational side to strengthen vocabulary, reward agile thinking and reinforce the idea that using your brain is fun! The publisher is Workman Publishing.
For the girls in your family, the American Girl doll company offers a series of books to support their toys. The newest addition is “Lanie,” in support of the company’s newest doll for 2010. She’s a thoughtful, energetic girl who discovers the world in her own backyard, aimed at encouraging young readers to be active and enjoy the outdoors. There will be two Lanie books this year.
The Lanie stories aim to help parents raise healthier, happier kids and inspire kids to view the outdoors as their favorite play space – where they can explore, imagine, discover and daydream – just like Lanie. The American Girl company is also supporting the “Be Out There” program at www.beoutthere.org. Research is showing that an “indoor child” has declining creativity, concentration and social skills as well as a doubling of childhood obesity.
For Mom’s summer reading, there are two new books this Spring by regional authors. Nicole Carlson Easley has written, “Savannah Folklore,” published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. Her book tells about the history and folklore of Savannah’s 24 squares, and all the great “haunting” stories, including ghosts at the Sorrel Weed House and the watchman at the Hamilton Inn.
The book includes 58 short stories as well as her local photography.
Last but not least is FOOD! Janice Shay has written a wonderful new cookbook entitled, “Savannah Classic Seafood, Recipes from Favorite Restaurants,” with photography by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn. She includes crab, oyster, fish and shrimp recipes – “the major food groups,” according to Shay, from restaurants ranging from Elizabeth’s on 37th to the Olde Pink House. Their recipe for Fried Oyster Caesar Salad is a highlight.
Shay has also included recipes from local chefs such as Chef Joe Randall’s wonderful recipe for Pan-Roasted Black Grouper.
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By Lou Phelps
It’s a perfect time of year to embrace what’s available, and learn about the information technology to follow school report cards, and get familiar with the system before a new school year begins.
The Bryan County schools are using a web program and strategy called PowerSchool! that allows parents and students to access a wide range of important information. The system is also used for internal system purposes, including maintaining staff information and schedules. Chatham County is also using PowerSchool! for elementary parents and students.
It’s very easy. Every parent who has a child registered has an account. “All they have to do is show up and request it. It’s very intuitive, simple to figure out,” according to. David Feliciano, Chief Data and Information Officer in Chatham. Bryan County operates the same way…just go down to your child’s school with a photo ID.
PowerSchool is a database application that runs on a server, and uses the internet to facilitate student information management and communication among school administrators, teachers, parents, and students, as well.
In Bryan County, parents and students, information is available on the PowerSchool “Parent Portal” portion of the system which gives both groups access to real-time information including attendance, citizenship, grades and detailed assignment descriptions, school bulletins, lunch menus and even personal messages from the teacher. The goal is to keep everyone connected, according to Lynn McCoy who manages the system for the county.
Students can stay on top of assignments, parents are able to participate more fully in their student's progress, and teachers can use their grade book to make decisions on what information they want to share with parents and students.
Parents and students can also email a teacher directly from the site, and they can sign up to receive information about a student's grades, attendance, and assignment scores, using various e-mail preferences. A parent can specify which information they would like to receive, how often they would like to receive the information, and how often they would like to receive email. And, multiple email addresses can be entered – one for Mom, Dad and the student.
Teachers can post comments for an individual parent or child, and they can respond directly to the teacher.
And the Bryan County school system can send out system-wide informational bulletins and update the school system calendar of events. And, individual schools can post upcoming events on the calendar for the public to see.
High school students also use the system to register for classes, or to make a future course request.
And, if any student fees are owed, such as for library books, that information can also be accesses.
According to Lynn McCoy, Student Information Specialist for the Bryan County public schools who oversees Power School, the system has 7,200 students, represented by more than 3,500 families, she estimates.
While the system does not track usage, she estimates that 30 percent of the families are now using the Power School Parent Portal, particularly around report card time. The site receives 3,000 hits on a daily basis, but she does not have data on how many actual visitors that represents. (Every page viewed on a website creates many hits.)
Bryan County began to use the system in January 2009, and it almost has a year and a half of experience, but only 30 percent participation.
The Effingham County Public Schools are using a system system called “Infinite Campus,” overseen by Noralee Deason, Information Systems Coordinator. “We began in mid-2009, with access granted to parents in August for the 2009-2010 school year,” she explained.
“It’s kind of hard to tell you how many families are using the system,” she explains. “We have student accounts and parent accounts. Parents are required to come down to a school and show photo identifications to open their accounts, and we know that some just log in using their student’s account,” she said. Middle school and high school to get their own accounts, and a lot of parents are logging in as their students.”
So far this year, Deason has had about 2,000 log-ins per week, by individuals who have set up accounts. “We have some log in four times a week, some only once. For example, we had 1,976 log ins last week; it will go way up at the end when report cards come out,” she said.
Effingham will be introducing the online access to students in grades 1 through 5 at the end of this school year; parents have been eligible to set up accounts all year, “but we’re going to create student accounts,” she explained. If a parent has four children in the system, they can see information on all four students under the one parental account.
The Effingham system is very pro-active. Middle school and high school parents and students get an email notification if they have any assignments missing, or have any failing grades. The email goes out the day that the grade is reported.
The county is not using the system for school calendar events, or district notices, as Bryan County is. But CRCT test scores will be posted, “as quickly as we can,” Deason said. “We’ll have personal contact with those parents who children did not meet expectations before the test scores are posted,” she emphasized. Kids can see them, too. Parents and students can see all the same information.
An Effingham or Bryan County teacher can email all the students in their class through the systems. And a teacher can email an individual parent – if they have an account – regarding any issue. “Within our SIS system, we gather parents emails for teacher and school communications, in general,” she added.
The time is now to embrace the technology purchased by your tax dollars to help both parents and students stay informed, and communicate more closely with teachers.
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By John Rosemond
People gifted in more than a couple of areas are rare, and people gifted in one area but lacking in another are not unusual. A person with outstanding musical aptitude, for example, may be noticeably lacking in social skills, and a person with outstanding verbal skills may be mechanically inept.
The mere fact that a person is lacking in some characteristic or ability does not necessarily mean something is “wrong.” That a certain 10-year-old child is shy, lacks conversational skills, and prefers solitary activity to group play does not mean something is amiss inside the child’s brain. Nor does the mere fact that a child struggles with learning to read or do math mean his brain isn’t working properly. Furthermore, it is well known that the child who is “painfully” shy at 10 may be outgoing at age 46, and a child who struggles to learn to read may grow up to be a best-selling author. Very little about a human being is set in stone.
All of this is to say that for all the prior lip service, today’s educators seem to have absolutely no respect for individual differences, no respect for the fact that “lack” is not synonymous with wrong. In today’s schools, the range of acceptability concerning an ever-increasing number of aptitudes has been getting narrower and narrower over the past couple of decades. This narrow-mindedness on the part of educators has coincided with the proliferation of various supposed childhood “disorders.”
So the aforementioned shy 10-year-old is not just shy; he has Asperger’s syndrome. And the aforementioned slow reader is not just a bit behind the curve when it comes to decoding abstract symbols; he’s dyslexic. And the clumsy child has sensory integration disorder. And the child who has difficulty executing more than one command from his teacher at a time has an auditory processing disorder. In each case, the child supposedly has something wrong with his brain. Mind you, the something has never been discovered, much less measured. No matter. We live in the Age of Mass Credulity. Maybe credulity is a brain disorder. Who knows?
The American Psychiatric Association is even proposing that children who are sorta=kinda lacking in some characteristic (or have too much of it even) sometimes in certain situations may be “at risk” for some diagnosis (i.e., mental “illness”) and may therefore merit treatment. The fundamental problem is that America’s schools are buying into this hook, line and sinker. The sinkers, unfortunately, are being attached to ever-enlarging numbers of children who simply don’t fit into the ever-shrinking range of what’s considered “normal.” By the way, isn’t it interesting that every time a child is found to qualify for a diagnosis, the child’s school qualifies for more money from the state and federal governments? As my grandmother used to say, “Well, don’t that beat all!”
I fully recognize the legitimacy of a conscientious diagnostic process. I also recognize that some kids need professional help overcoming certain deficits. I’m simply saying that when all is said and done, the number of children being identified as needing “special services” in schools is approaching the absurd. The trend, carried forward, predicts that it won’t be long before all of America’s kids will have a diagnosis by age 10.
Let’s face it, they all have individual differences.
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