Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

Posts made in: 'Education' (18) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 18

August 24, 2009 at 7:56am

Morning Spew

June 12, 2009 at 8:44am

Morning Spew

May 28, 2009 at 8:57am

Morning Spew

May 20, 2009 at 2:58pm

Just like a Whitney Houston song


Perhaps, lost in the hype of City Council elections and Tacoma’s Mayoral race â€" not to mention the latest season of American Idol â€" the campaigning now underway for two seats on the Tacoma Public School Board has missed your radar. Perhaps you’ve been too busy to pay attention, or too overwhelmed to take note, or too unemployed to care, or too drunk to know any better ...

All reasonable excuses, really, but in a world as topsy-turvy and seemingly doomed as our current one, there may not be a more important battle.

The children, after all, are our future. If we teach them well, someday they’ll lead the way â€" and hopefully clean up the gawdawful mess we’ve made for them. (I believe Whitney Houston left that last part out because she was high on crack.)

The Tacoma School Board has five positions. All five spots are elected at large in Tacoma, to six-year terms. The board is responsible for, among other things, reviewing and adopting school district policy, choosing superintendents and ensuring that the goals of the district are met â€" which include making sure that “underperforming subgroups” (which is PC speak for minorities, the poor and all those other children the district may have ignored in the past) make strides toward reaching to district average for performance.

This year, in November’s election, two Tacoma School Board seats will be up for grabs â€" kind of. Incumbent Connie Rickman currently holds seat 2, and if she announces intentions to run for reelection (which she hasn’t done yet) she’ll be fending off promising fresh faces including Chris Van Vechten â€" he of Pierce County Arts Commission and The Melon fame (among other things) â€" and Catherine Ushka-Hall, a more established (dare I say old school) candidate that recently announced her own candidacy and has already garnered endorsements from the Tacoma City Council’s Julie Anderson, Spiro Manthou and Connie Ladenburg â€" not to mention the Pierce County Council’s Tim Farrell. Deb Blakeslee is also in the mix for seat two.

Then there’s Kurt Miller’s seat, which will also be available for the taking come November, though currently no one has filed to run for it. However, Miller is expected to announce candidacy for school board reelection by the June 5 filing deadline, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he ends up running unchallenged. Miller is popular and well respected.

As November draws nearer, these are names you’ll want to know â€" that is, if you care about the children. At least now you’re up to date. Go back to American Idol at your own risk.

April 21, 2009 at 10:47am

Carville in Tacoma


Carville 002 James Carville sits cross-legged in a chair, wearing tan sneakers, khaki jeans, a pink shirt, purple tie, navy-blue blazer and shades. This room on the UWT campus is small and the press-conference audience smaller â€" maybe five other people and me. This is James Carville for chrissakes, one of the great political minds of the last 50 years, the author of bestselling books, the wild and not-so-wooly CNN pundit â€" James Carville, the Ragin’ Cajun! In Tacoma! Sitting there like somebody’s funny uncle! How weird! How awesome! So where is everybody?

He seems bored. Somebody asks about transportation. Transportation! Busses and trains and carpool lanes! Potholes! This is a man who has a conference call every morning with Rahm Emanuel and George Stephanopoulos, who has Hillary on speed dial, who advised the 42nd president to say, “I didn’t inhale!”


Someone else asks something else. I don’t know. I’m not even listening. I’m writing stuff down. Tan sneakers. Khaki jeans. Pink shirt. Shades.

I don’t want you to think I’m impressed with famous people. Well, I am impressed with famous people, or at least I’m intrigued by fame. But that’s not what this is. This isn’t about fame. This is about power. I’m impressed by power. No, I’m intrigued by power. No, I’m fascinated â€" yes, that’s it, fascinated â€" by the phenomenon of power, of leverage, of political strength. Of all this world’s oddities, this to me is the most amazing and exotic: the crazed intricate machinery of rule. And James Carville knows how that machinery works. He can show you where the dipstick is. He can tell you how to adjust the fuel mixture. He has driven the goddamn thing! He has held the keys in his hand!

Maybe I’m a simpleton. Maybe I’m a hick. Maybe I grew up thousands of miles from Washington and hundreds of miles from the capital of a state (Montana) with one frigging representative in congress. Maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention in Civics. I don’t know. All I know is I know very little about how this country is actually run, about the closed-door meetings and polls and posturing and strong-arming and drafting and signing and gerrymandering and accusing and denying and filibustering and just what exactly the hell goes on. And I want to know. I want to know what transpires in the cockpit of this thing called America. I want to know what knob does what. I want to know what these assholes at the switches are thinking and why. And do they really put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us? And what do they eat for breakfast?

Carville, though â€" up close â€" is just, you know, human. He’s funny looking. He giggles. When I ask him a question, some unimportant nonsense it took me three days to think up, he answers thoughtfully and then challenges my inference. And what do I do? I challenge back. I parry with the bastard! Like I have a clue! Like we’re debating Ford versus Chevy or the latest Mariners trade. Putz for these no names! Are you out of your mind?

The dude’s funny. After the press conference, he treats a packed Philip Hall to a stand-up routine. Where’s John McCain when that phone rings at three ‘o clock in the morning? Looking for the bathroom! Ba bop ching! The interesting thing about the Republican candidates is the only one with just one wife was the Morman! You like that one? I got a million more!

And when he’s not funny, he’s inspirational. He talks about getting up when you get knocked down, about working hard, about fighting. And the thing is, he knows. He’s been there. He engineered the comeback kid, after all. Fall down seven, stand up eight is his mantra. He holds Tacoma up as an example. “You’re in the midst of what was one of the greatest failures in the western United States,” he says, speaking of downtown T-Town. Winos on the curbs! Drugs! Prostitutes! And look around you! Look at this fancy hall you’re sitting in! Look at these tasteful modern chairs! It can be done! It has been done! Keep doing it! Suddenly politics doesn’t seem so arcane. Just roll up your sleeves, this man is saying. Pitch in! Sandbag the levies! He’s not a liberal or a progressive, he tells us â€" those terms mean nothing â€" he’s an evidence-ist. Just do what works! That’s all there is to it! Don’t wring your hands, use them! He gave us the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Now he’s saying: Hey stupid, it’s you.

“To hell with the despair. To hell with the fear.” ---- James Carville

April 14, 2009 at 1:53pm

Hazardous business


Hazardous Business Among the many qualifications it takes to land a job as Science and Technology Writer for the Volcano, I think the one that sealed the deal was my “Sophomore Science Student of the Year” award. ... Yeah, that’s still on the ol’ resume.

Since college, I’ve mostly been an arts and humanities kind of guy--film, theater, novels, etc. But before that, I was quite the science nerd.

So maybe that’s why I’m so glad to see the birth of the Tacoma School District’s “Science and Math Institute” (SAMI).

The subject: the natural world. The classroom: Point Defiance Park. Thanks to partnerships with MetroParks (which runs the zoo), UWT, UPS, Northwest Trek and the United States Geological Survey, students will be a part of a very unusual school, one focused on science, math, and environmental research.

Students will have a longer school day than most high schools--8:00 am to 4:00 pm--and an unusual school year. Like many colleges, SAMI will have a January Term where students take one intensive class for 3 weeks, with opportunities for specialized research or even travel abroad.

There will also be a strong focus on community service, where students can take what they’ve learned and contribute back to the region. SAMI will be so committed to this that students will be able to earn a varsity letter in community service.

As I learned more about the program at one of the school’s information nights, I couldn’t help but think back to the Marine Chemistry program I was enrolled in at Bellarmine Prep here in Tacoma.

The four-year program was both academic and extra-curricular. We were in school for a week every summer, learning statistical analysis one year and learning to SCUBA dive the next. Every student conducted a senior year research project.

For my project, I tested the water quality of Snake Lake and China Lake. Somehow my teacher, Ron Nilsen, swung things so that I got the opportunity to present my research to the staff at the Snake Lake Nature Center. Looking back, it’s hard to know if the staff was humoring me or if I actually had something of value to tell them. But at the time ... I gotta say, I was pretty proud of that.

Nilsen is still running the Marine Chemistry program at Bellarmine. I followed up with him to see how Marine Chemistry has been doing since I graduated. I was pretty impressed, and the potential of SAMI became even more apparent.

Right now, Bellarmine students are doing red tide research in Quartermaster Harbor--a 2006 graduate won first in the nation at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium for her red tide work there. Other students are creating Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps of the Titlow marine sanctuary--last year two students presented professionally at a GIS conference.

We should not underestimate the positive effect applied scientific research can have on high school students. In addition to a love of the sciences, students will emerge with a deeper understanding of our natural world, particularly the forested Point Defiance Park and the beautiful waters of the Puget Sound.

Tomorrow is the groundbreaking for Urban Waters, a research center dedicated to studying the health of the Sound. Could Urban Waters be another partner for SAMI and Bellarmine’s Marine Chemistry program? With them guiding the work, and hundreds of interested high school students helping, our region might become a powerhouse of marine research.

The pieces are there. Here’s hoping they start coming together ...

ABOUT HAZARDOUS BUSINESS: Erik Emery Hanberg's Hazardous Business column - which looks at the business of technology and the environment in Tacoma and the South Sound, and how it will shape our future- appears every other Tuesday here on Spew. For previous Hazardous Business columns, click here.

April 9, 2009 at 2:23pm

Tacoma Cocktails 101


Just found this press release on Bobble Tiki’s inbox:

El Gaucho Tacoma is launching “Cocktails 101,” a monthly cocktail education series designed to edify and entertain while demonstrating how guests can bring a bit of the legendary El Gaucho swank home.
Each “Cocktails 101” event will be based upon a theme and include a reception, where participants will sample signature El Gaucho appetizers and taste the featured libations before being taught how to make the cocktails. Students will also receive a goody bag of “study materials,” including numerous recipes and gifts to help them recreate the evening’s featured drinks at home.
Scheduled themed events include:
Friday, April 17â€"Classic Cocktails 101
(Gin Martini, Vodka Martini, Manhattan)

Friday, May 15â€"Spring Fever
(Cosmopolitan, Lemon Drop, Kamikaze)

Friday, July 17â€"Summer Lovin’
(Classic Mojito, Ginger Basil Mojito, Long Island Iced Tea)

Friday, September 25â€"Fall Essentials
(B-52 Coffee, Hot Toddy, Hot Buttered Rum, Peppermint Patty)

Friday, November 20â€"Home for the Holidays
(Holly Berry, Winter Wonderland, Poinsettia)
Matriculation fee: $40 per person, plus tax and gratuity.
Don’t wait for the bell to ringâ€"there isn’t one! Classes are held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., but guests needn’t arrive promptly at the beginning: students may come and go as they pleaseâ€"without a hall passâ€"and sneak out whenever they want.

Thought you’d want to know since Bobble Tiki typically never shows up at the office on Thursday.

LINK: South Sound happy hours

Filed under: Education, Food & Drink, Tacoma,

March 18, 2009 at 2:47pm

Budget cuts and UWT


The effects of this economic collapse run deep. Nothing is safe. In times like this, even institutions like higher education and basic social services are being forced to make cuts. Whether it’s fair or not doesn’t really matter. The numbers don’t lie. There’s not enough money, and life is going to change because of it.

One of the places where life will almost certainly change in Washington â€" and specifically Tacoma â€" is the halls of academia. Facing a monstrous deficit, Governor Gregoire has already instructed all universities in our state to prepare for 13 percent budget cut, but with a worsening hole most expect the cuts to go far deeper than that.

This, of course, will have widespread implications. Academic offerings are likely to be scaled back, upgrades and renovations are likely to be put on hold, people will lose jobs (UW president Mark Emmert has estimated anywhere between 600-800) and â€" perhaps most importantly â€" the price of admission for university students is going to increase. Gregoire and gang gave the go-ahead on a 7 percent tuition hike earlier this year, which has become routine.

But if students thought a 7 percent hike was bad news, Tuesday’s announcement that Gregoire supports a temporary tuition surcharge (rumored to be in the ballpark of an additional 4-7 percent) to help universities balance their budgets probably comes as the icing on the cake. While the governor contends that such a surcharge would actually help maintain current enrollment, and that federal tax credits and government grants would cancel the additional charges out for most students, all of this is more than enough to make your average college student wonder what it all means. And that’s not even counting the students of modest means, who don’t qualify for financial aid and won’t be helped by an increase in federal Pell grants. For them, nothing will cancel out.

How will budget cuts affect students at UWT? Mike Wark, UWT’s director of public relations and communications, says the most immediate pains are likely to be felt by students dealing with a decrease in services, higher tuitions, larger class sizes, limited class offerings and a longer schedule for graduation â€" though he also notes that nothing will be final until next biennium’s budget is set in stone, and the university plans to do everything in its power to stay true to its mission.

“The budget situation is severe,” says Wark. “These are all terrible choices. There is no real good news.”

March 11, 2009 at 5:59pm

Flickr Post of the Day

March 11, 2009 at 2:06pm

Tacoma school bond


I really, really, really hoped I’d be wrong.

But, unfortunately, in a situation some might call rare, it appears I was right on this one. As I predicted a few weeks ago in the Weekly Volcano, Tacomans have chosen to protect their wallets rather than invest in the future of our children.

Although the first numbers were only released last night (Tuesday, March 10), and ballots will continue to be counted up until March 25, when the election will be certified â€" the news doesn’t look good for the Tacoma School capital improvement bond. Needing 40 percent of those who turned out last November to vote in the presidential election to cast ballots, and needing to get yes votes from 60 percent of those people â€" it appears the 2009 Tacoma Schools capital improvement bond is going down in flames. While it’s early, at this point the bond is only receiving a 46 percent yes vote.

If passed, the Tacoma Schools capital improvement bond would have increased property taxes on homeowners by 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value â€" or about $16 a month for homes valued at $250,000 â€" and rebuilt the borderline condemnable Hunt and Baker Middle Schools, as well as renovated Stewart Middle School and continued to upgrade Wilson High School.

But that all appears moot, since in this time of economic uncertainty voters in Tacoma have spoken â€" and they’ve spoken out against new taxes, even if it means our schools will literally be falling down around our children.

Marty Campbell, who led the Tacoma Citizens for Schools campaign, wasn’t ready to say the fight was over when I talked with him by phone today â€" noting that the majority of mail-in ballots typically arrive a day late, and early voting always tends to be negative â€" but he was willing to talk about some of the things he believes Tacoma can take from the experience, whether the bond ultimately fails or not.

“One of the good things that came out of this was a discussion about education that lasted six weeks,” says Campbell. “We’ve generated a lot of talk. There are a lot of passionate people in Tacoma that really care about education.”

“I would recommend that we need to look at the big picture,” continues Campbell. “We need to recognize that it takes a village, and sometimes it can’t just be the school district.”

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