Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I have one word for you guys: wow. The outpouring of support this week has been overwhelming and I really appreciate all the comments, emails, and phone calls. I experienced similar support over on halifaxtalk.com. I especially appreciate board member Joe Gasperini and his constant willingness to post on Halifax Talk.
I gathered my thoughts enough to compose an email to send to Principal Randolph, Superintendent Stapleton, and all of the school board members.
Here it is...
I am writing to inform you all of my extreme disappointment with our school system.
My daughter, Melissa Rice, is a senior at the high school. She has worked hard her entire high school career to earn the credits required to receive an advanced diploma. Knowing that this would be her last year to complete the required courses, my wife, Patricia, and Melissa met with her guidance counselor, Sharon Hicks, last Spring to ensure that she would be registered for all the required classes this year. They were assured that her choices would put her on track to receive an advanced diploma.
Last week Melissa was called to the guidance office to meet with Ms. Hicks. She informed Melissa that the Ecology class she’d been attending for almost three weeks would not qualify her for an advanced diploma. Ms. Hicks’ solution was to replace Ecology with Anatomy this semester. Melissa did not want to take Anatomy at all, so we were not willing to have her start an advanced science class three weeks into the semester. My wife again met with Ms. Hicks and they worked out a compromise. Melissa’s schedule was changed and she was placed into College Level English this semester, and in the second semester she will be in advanced Ecology, which qualifies her for the advanced diploma.
The transition into the English class has not been easy. The class had been working on a research project for some time and Melissa struggled over the weekend to catch up. She had to turn in sixty research note cards on Monday. She worked very hard and completed the assignment on time.
I understand that errors are inevitable and the job we entrust to the guidance department is huge. However, no one in the guidance department accepted responsibility for the error or offered a sincere apology. How can we expect our young people to learn to accept responsibility for their errors when their school administrators and counselors refuse to accept and apologize for their own errors?
Melissa is also in the second year of Trina Vaughan’s excellent Equine Management program. She was chosen by Ms. Vaughan to represent her class at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Equine Center held on Wednesday. I’m sure you can imagine how exciting that was for Melissa. Getting to meet Governor Kaine alone would be a huge honor, but she was more excited because it would be the first time she would represent her school at a major event.
On Tuesday Melissa was informed by Ms. Vaughan that she would not be allowed to attend the ceremony because her first block class is at the STEM Center. This decision was made by Principal Griles. Obviously she didn’t think it was appropriate for Melissa to miss a single Pre-Calculus class in order to represent the entire student body at an important press conference. My wife called to speak with Ms. Griles before the ceremony on Wednesday. Ms. Griles returned the call after the ceremony was finished and explained that Ms. Vaughan was instructed to submit her choice of students to attend the ceremony and pending her approval, she would inform Ms. Vaughan if the students were approved or not. Essentially Ms. Griles placed the blame on Ms. Vaughan because she told the students before they were approved by Ms. Griles.
My wife asked Ms. Griles if she could explain why it was appropriate to send Melissa into College Level English class three weeks late, but it was not appropriate for her to miss a single Pre-Calculus class to attend a prestigious ceremony. Ms. Griles gave no answer.
As parents, I’m sure you can understand our concern. Melissa isn’t in the top ten percent of her class, and she is not an athlete. This was likely her only chance to represent the school and to feel the pride that comes with that. The degree of her disappointment is difficult to express with mere words.
Our ‘middle of the road’ students seem to be at a definite disadvantage in our school system. Top performers (both academic and athletic) are lauded continually and troublemakers receive their share of attention, while average students working hard every day to get the best education possible so they can become successful adults are consistently ignored by the system.
I know that there is nothing that can be done now since the ribbon-cutting ceremony is long over. My hope is that you will use Melissa’s experiences and disappointments as a catalyst to re-examine the arbitrary enforcement of bureaucratic policy and instill in the administration how important it is to accept responsibility and to apologize for errors, intentional or not. As with any problem in life, accepting that a problem exists is the first step to correcting it.
Rules are important, but inconsistent and blind enforcement does a great disservice to our students and society as a whole.
Melissa has given up on Halifax County High School and is counting the days until graduation. She has great plans for her future and cannot wait to move on to college and adulthood. She feels that her chance of having a great senior year is over. I ask that you do not let this happen to another student.
Thank you for your time.
at 4:02 PM
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Halifax County High School is pretty low on my list right about now. Let me explain..
Last spring Trisha went to meet with Melssa and her guidance counselor to ensure that Melissa's classes for this year would give her all the credits she needs to receive an advanced diploma. Everything seemed to be fine. When her schedule arrived everything still seemed fine and we started the school year without a hitch.
In the third week of school Melissa got called to the guidance office and was informed that the Ecology class she was in wouldn't give her the proper credit and she would be short one science credit for the advanced diploma. Her counselor wanted to change her into Anatomy, which Melissa wanted to avoid taking in the first place. Keep in mind that all classes are now three weeks in and in the middle of projects, etc.
Trisha went in and talked with guidance again and worked out a compromise. Melissa started her CL English class this semester and will be in the Advanced Ecology class next semester. At this point we aren't sure exactly what the rest of her second semester schedule will be. Melissa was a lot more comfortable to go into English three weeks late than any other class, but it's still been a huge struggle. The teacher wasn't happy about having a student added to her class, and they are in the middle of a huge project that they've been working on since the first week of school. She had to work hard all weekend to produce sixty research note cards. I don't mind her having to work hard, and to her credit she handled it very well.
The worst part about that entire fiasco is that guidance never really offered an apology or any explanation to explain the error.
The next fiasco is a bit more emotional. Melissa is in Equine Management II this semester. She loves horses and always has. Mrs. Vaughan is a great teacher and has single handedly created a great program from scratch. She found funding to have a new barn facility built.
This semester's students are the first to use the new facility. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is going to appear at the grand opening for the facility. Two students were selected according to test scores to attend the grand opening and to meet the Governor. Melissa was one of those students and she was extremely excited about it.
Yesterday she was told that because of a scheduling conflict (she has to be at the STEM Center in Halifax at the time of the grand opening) she wouldn't be allowed to miss that class to attend the event at the barn facility. You can imagine how heartbroken she is and she feels like the entire school is out to make her senior year the worst year possible.
The more I think about this the angrier I become. Trisha and I have emailed and called the school to find out exactly what the problem is. They had no problem with her missing three weeks of CL English, but the refuse to let her miss one Pre-Calculus class. Where is the logic in that? The logic is that THEIR SCREW UPS mean nothing, but they can't bend their rules to allow a student to attend a prestigious event when that student worked hard to beat out all the other students.
I sent an email to Ms. Vaughan last night and I haven't received a reply. Trisha called Ms. Griles this morning and had to leave a voice mail message. Her call hasn't been returned, either.
The grand opening is happening as I type this, and I'm not happy.
The moral of the story: send your kids to HCHS, where administration errors are fine, while attendance issues are more important than rewarding hard work.
Ms. Griles returned Trisha's phone call (probably after returning from ribbon cutting ceremony). She said that the teacher was to submit a list of 'suggested students' to her for approval. Melissa didn't get picked by Ms. Griles because her first block class is off campus at the STEM Center. When asked why it was ok to throw Melissa into CL English after 3 weeks and it wasn't ok for her to miss one Pre-Calculus class Ms. Griles had no answer.
She said that Ms. Vaughan shouldn't have told the students who would be going until she had received approval from administration. I can understand that, but it doesn't change the fact that Melissa was disqualified simply because she couldn't be in the building at the right time. It also reeks of 'passing the buck.'
Don't you just love the nonchalant attitude administrators have when they're cutting you off at the knees?
I still do not have a reply to last night's email to Ms. Vaughan. I'm still interested in hearing what she has to say about it. I wonder if she shares Ms. Griles laissez-faire attitude?
I'm still angry, and the more I think about the entire mismanagement of the situation the angrier I get. Melissa isn't in the top ten and she isn't a star athlete, so her chances are rather low of being recognized by the school system for something else.
Throughout Melissa's time at HCHS I've tried to remain optimistic about the school even when I heard others' horror stories of mismanagement and callousness. Even though I knew the school wasn't perfect, I thought they did a reasonably good job. I've even been one of the most vocal proponents of the school system over on www.halifaxtalk.com. Right now I'm reconsidering everything I thought I knew about the system.
I know there are some great people (especially teachers) working there trying to give our students an excellent education. If they face the same nonchalance then I pity them and hope that they can excel in the face of adversity.
Congratulations HCHS administration. You've let down another student.
at 8:09 AM
Monday, June 23, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
If you have a PC running Vista, I pity you. We have one PC at work with Vista. I installed SP1 thinking it might help some of the issues. I. Was. Wrong.
If you are already trapped and can't switch to Linux or back to XP, avoid SP1 at all costs right now.
It royally screwed the printer drivers. And then I had to reinstall the printer on every other PC that prints to that Vista box.
Today has been fun. Not.
at 3:25 PM
Friday, June 13, 2008
What the Beach Test Says About You
You like people, but you're careful about who you get close to. Friendship is important to you... so important that you aren't just friends with anyone.
You fall in love with ease and confidence. Even if you've had bad experiences in the past, each new love is a reason to start completely over.
You are deeply passionate about several things in your life. You're not passionate about much... and the few passions you have are truly obsessions.
Your sense of humor is intellectual and obscure. Only really well educated people get your jokes.
at 11:48 AM