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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Julie Amero Is Free At Last…

…but justice wasn’t served.

If you don’t remember the case of the substitute teacher Julie Amero and what “crime” she was convicted of take a look at the SunBelt Breaking News for a great summary of the case. I’ve also had a few things to say on the issue.

Short story:

Julie was substitute teaching in a class where an unsecured computer started showing porno popup ads after she tried to access her email account in class. This incident escalated into a criminal case against her which resulted in her conviction and sentencing of up to 40 yrs in prison.

With new evidence from computer professionals, the original case and verdict was overturned. I believe that the prosecutor was gunning for higher office and decided that losing this case would hurt his career so a new trial was ordered.

When it became evident that a retrial and conviction was going to be extremely hard to get in the face of “true expert” testimony, the court delayed any new trial date.

Instead of doing the right thing and dismissing the case outright in the face of overwhelming new evidence in Julie’s favor, the prosecutor still pressed for re-trial.

In the ultimate of arrogance and reluctance to admit that they were totally wrong, the prosecution and the court pressured Julie to plea bargain to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, revoked her substitute teaching license and fined her $100.

Even with the close of the case, the local paper reported:

…The decision by both parties to resolve the matter with the plea arrangement is appropriate and just. Relinquishing her teaching license and paying a small fine for failing to safeguard students entrusted to her is a more just punishment than pursuing criminal charges and jail time.

Appropriate and just? You gotta be kidding me!

What would have been “appropriate and just” would be exonerating Julie of all the charges, issuing Julie a public apology and having the school district pay any and all legal fees and fines for “not safeguarding students and employees” for lack of common sense.

...But that’s just me!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Farts Strong Enough to Kill Computers? least that's what I thought I read, but just like in those infomercials for miracle "Shamoo Towels", there's MORE!

STUART, Fla. – A student at a Florida school has been arrested after authorities said he was "passing gas" and turned off his classmates' computers. According to a report released Friday by the Martin County Sheriff's Office, the 13-year-old boy "continually disrupted his classroom environment" by intentionally breaking wind. He then shut off some computers other students were using.

The Spectrum Junior-Senior High School was arrested Nov. 4.

A school resource officer placed the boy under arrest after he confessed about his behavior, according to the report. He was charged with disruption of school function and released to his mother.

Information from: The Stuart News,

The official police report ->

Just coincidentally, I was in a 3rd grade classroom yesterday where I ran across the following book: The Gas We Pass - The Story of Farts.

The perfect Christmas gift for someone special I know!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tell Us a Story…

The subbing assignments have been pretty light the last couple of weeks. I subbed only one day last week and a half day so far this week.

Yesterday’s 5th/6th combo class was the half day class. Most of the kids in the class know me from the previous years when I subbed their 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade classrooms so it wasn’t unexpected when they asked me to tell the story about the “bad class” again even though all of them had heard it before.

Instead I told them a story that my daughter told me a couple of days ago about my sweet little granddaughter.

My daughter was doing housework and not really paying attention to what 4yr-old Paige was singing while playing with her toys. But after a while the song finally got her attention because of the monotonous lyric of the tune. Listening closer, she heard my sweet little granddaughter singing to herself a one word tune that sounded something like:

“dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit…”

Astonished, my daughter asked her sweet little girl where she heard that word.

Paige: I dunno…
Mom: Well, it’s not a nice word so let’s not say it anymore, ok?
Paige: ok…

Mom was thinking she must have picked it up at pre-school and had several tot suspects in mind when she remembered something that happened last week.

They were visiting some friends in Boston who have a little boy about the same age as Paige. Near the end of the trip, the “guys” decided to go golfing and take the kids with them.

Knowing full well how Mike is at the Sharks hockey games and probably golfing, she had a new prime suspect. She would be waiting when he got home from work to have a little talk about “acceptable language”.

(P.S. The kids practically fell on the floor laughing when I tried to imitate the song for them)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

John Quarles…

The year is 1999.

At 50 years of age, it wasn’t the best time for the layoff to happen. I had already been experiencing signs that age was more than a little factor when looking for work in the software field.

Fortunately, a twenty year history in the software field also generates a pretty good network of friends and associates that can be relied upon to mention your name when the managers are looking to fill a software position in the department.

As a result of one such connection (thanks again, Nels!), I found myself assigned to a well equipped cubicle in what was to be, though I didn’t know it at the time, my last “professional” employment assignment.

It was there that I met a fellow cube dweller. John was also considered one of the “old dudes” even though he was less than a half dozen years younger than me. While we grew up in entirely opposite environments (the streets of Compton, Calif .vs. the sleepy pre-Silicone Valley days of San Jose), we discovered shared interests in books, lunch spots, chess, investing strategies and world views (mostly).

We had adjoining cubes with short walls. While we were assigned different aspects of the same project, it wasn’t long before we got to know and like each other while trading ideas and advice about many aspects of life on and off the job.

It was during the hi-tech bursting bubble days of 2002 that John was selected in one of a continuing series of layoffs (…my turn would come two years later).

John and I kept in touch often via email and phone. Even more so when it was my turn to hit the streets. At first, we would email each other possible leads and contacts for possible jobs. Even after I decided to retire, we would check in with each other and arrange to meet for lunch to trade bags of paperback books and catch up on the latest intel in the programming job search world.

Always optimistic, John never gave up the hope that the economy would turn and he’d be able to catch up on the mounting debts that were accruing. John would do anything he could to get back into a programming position. He even started working part time for a start-up company for the “experience” and a promise of a paycheck “someday”. After the start-up went belly-up last year, a mutual friend was able to get him an interview and a paying job in computer tech. After several long and difficult years, John was optimistic about his future again.

So it was an absolute shock when I got a call from a mutual friend last week to hear that John had a heart attack and died at work on November 4, 2008.

I’ll attend his memorial tomorrow afternoon. I will send a condolence card to the family but I don’t know what else to write that fits on one tiny card.

“I sorry for your loss. He will be missed.” just doesn’t seem to cover it.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

California Missions Project…

The history of the “California Missions” is taught in every 4th grade elementary class in the district I work. It might even be a requirement in all elementary schools in California.

The teacher left a three page history of the California missions to read. While they read the selections aloud in class, I explained some of the unfamiliar terminology like “adobe” and “blacksmithing”. They were then supposed to complete a six question worksheet for review.

If the 4th graders I had on Friday are any indication, I think it’s a wasted exercise because the comprehension skills of some 4th graders (I mean those in this particular class) seem to be lacking.

While a few seemed to be independently working to complete the worksheet there was a chorus of the rest who didn’t seem to have a clue.

Chorus: What are we supposed to do?
Reply: Read each question and find the answers to each question in the three pages we just read. (I thought it was obvious but you never know…)

Chorus: We don’t get it!
Reply: (exasperated…) “Ok. Let’s all do question #1 together”. I also have to coach them through numbers #2 through #4 but I stop helping on #5. There is NO reason they can’t find #5 on their own.

(click on images if you're blind as a bat like me...)

Chorus: “We can’t find the five things”
Reply: (again, exasperated…) Look on page 42, third paragraph.

Chorus: We can’t find the five things!
Reply: Ok, Let’s ALL re-read the last sentence, out loud, the third paragraph on page 42

As they got to the word blacksmithing, I held up my hand and started counting with fingers as they read each “skill” mentioned.

Chorus: So what are the five things?
Reply: (…standing there with my hand up, open palm out, five fingers spread).

Chorus: Can we color the pictures?
Reply: Sure, why not….

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Substitute Teacher Performance Review…

Unlike most other professions, substitute teachers don’t seem to get any kind of yearly performance review or even any feedback to see now well they’re doing or not doing on the job.

It can make you a bit paranoid if the phone doesn’t ring for a week or more. The frequency of calls is pretty much the only feedback you have to gauge how well you are or are not doing.

If they keep calling, I guess you must be doing an “OK” job. If you screw up badly enough, I guess they’ll just stop calling.


I found this note on the lesson plan for a fourth grade class last week:

“My kids talk about you at home (uh, oh!). A mother told me her son was super happy about you coming this week!”

If that’s all I get, I’ll take it!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

President Joe Biden?

Trick or Treat Halloween question of the day:

If Barack Obama does come out of the election as "president elect" and Philip Berg's lawsuit is successful in challenging Barack's natural-born citizenship status, does that mean Sen. Joe Biden takes over as President in 2009?

Eeekkkk! Eeekkkk! Eeekkkk!