SWITCHING JOBS

For the first five years, I took care of all of our money. I did the checkbook, made sure that we were solvent, put a couple of bucks away and doled out our budgeted funds. We kept tract of every penny (and I mean penny) that we had. We were not earning much money and today we might have qualified for food stamps. Until Carol graduated from Beaver College, we were going to be a one salary family.
Within the first five years of our marriage, lots of things changed. We had our first child, bought a house, changed jobs, and went to school and a bunch more. At the five year mark, Carol said that I was working two jobs and probably should not bear the burden of taking care of the dough. So, for the next five years, it was her responsibility and she did it well.
She took us through our second child, my job changes, and eventual increase in salary, even though she was not working, and some vacations. That took us to 1973 and our move to Kutztown. Carol was now itching to get back to work, as the kids were going to school full time (almost). By 1974, I was in charge of the money again as I went from being a junior high school principal to being a school superintendent.
Carol took care of the money till we moved to Clarion. I was then the I.U. Director and our kids were both in secondary school and Carol wanted to go back to work or start her own business. For the next 27 years, I took care of the money, Carol’s business was thriving and we had accountants taking care of our taxes and other things besides the bills.
We even got ourselves a financial advisor to oversee our investments because I was absolutely no good at it. As the 47th year was concluding, sometime this past December, Carol announced that it was time for her to take over again. I was kind of surprised because I had created a well oiled (or so I thought) system of accounts and prognostications. Our investments were doing well and the paying of the bills was done in a clockwork fashion.
I did not argue with Carol and she took over without surcease. We did have certain discussions about how things should be done, actually some heated discussions, but her system is as good as mine and the utilities have not been shut off, nor other bills going unpaid. Our investments are still in the hands of the financial advisor and Carol has become more conservative with our money. Now I am the spendthrift.
As she took over the money, there were other job shifts. I am now responsible for the laundry, mostly scooping cat poop, more making of beds, and other kinds of household chores. My surgery has not stopped Carol from making sure that my exercise included these duties. I can be seen vacuuming once in a while, straightening out the house and other sundry things.
I guess that is the way of things. After 48 years of marriage, things change, whether you want them to or not. It does make sense when you think of it. Nothing in this universe is static, even who puts out the garbage.

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THE ANTI-ELITISTS

Since our professional beginnings (and even before) Carol and I have worked in places where most of the people were poor (not working class, but working poor), blue collar, no collar and rural. Our lives have been pretty much spent in advocating for these kinds of people.
This is not to say that we joined the Peace Corps, or attended any of MLK’s marches to Washington, or helped to run soup kitchens or participated in Habitat for Humanity. We have always been in positions where we were able to help those kinds of folks and we felt that it was the right thing to do.
I guess Carol and I have continued to be aware of our own backgrounds- very poor for me and working class for Carol. We have not tried to surround ourselves with those who climbed out of the cellar and have become either intellectually effete, or socially upwardly mobile. Our friends, in general, have been people of all sorts. We hang around with people who have graduated from college, some even with doctorates, people who work with their hands for a living and have a high school diploma (even those without a diploma) and also some really powerful people on the state level.
We have not chosen any of these folks with any kind of deliberateness. When I was a superintendent of schools and we had a strike. I sent our children to live with our maintenance supervisor, Lester Meck (God rest his soul). When our son Marc was growing up, Carol’s best friend Louise (she is now also gone), had a high school diploma. There was no rhyme nor reason to why we were friends with these people. We just liked them.
We have often been accused of not hobnobbing with people of our own class. I am not even sure what that term means in these times. We have always chosen our friends for one reason, we like them and can talk with them. Are there people who have many degrees and mucho bucks that we don’t hang around with, you bet your bippee.
Our acquaintances included two billionaires- Andy Mckelvey and Gerry Lenfest and we have liked them a great deal and worked with them. We get together with Carol’s brother in law’s sister and husband who are millionaires many times over. We love them to pieces.
We are not delighted spending time with spoiled rich people, or those who wield their intellectual prowess like hammers, or people who are overly impressed with their positions in life. We really have no time for them. They generally are into their own things and are not interested in discussions about the outside world. Carol and I crave those kinds of discussions. We have them with our children and their spouses and now even with our grandchildren.
All this to say, after looking at these words, it seems like a rationalization to continue to hang around with people that we like. If they are poor or working class or wealthy and they are interested in dialogue and have honest feelings about things (whether we agree with them or not) we will hang around. That’s our choice and we have lived like that forever.

IF WE DO AWAY WITH FREEDOM OF SPEECH, HOW WILL WE KNOW WHO THE REAL ASS****S ARE?

Commenting on current events puts one on a slippery slope. In this age of instant and continuous news, change may occur every five minutes and the story five minutes ago is not the one right now. I have now seen the talking heads on Sunday morning speak about things that no longer are true and can be termed, “yesterday’s news.” I really don’t feel sorry for them. They are didactic, pedantic and unattached to the day to day miseries of life.
Stupidity is a commodity that is much in demand these days. Professorial pronouncements tend to bore people in this instant age, when the most current of events resides in the blackberry in your hand. With Twitter available to almost everyone, one can get a limited number of characters on your handheld that will describe anything from who is walking through the mall to the ripeness of melons at the supermarket.
In our political world, the former trappings of our government, studiousness, attention to constituents, sage pronouncements and the like, have fallen away. They have been replaced with a constant barrage of mind changing, instant invective, and continuous calumny.
There are just so many times that one can read about how one set of politicians is destroying the country, while the others are really the good guys. Do we really know any more now than we did when communications weren’t so immediate? I believe what we know now is that the more we portray ourselves in public, the more the public loses confidence in what we are doing. Take a look at the polls and see what the numbers are.
In another life, when I was lobbying on behalf of rural schools, I had a number of opportunities to testify in front of legislative committees. In a particularly frustrating moment, I was heard to say, “Maybe you guys should take a two year vacation, so that we can catch up to all of the things that you have done.” I got a laugh, but I really meant it.

CHRIS AND HELEN- THE DOOR OPENERS

When we began the McKelvey and Lenfest Foundation Scholarship programs eleven years ago, we were not familiar with the vagaries of higher education. Having been in basic education for all of our lives, our goal was to get rural kids to go to college and to have them complete school in four years.

Carol had some experience with her Bright Futures Heinz Foundation grant, working with two rural school districts. I had little in the way of connections to higher ed. and its serpentine way of doing things. I had deliberately kept away from colleges and universities as a place of employment, either as a faculty member or an administrator.
As we met with staff at the colleges that we had researched that might handle rural students on the personal level, we met both Chris and Helen. Both are financial aid experts and heads of financial aid at both a public and private college. Chris has just retired from Mansfield University and Helen still occupies the chair at Susquehanna University.
As the years have gone by, we have met countless admissions and financial aid officers from some of the finest universities. There does not seem to be a standard way of doing things for each of the schools. Sure, there is a FAFSA form, which determines how much aid you might get from federal and state coffers, but beyond that, there are individual decisions.
There have been many strange happenings (at least for us) in the doling out of funding for kids. In one instance, a student could not afford to go to a public college and was able to afford a private college. I know, for the uninitiated, that sounds ludicrous, but I assure you it is true. The young man just graduated from the private college.
There really is not agreement between classes of schools as to how to do things. You might think that Ivy League schools have agreed to do things the same way- no they have not. One would think that public colleges in one state have the same method for figuring things out, after all they cannot give out scholarships, but they do not do it the same way. I often wonder if the various schools compare their methods and wonder what the heck is going on.
That brings us to Chris and Helen. Let’s look at Chris first. He had been at the same institution most of his working life. Not only was he in charge of freshman finance, but he also recruited students. Chris’ aims were to get youngsters onto campus and make sure that they graduated in the least time possible.
His understanding of each kid’s need was encyclopedic. He could rattle off their grades (most times) and knew more about veteran’s college benefits than any one that I have known. He was able to package all of these programs together and get the student into Mansfield. He was especially adept at working with the inside people, such as the bookstore to make it easier for students to get the books that they needed. Books now cost about 600-700 bucks a semester.
At a point in the McKelvey Foundation program, Andy decided that kids, who had left school within the last few years because of money problems, should be given a chance at a scholarship. In order to get the word out, we set up a video conference with all six of our state college finance directors. We explained what the idea was and hoped that they could identify such kids.
Chris found us 45 scholarship winners, the other five combined found us two. Did all of the students, make it to graduation? The answer is no. However 50% of them did and most finished in four years. That is one heck of a record for kids who had been out of school for a year or two. National statistics do not come close to this record.
How about Helen? Helen’s view of finance at Susquehanna University is similar to Chris’s but with one difference. Susquehanna can give out scholarships. Helen has restrictions to what she can do, but she always seems to come up with an answer. Our McKelvey and Lenfest scholars have been universally successful at Susquehanna. Helen keeps on eye out for them and many of them see her as their contact.
She has made the President of Susquehanna,Jay Lemons aware of our kids and has arranged for us to have lunch with him and our scholarship winners. When we approached Helen about a student who had been at a public college and needed to have a more challenging environment, she made it all happen. The student has been very successful there.
Although she is not the admissions officer, she works very closely with Chris Markle, who is of like mind about students. Helen has helped us on a yearly basis with our Lenfest parents. She has been a part of the seminar at the PHEAA (agency that distributes state funding to students) headquarters to explain college finance.
Are there others like Chris and Helen? Yes, there probably are. These two, however are special and we have been fortunate to know them and work with them. There are many many students who have been made whole by their involvement.

LIES, MISSPEAKING, PANTS ON FIRE AND OUT OF CONTEXT

Somehow we have gotten used to lying. As a public action, lying is as common now as telling the truth was at sometime in the past. There does not seem to be any shame in lying and those that do, rarely apologize for their misdeeds. There is no public person who has not lied over the past year or so. Even large organizations and businesses lie about almost anything.

I know that Rupert Murdoch is not a likeable guy. He stands at opposite poles from many of my friends and acquaintances. He gives to both political parties and is a very powerful person on two continents. Very recently, one of his London tabloids was accused of hacking into the private information of such persons as former prime minister, the Queen, the parents of a child who had been molested, and so on.

In the spirit of whipping a bad person, Reuters News Agency declared that the profits of Murdoch’s empire came from taxes that his corporation did not pay through some sort of accounting flim flam. The profit was 4.6 billion dollars. The following day, Reuters withdrew (whatever that means) the charge and has said nothing since. Hard to tell which category of lie this is- intended or unintended, poor research or an attempt to really get the guy.

Pennsylvania’s current governor recently presided over the passing of a state budget that included an 860 million dollar reduction to the 500 local school districts . As a result, districts started laying off people like crazy,maybe about 4,000. In a speech to some chiefs of police, he said that the reason for the layoffs was not the cut from the state, but inadequate budgeting by the local school boards. That’s a pants on fire statement.

Sometimes we just misspeak. Our tongues get wrapped around our eye teeth and we can’t see what we are saying. This quote from Sarah Palin is a good example of misspeaking. “We saw where Paul Revere hung out as a teenager, which was something new to learn. He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and by making sure that as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.”
: “Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or HGH,” said Roger Clemens to the Congressional Committee that was asking him a pretty direct question. Although his trial has just been declared a mistrial, there is ample evidence that Roger is lying. The small difference between lying and pants on fire is the serious nature of the offense. Clemens will only hurt himself and ruin his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame. Pants on fire effects lots of other people.
How about out of context. That is the new excuse when the media reports what you said. I have had many experiences like that when I was a public person. I am not sure that those that report do it intentionally, but when they do, it can sometimes lead to hilarity.
James Harrison is a well known football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was fined a number of times by the National Football League for dangerous play. In an magazine article, Harrison is quoted as saying that the Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell, “ is a crook and a devil and I will never respect him.” He also criticized his own teammates, Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger by calling them “ a fumble machine and …stop trying to act like Peyton Manning.”
Harrison said that the article was as a result of a long conversation and those words, other than Goodell’s, were taken out of context. Let’s see how that works. In a long interview, only some things may be taken out of context, but others are not in that category. I suspect that the magazine that printed those out of context things will not be interviewing Mr. Harrision any time soon.

ON GOING MAD- AN ANALYSIS (CIRCA 1976)

Birdwell looked over the setup in front of him. Two more moves and the hazy figure across the table would be finished. Birdwell was confident of his own ability. Even the champion of the ambulatory ward could last only fifteen moves with him. The ease with which he was able to devastate his opponents created a sense of well being that made his existence tolerable.

His opponent made the appropriate advances and found a sudden end to his championship. The legalities of a formalized crowning of an all-sanatorium champion from the maximum security area would have to be determined by a committee of inmates ( residents), orderlies, psychologists, psychiatrists, local folk and the superintendent of the institution. Birdwell fondled this thought as he completed the checkmate. Would he have to appeal for his crown to the State Board of Chess as Therapy, or even higher, to the International Association of Incarcerated Chess Players.

Birdwell took his hand off the chess piece and overturned both the board and the table. The former champion turned and ran to the door of the cell. He screamed for an orderly, while Birdwell watched with bemused interest. The orderlies came within minutes. They removed a hysterical opponent and placed a straight jacket on Birdwell. Within moments the new champion was in a chemically induced torpor.

As if a projectionist had pulled a switch, Birdwell saw himself at his old mahogany desk in the school district central office. He was drinking coffee from a cup given to him by a local parents’ group. The morning mail lay in a small pile on his right side amidst notes telling him to call board members, principals and parents.

He sipped his coffee and savored the warm liquid on the way down. He pushed aside all of his mail and picked up the brown manila envelope addressed to Superintendent Augustus T. Birdwell, Wellheeld School District. The return address was the State Department of Education, Civil Rights Division. With iron hands, he opened the clasp of the envelope and removed the one sheet contained therein:

TO: Dr. Augustus T. Birdwell, Superintendent
Wellheeld School District
FROM: Elmo F. Weissvisage, Civil Rights Specialist
SUBJECT: Equal Educational Opportunity for the people of the Albino Condition

With the judgment offered by the United States Supreme Court in Blankenship & the Albino Society of School Persons v. the Hawaii State Board of Education 410 US.691, 21 s. ct. 1171 44 L.Ed 630, the State Board of Education of this state of Ohio has directed the Department of Education to proceed with guidelines in the handling of the dispersal of Albino students within the various school districts in the state and the hiring of Albino teachers.
1. All students in your school district shall now be classified as African American, Albino, Aleut, Asian, Caucasian, Inuit, Latino, Native American and other.
2. The percentage breakdown of Albino students should be determined by this survey.
3. A similar survey should be made of all staff, both professional and paraprofessional with an appropriate percentage drawn.
4. The difference between the two numbers should indicate to the school district the need for the recruitment of Albino staff.
5. Plans should be made immediately for the recruitment of such staff. Department specialists will be on call to make you aware of institutions that can help you establish contacts with qualified Albinos.
6. The question of the dispersal of Albino students in your schools should be handled on a local level,
7. The words of the court decision are “ . . . with all blazing speed, immediately, if not sooner, now- not tomorrow.” ( these are the words of Chief Justice Hardly A. Cheapshot for the majority).
8. If there re any questions, please refer them to: Athabasker P. Samanofsky, School Albino Professional- 405-521-4455.
9. Do not respond to the person who wrote this memo.

Within minutes after Birdwell placed the memo back on his desk, his coffee spilled all over his pants. He screamed in pain as the hot stuff soaked through his pants to his private parts. Mrs. Krumholtz, his administrative assistant, ran into the room just long enough to see her boss up on his desk throwing paper in every direction. She yelled and ran from the room. Within five minutes, Superintendent Birdwell was removed by three large EMTs to a waiting ambulance. He was taken to the Shady Grove Sanitarium.

BOB CASEY- SENATOR AND NICE GUY

It’s not often that you get to know someone who is a major character in the political world. I have pretty much kept to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in my lobbying activities, except for a couple of Congress people that I have known. For those of you outside of PA, Bob Casey is our United States Senator. If the name sounds familiar, he is the son of the former Governor of Pennsylvania, Robert P. Casey Senior.

I have known Bob for 22 years. On a very specific day in 1989, I was ushered into the Governor’s office to be interviewed for Secretary of Education. There was a quartet of people facing me- Jim Brown, Chief of Staff, Helen Wise, advisor, Danny Wofford ( son of Harris Wofford), and Robert P. Casey Jr.

My interview was not too complicated till it came to the question of what the problems would be in education over the next five years. I answered that I thought it would be general funding for schools and the decrease in the percentage funded by the state. Helen Wise disagreed and said that it was special education.

Once past that disagreement, the interview kind of petered out. Bob Casey seemed to be looking at me saying, “No matter what these other folks say, I will support you.” He seemed like a regular person then and still is now. Although, I did not get the appointment, I have maintained a friendly relationship with Bob Casey since then.

He is the eldest son of  Ellen Harding and Robert P. Casey, Sr. Bob seems to me to be more like this mother in his manner than his father. That is not to say that he is not fierce in his beliefs and able to navigate the politics of the Senate. He is just more likely to favor you with a smile and put you off guard. In my memory, his dad was much more forceful publicly. I had a few encounters with Governor Casey that made me understand exactly what he wanted. Bob uses his easy going personality to put you comfortably in his corner.

Bob has a law degree and actually practiced up in Scranton. When he was younger he worked teaching 5th grade in an inner city Catholic elementary school. He also coached basketball. His political career included two terms as the state Auditor General, Treasurer, and now U.S. Senate. He also ran against Ed Rendell in the Democratic Primary in 2002 and lost in a real bitter contest. Bob was supported by the Democratic Party. Ed Rendell won 10 out of 67 counties. It is a saying that to win in PA you only need Philly and the suburbs around Philly and nothing else. This election was proof positive of that position.

Bob is a fiscal and social conservative. He is a conservative in the most traditional of ways. He is not someone who goes out of his way to start new programs or speak about changing society. He actually changes people’s minds by example.

On June 17th of this year, Bob spoke at the Lenfest Foundation Community weekend. It was Carol and my last Lenfest activity. As we got into the room, where he was speaking, none of the audience sat at the tables. They all stood for about 45 minutes as the Senator talked about real public service and his experiences in and out of government.

I imagine that most of the Lenfest kids come from strict Republican backgrounds. However, he had them in the palm of his hand for all of that time and remember they were standing. He is a sincere person, who is not afraid of telling the truth. His demeanor is always of the manner of a friend, not someone who is powerful and knows it. Some people call him somewhat stiff. Carol and I do not feel that way, especially when he gives me a hug and Carol a kiss. Best of wishes to you Bob and Terese and to your family ( four daughters).