How Bad Could It Have Been?

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The friend who told me about the schoolteacher that orchestrated a “tooth for a tooth” and an “eye for an eye” management approach in retaliation for one student stomping on the foot of another student isn’t a candidate for teacher of the year. According to my friend, she isn’t the sharpest Crayola in the box. He thinks the school system could improve significantly if her name wasn’t included on the educational roster of teachers. He maintains that she does dumb things all of the time. From my perspective, he should be in a position to know. After all, they are neighbors and he is her landlord.

 

Of course, when he was rattling off information about the teacher, his reflections related to her character and carelessness could have had some relationship to her having recently driven her car over his dog. The mishap resulted in the dog’s death.

 

Attempting to establish some level of empathy with him, I suggested that her absence might be favored by the school system. I then referenced what I thought was the name of the Independent School District where he lived. He said, “Oh, no, we don’t have our own school district anymore. Things were so bad here that the Texas Education Agency ordered our school district closed. It was handed off to a neighboring town.

 

Can you imagine a town without its own schools? News of the ISD’s impending closure caught everyone by surprise. I guess they were oblivious to the fact that sooner or later, deficiency letter after deficiency letter, the other shoe was going to drop. After all, how many “academically unacceptable” ratings can a school district receive before folks figure out that spells trouble?   Throw in a few financial woes and a “substandard achievement” in financial accountability and you eventually figure out things don’t add up.

 

That could indicate that when it came to school administration, teaching staff, accountability and outcome measures related to academic accomplishment that most of the staff fit nicely in the same Crayola box. Unfortunately the box was populated with mostly dull Crayons. Perhaps my friend’s neighbor fit in nicely.

 

Twenty-six-years ago, my son graduated from high school in a very small school district in the Texas hill country. I had the thought when he started to school there in the second grade that it was like turning the clock back fifty-years. By the time he graduated in 1990, I was convinced that coursework and curriculum changes were needed. Actually, I ran for the school board once, but I didn’t get very far. At the question and answer forum I attended prior to the election, I articulated the changes I thought were needed. The opponent, who won the election, simply said he didn’t know what changes he’d endorse. While it may sound like sour grapes on my part, he actually said: “He hadn’t been inside the school in years”.

 

One of the strengths of the school was teacher dedication and competency. Because of its size, students had opportunity to participate in a myriad of activities and play almost every sport while at the same time being in the band. Even I could see the collective value in having multiple opportunities. In larger school districts, a football team still needs only 11 players from each team on the field at one time. Because of sheer size of the student body, a lot of students get eliminated from playing. Consequently, sometimes a smaller school district offers more opportunities for extracurricular activities.

 

My friend went on to highlight the amazing school bus debacle that occurred after the school district take-over. It happened the first day of school. Consequently, I’m sure people are still talking about it. I don’t’ remember the number of new buses that were purchased, but it was significant. The key to bus safety is pre-service training. In fact, the bus driving-instructor had done such an incredible job; he was scheduled to receive an award. Unfortunately, the first day of school changed all of that. One of the newly trained bus drivers failed to carefully calculate whether there was ample clearance from an overhanging tree limb. Apparently there wasn’t. The force of the impact literally took off the top of the bus. It was the bus driver’s first and last day of work. In addition, the bus-driving instructor who was set to receive an award was terminated from employment as well.

 

How’s that for forfeiting one’s right to be behind the wheel? When I was in college, I worked one semester as a quasi-houseparent at a boys ranch. On Friday nights, my regular routine was to drive the school bus to a run-down movie theatre and supervise kids while they watched the movie. Obviously, my guardian angels were working overtime. I had no idea that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

 

The bus driving training I received was non-existent. In addition, I had no idea that a regular driver’s license wasn’t good enough to cover driving a school bus. When I think back to how young, naïve and stupid I was, I shutter with the thought of all the things that could have gone wrong. Fortunately, I never got closer than a near miss.

 

Can you imagine forfeiting the privilege of driving? I don’t anticipate I’ll ever get too old to get behind the wheel. For one thing, driving relaxes me. That’s kind of comical because most people who ride with me, bargain with God before the ride is over.

 

I was listening to a radio talk show yesterday morning where the assignment was to identify which one of the follow three statements was true:

 

  • The President of the United States cannot receive gifts.
  • The President of the United States cannot carry or discharge a firearm.
  • The President of the United States can never drive on a public road during his term of service or anytime following having served.

 

Well, I’ve been to enough Presidential museums that I’ve seen a collection of gifts given to the President. Obviously the statement that he/she cannot receive gifts is false. I’ve also heard the LBJ Ranch story of Vice President Johnson hosting President Kennedy to a deer hunt. I surmise that they weren’t using bow and arrows. Consequently, that too, has to be false.

 

By the process of elimination #3 has to be the true statement. Can you imagine never driving on a public roadway again? For my part, that is totally unacceptable. Wait! I may have spoken too quickly. With the road construction currently underway, I wish I had a driver. Tuesday morning, I took Treva’s new car to the dealership to get a front license plate bracket installed on the grill. Her car has features that I find a little unsettling. For example, if the car senses you need more focus… well my experience was that a burnt orange icon appeared with three lines that looked that steam coming from a cup of coffee. The caption read: “You need to rest”.

 

Who knows? Maybe with my skillset I should be driving a school bus.

 

All My Best!

Don

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