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Archive for December, 2011

Bilge:

Definition: pap; ridiculous talk or ideas ( informal )
“a load of bilge”

Origins 15th century – Bulge.

December 24, 2011,  a day that will live in infamy? Only if your name is Newt Gingrich, or you’re one of the delusional who hopped on the Newt Gingrich Presidential Battleship as it now lies on the bottom of Richmond’s Pearl Harbor.

So as Newt Gingrich fights off imaginary Japanese Zeros in his  fight to get on the Ballot of Virginia, and champions the right of bad historians everywhere to sally forth with even worse historical analogies, perhaps another more memorable December WWII battle might wiggle in between the Great Newt and the debacle the Virginia Republican Party has served up to the nation this holiday season.

U & I, fellow Republicans, Virginians, and Americans deserve a better battle to be served up this campaign season, so please join me in offering this suggestion to the Republican Party at every level:

 

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At the end of last month my son’s piano teacher told me that there were reports of Scarlet Fever in the local public schools. Scarlet Fever? The Helen Keller disease? The dreaded disease that was a leading cause of child death in the 19th century, now in local schools? I think the last person I can remember talking about having Scarlet Fever is my 84-year-old mother, when she was a child.  So, I did what any 21st century American parent would do I went online, hit my WebMD bookmark and read up on Scarlet Fever. Well, not so bad, manageable; unfortunately, what brought up the subject were the symptoms my son was then complaining about experiencing, minus the rash, consequently, I was looking at child home for a day or more.

Next day, sure enough, when I spoke with the school nurse  she confirmed that there were ‘symptoms’ that could be taken or mistaken for Scarlet Fever going around the schools and my son did stay home for a couple of days before the weekend. This was not the first time my son had missed school because of illness this year, we have always followed a policy that you don’t send a sick kid when symptoms first appear to school for obvious reasons, not only so the kid can get better, quicker, but also because you shouldn’t expose the other kids and staff to the disease. In fact, I believe we are in compliance with MCPS policy in the way we aggressively monitor a possibly sick child / bring the child to be checked out at the doctors.

So one can imagine my surprise when my Scarlet Fever scare a few weeks later turned into a Scarlet Letter from the MCPS. The MCPS Scarlet Letter “A” for “Absent” was a stern warning letter to inform us that our son was at risk of being held back if his absentia continued. Well, holding the kid with some of the highest scores in standardized tests in his class will be a new low, or should I say high comedy mark for a school system which apparently can’t tell if they want sick kids in school or out, smart kids to advance or fall back.

While I can understand somewhat such letters, they take place in a public discussion of scholastic absenteeism and tardiness within Manassas which seems increasingly oblivious to the reality that absenteeism and tardiness happens for perfectly legitimate reasons and that last thing Manassas needs right now is an overzealot school system hunting down laggards and slackers who also happen to be convalescing at home in bed, or hounding their parents and dragging them in front of the magistrate for a lecture upbraiding them for keeping their sick or possibly sick children out of school.

How ridiculous is it to propose giving MCPS policing powers within our families and homes, when it can hardly handle their own schools? Yet, that is what one Manassas resident just did, see Rich Meyer’s open letter in Patch.  Do we really want to aggressively start hauling parents in front of judges for tardiness and absenteeism in our schools?  Such a proposal is one only lawyers would show up to support, and just like in our medical care system today it will be the lawyers/judges and not the doctors who decide: Was your kid really sick?

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This blog was invited to post over on Manassas Patch, here is our first post.

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A Manassas Citizen Guest Post

By Charles Sutherland

At the Education Forward Committee meeting this past weekend, instead of distinguishing herself Mrs. Gail Pope again extinguished any concept of rational economics in the City school system by showing she is out of touch with organizational reality. Sadly, on this cold December morning a Greek tragedy for Manassas tax payers unfolded as the Committee members joined her in that nebulous netherworld of political nirvana. Given the phantasmagorical spending discussions which ensued, presumably Mrs. Pope and the committee members must have inhaled something outside together before joining citizens in the City Hall. Here’s why…

Having been asked to suggest possibilities to improve the school system, she had a printed list of 13 “possibilities” – all of them costing large sums of money. But, the good news: the aggregate total expenditures were less than $1 Billion, coming in at combined ‘start-up costs’ of a mere $129,000,000 and combined increased annual costs to the taxpayers of $49,755,000. What a bargain for the citizens of Manassas.

And, despite her representation that she obtained one cost estimate “from someone I know” and other estimates “from conversations with people in construction” and other numbers were “guesses,” the participants from the City Council and School Board actually took this unprofessional display of financial fiction seriously.

Need one even ask?: There was not even one suggestion of reducing any of the known waste in the school system to pay for any portion of any of these “possibilities.”

At the end of this hour of fantasy only Councilman Mark Wolfe suggested that he is not enthusiastic about spending more money, and the school system should reduce some of its expenditures to help pay for new programs. (Cutting the high salaries of Mrs. Pope’s overpaid papal hierarchy would be a place to start, including her own compensation package of over $200,000 a year for distinguishing herself in making the City of Manassas school system one of the lowest around.)

Of course, far be it for Mrs. Pope to even suggest the “possibility” of any program which does not require more colossal expenditures. (Probably because such a suggestion would not cost any money, and therefore not help her increase her budget and empire.) For example, she did not mention fostering parental involvement to help students. It is nationally known that parental involvement improves education. Even having the parents ‘sign-off’ on weekly test scores or daily homework motivates students. Eventually Mr. Bushnell raised this parental issue, but then blithely dismissed it by saying one “cannot mandate parental involvement.” Really? How about holding back report cards until the parent either signs these routine student documents, or signs an evaluation form at the end of each quarter evaluating their own children – in order to take some parental responsibility away from “the village”?

When asked, Mrs. Pope could not even explain how one “possibility” she presented, namely to reduce the student/teacher ratio to 18:1, would improve student test scores — at her estimated cost of $10 million per year. She could only say “there have been studies on the subject” and she is “looking into it.” More millions of dollars sought from the taxpayers of Manassas, to pay for more suspicious numbers pulled out of the air… or as Mrs. Pope would say, “from someone I know.” Is this a way to run a $100 million a year school system?

The only issue agreed upon at the meeting was that they would meet again. The only thing ‘educational’ about this meeting was that it educated members of the public who attended that Mrs. Pope and the School Board are irresponsible, economic dilettantes. They are like little children playing grown-up, with no intellectual or professional discipline, no knowledge or appreciation of the real costs of what they are doing or proposing, and are devoid of any sense of financial responsibility since daddy and mommy (the taxpayer) will pick up the tab.

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Catholics, Non-Catholics; Locals and Non-Locals;

No matter from whence one comes;

And despite having a practicing Liberation Theologist, Father Ramon among us,

All Manassas should gives thanks on this day,

Because it could be worse.

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In less than two weeks “A Bridge Too Far” has reached the pinnacle, a hallowed, honored place in Manassas Blogdom. We sit atop BVBL‘s links of local blogs. Who could have guessed that “A Bridge Too Far?” would sit atop  Andy Harrover’s “My Side of the Fence”? Not bad for a bunch of …what was that term again Mr. Vice-Mayor?

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Ray Beverage one of the most astute and knowledgeable observers of the Manassas scene makes a valid and notable argument in defense of Councilwoman Bass, however, since BTF’s rule 999.666, section 666.999 does not allow poster to open his own Devil Advocate post in comment section, I have decided to draft RB to be first guest poster on BTF. Mr. Beverage, you’re up:

(Doug, since this is a total D.A. section,) let me toss something out here for commentary by anyone.

Agree Councilwoman Bass has served on the Council well.  Being involved with Human Services like I am, I share a lot of information I get with her. Prior to her appointment to the Council, she was the liaison from the Board. All good work there.

Since you raise the question of her time on the School Board though, I refer to her time as the “Black Mark” as not only were there issues about the private meetings as Mayfield was developed (only one public meeting and then after that, there were private ones above and beyond School Board Public/Private formal meetings.  There was also the credit card snafu regarding charging expenses. Also, the beginning trend of slipping in school performance was also during that time.

So I propose sometimes things are better left in the past and move on, which is what often most folks prefer to do. Proposing putting the spotlight on that time is not expeditious to current discussions.

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