Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." (Julius Caesar; Act 4, Scene 3).

Category: Education (Page 2 of 3)

Stacey Wilson: New Southwest Airline Stewardess, May 29, 2014

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My daughter, Stacey Kristen Corcoran Wilson, age 26, a graduate of Belmont University in Nashville (who worked, briefly, for Taylor Swift’s 13M organization and traveled Australia for a year) just completed 5 weeks of training and graduated from Southwest Airlines—5 weeks of 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm. days. Apparently, Southwest invited around 1,000 wannabee stewardesses to come and train in Dallas their TOPS headquarters, putting the up at the downtown Sheraton. Only 700 of those are expected to make it through and (eventually) be hired.

Stewardesses are not paid during their time training, although they do get a lump sum payment of $1200 at the end of the 5 weeks’ of training, if they make it through. Unfortunately, not all do.

The RN who flunked First Aid. The 62-year-old divorced guy who made it all the way to the day their uniforms arrived (they have to buy their own uniforms) and then did not get 90% on a test and was sent home. The degreed older man who stormed out muttering during a test. Many were called, but few were chosen.

At the end, trainers with names like Margo, Ken, Becky, Alan, Alfonso, Renee stood by as host Andrea Bradford read off the names of 78 graduates of the 285th Southwest graduating class, turning them loose to fly for Southwest—thought to be the best domestic airline to work for. (Please excuse the preposition at the end there.)

Why is Southwest the “best.” I could go on about the “warrior spirit,” the “winning smile” or other things mentioned during the hour-long ceremony that began at 3:00 p.m., but the truth is they pay the best and have the most lenient policies in regards to letting relatives (i.e., Stacey’s father and me) fly free (“No Revenue,” it’s called) as well as many other very user-friendly employee policies that are as favorable as the fact that Southwest lets you take 2 bags without extra charges.

I now must learn to pack light, which will be a struggle, but I’m so excited for the daughter, who is off to see the world. I think back to her high school graduation, when I posted a picture of her wearing wings and a crown (and a darling ballerina outfit) and holding a wand and suggested that she now spread her wings and see the world.

And she has. As Andrea Bradford said, “Represent us well. Congratulations. Well done, and welcome aboard.”

Silver Feather Award Presented on May 17th, 2014, at Union League Club in Chicago, Illinois

P1030490On Saturday, May 17, 2014, I was honored to receive the Silver Feather Award from the Chicago chapter of IWPA (Illinois Women’s Press Association). The ceremony was held at the downtown Union League Club, a venerable institution with REAL Picasso paintings on its walls.

Judges for the 2014 Mate E. Palmer award included Max Ashrafi of Villa Park, a graphic designer at Triton College and College of DuPage; Dave Berner of Chicago, associate professor of radio at Columbia College Chicago, author, and former news reporter and anchor for WBBM Newsradio 780 in Chicago; Irina Cline of Oak Park, an employee of the University of Illinois in Chicago who is currently translating Bori Mikhailovich Eikhenbaum’s “Literary Mores” from Russian to English; Synoma Hays of Melrose Park, who is on the board of the North Riverside Players; Mike Knezevich of Downers Grove, who is Vice President of Regional Radio Sports Network, the play-by-play announcer for Indiana scholastic baseball, basketball, and soccer and announcer for the Chicago Bandits pro softball team; Henry Kranz of Oak Park, one of Chicago’s most active and tenured poets; Kelly Lucia of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who is a web content specialist; Ashley Mouldon of Seattle, Washington, who works for Youth in Focus and, also, for the dog rescue organization Old Dog Haven; Mark R. Trost of Hennepin, MN, who is an author, essayist, editor, humorist and communications consultant, as well as a blogger; and Bill Vint of East Troy, Wisconsin, who is a freelance journalist with more than 40 years of newspaper and magazine journalism and marketing experience.

With Beck Sarwate (R), President of IWPA, and Dana B. (L) at the Union League Club on Saturday, May 17, 2014.

With Beck Sarwate (R), President of IWPA, and Dana B. (L) at the Union League Club on Saturday, May 17, 2014.

I mention these impartial, objective judges because so many groups to which I belong (and I belong to A LOT of writers’ groups) do not have impartial, objective voting by outside judges. The entire contest degenerates into a thinly veiled popularity contest. As a result, the entire awarding of a prize or trophy becomes an exercise in the “Good Old Boy” network of vote trading, cronyism and nepotism. It was a real thrill to know that acknowledged professional experts in their fields judged my work (and that of the other entrants) solely on the basis of the work—not on whether I was this week’s Flavor of the Month or “traded recommendations” or some other totally biased method. It was refreshing—and different— to say the least. (And not the norm, at all.)

Now, on to the actual articles and books that won the Silver Feather this year for me, for the second time in three years.
(I did not enter in the intervening year, as the deadline saw us in Australia/New Zealand and I was releasing RED IS FOR RAGE from far, far away.)

Student winners of IWPA Journalism awards, with one advisor on the job since 1964 (50years).

Student winners of IWPA Journalism awards, with one advisor on the job since 1964 (50years).

There were 22 individuals who were honored, but only one trophy is awarded. The announcement of the IWPA member awards and those of the students present from schools around the area followed a luncheon and a speaker. This year, the competition was computerized for the first time, which meant an enhanced bit of difficulty for many members, including me. (There are always bugs and glitches the first time through something like this, but it was handled masterfully by those in charge.)

2014 Silver Feather Award (front); 2012 Silver Feather IWPA Award (left); Midwest Writing Center Writer of the Year Award (3/20/2010), (R).

2014 Silver Feather Award (front); 2012 Silver Feather IWPA Award (left); Midwest Writing Center Writer of the Year Award (3/20/2010), (R).

In all, contestants entered 70 different categories. First place winners compete for NFPW (National Federation of Press Women) honors to be announced this summer, and I have at least something that will be in additional competition.

The areas that my work was awarded recognition included the following:

1) Advertising, including posters, billboards and banners, as well as Pinterest Book Cover Boards and the Quad Cities’ Learning site (www.quadcitieslearning.com).
2) Young Adult Novel RED IS FOR RAGE
, second in THE COLOR OF EVIL series. (www.RedIsforRage.com).
3) Writing/News Story, Online Publication: “Rock River Flooding in Illinois Sets Record” and “Mississippi River Flood is 13th Worst” (Yahoo; this story has had over 10,000 “hits” on Yahoo) and I currently have over 1,000,000 hits total.
4) Writing/Personality Profile: “William F. Nolan on 60 Years of Friendship with Ray Bradbury” on www.WeeklyWilson.com.
5) Writing/Specialty Articles, Hobby or Craft: “Flugtag Flying Competition in Chicago on Saturday, September 21, 2013” (WeeklyWilson.com and Yahoo)
6) Writing, Personality Profile: “Blowback by Valerie Plame and Sarah Lovett,” in the ITW (International Thriller Writers’ newsletter and on WeeklyWilson.com.

When judged without considerations of vote-trading, popularity or any of the nepotism that mars so many awards, my writing for the year 2013 earned the highest accumulated number of points, and the lovely star-trophy went home with me. (I also received certificates attesting to the above.)

Thank you, Judges and IWPA, and I hope to see you at Printers’ Row at the IWPA Tent on June 7/8 (from 2 p.m. on) when I will have 10 different books on sale to interested book browsers at the Midwest’s largest book outdoor book fair.

Interview with Cyrus A Webb on “The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats”

Check Out Entertainment Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Cyrus Webb Presents on BlogTalkRadio

New York City Public Schools Recommended Reading List for Summer…?

While I was in New York City attending International Thriller Writers convention, a New York paper had a story on a public school that put out a list of recommended reading for summer. Unfortunately, the secretary was not very proficient, and apparently had never heard of the titles she was typing up. This led to some merriment, when titles like “The Great Gypsy” showed up.

In thinking about this article, the following list represents what a truly incompetent secretary might have recommended as literature to be read over the summer:
1) Madame Ovary
2) The Lovely Bone
3) The Great Gypsy
4) David Copafeel
5) For Whom the Bed Tolls
6) Harry Potted
7) The Fart Is A Lonely Hunter
8) Warren Pease
9) Stand Under Me
10) Our Mutual Fiend
11) The Turd Man
12) The Big Sleet
13) Winderella
14) A Tale of Two Titties
15) Beauty and the Breast
16) Jason and the Golden Fleas
17) Peter Pain
18) The Brothers Caramello
19) Bride and Prejudice
20) War and Peas
21) Lady Loverly’s Chatter
22) Children of a Lesser Cod
23) Keen Leer
24) Crimea and Punishment
25) The Marcia Chronicles
26) Prude and Prejudice
27) Skeleton Key

Guest Blogger, Robin Throne, Shares Her New Project

WE ARE ALL CONNECTED…

Robin Throne’s new novel “Her Kind” to be FREE as Kindle download in April.

Thank you to the incomparable Connie Corcoran Wilson for allowing me to share a glimpse into the lived experience of writing my debut novel, Her Kind, released last month by 918studio. Her Kind is a fictional account of the settlement of the real-life, lost great river village of Parkhurst, Ia., now part of Le Claire (voted one of the “2013 coolest small towns in America” by BudgetTravel).

I lived in a house on Great River Road in Le Claire throughout the writing of Her Kind, and was inspired daily by the shifting river surface that seemed to possess a unique moodiness affected by current, wind, and sky. While the river may be an obvious metaphor for a life, I continued to be intrigued by the historical documents that referred to the vast watershed as the “father of waters” versus those rare documents that referred to the “mother of waters.” Her Kind explores the latter, and traces a family’s migration in a direct line from England, to New England, to Iowa from a woman’s perspective. Stopping in the middle. Staying put once crossing the great river and finding her way throughout.

Watershed Picture.

One afternoon, I came across a line drawing of the great river’s watershed and was struck by the similarities of it with a family tree. In it, I saw the intricacies that perhaps the novel’s narrator, Rose Emma, had seen in spite of the many splits and separations she shares in her tale: “We are all connected” (p. 191). On other days as this story unfurled, the view of this river followed more that drop of water that photographer Gayle Harper tailed on her 90-day blog last year from the Itasca headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. Ninety days for a drop of water to make the journey of a lifetime, and at one point it traveled right by my door as I followed Gayle’s journey on her blog. Perhaps it is simply that—more important that the story of the journey is told no matter how long or brief, how minimal or verbose, simply because it is that we are all connected and it is the journey that matters most. If it is these sorts of passages you seek in your ebook GoodReads, Rose’s story may be for you.
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Get the Kindle version of Robin Throne’s Her Kind, a novel FREE from April 5-7! Like Connie Corcoran Wilson, who earned the award in 2010, she is the recipient of the 2013 David R. Collins Literary Achievement Award, and see why Her Kind readers are giving 5-stars at GoodReads!
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Dr. Robin Throne of LeClaire was recently named recipient of the Midwest Writing Center’s David R. Collins Literary Achievement Award at a ceremony at Davenport’s Outing Club. Robin has a doctorate in educational research, assessment and evaluation, is a founding member of the LeClaire (IA) Writing Group, and has published a poetry chapbook, 2 novels, an academic monograph and other works.

Nominated by Nancy A Schaefer, Ms. Throne joins 2010 winner me (Connie Corcoran Wilson, March 20, 2010), 2009 winner Mike McCarty and original recipient Sean Leary, former Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Moline Dispatch. The award is given not only for writing achievement, but for supporting and promoting literacy in the Quad Cities. As with other recipients, Dr. Throne is a member of and has been active in support of the Midwest Writing Center.

Robin started the Mississippi Valley Chapbook contest, great River Writers’ Retreat, the Collins’ Poetry Residency and mentored the residency, as well as starting online classes, formatting a poetry book and The Atlas and blogging for MWC (Midwest Writing Center). She advises students on dissertations for North Central University in Arizona and is this semester’s faculty adviser for the Eastern Iowa Community College student newspaper.

Sydney, Australia Museum of Modern Art Anish Kapoor Exhibit

Sky Mirror, Sydney, Australia.

February 3, 2013 – Anish Kapoor designed what is popularly known as “The Bean” which graces Chicago’s Millennium Park. He is best-known for his sculptures involving mirrored surfaces, and is one of the British sculptors along with Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Shirazeh Houshiary and Antony Gormley. The exhibit of Kapoor’s work began December 20, 2012 and will continue until April 1 of 2013.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia.

The exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia presents a wide range of Kapoor’s sculptures, including one of his most famous, the 2006 stainless steel sculpture entitled Sky Mirror, which has also graced Rockefeller Center and London’s Kensington Gardens,and currently stands in front of the Museum, reflecting the clouds on Sydney Harbour. The giant mirror measures 10 meters.

Memory, 2008.

The largest sculpture resembled a giant egg and weighed 24 tons. It is the 2009 sculpture “Memory,” which looked like nothing so much as a warped football/basketball/soccer ball.

At the Anish Kapoor Exhibit, Feb. 3, 2013, Sydney Australia Museum.

E-books and the World of E-Book Publishing Make Sense (& Cents)

The Kindle

I just concluded teaching “Blogging for Bucks” at the Midwest Writing Conference at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and sat in on a presentation from an e-book publisher. The same gentleman now setting up to publish in e-book formats was an agent when I sat next to him at lunch in Chicago at “Love Is Murder” a few years ago. Now, he and his wife—and me—are pioneers packing our wagon train and heading for the New Frontier of Kindles and Nooks.

David Morrell thinks that agents, in the future, will take over most of the functions  of print publishers. I have an agent. I would rather not use her and take care of business myself, but, then, I founded and functioned as CEO of 2 previous businesses  (Sylvan Learning Center #3301 and Prometric Testing Center #3301), so I don’t mind it that “the buck stops here.” In fact, I prefer it that way.

I  just attended the BEA (Book Expo America) in New York City for the 8th time, BlogWorld, WorldCon (in Austin, TX) and the Book Blogger conference at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. All the talks and presentations and panels eventually talked about  e-book publishing and what to make of it. Here’s what I make of e-book publishing and I will echo J.A. Konrath, one of the leaders of the charge.

Why not?

“Writers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains! Give me your hungry-to-publish, your poor struggling authors, your wretched masses yearning to write free. I lift my E-Lamp beside the golden door.”

The “tipping point” for e-books versus print books has already been reached. By Christmas, the deluge will be unleashed as waves of Kindles and BookNooks and Sony Readers are gifted. The new generation (Millennials) are growing up playing with complex technology and hungry for it. My two-year-old granddaughters see anything electronic (camera, cell phone, Ipad) and immediately want to glom onto it.

There is no turning back.

The new frontier is upon us. The print publishing industry is circling the wagons. [They’re humming Cher’s song, “If I Could Turn Back Time.”] In reading David Morrell’s blog, I saw that he had revised his opinion on when e-books would overtake print books downward from 5 years to 2 years. Reading the new E-book “How I Sold 1 Million Copies of My E-Book in 5 Months” by John Locke, I learned that GBL (Guaranteed Buy Lists) and OOU (One of Us) and blogging to spread the word are all going to be part of the Author-of-the-Future’s repertoire.

In my own case, my paperback books are not self-published. Small, independent publishers thought enough of my work to put out the print copies.  I paid Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP (Chicago) to retain all e-book rights. I publish the same book as an e-book under the imprimatur Quad City Press. I make more money from virtual book sales and I know I’m being paid what I’m owed.
What are the advantages? Control, for one thing.

 

I had one publisher who slapped a cheap cover on a good book and nearly ruined it. (One reviewer even said, “You can’t judge this book by its cover.”) This would never have happened if I had published it as an e-book title and developed the cover myself. That same publisher kept my book a year, never paid me one cent of royalties (despite being contractually obligated to do so) and then, after I protested, sent me a check for $32. I knew, for a fact, that the book had sold that much in one book signing at a Barnes & Noble store, but how would I prove that I had been cheated? I licked my wounds and moved on, got a new (better) cover (Amish men don’t wear blue jeans, shirts with rick-rack and pork pie hats!) and published it as a Kindle title myself. It’s new and improved, and it stays up until I say it comes down. Plus, I don’t have to worry about being cheated out of my royalties or not getting paid when the company goes under, as is happening now with Leisure book authors.

If you price your book under $9.99, the author retains 70% of the money paid directly to his or her bank account. I was recently offered 35% royalties by an e-book publisher to publish my 80,000 word novel The Color of Evil. The company wanted extensive rewrites of one section. There was no upfront money, so promotion would still be all on my dime, as has been the case with the small independent publishers with whom I’ve worked. Why not publish this myself as Quad City Press, not have to rewrite in a different voice, and reap two times the royalties? (70% versus 35%). Also, you can do creative things with pricing books in a series, which is my plan with The Color of Evil, Red Is for Rage and the third book in the series, (which I am at work writing now.)

E-book publishing is both a godsend and opening the floodgates. True, some drek will be published, but if you have a person who has been writing for pay for 55 years (as I have) and has won national awards for his or her writing (as I have), your odds are pretty good that, if you like one title by this proficient author, you’ll like the others.

Pricing is key. Perseverance is key, but watch out, world. Here we come: the E-book authors are on the move! Get ready!

 

Convicts’ College Programs Being Cut in Illinois

Friday, June 11th in the Quad City Times newspaper, Kurt Erickson of the “Times” Bureau out of Springfield reported that the computer education program for prison inmates was being cut because ex-convicts who graduated in the field couldn’t get jobs. The article went on to say that the program operated at 11 state prisons in Illinois with the assistance of community college instructors. A five-year review of how the inmates fared in getting jobs after graduating from the program found that they were not getting hired, so the program was axed.

Another such joint program was one in business management, which had 900 inmates participate in the most recent round of classes. These classes seem to have been offered on-site, as 19 instructors were being displaced, but those instructors were told they could bid for other prison education jobs.

The fact is that ex-convicts are actively recruited for entrance into Eastern Iowa Community College in the Iowa Quad Cities, for example. At least one such community college cited in this article—Southeastern Illinois—has announced that it is halting its prison education programs because the state of Illinois is so late in reimbursing the institution for the work it has previously provided.

The article went on to say, “Community colleges provide many different classes for inmates, ranging from automotive repair to horticulture.” I can attest to this, having taught primarily students who were enrolled in automotive repair, HVAC programs, culinary arts programs or sign language.

The problem I perceived was that instructors were never provided any information about the enrolled ex-convict’s presence in their class. I realize that privacy issues and privacy policies (that often out-rule common sense) have come to dominate on the community college front, but it seems that the instructor, at least, should have the right to know that a student enrolled in his or her class has just been released from prison. This needn’t be knowledge the entire class possesses, but the instructor deserves to know.

This past history of violence, in some cases, can become a very real problem for the instructor and/or for the rest of the class, as it did for me when I had just such an ex-convict who enrolled (late) in one of my classes. I only found out that he was an ex-convict because he told me, in great detail, about the robbery he had committed. Among other problems this individual faced, he was an alcoholic with a device affixed to his vehicle to monitor his driving because of a DUI citation.

My class taught students how to put together a resume and how to interview for a job, skills that would certainly be beneficial for anyone and no less useful for ex-convicts. After my class had met four times, this particular student came straggling into the office, and I was pointed out as the instructor.

I sat down and attempted to fill him in on all missed work (we only met about 28 times, so 4 absences was quite a lot of missed time for a “late” enrollment). He talked non-stop about robbing his father’s place of employment after-hours, justifying the theft by saying he only wanted the money to go visit his mother in Florida, who had abandoned him when he was eight.

Those sad stories aside, he shared the news of his young daughter, (whom, I later learned, he used to blow into his DUI device so that he could drive drunk to class.) It seems it was her birthday that day. I tried very hard to be encouraging and sympathetic to both this student and others whom I learned, only by accident, were ex-convicts and enrolled in my classes.

The DUI student only came to class once. We were working on resumes in a room that I had reserved which was to have a computer for each student, but there had been some sort of screw-up and we were assigned to a room where the computers were specially designed for a court-reporting class and did not work for “regular” computer work. This student sat in the back of the room being loud and unruly and his blue language caused 3 other class members to come to me and complain after class (I was up front at the blackboard, trying to give instructions while he was drowning out the instruction and using “f” bombs every other word.)

After that, we never again saw the student in the class. I set about arranging the interviews I always arranged with my former Chamber of Commerce contacts, (some of whom at the local auto plazas actually gave jobs to the students they interviewed.) The interview was approximately ½ of the student’s grade, but the missing ex-convict had never returned to class to find out when he was assigned to be interviewed (interviews were also filmed for later critique.)

When it came time to “write a memo,” the class and I wrote a very bland memo that simply said “To:  John Doe. From: (my name). Re: Your Interview.” It then filled in the time, day and date of the arranged interview, noting that the interview was 50% of the student’s grade.

The student-in-question, the ex-convict who had been recruited by an African American administrator known as the administration’s “hatchet woman,”a very unpleasant lady with a bald spot the size of a dinner plate and the personality of a piranha…rather than viewing the informative memo(s) as doing Mr. DUI a favor in trying to salvage his grade, said that he had lodged a complaint that he had been sent the memo(s). The hatchet woman, (who bore a grudge against me for the alleged sins of my successor at the Sylvan Learning Center I had sold 2 years previously, whom she felt did not do a good enough job with her niece for a sum of money that she paid) was complained to.

For my part, the student in question showed up again only on the day of the final as it was ending (having missed the interview and all other classes and having only been seen once, in person), entered my classroom (no security at all in the entire building, but a sign posted by the copy machine that read “If you are assaulted, call the Sheriff,” with a phone number) and threatened to kill me. He reeked of booze, and his fellow classmates told me that, thanks to his young daughter, he would have her breathe into his DUI device so that he could drive to campus each morning.

The bell was ringing just as the ex-convict’s threat came, and all of us, me included, exited to the busy hallways ASAP, although it was well-known that no security personnel existed to assist any of us, student or teacher.

For my part, I  tried to remain calm and I suggested to the ex-convict that we both go to the Dean’s office together to discuss his concerns. I already had a meeting scheduled about an hour after this to discuss whether it was “ethical” to be required to turn over my Final Exam, in advance, to the various assigned “tutors” for these students, many of whom could not read or could not read at the level necessary for college instruction.

It had come to my attention that the entire exam was being spoon-fed to some of the students by some of the tutors (not all, but some), and the regular students in my class—-kids fresh out of high school, not fresh out of prison—were justifiably upset that they didn’t get this unfair “break.”

As luck would have it, the drunk ex-convict’s advisor was in the hallway, saw him, and escorted him from the building, thereby sparing me a knifing, beating or worse. I spent the rest of the semester trying to find out if that student was still on campus and was coming back, had been expelled, what? No one would tell me (the instructor) what disciplinary action (if any) had been taken against the ex-convict in the auto body repair program. I was told to just drop it.

Despite some serious PTSD from the death threat that day, I did keep my appointment one hour later, where the large African-American administrator poked her finger into my chest and back-marched me around an office in full view of several other college employees (the tutors), who apparently felt that a death threat to an instructor from a student who had never attended class was justified, while a memo that he needed to be present for a scheduled interview that was 50% of his grade was not.

I am sympathetic to the many government-sponsored programs to assist ex-convicts who are leaving prison and need further training to find jobs, and so is the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group that has raised red flags about cuts to prison education programs. However, I am more sympathetic to the “regular, normal” students and teachers in that community college who are never ever given even so much as a private “heads up” to the danger(s) that may lurk within their classroom.

Ask yourself how you’d feel if you were either (a) one of the regular, normal 18-year-old high school graduates sitting next to such ex-cons, not being given the “tutor” treatment that involved advance knowledge of all test questions on a test and/or the threat the seatmate next to you could potentially pose (especially if drunk at the time) (b) the instructor, fending off death threats from a drunk ex-convict who wanders into your classroom for only the second time all year.

And, last but not least, when do “privacy laws” allow for some protection for that instructor and those students, and what gives an out-of-control administrator the right to physically assault (poking with one’s finger is assault) a hard-working professor with the highest satisfaction marks of any on the faculty, simply because her niece didn’t do well in a reading improvement program that that individual had set up 20 years previously but had not been affiliated with for over 4 years?

Some further investigation of the effects of these government-sponsored classes should be made. Are these students really “college competent?” Is their reading level up to the standards that college work…even junior college work…requires?

Following the near-assault by a student and the actual assault, verbal and physical, by an administrator, I went to the office to take the sign that said, “If you are assault, call the Sheriff” as proof of the lax security, and….surprise!…it had been taken down. (There were still no security officers employed for the rest of that year, but we had the number that might have helped us get help taken from us.) I’ve been told that now this college employs security guards, but I don’t know if that is true. I do know that the Illinois institution that it most resembles in this area has always had a security force, and I was very surprised to learn that the Iowa one did not think that the expense was justified. In my own case, since I could never get a straight answer as to what had been done with the ex-convict student, I had volunteer male members of my class (who asked me, unbidden) escort me to and from my automobile for the rest of the semester. This begged the question of my brand-new car sitting in the parking lot all day, potential prey to a guy with major-league problems and a possible unjustified grudge.

This is why I am not that crushed to hear that the computer and business management classes paid for by government dollars for ex-convicts may be diminishing. Our tax dollars at work, Folks. The inmates now run the asylum a lot of places.

Chicago South Loop Schools to Struggle Under Budget Cuts

The Chicago Public Schools are in a world of hurt as a result of the state’s precarious financial position. The Chicago Sun-Times learned, as a result of a power point presentation by Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman, that cuts totaling $700 million must be trimmed from the budget and the average class size in the South Loop public schools may rise from the current 30 to 37 pupils per teacher.

Among the cuts being contemplated, according to Enrique’s Community Update and the Chicago Sun Times article of 3/16/2010 by Rosalind Rossi (www.suntimes.com/news/education), anticipated cutbacks include most assistant Principal positions, a number of clerks, and a moratorium on non-varsity sports. There would also be no full-day kindergarten, no early childhood classes and no mandated transportation to magnet schools or charter schools.

The proposed cuts include $398 million in central office and citywide cuts and 3,200 teaching positions, with 600 non-teaching positions also scheduled to be cut. Another 1,900 jobs would open up due to resignations and retirements. Most central office employees would also take 15 furlough days (as they did this year) and there would be a pay freeze.

There would be $27 million cut in non-mandatory transportation to magnet or charter schools and $17 million in cuts to enrichment and after-school programs.  The system would attempt to cover the deficit by drawing down $240 million from the system’s reserve fund and there would be a –18% reduction to charter and contract schools in per student spending.

The Chicago Teachers’ Union is due a projected 4% raise next year, which would amount to +$169 million in additional spending.  Teachers’ Union spokesperson Rosemarie Genova of the CTU (Chicago Teachers’ Union) said, “If this is a negotiating ploy, there will be no negotiation in the press.”

Next year, pension demands on the TRS (Teachers’ Retirement System) are slated to jump from $308 million to $587 million as a result of the aging of the teaching force and retirements of veteran teaching staff. The TRS system in Illinois is generally considered the third-best teachers’ pension system in the nation.

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