Category Archives: Education

Sizing People Up


A few months ago, I heard Pastor Dave Rolph start his Sunday morning teaching on Matthew 7-1:6 with an anecdote about people watching. Comments in his opening remarks included: “People watching. It’s fun. It’s really easy to read people and categorize them. But sometimes you can be really wrong.” To illustrate this, he told the following story:

One Sunday morning, when he was an Assistant Pastor at another church and he was with a group of Pastors who had gathered to count the Offering, he started talking about, Pastor Don, a widower on staff who had a new girlfriend. Other Pastors talked about how beautiful she was but Dave said, “Yeah, you know, but there’s something weird about her. The way she looks at you is kind of strange. You ever notice they always sit on the front row, like they just want to be seen? But the creepiest thing is, you guys, if you notice, when you’re up there praying at the pulpit, she starts to bow her head and then she just stares at you. She’s like obsessed with you the whole time you’re praying and then, right at the end of the prayer, she bows her head like she had her head bowed the whole time. That’s just weird.” Then, a couple of the other Pastors joined in agreement, saying, “Yeah, that’s strange!” Shortly after that, Pastor Don arrived to help with the counting. Of course, the other Pastors changed the subject and as they did that, Don mentioned, “My girlfriend, Leslie, because she’s deaf, …” With that, of course, the gossiping Pastors realized, as Pastor Dave said, “She sits on the front row because she reads lips! She stares at you while you’re praying because she’s reading your lips and she looks kind of funny because she’s just intently reading what it is that you’re trying to say.” Continue reading


Filed under character, Culture, diversity, Education, Love

All Are Precious In His Sight

Barbara Boyle's 3B Class - Warren Elementary - 1955-56


This past week, I got to spend a little time with a First Grade Teacher who is also one of my very favorite people. She was teaching our class to join her class in singing and signing a song called The World Is A Rainbow. This was in preparation for an assembly that, I assumed, was related to the upcoming Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Although it would be an oversimplification (and somewhat outdated) for me to say that her purpose in this was to teach racial harmony, that was certainly a part of what she had in mind.

My first lesson in racial harmony came when I was First-Grade-aged or younger and it took place in church, not in school. Then, the song we sang was entitled Jesus Loves The Little Children. As I thought of these differences in experiences between the kids of today and the kids of my day, that led me to consider the ramifications.


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Filed under Christians, Church Issues, community, Culture, diversity, Education, faith, Family, God, Jesus, Love, race, religion, society

21st Century Miracle Worker

Maryjane and Brandon Mellmer

Maryjane and Brandon Mellmer

I will probably always remember the look on Maryjane Mellmer’s face when we met. We were in the elementary school Structured Communication Class (SCC) where she serves as the Teacher. FYI – SCC is a Special Ed program for kids with autism. She was supporting the efforts of a Para-educator to physically control a fifth-grader who, obviously, didn’t have much self-control. I was there to start a three-week assignment as a substitute Para-educator. When my introduction included me saying, “I want you to know that I’ve never done this before … I don’t just mean that I’ve never subbed in this sort of classroom … I mean I’ve never worked as a sub in any classroom”, though she had a numb look on her face, through a forced but brave smile and with intentional enthusiasm, she said, “Well, OK!”

To my surprise and probably to Maryjane’s surprise too, we’re now in our fourth school year working together in that same classroom, Room 20. When I tell others about my experience in Room 20, I consistently tell them that I’m blessed every school day to get to work with 21st Century Miracle Workers. Of course, I recognize the exaggeration in saying that. The Miracle Worker is the story of Anne Sullivan, whose tutoring of the blind-and-deaf-from-infancy Helen Keller not only connected Keller with the world in order for her to have a decent life, it made it possible for her to have an exceptional life. Anne Sullivan was one of a kind. Miracle Workers like her don’t come along every day. With that said, I can’t think of a more fitting description for Maryjane. This past month, the school district where she works honored her with its Employee Excellence Award  and in doing so; they acknowledged her as the leader of a team of 21st Century Miracle Workers. In other words, they agreed with me. Considering these things, I want to tell you a little bit about how Maryjane came to her role as a Special Ed Teacher, along with some details of what she is achieving in that role.

Maryjane Mellmer (Third from left) - Excellence Award Presentation

Maryjane Mellmer (Third from left) – Excellence Award Presentation

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Filed under Autism, commitment, community, Education, Making a Difference

It Takes A Well Educated Village

During the past week, the media in our part of the country were all over the Superintendent of a local school district for having a shower installed in his office over the summer, costing the school district $4,000.00. For more on this, take a look at the following video:

Although I’m not writing to join the chorus of those making obvious criticisms of this incident, at least, I think it’s safe to say that this stands as another example of those in charge of America’s schools having their priorities upside down. That is what I’m writing to address – i.e. the fact that these wasteful bureaucracies are failing our kids and in turn, failing our communities. Continue reading


Filed under community, Education

Land Where The Fathers Hide


missingparentAccording to my Pastor, “…human relationships – particularly when united in fellowship with God – (are) the foundational building blocks … and the backbone of (our) local communities and culture.” I wholly agree with that and I’ve added to it by saying, “Without that foundation, secular goals – e.g. a thriving and stable economy, affordable quality healthcare, affordable quality education, justice for all, etc. – are unattainable. When communities and culture come apart, so do all things relying on the support of that foundation.

In another recent Teaching (from Matthew 19: 13-15), my Pastor touched on the dramatic deterioration our culture continues to experience with one of these “foundational building blocks”. This aspect of cultural devolution has been labeled “Fatherlessness”. Since this reality has significantly impacted my life, from near the beginning to the present day, raising the topic touches me deeply.

Before delving into this matter, first, I must issue a disclaimer. I am not fatherless in terms of not knowing who my father is nor that he had no presence in my life. Although I didn’t grow up in my Dad’s home, I knew him and I love him dearly. When he died, at the age of 56, I was devastated. With that said, when I was only three years old, he left my mother, making her a single-parent … a term that wasn’t even used in those days … and I, along with my older brother and sister, became what were then known as children of a broken home. Looking back over the decades since that event, I’ve recognized that a male role model and mentor has always been lacking in my life and I’ve often wondered how different my life would have been if that void had been filled.

My “broken home” experience began over six decades ago, around 1950 to 1951. In those days, I and my siblings were the only “children of a broken home” that I knew. Sadly, since then, this has worsened exponentially. According to an article entitled Father Absence and the Welfare of Children, by Sara McLanahan:

“Increases in divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing have dramatically altered the family life of American children. Whereas in the early 1960s, nearly 90 percent of all children lived with both of their biological parents until they reached adulthood, today less than half of children grow up with both natural parents. Nearly a third are born to unmarried parents, the majority of whom never live together, and another third are born to married parents who divorce before their child reaches adulthood. To further complicate matters, a substantial number of children are exposed to multiple marital disruptions and multiple father figures.”

WHAT HAPPENED?! Continue reading


Filed under Baby Boomers, commitment, community, Crime, Culture, economy, Education, Family, Fathers, Healthcare, Justice, Marriage, Substance Abuse

WA Governor Prescribes More Disease as the Cure for Schools

If you read the Education page on WA Governor Gregoire’s Website, I think you’ll come away with the impression that Governor Gregoire thoroughly understands today’s goals and challenges with our Education System. She should, for goodness sake! She’s a Teacher, herself, having earned her teaching certificate from UW.

Furthermore, I think you’ll find that Governor Gregoire’s stated Education Agenda makes good sense. And, since it’s based on the recommendations of a steering committee called Washington Learns, that seems to give it more credibility. Considering that Washington Learns is headed up by Governor Gregoire, one has to wonder whether the committee’s recommendations might be slanted to match up with Governor Gregoire’s views but, without looking into this further, I’ll consent to the legitimacy of this committee’s recommendations.

Where things don’t appear to be adding up is in real life – i.e. How is Washington’s Education System actually performing and how is management of our State’s present budget crisis impacting this? According to the American Legislative Counsel, Washington ranks 16th amongst our 50 States, with an overall grade of C+. I guess that doesn’t sound so bad, by comparison. However, when you look at specifics determining this ranking and see that, as an example, only 37% of Washington 4th Graders are reading at or above a Proficient level, while 63% are reading below that level, it’s pretty obvious that there is great room for improvement.

Although Washington Learns touts itself as “a diverse group of business, community, education, government and minority leaders”, Washington State appears to be continuing with a Top-Down Management approach that is about as far from being connected at the “community” level as you can get. It is, also, obviously failing. The primary reason that Washington ranks 16th, as compared to other States, with an overall grade of C+, is because most other States are being run in a similar Top-Down manner and those States are failing too. It’s probably, also, true that today’s Proficient Level is no place close to the higher proficiency required when I was in 4th grade, in 1956/1957.

Now added to “real-life”, with Washington’s Education System, is Washington State’s budget crisis. To bring this down to a more personal level, this means, that just in Vancouver Public Schools (VPS), in the present school year, Governor Gregoire’s budget (crisis) proposal will result in a nearly $3 million shortfall. Although VPS has already trimmed nearly $1.5 million through freezing hiring, limiting travel, etc. the primary options available to VPS for addressing the balance of this shortfall pretty much adds up to a Reduction In Force (RIF). Obviously, this will result in fewer Teachers working in our Education System. Do you think the percentage of Washington 4th graders who are at or above a Proficient Level will go up or down from its current 37%, as a result of a RIF? I think even those 4th graders who aren’t reading at a Proficient Level could answer this question.

So, what is Governor Gregoire proposing to meet the challenges of our failing Top-Down Managed Education System, now severely impacted by our State’s budget crisis? Gregoire’s proposal, as summarized in a Seattle PI article on this, is to “centralize authority for kindergarten through the university level in one giant department of education.” In other words, More Top-Down Management. “How could a woman who earned a teaching certificate from UW, who gives the impression that she thoroughly understands today’s goals and challenges with our Education System arrive at this conclusion?” you ask. The “real life” answer is that she’s worked in state government almost all the time since getting her JD from Gonzaga in 1977 and she’s held elected state office, as a Democrat, since 1993. In other words, Gregoire is a Big-Government-Democrat Career Politician.

I, on the other hand, am a Limited-Government-Republican who has spent almost all of my working life in the private sector. I believe that our communities (our businesses, our civic organizations, our places of worship and especially, our families) are what have made our nation great, not our government. And, I believe that the solutions to the current challenges our nation is facing can be found best in our communities. Thankfully, I’m far from being alone in this belief, as it applies to meeting the challenges faced by our Education System today. One of the best examples of this is, the political advocacy organization founded by Michelle Rhee, the leading authority on education reform issues. A key foundational belief of states: “Parent and family involvement is key to increased student achievement, but the entire community must be engaged in the effort to improve our schools.”

Generally, plans for the above-mentioned reform are aimed at moving authority away from Federal and State Departments of Education and placing more authority at the School District level. The plan I favor goes a step beyond this. Here’s an overview of that plan:

Eliminate Federal and State Departments of Education, as well as School Districts.

Leave in place or establish a State-wide organization, headed by an elected official. However, this organization should have minimal authority, minimal staffing, minimal hierarchy and minimal infrastructure. Its primary purpose is to serve as sort of a nucleus for a network of schools, operating as independent businesses. Legitimate roles for this organization would be along the lines of consolidated purchasing to leverage economies of scale – e.g. purchasing paper products, negotiating insurance coverage for all employees in the network, etc. Likewise, it would be legitimate for this organization to be supported through State taxes.

Establish schools in the above-mentioned network as independent businesses according to neighborhoods served by a respective High School – i.e. A High School serving a particular area plus the Junior High Schools, Middle Schools and Elementary Schools serving that same area. It may be desirable to include pre-K Education in this plan but Higher Ed should be managed separately. Otherwise, this plan is meant to cover K-12.

Each of the above-mentioned independent businesses would be managed by a Board comprised of the Principals of the respective schools, the most competent members of their school staff, the most competent parents of their school’s students and community members from businesses, civic organizations, places of worship, etc. Each Board would select a CEO who, along with the Board, would operate their business fairly autonomously. Their responsibility would include to determine the best way to get any remaining budget needed supplied by the community they serve and to operate according to a balanced budget.

Since present Union contracts are with organizations that are being eliminated, Union relationships with our Education System would be returned to Square One. I have to say that I’m particularly fond of this part of the plan. I come from a family of Blue-Collar Workers who were Union Members. I understand the legitimacy of Unions, as a safety net for workers. But today’s Unions, especially in the public sector, have gone way beyond their legitimacy. Union membership should be completely optional for workers. And, while it is legitimate for protecting workers to be a Union’s top priority, Unions representing Educators should also be able to easily provide evidence of how they benefit Students. I can’t imagine that today’s Unions can do that.

I know this plan may seem pretty drastic to some. It’s certainly not something that could or should be done overnight. But I’m convinced it’s the right direction to go. It’s become cliché to say that doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I don’t want to say anything unkind about Governor Gregoire and I do not think she’s insane but planning to fix our failing, Top-Down Managed Education System by applying more Top-Down Management just doesn’t make sense.

Top Down Managed Education

Submitted by Phil Frommholz (not verified) on Sun, 2011-01-23 16:10.


+-Question?? How many Federal and State levels of management are actually required to teach a child to read, add, subtract, multiply and divide? The answer NONE.

We have gotten away from basic teaching of core educational requirements to be successful in life. When we complicate it with all the other junk we impose on our school system we abandon the reason we have teachers in the classroom- to teach kids the basics. Yesterday I was in Office Depot and there were 10 of us on line waiting for one cashier. The other “sales associates were busy doing “inventory” They lost sign of their primary mission- “sales” which is in half of their title. Any time we use the word

“administrator” in the context of education , we have identified someone who is hindering the education of our children.

Washington Learns? Seriously?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 2011-01-23 16:41.


+-You’re about two years behind the curve. Washington Learns hasn’t meant much of anything since they released their final report–the real action since then has all been in the Basic Ed Finance Task Force and the subcommittees that HB6696 established.

It’s not me who is behind the

Submitted by Gary Wiram on Mon, 2011-01-24 05:26.


+-It’s not me who is behind the curve. Washington Learns is the reference on the Official Governor Gregoire Website.


Submitted by Mark Mahan (not verified) on Mon, 2011-01-24 16:20.


+-Gary- I agree with a lot of what you say. How does this fit in with “no child left behind”?

Great question, Mark. The

Submitted by Gary Wiram on Tue, 2011-01-25 05:25.


+-Great question, Mark. The plan I referenced is, obviously, aimed at creating a different business model for our education system. Improved education is, of course, the primary goal. If NCLB didn’t go away, along with the DOE, it is one of many considerations each of the independent businesses would have to make. This is a good example of why we couldn’t and shouldn’t move to this model overnight.


Submitted by Mike M Boyer (not verified) on Mon, 2011-01-24 19:10.


+-Epic FAIL

school management plan

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 2011-01-25 13:19.


+-Gary, like you I hoped Rhee would bring a fresh watch to this “education reform” project, begun in Washington State by Boeing Corp with Goals 2000 late 80’s. However, with her departure due to her sponsoring Mayor’s race, you described the flaw in consolidating power for Education, taking decision-making away from local Districts’ elected officials.

From one of those ranks, Ellensburg School Board, I can tell you Central Planners would have their hands full passing a bond or levy in a community. You NEED electeds who meet people in the produce isle or on the soccer field, who are responsible for the local decisions.

By the bye, Business DOES have its tentacles in the mix — unfortunately it is the politically connected fat cats who want a “competitive global workforce” that will have their way with our kids.

Gregoire = Big Government

Submitted by Bob Dean (not verified) on Tue, 2011-01-25 13:32.



Do you realize that Gov Gregoire is trying to nationalize our state education system. Gregoire wants us to adopt the new Common Core State Math Standards which were written by outsiders. The assessments for these standards will be written and controlled by unknowns in Washington DC. Whoever controls the assessments controls what will be taught in every class in America.

Gregoire wants this despite the fact that we spent over $100 million dollars changing to new math standards in 2008. Our new standards were developed and written by Washingtonians and they have been rated higher than the common core standards.

The legislature and Gregoire authorized State Superintendent of Education, Randy Dorn, to provisionally adopt these standards last March before they were even written. Now there is legislation pending HB1443 that will make the adoption and nationalization of these standards permanent unless we can get it stopped.

State and local control of education has been at the core of our republic since its inception. Gregoire is doing everything she can to end that control and give it to those in Washington DC.

If people don’t want to see this happen then they need to call and/or email their legislator and tell them to vote No on HB1443 and to vote No on adopting Common Core State Standards.

Bob Dean

Based on the actions of the

Submitted by Gary Wiram on Tue, 2011-01-25 17:41.


+-Based on the actions of the WA Legislature yesterday, the subject may be completely academic … no pun intended. The Democrat Majority is continuing on a course that will decimate the ranks of good Teachers in WA. Here’s a statement on this from State Representative Paul Harris (R-LD-17):

The House of Representatives today approved a bill that would make reductions of $340 million for the current fiscal year budget. The approved legislation would still leave a $260 million shortfall for the 2009-11 fiscal cycle, which ends June 30 of this year.

Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, voted against Substitute House Bill 1086 and issued the following statement:

“I believe we must abide by the state constitution which places basic education as Washington’s paramount duty. The budget Republicans offered today would better protect K-12 education. Unfortunately, the majority party voted down our striking amendment and chose to go with their proposal, which contained deep cuts to schools. I’m especially concerned this bill retroactively goes after money that has already been allocated by our school districts for K-4 enhancement programs. As a former school board member, I know firsthand how these cuts will impact school districts. Retroactively going after dollars already allocated feels like we are breaking a promise to our schools and kids.

“I’m also concerned this spending plan still does not solve our budget shortfall this fiscal cycle. This is a continuation of what has been done the last few budget cycles – unsustainable spending. The message was clear in November: Come up with some solutions to live within your means during tough economic times just like everyone else. Pushing spending into the next fiscal cycle does not do that. We need to solve these budget problems now in a responsible manner so we are ready to take on a much larger shortfall for the 2011-13 cycle. This just exacerbates the problem.”

Our Failing, Top-Down Managed Education System

Submitted by Al Peffley (not verified) on Fri, 2011-01-28 10:15.


+-The national association of teachers’ unions must be lobbying hard for this national education standards political power structure. This is what happens when professional unions are allowed to take over all state government departments and form centralized management systems for civil servant services. The only power the voters have is to cut off tax dollars to feed the beast, and the economy “going down the tube” was a hidden blessing to help partially derail this socialistic, progressives-driven train. The “Stimulus Money” just bought them two more years of unsurpassed education programs spending. If you control the public education system, you control the majority of the public’s attitudes on politics and social entitlement programs that enslave them to whatever the people in control want (as I look back, this progressive plan has been evolving in Washington State public schools, with specially-designed textbooks, since the late 1960’s.) The complete God-less secular state, with a top-down management system for everything in education, seems to have been always their highest preparation objective…

This is good and bad

Submitted by Ethan Pulka (not verified) on Sat, 2011-01-29 12:17.


+-First off we do need to decrease the union and all the sidelines school’s use. But if we privatize them as a business who is to say that Wal-Mart or another corporations only teaches our children how to stock shelves? We need a education guideline and test to make sure these school allow all the children to learn equally.

Also if we privatize schools, will we have to pay? or will they still be public.

will we have to pay?

Submitted by Gary Wiram on Sat, 2011-01-29 14:12.


+-Do you not understand?! We already pay. Where do you think the money comes from to fund Public Schools?! It’s from taxes, taken out of my pocket and yours (assuming that you do pay taxes).

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Filed under Big Government, community, Education

“Train up a child in the way he should go …”

– The Story of an Exceptionally Good Teacher,
Getting This Job Done –

The first time I REALLY became aware of Carrie Newton, she had come to work dressed as a Crayon. If, like me, you’ve spent most of your working life in the business community, you may be thinking that I’m talking about a colleague who ended up in serious conversation with her boss and/or HR regarding proper attire for the workplace. However, I should point out that, this past September, I started working in an Elementary School. Knowing that and knowing that Carrie is the Kindergarten Teacher whose classroom is next-door to the classroom where I work, should make her being dressed as a Crayon sound a bit more appropriate. Actually, I had noticed Carrie wearing costumes on two or three previous occasions. I’m not sure what it was but there was something about seeing her dressed as a Crayon that made me realize she is a person who is very enthusiastic about her work and it made me think that, if more Americans were as passionate about their work as Carrie is, the American workplace would be greatly improved.

Thanksgiving marked the next significant step in my interest being piqued by Carrie. Although this, too, involved Carrie wearing a costume, giving you more details than I did about her day dressed as a Crayon is in order. First, providing details about the costume, itself, are important. You may not be surprised to learn that Carrie was dressed as a Turkey for Thanksgiving but you can’t really appreciate it without experiencing it first-hand. Hopefully, the photo provided here will help. More important, though, are details about the Thanksgiving Program that Carrie led while in her Turkey costume. Since Carrie has responsibility for both a morning and an afternoon Kindergarten class, there were two Thanksgiving Program presentations. I got to attend them both. Again, you can’t really appreciate this without experiencing it first-hand but here’s an overview that I hope will be helpful: Continue reading


Filed under Education, Making a Difference