May 15, 2011

Sunday School 5/15/11: A place where good things do happen

This morning’s Syracuse Post-Standard brought yet another article about the Jordan Elbridge School District. The articles have been coming for the past several months, going back to last fall; each is more eyebrow-raising than the rest, and unfortunately none of them are about the good things that happen there.

JE (my alma mater) has been under a microscope for a host of reasons, including the buyout of the former superintendent’s contract; firings, suspensions, and sudden retirements; a $600 per day interim administrator; a possible loss of funds set aside to pay towards an district-wide improvement project; upheavals in the coaching staff on the eve of the spring sports season; and a host of lawsuits filed by former administrators and by district residents. According to comments made at school board meetings, in some classes there were not enough supplies or books to go around, and both students and teachers were struggling with the pressures of the goings-on.

All of these problems are allegedly the result of a school board with an agenda; three board members, including the embattled president, are not seeking reelection and, remarkably, four candidates have come forward to run to replace them. JE is facing a tough budget season, as are many schools in the area, and the budget proposes a significant tax increase. At least a portion of that increase is because the district has incurred significant legal fees since the churn began last year. Taken in that context, today’s announcement about the Director of Operations contract was a tough blow.

But something positive – very positive – happened at Jordan Elbridge today. This afternoon, over 70 students received awards from the school’s Dollars for Scholars program, now in its 26th year. Since 1985, close to $670,000 has been given to more than 1130 students. The kids honored today included several who will attend local community colleges, some in degree programs and others who will springboard to continued education, but also some who will attend SU, RPI, RIT, Clarkson, Ithaca College, Niagara, St John Fisher and Cornell, among others.

There were kids pursuing careers in nursing, physical therapy, psychology, anesthesiology, and a few who declared more generally ‘pre-med’. Others are shooting for engineering, bio-technologies, fine arts, special effects makeup, culinary arts, political science, international relations, and even one girl who seems destined to become involved in auto racing one way or another.

The awards handed out today included several from local businesses and organizations, a number from local families in honor or memory of their loved ones (including the one I presented), and from teachers, administrators, and the alumni organization. There were 'named' awards that have been given for many years, and three awards which were new this year and will hopefully be given for many years to come.

What the kids and scholarships had in common was that Jordan Elbridge is a place where good things can and do happen. A place where achievement is encouraged, where achievement happens, and where achievement is celebrated. Where students appreciate each other, their teachers, guidance counselors and the administrators who have advocated on their behalf.

It was fun to be there today, and to help recognize kids who have done very well, in spite of the actions of many adults around them.

May 2, 2011

Shots Fired: Osama Bin Laden is Dead

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice. We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. ~ President Barack Obama

The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done. ~ Former President George W. Bush

It is unusual to celebrate a death, but today Americans and decent people the world over cheer the news that madman, murderer and terrorist Osama Bin Laden is dead. It has taken a long time for this monster to be brought to justice. Welcome to hell, bin Laden. ~ Mike Huckabee, former governer of Akransas

The Kremlin welcomes the serious success the United States achieved in the war against international terrorism. Retribution inevitably reaches all terrorists. ~ Statement from the Kremlin

This is a thunderous strike for justice for the thousands of my fellow New Yorkers -- and citizens from all over the world -- who were murdered on 9/11. It took close to ten years, but the world's most wanted terrorist has finally met his deserved fate. New York's heart is still broken from the tragedy of 9/11, but this at least brings some measure of closure and consolation to the victims and their families. ~ Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

The killing of Osama bin Laden does not lessen the suffering that New Yorkers and Americans experienced at his hands, but it is a critically important victory for our nation -- and a tribute to the millions of men and women in our armed forces and elsewhere who have fought so hard for our nation. New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news. It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. ~ Michael Bloomberg, NYC Mayor

Today, the American people have seen justice. The leader of the United States' top enemy has gotten what he deserves for orchestrating the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocent Americans on September 11, 2001. In 2001, President Bush said 'we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.' President Bush deserves great credit for putting action behind those words. President Obama deserves equal credit for his resolve in this long war against al-Qaeda. ~ Rep Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security

This is great news for the security of the American people and a victory in our continued fight against al Qaeda and radical extremism around the world. We continue to face a complex and evolving terrorist threat, and it is important that we remain vigilant in our efforts to confront and defeat the terrorist enemy and protect the American people.  ~ House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)

Nine-and-a-half years ago, Osama bin Laden masterminded the horrific attacks against the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people. As we remember those who were killed on that dark day in September and their families, we also reaffirm our resolve to defeat the terrorist forces that killed them and thousands of others across the globe. ~ Harry Reid (R-NV), Senate Majority Leader

The war against terrorism is not in the houses of innocent Afghan civilians. The fight against terrorism is not in bombing children and women in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism should be carried out in his safe haven, sanctuary and his training camp, not in Afghanistan, and today this has been proved right. ~ Afghan President Hamid Karzi

9/11 was an attack not just on the United States, but on all those who shared the best values of civilisation. The operation shows those who commit acts of terror against the innocent will be brought to justice, however long it takes. So this is a huge achievement in the fight against terrorism but we know the fight against the terrorism and the ideology that Bin Laden represents continues and is as urgent as ever. ~ Tony Blair, former British Prime Minster

Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Terror was brought to many countries on his direct orders and in his name, against men, women and children, Christians and Muslims. Osama Bin Laden claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, but in reality he made a mockery of the basic values of his and all other religions. ~ German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods - the violent methods - that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world. ~ Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority

Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, including New Zealanders, in several different parts of the world. While his removal will not necessarily bring an immediate end to terrorist activity, I have absolutely no doubt that the world is a safer place without Osama Bin Laden. ~ John Key, New Zealand Prime Minister

The world is a better and more just place now that Osama bin Laden is no longer in it. I hope the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks will sleep easier tonight and every night hence knowing that justice has been done. I commend the President and his team, as well as our men and women in uniform and our intelligence professionals, for this superb achievement. ~ Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

Amen to that.