February 2008

Snow Day II

Elementary school was called off before students were picked up this morning, but the buses had already picked up middle and high school students throughout the city this morning before the decision was made to call off school for the day.

I know there are some grousing parents out there — especially on the West end of town, where there’s hardly even a dusting on the grass.  However, I just came from a Rotary meeting at Inspiration Point (far East end), and I can tell you there’s a lot more snow there.  Everything is white, including the road.  There are icy patches scattered across town (including on West Outer Drive, just west of Hilltop), so it’s not like one can make a good judgment based on the snapshot outside any given home or office.

When the bus drivers reported slippery conditions this morning, the Director of Schools checked the radar and temperature forecasts again.  Finding that the temperature is not supposed to rise above freezing and that snow will continue — albeit on and off — through mid-afternoon, he made the call to close all schools and send the buses back to take the kids home.

Having just driven from one end of town to the other, I can’t say that I disagree.  It’s not bad everywhere, but the few icy spots are a problem.

What this will do to the orchestra’s scheduled departure for New York at 3 p.m. is unknown; that decision hasn’t been made yet, and will probably involve consultation with the tour line that’s transporting the kids.  Gamma’s supposed to be on that bus, so I understand the anxiety that other orchestra parents may be feeling today.

Attendance revisited

This morning, I took the opportunity (as I often do when the Legislature is in session) to review a list of education-related bills under consideration by our General Assembly.  One in particular jumped out at me in a bad way, even though I know the sponsor to be a thoughtful and intelligent person.

SB3896/HB3826 (Burchett, McCord) would dictate that "For each five (5) times a student is tardy to school in a school year, the student shall be counted as having been absent one (1) day from school."  The implications of absences can be quite serious — affecting school funding, as well as consequences up to and including families’ referral to juvenile court.

I’ve discussed my concerns about the attendance policy (here, here and here, to start) at length, but this bill would intensify the problem.  Consider for a moment the following situation, which occurred just this week:  the mother of an 11-year old receives a referral to "campus court," administered by the juvenile court in Anderson County.

The crime?  Little Johnny was tardy 10 times over the last six months.  "Tardy," in this child’s classroom and many others, is defined as "not being in one’s seat when the bell rings."  He was delivered to school in plenty of time, ate breakfast, stopped by the library and his locker… but managed to get distracted along the way and wasn’t in his seat when the bell rang.

On those ten days over a six-month period, he missed — at most — ten minutes of homeroom.  No instructional time at all.  However, if this bill should pass, that would equate to two full days (roughly 14 hours’ worth) of absences for the purpose of school funding as well as little Johnny’s attendance record. 

Remember to e-mail your state senators and representatives about things that are important to you; it does make a difference.  I already have.

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And don’t worry about Little Johnny.  The safeguards we put into place last January (to ensure that families are not frivolously referred to court for attendance matters) worked, and the court referral was cancelled.  The letter never should have gone out to begin with, but with a little oversight, the problem was fixed in time.

Where am I?

Girlfriend called last night to ask if I’m waiting for the shuttle to land before I post again.  Not intentionally, but the fact is that I’ve got a lot on my mind — little or none of which would be appropriate for me to write about at this time.

But if I’m not writing, what am I doing? (click image to enlarge

Beta will (presumably) graduate from high school this year, and she’s been accepted at my favorite (GO BIG ORANGE!) university.  Sew, I must work diligently if I am to finish the "college quilt" promised to each of the four daughters.  It’s all done by hand — no machine-piecing or quilting for me — so it takes some time.  A few hours per day to complete one square foot, to be exact.

And, the heat’s out again.  We survived heating the house with just wood for a month, from Christmas until Jan. 29, and had the furnace fixed before we left for Orlando last week.  It survived our absence, but now the blamed thing just has to be replaced.   Or, I have to keep the fire going to stay warm… which involves some work, but doesn’t cost anything, and doesn’t burn any fossil fuels.
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Certainly, there’s a lot more going on in the world that’s important, but not much that would be changed by my carrying on about it.  But, for the sake of argument, I was glad to see that McCain came out victorious in all three primaries yesterday.  I’m just not a Huckabee fan, because the issues that are most important to him are the ones we disagree about, and the ones I think the federal government has no business being involved in.

Congress is spending valuable time today hearing (and all major news channels covering) steroid use in baseball.  C’mon now, is that really the most important work to be done today on Capitol Hill?
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Maybe as I finish today’s square, I’ll think of something more engaging.  But for the moment, I’m focused on hearth and home and the stuff I cannot talk about.

Shuttle launch

This was very cool:

Shuttle launch 2/8/08

Free the grapes!

Talk to a legislator about the bill to allow Tennesseans to purchase wine online and have it shipped, and you’re likely to encounter the response that the law is designed to keep alcohol from minors.

Bovineoffal.

The Tennessean captures it more accurately:

To outsiders, the debate may seem like an arcane regulatory struggle. But wine enthusiasts have found common cause with free-marketeers who argue that systems such as Tennessee’s, which relies on large wholesalers, stifles free enterprise and a booming Internet wine market, to the detriment of consumers.

Such laws are under scrutiny because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that shook up a long-standing system of wine distribution and helped spur a boom of Internet wine sales.

The debate has pitted small vineyards, wine collectors and specialty retailers against large distributors that have dominated wine distribution since Prohibition.

Pure and simple, our current system creates a protected monopoly for middlemen who both stifle the choices available to consumers and inflate prices.

The biggest barrier to changing Tennessee’s laws, according to critics, is the lobbying clout of alcohol wholesalers. Wholesalers donated some $50 million to state political campaigns between 2000 and 2006; more than $800,000 was spent in Tennessee, said Tom Wark, the executive director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association.

"If I was a wholesaler, I’d be concerned about maintaining a monopoly, too," Wark said.

Today would be a good day to e-mail your state senator and state representative, and express your support for this concept.  While you’re at it, you might also consider expressing support for allowing wine sales in grocery stores — another measure that would improve price and selection for the consumer.

I spoke to Sen. McNally about it last week, and pointed out that it makes little sense to me that we don’t allow wine to be sold in a grocery store, but it’s perfectly okay to sell beer in a gas station.  What message does that send??

As a mother of teenagers, I’m quite on board with efforts to deter alcohol sales to minors.  However, given that retailers are now required to check ID for anyone purchasing alcohol — including obvious senior citizens — it really doesn’t make a hill of beans’ worth of difference where the products are sold.  What matters is diligence in following the law, ensuring that the purchaser is 21 or older.  That’s not too hard.

The current law supports archaic protectionism and unfair restrictions of trade, and it’s wrong.  Make some noise!