Category Archives: politics

A tale of two abortions

imageMany, many years ago an older friend shared with me the story of her illegal abortion. It involved a large amount of money, cash only, of course, a bus ride out of the city and into the “everything looks the same” suburbs, and an extracted promise to never tell anyone where she had been (as if she could remember) and what she had done (as if she could forget).

I remember being riveted by her story, trying to imagine the emotions my friend must have experienced on that scary afternoon. How nervous she must have been that something, anything, could go wrong – what if she missed her connection at the bus station or if the “abortionist” was really a scam artist intent upon robbing her? Would there be post-procedure complications? Might her decision to terminate her pregnancy in an unregulated “clinic” threaten her future fertility? What choice(s) did she truly have?

When I became pregnant as a teenager the only question I had to ask myself was this: Am I prepared to be responsible for another’s life? Recognizing that my present situation was but one indication of my own lack of personal responsibility,* I knew I needed to terminate my pregnancy. I called Planned Parenthood.

When I arrived for my appointment, jar of first morning’s urine in my school bag, I was treated like a human being. My options, choices, were explained and I was offered an array of services, including abortion. My questions were answered and I was provided with a referral to the facility where I would ultimately end my pregnancy and begin my new life as a much more responsible, sexually active, young woman.

I had no concerns about the legitimacy of the medical care I received or the competence of the practitioner. I understood the potential for complications or long term problems resulting from my abortion and accepted the small risk, knowing that actually having a child would be far more perilous.

In the years since my abortion, I’ve often wondered who that child, my child, would have grown to be. I’ve thought about how old (s)he would be and tried to imagine the life I would have known if I had become a teenaged mom. Ultimately, I can only conclude that the three children I do have most certainly benefitted from the services made available to me at Planned Parenthood and I have no regrets for the choice I made. I stand with Planned Parenthood.

*I’m NOT suggesting that all unintended pregnancies are the result of a lack of personal responsibility. This was MY situation.

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Filed under girlhood, medical, News, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

Pay attention

On more than one occasion, I’ve listened to people complain about how much money teachers get paid. Maybe you’ve been part of such a conversation – it usually involves noting the short work day teachers enjoy, the health insurance and other benefits they’re given, and the excellent calendar which allows me them to have summers and holidays off. I’m familiar with the litany of complaints about teachers, even without the governor leading the chorus, thank you very much. I have a Master’s Degree along with nearly 20 years in the field and I just broke the $60,000 mark last year. Does that really sound excessive?

There have been a couple of things I’ve read or seen recently that make me a little insane when it comes to income or salary. For instance, the 14 wealthiest Americans increased their net worth in the last two years by $157 billion. That increase is equal to the entire holdings of the bottom 40% of Americans. Does that even seem right?

Did you know that Disney CEO Robert Iger made almost $44 million last year? The median salary for Disney workers is less than $20,000 a year, but I’m sure that he does 2,238 times more work than everyone else, right? How is this ok?

I’d love to share the income of one of our local billionaires, George R. Hearst III, but since his family business is privately held, that figure is impossible to determine without a subpoena or peek at his tax returns.  Suffice it to say, his family’s worth is estimated to be in the area of about $35 billion.  And, yes, this is the same guy/corporation that hasn’t given their local employees toiling away at the Albany Times Union a raise in more than 7 years.  Really??

I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand why a small percentage of our population holds such a disproportionately large share of the wealth.  How much do they need?  How can anyone justify a CEO-to-worker compensation ratio (in 2013) of to 295.9-to-1?   All I can say is Bernie Sanders.  Enough.

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Filed under Education, politics, Rant

April Fool me

If I had known 25 years ago that choosing a career as a public school teacher would mean fighting for survival against a megalomaniac governor, I might have elected to simply stay full-time in the hospitality industry. During my college days, I imagined my biggest challenge would be landing a job in what is a fairly specialized field after graduation, particularly in an area with a university which was churning out qualified applicants. Ha.

I no have education. I have inspiration. If I was educated, I would be a damn fool. Bob Marley

My first job, landed within months of graduation, was a long-term sub position in a small urban district. I was racing between three buildings and loving it. Even though the job was only temporary, I poured my heart into it and felt completely gratified that I had made a great decision and had indeed found the perfect career for my skills and strengths.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.  William Shakespeare

Since that time I’ve been tenured in three different school districts, in three different counties. Each time I changed jobs I did so with tremendous consideration – how would my new position impact my family, my day-to-day life, my career, my salary? Without exception, I embraced the new opportunity and have been satisfied with my decision to start over again in a new district.

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.  Charlie Chaplin

I’ve been a public school teacher for nearly 20 years and I have never been more discouraged about the future of my profession. In the last few years, I have seen quality educators leaving the field in alarming numbers. They’re tired of being beaten down by elected officials and bureaucrats who wouldn’t last a day in their shoes. Positions go unfilled because of lack of qualified applicants. A person would have to be crazy to go into education now.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Abraham Lincoln

Our governor has sold out the children of NYS to for-profit companies who will subject students to tests which are age-inappropriate and rigged for failure. He will continue his efforts to break organized labor unions and privatize education. The legislature had fewer than 12 hours to read and vote on Cuomo’s final bill – less time than the average NYS 9-year-old will seated to take their assessment exams.

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. Benjamin Franklin

I didn’t vote for Cuomo last year and I will never again support politicians who supported his education bill.  Unlike the elected representatives who provided lip service to educators and parents across the state, that’s a promise I’m going to keep.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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New St. Patrick’s Day parade rules

I couldn’t be happier about the new rules announced this morning regarding Albany’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. In years past this event has been an absolute sh*t show and I haven’t felt comfortable taking my kids there in many years. If you know me, you know I’m all about having fun and a couple of drinks, but this annual event has repeatedly proven that far too many people have no capacity for moderation – or alcohol.

I think the comments posted under the TU article are representative of a smallminded percent of the population, but maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?  How do you feel about these new policies?  The response I would provide to the commenters is below.

I assume you all live in the city of Albany, right? You probably own property and pay taxes, too, don’t you? And vote, also. Maybe you have children you would like to bring to the parade but haven’t in years past because of the drunken and disorderly crowd in attendance? Well, I meet all of the preceding criteria and I am thrilled by the crackdown on public intoxication and the promised enforcement of appropriate public behavior. I love this mayor – she represents me and thousands of Albany citizens who want our city to be a place for families and residents who understand and appreciate that quality of life for citizens is an important factor in the place we have chosen to call home.  

I’m seriously considering going to the parade this year, my youngest child has never been and I’d like for him to experience festivities relating to his heritage.  The weather forecast isn’t great, but as long as it is only the sky pissing on me, I think we might just get there.  Erin Go Bragh!

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Filed under Albany, drinking, Events, family, Irish, Local, politics

Feeling testy about NYS assessments

imageHow much do you know the mandated state exams administered to elementary school students in New York State? What do you know about these tests and their significance? Have you heard about Assemblymember Jim Tedisco’s bill proposal to allow parents to “opt out” of the required tests? If these three questions were on a test you were taking right now, how would you do?

As a teacher and a parent, my interest in these exams is pretty intense. Although there was initially the threat of my being required to test my population of students, I don’t have to administer tests in my “subject” area because I’m a secondary (grades 7-12) librarian and we have been given an alternative assessment rubric. At present my annual professional performance review (APPR) doesn’t include a student test component.*

That fact that I am currently exempt from delivering tested curriculum does not mean I am unaffected by the exams. I see the impact of these tests on my colleagues, my students, and of course, my own child. Last year, when my then-third grader came home the first week of school talking about “the tests,” I was dismayed. This year, I’m disgusted.

I’ve heard about a dozen different “facts” related to opting out of the tests. Things like “if less than 16 children in a given class or 95% of a building’s population take the tests the results can’t be counted against the teacher of the school” and “students must sit for the tests even if they refuse to participate, yet will be given a score if they so much as mark the answer sheet.” I just don’t know what is accurate information and, believe me, contacting NYSED with my questions is probably about the last thing I’d consider doing.

This Thursday, March 12th at 6:30, the Bethlehem Public Library is hosting a forum presented by the NYS Alliance for Public Education on the topic of the excessive use of testing in New York State. A portion of the forum will be devoted to Opt-Out and I hope that many of the questions I have will be addressed. If you have questions of your own this may be just the opportunity to get some answers.

*It also doesn’t include any evaluation of how I manage a budget, a sizable collection in multiple formats, or a facility (or two).

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Filed under Education, Events, politics, Schools, Uncategorized

Cuomo: failing to understand the problem


Governor Cuomo  has released a report which concludes that many of New York State’s public schools are failing.  As I skimmed the lengthy document online, I noticed a consistency which, to me, was critical in understanding why these schools are struggling.  With only two exceptions (Amsterdam and Buffalo’s South Park),  the schools which have been deemed failing are attempting to educate populations in which the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and the percentage of minority students both exceed 50% of the total enrollment.  In most cases, those two figures both reside firmly in the 90th + percentile.

In my mind, this failure lies not at the hands of educators, but instead with the lack of services and support that New York State’s poor residents receive.  I’ve worked in an urban school district and witnessed the lack of resources provided to poor children by parents who are unable to do much more than get by as they contend with meeting their family’s most essential needs.  Of course, education is an essential need but try telling that to someone who never attained a diploma and is struggling to feed, clothe and shelter their family.

Why doesn’t this report include charter schools?  Since  the Governor wants to add an additional 100 charter schools to our state shouldn’t we be privy to how they’re performing?

This governor’s attack on public education and teachers must stop.  His focus on rigorous standardized testing  for elementary age children is developmentally inappropriate and my child will not be participating any longer.  Will yours?

I think it’s interesting that his report was published on Scribd, yet I couldn’t locate it on the state education department’s website.  Speaking of publications, if you’re not one of the few people who purchased a copy of Cuomo’s recent autobiography, you can purchase it online as an eBook.  I’m sure it is just coincidental that Cuomo’s administration backed a “bill that created a special sales tax break for online-only publications that charge for subscriptions,” like Scribd and for eBook publications.

Yep, New York State – the State of Opportunity.

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Filed under Education, News, politics

The State of our State makes me angry

  • I’m angry that Sheldon Silver was given the courtesy of sitting in a position of prestige at this week’s State of the State address when the state’s teachers are not invited to sit at the table and truly participate in education reform and improvement.
  • I’m angry that Sheldon Silver, along with the governor and other elected officials, is responsible for the educational, social and financial policies of NYS, a task with which he doesn’t deserve to be trusted.
  • I’m angry that for the last 5 years or so my profession has been under constant attack while Speaker Silver has been profiting from illegal business deals for decades.
  • I’m angry that Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly maligned the teachers of this state while protecting those he promised to prosecute.
  • I’m angry that dedicated and experienced educators have been made to feel like criminals when, in fact, the real felons are drafting absurd policies to evaluate how we are doing our jobs.  I’ve been a librarian for nearly twenty years and the measure of how well I do job is going to be based upon a test that I give students who want to check out a book or need research help?  How about that facility I manage?
  • I’m angry that 7 of the 12 charter schools in my district have closed, yet the governor has tied an increase in educational state aid to an increase in the number of charter schools permitted, along with the removal of limitations regarding how many such schools can be placed in a particular region.
  • I’m angry that other sitting New York State Democrats have not expressed their commitment to eliminating corruption and ridding our government of politicians who think that holding public office means that they are somehow above the law.
  • I’m angry that more people don’t vote.


Filed under Albany, Education, News, Observations, politics, Rant