Yeah, it's been awhile since the last post. Herewith, a few of the hot-button issues that have been stuck in my craw this fall:
1. The Demented Driving Behavior of People Driving Cars near a School During the Time that Kids are Going to School
This has got to stop. Really. If you left your house late, don't take it out on kids just trying to get to school by speeding. You are still going to be late for work. Deal with it. Also, there are these things called "crosswalks". Crosswalks are where pedestrians cross the street. Keep in mind that young children, by definition, are not big. So, you may need to look harder to see if they are in the crosswalk. Also, if someone is standing on the sidewalk next to a crosswalk and you are driving your car, you need to STOP your car and allow the pedestrian to cross. Again, this is not going to make you late for work; leaving your house late made you late for work. Additionally, in Massachusetts, it is a LAW that you MUST stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Also, school buses. They are the big yellow things that carry the students to the schools and help drivers by decreasing the number of parents who drive their kids to school. It is a LAW to stop when the school bus stops and puts on its red blinkers. If a school bus is stopped and is signaling with red blinkers, it does NOT mean that it is ok for you, the driver who is late for work, to PASS the school bus. I am stunned that people in cars actually do this. And believe me when I tell you that I am a VERY aggressive driver. But really, people: slow down. Or leave earlier. Or leave later. Just stop doing stupid things that endanger kids who are just trying to get to school.
2. The Poor Behavior of some Parents who Attend School Functions
This is another issue that has bugged me for a loooong time, and about which I have blogged before. And it hasn't gone away. If you bring your cherubs to any school function, there has been a gaggle of parents who have given up their time to make the event fun: parents who have left work early or taken vacation days or hired babysitters to work on the event. And yet, there are always parents who treat the parent volunteers and event organizers like some kind of hired help, or, worse, indentured servants. So, if your kid takes the frosting from the cupcake and SMEARS it all over a table, you, Parent, should get up and wipe it up. If you see some fellow parents drenched in sweat because they are attempting to clean up the entire cafeteria in ten minutes, it would be DELIGHTFUL if you would offer to help. You do not need an invitation to be on the committee to pitch in. Sitting at a table and watching others do the heavy lifting is so very Downton, in the very worst sense. And we can see where THAT storyline is going.
3. All Politics is Local: the Role of the PTO
I was flabbergasted when, earlier this election season, I invited parents to come to my house to meet a candidate for school committee and two of the Facebook pages where I posted the open invitation removed it and sent a message that the "PTO page is not for politics." I would agree that a PTO page is not a place to debate the benefits of one candidate versus another and that it is not a place to post an endorsement of a candidate. However, it seems to me that it is a perfect place to post information that would help parents make an informed decision. In Waltham, the school budget is more than $70 million. That's a whole lotta money which we are entrusting to six people; three of those people will be elected on Tuesday. Meeting a candidate and asking how he or she plans to use the money is information, not an endorsement. It's the best of politics, not the worst.
4. Drew Echelson Rocks
That is all. But it isn't, because this wouldn't be much of a blog if that's where I ended. I was fortunate enough to meet one-on-one with Dr. Echelson over the summer; in fact, he asked me to meet with him, which is pretty amazing in and of itself: a new Superintendent knows that there are a handful of parents who have been involved in or outspoken about a few key issues and he finds out who they are and requests a meeting. THEN he ASKS for people to schedule meetings with him via an Internet scheduler. Shazam! A Super who wants INPUT from PARENTS! What even is this? And then the super Super holds himself and the School Committee ACCOUNTABLE for DELIVERABLES, just like a functional organization. Heady stuff. Count me a Fan.
5. Stop the Hand-wringing and Let's Do Something
After YEARS of whining and waiting, it appears that Waltham is poised to address the inequity in the distribution of students in the elementary schools. And there are families that will be unhappy. And there are kids who will go to a different elementary school than the one that they attend now. Or maybe all of our kids will go to a school for certain grades and then to another school for other grades. Here's the thing: once the plan is worked out, there will no longer be kids whose classroom is a former teacher workroom; there won't be kids who have class in the library; the Science specialist (and I hear that Science is important; it's the 'S' in 'STEM' or some such thing) will actually have a Science classroom for the study of Science; there will be a space for Challenge kids; professionals will have an office. The distribution will be equitable. There won't be some schools with nearly 550 students in K-5 and others with closer to 300. And that's the goal.
6. PARCC Shlark
It is time to learn a little more about PARCC and I suggest that you do it by following the money. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is headed by a guy named Mitchell D. Chester. Guess what else Mr. Chester does when he's not heading up the Commonwealth's schools? He's on the Governing Board of PARCC, a for-profit subsidiary of Pearson Education, which was founded by a former Virgin executive. Hmmm. Switching from the miserable MCAS to the abominable PARCC would require a change in curriculum at every school in the Commonwealth. Guess what? Pearson sells the textbooks and curriculum needed to prep for PARCC! This is so completely ridiculous and such an outrage and NO ONE seems to know about it. Get informed.
7. You're too Busy to Vote on Tuesday?
Are you KIDDING me? Local elections are the ones that matter most, my friend. Do it. In addition to deciding which 3 candidates of 5 running (including Liz AlJammal, who I am supporting) will sit on the School Committee, there's also a race for the next mayor of our Fair City.
8. Why the Mayor of Waltham should not be buying Ice Cream
About a month ago, I stopped at Pizzi Farm with my kids one afternoon. I am guessing that it was either an early release day or one of the September holidays. While we were there, I saw Mayor McCarthy. I said hello and she said that she was picking up some ice cream for her staff for a party that afternoon. That is classic McCarthy: she is everywhere and likely saw this as an opportunity to get out of the office and meet with some constituents during and election year. The same way that she called me personally to respond to an email message on which she was copied regarding the Beaver Street Clusterflub. Or when she had my two boys and me to her office to meet about Parsons Ave and what an eyesore it has become. It's that personal touch. So here's the thing: the mayor of a city of 60,000 residents should not be the one to run out for ice cream. She should have delegated the call regarding Beaver Street to her city engineer, to whom it was addressed. As the Chief Executive of the City, she should be working on the vision of Waltham, not so involved in the day-to-day that, as the saying goes, all she sees are trees. Traffic is a nightmare and is getting worse. We need to build a new high school. The infrastructure is crumbling right under us. Small businesses can't deal with the byzantine applications process at City Hall and decide to go elsewhere. In the 14 years we've lived here, we've seen Moody Street go from a hip place to be to a street dotted with dollar stores and bodegas and the occasional good restaurant in between. The Inflow and Infiltration issue, which I call Poop on the Streets, is bad and getting worse and has been ignored by the mayor since 2004, when she took office. Our Police and Firefighters have given her a vote of no confidence. Tom Stanley doesn't have all of the answers to some of these thorny issues, however, he has a plan to begin serious work and a vision of what the city should be. Tom won't wait until an issue becomes a crisis: he will stay ahead of the curve with careful review and planning. I ask you to join me and vote for Tom on Tuesday.