Friday, February 27, 2009

Is 50th Good Enough for Your Child?

“The right action of all of us is made up of the right action of each one of us. Unless each of us is determined to meet the duty that comes to us, we can have no right to expect that others will meet the duties that come to them.”

~ Calvin Coolidge

No one can deny that we are living in trying times. All around the country, our friends, relatives and acquaintances are suffering. On Monday, your friend was laid off. Last Friday, you heard about your relatives living without power and water as their homes are buried in ice. Two weeks ago, your neighbor left with his unit for a tour in Iraq. Your spouse is worried about their job security. Discount stores are advertising entire store clearance sales. We are all hurting in some way. If we are not yet hurting, we are just waiting for it to trickle down to our house, our job, our bank account. We know it is coming.

Your child’s school is not immune.

Duval County expects to suffer from a $150 million budget deficit for the 2009-2010 academic year. All the facts tell us there is NO WAY to “trim the fat” and balance this budget crisis without affecting the classroom. In short, your child's school will suffer.
Guidance and Media services could be reduced!
Valuable resources like Art, Music and PE may be cut!
Essential supplies and materials could disappear altogether!

It is important to understand that this problem, this CRISIS, is not limited to Duval County alone. This fiscal crisis is statewide. The state of Florida was ranked 47th out of 50 states in tax revenue prior to the passing of Amendment One, which served to further reduce our state taxes. Regarding the total amount of funds allocated and spent on education, the state of Florida is ranked 50th in the nation. I ask you, does this represent your priorities? I doubt it.

Article IX, Section I of the Florida Constitution guarantees that:

"The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida."

"It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for … a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education …."

Are our legislators upholding the requirements of our state constitution?

As voters, we share a heavy burden. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves with accurate facts. It is our responsibility to make our voices heard. It is our responsibility to act.
It is our responsibility to advocate for our children. It is our responsibility to fight for their rights, for today and for their future. If not us, then who? If we do not meet our duties, we cannot expect others to meet theirs.

I urge you. Educate yourselves. Research the facts. Go to the source. Ask questions. Speak out. Make demands. Do not accept it as fact because others believe it to be true.

Ask yourself, is 50th good enough for your child?

If the answer is NO - contact our state's legislative delegation and ask for immediate help from one of these short term solutions:

1. One cent increase to the sales tax of Florida for just 3 years. It generates ten billion dollars over 3 years to plug the education funding cuts!

2. Please give flexibility to the school districts in the areas of categoricals, (SAI, Class Size, Instruction Materials, Reading, Safe Schools).

3. Please suspend unfunded mandates on the districts. (Examples: Transportation, Testing & Curriculum Requirements, Safety Nets, and Staffing Requirements.)

4. Please give flexibility of capital funds—so they can be used for General Revenue.

Ask them to find long term solutions to the critical funding situation in Florida and urge them to make public education a priority so that even our children's children can benefit from a right guaranteed them by our state constitution!


Special thanks to coauthor Jenny Nash

Friday, February 20, 2009

All Hail the Birthday Queen!

I can vividly remember the first time I saw dayle timmons. I was a very young teacher sitting in the lobby of Alimacani Elementary waiting to have my first interview for a REAL teaching job. I was trying to be calm and confident as I sat waiting to be called into the "principal's office" when all of a sudden the intercom came on and Mrs. Timmons was summoned to the front office. Now, I had spent 22 years being Susan Timmons and only 12 days as Susan Phillips so my inital instinct was to get up and approach the front counter. Secretly I was thinking, "Oh my gosh - I haven't even been interviewed yet and they are already calling me to the office - I must have the job!" It never dawned on me that there could be another teacher Timmons out there - I had lived in Jacksonville 6 days! Just as I was about to get the attention of the secretary the Mrs. Timmons they were really after breezed in the door just in time to save me from what was sure to have been total and utter humiliation! I didn't know her at all but she was already my hero.

Watching dayle work with her students shaped my own teaching behaviors early on. She was always the most positive, supportive and focused professional. What she did with children was amazing, it still is for that matter. When dayle landed at Chets Creek several years after we opened I was thrilled, another chance to learn from the master! She is a published author, an avid reader and a dedicated learner of any and everything needed to improve her own craft and to support the work of the teachers she coaches. If there is a new idea - dayle had it! If there is a new risk to take - dayle will try it. If you think it can't be done - dayle will prove you wrong! I was never so proud that she was recognized for her contributions to the teaching profession as when she was named the Florida Teacher of the Year in 2004. After all, dayle's learning journeys reach far and wide, and have effected the work of teachers and children she'll never even know. I am thankful everyday that her journeys have reached out to touch and include me. They have changed my professional life forever and after almost 15 years of working with and learning from dayle I can tell you without a doubt that she is still my hero.

Today at Chets Creek we held a very special "surprise" birthday party to honor queen dayle's 60th birthday. It had to be a surprise because she would never have allowed anything else - and it was a extraordinary celebration of a life's journey that is far from over. You see, at 60 dayle can work circles around even our youngest teachers. She regularly takes all of us to the edge of our own professional capabilities and stretches our thinking to include the latest and greatest practice in education. At a time when most would be thinking of retirement dayle is thinking up the next idea to try, risk to take or initiative to implement. After all, 60 is really just the new 22...


Friday, February 13, 2009

Like Mother...Like Daughter...

At Chets Creek we are family - quite literally in some cases. Beyond the real relationships that have been built among colleagues that make this school feel like a family we actually have a number of employees who are related to each other. These dynamic duos and trios provide strong partnerships in service to children. This year two of our cherished family members were recognized by their peers for their contributions to our school community as our "of the Year" representatives.

Earlier in the year Kindergarten teacher Debby Cothern was chosen as our Teacher of the Year. Debby truly has the heart of teacher and delivers her craft with thought and reflection. Her practice is intentional, carried out with conviction in the name of what is right for the children she teaches. In her every action she encompasses the qualities of a teacher who routinely looks inward and challenges herself for her students. Her own learning is at the heart of her outstanding work with children. Along with her co-teacher and sister in law, Michelle Ellis, they maximize every moment with meaningful learning opportunities for the students and teachers they mentor.

Last month Kindergarten Paraprofessional Barbara Ellis was chosen as our Employee of the Year. "Grandma Barbara" was chosen because you will always see her doing whatever is necessary, in order to benefit the school – even if it does not pertain to her normal duties. Her attention to detail and her willingness to help in any way distinguishes her as an outstanding member of our team. Barbara is a wonderful wife, mother of three great children, and grandmother to eight. However, the kindness she shows her own family is not for them alone. She exerts that same love and attention to welcome every child and adult she encounters in our school.

We are so proud of this mother & daughter duo and the fact that they truly represent the entire Chets Creek family and what we are all about - Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

7 Things You Don't Need to Know About Me

Ok - Here we go. I've been tagged by another meme. This time I am charged with telling you 7 things you might not know, or need to know for that matter, about me. I'm a pretty open book so this exercise has been a little painful for me. In fact it has taken me about three weeks to come up with 7 things.

1 – I love MUSIC - ALL kinds of music. Really, I can hardly function when it is quiet and I absolutely can't be still when music is playing. Classical, Country, Pop, Rock, Alternative, Dance, Religious, Jazz, Folk, R & B and Hip Hop/Rap! I know the lyrics to just about any song you could play and my iPod is so diverse I think that even it is confused. I am really a closet rapper. "I'm a poet - bet you didn't know it - make a rhyme everytime"!
2 – My family breeds English Springer Spaniels. I have the Mom and Dad, Grits and Ford, and I absolutely love them and this breed in general. They are the best dogs!!!
3 – I got Engaged during my college Graduation. I came across the stage after receiving my diploma and my sweet husband and his friends unfurled a banner that asked me to marry him – I said YES!! I had no idea a news camera had been tipped off and had been following me that day. They caught the whole story and it made local and national news shows, newspapers and talk radio.
4 – I took Piano lessons for ten years! I started in 3rd grade and played through my senior year in high school. I got to accompany my middle school chorus several times and even played in church every now and again. My absolute favorite songs to play were My Tribute, White Christmas, How Great Thou Art and The Rhythm of Life.
5 – My middle name is Russell. There is 17 years between my sister and I and I think my parents really wanted a boy. Even though I didn’t fulfill this wish for them they let the name stick. I didn’t exactly appreciate the importance of being named after a parent until I grew older. My Daddy died when I was almost four – and I wouldn’t trade sharing his name for anything in the world.
6 – I am a major Night Owl! I very rarely go to sleep before midnight and really only need about 5 hours of sleep to function. I HATE mornings and come ALIVE at night!
7 – I was in England for my sixteenth birthday. My sweet Mama took me and a friend of mine. She wore this crazy hat the whole time we were there and embarrased us to death with it - precious memories. By the way, I still have the hat!

I'll be tagging the following to complete this meme - I can't wait to find out 7 Things We Don't Need to Know About You!

1 - Tom Ruark
2 - Toni Chant
3 - Betsy McCall
4 - Wanda Lankford
5 - Lauren Skipper