Tuesday, December 24, 2013

50 Equal States

What does America look like when population is equalized? For one thing, we end up with much of PA and NJ, in the land of Pocono. From Neil Freeman via Daily Kos.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Find Your Linguistic Roots

This is a fun and pretty accurate toy from the NYT. I turn out to be fairly downstate, with Paterson, NJ, thrown in.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Shortly before he died, Cornell's Carl Sagan taped this prescient interview.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

New Websites

I spent the last few days putting together a couple of new websites, one for me, and another for the Dryden Drama Boosters. Next up, the County Democrats. If only someone would pay me, this could be a new career.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Petition Worth Signing

If you live in NYS, consider it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Case to Watch

The NYS teacher's union is suing the state to have the tax cap declared unconstitutional. I don't think much of their chances, but certainly their analysis is exactly correct.
"The way New York funds public education is already grossly inequitable, denying the poorest students with the greatest needs the rich array of programs and services they need for success - services more affluent students get every single day," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "What the tax cap does, in essence, is to take this grotesque educational inequality and accelerate it even more."
It's nothing new; the Statewide School Finance Consortium has been banging this drum for three years. But NYSUT did the math and has mounted the suit. We'll see what happens a week from tomorrow.

And Another Merger Fail

This failure is more surprising than the earlier Romulus/South Seneca defeat, because in this case, both districts would have won something. SVE needed Candor's financial stability, and Candor needed SVE's student population. It is likely that SVE will now have to look at a major tax hike just to maintain basic services. But you can't fight history, or so it appears.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Another PISA Fail

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) sponsors testing in 70 nations via its Programme for International Student Assessment, known as PISA. They test every three years, and the results from 2012 are just out now. In our defense, we educate all our children, who are anything but homogeneous. Nevertheless, we haven't improved an iota in years. I heard someone on the news this morning claiming that this proves the reform agenda isn't working. But implementation of the Common Core has just begun. We'd need to check back in about 9–12 years to see whether our 15-year-olds' scores had improved. Given typical trends in U.S. education, we won't be given 9–12 years and will be on to something new before we have a chance to witness change.

I like the way PISA has pulled out certain states to make a point about achievement. Why Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida were selected, I do not know. In general, MA and CT did better than the national average, and FL did worse, which I could have predicted without the data.

When I try to argue in favor of the Common Core State Standards, I usually pull out two points: PISA scores unbecoming a world power and NAEP scores that indicate significant disparity among states in terms of student achievement. This report illustrates both.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Required Reading

I wasn't always a fan, but I am now. Here's local Amy Dickinson interviewed on her marriage to Bruno Schickel. Really a lovely piece.

Friday, November 22, 2013


And yes, I believe that Oswald acted alone. Haven't recent events proved how easily that can happen? The banality of evil, and all.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I appreciate her more as an editor than as an author/poet—she had a gift for sussing out the brilliance in a variety of favorite children's book authors, many of whom would have had no career without her. How many editors are worth their own imprint today? I can't think of one.

Required Reading

A thoughtful article by our local fishing and hunting writer, proving that not all Second Amendment supporters are loons and that moderation is unfairly quashed outside of politics as well as inside.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Common Core Crackpots

I will probably attend Dryden's "family information night" about the Common Core, presented by their new Director of Curriculum & Instruction, although I could probably present it just as easily as he can. I will attend to offer some support, because something tells me that it's mostly going to be attended by Common Core Crackpots, the very sort that created a successful plan to shout down the Commissioner as he opened up public forums to present NYS's rollout of the standards.

There's a tremendous amount of prepackaged political blather around the CCSS, and I can't remember the last time things got this vicious over an educational change. To be fair, the states never should have rolled out new testing at the same time, and they never should have tied teacher evaluations to the new standards. Testing and teacher evaluation are part of a federal program, No Child Left Behind. Common Core is a program designed by the states. The conflation of the two has led crackpots to squawk about a federal takeover of the schools. They seem to believe that local control existed before CCSS, which it certainly did not. State standards have existed for decades, and because of that, curricula in Buffalo and Groton are more alike than they are different. We have had a national test for decades as well; it's called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and it is given to random students across the U.S. at grades 4, 8, and 12 to benchmark states and deliver a snapshot of progress nationwide. However, because each state gets to choose its own cut score for the NAEP, a glance at the scores demonstrates that students in Massachusetts are less proficient than those in Tennessee, and those in California are less proficient than those in Mississippi. It's easy to come out smelling like a rose if you can name your own proficiency score. Meanwhile, according to an international test known as the PISA, which does not allow any nation to determine its own cut score, the U.S. ranks 17th—average in reading, and well below average in math. Which nations do best? Those with national standards that focus on solving problems and creative thinking. What do the CCSS do? Focus on solving problems and creative thinking.

Nevertheless, we are subjected to this kind of stuff, which is so riddled with prepackaged propaganda and myth that I couldn't even begin to dissect it on the IJ blog. Maybe I can do better in person. That's why I will probably attend tomorrow. It's at 6:30 PM in the auditorium, which implies that they expect at least a few people to show up.

LATER: Well, I apologize for the crackpots crack. The Director of C & I, Adam Bauchner, was brilliant about dousing all politics and just talking about the standards, differentiating them neatly from curriculum, instruction, and assessment. A quiet comment about developmental appropriateness was the only political question all night, and Bauchner fielded it with examples that clearly supported his opinion that the CCSS are appropriate right down the grades. I didn't learn anything new other than that there are in fact parents out there who just want the facts. My bad. I have clearly spent too much time online being irked by people's ignorant rants.

Unexpected Results

The Dryden Democrats swept in Dryden on Election Day, and it's hard to explain exactly why, although some of what Simon posts here was surely at play. The fact is that the Republican agenda and the Tea Party agenda aren't precisely the same, not here in town, and probably not out in the wider world, either. Talking about gun rights in a county/town election didn't play. Pretending to be concerned about the poor didn't fool anyone. Harping on the cost of legislative furniture just sounded petty. It wasn't as though there weren't real issues to discuss. There were more than a few times when I said, "Geez, if I were running their campaign, I'd ___." Luckily for us, I wasn't.

So next time around, we'll have a harder time of it. It's always harder to be an incumbent, and we'll have nothing but. However, I look forward to seeing what our team gets done over the next few years. It's an opportunity to continue some good plans and to ensure a direction that moves Dryden comfortably and intelligently into the future.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No Merger

The Romulus/South Seneca merger vote resulted in South Seneca's approving it by a huge margin, while Romulus voted "no" 2 to 1. Thus the merger fails.

The process is strange and convoluted, with a straw poll preceding the vote, and the vote not based on majority rule but rather with majority rule within each affected district. The study plus straw poll plus vote must encompass a lengthy time period, during which people seem to get more and more exercised. In Romulus's case, they had over 100 absentee ballots submitted before the vote ever took place, and a random drive through the area, as I took last week en route to Rochester, indicated that this was going down for sure. The "NO" signs outnumbered the "YES" signs by about 100 to 1. The slogan the NOs used, "RCS Does It Best!" is belied by their report card, which shows a relentlessly average district of 399 students, down 13 percent from just two years ago.

Monday, October 28, 2013

NYS Ballot Measures

Project Vote Smart provides a fairly easy-to-read breakdown of the proposals on the NYS ballot this year. It doesn't tell you how to vote, just what you're being asked to decide. Save time and read the measures before Election Day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Required Reading

Bernie Sanders quite correctly connects the shutdown to Citizens United.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Required Reading

Slate on how we might report on the shutdown if it were happening elsewhere.
The current rebellion has been led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a young fundamentalist lawmaker from the restive Texas region, known in the past as a hotbed of separatist activity.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Vote "No" on Casinos

Our governor is loudly touting the power of casinos to strengthen the upstate economy, and it looks as though the language on the ballot initiative in November will be enough to talk voters into marking a big YES—those who notice the initiative at all. But I'm with Paul Davies on this one: Gambling is a lousy way to stimulate anything other than addiction and crime. I don't even like the state lottery—hell, I think we might as well use drug deals or prostitution as a means of funding our schools. Do casinos bring in business? Not enough to make them worthwhile; most gamblers live within 75 miles of the casino in which they gamble. And gambling, whether off-track, lotto, or casino, is indeed a regressive tax on the poor and stupidly hopeful. I'll never forget going to Atlantic City for a convention, some years before Trump took over the boardwalk, and meeting someone who told me that the Salvation Army there had gone belly up, because it lost so much money buying people bus tickets to get home after they lost all that they had. I'm voting a big NO WAY on this one.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Required Reading

Politico looks at the mounting campaigns pro and con the Common Core State Standards. It doesn't take a standardized test to assess that many Americans are dimwitted.
But the opposition is also fertile ground for wild rumors: That the Common Core bans the teaching of cursive so future generations won’t be able to read the Declaration of Independence; that the standards require schools to monitor kids through iris scans or biometric bracelets; that teachers will be forced to introduce pornography under the guise of reading instruction.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To Merge or Not to Merge

Two interesting merger votes will happen today. In the one that most directly involves us, Spencer-Van Etten (already a merged district) and Candor will hear the results of the report they commissioned and will vote on whether to pass this on to the public for a straw vote. Meanwhile, in Romulus and South Seneca, the straw vote happens today. If both mergers go through, TST BOCES ends up with something like a wash—they lose South Seneca but gain SVE.

The state has virtually guaranteed that a merger is impossible by insisting that each district have a majority vote for merging rather than requiring a plurality of yes votes over both districts. There's always a loser in these mergers; either one district ends up paying more in taxes than before, or one district loses a building, or in the SVE case, they lose their current BOCES, etc. So I'm not holding my breath, although Romulus/South Seneca looks like a surprisingly good bet.

LATER: It was close in Romulus, but it passed both districts. South Seneca: 473-86, Romulus: 268-242. I guess we know which district expects to lose out. Now it moves to the referendum later this fall.

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's a Gas

What makes one kind of weapon worse than another? We can't really ask the folks who die, "Would you rather have been shot through the head?" Is having your limbs blown off and dying slowly in agony really better than inhaling toxic gas and dying slowly in agony?

Why is gassing Syrians in 2013 worse than gassing Iranians in 1983? Is gassing Kurds worse when Iraq does it in the 1980s than when Britain does it in the 1920s? Why do we hear so much about the Germans' use of chlorine and mustard gas in World War I and so little about the American and British use of phosgene in World War I? The Japanese gassed the Chinese during the Sino-Japanese War. Hafez Assad gassed Syrians in the 1980s, with the Reagan administration's wink and nod—better a Westernized dictator than those Muslim Brotherhood boys. What is it about gas—some gas—that makes us so queasy?

The Germans gassed Jews and Gypsies, the Croatians gassed Serbs. We killed our own prisoners with gas from the 1920s to the 1990s. Wikipedia suggests that the excessive twitching and drooling of the decedent makes the whole thing particularly icky for the viewers. I guess in comparison, electrocution is kind of pleasant, and the firing squad is a day at the park.

Perhaps our red line should have to do with the action and not the methodology. Just a thought.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"The Ithaca Journal Cuts Jobs"

It's hard to believe there were any left to cut. They asked for comment, so here's what I wrote to their "content" editor.

Ten years ago, everyone I knew subscribed to the Journal. Today, I am the only person I know who does. On my street, the red paper boxes have disappeared. You may think that this fall in subscriptions is the cause of your layoffs, but I believe that it is the effect. The IJ staff is spread so thin that this is no longer a local paper at all. Meanwhile, school districts and municipalities are gleeful because nobody is attending their meetings and reporting on their activities. The Fourth Estate is dead, long live corruption and mismanagement. I remain a subscriber out of loyalty and inertia, but it’s harder every year to justify the expense.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Summer Winds Down

On Thursday we visited the Altuchers at the lake, tonight we'll head to Taughannock for the last summer concert (nearly every other one was rained out!), and Sunday O and I fly to CA. School starts in 2 1/2 weeks!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cool School

The Sierra Club bestowed that title on Cornell, not for its average temperature, but for its commitment to green technology and sustainability. Fairly cool.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jeb Jab

As the right continues to recoil from the Common Core State Standards, Jeb Bush is the latest to get caught in the undertow, according to Politico. There's a lot wrong with Florida education, but little of it has to do with Jeb's fondness for the new standards. The fact that the standards have gotten tangled up with testing and with teacher accountability is what caused the original flap, and now we're hearing alarm bells about the demise of local control (as if there were any local control at a level below state control). We're in big trouble when right-wing hysteria over the overreaching of government merges with teachers' union hysteria over the overanalysis of teachers merges with parental hysteria over the overtesting of children. Fact is, the Common Core emerged from a consortium of governors and state education leaders, members of both parties, and Jeb was just one tiny cog in that machine. The fact that the sensible plan to work backward from community college and employment requirements so that our kids might actually be prepared for college and career was then co-opted by multi-billion-dollar testing companies and then pinned to NCLB's desire for teacher accountability is neither the fault of the standards nor of Jeb Bush—but both may go down in flames if the hysterics have their way. It's hard to feel sorry for a Bush, but I sort of do.

Friday, August 9, 2013


I was in a TCAction meeting off Elmira Road last night when we got a call that Groton Head Start was underwater. By 8 PM, driving up Elmira Road toward the city already required staying out of the right lane to avoid the rushing streams. Hunt Hill looked like a plague of frogs. But the worst flooding was along the lake and in Cortland, it appears. At the Hangar Theatre, water was up to the wheel wells in cars in the parking lot.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Reading List

Just wonderful.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Svante and His City

Our Boy Mayor finds his way onto the front page of the NYT....
Such high-mindedness — and Ithaca’s seemingly steady prosperity through hard times — has attracted attention to Mr. Myrick’s own political future, something he deflects, saying that keeping Ithaca running is his only job. “I still to this day don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up,” he said.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This Year's Issue

Here's the IJ's story about the public forum involving this year's issue in Tompkins County. The former Milliken Station, long a coal-fired plant, was about to close when its new owners, inspired by Gov. Cuomo's urging statewide, decided to retrofit it as a natural gas-burning plant.

The fight breaks down along several lines. Lansing will lose (and until a few weeks ago was definitely going to lose) a couple million dollars in revenues without the plant, which lies just barely within its borders. Since Lansing Schools have thrived off their expanding tax base, the thought of losing this money and perhaps ending up with taxes like Dryden's is galling to many.

At the far opposite end are those for whom "gas" is a fighting word. Most of them want the plant closed forever.

Then there are a range of other opinions. Paul has written to the IJ with a suggestion about a switch to switchgrass. It's something Cornell has been studying forever, and here's a gigantic opportunity to put their plans into practice. I wrote to the Public Service Commission in support of someone's plan for converting the plant to waste-for-energy. One of our local legislators wants to keep the coal and save the railroad. NYSEG thinks all they need is an upgrade in transmission lines.

Ultimately, the decision is in the hands of a private corporation, despite the fact that any decision they make will affect the general populace in the form of significant rate hikes on our electric bills. If they convert to gas, the pipeline will almost certainly run through Dryden, because that's where there's already a pump station. So this is affecting politics countywide, and everyone is being forced to express an opinion.

It would be nice to have a plan before November. This should not be a partisan issue, but it's shaping up to be the only issue.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Too Late for Dryden

One of the most interesting things to come out of this year's Rural Schools Conference was John Sipple's new study, which contradicts the late Tom Lyson's hypotheses about the impact of school consolidation on villages. Tom Lyson was not only a researcher at Cornell when he did his modest study, he was also mayor of Freeville, and as such, had a really big dog in that hunt. Those of us who wondered about Lyson's tiny data set should feel vindicated by Sipple's data, which indicate that losing a school does no harm to a village save for a decline in household income (perhaps due to the loss of teachers from the village, who are often the best-paid residents)—but mostly, I just feel sad. Important decisions were made based on bad data. It's not like we get a do-over.

Road Trip

In honor of the Rural Schools Conference, I took the back roads to and from Cooperstown. On the way there, I passed through Dryden, Cortland, East Homer, Truxton, Cuyler, DeRuyter, Quaker Settlement, Otselic Center, Smyrna, Sherburne, Columbus, South Edmeston, Robinson Corners, Burlington, Oaksville.... On the way back, I saw Springfield, Warren, Richfield Springs, Hobin Corners, Madison, Pine Woods, Eaton, Georgetown, Sheds.... At times, I touched Otsego, Herkimer, Oneida, Madison, Chenango, Cortland, and Tompkins Counties. The most 21st-century thing I saw was the Munnsville Wind Farm, which is visible for miles in a taunting way before showing itself spectacularly near Madison. Otherwise, the woods and fields were a thousand shades of green, the corn varied from hip-high to overhead, every little gas station boasted live bait, children waded in the creeks, I was tempted by but did not enter a Petrified Animal Museum, and a dozen or more schools stood along my route in the shade of large trees.

Nearly all the schools dated from 75 to 80 years ago, when NYS started wholeheartedly to consolidate one-room schoolhouses into central school districts. It must have been a spectacular set of building projects, all of those proud buildings centered in villages along two-lane roads through the valleys. At the same time that the schools were being built, the state began a new numbering system for state roads, and paving took place on many rural thoroughfares. All this in the midst of the Great Depression! And although students in the villages walked to school, it is hard to imagine how some students got to school from the surrounding farms and tucked-away hamlets.

There are few things as beautiful as backroads New York State in July, especially a July that's seen a lot of rain. The creeks were full, and the crops looked healthy. I passed campgrounds that looked exactly the way campgrounds looked in the 1960s, ponds choked with water lilies, surprising little lakes with summer homes in various states of disrepair, occasional restored mansions with magnificent long views, and countless slow-moving farm vehicles around every blind bend.

It was the schools that drew my attention, however. They reminded me of our glory and our shame—the astonishing promise America makes to educate every child within its borders, and the fact that in New York State, the quality of a child's education is entirely dependent on his or her ZIP code.

At the conference, I met a superintendent whose district, not far from Cooperstown, not only lacks cell phone service and high speed Internet, but also does not have reliable electricity. Recently, during a down period for NYSEG power to the town, all Verizon phone service went down as well, meaning that no one in town, not elderly folks, not school employees—no one—could even dial 911. Verizon said this was because they were tired of supplying batteries for their generator just because NYSEG couldn't offer a steady stream of electricity.

This was especially interesting since one of the speakers at Rural Schools this year was the CEO of Verizon, himself the product of a small, rural school. His alma mater, near Buffalo, has been the beneficiary of many of Verizon's prized inventions. The Verizon robot, which allows sick children to "attend" school, was wandering around the conference, cracking jokes. Yet Verizon lets a small school district go without 911 service for hours or days because it is "tired" of supplying batteries for a backup generator. Certainly, in our county, Verizon has shown no interest whatsoever in going the final mile with cell or Internet service. We must rely on a local provider, which is now providing some broadband service in the area around Cooperstown, too.

I bring this up because it is clear from this conference that mergers and consolidations, while still under discussion, are not the panacea the governor hoped they'd be a couple of years ago. Because of the separate votes by districts (rather than one combined vote), most merger proposals fail as referenda. And rural mergers are not money savers, or so says the Commissioner. The mergers that would truly show savings are on Long Island, where three high schools within a stone's throw of each other may each provide AP European History courses to 7 or 8 students. However, there is no incentive to merge, because those schools can afford to provide AP European History courses to 7 or 8 students.

So the answer must be online courses and distance learning. That is the only way to provide students in rural districts the same kinds of extras (or even, in some cases, basics) that are regularly afforded students in rich districts. No broadband, no equity. It's as simple, and as difficult, as that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Out of the Mouths of Babies"

You probably missed it because the Zimmerman trial is the only important thing going on in the world today, but the House of Reprehensibles stripped food stamps, meals on wheels, and school food programs out of the Farm Bill they passed yesterday. I guess hunger isn't a thing anymore, just as the South is all better (per the Voting Rights decision). There comes a point when so much damage has been done that it can't be put back together again. Who's taking bets on Cantor's letting nutrition programs come up on their own in the House? It. Will. Never. Happen.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


A seventy-year marriage! We all owned her husband, but Toshi was his home base.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ithaca the Smartest City

It is official, at least as far as Luminosity is concerned. However, a test of cognition that involves gaming is awfully likely to be biased toward college towns, don'tcha think?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Of Trolley Parks and Kettle Lakes

The awards ceremony tonight will be held in a spot unique to our area, although once such places were all over New York State. The park that holds the CRT Pavilion is the last of our local trolley parks, in this case, a park built by the one-time Cortland County Traction Company. The idea was to build something so that people had to use the trolleys on weekends as well as during the week. Coney Island Amusement Park is another, much larger example.

Most trolley parks were built as amusement parks, but the one near Little York Lake was built expressly for family picnics and more modest entertainment. The pavilion was constructed as a restaurant and dance hall and fell into decline once the trolleys were gone, in 1931–32. The park was renamed Dwyer Memorial Park after the county highway superintendent who began restoration of the pavilion and park 20 years later. The lake in the park, Little York Lake, is an example of a kettle lake, one created by receding glaciers. There are plenty of those around here, but Little York is especially small and compact.

Cortland Rep, which now occupies the top floor of the pavilion (which always feels to me like a strong wind could knock it over), offers a nice story about the pavilion's history, complete with a lovely illustration.

CRT Awards

O's up for an award at tonight's ceremony at Cortland Repertory Theatre. And the nominees are:
Musical: Working (Cortland), Oliver! (Dryden), The Music Man (Groton), Wonderful Town (Homer), You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (McGraw) and My Fair Lady (Tully). Play: The Mouse That Roared (Cortland), You Can't Take It With You (Homer), and Clue (Tully). Ensemble (musical): Working (Cortland), Oliver! (Dryden), The Music Man (Groton), Wonderful Town (Homer), You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (McGraw) and My Fair Lady (Tully). Ensemble (play): The Mouse That Roared (Cortland), You Can't Take It With You (Homer), and Clue (Tully). Leading Actor in a Musical: Joel Twitchell (Groton), Josh Apker (Homer), Andrew Niver (McGraw), and Nathaniel Shahan (Tully). Leading Actress in a Musical: Allie Young (Dryden), Brenna Hahne (Groton), Lucia Helgren (Homer), and Lauren Ralbovsky (Tully). Leading Actor in a Play: Alex Klaes (Cortland), Alex Reynolds (Cortland), Richie Howell (Homer), and Erik Gustafson (Homer). Leading Actress in a Play: Caitlin Little (Cortland), Lucia Helgren (Homer), and Lauren Ralbovsky (Tully). Supporting Actor in a Musical: Jack Gerhard (Cortland), Will Hanson (Dryden), David Perfetti (Homer), and Noah Paccia (Tully). Supporting Actress in a Musical: Emma Cleary (Cortland), Margaret Hoeschele (Cortland), Breanna Jones (Cortland), and Bethany Ellis (McGraw). Supporting Actor in a Play: John Ruquet (Cortland), Nigel Van der Woude (Cortland), Jacob Elikins (Homer) and David Perfetti (Homer). Supporting Actress in a Play: Kaitlyn Newman (Cortland), Sierra Wilhoit (Cortland), Lilly Gustafson (Homer), and Liz Redenback (Homer). Featured Actor in a Musical: Dakota Hickey (Dryden), Zack Ossit (Groton), Benjamin Ackley (McGraw), and Drew Deal (Tully). Featured Actress in a Musical: Olivia Lutwak (Dryden), Rebecca Woods (Dryden), Bailey Kote (Homer), and Kailey Riddick (McGraw). Featured Actor in a Play: Brian Barnes (Cortland), Lukas Pizzola (Homer), Jackson Morris (Homer) and Zach Randall (Homer). Featured Actress in a Play: Brooke Campbell (Cortland), Kaige Gailore (Homer), Jordon Green (Homer) and Tori Anderson (Homer). Student Written One-Act Play: The 16th Hole by Y. BrIan Hughes, The Ruby of Venus by Brian Barnes & Conner Beattie, Mask by Lina Apte, and Secret of the Ocean's Depths by Iva Markicevic. All nominees are from Cortland High. Technical Achievement: Theo Moore (Groton), David Levitskiy (McGraw), and Kiki Lee (Tully. Theatre-As-Education: The Music Man (Groton), Wonderful Town (Homer), You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (McGraw) and My Fair Lady (Tully).
Imagine how well we'd do if Dryden reinstated the middle school musical and high school drama!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

What's Most Shocking...?

...To learn that our government is spying on us (really? did you skim the Patriot Act at all?), to discover that small-government proponents heartily approve, or to witness the media crawling all over this as though it's something unprecedented and new?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Beware of White Boys

Leonard Pitts is on to something.
If, then, the reasoning is that we are entitled to demand extra scrutiny of people who meet a profile associated with random violence, can we expect arguments for the mass surveillance of young white boys any time soon? Of course not. You won’t even see random school shootings framed in racial dimensions by the media, even though those dimensions are glaringly obvious.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Time Has Come

He is certainly a bully. We are supposed to be thrilled that he's not a crook like Bruno, but that doesn't make him ethical. It really is time for Shelly to call it quits, preferably before he pulls the whole majority down with him.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Election Results

Well, my candidate did not win, which isn't unusual. The only other halfway interesting results are that ALL budgets and propositions passed, ALL incumbents won, and the anti-merger candidate lost in Spencer-Van Etten.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Emily's List Has Spoken

Our local (Dryden!) candidate is one of a handful of first-round "top candidates" on Emily's List. Nice!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Principles and Principals

"I am not resigning to go to another school, I am resigning from the day-to-day nonsense that is impossible to do without funding, resource and reality."
And with that, the HS principal at Lansing resigns his position, fed up to there with the way things are going in NYS education. Who's next?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Doward Catches On

Many, many years ago (around 30), when Mark and I were working on the Spanish and English versions of Mathematics Today, some galleys came our way, as they often did, with an unexpected error. In some cases,a misplaced letter would make us laugh: the change of "beads and shells" to "bears and shells" was one example. We kept that one, and the book had a nice illustration of a pattern of tiny teddy bears and shells instead of the original beads and shells that made more sense but were not nearly so cute. In this case, it was a name: Howard had been rendered as Doward.

What, we wondered, if we kept the name as Doward, and in fact went further, placing occasional "Dowards" in every manuscript we worked on from that time forward? How long would it take for Doward to enter the American lexicon as an acceptable first name?

Today I was rereading a manuscript in which Doward appeared, placed there by yours truly just once in 350 pages. And I thought I'd check into Dowards to see whether I could find any existing real-life examples. First I looked on LinkedIn. Sure enough, a trio of Dowards appeared. On Facebook, there were more. And here, in the White Pages, I found that Doward is the 37,989th most popular name in America (in 2011), and that the current 118 Dowards are scattered nicely around the country, with a preponderance in Texas, which happens to be the place where Mathematics Today was most heavily marketed.

The Dowards I found so far are of an age to be first-generation Dowards, conceived sometime after we started adding Dowards to textbooks. Who can say how many Doward Juniors there might be after 30 years? I call this some kind of success.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Freedom of Speech, Public-School Style

Paul sent me this article from The Buffalo News, which caused me to spew water out my nose. Hamburg's former superintendent is Dryden's former superintendent, Mark Crawford, who once called me into executive session to spank me for talking about the district on this blog. Presumably he is not involved in the current lawsuit, but the Hamburg Educational Ethics blog does mention him by name, and not in a positive light.

Although Concerned Hamburger's style is not terribly subtle, he is certainly committed and passionate, especially about issues of open government and reporting of finances. I'll be watching this one with interest.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dryden in Mother Jones

A reporter from Mother Jones came to town to find out what all the fuss was about.
"It has got to be a morale boost to people who have been suffering the adverse affects of this industry," [Earthjustice attorney] Goldberg said, "to see people in a small town stand up to an incredibly powerful and wealthy industry and win."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dryden Decision

Dryden won the appeal vs. Norse Energy. The court found, as the lower court had, that towns may decide what industries to allow. One more step, if Norse goes through with it.

Dryden Decision by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Firestorm Next Time

Thanks to DZ for this mostly adept analysis of the coming storm in education reform. Take it with a heaping grain of salt, because libertarian Tierney and his muse for this topic, the always-hard-to-pin-down Diane Ravitch, are coming at the issue from a POV I do not share: That local education is always better than centralized education, which I think any child in any minority group can easily dispute; that teachers are professionals and always know what's right for their students, which anyone who doesn't expect to be paid for continuing education or anyone who's winced through a thoroughly wrong grammar lesson from the back of a room can dispute; and that standardization is a failed policy, which anyone who teaches visiting students from Asia or Scandinavia can dispute.

That being said, we are headed toward a maelstrom, as American parents discover that their children are failing even more tragically than before (thanks to more rigorous standards), and states continue to rely on old unreliable Pearson to manufacture their tests. Pearson and CTB hold a monopoly in this area thanks to years of consolidation (now there's an area where centralization IS a failed policy), but Pearson, at least, is just terrible, and apparently getting worse. Pearson's insane profits must be going somewhere, but they surely aren't going to the writers or hired hands who are expected to do the work, and you get what you pay for, in education as in the Real World.

The part Tierney gets right is the part that looks not at the quality of the schools or the tests or the teachers but rather at the quality of the students.

...The most important step we could take to deal with our education problems would be to address poverty in the United States.
Why can't our students compete with other first-world inhabitants in a global marketplace? They're too damn poor. Our inequities, growing by leaps and bounds each year, are killing our ability to measure up.

He and Ravitch are also correct about the potential damage of charter schools. In our county, it's costing public schools hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable a few students to drop out and attend the new charter school instead, yet no one has any say over what happens in that charter school, and the school is certainly not beholden to the taxpayers. I have no reason to think that students there are getting a better education than they would in their home schools and some reason to think that they're getting little education at all.

I actually like the Common Core State Standards; I think they're a legitimate attempt to delve more deeply into concepts and to backfill education from the endpoint of college and career expectations rather than trying to build upward from nothing to something. Hey, as John Dewey said, "Failure is instructive." When this doesn't pan out, in a few years, we'll be on to something completely different.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Round 1 in the ongoing battle involving funding vs. evaluation is Governor Cuomo's faceslap over Buffalo's side deal with teachers, which apparently went something like this: "If you unions sign off on this APPR plan, we'll send the paperwork to the state but toss our copies in the trash." The comments are interesting, too.

Why is it that the stress of evaluation seems to lead to cheating, whether it's teachers and administrators changing test answers in GA or entire school districts in NYS making secret deals with one hand while taking the cash with the other? O's not even allowed to take a water bottle into the SATs lest she inscribe formulas under the label. Maybe we should start by evaluating the culture that has led to this cheatin' state of mind.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Sorry to see him go. Here he is sometime close to the first time I saw/heard him play. Energy and joy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Martha for Congress

One of Dryden's own is running for Congress in the 23rd! Here is her website. It will be a wild two years!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Opting Out

The latest "we're not gonna take it" movement in America is the "Opt-Out" movement, a rapidly-organizing coalition of parents who want their kids removed from the world of standardized testing, preferably before the Next Generation Assessments hit in 2014. Truly, despite being in the corporate education world they so despise, I get where they're coming from. I can't help being pleased that O will age out and graduate before the new tests hit in earnest. However, New York remains a state in which opting out is not a legal option. Here is State Ed's response to the movement.

Since the parents in the movement tend to be well-educated themselves, it is likely that successful opting out will lead to significant drops in school scores. Add to that the NYSSBA's concern about the need for a certain percentage of the cohort to be tested in order to maintain AYP numbers (which affect Title I monies). And as the article makes clear, teachers are now being evaluated partly on their students' test scores, making it more important than ever for them to see to it that their best students sit for the test.

High-stakes testing is a messy, awful way to evaluate an educational system; it robs big chunks of time from the 180 days students are in school, causes agita for students and teachers, and costs a boatload of money. One of my favorite recent examples of how demoralizing the system is comes from a teacher who just resigned from an upstate district. I really do understand everything that's wrong with the current plan. I'd like to hear alternatives, though. All of the ones I've seen (on the Opt Out website, for example) just seem, frankly, stupid.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On the Boardwalk

This has been going up slowly next door to the Sears kit house on Irish Settlement that we took Mark and Y to see last year. It's very nice, although right now the trail ends abruptly. I watched a nesting pair of great blue herons hanging out in the swamp nearby.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Much to my surprise, at the last Executive Meeting of the County Democrats, I discovered that I'd been redistricted. I've lived in ED 10 since I moved to Dryden. Now we are in ED 2, with the village of Freeville. I live in fear that I won't be able to take advantage of the snacks at Reach Out for Christ Church on Election Day.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why I Love Our Boy Mayor

Not my mayor, really, but surely the People's Mayor. As Olivia would say, "He's got a good story."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Go, Supremes!

Here's cousin Michal and pal in front of the Court:

In case the Nine need a bit of inspiration, there's this:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Snake Eats Its Tail

Who doesn't delight in watching the GOP eat its own as it tries to regroup and come up with a philosophy that doesn't leave more than half the country out? Charles Blow has determined that "as long as the party has Bachmanns, it has a problem."
It’s sad when you are so fact-challenged that you burn out the fact-checkers.
But it's worse that this. As long as the fact-challenged can get media play, we're going to have Bachmanns. Isn't it time to ignore these idiots completely? Aren't we wasting precious time parsing their every blat?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thank You, Dryden!

It's probably a fair guess that the responses from our poll, two of which are shown here, had something to do with the great results last night. Before absentee ballots, thus not final, the results were:

ZIMMER for mayor by 15 votes

VALENTINELLI and MURPHY for trustee by 26 and 23 votes

So we went from a 5-0 Republican village government to a 3-2 Democratic village government. Thank you to all who participated and VOTED!

LATER: After the absentee count, all results held, although the mayor's race was decided by a mere 7 votes!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The New Feminism

There has been so much blather written this month around the writing and actions of Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo that it's hard to scrape down through it to get to the heart of the matter, which may be, for a better phrase: Whither feminism? I think the most interesting piece I've read is by Kathleen McCartney, soon-to-be president of all-women Smith College.
We understand sexism when it's explicit—unequal pay for equal work—but we haven't acknowledged gendered cultural biases surrounding parenthood. Our implicit biases limit the aspirations of men and women alike.
Fascinating to think that the future of "feminism" may consist of a refusal to frame everything in gender-linked terms.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wealth Inequality in America

Just the best graphic representation I've seen: simple, succinct, powerful. Double click to see full screen.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dear Marissa Mayer

I worked in offices for 7 years. I have worked out of my home for 28. I promise that my speed and quality improved a hundredfold as soon as I got away from the endless interruptions, office politics, worthless meetings, and general clamorous annoyance of office work. I defy anyone in an office for 10 hours (my average workday back when I worked in one) to produce as much good, solid output as I do at home in 5.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Required Reading

It's not short, and it's not sweet, but it is unbelievably important. If you can't read it here, buy the magazine.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Sequestration, when it doesn't have to do with juries or chemistry, is defined by Webster's as "the taking and holding of property pending resolution of a legal dispute." I'm not entirely sure how that applies to our current situation, except in the intimation of confiscation. I happen to be on the boards of two organizations that will be grossly and immediately affected by sequestration, no matter how many Tea Partiers get on TV to say that it's "simply slowing future growth" or whatever their latest sound bite might be. In the case of TC Action, we could lost 30 percent of Head Start and 50 percent of Community Block Grants. That seems like a lot to me. In the case of BOCES, here's what I wrote our Congressman:
Dear Congressman Reed: The sequestration that is about to hit March 1 will have a real and immediate impact on BOCES through funding cuts to IDEA, Rural Education, Special Ed Grants to States, School Improvement State Grants, CTE State Grants, and Adult Basic and Literacy Education Grants. Please support the negotiation of a thoughtful compromise that does less to damage our children's education.
His office wrote back:
I am a strong supporter of cutting excessive government spending, but I am concerned about the indiscriminate nature of these particular spending cuts. The House has voted twice to realign these cuts and protect vital government programs whose funding is endangered as a result of Sequestration, but neither of those plans were acted upon by the Senate. Regarding cuts to life-saving medical research and payments to Medicare providers, Specific sequestration spending cut decisions are made by the President. Until our government has found a solution to the threat of Sequestration, I will remain attentive to this issue.
I like the capitalization of Sequestration, which makes it far more menacing. And I guess it's all the fault of the Senate and the President. I should have known.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

TRS Hits the Iceberg

Here, in a nutshell, is why NYS schools are in so much trouble. Colleges, too. It's the elephant in the room at all budget meetings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dumb Like Mom and Dad

Honestly, I have always thought of the Texas GOP as the dregs of American society (and madly applauded any move on their part to secede from the Union), but Krugman points out that their ignorance-based ravings are now endorsed by the leadership in DC.

The Texas GOP, as WaPo blogger Valerie Strauss points out, opposes early childhood education, sex education, and multicultural education, but the part Krugman is pointing to is their dislike of "Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." The Party has tried to backtrack from this position after being ridiculed, most notably by Stephen Colbert, but that's not even the dumbest part of their education platform.

As Colbert would say, "The minds of our young people are being poisoned by knowledge..."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Inviting the Viper

One can only hope that they eject Ted Nugent at the door. It's a sign of the times that someone thinks this is a good idea.

Friday, February 1, 2013


For better or worse, he was my mayor. I lived in NYC for 13 years, and he was mayor for 12 of them. I still remember "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo," a slogan that caused me to oppose Mario when he first ran for governor (I later repented—Mario was better than a lot of folks, including his own offspring). And I doubt there was anyone in NYC at that time who didn't get a handshake and a "How'm I doing?" on the way to the subway. You were doing okay, Ed. Not great, not entirely ethical, but not bad, considering where we've been since then.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A New Preserve, Around the Corner


When I first bought the blue house in 1991, Dave Takacs informed me that I was living right around the corner from his favorite swimming hole in the county, a place called Paradise. Over the years, that piece of land off Irish Settlement became a place to walk the dogs, to bring the baby in a backpack, and to brave the ice cold water on hot summer days. The Baldwins, who owned most of the land, had cut a deal with the Finger Lakes Land Trust the year I moved here that kept the land wild yet allowed public access, at least for those of us in the know. Someone, perhaps Mr. Baldwin, mowed random paths that were lovely for dog walking.

Then, a few years back, Roy Park's daughter acquired the parcel and sold it to the land trust. Suddenly, more people knew about the land, a parking area sprang up, and a more formal trail was built. This tells more about the new Roy H. Park Preserve, including the history of the pine trees, which were apparently part of a sixth-grade project back in 1980. The last time we walked there, around Thanksgiving, there was a sign discouraging us from walking down to the swimming hole, which apparently is not part of the preserve itself.

Today, the land trust is working on a handicapped-accessible boardwalk just north of Paradise, which will allow people to view the wetlands close up in addition to walking the simple field loop. The good news is that the land will be preserved in all its glory. The bad news is that it's now a bona fide destination and not a neighborhood gem.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Initial Budget Runs

As of 1/22/13, Dryden's increase in total aid is 4.26%, Groton's is 3.14%, Ithaca's is 2.86%, Lansing's is 5.57%, Newfield's is 5.24%, and Trumansburg's is 4.43%. All in all, schools in the county get around $3 million more than they did last year. Since Cuomo suggested the average would be 4%, we're at least in the ballpark. Of course, our 4% is quite a bit different from Westchester's 4%.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vlogbrothers Changing YA World

This is an article about Olivia's favorite author, his brother, and the way they and their community are changing the way kids interact with books. For those of us who sometimes despairingly think that kids don't read at all, it's fascinating and inspirational to see how John Green manages to suck them in without sucking.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NRA Nuttiness

Shouldn't an earnest comparison of today's U.S. with Nazi Germany, combined with veiled or unveiled threats against leadership, be enough to signal a serious mental illness that warrants having one's guns taken away?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Sad Day...

...when I'm agreeing with Tom O'Mara about the contents of the governor's speech. Mandate relief and school equity were conspicuously absent.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

State of the State

I haven't been a big fan of the governor's, but he gave a barn-burner of a State of the State address today, and I find little to argue with him about, despite his sins of omission (really, no mention of fracking? nothing about school equity?)

In a nutshell, his plans for education look smart and data-driven: increased time in school (with options for longer days and/or longer years), full-day pre-K for neediest kids, a "bar-exam-like" test for would-be teachers, higher admission requirements in teacher prep programs, rewards for master teachers, community schools with built-in health and social care in the neediest neighborhoods, CTE programs that match actual job needs, transformative technology through innovation zones, and regionalization and shared services to increase efficiencies.

His more interesting initiatives, however, are the ones that make a presidential run in 2016 seem even more likely: a 10-point women's equality act, raising the minimum wage and gutting the stop-and-frisk process, banning assault weapons, reforming campaign finance, and making NYS an academia-to-commercialization hot spot. Lots of ambition there, and lots to do.

Just one grump to grump: If you're going to submit a women's equality act that seems sincere and presenting it in a way that brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye, please make sure that the people you're calling out to honor as members of commissions, etc., aren't all the same old white guys.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Required Reading

From "Tom, the Dancing Bug," a reminder.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013