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Mr. Casey Barduhn, Superintendent
Westhill Central School District
400 Walberta Park Road
Syracuse, New York 13219
Dear Mr. Barduhn and Board of Education Members:
It is with the deepest regret that I must retire at the close of this school year, ending my more than twenty-seven years of service at Westhill on June 30, under the provisions of the 2012-15 contract. I assume that I will be eligible for any local or state incentives that may be offered prior to my date of actual retirement and I trust that I may return to the high school at some point as a substitute teacher.
As with Lincoln and Springfield, I have grown from a young to an old man here; my brother died while we were both employed here; my daughter was educated here, and I have been touched by and hope that I have touched hundreds of lives in my time here. I know that I have been fortunate to work with a small core of some of the finest students and educators on the planet.
I came to teaching forty years ago this month and have been lucky enough to work at a small liberal arts college, a major university and this superior secondary school. To me, history has been so very much more than a mere job, it has truly been my life, always driving my travel, guiding all of my reading and even dictating my television and movie viewing. Rarely have I engaged in any of these activities without an eye to my classroom and what I might employ in a lesson, a lecture or a presentation. With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.
A long train of failures has brought us to this unfortunate pass. In their pursuit of Federal tax dollars, our legislators have failed us by selling children out to private industries such as Pearson Education. The New York State United Teachers union has let down its membership by failing to mount a much more effective and vigorous campaign against this same costly and dangerous debacle. Finally, it is with sad reluctance that I say our own administration has been both uncommunicative and unresponsive to the concerns and needs of our staff and students by establishing testing and evaluation systems that are Byzantine at best and at worst, draconian.
This situation has been exacerbated by other actions of the administration, in either refusing to call open forum meetings to discuss these pressing issues, or by so constraining the time limits of such meetings that little more than a conveying of information could take place. This lack of leadership at every level has only served to produce confusion, a loss of confidence and a dramatic and rapid decaying of morale. The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come. The analogy that this process is like building the airplane while we are flying would strike terror in the heart of anyone should it be applied to an actual airplane flight, a medical procedure, or even a home repair. Why should it be acceptable in our careers and in the education of our children?
My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom. Teacher planning time has also now been so greatly eroded by a constant need to “prove up” our worth to the tyranny of APPR (through the submission of plans, materials and “artifacts” from our teaching) that there is little time for us to carefully critique student work, engage in informal intellectual discussions with our students and colleagues, or conduct research and seek personal improvement through independent study. We have become increasingly evaluation and not knowledge driven. Process has become our most important product, to twist a phrase from corporate America, which seems doubly appropriate to this case.
After writing all of this I realize that I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists. I feel as though I have played some game halfway through its fourth quarter, a timeout has been called, my teammates’ hands have all been tied, the goal posts moved, all previously scored points and honors expunged and all of the rules altered.
For the last decade or so, I have had two signs hanging above the blackboard at the front of my classroom, they read, “Words Matter” and “Ideas Matter”. While I still believe these simple statements to be true, I don’t feel that those currently driving public education have any inkling of what they mean.
Sincerely and with regret,
Gerald J. Conti
Social Studies Department Leader
Cc: Doreen Bronchetti, Lee Roscoe
My little Zu.
Posted by kpete | Mon Apr 8, 2013, 10:17 AM (1 replies)
SUN APR 07, 2013 AT 11:53 PM PDT
You do know "they" want people to shoot each other dead, right? I'm just checking...
by Ray Pensador
When conditions get sufficiently bad (due to increased austerity policies, which by the way, are being imposed on purpose), once you flood communities with guns, and once you put in place a regime of laws that expand the justification for justifiable homicides, then you've created the perfect conditions for people to start shooting at each other.
Once people start shooting and getting away with it, then the business cartels keep pushing more and more boiler-plate laws expanding the justification for more shootings.
Eventually this will bring about a situation where you will have mainly right wing groups across the country armed to the teeth, emboldened to intimidate social justice activists as the conditions deteriorate due to the imposition of austerity, i.e., purposely defunding the proper functioning of government (of the the people and by the people).
What's behind all this? That's also pretty straightforward. What these fascistic business cartels are doing is taking down the regulatory infrastructure, the social safety net, and etc., in order to eventually align labor costs to those of developing countries. Yes, folks, it's about money; it's about putting a fascist boot on your neck, figuratively and literally.
So there you have it. That's what's happening.
Posted by kpete | Mon Apr 8, 2013, 09:56 AM (12 replies)
ESPN writer destroys Hannity: “First of all, they were losing! Okay? So, that tactic wasn’t working.
ESPN writer destroys Hannity for defending ‘homophobic slurs’ at Rutgers
In an interview with CNN’s Howard Kurtz on Sunday, Katz noted that “nobody is defending this at all.”
“But there are some exceptions in the media,” Kurtz said, pointing to Bolling and Hannity.
“It’s ridiculous!” Katz replied.
“First of all, they were losing! Okay? So, that tactic wasn’t working. You can clearly motivate without physical contact, without slurs. I mean, it’s been proven time and time again at all levels of sports. You do not have to go to that level.”
Posted by kpete | Mon Apr 8, 2013, 09:54 AM (1 replies)
Here’s All You Need to Bust the NRA
By: TuffsNotEnuff Sunday April 7, 2013 5:13 pm
To bust them as blood-gargling psychopaths.
In recent years 38% of the 16,000,000 annual civilian gun purchases were reported as being bought for “home defense.” At a conservative estimate of $500 each, that makes for $8-billion in “home defense” purchases.
But what are these guns used for ?
Not home defense.
This FBI summary of nationwide police reports records a grand total of 232 civilian justifiable homicides. The deceased were engaged in felonies such as threatening or beating the shooters. You are not allowed to shoot trepassers or garage band drummers, no matter their size, shape or smell.
In the details, only 80 of these incidents occurred at the residences of the shooters.
NRA has sold Americans on a claim that there are 1,000,000 to 2,500,000 annual gun defenses.
THE BLOODY REST:
Posted by kpete | Sun Apr 7, 2013, 10:49 PM (6 replies)
“Something’s Got To Give.”
(Written by Old Guy w/The Dog. (OGwD))
Undercover Cop (UC): “My girlfriend says she likes what your doing, so I decided to check it out myself. I am on the fence, myself.”
He was wearing a V-necked sweater and a crisp, blue shirt and tie. His hair had a slight frontal wave as if he had to wax his crew cut to appear to have more hair. Brill Cream? He stood next to OGwD, side to side, signaling a conversation was intended.
OGwD: “Are you asking me why I am here? ….. I can only speak for myself and my family.”
UC: “Yeah. (Nods.)”
Old Guy with the Dog takes a deep breath and looks up at the tall buildings, then up at the sky, and says, “Something’s got to give.”
UC: (Smiling.) Old Guy with the Dog takes this to mean, “Go ahead.” They are about the same age, the age of all-used-up with grey hair.
“They aren’t leaving us anywhere to go. I am like a cornered animal. I have been unemployed longer than just this economic crash. I did two training programs. I paid for those myself. But the jobs aren’t there.”
“My kids have 160,000 dollars in school loans. They did everything we asked them to. Studied hard. Got into good colleges. Borrowed the money so they could finish when we ran out of help to give them. But the jobs are not there for them. You think those banks up there in those buildings are going to forgive those loans?”
“I could sit up in my house and feed the woodstove. Or I could come down here and try to do something about all this. What would you do?”
UC: (Shrugs evasively.)
OGwD: “Well, something’s got to give.”
Posted by kpete | Sun Apr 7, 2013, 10:35 AM (1 replies)
Posted by kpete | Sat Apr 6, 2013, 10:01 AM (10 replies)
With Mayflower, Arkansas struggling to deal with the 84,000 gallons of crude that began running through its streets last week, ExxonMobil has been made the recipient of the National Safety Council's Green Cross for Safety medal.
The group praised Exxon and its corporate bosses for "comprehensive commitment to safety excellence." No mention was made of the developing Arkansas disaster.
"It is evident that ExxonMobil is committed to excellence in safety, security, health and environmental performance," council president Janet Froetscher said while presenting the award to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. "This organization is a wonderful example of the role corporations can play in preventing injuries and saving lives," she added.
An ExxonMobil press-release described the cleanup operations and the effect on the wildlife of the area.
“Fourteen dead ducks, one dead nutria and two dead turtles have been recovered,” said ExxonMobil, adding that a beaver and a muskrat had also been affected.
more, plus video:
Posted by kpete | Sat Apr 6, 2013, 09:59 AM (1 replies)
FRI APR 05, 2013 AT 04:54 PM PDT
I live on $710.00 a month, what exactly am I supposed to cut?
by Horace Boothroyd III
My rent is a reasonable $209.00 because I have a HUD Cube. For how long?, who knows?
That leaves me with $501.00
Phone $35.00 a month.
That leaves me with $466.00
Internet is $45.00 dollars a month.
That leaves me with $421.00
My medication is $50.00 a month, counting bare bones OTC care too.
That leaves me with $371.00
Pootie care is another $50.00 a month-not including vet and tag costs.
That leaves me with $321.00
I had to borrow $140.00 last month because the vet bill the previous month left me behind.
That leaves me with $181.00
With that I'm expected to feed myself for a month. But also maintain grooming standards with products for me because of my skin sensitivities and allergies are extremely expensive. I make what I can to avoid allergens and to reduce costs but there are many things I can't make. Toothbrushes, toilet paper, trash bags, many cleaning products. I try to get clothes from the discount store, or thrift stores. Shoes too, I should be getting special ones but I lack the fortitude to break the HMO bureaucratic maze to get them. But shoes are a large recurring expense for me because I do walk so much.
I also have learned to cook everything I eat from scratch. Again because of finances and allergies. But food is not inexpensive. I can drink the generic coffee at $12.00 a can and I can buy bulk size foods at the restaurant supply. But by the end of the first week it is usually doubtful I will have more than one hundred dollars left.
Today after getting all things covered, with the exception of some food stuffs I'm just going to have to go without.
I have a grand total of $18.00.
No worries. I get to start all over again on the first.
But what exactly am I being wasteful with?
And more importantly after thirty years of 'compassionate' conservatism don't you think it is time for some Humanism instead?
Posted by kpete | Sat Apr 6, 2013, 09:25 AM (358 replies)
Bob Woodward Describes Dinner With Al Gore As Unpleasant
He also told an unflattering, but amusing story about sitting next to former Vice President Al Gore at a dinner, saying being with him was “taxing,” and added, “To be really honest, it’s unpleasant.”
Woodward said Gore pressed him on why the journalist didn’t go after Bush, who beat Gore in the 2000 presidential election, over the war in Iraq.
Gore was a former reporter before becoming a politician, and “he thinks he invented (reporting) also,” Woodward joked in reference to an often misquoted statement that the ex-vice president claimed he invented the Internet.
Posted by kpete | Fri Apr 5, 2013, 02:07 PM (4 replies)
Five Long Years I Thought You Were My Man
By mistermix April 5th, 2013
Is there some reverse-backflip-flying-fuck-ten-dimensional-super-secret-decoder-ring-holder-only-negotiating-ninja reason that it’s smart to put chained CPI, which normal people will call “a cut in Social Security”, in Obama’s budget? Or is it as stupid as it looks? Because Democrats cutting Social Security is, in my narrow mind, always fucking stupid, not just because it makes old people eat generic instead of Alpo, but also because, come election time, Republicans will be yelling “you cut Social Security” while Democrats will be making wonky mouth noises in the style of an hour-long Powerpoint presentation demonstrating the effect of chained CPI on the fourth and fifth deciles of future recipients in inflation-adjusted outlier years.
Here’s how you “fix” Social Security: Make rich folks pay more Social Security tax. The end.
Is that so goddam hard?
Update: Just to be perfectly clear, it is, given the current state of Congress, not just hard, but probably impossible to enact tax hike into law. If you are really the “Party of Social Security” and you want to show it, it should not be hard at all to put a proposed tax hike into your budget, especially if it’s structured to kick in at $300K or $400K or some other big number, leaving a gap between the current limit ($113K or so) and the new “Social Security tax on the rich”.
Posted by kpete | Fri Apr 5, 2013, 12:54 PM (24 replies)