Sunday, August 31, 2008


It's good to be the #1 team in the country, according to USA Today:

The team's practice field is better maintained than some golf courses. The team's stadium sits in a bowl, like that at Clemson University, and the scoreboard has a jumbotron. The team has its own film room, as nice as a college's lecture hall. But the program's biggest advantage is its shiny Olympic-style weight room and its full-time strength coach, Mike Srock.
By the way, that's a high school football facility. Holy Lord, but that is amazing.

In other football news, Fire Willingham.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Cue the Music

Happy Birthday to Me
I just turned Thir-tee
My best years are all behind me
Happy birthday to meeeeeeee!

Also having a birthday today are Michael Jackson, which was a really cool fact to share 20 years ago that's kind of lost its luster since, and John McCain, who just made a very poor VP decision.

Hooray for August 29th!

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Way Forward for Randy Dorn

As I sit here Sunday morning Randy Dorn trails Terry Bergeson by about 6.2% in their contest for OSPI here in Washington State, which is a pretty dramatic narrowing from the 11% lead Bergeson had on Election Night. A couple of thoughts:

1) About 27% of the votes went to the other candidates (Blomstrom, Blair, Duncan, and Hansler). If this is a "change" election, that could be trouble for the incumbent.

2) On the other hand, if you go back to the 2004 primary Bergeson only garnered 36% of the primary vote to Judith Billings' 35%, but she blitzed Billings in the general election by more than 11%.

3) Comparatively, then, a 6%+ lead now is a better starting point than a 1% lead in 2004. Consider, too, than in the 2004 primary she didn't take Thurston and Snohomish counties, but this time she did, a comparison that might not be valid because of the change to the top 2 primary.

4) Dorn's campaign only really took flight in May, and in a scant three months he was able to get within 6 points. That could bode well for him in the general.

Were I advising Randy Dorn, here's what I'd suggest:

1) He got absolutely blitzed in some of the smaller counties: 23% in Pacific, 25% in Skamania, 18% in Wahkiakum, 23% in Cowlitz, etc. I think he needs to prompt the network he has (the PSE, the WEA, Where's the Math?, etc.) to write letters to some of those small-town newspapers pointing out the deficiencies in the Bergeson administration. In Ferry County they might not bother with the Spokane Spokesman-Review, but everybody takes the Republic News-Miner. Talk to those folks about the cost of the WASL and the rising cost of transportation, and you'll get their attention.

2) Sort of building off of the above point, putting out a stronger position statement on the struggles of small schools and what he would do about it would get attention. Send it in a press release to every small-town paper, or write it as a guest editorial, and see what happens.

3) All of that said, no one has ever ridden into state office on the strength of winning the 1,300 voters of Garfield County. He has to pound Pierce, capture King, and snatch Snohomish to win.

4)....which is why the WASL results this year could be the dealbreaker for Bergeson's campaign. If a large portion of the I-5 districts see more schools falling into AYP, and if the parents start being told that their children are attending failing schools, that could get bloody. Then the status quo becomes the enemy, and Terry Bergeson is the status quo.

I'm not convinced that Dorn is the guy, but it's a conversation that we need to have.

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The Most Beautiful Poem I've Read All Week

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Mitch and Shelly Short Story Continues

That headline might be unfair, because Shelly Short hasn't been implicated in the case against her husband, but when the wife is a candidate for elected office and the husband is facing arraignment it's proper to discuss them together.

I've written about this case before; Mitch Short is accused of stealing money from the Northeast Washington Fair, about $3000, while his wife is running to replace Bob Sump as Representative for the 7th Legislative District. Mitch is looking at an arraignment on August 26th, but the story is all over the papers right now, in the weekend before the primary.

The shorts are portraying it as politics at its worst:

"I'm really tired of the one-sided nature of this," Shelly Short said. "This has, frankly, been nothing less than a public lynching, done to derail my campaign."
...but the missing piece there is why people would want to derail her campaign. This can't be partisan--all the other candidates for the office are Republicans, too. It makes you wonder.

Something else from the Spokesman article that also made me a little sad:

Turplesmith noted in charging documents that the Shorts were in debt at the time Mitch Short wrote the allegedly improper checks. Court records show Discover Bank won a $12,328 default judgment against the couple Aug. 17, 2007.

Asked about the judgment, Shelly Short said, "We are checking on those records to determine if that's actually the case.

"At no point has there been any attempt to garnish and, frankly, I was not served with any documentation on any complaint." Was she saying she didn't know about the Discover Bank lawsuit?

"I'm telling you that I had never been served," Short said. "That's the distinction."

She declined to comment further when asked whether her husband was served.

Court records show a process server delivered the complaint to Mitch Short personally on June 12, 2007, at the couple's home at 1591 Swiss Valley Road, near Addy, Wash.

Court documents also show Superior Court Judge Al Nielson issued writs of garnishment on Oct. 23, 2007, and March 6. By the time of the second writ, the couple's Discover credit card debt had grown to $13,323.
That's an awful lot of credit card debt. Was there a family emergency that caused them to fall behind? Are the Shorts just not good with money? What is the story here?

Running for office sucks. When you put yourself out there as a leader you're really putting yourself out there, warts and all. I think that Shelly would be a great Representative for the 7th, and I've got a ton of respect for the knowledge base and energy she'd bring to the job, but stories like this that get people thinking the worst--they're no good.

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You Might Call Them Negligent....

....but I call them THE GREATEST PARENTS EVER! From Kotaku:

Let's try to keep the bad parenting bait to a minimum for this one, folks, but holy crow, I can't not show you this story. Yesterday reader tooji tipped me off to the story of Blake Peebles, a 16-year-old in Raleigh, N.C., whose parents have let him drop out of school so that he can focus on a professional gaming career via Guitar Hero.
This is, of course, spectacular parenting. Wouldn't you want your son to be as cool as that picture?

(via Digg and the Charlotte Observer)

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The Recent WEA Mailing on Gregoire v. Rossi

I'm a little surprised to see the Association putting as much emphasis as they are on the primary; it's a given that Gregoire and Rossi are going to be the two that move on to the general, and I'd expect it to be close all the way to November. Maybe the hope is for a convincingly wide Gregoire margin on Tuesday that gets some headlines and puts Dino on the defensive.

The numbers will tell the tale.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Like it When Think Tanks Write My Blog Posts For Me

Courtesy of Ed in '08, Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?

I got 90% on both, but that's OK because I'm only a first grade teacher.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

New Trailer for "Flunked" Released!

I've been talking about the new award-winning documentary from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation for some time now. It's set to go on sale to the public on September 2nd, the day after Labor Day--keep an eye on the website.

This brand new trailer may or may not be from the film; I'll leave it to you to judge.

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Read more here, if any.'s Grating

Down in Dallas they're having a great debate over what homework should mean and how grading should be done. The whole thing has echoes of a similar conversation from Arlington, WA earlier this year.

If a kid doesn't do homework, whaddyado?

In related news, I think I'm going to majorly overhaul how I do homework this year. Previously I've sent home a homework packet every Monday, the same for each kid, but I think this year I'm going to send home more targetted assignments that the parents and child can complete (or not) at their discretion.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

(Comic Books) Regarding Final Crisis

You've got to be kidding me.

Grant Morrison has officially gone around the bend. Animal Man was 20 years ago and it's carried his reputation ever since, but this new maxi-series is a special kind of crap.

We've essentially built up to a rip-off of Marvel Zombies. That's the best DC could do for their annual summer event? Really?

And I'm really, really tired of the New Gods. The powers-that-be should trot Darkseid out once a year to have a big fight with Superman and then GO AWAY.

Let's also acknowledge that while Kirby's creations might have worked in the '60s, there hasn't been a good New Gods story since Cosmic Odyssey, and that was a long, long time ago.

There are no good Granny Goodness stories. There are no good Big Barda stories. Hunger Dogs worked in Legends of the DC Universe, but every trip to Apokolips since (and I include Countdown in this) has been a faint echo of better times past.

The bloom is very off the DC flower right now.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's Only Tax Money--Who Cares How It's Spent?

Did you hear the one about the $50 million dollar federal program to make it easier to certify teachers?

So far, they've only gotten 200 folks certified.

As a return on investment, spending $250,000 per teacher doesn't seem very fiscally responsible.

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I Now Know Why Some Parents Are Leery About Student Teachers

A few weeks back I went on my second annual rafting trip down the Clark Fork River, a nice, easy ride through some pretty Montana country. I’m still a hydrophobe, but making Mrs. Grant happy is always a worthwhile goal, so off we went.

In the boat with me are my wife, a friend who used to teach at my school, his wife, his two kids, two punks who were there as part of a program for juvenile delinquents (really!), and a young lady of about 14 who looked like she weighed all of 90 pounds.

As we’re starting the float our guide gives us a quick overview of safety procedures, talks about the water, and sets us on our way. He takes us through the first rapid with no problems, then lays this on us: “By the way, this is Jenny, and she’s a guide in training. I’m going to be letting her do most of the rest of the trip.”


....the hell?

So Jenny climbs to the helm, takes the rudder, and points us down stream.

Obviously, I lived.

I think that the experience was a perfect analogy to giving over the classroom to a student teacher. You’ve got a master teacher steering the ship, and then that person steps aside and allows someone else to learn the craft on the job. As a parent I’d be worried too, even if the teacher staying in the room or guiding the instruction from the side.

It’s good to get that perspective through someone else’s eyes every now and again.

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All The "For Better Or Worse" Fans Out There, Please Raise Your Hands!

....and then explain to me why this comic strip is still being published.

All this lead up to Elizabeth’s wedding is reminding me of everything that I’ve ever detested about this comic strip. Given that Lynn Johnston is a sadist who murdered Farley the Dog, I’m betting even money that Grandpa will collapse and die at the ceremony.

It's very similar to the way that Funky Winkerbean should have closed up shop at the end of Lisa's Story.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Best Christmas Present Ever

...would be Georges St. Pierre fighting BJ Penn on December 27th.

Kick him in the shin, GSP.


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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

But on the other hand.....

Political Buzz at the News-Tribune has the story of how Terry Bergeson got a big endorsement from the Washington State Labor Council. Two thoughts:

1) For anyone who tells you that labor is a monolith, here's your counter-argument. The Public School Employees endorsed Randy Dorn, for obvious reasons, as did the Washington Education Association.

2) It's highly interesting that the WSLC didn't find their way clear to endorsing Terry at their nominating convention in May; it's only now that the stars have lined up. Her name is an obvious omission from their list of endorsed candidates. What's changed since?

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A Positive Sign, That Is Not

I had read this Strange Bedfellows blog post earlier, regarding the most recent polling in our statewide elections, but I didn't notice this piece until Where's the Math pointed it out:
The lowest re-election figure for any statewide incumbent is Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson. She is supported by just 12 percent of those polled. A whopping 67 percent are undecided.
The usual adage is that most people are usually OK with the schools most of the time; on that alone I would expect Bergeson's positives to be much, much higher. 12% for someone with her name recognition is shocking.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Be My Friend!!!

Live From the WEA Leadership Academy!

I'm in ShorelineLynnwoodSeattle this week attending the WEA Leadership Academy, specifically the new presidents school where I'll get my head full of some learnin' about how to do this local leader thing. I'm rooming with the new president of one of the other locals from the Spokane area, and we had a great trip over the pass comparing notes and talking about our goals for the coming year.

If you're in the area, come by and say howdy.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Did the Spokesman-Review Just Blow the 7th LD Contest Wide Open?

The 7th legislative district is Washington State's largest, stretching from the Canadian border to the Spokane area and encompassing towns from Airway Heights to Colville and beyond. Bob Sump has been our Representative for approximately 102 years, so when he announced his retirement this session it threw open the doors.

Kind of. 5 candidates have announced to run for the seat Rep. Sump is vacating, all Republicans. Shelly Short has spent the last two years as a legislative assistant for Rep. Joel Kretz, also of the 7th, and she was one of the first to announce that she'd run for Rep. Sump's position. Rep. Sump endorsed her, which matters quite a bit to a lot of voters in the district. She's also got a pat on the back from George Nethercutt.

And then, in the August 2nd edition of the Spokesman-Review, this happens:

The husband of 7th Legislative District candidate Shelly Short may face criminal charges in the alleged theft of $3,318 from a volunteer fair organization.

Colville Police Chief Damond Meshishnek said his department is nearing completion of an investigation into financial irregularities reported June 16 by the Northeast Washington Fair Association.

Short's husband, Mitch J. Short, 46, was president of the association at the time.

The case is being investigated as a possible first-degree theft, and a report is expected to go to the Stevens County prosecutor's office soon, Meshishnek said.

There is no indication that Shelly Short, also 46, was involved in the alleged embezzlement.

Mitch Short declined to comment except to call the timing of a newspaper inquiry "a political smear job at its worst."

"Allowing this to happen to anyone in the public eye sends a chilling message to anyone considering public service," he said in e-mail statement.
Mr. Short might have a point about the timing; ballots just showed up in mailboxes, and the Spokesman-Review is scheduled to make their endorsement for the race in Sunday's paper.

It will be really, really interesting to see if this scandal changes the dynamic of the race at all, because there's no disputing that Short would have to be considered an odds-on favorite to win. She has more money than any of the other candidates ($38,750 ; Sue Lani Madsen is in 2nd place with $32,657), and she certainly seems more connected. If you had asked me last week what I expected the result of the primary to be, I would have given you Short and Madsen to the general election by a wide, wide margin.

Now? That could be a good question. My personal favorite of the five has been Kelly White, a former member of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission whose daughter is a school superintendent. He'd be able to speak knowledgeably about the recreation issues that matter so much to the northern part of the district while at the same time understanding education, which is always important. Perhaps this opens the door for him in a way that it wasn't before and he gets through to the general election.

And I thought that politics in August would be rather dry. Thanks, Spokesman!

Update (8/6): Mitch Short has his name on the ballot, too, for precinct committee officer in Addy.

Also see here for more Shelly Short discussion, including a hit piece from "RepublicanStaffer" and a mild defense from some guy named Ryan.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Fake News Friday: Back Where We Belong Edition

Districts Turn Down $12 Billion In State Funding Because of Strings Attached

(Olympia) The state was thrown into an uproar today as all 295 school districts declined to accept their yearly apportionment from the state, effectively shutting down the schools and throwing the upcoming academic year into chaos.

The districts took the unprecedented step because of concerns about “strings” attached to accepting the state money.

“We felt that by accepting the state money to operate the schools we would be obligating ourselves to follow rules set by the state, and that’s become an increasingly untenable position,” said Seattle Schools Superintendent Dr. Neil Schon at a hastily arranged press conference on the steps of the Capitol building.

Among the issues cited by Schon: requiring a 6-period day when the state only pays for 5 periods; increasingly high teacher cost-of-living costs; a requirement to “adequately teach” the children of the state; requiring instruction in math and reading; and allowing kids into the buildings.

“Last year one of my principals had a great, great idea to reduce discipline problems by banning students from the campus during daylight hours,” explained Dr. Schon, “but then the state comes along and tells us that’s not OK. Another one of my principals figured out that if we didn’t teach math then we couldn’t be held responsible for the math WASL, but again here comes the state saying no, we have to teach math.”

“If we accept this money, then local control means nothing, so we’re just not going to take the money.”

Reaction across the state was mixed. Bob Williams, executive director of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, immediately vowed to fill the void by creating a system of “Carter Schools,” named after the former president. Many parents expressed confusion as to how their children would attend school this coming year, while millions of students urged the administrators to stick to their guns, refuse the money, and not open the schools.

In a related story, many teachers report that they are self-medicating with various over-the-counter liquids to combat the depression that comes on every August 1st when they realize that the precious, precious days of summer are coming to a close and work resumes in scant weeks.

In Unique Agreement, COLA to Be Paid in Cola

(Spokane Valley) The Central Valley School District was faced with an untenable situation. Due to a cost of living allowance (COLA) for teachers passed by the state legislature last year, CV was potentially going to need to lay-off employees and make other drastic cuts to fund the COLA for those employees who are paid for out of local and federal dollars.

That’s when Michael Moneypenny, Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services in the school district, got creative.

“We’ve got a Pepsi bottling plant right here in the district, so I figured why not?” said Mr. Moneypenny as he unloaded crates of Pepsi products from the back of a truck pulled up to the district office.

Under the unique agreement between the district, the teacher’s union, and Pepsi, teacher salaries will remain unchanged from last year. Instead, each teacher will receive 200 cases of the Pepsi product of their choice to make up for the lost salary.

“We were able to provide the pop to the district at cost,” stated a proud Donald “Fizz” Frizzella, plant manager for Pepsi’s Spokane location. “We’re incredibly happy to help out the district and make this connection with the teachers.”

Teachers are said to be delighted with the agreement.

“I’m getting 100 cases of energy drink and 100 cases of Cherry Pepsi,” exclaimed a visibly elated Ryan Grant, a first grade teacher in the district. “Pre-diabetes be damned, I’m doin’ some drinkin’!”

In coordination with the program, any student who collects 8 Pepsi caps will be given extra credit for the class of their choice.

State Board of Education Adopts “Core 24” After Failing to Find Witty Rhyme for the Number 25

(Vancouver) The State Board of Education today adopted a new plan for high school graduation that will require students to earn 24 credits before graduating, up from the current 19. The system, known as “Core 24”, was adopted after members of the state board failed to come up with a neat rhyme for the number 25.

“We really liked 25,” said Sharon King, a member-at-large from Snohomish. “It’s five times five, and it’s also five squared, and if you have five fives, that makes 25. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?”

The 25-credit proposal floundered when a suitable alliterative descriptor couldn’t be agreed upon.

“Jeff (Jackson) and I kind of liked “Thrive with 25”, but Stacy (Kingston) and Mike (Santos) were stuck on “25 Live!” I think it’s a John Kiester thing,” said Ms. King.

Mr. Santos, a superintendent in the Benge School District, echoed Ms. King’s telling of the dispute.

“After we went back and forth for 2 hours about what we thought was best, it seemed a lot easier to just drop it down to 24 and use core as the adjective,” said Mr. Santos.

Added Santos, “I think that we can all agree that Frank Miller’s “Wheeeee! 23!” plan was pretty stupid.”

Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.


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