SIGNAGE

The last few days have been taken up with removing all of the signs that I put up during the campaign. I guess I should have noted where I put each of them, but I guess I was not smart enough to know that I would forget some of them. In many cases, in front of the polling places, my poll hander outers ( thank goodness for them), picked up the signs and put them in their own trash. In some cases, the townships must have gone by and scooped up all of them.

In the most rural of the school district’s polling precincts, I had a friend who was running for township supervisor (he won handily) both give out my palm cards and pick up my signs.

As drove along the roads that have since become familiar to me, I realized that I was probably out-signed ten to one. If I got 100 signs to begin with, my erstwhile opponents had about ten times that number. My political confidants tell me that signs don’t really mean anything. However, I am pretty sure that sub rosa signal goes to a part of the brain that is connected to actions taken in the voting machine.

If you see a name on the side of a road, a front yard, in front of a business, eventually it gets to you like water dripping on a rock for one thousand years. There most certainly is an effect.

I also realized that I had not put signs in the most propitious of places. Fast food and seven eleven type stores and gas stations are not where it is at. People seem to pass by these places and look at the price of gas, or the MacDonald’s or Burger King signs and nothing else. That goes along with the signs being connected to the salivary glands and the need for gasoline.

Taking up the signs was kind of a physical activity that allows one to work and think at the same time. The one time when it doesn’t is when you are at the entrance or exit to a large expressway. It is at those times that you must be cognizant that you might get run over. You are also the target for the state police who are constantly stopping to ask you what you are doing. Funny, I thought that they would notice, especially at this time of the year, that it would be sign removal time. I guess they must ask, because you can be doing all sorts of illegal things at those parts of the highway.

The disposal of the signs is also not easy. Where do you throw them? My garbage cans are not of the size to accept one hundred signs. If you leave them somewhere, guess what, your name is on the signs and surely someone will notice that. What I needed was one of those large dumpsters. I thought about where one might be and then called the place at which I had purchased them.

I called the owner and he was happy for me to dump the signs in his large dumpster. So now I have learned something else. There is a life cycle to signs. They begin and end in the same place.

THE DOOM MACHINE

Once again the world will be coming to an end within the next day or so. I am not sure why we have this prediction, but it has something to do with religion. Doom has been an industry for many thousand years. If the 2000 year old man can be believed, it started with Phil standing on a mountaintop. Phil was the leader of the cave people. When a bolt of lightning hit him and lit him up, the people all said,
“there must be something bigger than Phil.”

It was at that moment that the shaman, medicine man or woman began the chants predicting that the world was ending. The Oracle at Delphi had some sort of hand in the ancient Greek world. It predicted doom for certain leaders and armies. The Old Testament predicted that the world would end and even named a specific place. The New Testament carried it one step further and said that there would be a resurrection and the world would end with only certain folks coming out of it.

Evidently the Mayans and the other North American peoples had a handle on the end of the world. Their predictions were based on heavenly bodies and their movements. We just passed one of those times of doom.

Nostradamus also predicted the eventual cataclysm in his writings. He put things far in advance so no one in his era could really charge him with being a charlatan.
The most modern of the doom club seem to have a different  view of the preparation for doomsday.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s we were prepared for nuclear annihilation. The folks who built bomb shelters (see a great movie with Christopher Walken and Bredan Fraser) really made some dough over the fear. In the most modern of times, religious gurus have found of way of getting fat off the fear of others.

The guru says that the world will end in about 5 or 6 years and in preparation for the event, we should all gather together and make ourselves “clean” for the coming of . . . ( name your event) and by the way you must give up all your worldly goods to the organization that the guru represents. That sure is a great way of making a few bucks.

Wonder how many people made dough out of Y2K and the fear that it engendered. The machines were taking over the world ( a la Skynet, or the Matrix). Keep those machines and robots in their place. This kind of fear seems to produce an uptick in sale of computers.

I guess doom is in all of us and the fear of the end of the earth, is kind of a fantasy that we have conditioned ourselves to. Witness, global warming, the new event from the doom factory. It’s provable and engenders all kinds of activity. Maybe for once, we really do have something to worry about. Where the heck is all this rain coming from?

LOSING CAN BE FUN ????

I’m a pretty good loser. My school board race ended with me coming in dead last on both the Republican and Democratic sides. It was not even close. I even lost to a guy who did not even campaign. I think that he put up one or two signs and had no one at the polls. On the other hand, I had a ball going door to door and meeting and greeting people at the polls.

The weather was really rotten, raining most of the day, and that diminished the turnout by quite a bit. At the poll I was working, only about 15% of registered voters showed up to vote. I guess my strategy of hitting up the very old and infirm was doused by the continual showers all day long.

The winners on both sides were truly organized and had locals at every polling place. My tribe of poll people were drawn from friends and from AFSCME. They knew some folks, but not the mass that the other candidate’s friends knew. It is apparent that being an outsider is a disadvantage. You are always going to vote for the devils you know and not the devil you do not know.

That appears to be a comfort level across political lines. I noticed that in a number of the higher profile races for county commissioner, the incumbents and the well known names all won. It is not a surprise to me, but I was kind of rooting for some of the new people to win and they didn’t.

My task today is to ride around my region and collect the many signs that I had planted in the weeds and hardscrabble around town. I often wonder what happens to signs that never get picked up. I am sure that I am not going to remember where all of my signs are. Do signs also have a special place in the afterlife if you don’t pick them up?

PARSS-Part 1

Strange that I have really never thought to explain my relationship with the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools. It has been part of my life since 1984. It began innocently enough with a call from Peg Smith, the then Secretary of Education (or Commissioner, I am not sure what title she held then), to convene a group of rural educators to sit around and talk about how to improve rural education.
I was selected to be part of the group, which was eventually convened by Joe Bard and contained a bunch of really unusual people. I wish that I could remember them all, but I do know that Dawson Detwiler, Don Evans, Marty Monahan, Bill Grega and I were among them.

At the outset of the meetings, which were, at first, self-initiated, these rural school superintendents wanted nothing more than to air their grievances. Although, they did not speak about money from the state at first, they did understand that money from the state did not flow to them as it should. They became part of a group called the “80% Schools.” The subsidy that was due and owing to them as a result of a funding formula, was cut by 20%, because the state said that it did not have enough money.

If all schools are cut 20% and most poor districts get more money from the state in the first place, the cuts were much larger in poor school districts. The wealthy really did not suffer if 20% of their state funding was removed. They got fewer dollars percentage wise from the state. My 17 school districts lost $47 million dollars by the mid 1980’s as a result of this particular cut. Funny thing that almost thirty years later the same thing is happening.

As a result of the convened small group and the 80% schools, a feeling was dawning on some school superintendents that there needed to be some organization to speak for rural schools. The statewide organization, whether supes, or school boards, or business managers, were mostly controlled by suburban and wealthy schools. The genesis of PARSS was a brainchild of a man named Jack Lawrie, who had been superintendent in a reasonably affluent of Philly and had come to the Canton School District in Bradford County.

I had known Jack kind of inadvertently when he was at Quakertown. One of his board members was a member of our congregation in Allentown and we spent Sundays waiting for our children at Sunday school. Jack was always spoken of rather highly.

In 1984, Jack Lawrie and Dawson Detwiler of the 80% group and other Central and Western Pennsylvania school districts got the bright idea of consolidating their efforts and began PARSS. The first meetings were held in the Holiday Inn at Grantville and eventually made their way to the real center of the state at State College.

I was part of those meetings and was always being chastised by the very conservative supes for using colorful language. I was not only being chastened by the old guard, but also from some of my contemporary I.U. directors for not acting in a presidential manner when I became President of the I.U.s. I always enjoyed the act of being the recipient of these criticisms. It allowed me to understand how to move forward with the master plan- to sue the state for the inequity in the funding system.

PARSS grew rapidly in the 1980’s and allowed me to see education from so many different angles. There were larger rural districts, like Warren County with 8,000 kids k-12 and teenie tiny school districts like Austin in Potter County with 250 students k-12. There were school districts close to the size of Rhode Island, like the Keystone School District ( all of Clinton Count) of 900 square miles and Columbia Borough of one square mile.

The easiest thing for our opponents to do was to get us caught up in telling them what the world “rural” meant and what was a rural school. Our answers finally cut them short when we told them that if you feel rural, you are.