Tenure in Schools Needs to Go

Everyone loves to talk about how America’s schools are failing. They all have their ideas as to why — everything from funding to the No Child Left Behind Act. Most school administrators would tell you it’s a lack of extra support services.

Do you want to know what this mom thinks? I think it’s the tenure system.

Every teacher or family member of a teacher that just read this is probably groaning, rolling their eyes and possibly clicking away right now, but hear me out.

My oldest has been in public school for 2 years now (she’s in the 1st grade). Both years she has had less than great teachers that spent more time out of the classroom than in. It was bad in kindergarten with the teacher disinterested in the curriculum and leaving the classroom an average of once a week, but in 1st grade, the teacher is out more than she’s in. When she’s in the classroom, my daughter tells me she frequently screams at the kids and tells them they’re not doing enough.

She hates her teacher and what’s worse is that she hates school at this point. She’s in 1st grade. She’s supposed to love school.

She has nightly homework which consists of reading, math and vocabulary words (we were pressured to finish all of the 1st grade sight words within the first few weeks of school). If she has any unfinished desk work from the day, that comes home too. She gets home in the afternoon at 3:30pm. If we have any after school activities or would just like to just enjoy the nice weather a little bit, there’s very little time left for homework, so she winds up having to stay up late to finish it, leaving her tired the next day. I tried skipping the homework on days when she had activities, but the teacher found out and screamed at her along with the other kids that had been doing the same thing on days that they had any other obligations.

All of the parents in this classroom know the teacher is screaming at the kids. We all comment on how frequently they have substitutes (2-3 times a week) The other teachers in the school know. The principal knows. Everyone knows. This is not unusual.

I questioned the substitute issue. Apparently on days when the teacher has an IEP meeting with a parent, they call in a substitute for the day. Apparently there are a lot of kids in that school with an IEP and she can’t meet with more than one of their parents per day. I’m making some broad assumptions here, there’s only 20 kids in the class.

The screaming issue however, the teacher vehemently denies. She says she gets a little excited. I told her the kids are interpreting it as screaming. That was a mistake. She screamed at the kids for telling their parents she was screaming at them.

The school can’t remove her. She’s not physically hurting the kids (only mentally) and she has tenure. Ah tenure. I hate tenure. Job protection should not exist in a performance-based field. If a teacher is unable to teach because they have lost their passion or are just plain crazy, they should not have job protection. It should not take hurting a child for a teacher to be replaced. The schools should be able to always have the option of bringing in better people.

I know that there are districts that would abuse this ability by constantly bringing in younger teachers at lower pay grades, so make them justify the firings to the school committee. I think being bat-shit crazy and yelling at kids almost daily would be a justifiable offense though.

Money Saving Tip: Use Ebates for Online Shopping

If you haven’t heard about Ebates, you’re missing out. Ebates is the site that gives you cash back on your regular online shopping. Amounts vary from 1% to 30% depending on where you go! (Spoiler alert – ProFlowers is at 30% cash back just in time for Mother’s Day!)
The site also gathers coupon codes and shows them to you when you select a store to shop at, so you’ll never miss a deal ever again. It’s fantastic and best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing to join or to use!

That’s right, you can sign up to Ebates ABSOLUTELY FREE and start saving money with coupon codes and cash back. Once you’ve accumulated enough cash back in your account (hint: amounts never expire), Ebates will send you a check to the address you give them. It’s REAL cash back, not points or gift cards.

If you like hearing about deals and ways to save money, say thanks by using my referral link when sign up to Ebates. Creating an account takes just a second and you’ve got nothing to lose.

iPhone Unsubscribe Feature: Does it Work??

Like most people, my email inbox fills up twice a day with dozens of messages, most of which I don’t care to read. More often than not they’re from mailing lists that I signed up for in order to get a coupon or to enter a giveaway.

Unfortunately, I spend more time than I should deleting these messages each day and every time I get a notification that I have a new email, I run and check my inbox in case it’s something important. It rarely is. Unsubscribing to these messages is cumbersome and can often take 2-3 steps to do. It’s nearly impossible on a phone because the links are tiny and the web pages they take you to take forever to load.

However, I’m an iPhone user and I recently found a feature that I thought was great — the UNSUBSCRIBE link. When you read an email on your iPhone, at the top of the message it says it’s from a mailing list and asks if you’d like to unsubscribe. I clicked the link on a few to see if it would work and….

It does not. At least not on the ones I tried. Boo. 😦

So fellow email warriors, if you want to unsubscribe from a newsletter or mailing list, it looks like you have to keep doing it the old fashioned way.

Survey Says: No Fricken Way!

Interesting story. Someone that works at my town asked me to come in and speak with them about my feelings in regards to the direction the town is going.

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I’m not wealthy so I can’t contribute to anyone’s campaign finances and I don’t own land that the town wants. There’s no reason they’d want to speak to me other than to tell me to shut up. I apparently make people stop and think about the crap that’s going on in town.

So dear, survey says: NO FRICKEN WAY! All the warning bells are going off and red flags are flying on this one. I’m so not interested in being bullied by a politician. Thanks, but no thanks! Seriously, why are politicians so damn dirty?

Probably because they can get away with it.

Before you vote this spring or next fall, I encourage you to RESEARCH your candidate. Go on Facebook, it’s amazing what kind of crap you’ll find once you start scratching the surface. One thing’s for sure, with the amount of money it takes to run for office, there’s no wonder there’s so much corruption. The best, most honest and hardest working people usually lack the funds to make a change. The piss-poor options are the ones with the signs and the rallies offering voters the moon in exchange for another term.

You reap what you sew and that my friends is why the American political system, even in small-town America is so rotten.

Market Basket Fail

If you live in eastern MA, NH or southern Maine, you’ve probably at least heard of Market Basket. If you’re outside of that area, Market Basket is a grocery store. They have a reputation for having the cheapest prices, though their costs are steadily increasing and you can often score better sales at other stores. Still though, I go there for my “normal” items like pasta and canned goods that are still cheaper there.

This morning I ran in for dishwasher detergent and toilet paper. I had my 3 year old with me and I wasn’t paying attention at checkout. I left the store and realized the toilet paper had rang in wrong. It was marked $9.99 on the shelf and it rang in at $13.49. I went to customer service to get the price fixed and got some serious attitude from the little girl at the desk.

Heaven forbid I interrupt your very sorry attempt at flirting with the boy you were working with.

She eventually called someone in the store and asked them to check the price. The guy working in that department said there was no sale sign. I could see the part of the store where the toilet paper was from where I was standing. The person “checking the price” removed the large orange sale sign when he was confirming the price and took it with him. Toilet paper was not advertised in last week or this week’s flyer, so I don’t know if it was a sign that was left up from the previous week or if the wrong item had been advertised on the sign.

It’s things like that that make me not want to shop at Market Basket anymore. You have to really watch the prices at checkout, otherwise you’re going to pay more. I would not have bought the toilet paper for $13.49. I’m tempted to bring it back and return it… not because it’s a horrible price, but because of the experience I had with the store.

Have you ever stopped shopping somewhere because of bad customer service?

Opting-Out of School Fundraisers

In my town they charge a fee to ride the school bus. It’s $200 per kid UNLESS you are K-6 and live more than 2 miles from the school, but that’s only because the state says they have to bus those kids for free. If you live 2 miles or less or are in grades 7 through 12, you’re paying.

In my town there are basically 2 groups of people: those that think the bus fee is A-OK (they probably live more than 2 miles from the school and have young kids) and those that think it’s not. Basically, the people that ride for free (they think it’s fine) and the people that have to pay (we’re not such fans). There are situations where one person pays for the bus and their next door neighbor does not. The better neighborhoods are outside of the 2 mile mark, so kids from more affluent families are not paying to ride. It’s strange.

So, those of us that have to pay are starting to talk. The schools rely on fundraisers. I usually spend $300-$500/year on fundraisers. Other families spend more if they can get grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. to buy. Guess what? I’m not doing it next year. And neither are a lot of the other pay-to-ride families. Instead, I’m putting the money towards the bus fee.

My household budget only goes so far. If you want to make me pay for the school bus, I’m going to have to make cuts in other areas. I’m choosing to make those cuts in my fundraiser budget. Congratulations – you’ll get your bus fee, but that’s it.

Does your school district charge a fee to ride the bus? Have you spent less on fundraisers or stopped participating in them all together to pay the fee?

Drop School Bus Fees and Improve Academic Success?

I live in a town with a struggling school system. The administrators focus on test scores and ways to improve scores all day long and have had little success over the past few years. At the same time, the school committee has been looking for ways to cut costs. One way was by eliminating the free school bus system and instituting a pay-to-ride system instead. State law demands that kids in K-6 that live farther than 2 miles from the school are provided with transportation, but what about the kids that don’t live more than 2 miles from the school? Well, their parents have to pay.

In my state, that charge ranges from about $100 per student to over $500 per student depending on where you live. The idea is to reduce the cost for the district to get the kids to and from school. If you can’t (or simply don’t want to) pay, you’re responsible for bringing your kids to and from school. Seems easy enough, 2 miles isn’t THAT far to walk, right?

Wrong. You see, I live in Massachusetts, where in the winter the daytime highs are often below freezing. We have days where you cannot go outside for more than 10 minutes without getting frost bite. Walking your 6-year old and their younger sibling 2 miles to school can’t really happen on those days, so if you didn’t pony up the money for the school bus and your car is broken down, your child is missing school. Meanwhile, the kid 1/2 a mile down the road is riding for free to school on the warm school bus, even though his family is better-off financially than yours. His mother never has to worry about how she’s going to get her child to school or how she’s going to pay for his bus ride. Makes perfect sense, right?

In many parts of Eastern Mass, the towns were not designed for the type of industry they now house. There are tractor trailers on back roads, narrow streets, a lack of sidewalks and other hazards. On top of that, the size of the tractor trailers have increased. In the winter, snow is a hinderance to walking with or without a sidewalk. Because schools are strapped for cash, many that have these pay-to-ride policies are not employing crossing guards.

Between the traffic, the lack of sidewalks and the lack of crossing guards, walking isn’t an option for a lot of the kids in the pay-zone. Add in a couple younger siblings and you’ve really got a problem.

Kids in these pay-to-ride towns are missing school because they can’t ride the school bus. Kindergarteners are missing school because of where their families live. Still think it’s not a big deal? A study titled, “Linking Getting to School with Going to School,” found that providing a bus increasing school attendance by 20 percent for kindergarteners. Kindergarten attendance has been linked to academic performance later in life and in turn, lifetime earning potential. Kids that are in the pay-zone are being disadvantaged for the rest of their lives if their parents can’t afford the sometimes outrageous school bus fees that their neighbors down the road don’t have to pay. The selective tax is a burden not only on parents, but on the kids as well.

I’m calling on Massachusetts lawmakers to put our kids first and to keep our state number 1 in the nation for education. Our youngest, most vulnerable population deserves the opportunity to go to school, regardless of where they live. Schools need to provide equal transportation opportunity to all students, not just those living more than 2 miles from the school.

I was told by one lawmaker that this wasn’t possible because of budget cuts due to MassHealth eating up half of the state budget. There simply wasn’t enough money to provide the towns with money for busing. Our Democratic state lawmakers just voted themselves large raises — I think they can find some money in the budget for school buses for our kids.

Looks Like We’re Staying Put

Our house hunt has officially come to an end. Due to a series of bad financial decisions on my husband’s part, we can no longer qualify for the size of mortgage we would need to buy a decent home in this part of New England. Our house hunt is officially over.

I’m crushed. We really need more space. The kids are getting bigger and sharing a room isn’t ideal for them. I need a bigger office.

I need to find some creative ways to get more out of the space we have. I need to de-clutter. I need to make our tiny house work for our family. My husband is also a hoarder. Leave a comment if you know of any storage/organization systems that don’t require a large investment up front for components. I think working on getting rid of STUFF by at least 25% will help us the most.

Public School Gender Bias in Mathematics?

About a week ago, my daughter came home with a permission slip to get help in math after school. It’s not that she’s incapable, she’s just too slow with her (written) math facts. They’re required to do 20 subtraction problems in under 2 minutes.

I reluctantly gave permission — I hate labeling her as incapable. I hate that the teacher puts the burden of teaching everything, not just math, onto the parents. I hate all of it. She’s in first grade and has about an hour of homework each night. The teacher swears it’s 20 minutes. It’s not.

Anyway, I went to the school to pick her up after her math group was over and I immediately noticed that ALL of the students getting help with math were girls. All of them. And they were all from the same kindergarten class (there are 4 classes in the school).

Coincidence? I don’t think so. An early gender bias would account for female students from that particular kindergarten class struggling in first grade. All of the parents at pickup said the same thing — the kids know WHAT they’re doing, they are just slow at it. They all seem to lack confidence. Why? Gender bias could be the reason. If a teacher inadvertently gives students the impression that they’re less good at a subject because of their gender, they will lack the confidence they need to do 20 subtraction problems in under 2 minutes.

It’s disgusting. Almost as bad as the “there’s something wrong with every student” mentality that my daughter’s first grade teacher has.

Product Review: Shark Rotator Lift Away

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that we go through a lot of vacuum cleaners here. A LOT. My husband takes over the chore on the weekend and he’s just plain rough on vacuum cleaners I guess.  Long story short, he killed my Shark Navigator and the replacement motor (he REALLY killed it!) would take 3 weeks to arrive, so he went out and bought me a Shark Rotator Lift Away. Why not try a new model he said? The Rotator Lift Away was the other one I had been looking at when we chose the Navigator.

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Anyway, after having the Rotator Lift Away for 4 days, I can say that I’m glad we originally went with the Navigator. The Rotator has better suction (though the Navigator had a faulty motor from the get-go), but the design is just… well, there’s room for improvement.

The vacuum has what I lovingly refer to as the crap-trap. It’s my most-hated part of the vacuum. What is the crap-trap you ask? It’s this awful hairpin turn where the flex hose meets the handle.

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Let me tell you, the first time you suck up a kid sock, a Matchbox car or a small plastic screwdriver, you’ll be cursing the crap trap. Any small, non dust-bunny-esq item you vacuum up from the depths of your couch or under the kitchen table will get lodged there, at that lovely corner. But you’re wondering what the problem is, you can just pop the hose off and fish it out, right? WRONG. Because to the best of my knowledge, that hose is NOT removable. Ugh. Why, Why, WHY would they make a vacuum like that?

The other thing I’d like to touch on is the weight of this vacuum cleaner. Yes, it’s the professional model, so yes you would expect it to be a bit bulkier and a bit heavier than the regular model, but this sucker weighs a TON. The lift away feature was one of my favorite things about this vacuum, BUT after about 5 minutes your arm is dead. The weight isn’t such an issue for my husband, but for me it sure is.

Oh, and one other little design snaffu — the “floor nozzle” is higher than the gap at the bottom of the couch. That means you HAVE to remove the cleaning arm to vacuum around the couches. We have a higher than average gap to work with, so I’m sure this is a pretty universal issue for Rotator Lift Away Pro owners.

Seriously, Shark could gain so much valuable insight by shipping vacuums to random households and having people use them IN REAL LIFE and submit feedback on the design. I’m sure in a lab setting or even in an office park, none of these things are issues, but in a house with 3 young kids, a dog and a cat, the design feels lacking.

Overall, I’m going to give this vacuum 3 out of 5 stars. The cleaning power is there. It cleans SO WELL, but it’s severely lacking in the design department.

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