Wednesday, October 19, 2011

GO RANGERS! If Only People Cared As Much About Their Local School.

Awash in the excitement of the Texas Rangers and their heroic efforts and great success, I have had many friends drape themselves in gear, change their Facebook pages, throw the antenna flags up, and there is such a joy and commonality of all that hoopla. I am excited for them, as my beloved Twins had a horrific year, and I hope for great success in the World Series. The sheer exhiliration it brings can not be matched, but I will venture that the moments can not equate to the day-to-day thrill of being a Zebra or a Panther or an Eagle.
Living in Grandview, little girls and boys grow up wanting to be Zebras and compete for the high school teams or play in the band or wear the special jacket of the FFA. It starts early as an outstanding student in the elementary school is a MVZ: Most Valuable Zebra, of course. The clothing is black or white with stripes involved, and there is a distinctive Zebra sticker on most cars in town. (Think: Denver Broncos.) In recent years, Grandview's youth football association has been very successful, wearing the black and white, as the Little Zebras take on Godley and Glen Rose and Tolar and the like. Rivalries start early and are sometimes 4th and 5th generation in their hostile foundation. During the Homecoming football game recently, I counted about 1, 000 noses, and there are only about 1, 200 souls in Grandview, according to the last census. It is a living, breathing thing.
Every day is a great day to be a Panther in Midlothian, as they say, and there is a tremendous pride in wearing the blue and working for cake and camaraderie in my school, as the pay has stayed stagnant and slightly behind the area. The sense of community is still very strong, although we are now headed for the  8 thousand plus mark in total enrollment in the district. The Homecoming parade stops the town in its tracks, as schools let out two hours early. Graduation teeters above the 7, 000 mark in attendance, and all games and events are very well attended. I always felt a certain pressure coaching at Midlothian, regardless of where we were playing, because I knew there would be more fans than the other guy could muster, regardless of geography. If Mom and Dad and Gran Gran were coming out to the game, then the expectation would be to always find playing time for their darling.
Sadly, the community I live in and the one I work at may be an exception to the rule in our larger school districts, as many don't feel the same connection to their local high school. There is more allegiance to the Cowboys and the last two years to the Rangers. There is a growing sense of detachment, I think, to our public schools, and where that may take us alarms me. Someone without an excuse to cheer in the stands might have a tendency to not hold the value of investing in our schools dearly.
The only solution I see is if our politicians and monied interests and senior citizens, without kids in the schools, become fans again. We should make every effort to get the stickers out, the invites to the games,  and the accomplishments made to be a payoff on the investment of tax dollars. We must seek out old and new support, and we must work harder to get them to the pep rallies and the parades.
We must convince them that WE are a team, and we are all in this together.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Here's To The "Extra" People On Our Campuses!

Yesterday, I did a very, very foolish thing, as I took a couple of pain pills that had formerly belonged to Amy for a dental surgery, as my ankle was tweaking, with probable gout making an impact. (Too many Cherry Dr. Pepper's from Sonic had added up, I think.).
Nurse Judi, that is Judi Fiorenza, was summoned by the concerned ladies in the office, as sweat had started to drip off my ears profusely, and I had a nausea come over me that didn't make the monthly birthday cake we have taste near as good as usual. She patiently checked me over, encouraged me, dimmed the lights, and she gave me as good of care and treatment, as I would have received  at any hospital. When Amy came to get me to take me home, Judi walked me gently out and helped me get into Amy's car for the wobbly ride home. Then, I am sure she moved on to care for, along with Nurse Brenda, Jenkins, that is, the dozens of students that they take care of on a daily basis with calm and efficient kindness. (Thanks, Judi!)
These ladies are part of the "extra" personnel that the Legislature made many school districts take aim at in our last legislative bludgeoning, as there was an inference that having nurses to render care, librarians/media specialists to give academic support and knowledge, aides of many stripes to fill in the gaps in learning and relationship building, and tremendously hardworking custodians to make sure that the learning environment is pristine and appropriate, was "extra", somehow. The others on this list might include groundskeepers, bus drivers, day care workers, and cafeteria workers. I would strongly suggest that these folks in my educational experience are essential, rather than extra. They work long hours for often very little pay, making less than poverty level in many cases, and they are quite often the glue that holds a campus together, the human face that often reassures or provides comfort to not just students but the community.
 I get a great feeling saying hello to "Miss Joyce", one of our longtime custodians, when I am out and about, seeing her smiling face doing a probably very dirty job, as she has an ennobling, humbling quality to what she does, which she does very well. It is the Cindys of our office that have been a calming presence for many years in the front office of Midlothian High School, regardless of the principal in charge, dealing with budget and room scheduling and mountains of paperwork. That is, Carlisle and Rodgers, who are wonderfully professional and sweet and kind and good at what they do. It is Debbie Fallen at the front desk, who serves as the face of the school, dealing with often angry or unruly parents and students with a never wavering professional demeanor.  Julie Phillips is a great example of a special ed aide with a high energy and shining smile, who greets the students as they come into Content Mastery, no matter how large the number or attitude of the student. Cheryl Holt has worked for many, many years in the Counseling Center as a jack-of-all-trades, getting parents paperwork to register students, taking IDs, answering dozens of phone calls a day, filing countless paperwork, putting out fires and calming fears of new students. Her ear must buzz at the end of each day from her headset, and yet she keeps her sense of humor and wicked laugh. Brenda Lott has worked as a principal's assistant for more than a little while, providing niceties for functions and gathering t-shirts for dress code and doing a newsletter each week to encourage staff closeness. If she retires this year, as she says she is planning on, there will be a void left by her leaving.
I haven't done justice to all the many, many who make up our school district and the thousands of others who aren't seen by mindless demagogues in Austin as being only budget items, only "extra" people. I would take that extra and stretch it to extraordinary, and I would fight ferociously anyone who might suggest that the soul of our campus wouldn't be diminished by their loss. They deserve more respect, more noteworthy attention, and they deserve more money.