About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Lives in Our Drives

One of my responsibilities is that of chairman of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party. Today at the "Speaker's Luncheon" our party holds each Friday at the Boulevard Cafeteria, I took a turn as the speaker giving what I called the "State of the County Party" address. I made some opening remarks which I have reprinted here:

Before I begin, I would like to reflect on why we are involved in this business called “politics.” I first got involved in union politics when I ran for job of political direction of the AFT in 1996 and then ran for the position of county secretary in 2003. But like most of you, I have been involved in various activities long before that.

Some times, politics can seem like a game or sport we play. We engage ourselves in contest, we work to win votes like so many points on the scoreboard, and we hope that through our efforts we win and the other guys lose. Someone like me, who was never athletic, can be rightly accused of using politics as a “sports substitute.”

But that’s really just the surface stuff of what we are doing, the method to get what each of us earnestly desires: a society where human dignity is upheld as our highest goal, a society where “justice for all” is more than just words we mumble over when we say the Pledge to the Flag. We must always be aware that our actions have real purpose. What we do and whom we elect may mean that a child, born into poverty, can be vaccinated against preventable diseases, and that child can receive the pre-school education she needs to stand on equal footing with any other child in this state. Our work may mean that a family can stop using the emergency room doctors as their primary care physicians. That a soldier who has fought in a war he didn’t create can find healing for wounds of both body and mind. That a single mother who works a full time job does not find herself at the end of each month falling further and further into debt and despair. That an elder, a member of the Greatest Generation, having built this Great Nation we all love, does not have to choose between buying groceries and buying prescription drugs.

When I was a lad growing up in a preacher’s home, we had Sunday School attendance contests and Membership Drives trying to increase the people attending church. We were frequently reminded that what we were doing was more than just a numbers game to outdo other churches. We were admonished, “There are Souls in our Goals.” Well, when you are asked to take part in a political activity, talk to strangers in person or over the phone, volunteer time and effort, give money, remember when you are asked to take part in a political drive of some sort, There are lives in our Drives. I know you will do your part.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sometimes You Just Shake Your Head

I have a friend of mine who teaches English at another Oklahoma City high school. He is a fine teacher. His students do well on the district and state tests. However, for various reasons an assistant adminstrator at the school has taken a particular dislike to him and is determined to harass him out of his position there.

The administrator does this by constantly questioning and criticizing his teaching methods. Like the other day, she observed his classroom and noticed that his lesson objective was to "Compare and Contrast" three American authors whose names the teacher had written on the board up front.

After the lesson, the administrator came to the teacher and wanted to know why the teacher had not followed through on his lesson plan. "Why did you not have the students compare and contrast these Black Authors?" The teacher explained that the students were gathering information on the authors and would do the comparison and contrast based on their information during their subsequent lesson.

And the three "Black" authors in question:
Bret Harte
Stephen Crane
Jack London

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What Do You Call A Naked Grizzly?

OK Centennial High School students will participating in our 1st Annual (we hope) "National Pun Day Contest".

One part of the contest will be to try to figure out "Homophone Puns" from clues like the one above. The list is taken from Richard Lederer's book Get Thee to a Punnery published by Wyrick.

How many of these can you figure out? All of them are "homophone puns" or two words that sound the same but have different meanings and usually different spellings. The answer will be on the "Comments" page.

What do you call a(n):

1. female deer sleep

2. insect relative

3. rabbit fur

4. tiresome pig

5. line of fish eggs

6. appendage story

7. wildcat's chain parts

8. ostracized poet

9. spun globe

10. rogue's section of a church

BTW, you call a Naked Grizzly, a "Bare Bear," of course.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How to Help Urban Schools

Grand Avenue
My teacher's union, the American Federation of Teachers, is seeking input on what should be done to improve student achievement in urban schools. My response was to expand alternative education opportunities for students who cannot operate in a traditional school environment due to their lack of self-discipline and social skills. These students make teaching and learning nearly impossible. Teachers have to worry more about managing their classes than they do educating their students.

Let me know what you think.

Good Grief! Nader's Running Again

Nader's Nadir?
Ralph Nader once again has thrown his hat into the presidential ring. His stated reasons are the usual ones given by fringe elements of the political spectrum: the two major parties have no distinquishing differences, the corporations are in charge of both, yahda, yahda, yahda, yahda. I see why President Truman considered his greatest grief came not from conservative, but from those he termed "professional liberals."

I guess it is true that "those who do not have eyes cannot see." Nader must have had his head in the sand or some other orifice for the last 8 years. Perhaps he doesn't want to own up to his personal responsibility in creating the mess we now have in this country. Had Al Gore been allowed to win the state of Florida, and therefore the presidency without dispute, then we would have a much different America than we now have. Perhaps we would not be fighting a two front war in the Middle East,we would not have seen our civil liberties under constant attack, and the rest of the world would certainly not hold us in the contempt they do today.

One question I would ask Ralph if I could is, why the presidency? Why would someone with no experience in elective office believe that he could even be president? Run for Congress or the Senate. Find out what it is like to have to appeal to a constituency that goes beyond the hothouse of your little inner circle. Then apply those lessons to a run for the White House.

Get into the world the rest of us live in Ralph!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Niece Was Accepted!

Got some great news this weekend. My niece, Jeneva, was accepted into the School of Drama at the University of Oklahoma! This means we will be seeing much more of her and her parents, Ed and Cheryl.

The family has a son who is a soldier in Iraq now. He is getting married this summer, so I'd appreciate any prayers for his safe return.

Oklahoma Democratic Party Convention This Weekend

On Friday and Saturday, I attended the Oklahoma Democratic Party State Convention at the Marriott Hotel on Northwest Expressway. The main purpose of the convention was to elect our state delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorade.

We were told that we are the first state in the nation to complete this process, so, technically speaking, Hillary is in the lead since she won the majority of our alloted delegates during the state primary at the beginning of the month.

Mostly, this is a time to fellowship as Oklahoma Democrats, and to hear news about what is happening at the state level. The biggest news, other than the delegate selection, was that for the first time since the Brad Carson fiasco of 2002, our party is out of debt and in the black! This is a major accomplishment for our state party chairman Ivan Holmes who has had to work without salary and a very limited staff since his election to his office at the 2007 convention. Quite an accomplishment for Ivan. He also announced that we will most likely field a candidate for all 101 state House Districts and probably will do so for the Senate districts up for election.

Some pictures from the convention:
Democrats gathering together before the convention
Wilfredo Rivera, Oklahoma City Public Schools Schoolboard Member and announced candidate for OK House District 93
US Representative Dan Boren of Congressional District 2

Friday, February 22, 2008

John McCain and Lobbyists

Friend of the Special Interests?
McCain is running into some trouble in his campaign with his relationship with lobbyists. First, there is the report of him have a rather "cozy" relationship with a female lobbyist and then there are the lobbyists he has running his campaign. McCain may find that his biggest opponent is himself.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Rumors

Actually, this first one is sorta in the prelim stage of discussion. Some of the parents at Classen SAS want to turn the school into an "Enterprise School" as has been done with Belle Isle Middle School. Classen is already a "specialty school" with is OKC School Districtese for a school that can take who they want and reject who they don't want and kick out anyone who doesn't measure up. (My wife, Cat, says they get a lot of former Classen kids over at Northwest Classen this way.)

If Classen was an Enterprise School, thing would be pretty much the same except that the school's parents would have more control over the money they get for buying stuff. They could also secure a "patron" who could support the school, so if, say, Sonic Corp wanted to sponsor Classen, they could do it without jumping through many of the hoops with which other schools have to deal.

Some of the teachers at Classen are nervous, but teachers at Enterprise Schools still fall under the protection of the district's teacher contract unlike those at Charter Schools who have no such protection and have to worry about offending some or more of the parents and patrons who have organized the charter.

My question is, if this is good for schools like Classen, Belle Isle, then why isn't it good for all our schools? Why do some schools get to "cherry pick" while the rest of us have to deal with whoever shows up?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jeb's Confection Creations-Hmmm Good

I noted in an earlier post that I had my wife's sister and her husband staying with us over the weekend. My brother-in-law, Ed, brought with him, a very welcome present: sweeties! He created a Valentine's gift basket that included chocolates and a very tasty confection that consisted on a cookie on a stick dipped in milk chocolate and decorated with white chocolate swirls. My wife indulged my sweet tooth and sent one with me to school. I had several of my students offer me money for it, but I reserved the pleasure of its goodness for my lunch time. I can heartily recommend the experience!

Ed is starting a side-line business with his confectionary skills which he calls "Jeb's Confection Creations." The goodies would make very appreciated gifts. They could even be used as fundraisers. You can get in touch with Ed at 918-461-2125 or at jebthree@valornet.com.

I don't have a picture of his creations, but as soon as I get one, I'll post it for you.

The Race for the Nominaton

Obama's on a roll. Time for Hillary to fold?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rumored School Closings: "The Mulligan Gambit ?"

The latest rumors concerning school closings in the Oklahoma City School District are as follows: Northeast High School and Douglas High School will be merged. The recommended plan is to have Norteast retain its Magnet School status. Just how this will work out, I do not know. Also, Southeast High School and Capitol Hill High School will merge. Southeast will lose its Magnet School designation.

It appears to me that this is an attempt to do an "End Run" around NCLB. The schools in question have not made "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) for five years. If the school does not make AYP for a fifth year, the district must initiate plans for restructuring the school. This may include reopening the school as a charter school, replacing all or most of the school staff, or turning over school operations either to the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness.

Merging schools can be seen as an attempt to comply with this requirement. This way, the district can claim that these are new schools which begins the whole process anew. Something like this was accomplished with opening "New John Marshall" and creating our school, Oklahoma Centennial.

Think of it as the educational equivalent of a "Mulligan" in golf.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Having Family Over This Weekend

My brother and sister-in-law along with their daughter, my niece, are staying with us this weekend. My niece has been accpeted at the University of Oklahoma and hopes to get into their drama program. She is particularly interesting in sets and costuming and brought a portfolio of her work to show those in charge of admitting students to the program.

Her designs looked very good to this untrained eye, but the competiton is very stiff. My brother-in-law told me that only about 40-45 students are accepted out of the over 2400 who typically apply.

I have been very fortunate in the set of in-laws I have now. You cannot pick your relatives, but I have had the benefit of a good draw. Most of my immediate family lives very far away from me, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, so we do not see each other as much as we would like. I have a brother pastoring in South Texas, Bryan to be precise, and we should get together more often.

However, Time and Opportunity are two sisters who seldom get together much in my life these days. I guess I should make a greater effort to bring them together. Who know how much of either I have left in my life.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ben Franklin Chess Player

Benjamin Franklin

I have been reading a fascinating book entitled The Immortal Game: A History of Chess by David Shenk. He talks about the origins of chess somewhere in India 1500 years ago, and shows how the game evolved through cultures and time to its present form and strategies.

Right now, I am reading the chapters that deal with chess during "The Enlightenment" which covers roughly the latter half of the 17th Century up to the end of the 18th Century, give or take a decade or two. One person who figures prominently in that era was Benjamin Franklin who loved the game and became so good at it, he outstripped most good players in America. Some have seen his willingness to live in France as the American ambassador as partly due to the fact that he could find more worthy opponents there.

Franklin even used chess in his diplomatic efforts to persuade the French to aid the Americans in the Revolutionary War. Once Franklin was playing chess with a woman who made a move that exposed her king. Franklin then proceeded to capture the king. The duchess, knowing the proper rules to chess, said, "We do not take Kings so." Franklin responded, "We do in America."

Chess set owned by Benjamin Franklin

Franklin also wrote an essay called "The Morals of Chess":
Ben Franklin on "The Morals of Chess

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors

No, not this kind of rumor!

There are rumors that several Oklahoma City high schools face closure. The places I have heard so far are Northeast, Capitol Hill, and Southeast. The reasons range from under utilizaton to problems with No Child Left Behind. If anyone can enlighten me on this, please e-mail me at greenlynndemocrat@yahoo.com.

I'll let you know when I know.

Who Says Poetry Doesn't Pay???

I hope everyone had as great a Valentine's Day as I did. As I posted earlier, my Valetine's Day present for my wife was to write her a poem which I published on a card I created.

She loved the poem, even cried a little when she read it. So she said, "You gave to me from your talent, so I'm going to give to you from one of mine that you enjoy."

So she proceeded to make for me one of the best steak dinners I've ever had in my life.

I definitely came out on the best end of that exchange!

See why I say that when I married Cat, I felt like the man who won the lottery! Still do.

The dinner looked something like this only with Twice Baked Potato, Steamed Green Beans, and, of course, Mushrooms!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

St. Valentine's Day

Someone said that you either love this day or hate it; there is no neutral ground.

Well, however you feel about this holiday, you can credit or blame this man:

Geoffrey Chaucer

Chaucer, the medieval English poet best know for The Canterbury Tales, wrote a poem entitled "The Parliment of Foules" (1382) which is based on the legend that February 14th is the day when the birds choose their mates for the year:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese [choose] his make [mate].

On this foundation was Hallmark's fortune laid.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dressing Up

I wish I looked as good as these guys.

I am trying to dress better for school: sports jacket, tie, slacks, and so on. I find it helps me to feel better about my work, and the students seem to response. They say I "look like a teacher." I get many of my jackets from the thrift stores. I am surprised a the quality that can be had there for little money. However, my wife has surprised me on a couple of occasions with a really nice suit and a jacket. I will try to get a picture of how I really look sometime.

Mark Twain said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have had little or no influence on society."

National Pun Day is March 4

Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris

Quasimodo Replacement

After Quasimodo's death, the bishop of the Cathedral of Notre Dame sent word through the streets of Paris that a new bell ringer was needed. The bishop decided that he would conduct the interviews personally and went up into the belfry to begin the screening process. After observing several applicants demonstrate their skills, he had decided to call it a day, when an armless man approached him and announced that he was there to apply for the bell ringer's job. The bishop was incredulous.

"You have no arms!"

"No matter," said the man, "observe!" He then began striking the bells with his face, producing a beautiful melody on the carillon. The bishop listened in astonishment, convinced that he had finally found a suitable replacement for Quasimodo. Suddenly, rushing forward to strike a bell, the armless man tripped and plunged headlong out of the belfry window to his death in the street below. The stunned bishop rushed to his side. When he reached the street, a crowd had gathered around the fallen figure, drawn by the beautiful music they had heard only moments before. As they silently parted to let the bishop through, one of them asked, "Bishop, who was this man?"

"I don't know his name," the bishop sadly replied, "but his face rings a bell."

The following day, despite the sadness that weighed heavily on his heart due to the unfortunate death of the armless campanologist, the bishop continued his interviews for the bell ringer of Notre Dame. The first man to approach him said, "Your Excellency, I am the brother of the poor armless wretch that fell to his death from this very belfry yesterday. I pray that you honor his life by allowing me to replace him in this duty."

The bishop agreed to give the man an audition, and, as the armless man's brother stooped to pick up a mallet to strike the first bell, he groaned, clutched at his chest and died on the spot. Two monks, hearing the bishop's cries of grief at this second tragedy, rushed up the stairs to his side. "What has happened?" the first breathlessly asked. "Who is this man?"

"I don't know his name," sighed the distraught bishop, "but he's a dead ringer for his brother."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Looking Ahead: Part III, Can An "Insider" Be A Change Agent?

This is the third in a series of essays on the what the Oklahoma City School District should look for in a future superintendent for its schools. I have written that we might be well advised to look internally, inside our district, to find our next superintendent. This person I have termed an "Insider" as opposed to an "Outsider", someone whose has no prior connection to Oklahoma City Public Schools.

I would now like to deal with the problems that an Insider would have in bringing about real change in our district, something all agree is desperately needed if we are to do the job we know needs to be done for our students. In politics, it is often to one's advantage to be an "Outsider". Politicians tout the fact that they are "Outside the Beltway," or that they are going to bring real change to Washington or whatever state or city they want to reform because they have not been one those "Insiders" who have been messing things up for so long. Of course, once the "Outsider" becomes an "Insider," they suddenly proclaim the virtues of "experience" and the fact that they don't need "on the job training" and so it goes.

However, I must acknowledge that an Insider might have problems creating change. For one, if there are problems with the institution, the Insiders have in some small measure been part of it. They also may face resistance to change due to the fact that many of who were their colleagues are now their subordinates. Familiarity breeds contempt as well as jealousy. This will give some of them reason to resist change. Of course, there are no shortages of pretexts to excuse truculence. Whoever becomes the district's leader will have to deal with this one way or another.

I do believe that the Insider has some strengths which may work to this person's advantage. The Insider's familiarity with the people working in our district may allow this person to find means of motivation of which an Outsider may be unaware. The Insider may be aware of the many "landmines" or sensitive issues that have created obstacles to change. The Insider should at least be familiar with the various social and political forces at work in our district. The Insider should, if the right candidate is chosen, have established credibility, what the Greeks called ethos because this person will have worked with the same type of students in the same buildings, and dealt with the same frustrations as the rest of the district's employees. In the Navy this would be called "Blue Water" experience meaning that one has actually sailed the ships and fought the battles.

While this all may seem to those outside our district as so much "fuss and bother" when what is really needed is for someone to "go in and kick tails and take names," they are real concerns when one considers the true nature of a democratic school system such as we have in America. Schools are, after all, a reflection of the society and culture that produced them. Schools in America are different from those in Asia or Europe, for example. Schools in Oklahoma City are different from schools anywhere else in America. The same is true for any district. My plan is next to examine what is meant by a "democratic school system" and then apply that definition to the Oklahoma City Public Schools.

IEPs, Education Tools or Enabling Devices?

Individualized Educational Programs, better know in Ed Speak as IEPs, are a federal requirement for students with special education needs such as physical handicaps or learning disabilities. The programs are written for students who qualify according the guidelines of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law passed by the federal government and most recently updated in 2004. Basically, these students have programs written to meet their special needs by the student's special education teacher and a team of others including regular education teachers, such as myself, and the student's parents.

The intent of IEPs is to give students with special needs the individual instruction they need to meet those needs. Often students are given "modifications" by their lead teachers, usually the students' special teachers. These include things like "preferential steating," extra time to complete tests and assignments, reduced assignments, or changes in which the students are taught such as emphasis on tactile or visual tools.

These are good practices, but they can lead to abuses of the system. For example, if a student is given a failing or less than satisfactory grade, the teacher must be able to demonstrate that s/he has done the required "modifications" or the grade can be successfully challenged. Special education students often are made to feel immune from the schools discipline policy because their behavior in the school is taken into account during the IEP. If a student is considered to be an Attention Deficient Disorder victim, then the student's behavior must be "accomodated" in the classroom.

That is why IEPs are considered by many teachers, especially regular or "grade-level" teachers to be little more than "enabliling devices" which students and their parents use to exempt the student from the requirements non-IEP students must obey.

I would be interested from hearing what some of the educators who read this blog think.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Valentine Poem for My Wife

The 3 Fates

You, Me, and the Moirae

Clotho spun out our threads nearly together when both
The 2nd Elizabeth and 2nd Great American novel debuted.
Lachesis chose to weave them in parts of the tapestry
That begin far apart, and then
Oh so close, yet out of each other’s sight
Which was wise for though we were near physically
For a while my straight stitches would have insulted
Your wild arabesques.
My primary colors would have
Clashed with your wild hues.
We were both a work in progress (we hoped).
In time, our weaves moved ever closer.
At first our patterns only touched tangentially,
Similar professions, similar causes,
A meeting here, a rally there, a holy mission together.
Nothing, we found was ever simple.
Finally, our patterns turned in each other’s direction,
And we discovered that my straight lines had curved
And your bends had lost their sharp twists
So that your weft blended with my warp.
The joy is in making the tapestry,
And we both pray that Atropos witholds her shears
Since we are far from finished with it.

Note: The Moirae were the Greek names for the three fates. Clotho started the thread, Lachesis spun it, and Atropos cut if off, signifying death. In this poem, I'm am trying to combine the idea of spinning thread with weaving it into some kind of pattern.

Responses to the Coppernoll Column

The Donated Board Looks a Bit Like This

I've had some responses to Carrie Coppernoll's column that ran on Saturday. This morning a man came to my classroom to offer me an inlaid chess table with some very good looking chess pieces done on a "Roman Empire" theme (Augustus Caesar as King, Roman footsoldiers as pawns, senators as bishops and so forth). Of course, I said a very grateful yes. The kids will fight over who gets to play the set, so I am going to have to make it some sort of "honor" to get to use it.

He explained that he and his wife would play chess regularly, but that she had passed away last year. He wanted to donate the set so someone would get as much joy out of it has he had.

Very generous people we have living in our community.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Barack Obama wins 4 states, 1 Territory

Obama Wins Big

Barack Obama has swept 4 states in the presidential primaries: Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska, and Maine. He also won in the Virgin Islands. Obama seems to have a slight advantage over Clinton in the remaining primaries. Texas will be important since it is a large state with a large Hispanic population who seem to be favoring Clinton over Obama. Ohio will also be a big test. Some have said that the race will be decided by whomever the Democratic Party's "Super Delegates" choose. These are the Democrats elected to state and national offices as well as party officials. This has been the most exciting presidential race I've seen in years. Many of my students are getting into it, something that hase't happened in the years I have been involved in public education.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Carrie Coppernoll Writes about Our Chess Club

Carrie Coppernoll

Carrie Coppernoll wrote a column today for The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City's daily newspaper. I wrote her about our chess club and the fact that we needed to raise funds to buy some T-shirts for the students with the club logo, designed by my brother Rick, on it.

I met Carrie when she came to speak at one of the Oklahoma County Democrat's Friday Luncheon's. Her columns appear in the "MyNewsOK" section of The Oklahoman which covers local and community news.

OCHS Bison Chess Club Logo

School chess club offers students strategies for life

If you would like to help us, donations can be mailed to Oklahoma Centennial High School, c/o Lynn Green, 9017 N University, Oklahoma City, OK 73114. Checks can be made out to OCHS Chess. Donors of $100 or more will have their name or company name put on the back of the team shirts.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

40 Developmental Assets (TM)

I have been reading a fascinating book entitled Chess for Success by Maurice Ashley who is the first African American International Chess Grandmaster. His books has convinced me that I made a right decision, for once, to begin a chess club at my high school, Oklahoma Centennial.

I will write more about what he said pertaining to chess, but I just finished a chapter where he discusses research done by the Minneapolis based Search Institute whose mission is to provide leadership and knowledge into promoting healthy children. Their research has lead them to identify 40 predictors of healthy growth in young people which they call the The 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. Young people who have 31 or more of these assets are less likely to engage in high risk behavior and choose instead more productive purposes for their lives. However, their research has shown that American youths average only about 18 of these assets, and as youths grow older, their assests diminish.

Mr. Ashley claims that chess is an ideal way to build more of these assets into chldren. In any case, I find the list to be a very practical way to measure how well we are helping young people to reach their full potential.

Here is the list in Pdf format

National Pun Day is Coming!

Frank and Ernest by Thaves
Graffiti by Gene Mora

March 4

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Double Standard Alive and Well on the Campaign Trail?

Anti-Hillary T-Shirt

Hillary seems to draw highly negative and very personal comments. I wonder if this doesn't say more about her detractors than it does about her. What if we were to make fun of Obama's race or McCain's prison days, or Romney's Mormon faith? Wouldn't that say more about who we are than who they are? When some clown shouted at Hillary, "Iron my shirt.", the media treated it like a big laugh. Suppose someone were to yell at Obama, "Shine my shoes." or held up the kind of sandals McCain wore as a POW at one of his campaign stops, or yelled at Romney, "Is your Mormon underwear boxers or briefs?" We would be outraged, justifiably so. We'd also condemn the heckler rather than the candidate. I find it interesting that when it's directed at Hillary, it's just good political humor.

The Race So Far

We have a two-way fight. I pray that Clinton and Obama stay on the issues and personal attacks.

Hillary Wins In Oklahoma

My Wife's Candidate

Hillary Clinton won big in Oklahoma although Obama picked up several delegates and carried Oklahoma County. Edwards fell below the required 15% minimum of the vote and will not get any pledged delegates from Oklahoma. So, if I go to the Democratic National Convention,it will be as a tourist.

My wife, however, could become an Oklahoma delegate to the national convention because she is a pledged Hillary supporter.

So far, she has refrained from claiming, "I told you so."

Monday, February 04, 2008

An Elegy for Former Oklahoma State Rep. Opio Toure

Opio Toure

Opio Toure, champion of social justice, has died, age 53. Though a small man physically and always s gentle soul, Toure was a giant and a warrior for the rights of the dispossessed in Oklahoma. He first drew attention when he and a group of fellow Langston University students led a sit-in at the governor's office in the 70's. The reason for their non-violent action was to head off an attempt to close Langston. Some members of the legislature had proposed turning the historically black college into a prison!

While in the legislature, opposed the "Right to Scab" state constitutional amendment. He fought for the rights of Oklahoma's workers to receive notice before being terminated from their jobs. Currently, workers in our state can be fired without notice or reason given. He was the driving force behind a bill that prevented the execution of the severly mentally handicapped. He repeatedly called for a moritorim on the use of the death penalty in Oklahoma.

After his retirement in 2006, Opio worked for Langston University developing a program to increase minority entrollment in law schools. He also served as professor of pre-law at his Alma Mater.

Opio's wife, Linda Toure, is an adminstrator in the Oklahoma City School District where she serves as academic director for the Frederick Douglass Learning Community.

Opio was a good man with a heart that yearned for justice. He will be greatly missed.

A Sign of the Apocalypse?

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Albrecht Durer

An editorial in The Oklahoman newspaper today mirrored much that I have said so far about the fact that we should look internally for our next superintendent. Quoting part of the article:

It isn't unusual for urban districts to seek superintendents with experience leading urban schools — with good reason, because urban districts have some unusual challenges. But Oklahoma City's recent superintendent history shows the pitfalls of going beyond state borders to find a schools chief.

They make a particular recomendation to the school district to consider suburban school superintendents. I disagree with them there. If the candidate has not had considerable experience with the particular problems of urban schools, then s/he will lack the ethos needed to persuade the administrators, teachers, staff and patrons to follow his/her vision for the district.

I don't know if I should be concerned about the fact that the Oklahoman and I see this issue similarly. Perhaps this is more a case of common sense rising to the surface.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Looking Ahead--Part II: Change Agent

I would like to now look at some of the pitfalls that any new Superintendent will face in the Oklahoma City School District. Specifically, I wish to address the need we have in this district for an agent of change.

Obviously, we need a change of direction in this district. We have been known for a long time as the district that parents want to get their children away from. Actually, parents seem to be willing to have students go to Oklahoma City schools through the elementary years, for the most part. However, at least in my northside end of town, parents look for alternatives such as suburban, private, or charter schools, once their children leave the elementary years and venture into the middle and high school years. There are many reasons for this: a greater mixing of economic and demographic groups, an unruly learning environment, the problems associated with adolescence, loss of community and so on. Whatever the reason, performances take a big nosedive in the middle/high school grades.

Everyone has his/her favorite villain in all this: poor teaching, inconsistent discipline, intimidated administrators, poor parenting, poor classroom management. All fingers are pointed in every direction except back towards the pointer. But it is obvious, that we can keep doing what we are doing because it is not getting us what we need, and especially not getting our children what they need.

So the next superintendent must be change the direction of our journey. All change is uncomfortable and threatening. So the problem becomes how do we do this without having those who need to change feeling threatened and retreating into little "turf wars" that sabotage real, constructive change? To do this, I think that we must develop a dual attitude towards our educational practices: one that is at the same time both demanding and yet forgiving.

I can draw a personal example here as a classroom teacher. I attend professional development seminars, both voluntarily and under duress, where some super-successful teacher is brought to show us how we should be doing our work. Typically, these "Stars of Education" have taken miserable students in degrading environments and made academicians out of them. They have been given beaten up sows' ears and somehow turned them into beautiful silk purses. And as I sit in the audience, my temptation is to find all the reasons why these speakers would have bombed if they had my classes. I look the results of my own efforts and feel that they don't match what I am hearing. So I put on my own "Defense Shield" the missiles of Discouragement and Disappointment. Of course, I also shoot down any chance that I might be able to learn something good from the presenter, something I might be able to "take back to Jerusalem" the next time I face my students. I close myself off to the chance to change.

So instead, I adopt a different attitude in which I both demand excellence in my teaching and forgive those times where I don't quite get the results I hoped for. I find that I don't have to be defensive if I know I am trying to improve at all times. All humans and all human efforts are imperfect, but humans are also capable of improvement and achievement.

I think that a superintendent who can inspire this attitude in everyone associated with this glorious and yet often frustrating business of education will go a long ways towards breaking down the barriers to change. We should feel that we must improve, but at the same time acknowledge that this is not a condemnation of who we are right now.

My wife and I have a few family "mottoes". One of them is, "It's a Work in Progress. (We Hope!)" We use this whenever we try something new like home improvement or a new recipe. It recognizes that we may not get things right the first time, but that's no reason to give up. If we keep at it, we will learn how. After all, a doctor's work is called his/her "practice.” This is just as true for the work of a teacher.

More Pictures ffrom Our Birthday Celebration for Ms. Thompson

Celebrating Our Principal's Birthday

Last Friday, the staff of Oklahoma Centennial High School joined in a celebration of the 51st birthday of our principal Carol Thompson. This is more than the honoring of one individual, though we really do like Ms. Thompson. This is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the work and the mission that binds us all together as administrators, teachers, and staff members. My contribution to the festivities was to make buttons for everyone with Ms. Thompson's picture along with our Happy Birthday wishes.