Sunday, November 7, 2010

Making lemonade and filling shelves....

At the start of the 2009-2010 school year, the district opened a new high school with a beautiful new library and many empty shelves--ok, almost all of them were empty-- and no budget (thanks, California budget-meisters). However, with determination, hard work, and luck, almost anything can happen. I set a goal of 5,000 books. Not five-thousand dollars, but five-thousand books. $5,000 will not purchase even 1,000 new high school books, even if they are all paperbacks.

My boss was dubious-- this was my only goal for the year, and he saw it as a bit suicidal to my career. It did look suicidal, and honestly, there were a few moments when I wondered about my sanity. However, I felt it could be done and outlined for him how it could be achieved...5,000 high school books, no budget. Memo to self-- don't put this kind of brash over-confidence in an email. He forwarded it to the superintendent, who forwarded it to the Board of Education.

There was no going back now. So, for starters, I contacted a reporter I've known for years, who wrote a positive story when we opened our first high school-- yikes-- twenty years ago. He remembered clearly that empty library, with room for 30,000 volumes and 4,000 books sitting forlornly on the shelves. And yes, that library now has around 33,000 books for student use, in addition to databases and periodicals.

That reporter wrote a story about this new high school library that was published in the local newspaper, and the phone started ringing.

Long story short, we did it. Not me-- there was no "I" in this achievement, it was the "we" of several communities of caring parents, administrators, teachers, library staff, district office employees, library book sales reps, the public library Friends group, the Parent/Teacher associations, and students. Even the bad economy helped, oddly enough. By the end of the school year, there were over 6,000 books on the new, shiny library shelves.

Now, the kicker-- we opened TWO new school libraries that year, this high school library and a middle school library. I set the same 5,000 book goal for this middle school library. This is now a total of 10,000 books, no budget, if you're following the math on this story. However, the middle school library had approximately 2,400 books already purchased, because this school had been in place on another campus for a year. Same goal, though-- 5,000 books on the shelves. Only 2,600 to go. Still no budget.

And we did it.

Is this the solution in a world with slashed budgets and high needs? Absolutely not. I cannot emphasize that enough. These library collections are short on current print reference materials, non-fiction and contemporary fiction. This is not an on-going solution to providing library resources, either-- it does not allow the selection and purchase of materials to meet specific curricular needs.

Further, this zero book budget does not reflect the budget for digital research databases for student use, resources that are essential for students in the twenty-first century. The district recognizes this need and allocated scarce dollars for this purpose. People will donate good books, but they won't donate databases.

By the start of the 2010-11 school year, the new high school library had over 10,000 books, and the middle school has almost 5,700.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Demise of the p-car

In an earlier post, I mentioned my cars, and my ongoing love affair with them. Each one has been a family member, named and loved during its time with us.

One of those cars was a 1974 914 Porsche, an unintended vehicle. I inherited my son's 914 Porsche, after he did very bad things to the engine during a street race and missed shift, and later creative engine work with random parts. In short, it did not run. A quick perusal of a parts catalog and online prices for engines determined that this would be a $50,000 car if I did everything right that needed doing.

On to Plan B, which was to purchase a 'parts car' that would donate all the needed parts. Great idea, only when I located the parts car ($2,000), I drove it home-- and fell in love with it. That's how it happens, you know. The parts car, which was that aforementioned 1974 914, needed loads of TLC. Knobs and handles were missing or broken, there were dents and a crumpled fender, missing carpet, and the windshield wipers did not work. The vacuum lines worked only by God's grace-- there was no other explanation.

Remember the potential price for fixing up Car A? Well, Car B could easily be as expensive using new parts and professional help. I did research, and discovered Don and Glenn's 914 Swap Meet in Riverside. At that swap meet, I found many of the needed parts, at affordable prices. Two books on how to put those parts in were very helpful. I learned about Bondo and bodywork, hammers and dollies, and now have the hugest respect for people who do this professionally. They are artists.

As the picture shows, the car came out pretty good looking. I took it to a number of Porsche events, never as a show car, but I still wanted to show it off.

When we moved, the Porsche had to sit outside for a while, as we cleaned out the garage. I was a bit nervous, but nothing happened. After the garage was clean, the Porsche went back in-- only to be stolen. Whoever it was knew we were no longer living there, that the Porsche was in the garage, and they drilled out the ignition, started it, and took it.

I am heartbroken, after all the time and love and energy invested in that little car. But it is truly gone forever.

And the next step...retirement!

After completing the doctorate, the economy took a dive, impacting all aspects of life, including education. To reduce the cost of employees, many school districts-- including mine-- offered a retirement incentive. For the first time, I was in a position to take advantage of this opportunity, and quite honestly, a bit burned out after 21 years of doing essentially the same thing, only more of it.

Right after my doctorate was completed, we moved to Fallbrook, CA, because the traffic situation (think teenage boys, high speed trucks, twice a day) was getting to my husband. This time, the economy was a plus, because we were able to purchase a very nice house for not much more than our old house was worth. We rented out the old house, and the income from that will pay taxes.

Scary, the idea of retirement. The security blanket of a steady job and the job security of tenure will be gone. On the other hand, the retirement income will be the minimum amount I'll be able to earn, not the maximum. Lots of options.

Happily, my boss isn't quite ready to send me on my way, and wants me working part time next year. This has been true for many of the professional women I know... they won't be replaced (see: economy) so other people are assuming their duties, and this doesn't happen instantly.

The down side is that he needs me to do the parts of the job I like the least :-( . However, those things need to be done, and someone needs to be mentored to take them over.

So, a new adventure awaits. So far, three retirement options appeal: sleeping in, in the morning; reading more; and taking Cujo the Wonder Dog for many walks (Cujo is getting chubby).