Category Archives: Schools

I voted “Yes” on the AHS project and now I’m sorry


Specifically, I’m sorry that I didn’t participate in getting the vote out. How sad is it that a decision as vital as whether to renovate and replace parts of the current high school could be decided by such a small percentage of the city’s population? Can’t we do better than that?

I’m also sorry that our city refused to grasp the opportunity to construct a single campus where all secondary programs could be administered. We could have provided a level playing field, one which would demonstrate our belief as a society that all areas of study, be they college or direct-to-career preparatory, are equally valid and important.

I’m sorry that the additional $5-10 a month in increased property taxes was a genuine consideration for so many home owners. I understand that taxes are a hardship for an awful lot of people and it is distressing. I, too, carefully weigh how to spend my income and am dismayed that such a disproportionate amount of the federal taxes I pay go to support military activities around the world which result in people dying. Of course, I don’t get to actually vote on that, though, right?

And lastly, I’m especially sorry that a city which has already demonstrated its desire to appeal to families by improving each of the elementary and middle schools, as well as expanding and updating the public library facilities, couldn’t find a way to finish the investment by correcting deficiencies in our one high school.

(For those of you who may not be aware of last week’s vote, read more about it here.)


Filed under Albany, Education, Local, News, Observations, Schools

The beautiful awkwardness of middle school


One of my responsibilities at school is morning hall duty. I generally bring a book to my post at the end of corridor, but often I don’t read more than a sentence or two because I am so captivated by the students making their way to their home rooms. They are so incredibly compelling in their not-still-children, not-quite-teenagers way that I find myself content to merely witness their passage – through both the hallway and through the critical years of their middle school experience.

Do you remember your own middle school years? If so, is it with fondness or discomfort? In my hometown, Greenwood Lake, N.Y., the configuration of the middle school was kind of unique – grades 4th-8th attended a single building with a two-storied wing for academics and a wing shared by the grades for specials and the cafeteria. I loved that school and my class of 60 students or so. It felt like a safe, comfortable space and I thrived in that environment.

Despite the level of familiar comfort I felt among my friends and with my teachers, I can still recall the sometimes painful moments of being a pre-teen. Am I the only person in the world who was too embarrassed to blow my nose in class? Or who had some unfortunate results while experimenting with hairstyles or trying on different personas?

When I see the parade of kids heading towards me in the hallway, I am utterly charmed by the wide range of physical variations – there are boys and girls far smaller than my 10 year-old as well as students who I have to crane my neck upwards in order to make eye contact. The array of fashions, from sweatpants and leggings (always black) to skinny jeans to pants of a length that my middle school peers would have dubbed “flood waters,” never fails to make me smile.

The fresh-faced girls with a tasteful dab of lip gloss and the lightest coating of mascara are perfectly matched by the boys who have discovered hair gel and their father’s cologne. These kids usually travel the halls in a pack, which maximizes their impact on the less sophisticated students who sport t-shirts featuring non-ironic cartoon characters and hair ribbons and bows. I am equally in awe of those who attempt to appear older and the ones who are adorably oblivious to the accouterments of adulthood.  They’re all beautiful.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, Schools, Uncategorized

I Am Princess X

The fiction collection in the library where I work is organized by genre, a situation which sometimes vexes me. I mean, it can be really challenging to decide where a book should be shelved from merely reading the subject tags or the inside of the jacket. Sometimes, a title seems as if it could be assigned to more than a single genre and I’m forced to just make a choice, hoping the book lands on a shelf where it will be discovered and appreciated.

The new young adult book, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priestly, provided me with a dilemma when it came to slapping a genre sticker on its spine. Was it a graphic novel? Realistic fiction? Mystery? Truthfully, it’s all of the above – a contemporary story complete with suspense and graphic novel components.

The plot tells the story of best friends Libby and May. Together they created Princess X, a cartoon heroine who befriends ghosts and fights monster while wearing red Chuck Taylor’s and a golden crown. Their adventures together seem limitless until tragedy strikes and Libby and her mother are both killed in a horrible accident…

But, perhaps it wasn’t really an accident and maybe Libby isn’t really dead. May and a new acquaintance, Trick, use technology, smarts and bravery to get to the bottom of the mysterious reappearance of Princess X and learn what really happened to Libby.

Set in Seattle, this novel crosses genres and genders to provide a compelling story which will appeal to a wide range of readers. In a plot rife with modern technologies, this may be my very favorite line:

“Sometimes the easiest answer was the analog one.”

Two thumbs up for a fast, fun read.

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Filed under Books, Librarians, Recommendations, Schools, Uncategorized

Glory Days – Greenwood Lake Middle School’s Class of 1980

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It probably wasn’t coincidence that I heard that Springsteen song not once, but twice, on my way to the 35th reunion of my 8th grade class, right? There probably isn’t a song more appropriate for getting together with classmates and reminiscing about shared childhoods than that nugget that made its debut the same year I graduated from high school.

I’ve been to school reunions before,  4 of them actually. But this, the first middle school reunion planned and executed, was different. After a couple of days reflecting about it, I finally recognized what made this reunion so very novel. From the first M-W reunion in 1984, which I attended in a white crepe number I referred to as my Ginger Grant dress, I went with the intention of showing people who I had become, how I had grown and changed. Going to a reunion of my 8th grade classmates couldn’t have been more dissimilar.

Attending a reunion, in my actual hometown, with other members of the Class of 1980 wasn’t an exercise in validating who I am now. Instead it was a warm embrace from the friends who have always known exactly who I am. From the former teacher who remembered me as being “so smart” to the women who made a point of telling me that I had given them something intangible  that they had never forgotten, those that were present on Saturday night demonstrated that the value I held for them was completely unrelated to anything I may have achieved in my life.  It was simply because of who I am, and who I’ve always been,  in an absolutely organic way.

Getting together with those who shared critical, right of passage events – field trips to NYC, hitchhiking adventures, explorations with gateway substances, first kisses, was positively fantastic.  The hard work of classmates to make this event happen was greatly appreciated by all who attended and I truly believe every one there had a special and memorable night. For those who weren’t there, by choice or circumstance, you were missed.  Pencil this event in for 2020.  It’ll be epic.



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Filed under aging, Education, Events, favorites, friends, girlhood, Schools, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

What home feels like


The stone staircase alongside the waterfall

Memorial Day weekend probably seems like the ultimate cliché when it comes to traveling a couple of hours (or more) to revisit one’s childhood. Not to take anything away from our nation’s true heroes, but surviving our teenaged years in the small village of Greenwood Lake made us veterans of an entirely different sort.


Fitzgerald’s Falls

Since we had been brought back to the lake to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Class of 1980, meeting at the Middle School for what we exaggeratedly called a “hike,” was the perfect re-entry to the past. Heading for the trail, we walked alongside the brick building where we had once ruled, recalling intramural soccer games, events from the bicentennial celebration of 1976 and the family of ducks who once resided next to the now fenced in pond. It all felt like it could have been yesterday.

The trail into the woods was filled with memories of hikes, both with teachers and without adult supervision. How lucky were we to have had the Appalachian Trail behind our school and to have grown up at a time when exploring our surroundings was considered a valid use of class time? How many nights did we spend in the woods drinking cheap beer, listening to the waterfall splash against the mossy rocks, gaining an entirely different education?

Pink lady's slipper orchid

Pink lady’s slipper orchid

When we got to town a little later in the afternoon, it was remarkably familiar, yet ever so different. Businesses have come and gone, as is to be expected, but the renaming of childhood landmarks was jarring. What was known as “the field” or Pembleton’s to the more precise, was now named after someone who made their mark long after most of us had left the lake for lives elsewhere.  It felt like a weird responsibility to be the bearer of memories of what came before.

If I squinted my eyes I could still see the flea markets and fairs of long ago, along with the remnants of what was rumored to have once been a play area complete with mini golf and a concrete pool in which to sail toy boats. Situating myself along Windemere Avenue, relying upon buildings which may serve different purposes yet eternally remain the post office and Christman’s Realty to me, I located the slab of concrete which will always time stamp both my first “serious” boyfriend and the year the sidewalks were installed in town.

Look closely - can you read it?

Look closely – can you read it?

I took a run around the arm of the lake, a distance which is far shorter in miles than I ever would have guessed. So many of the places are different yet easily envisioned in my mind’s eye. Frank’s Pizzeria, now a residential building, but once home to great slices and a nice man who often gave me a ride up the mountain on his way home. The Bristol Bridge, long ago replaced by a span with far less interest and minus my name written in surprisingly weather resistant red lipstick.  McMansion-esque home replacing the cottages and bungalows where my friends lived so many years ago.

In Greenwood Lake everything feels familiar, yet nothing is exactly the same. Going home is like being dunked in a well of memories, moments from the past which, upon reflection, either gain or lose significance. There are ghosts everywhere – of friends lost to time or death and older versions of ourselves. But there’s a comfort in all of it. We were there and who we are today is directly related to the experiences we shared so many years ago. Going home feels like just the place I wanted to be this weekend.


Filed under aging, friends, musings, relationships, road trips, Schools, Uncategorized, upstate New York

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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Filed under Education, politics, Schools

Testing boundaries

Last week I attended a meeting sponsored by the NYS Alliance for Public Education. The forum discussed current controversies and issues in public education including the Common Core Learning Standards, teacher evaluations, Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Education Budget and the NYS assessments given to elementary students in grades 3-8.

My interest in attending the meeting was more personal than professional, I have a child in 4th grade who will be expected to sit for multiple days worth of testing later in spring. At this time I am actively seeking information about the credibility of the exams and the impact they may have on my child, his teacher(s) and his school. His experience with the tests last year began the very first week of third grade when he came home from school talking with concern about the assessments he would have to take 7 months later. The very same tests which we wouldn’t even receive the results of for more than a year after that first conversation.

The presentation was professionally delivered and informative. I left with a sheaf of papers and the commitment to do a bit of research before making a final decision regarding my own child’s participation in next month’s assessments. A day later, I saw this document shared on Facebook and immediately became outraged. A friend of mine (who has been involved in the news business for more than two decades), suggested I look at the document a little more critically. I mean, is it feasible that a big testing company would really be monitoring the social media accounts of millions of students?

Apparently, the answer is “yes.” I suppose all it would take would be a bot of sorts to troll hashtags focusing on things like #Pearson and #PARCC, right? Geez, Pearson could probably spend some of the $108 million they were paid by the state of New Jersey to actually hire a person or two to monitor Twitter and other social media platforms, if they chose to.

I’ve spent an almost combined 40 years being a student and teacher. I remember excitedly taking the CAT tests, confident in my abilities to demonstrate my knowledge. Sitting down with my sharpened #2 pencils in the cafeteria felt like a special treat, not a stress inducing threat. I’m not opposed to testing in theory, but the commercialization of education, complete with a single vendor who provides curriculum, assessment and remediation for those scoring poorly on tests doesn’t sit right with me. I think we’ll pass on the tests this year.

A couple of other related posts to read:

Bob Braun’s Ledger
Diane Ravitch’s post

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Filed under Boys, Education, News, Schools