Cranston Schools: Cranston Citizens Better Start Paying Attention

A discussion was started on Facebook by Don Botts regarding the School Department’s Budget proposal last week.  Don’s “open letter” has created a lot of discussion and debate between residents and elected officials, something that I know everyone at Kmareka loves.  Thank you to Don for getting the ball rolling on this one!  

Cranston Schools: Cranston Citizens Better Start Paying Attention

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but the Superintendent of Cranston Schools recently released his proposed budget for the next school year. There is also a Powerpoint presentation to go along with it (I assume he used this when addressing the School Committee). Among the highlights:

* elimination of middle school sports
* elimination of hockey at Cranston East
* elimination of Girls cross country and possibly tennis at Cranston East
* elimination of EPIC
* elimination of elementary school strings

There is a nice little pie chart included which shows how the total budget is being allocated. Do you realize that 89% of the total school budget goes towards salaries and benefits? Do you realize that step increases for teachers this year totals over $1 million, which just about equals the amount of money the programs being eliminated cost?

Don’t wait until it is too late. Start attending school committee meetings. Pay attention to what is going on in East Providence, and think about how it can apply to our city.

Proposed budget:
Powerpoint (use IE):

46 thoughts on “Cranston Schools: Cranston Citizens Better Start Paying Attention

  1. Items I have questions about:

    1) Horton School – It was supposed to be mothballed 3 years ago. But it looks like it is budgeted for one teacher and one teacher’s aide. So we are operating one classroom, which then requires a school nurse and custodian. Park View or Bain should be under capacity now that 6th grade is back at the elementary schools. Maybe the one classroom should be moved there.

    2) Library Secretaries – Is it really that busy in the middle school and elementary school libraries that we need a secretary as well as a library media specialist/librarian?

    3) Guidance Counselors – Why do we need guidance counselors at the elementary level? I feel this is more of a middle school/high school function.

    4) Teachers – As I posted in the Facebook discussion, the cumulative gains the teachers have made in their contracts for the past 30 years is now crippling the school budget. They now have a well paying job, with essentially full health, with a guaranteed pension with COLA increases. Besides their yearly percentage raises, they also receive step increases. The well has run dry and something has to give. There should no yearly percentage increases for the life of the new contract, with 20% co-pays instituted for health.

    5) Superintendent – According to the budget, he saw his pay increase 2 years ago and was level funded last year and this year, while other non-classified employees have been laid-off or saw a cut. How about some leadership and agree to a $6k cut, about the same money it will take to keep the Cranston East hockey team playing next year?

    All of these should be looked at and evaluated before cutting EPIC, elementary strings, middle and high school sports. After all, this is all about the kids, right?

  2. Don,
    Interesting proposal, asking Admins to take pay cuts equivilant to the money needed for programs that are on the chopping block.

    Has that idea been discussed at any of the School Committee meetings?

  3. Rachel,

    Not admins. Just the superintendent. Here are the top officer salaries:

    Super Asst. Super COO CFO
    06-07: $130,997 $108,006 $102,278 $107,096
    07-08: $136,213 $111,216 $105,360 $110,323
    08-09: $141,483 $108,133 $102,277 $107,195
    09-10: $141,483 $108,133 $102,377 $107,195

    I know they aren’t going to line up in nice columns, but you can see the other top officers gave back raises in 08-09, but the Super. didn’t. How can he ask for cuts and layoffs from his employees without any sacrifice on his part?


  4. Don,
    Nice job!!! Maybe next year’s approved reading list can include “The Superintendent’s New Clothes”, because he has clearly been exposed…kudos

  5. Nice job Don, although a little late. I hope that you are not just realizing this. I served on the Council for 4-years and every year, the numbers were the same, 89% for salaries and benefits. And just so the taxpayer is aware, the one-million dollar increases you are speaking of equals to 9% per teacher, per year. That is part of their current contract.

    I made a suggestion at the November Omnibus Meeting with the Council and the School Committee. It was 2-days after the election, (which by the way, 2 committee persons who ran for re-election and had a very tough race and were feared that they would loose thier seats, decided that The New Kids On The Block Concert was more important than attending that meeting.)I suggested that if ALL 937 teachers pay 20% co-share, that will generate an approximate 4-million dollar savings, per year.

    As long as the School Committee has the authority to negotiate the teacher contract, and has the ratification power, this will be the same. There are no checks and balances. The council, which is the funding mechanism, has no authority to tell the schools how to spend their allocation. Just imagine giving your kids and allowance, not being able to tell them how to spend it, and when they over spend it, you are forced to increase it, same thing.

  6. Just a guess on my part, but starting with this current budget year, Cranston hasn’t had a Director of Human Resources. Maybe the COO has assumed the responsibilities since HR falls under his purview.

  7. Isn’t the CFO the one that is supposed to make sure they stay within the budget?
    Middle school sports affects the entire city, but why are only CHSE teams being eliminated, and not a portion of CHSW teams?
    I think a detailed list of responsibilities for the Super, Asst Super, COO and CFO should be published- how much of a duplication of efforts are we paying for?

  8. Folks:

    Refer back to post #20 in this thread:
    link to post

    It’s simply to note that this isn’t the first time that we’ve brought up the issue of admin pay within the school district, although I do appreciate the listing of current and future salaries for these positions.

    Here’s the problem (as has been the case many times before): The school budget is due to the city by March 1, five weeks from now. There is no way the school board will do anything more radical (read: beneficial to the children and taxpayers) than snip away at the fringes of their spending plan.

    The time for this type of major change was last fall, as the budget was being drafted and the teachers contract was being discussed. It’s too late now, I’m afraid.

    I hate to sound such a negative note, but we’re in for yet another soap opera pitting the out-of-touch, bunkered school board against the reality-based community of parents and taxpayers who are trying in vain to insist on some kind of accountability and sacrifice (the kind we all face in our everyday lives and jobs), and who will only wind up watching another costly court battle that could have (and should have) been avoided, if only our elected school board officials had taken their duties to the public welfare more seriously.

    If there’s one message, put in simple terms, that I’d like our school board to get, it’s this:

    The money isn’t there for what you want. Cut from the top, save school programs, and stop the games.

    PS to Mr. Botts: My only disagreement with you is over the percentage of medical co-pays for teachers. Make it 25%, before taxes.

  9. Good suggestions, Don.

    However, I cannot allow one thing to pass. The rise in teachers’ salaries over the last 30 years is not the only thing that has crippled us.

    Equally, if not more important, have been the GOP tax cuts enacted since St Ronnie Reagan was pres. By eliminating taxes on the wealthiest among us, this has left almost no federal money available to the schools.

    And tax cuts at the state level on high-end earners have drastically reduced the amount of state money available to local schools.

    We cannot look at this as solely a local issue. This all must be seen in the larger context, because this context is important.

    Yes, teachers cannot realistically expect to continue to live in a world where they get raises each year and where they don’t have to contribute to their medical coverage. Republican policies have killed off that world. Teachers need to realize that the rest of us live in a world where salaries fall or are eaten up by ever-larger health care premiums. Taxes cannot continue to increase when the salaries of taxpayers have stagnated under GOP misrule.

    But we cannot put the blame solely on teachers, either. Anyone who voted for Reagan or Bush or Bush deserves much of the blame, too.

    So let’s hold the line on teachers’ salaries, but let’s make sure Congress reinstates all of the GWB tax cuts, and lobby our legislature to reinstate the tax cuts on high-end earners in RI, too.

    Both of these pieces are needed if we’re really going to solve the fiscal problems we face at the local level.

  10. Sorry, I don’t agree with that assessment at all. Why do I want more of my paycheck going to the Federal government to pay for local education? I believe the Federal government should stay out of education. I don’t even want my tax dollars going to the state to be squandered by the idiots on Smith Hill.

    The bottom line is there is a ton of fat in that budget that can be cut before starting to eliminate programs. The superintendent is taking the easy way out and I hope the School Committee sees that during the next two working sessions.

  11. Get real Rhode Island. We need to reform and finally Poison Weed is talking about combining the districts down to 5 – WOW, there’s an idea that’s been kicked around for years. While we have been asleep and some line their pockets at our expense…other States have only 1 and some have 2 in the WHOLE state.

    Glad we all have some peacocks that can remind us of their throne titles (teeheehee) and their length.

  12. There was an article in today’s ProJo about the budget and tonight’s meeting.
    link to projo

    Can anyone with elementary aged children tell me more about the summer reading program? Do they actually meet during the summer?

  13. I appreciate all the comments and references to new articles. If people could please refrain from putting hyperlinks in the first two lines of their posts — it messes up the site’s frontpage formatting for some viewers. I’ll also put a note about this below this box.

  14. OK, let me get this straight, Don. You want a quality educaton, but you don’t want to pay for it. And you don’t want anyone else to pay for it. That’s called “magical thinking,” or “fantasy,” and that’s what the GOP has been pedalling for the past 30 years.

    Well, the check for this mushy thinking has come due.

    And you’re saying there’s enough fat in the budget to make our problems go away? You pointed out some obvious areas of savings. If I read your numbers, if the supt gives back his raise, that’s $10,000. OK, a start, but a long, long way from making up the difference.

    You sound a bit like Reagan promising that he could cut taxes and balance the budget by cutting the “fat” out of welfare. How’d that work out again?

    Here’s the reality:

    Traficante was interviewed on this site a while back. He said that, when he was mayor, he had 18 sources of revenue from state & fed gov’ts. Of these, 15 of these sources no longer exist. THERE is the crux of the problem we face.

    You need to face that reality. We all do. We cannot solve our problem simply by cutting expenses, as much as you’d like to think so. Cutting expenses is necessary, but it’s not sufficient.

    I’m going to assume you live in Cranston since you’re concerned about this. If so, I can pretty well guarantee that you did not benefit from GWB’s tax cuts. Or perhaps you are in the top 1% of wage earners? Minimum requirement somewhere around $1 million per annum?

    I say we reinstate them. I say we tax capital gains at 25%. Or more. Cutting these taxes DID NOT increase investment, or create jobs. Cutting these taxes did nothing for the larger economy. This has been the most miserable “recovery” since WWII. Ergo, the tax cuts did not work. The tax cuts did not promote real economic growth. Most of the population has lost ground in the past 8 years.

    At the state level, you could, I admit, be making more than $200,000. In which case, repealing the RI taxes may affect you.

    But if you’re not at that level, then we won’t be using your tax dollars. But, hey, if you’re there, more power to ya.

    I am talking about repealing the tax reductions on the wealthiest individuals that have been enacted in the past 8 years, both at state and fed levels.

    Yes, the supt and the school board are taking the easy way out. But you are too, if you honestly believe we can solve this by holding the line, or raising co-pays. Necessary steps, yes, but they won’t do it by themselves.

  15. klaus:

    Another thing Mr. Botts seems to miss is that when you draw tax revenues from a bigger pool, individuals have to pay less. He asks: “Why do I want more of my paycheck going to the Federal government to pay for local education?”

    Answer: Because 140+ million taxpayers are joining you in funding education — instead of 22,000 in the city of Cranston. The burden should be spread out — and, again, maybe Mr. Botts missed this, but our laws are written to spread the burden among the fed, state and local governments. Federal money helps local districts meet things like Special Ed guidelines; state money (in theory) provides money for state mandates; and local tax money actually funds the operations.

    And you’re right to note that the tax breaks given to state and federal taxpayers are a key reason that local homeowners have been crushed under the weight of growing school budgets.

    All of that said, school committees in RI have been operating in a vacuum for far too long. Once the fed and state money start to flow again (and they will), I think it’s all too possible that school boards will consider their unaccountable ways to have been validated, yet again.

  16. With federal money for education comes federal mandates (and federal mandates come without any money too). The Federal government has no business mandating education. It is a state function. Ever since the Dept. of Education was elevated to a cabinet level position in 1980, education has been on a downward slope.

    I would prefer my tax dollars stay local. I would prefer that the state income tax be repealed. Obviously, that means a rise in property taxes, but at least that money stays local to the municipality and local leaders would be more accountable to how that money is spent, compared to the G.A.

  17. Simply solution: Regionalize the school into a statewide single system and underperforming schools (ie expensive schools) should be federalized.

  18. ME,
    I apologize if I read this incorrectly, but were you suggesting turning underperforming schools over to the fed. government to run or just fund?

  19. Our public schools should be a single state-wide entity while our underperforming schools should be placed under federal Dept of Ed management and funding until they become adequate schools and then transfered back over to the state.

    We do have federally run schools –

  20. I figured I’d throw this into this discussion since a RI law requiring bus monitors may be on the table soon. I know that some have been moving to reverse that state law.

    This is from the ProJo blog:

    SUV hits Dartmouth student, 12, boarding school bus
    12:38 PM Fri, Jan 30, 2009 | Permalink
    Thomas J. Morgan Email
    DARTMOUTH, Mass. — A vehicle driven by a high school student struck a middle school student this morning as the boy was attempting to board a school bus, according to the Dartmouth police.

    The accident took place at 7:20 a.m. on Russells Mills Road near Massasoit Lane, the police said.

    The victim, 12, who was carried 60 feet on the hood of the SUV that hit him, was treated in St. Luke’s Hospital, in New Bedford, then was flown by helicopter to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, in Providence. The police said he suffered possible fractured bones.

    Witnesses, including Lisa Costa, the driver of the school bus, told officers that the school bus was halted and displaying its flashing red lights when the SUV, driven by a 16-year-old Dartmouth High School student, turned right from Massasoit Lane onto Russells Mill Road. They told police said that the Dartmouth Middle School student was crossing Russells Mills Road when the SUV struck him.

    The name of the driver of the SUV was withheld because he is a juvenile. The police issued citations accusing him of failing to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing, operating at a speed greater than reasonable and proper, and operating negligently.

  21. Two questions: Rachel, was there a monitor? If not, how would a monitor made a difference?

    Question 1A: could someone refresh my memory on why the monitors were put in place to begin with? I know a child fatality was involved, but I don’t recall the specifics.

    Second, for ME, how do you define “underperforming” school? How does anyone define it? How does one define high-performning teacher?

    OTOH, for ME, I totally agree that RI should have one (1) school district.

  22. Klaus,
    Re: 1A,
    There was an article in the Sunday ProJo a few weeks back about the origins of the state law requiring bus monitors. As I remember, a six year old child in Portsmouth darted in front of the bus and was struck. The driver had been distracted by a disturbance in the rear of the bus, lost focus and… The child’s (who I believe was a little girl ?)mother was the engine behind this law’s passage, as she rallied support from Portsmouth to Smith Hill. The article also noted that in the year that this accident took place(maybe 1986??) that there were something like 6 RI children struck by the very bus they had just gotten off of.

  23. I read the same article as RIck and it is a little girl’s mother who was interviewed.

    My mother-in-law was a school bus driver for a LONG time and always tells stories that involve her aides keeping control of things while she drove.

  24. A real measurement of any school, particularly a high school, is the percentage of a incoming freshmen that successfully complete post-secondary education (eight years later).

    Our high schools should be in the business of preparing children for further education that is needed in a post-industrial economy.

  25. ME,
    As an adjunct faculty and staff member at a local college, I have to disagree with your measurement of success in high schools. While in an ideal world, all students would go to college and graduate there are way too many other factors that go into that and even the best education can’t necessarily ensure that a student will 1. attend college or 2. graduate from college.

    I agree that high schools need to be preparing children for higher education and the workforce and more needs to be done to work towards that goal, but I’m not sure what the best measurement of that success is.

  26. Folks:

    Just so we know the numbers, here’s the line item for Bus Monitors, under the heading “Monitors Salary,” from the current budget proposal (page 151 of the pdf from the below, or page 138 as printed on the document page):

    2007-08: $218,354

    2008-09: $221,364

    I’ll post the link further down so as not to get caught up in the spam filter.

    Here we are arguing about $200,000 in a nearly $128 million budget plan — in the meantime, administrative health care is estimated to cost $18.8 million (page 207 of the pdf, page 194 as listed on the doc page).

    Pension contributions are $9.3 million — p. 206/193.

    Delta Dental: $1.5 million — p. 207/194.

    Medicare costs: $1.1 million — p. 208/195.

    For those keeping score, that’s $30.7 million, NOT counting salaries — nearly 25% of the $128 million budget that is not “for the kids.”

    Now, instead of the imaginary $1 million we were supposed to save by moving the 6th grades back to the elementary schools, the school board would save some real money by eliminating admin positions — particularly those that are redundant of existing city operations (Finance, Facilities, and HR are major examples). This, in turn, would reduce the ancillary costs, like health care, etc. We might even be able to shut down a couple of offices and save the secretarial and utility costs.

    Just as a further savings, it’d be nice to let these folks go without the typical severance payments. Give them unused sick and vaca time from Jan. 1, 2009 (not the accumulated time they may have from years ago), boot them off publicly-funded health care, and let them collect unemployment. If they have a teachers’ pension, let them collect the amount they were due when they retired with their teachers’ pension — not the amount they padded with admin salaries.

    And please, school board apologists: Don’t try to claim that the city can’t perform these functions — I think the city’s personnel department can learn what a Rhode Island teaching certificate looks like. Even better: The city personnel staff know how to administer skills tests and hire people based on their performance (see police department hiring) — wouldn’t that be something?

  27. Oops, I forgot the school budget link. Sorry!

    And since I have to fill a line or two before I post the link, I’ll take the opportunity to mention that the meeting for budget adoption is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at Western Hills Middle School.

    Okay, here’s the budget proposal link. Don’t forget, there are two sets of page numbers, the one for the .pdf file and the other for the numbers printed on the pages of the document itself.

    Click to access budget09-10.pdf

  28. All, thanks for the info.

    First, tend to agree with Jesse, that $221k isn’t worth arguing about, esp if there is evidence that lives are saved. Six in one year? Wow.

    Second, to ME. Measuring HS success by how many finish post-secondary doesn’t work at all. Of more impact than HS performance is economic background.

    A low-performing student from a high-income family is about several times more likely to finish college than a high-performing student from a low-income family.

    As a member of the rat race known as the ‘private sector,’ I have to endure a yearly performance evaluation. Most of it is bunk, but it’s still there. I’m all for pay for performance, but we need to have some sense of what constitutes performance.

    Our conservative friends have exactly zero good ideas on the topic. Test scores? Not even close. Parental feedback should, somehow, be a factor.

  29. I wasn’t actually talking about Cranston on the bus monitor issue. I was just speaking about the discussions looking to repeal the law to require them on school buses in RI.

    I heard on the news last night that the Town Manager of W. Warwick is looking to put the School Department into receivership so that the Town can manage it. I honestly didn’t catch the whole story, but found that to be a unique approach.

  30. In response to Dan Botts, did you know that school teachers in Cranston receive no social security? The city does not pay into it. So, a pension with no COLA and no social security means poverty in ten years. They are educating your children and Cranston teachers are very dedicated.

  31. In response to Jesse: you and many others worry about school bus monitors’ pay and the cost of dental insurance ect, ect. Wake up and smell the coffee! The real people screwing us is the rich. They take away the private sector pensions and benefits and enrich themselves with no conscience. The head of Textron makes about 24 million a year and he probably tells his employees that the company can no longer afford pensions or health insurance. The middle class is being wiped out by the greedy richm not a $10 an hour school bus monitor.

  32. Sam:

    You apparently missed my point, so I will try to explain again: I was referring to the highly-paid administrators of our local school district who, collectively, cost us nearly a quarter of the education budget for their benefits — so I did not, in fact, blame “$10 an hour school bus monitors” for the budget mess we’re facing.

    I mentioned the cost of bus monitors to make the suggestion that, instead of arguing over $220,000, we take real steps to lower the runaway costs of school administration. That said, if you consider a $140,000-a-year superintendent to be one of “the greedy rich,” I wouldn’t disagree.

  33. Sam Adams – I am really sick of the mantra that teachers are dedicated to their jobs, they are educating your children, etc.

    No one is saying their job isn’t important. What I am saying is the well has run dry. The city cannot support yearly pay raises of 3% per year on top of state mandated step increases. The city cannot afford to pick up 95% of their health care (and this goes for administration as well, although I suspect they pay more than 5%). The city cannot continue to give yearly COLA increases to the pension.

    This is one of the worst economic crunches the city, state, and country has faced. The contract being negotiated right now should reflect that. Teachers should not receive any yearly increase in pay for the next two years. They will continue to receive their step increases. Teachers should pay 20% of their health insurance. Pension contributions should be reviewed on an annual basis instead of guaranteed COLA increases.

    By the way, the school budget is still about $2 mil over what the city will end up allocating to the school budget. Get ready for more cuts.

  34. Don:

    It’s the state that pays COLAs on teacher pensions, not the city. That’s why the Guv has proposed stopping COLAs as of April 1. This is one example of the layered funding system for education that I outlined above.

    Also, the school committee doesn’t have the political courage to secure a two year pay freeze. Unfortunately, I think you (like many, many well-intentioned people before you) are about to get a lesson in school board apathy. No matter how much attention you get, no matter how many people agree with you, the school board is going to stay in its bunker and operate in a vacuum.

    Mind you, I’m saying that even with Paula McFarland and Steve Stycos being on the committee. The political reality is that, with too many “protect the status quo” members on the board, the school department will not be reformed in any meaningful way.

  35. Basically, pro-union as I am, I am in general agreement with Don about no raises for the teachers for a couple of years. I also agree that they should contribute 10-20% to their health care, just like those of us in the real world.

    However, I would also insist that tax cuts granted to upper-end earners in the last 15 years be repealed. They are benefitting disproportionately, so they can pay a true progressive rate. We cannot solve a two-pronged problem by addressing only one of the causal factors.

    And before I hear any nonsense about how this will drive wealthy people from the state, I have a ton of evidence–facts, figures, numbers–indicating exactly the opposite.

    Jesse, we were talking about this issue in the summer. There must be some way of changing the charter so that the school committee doesn’t have the last word. We bandied a few ideas around, but that was about it.

    This needs to be an issue in the next election. Why wasn’t it in the last one?

  36. klaus:

    Apologies for driving the point a little deeper, but if we’d had a more politically brave school committee (and for awhile, we did*), teachers would still be paying a greater share of their health care.

    * The school committee imposed a co-pay, then took it back in the days of Laffey.

    You know, for a group that’s lost the last two Caruolo actions, you’d think the school board would learn (irony completely intended) and change its ways.

    Not to mention — and putting on my “Political Animal” hat for the moment — how far does Traf really think he’s going to get with Fung and a 9-0 Dem Council? Although, it must be noted, this is the same Traf that leased the sewer plant for $48 million in the waning hours of his mayoral term to plug the gaps in the budget at the time. He could be expecting a similar kind of Hail Mary pass — although what he really should be worried about is negotiating a realistic teachers contract.

    As for changing the Charter to bring the school board to heel, as long as the school committee can pretend that it’s got the PR advantage (and the city council believes it), there will be little chance of a referendum.

    On your point about tax cuts, Rhode Island gives away something like $30 million in capital gains tax breaks — with 74% of the recipients having incomes over $400,000. Cap the higher cap gains break (the three percent that’s costing us all that money) at $400k and you’d get back $20 mil (give or take a few thousand), right off the bat.

    That’s a hell of a lot better than cutting health services, starving local education, and charging higher car registration fees.

  37. There are quite a few fresh faces on the School Committee, so hopefully the new and old mix will be able to work to move things in the right direction. Does anyone know how many of the School Committee members have close relatives or are themselves employed by the School Department and affected by teacher/school comm. contract negotiations?

    I know that at least 4 of them have children in the schools currently, but I’m not sure about the other number.

  38. One constant argument that comes up all of the time, when referring to public employees is that they all enjoy too many benefits ie health insurance, pensions, and dental plans. But, it is only in the last ten years that anybody has started to raise these issues. And the reason is: because in the past all private sector employees had these, so nobody cared then. But, greedy CEOs and business owners have been taking these benefits away. And the result is now we have CEOs ans business owners with obscene salaries, and perks. So, now the few people that have been able to hang on to the benefits that all of our grandfathers took for granted have become the monsters. Pensions, health insurance are things that every dedicated and loyal employee should have. And, by the way, what is a fair co-pay for health insurance?? Once it was considered 10%, but now 20%, 25%? It hasn’t helped has it and it never will. Because it is not the real problem.

  39. I realized that I was off with my numbers, 2 school committee members have kids in the CPS-not 4 as previously stated.

  40. Rachel:

    I know this is OT, but give me a few lines and I’ll bring it back to the issue at hand… congrats for your press in the ProJo about the falling home values in our city.

    Here’s the tie-in: This makes it all the more important for our school board to insist on realistic contract goals as they go forward — out homes are not worth what they were in the hyper-inflated market of three years ago. The taxes can’t be raised with further damage being done to homeowners.

    Here’s the story:

  41. Thanks for asking, Jesse. I have been meaning to update readers for a while on my life and what’s going on. As I have mentioned, I opened my own private practice office, which is going well, but there is a lot of legwork to getting set up and making sure you are connected in order to churn the wheel of capitalism as a mental health professional. I’m still working on getting several things set up.

    I also went into writing hibernation — I’m still writing, but it’s for a one-reader audience, in a process of creative rejuvenation designed by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way.

    Currently I’m writing 450 words for 84 days, and I’m on day 24. It’s been enlightening, stimulating, and, ultimately it should help me get back on the blogging horse with a new stride. In the meantime, I’m rustling up some good local interviews (I hope) — one with our newest famous blogger resident, Matt Jerzyk, and another with the priest of my church, Greg Lisby.

    So all this is to say the campaign has kind of faded in significance and seems to represent such a small and strangely warped part of my overall experience, that I’m not really sure it merits much discussion. I did write some funny stories about the whole thing in the month after, and someday they may show up either fictionally or in memoir.

  42. Kiersten:

    Thanks for the reply. I wish you all the best in building your practice — and don’t take this any other way than the humorous way it’s intended: you should have no shortage of clients.

    Also, I’ve heard of Julia Cameron — anything that helps writers become better at their craft is always valuable. And I certainly give you credit for the discipline needed to produce 450 words per day for 84 straight days.

    As to the campaign, your reflection on the ’08 race as “a small and strangely warped part of my overall experience” is quite possibly the most prescient evaluation of political campaigns (in general) that I’ve ever read.

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