Sunday, May 20, 2007

Who's Busy in North Idaho?

No, I haven't been on vacation or out of town; instead I've been in my garden planting all the food I need to sustain us during the winter. I've also been editing a friend's book, spending way too much time at the local auction, and perfecting my skills at making bread.

As for current events, I'm very happy to learn that Otter has told the DEQ to develop a greenhouse gas inventory, and, as quoted in The Statesman, it will "serve as the central point of contact for coordination and implementation of greenhouse gas reduction efforts." Both Red State Rebels and New West Boise applaud Otter's commitment, but I remain cautious about this pro-environment step by a historically anti-environment Representative, now Governor, and wolf-killer wanna-be.

I never used to be such a sceptic, and I try to remain positive, but daily doses of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and books like Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse (an excellent review of which is at The Smirking Chimp), have led me to doubt many of the actions and motives of Republicans, as well as most of the mass media.

For more on current events in Idaho (and occasionally elsewhere), as well as other great Idaho activities and observations, nothing beats the weekly round-up as reported at 43rd State Blues.

Moving on to my other activities, I did find some interesting books at the auction. I was quite pleased at winning the bid for Tales Told in Holland, although it wasn't exactly a steal.... Even though its condition only rates a "Good," still, the color is great with no writing inside. I acquired it for the lovely illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham. A real gem from the auction is Life's Picture History of World War II which is in "Very Good" condition although the slip case is not. The photos, illustrations, and text capture the everyday reality of that war and war in general. So many photos, one could spend hours perusing it, unless, like me, the images of war become too much. My final acquisition is one which is fun for me: a first printing of The Complete Scandinavian Cookbook by Alice Johnson. After my trip to Norway last year and Sweden some years back, I've fallen in love with Scandinavia. What better way to learn a culture than through its food?

I know you're all dying to hear about the bread. I do believe that I have the perfect recipe now, but weeds are calling me so that will have to come next time, hopefully with a photo.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Thunderstorm in Boundary County

If you have reached this blog through I do not know the person who owns the webiste, nor do I have any association with that person. I have asked that my blog link be removed from that website.

I've hesitated to write this blog because it's rather a blight spot on north Idaho. However, rotten apples are in every barrel and in the Boundary County public school system some rotten apples seem to be making the rest of the barrel smell rotten, which is not fair.

This has to do with the services being received, or not, as the case(s) may be, for students who qualify for Special Education services. Some of the Special Ed teachers attempt to provide exemplary service; unfortunately it's steadily beginning to look like their best efforts are being thwarted by both the head of Special Ed. and the Superintendent. This could be the result of chauvinistic bias, laziness, under budgeting, or just plain abuse of administrative positions. Let me provide the facts so that all readers may access the codes and laws and talk to these people themselves.

Turning to Partnerships for Inclusion, a north Idaho business that provides information, training, one-on-one teaching, and some advocacy, a number of parents reported, complained, and/or requested help in getting Boundary County Special Education to provide legally-mandated services for their children. A number of these children were spending less than two hours per day at school because the services were either so inadequate or just not being offered.

With another school levy rapidly approaching, the head of Partnerships for Inclusion asked the Superintendent to speak about the levy to approximately 13-15 parents who had concerns with Special Ed. services. The parents' disillusionment hit its acme when the superintendent said he felt that the head of Special Ed. was doing a good job because he consistently comes in under budget. So, money is more important than children. Good job, supe! With that kind of logic, you don't even need to wear a button that says, "I'm a Republican."

Because of the large number of complaints by parents, including several who actually moved out of the school district in order to get mandated services, CO-AD (Comprehensive Advocacy, Inc.), offered to provide an information and training class to the community on Saturday, May 5th. CO-AD's purpose is, as their website states, "Assisting people with disabilities to protect, promote, and advance their legal and human rights, through quality legal, individual, and system advocacy." About 40 people showed up for this event, including parents, teachers, and interested community members. It was, in many ways, a success for both the community and the parents.

But get this, the Boundary County Superintendent and head of Special Ed., refused to send out a mailer telling the parents of Special Ed. children that the meeting would take place! The Superintendent claimed that the statement on the flyer, "Do you have problems accessing a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) for your child?" was "misleading or questionable."
Say what?!

First, as an educator, an administrator for education, and a representative of public education, why would you not welcome extra education for your parents, teachers and community? Secondly, I would think that this visit by CO-AD was an opportunity to discover how well the school's Special Ed. program was working, identify problems, and find solutions. Third, sending out the mailer and attending the meeting would have been good PR for future levys. And finally, CO-AD was "...designated by the governor as the Protection and Advocacy System for the State of Idaho." Why would any educator deny information about this legal service, provided by the State for people with disabilities! I can think of only one reason: guilt.

The list of complaints is long and was discussed at length at the CO-AD meeting. Many of these complaints were specifically directed at the head of Special Education in Boundary County. Some of these included outright denial of services, shifting blame to the children and parents, and a chauvinistic stance towards women. Mothers have long been advised to bring their husbands with them when meeting with the head of Special Ed. Complaints have also been made about the high school principle. I know from personal experience that Special Ed. or not, the principal will sit in a student's classroom, day after day, and just stare at the student as a means of intimidation. More specific complaints were also offered. The more challenging the child, e.g., lower IQ, depression, ADHD, the more complaints heard. This is a difficult and terrible situation that includes inappropriate or ignorant behavior at best and human rights and ADA violations at worst.

However, a silver lining now exists under this cloud of problems, denial of legally-mandated services, and egregious behavior. The parents have learned how to organize in order to act as a team. They have learned about the avenue of utilizing the School Board. And they have seen the community support that surrounds them. Hopefully, the end result of all this will be a school district that in the future will be able to laud its Special Education program.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Killer Chocolate

While reading the Seattle Times Editorials this morning, I was reminded of yet another egregious move on the part of the corporate food monster. So, still on the subject of food, I forgot to mention in my last blog that corporate candy industries, like Hershey's, have petitioned the FDA to allow them to reduce the amounts of cocoa butter and cocoa solids in chocolate in order to substitute cheaper ingredients! And what do they want to substitute? Partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and milk substitutes. Yuck!

And why? Economics, of course. As if they don't make enough money.... They've already acquired the California boutique chocolate maker, Scharffen Berger; San Francisco chocolatier, Joseph Schmidt Confections; and Ashland Oregon's Dagoba Organic Chocolate. Furthermore, companies like Hershey's and M&Ms/Mars, who dominate the $13 billion dollar chocolate industry, buy most of the Ivory Coast cocoa which uses large scale child slave labor on its plantations. These children live in dire poverty, are overworked, suffer tremendous amounts of pollution, and are part of an outlandish system of slavery. But I guess child slavery meets the economic demands of these corporate giants. As does the request to make chocolate, well, not chocolate.

Gary Guittard, President of Guittard Chocolate Co. is certainly outraged with these corporate recommendations, which he makes quite clear with his Don't Mess With Our Chocolate website. As the site explains, the comment period to the FDA has been extended to June 25th. They also describe what you'll see on the comment page, including the docket which reads:
2007P-0085 - Adopt Regulations of General Applicability to all
Food Standards that would Permit, within Stated Boundaries, Deviations from the
Requirements of the Individual Food Standards of Identity
Sounds pretty scary to me! Especially since we have recently learned about the benefits of the flavenoids and antioxidants that are present in chocolate! The addition of the trans fats would certainly cancel out any benefits. What are these people thinking of??? Oh yeah, economics.

That seems to be what it's all about these days: money. But don't get me started on money, debt, and economics, because that is certainly enough to cloud my day. Indeed, a rapid mood change is required: I think I'll have some chocolate....while it's still the chocolate that I know and love. Oh, and is good for me too!