Public Schools Aren’t Businesses – Don’t Believe Me? Try Running a Business as a Public School

Receiving constructive and unconstructive criticism is an inescapable reality when one writes a blog or puts out opinion pieces about public education in various media. But whether that feedback is presented as an argument to inquire, assert, or demean, it does further the conversation.
In many instances it exposes the many myths concerning public education. And those myths need to be debunked or at least exposed because when speculation becomes gospel, students and schools suffer.

One of the more common arguments reformers and critics of public education offer is that schools would function better if they operated more like a business, especially when it comes to fiscal policies and employee retention.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every one of the assertions about adopting a business model in public schools that I have encountered always places the schools in the scope of a business. Maybe that paradigm needs to be shifted. If you want to truly envision a business model in schools, you might want to view all angles of the argument.

Therefore, I invite you to try and see if you could run a business like a public school. Maybe the differences between a public service and private enterprise might become more apparent because you’re not even comparing apples to oranges. You’re comparing apples to rocks.

Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited. If you are a public school, then every cent, every resource, and every line item is open to scrutiny by a variety of inspectors. Be prepared to be constantly audited and have those findings be available and open to interpretation to people outside of your business, even when those people may not know how your business operates.

Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM. Furthermore, there would no negotiating on salaries. In fact they are all set, not by market standards or demand of talent, but by the government. Furthermore, the salaries of all of your employees will be fodder for politicians and the public alike, especially in election years.

You must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share. Actually, you won’t have stockholders. You have stakeholders. And everyone is a stakeholder because they pay taxes. And stakeholders have voting rights. You constantly have to answer to these stakeholders except everybody – EVERYBODY – is your stakeholder. In essence, you answer to everybody, even the homeowners and properties owners when they see that the value of their homes and property might be closely tied to the schools that service the area.

Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business. These aren’t the rules and regulations or laws established by governing bodies, but rather curricula and other evaluation systems that are placed on your business by people who really have no background in your field.

You will not get to choose your raw materials. If your business makes a product, you do not get to negotiate how your materials come to you. You do not get to reject materials based on quality. You must take what is given to you and you must produce a product that is of the same quality as a business that may have choice materials. That is unless you are a private school. But they get to charge money. Your business doesn’t.

Be prepared to have everything open to the press. You are front page news, not only for the good, but for the negative, and all things perceived as negative.

You will not get to advertise or market yourself. Unless you are a magnet, charter, religious, or private school, you will not get to target potential students. At least you save on marketing expense.

Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded. If you can name a traditional public school that does not have to raise funds in some way to pay for needed resources, then I will gladly retract this assertion.

Your work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business. In fact, you will only get to have your doors open for 180 days (or equivalent hours). That’s the law. Even when the demands of being successful pile upon themselves like the responsibilities of teachers grow, you only get that 180 days. If more time is needed, you do not get to incentivize with overtime pay. But don’t worry about that. Your employees will already be working those extra hours – that is if they are like teachers.

You will have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians. That’s right, you will have to call the parents and caretakers of all of your customers when they do not get their products or when they do use those products correctly.

And finally you will have to understand that YOU WILL NOT MAKE A MONETARY PROFIT. Why? Because you are not a business any longer. You are now a public service.




First Day Back to School, 2016 – Day 3,961 – An Open Letter to Teachers

Tomorrow begins my 12th year at my current school, the Home of the Titans.

Tomorrow begins my 19th year of teaching – three schools so far.

Tomorrow is my 3,961st day in high school as a student and teacher. That does not include my stint as a student teacher.

Ironically, that number is much higher if I count all of the days in the summers I am at school making preparations for the coming school years.

If I was a coach, that number would be still much higher. But many people do not see that because they are fixated on teachers having “summers off.”

Tomorrow is my daughter’s first day of high school. Maybe she will say hello to me if I pass her in the hall.

And I am still nervous. Why? Because I want it to go well. Not just for me, but for my own children, and the students who will be in my classes.

I know what my lesson plans are. Copies are made. Notes ready to talk about. Books ready to assign. Webpages are ready and linked. Introductions rehearsed. Even some homework is planned. I have more ready to do than could ever be done in the allotted amount of time. Yet,I am still nervous.

But I am nervous for the right reasons. I want students to do well. I want them to succeed. I want them to become self-learners, and I want them to use me as a resource, not just a guide.

However, if you teach in North Carolina, there is a lot working against you. The governor and the General Assembly have not been kind to public education in the past three + years. Vouchers, rapid growth of charters, disproportionate raises, school grading systems, misguided standardized tests, etc. That list goes on and on.

And it is an election year. A “YUGE” election year. What many will say about public education will be distortions of truth to promote a political platform. But, I think that teachers know the truth.

I know that when I walk into my classroom tomorrow morning, I will be the teacher – constant,  inspired, ready to engage students, many of whom do not want to be there.

But I want to be there. And my students will know that I want to be there.

If you are a veteran teacher in North Carolina (and that means you are not new), then I am proud to be called one of your ranks. If you are new to the teaching world, then I hope you will see that this is a noble profession filled with wonderful people. And we will gain back the respect of those who have put obstacles in our way.

I wish every public school teacher the best of first days.

Even if it is hard to sleep the night before such as it is with me.


What is a Turd’oeuvre? Well It Has Something to do With A Plagiarized Letter To The Editor

Caution: I cuss in this one. Not too bad, but it might offend your olfactory nerves.

I was fortunate to have an op-ed printed in the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “About those teacher slaries and raises…” –

Ironically, in the same edition of the paper (August 26th) there was a Letter to the Editor from a lady named Kristian Krawford entitled “Credit where credit I due”. It is below –

“Gov. Pat McCrory deserves credit where credit is due, and his latest ad hits the issue that is most important in the future. When it comes to average teacher pay, North Carolina has raised teacher pay faster than any other state and the average teacher pay plus benefits will be above $50,000 for the first time in state history.

A recent study by the 1889 Institute, which analyzed teacher pay and benefits against a state’s cost of living, North Carolina actually ranks 29th, and that’s before the raises from this year’s budget go into effect. Education funding has increased substantially. North Carolina’s school system was ranked as 19th in the nation and our high-school graduation rate is at an all-time high. Under McCrory’s leadership, the state is 10th in the country for investment in education.

That being said, there is still work to be done. There is no reason we can’t be top 10 in the country for all. This is where the difference lies: Attorney General Roy Cooper, if elected governor, would take more money out of everyone’s pockets, grow state government and drag the state backward to accomplish what Gov. McCrory has done to move us forward with responsible fiscal policies. I am happy to cast my vote for Gov. McCrory this November (”

She bought McCrory’s ad – hook, line, and sinker. She has that right. In fact, she has the right to write about it because she has the right to be wrong.

In some ways I am grateful that on the opposite page of her LTE (Letter to Editor) was my explanation as a teacher in a public school in North Carolina that McCrory’s ad is misleading.

She’s right – we have raised average teacher pay more than any state. She fell for the “average bear” fallacy. Most of the raises were for the bottom rungs of the pay scale. Raising the teacher pay for newer teachers by a few thousand dollars raises their average pay by over 10%. Negating raises for veterans or offering little while taking away longevity pay (which is still given to all other government workers) really doesn’t increase the average.

In fact, when longevity pay was taken away and rolled into those raises, what the governor helped to do was take money out of veteran teachers’ pockets and then offer it back as a gift in the form of a raise so that he could help make misleading ads that Ms. Krawford falls for.

Cost of living? Actually that varies from county to county. There are many more studies pout there, but if Ms. Krawford asked some teachers about benefits, most of those teachers might not be verifying her claims.

More spent on education? Then ask her to explain how we can be spending more on education now when per-pupil expenditure has gone down since before the great recession. What she neglects to see is that NC’s population has grown, but the rate at which we finance public education has not kept up. Overall, dollars spent have increased, but not at the rate that our student populations have increased.

I hope she glanced at my op-ed. I would be glad to hear her insights in its contents.

Then, in a stroke of political luck, another gem of an LTE was printed the next day in the Journal from a Joan A. Fleming entitled “Education in North Carolina”. It reads,

“Let’s be proud of our Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislators in their education accomplishments. They increased the average teacher salary by 4.7 percent, which averages over $50,000 for the first time in our state history. If that’s not enough, over the next three years, that teacher salary average increases to $55,000. When considering robust health and retirement benefits offered to every full-time teacher in our state, the budget will boost average total compensation to more than $67,000. Teacher pay in North Carolina is growing faster than in any other state in the country under Gov. McCrory’s leadership.

Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. This, my friends, is an increase of over 20 percent since the governor and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest took office in January 2013. North Carolina now leads the nation for increased teacher pay and our education budget increases by over $512 million during the 2016-17-budget year.

The current spending on education is $2 billion more on K-12 than was spent in the last year of the Perdue administration, which froze teacher pay.

Included are: funding for 450 more first-grade teachers to shrink classroom size and full funding of teacher-assistant positions.

Think about this again: Since 2013, North Carolina has more than a $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. What a difference.

And the teachers all said: Thanks, Gov. McCrory.”

Honestly, this is like being presented a turd wrapped in bacon.

I like bacon, but I would rather not eat a turd.

It’s like a crappy hors d’oeuvre . It’s a turd’oeuvre.

And it reads like it was given to her from the governor himself.

Actually, it was. Look at the website, I reference it in my op-ed mentioned earlier. Here’s the first full paragraph. Here, I will even give you the picture.


Now take Ms. Fleming’s first paragraph from her LTE and you can see the striking similarities. Words in bold are from the website.

“They increased the average teacher salary by 4.7 percent, which averages over $50,000 for the first time in our state history. If that’s not enough, over the next three years, that teacher salary average increases to $55,000 (actually that comes from another source – see below) .When considering robust health and retirement benefits offered to every full-time teacher in our state, the budget will boost average total compensation to more than $67,000. Teacher pay in North Carolina is growing faster than in any other state in the country under Gov. McCrory’s leadership.”

Holy shit! I mean, holy turds! She plagiarized the governor. Or she happens to be his website copy writer. Maybe she wrote Melania Trump’s RNC speech.

But I am guessing that she plagiarized it, literally word for word.

Actually, there’s really nothing original in Ms. Fleming’s LTE. The rest of the wonderful information she presents comes from a blog that she probably frequents because it follows her political ideology. is a relatively well-known blogger. She is conservative, really conservative. You can read about her and her writing here – She and I do not have the same views. I do not associate myself with Brietbart, Glenn Beck, the Civitas Institute, and others she lists.

She does have many people who read her blog like Ms. Fleming. Maybe Lady Liberty 1885 doesn’t mind being plagiarized, yet that’s what Ms. Fleming did in her Letter to the Editor. Take a look at a July 20, 2016 post from  about Lt. Gov. Dan Fleming’s education video – It states,

  • “Average teacher salary increase of 4.7% and will average over $50,000.  (More details on the increases here)
  • Over the next three years, that teacher salary average will increase to $55,000, which is an increase of over 20% since the Governor and Lt. Governor took office.
  • NC leads the nation for increased teacher pay.
  • Education budget will increase by over $512 million during the 2016-17 budget year.
  • The current spending on education is $2 billion more on k-12 than was spent in the last year of the Perdue administration, which froze teacher pay.
  • Funding for 450 more first grade teachers to shrink classroom size with the goal of 1 teacher for every 17 kids in K-3.
  • Full funding of teacher assistant positions.”


Now go back to Ms. Fleming’s LTE and I will bold the very words that are plagiarized.

“Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. This, my friends, is an increase of over 20 percent since the governor and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest took office in January 2013. North Carolina now leads the nation for increased teacher pay and our education budget increases by over $512 million during the 2016-17-budget year. The current spending on education is $2 billion more on K-12 than was spent in the last year of the Perdue administration, which froze teacher pay. Included are: funding for 450 more first-grade teachers to shrink classroom size and full funding of teacher-assistant positions. Think about this again: Since 2013, North Carolina has more than a $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. What a difference.”

No doubt. What a difference. If I take out all of the plagiarized wording in the entire LTE, I would get this.

“Let’s be proud of our Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislators in their education accomplishments. They increased the average teacher salary by which averages over Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. This, my friends, is an in January 2013. now and our Included are: Think about this again: Since 2013, North Carolina has more than a $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. What a difference. And the teachers all said: Thanks, Gov. McCrory.”

Yep. Pretty apparent. Need to write that D-1.

But it’s Ms. Fleming’s last line that really gets me. Maybe it is supposed to fall off the tongue like a confirmation from the congregation. Ironically, it sounds more like bullshit. No, take that back. It’s a turd’oeuvre.

What it should say is “And the teachers all said: You plagiarized – you get a zero and I will write you up for academic infringement.”


UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation, Part 6 – Using a Lot of Words to Say Not a Lot

The latest op-ed by Dr. Terry Stoops on entitled “Enrollment changes have consequences” is another successful endeavor in glossing over the real issues that face public education in North Carolina.
You may read it here –
And after you read it, ask yourself, “What was that about?” I have yet to see the real point of his argument, much less why it was written.
I am not kidding you. I have no idea what the article is trying to achieve. It simply says that there are fluctuations in student enrollment and that overall the state has gained students. Some districts have experienced a drop in student numbers, but to what end does this information serve. Over half of the article is full of numbers that could have just as easily been linked to.
When the table of data is scrolled through, Dr. Stoops delivers a rather stunning conclusion: “These enrollment numbers are critical.”
I can only say sarcastically that Dr. Stoops has really nailed it there. Yes, they are critical. Yet, he offers no analysis that furthers the conversation.
As the Director of Research and Education Studies for the John Locke Foundation, Dr. Stoops has the responsibility to promote the ideology of the very people he works for, mostly Art Pope, a staunch conservative libertarian who was the budget director for Gov. McCrory’s first year. Mr. Pope was a critical cog in the move to alter funds to public education (resources, teacher salaries, etc.) over three years ago.
Since then, NC has experienced a growing population, and Dr. Stoops shows that clearly in his large data table.
And then with the last three paragraphs, Dr. Stoops rides a fence of his own construction showing that those counties who experienced loss in students will have to make adjustments and counties that are gaining students will have to make – yep, you guessed it – adjustments.
He simply identifies a problem that has been exacerbated by his boss’s economic policies – the funding of public schools.
Yet there is no mention of the effects of charter schools, Opportunity Grants, teacher salary “readjustments”, or any of the other actions that have affected public schools.
In fact, what is not said by the Director of Research and Educational Studies for the John Locke Foundation speaks more loudly than what was said.
No substance. No solutions.

How John Oliver’s Segment On Charter Schools Speaks to North Carolina

If you have any interest in why the charter school industry has been under the spotlight in this election year in North Carolina, you might want to check out a segment from the August 22, 2016 episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. If you have HBO GO then you can watch all the episodes of a great show, but if you are a hard-line Trump supporter, you will not agree with a lot of things that Oliver says. Well, not anything he says.

But I do agree with what Oliver says about charter schools. Actually, I agree with a lot of what he says.

He devoted over 18 minutes to the charter school industry in this episode and you can tell that there was so much more to talk about. And yes, it is HBO, so there is a lot of vulgarity, but it’s not gratuitous to me and if your ears are too sensitive to listen to any “f-bomb” being dropped, then don’t view it.

In fact, if Oliver’s language is offending to you, don’t walk down the hall of a large public school. I’ve walked down the halls of small, private Christian schools and heard language that would put hair on your chest. Teenagers cuss. And some do it well. As an educator who teaches rhetoric and argumentation, I have heard some beautifully phrased lude comments come from our nation’s youth. Would I want my daughter saying that? No.

But man, there was no further explanation needed.

I will write about the use of vulgarity later.

But back to Oliver. Here’s the segment. And watch the whole thing – .


Interestingly, the segment begins with a lot of presidential hopefuls (mostly GOP) praising charter schools. Obama sings their praises. Even Trump is quoted as saying, “Charter schools work and they work very well.”

In 42 states as well as the District of Columbia over 6700 charter schools are educating over 3 million students. They get to use taxpayer money, but can operate under less transparency like a private school.

And I liked that Oliver did not argue whether the concept of charter schools is bad or not. He agreed that they are good in principle. There are fantastic charter schools here in North Carolina. Many times I have referred to the Arts Based Schools here in Winston-Salem as an example. But they do something that public schools do not. That is using innovative practices to educate students. Their students typically go into traditional public schools for high school.

What Oliver was exploring was the way that many charter schools operate and handle money. And in eighteen minutes he could not begin to dissect all states. He focused mostly on Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Does that lessen what has happened in charter schools here in North Carolina? No. In fact, it really highlights what is happening here in the Old North State.

Remember the DPI report that Lt. Dan Forest wanted redone to shed a more positive light on charter schools here in North Carolina when there were glaring negatives? The report talked about lack of diversity. But it also showed how eager some in Raleigh were in giving charter schools so much freedom to use tax money to proffer a narrative that public schools were failures. I wrote Lt. Forest an open letter about his “championing of charter schools” last January – I received no response.

I have also written other prominent lawmakers on their actions to allow charter schools to privatize a constitutionally protected social service with tax money. None have garnered a response to this public school teacher, parent of public school children, and voter.

Here is one to Sen. Jerry Tillman, the godfather of charter schools. Sen. Tillman was instrumental in removing obstacles for charter schools to get up and running without much oversight .

Here is one to both Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot on their rush to fund an ASD district here in NC while ignoring the horrible effects that ASD’s have had in other states. My own school system, Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools may be involved in this without any local community members having input. Financial improprieties are now hovering over the ASD in Tennessee. North Carolina’s version is not any different .

And here is one to Sen. David Curtis. He has been very buddy-buddy with a charter school chain that is a for-profit entity

Here in NC, the charter school industry seems to be championed by people who live in more rural areas. Opening a charter school in a rural area can have incredible effects on the traditional public schools there. If enough students are pulled from the public schools, then those public schools have a harder time petitioning for money to actually have resources for their students.

Oliver’s segment also touched on virtual academies, which is under scrutiny here in NC for its attendance problems. In fact, Oliver’s segment could have easily been done on North Carolina’s situation alone, but our charter school industry sometimes gets overshadowed with all of the talk of HB2, Voter ID bills, coal ash spills, and Opportunity Grants.

But there is one common theme or thread that runs through all of those issues related to North Carolina, especially ill-conceived charter schools – everybody pays a price so a few can profit.

Having John Oliver explore this topic on the eve of school starting when so much else is happening in the country and the world should be an indication that something has gone very awry. And it’s costing us.

However, with the State Board of Education having denied the Charter School Advisory Board’s recommendation for almost twenty applications, there might be a little of a change in the air as to how we spend money for schools.

Maybe that is the beginning of restoring sanity in the stewardship of the public’s money for education.

That Email Dallas Woodhouse Sent to NC Boards of Elections Was Not The Best of Moves

When you want to do something surreptitiously, it’s probably best not to email your intentions for others to see and forward to the press.

It’s like hiding that “Peace Frog” tattoo you got on your lower back when you and your fraternity brothers got really drunk one night, but you still went to work without even putting a shirt on.

It’s like being a 32-year-old “kid” who dyed his hair, swam really fast, got a medal, got drunk, and pissed on the side of a wall and tore down a sign but claimed that he was being robbed – all the while the whole thing was on video.

It’s like trying to circumvent the law or a ruling by a higher court by sending an email with very explicit instructions on how to break the law by not really observing it and then sending that email out to people who believe that their oath to the law is stronger than partisan politics.

That first example is just a scenario, but I do know many people with unintended tattoos. There’s even a show about it – Bad Ink.

The second example concerns Ryan Lochte’s recent Olympic-sized blunder in which he actually displayed his arrogance and right of privilege in a world too much filled with double-standards. The court of public opinion will be a harsh judge on that on.

The third example actually happened this past week with Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the N.C. Republican Party.

Just check out this excerpt from the Raleigh News & Observer from a report given by Colin Campbell. ( A copy of the full email can be found here –

NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse emailed the request to Republican county board members and other party members on Sunday. The News & Observer obtained copies of the emails through a public records request.

County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting….

“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote in his email to board members. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Woodhouse made statements like,

“We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it. Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.”

“Many of our folks are angry and are opposed to Sunday voting for a host of reasons including respect for voter’s religious preferences, protection of our families and allowing the fine election staff a day off, rather than forcing them to work days on end without time off. Six days of voting in one week is enough. Period.”

“No group of people are entitled to their own early voting site, including college students, who already have more voting options than most other citizens.”

Wow! I don’t know what is more egregious – the fact that he literally instructed boards of elections across the state to disobey the court’s orders or that he thought he was powerful enough to send thi in an email and totally not expect to be caught Read more here: .

If you have not read the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reasoning for the repealing of the Voter ID Law, then do it. You can find it here –

They pretty much said that the Voter ID law was passed to specifically limit votes by minorities and poorer people. It was a sharp indictment against the GOP-led NC General Assembly and Gov. McCrory.

But Woodhouse did this? Whether or not a law was broken is up for the courts and people above my pay grade, but what it really shows me is one very, very strong motivating factor driving Mr. Woodhouse.

That is FEAR.

What separates the North Carolina of 2012 (and to a lesser degree, 2014) from the North Carolina of 2016 is a huge influx of new voters. NC is growing fast and many of these new North Carolinians are moving in because of the change in the economy – from rural manufacturing and agriculture to urban and suburban banking, finance, technology, and other 21st century “industries”. And these people are not necessarily die-hard republicans. Charlotte is much bigger. The Triad area (Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point) and the Triangle (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh) areas are growing. Even Asheville is growing. They also have major public college campuses.

These new Old North Staters may see HB2, the Voter ID law, the Duke Energy coal ash spills, and other legislative initiatives as backwards and regressive. And they may want to do something about it.

Furthermore, there is a “YUGE” presidential election. There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a polarizing figure. So is Clinton. But I do not see democratic heavyweights not supporting their candidate. That is not the case for republicans. Many top members have openly said they would not vote for Trump. Now, if you are a Richard Burr, or Pat McCrory, or any state lawmaker who is running for reelection as a republican, you must make a choice, and an openly vocal one, to either support or not support Trump.

Deciding to support him has repercussions. Deciding not to support him has repercussions. Not making an open decision has repercussions. The only thing that some of these people could hope for is to not have more democratic leaning people vote. Repealing the Voter ID law allows such people to vote.

Hence, Woodhouse’s email.

It does make one scratch his head to think of how unintelligent sending an email like that could be. It will fall into someone’s inbox who views it as an attempt to bypass laws, and the press will obtain a copy of it – the very same press that many in the GOP rail against.

Furthermore, Woodhouse did all but guarantee that the board of elections in each county will be under a little more scrutiny, or at least have more hypervigilant eyes upon them. When they were instructed to “make things easier for the republicans” and that was made public, you simply placed a large media target on the process.

Hell, it may ensure that more people come to the polls.

Musings With Malcolm #8 – Toy Store(y)

There is a place in Thruway Shopping Center on Stratford Road in Winston-Salem that is called Toys & Company.

And Malcolm loves it.

Heck, me too.

We have this ritual that if we go by Krispy Kreme on Stratford, then we go by the Toys & Company, but not to buy anything (but I do sometimes). But to play with stuff.

This place lets kids play with the toys. The people who work there too will play with the kids and its why I give them my business. Sometimes I see what Malcolm plays with and take a pic of it for present ideas.Someone comes later and gets it for him.

But there’s one things he loves more than anything in the store. Well, two.

Make that three. Playing with cars, trying to open construction equipment from their boxes, and mixing and matching figurines that would never go together in the minds of us mere mortals, but in Malcolm’s cosmos, they blend perfectly.

Want an example? I present pirate on flying unicorn.

See the colors? It’s like the unicorn is a perfect accessory to the pirate.  Or maybe, the pirate is the unicorn’s accessory. Imagine the status you would have at a party in mythological land and you brought Captain Jack Sparrow to the party. And he wanted to fly around with you!

There are the cars and many of them. Malcolm tends to take down many and create a garage of sorts under the play table. It’s like a garage. And sometimes he fits in there as well.


It’s a frickin’ garage down here! Actually, I think he falls asleep sometimes. Might be a sugar crash from Krispy Kreme. Either way it lets me clean up a little of the tornadic path he has woven through the store.

Dump trucks need love.


Holy crap! Pirate on unicorn!


Yep. He’s out.


And what everyone should have. Bunny on dinosaur!


The key here is to understand that Malcolm does not see things compartmentally. If they fit together in his mind, then it’s all good.

The folks at Toys & Company said he could stay and sleep it off. Anyone have a charge cord I could borrow?


North Carolina Teacher to Legislators: I Don’t Want Your Bonus!

Thanks to Dr. Ravitch and

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stuart Egan, National Board Certified Teacher in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, learned that he was entitled to a bonus of $2,000 for the students in his AP classes who passed their exams. He doesn’t want the money. He needs the money, but he won’t take it. After taxes, he will donate it to his school, which is under-resourced, like many in the state. In this post, he explains why.

Behind the bonus, he writes, is a lack of respect for all public school teachers.

Here are three good reasons he doesn’t want the bonus:

1. I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think…

View original post 176 more words

Musings With Malcolm #7 – Grocery Stores and Coffee Bars

The little man and I have this routine every week. We do the main trip to the grocery store, specifically Lowe’s Foods on Robinhood.

Now Malcolm doesn’t go to compare prices or squeeze avocadoes to determine ripeness or thump watermelons to see which are ready to eat.

He goes for the socializing.

All right, let’s be honest. He goes for flirting with ladies.

For a long time, I would have him sit in the buggy with some Cheerios or pita chips. It kept him occupied and helped him scope out whom he wanted to talk to next.

As a married man, Malcolm’s activities could present some interesting situations. Malcolm has been known to push the very husbands of the women he wants to talk to out of the way. Luckily, there have not been any hassles. It’s all in good fun. But what is really important is that even though Malcolm happens to have Down Syndrome, he is very good around other people. He has a knack of connecting with others.

Especially the opposite gender. His Grandpa Ed would be so proud.

As Malcolm got older, he became what parents might call a “runner.” He likes open spaces. He likes to explore them quickly. And when he runs, he forgets to listen. That causes some anxiety. And it’s getting better.

But Lowe’s Foods at Robinhood started doing something that has fixed this somewhat.

They now have a coffee bar.

Caffeine. Java. Joe. Cool beans. Java jives. Jittery liquid courage. (Actually, I don’t tell him, but we do get decaf when available.)

So what happens when you get a red-headed, “caffeinated”, runner, whose sole interest in the grocery store is to talk to ladies?

One smooth-talking, calm, and patient boy.

I am not kidding. If I control where the cup rests, then he doesn’t run. The way I doctor my coffee is how he likes it too. He asks for a sip. Smiles. Walks with me and gets some items I ask him to get and asks for another sip. If he sees someone he wants to say “How you doin?” in his own way, then he does. And comes back for another sip.

Then once in a while when we pass the front of the store and the coffee cup is nearly empty and I am getting ready to check out, he takes the cup and goes and sits on a bench in store front and allows people to talk to him.

Drinking coffee, sitting on a bench, receiving his guests who sometimes sit beside him and admire the red-headed, blue-eyed wonder he is.

 But sometimes he does drink too much and pass out.


I usually pick him up later in the day after he’s slept it off.