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YAZ’s FIRST HIT AND THE ROM OF THE MIND … EGREMONT SCHOOL COUNCIL ASKS EXPLOSIVE QUESTION OF PITTSFIELD SCHOOL COMMITTEE … COUNCIL WANTS AUDIT TO EXAMINE POSSIBLE SHORT-CHANGING OF TAXPAYER MONEY

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By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2013) — On this day in 1961, Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox got the first hit of his Hall of Fame career, a single off of Ray Herbert of the Kansas City A’s.

YAZ

THE PLANET remembers that day, sunny and brisk, because we were listening to the radio broadcast of the game on a small transistor radio that some kid had with him at Deming Park. We were involved in our own game of baseball, on Deming’s  “junk diamond,” the first diamond you see when you enter the park from Lyman Street. In fact, when Yaz got that hit, I was on second base after just having doubled off the serves of Robby Massetti.

Such remembrances make up the clutter of a writer’s mind. Why should we remember that particular day and moment out of so many? For that, we shall employ an analogy. Such a memory is like an island that juts the surface of the ocean. Beneath is actually a submerged mountain. Only the peak sticks above the surface. Well, some events become those peaks. As we now know through brain research, literally everything that happens to us gets recorded in our memory. To avoid mental overload, most of that material gets stored in a “READ ONLY” section of the magnificent mind.

You Life, There to Flash Before You

It’s there, but not consciously there, except in unusual situations, such as a close call, as, for example, a near death experience, where, invariably, the person later refers to his or her “life flashing before me.” What the person is seeing in such a moment is a replay of the brain’s “READ ONLY” memory. The interesting thing about the mind and the memory is that through certain practices, training, and discipline, the ROM can consciously be accessed, a process akin to, but not to be mistaken for, hallucination.

A hallucination is seeing things that aren’t there or that have never happened. A delusion is seeing things that are there or have happened but misinterpreting their meaning. This ROM recollection is seeing something that isn’t there but has happened. It’s as real as “reality.” In the course of their working journeys into creativity, artists (in the inclusive sense to embrace all disciplines) somehow find their way into some of the stores of their internal ROM.

———————————————————————————

EGREMONT SCHOOL COUNCIL ASKS AN EXPLOSIVE QUESTION

With more than $90 million to play with, have you ever wondered upon what basis does the Pittsfield School Department send and spend money at its different campuses?

The Egremont School Council (ESC) wonders, and it’s not getting answers.

Straightforward Question but No Straightforward Answer or Business As Usual For School Administration

EGREMONT SCHOOL

Recently, the ESC sent a letter to the Pittsfield School Committee to bring to the board’s attention what it calls “an inequity in the amount of per-pupil funding that is currently being sent to Egremont School via the Pittsfield School Department.” This sounds like a reasonable request, but guess what? It seems that no one on the school committee or in the PSD administration can provide a straight answer.

For your information, the Egremont School Council consists of Denis Guyer, parent; Maria Martin-Arenas; Susan Mooney, parent; Tom Simon, parent; Glenn Wheeler, parent; Laura Groves, parent; Sandi Keen, teacher; Michele LaDouceur, teacher; Gary LeVante, Berkshire Bank business partner; and Judy Rush, principal.

The ESC charges that “resources not funded at Egremont are available at other schools in the district. Class sizes in other district schools are in some cases a fraction of what they currently are at Egremont. With all of this in mind,” the letter continues, “we began to ask questions of administration officials directly responsible for the disbursement of taxpayers funds throughout our elementary schools to learn if the amount that Egremont is receiving per pupil is in line with what other schools receive. … The initial and possibly incomplete information that we received seems to confirm that a large inequity does exist in the amount of local and state funding (non-grant, non-federal) being spent per child at Egremont.”

Are the Egremont classrooms being short-funded? If so, why?

Let’s stop the film here. It’s apparent that upon being asked to address this matter, the school department administration blew smoke. It provided “initial and possibly incomplete information” about a figure that one of the many superintendents, with their six-figure salaries, should be able to share with the ESC in one line of an e-mail or a one-minute phone call. Talking later with a member of the school department and also an Egremont parent (not a member of the ESC), THE PLANET learned that the ESC’s letter set off fire alarms in the administrative offices at Mercer on the corner of First and Orchard.

Why should this be? Why all the concern over a straight-forward request? Later on, the ESC demands an “audit.” Uh oh, the “A” word.

The letter then shares a stunning fact: 50% of the students at Egremont qualify for free or reduced lunches. In other words, there’s a lot of poor folks sending their kids to the school. One doesn’t at first think of Egremont, located in the city’s posh southeast, having to give out free food, but the demographics in the area are changing.

“We have become greatly concerned about this vulnerable population,” the letter tells the school committee. “With the specific educational challenges that children of poverty face, we are concerned that Pittsfield’s funding formula may not allow us to provide an equitable education to these children. The student population of Egremont also has one of, if not the highest number of children on 504 plans of any school in the district.”

Stop film again. The ESC refers here to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This section prohibits the exclusion of anyone with a disability (physical impairments, communicable diseases, chronic conditions, allergies, diabetes, etc.) from participating in federally funded programs or activities. We can debate the common sense of this later. For now, 504 is the law.

The ‘Action’ Part of the Letter Wants an Audit

In the “action” part of the letter, the ESC asks the school committee “to review, audit, and investigate what the Pittsfield School Department disperses to its elementary schools in local taxpayer and Chapter 70 funding, in particular to determine if a disparity exists.”

At the word “audit,” the school committee and its bosses in the administration gasped the way Maynard G. Krebs, resident beatnik on The Dobie Gillis Show, used to do when he heard the word “work.” You can be sure the last thing the administration wants is ANY kind of independent audit of the money trail — which is why, of course, the school committee has a duty-bound requirement to go in and open up the books. Let’s pay close attention to the seven “profiles in courage” on the school committee and see which one of them has the political will to grant the ESC’s reasonable request.

While they’re at it, perhaps they should take some of the $1.3 million to “study” what to do about Taconic High School and order an independent forensic audit of the school department finances.

‘Trust Us’: An Invitation to Body Gynmastics

It’s either that, or we rely on the usual “trust us” reports the school administration sends to the school committee and to our Right Honorable Friends on the Pittsfield City Council.

We know too well that “trust us” is simply the school department telling the taxpayers to perform an anatomical impossibility on themselves.

The school committee has the perfect excuse (the ESC letter) to bring about this audit. It also has the perfect time, since the FY14 budget looms large on the tilted horizon.

THE PLANET urges them: Do it.

—————————————————————————————-

“She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies; / And all that’s best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes; / Thus mellowed to that tender light / Which heaven to gaudy day denies.”George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron)

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

 

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Waiting for Superman
Waiting for Superman
8 years ago

I wonder if the 50% getting free lunches are the same 50% born to single mothers on public assistance. I have to disagree about urging a audit, it’s time to demand one.

FPR
FPR
8 years ago

Wow Dan – good article.

The “A” word. Ohno!
An audit would expose Pittsfield’s cash cow they’ve been using to bilk the public out of its money and launder their money.

“We charged the people too much on their taxes — Free Money — lets give teachers a raise”.

Public education is a joke. Parents should educate their own children — not the state.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

FPR,

Parents who homeschool their children are often poorly educated themselves, and really want their children to be a captive audience for them. Indeed, there are far too many cases across the Commonwealth and the country where parents use homeschooling to hide evidence of child abuse, sexual abuse, and malnourishment. It is folly.

Sure, public schools aren’t perfect, but children need to be with other children to develop into well rounded adults, and be exposed to an array of subjects that their parents likely know little about.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

Do you have links to these cases?

Relax
Relax
Reply to  Joe Blow
8 years ago
Joe Blow
Joe Blow
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

That case is not from Ma. and I think you’re full of it.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

Relax, let me quote you – “Parents who homeschool their children are often poorly educated themselves”.

Who educated these “Parents”?

Relax
Relax
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

These parents are poorly educated not because the school failed them, but because their parents failed them. They are often learning disabled, historically ignorant, but naively think they’re saving their children from the evils of the “system.” Indeed, most homeschoolers are either evangelicals who desire to make their children into little evangelicals, or those who desire to “live off the grid.” They are harming their children, despite their professed good intentions.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

Haha. There really is a Santa Claus and an Easter bunny too.

You are ridiculous. “These parents are poorly educated not because the school failed them, but because their parents failed them”.

So you paint a picture that parents who want to teach their children are sex offenders or religious freaks.

Scott made a comment the other day “I refuse to give up on anyone especially my own”.

You can’t teach anyone anything unless you learn it yourself. Parents who teach their own benefit also. Immensely.

Your twisted portrayal of home schooling is folly.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

Sexual abuse or otherwise NEVER happens in public school… I think you need to relax! There is evil everywhere stop attacking homeschooling just for the sake of doing so. You don’t have to agree with it and can give a different opinion with out being rude.

Rivetor
Rivetor
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

Parent who homeschool “are often” … you claim, Relax. How do you define often. However it also means that a good many of homeschooled children receive a good education. I agree with you about the quality of parenting. Good parents = good students, whether public or homeschooled. Bad parents = bad students.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  Rivetor
8 years ago

If homeschooling were as beneficial as you claim, then it would be the option a majority of parents would take. Yet they do not. It’s always the arrogant that believe they know better than the rest of us.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

I don’t agree the majority of people’s children are forced into public school because people spend less time at home and more time working.

Rivetor
Rivetor
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

No you are twisting what I say. The majority of parents do not take homeschooling not because of how you put it but because of time. Parents are moreso than ever, time pressed. Kids who are lucky enough to have both parents in the house aren’t so lucky in that both of them probably have to work (and maybe more than one job) to stay afloat. Only service jobs in Pitts and Berkshire County.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  Rivetor
8 years ago

Well, what is a “good education”? It’s not simply reading, writing, and arithmetic. How do you define it? Isn’t part of a “good education” learning how to interact with your peers, and not trying to please your parents?

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

It depends on how those peers are influenced and how they influence your children. Homeschool people do network and have peer interaction. You’re just projecting a false belief from your own mind. The most important aspect of any education is encouraging free thought and creativity. If kids can’t think for themselves they become followers. I encourage my kid to take information and come to his own conclusions don’t just take everything a teacher says as truth. Obviously formulas and other things but that’s not all kids get in school they get a teachers personal beliefs as well during studies. Like 70% of school shootings are because of bullying what who came up with that figure someone in charge of teaching apparently.

Rivetor
Rivetor
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

You are wrong again Relax. One of the great misconceptions about home schooling is that the child suffers socially. That is not the case. I know a couple of home schoolers. They are among the most well adjusted kids I know. Interacting with peers comes to all, home school and public schooled.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

Exactly. If kids can’t think for themselves, they become followers. Or clones of their parents in the typical homeschooling environment. The parents I’ve met who homeschool their children are decidedly weird, as are their kids.

Ron Kitterman
Ron Kitterman
8 years ago

As my namesake Ronnie Reagan use to say “ Trust but verify “ or was it “ there they go again “, but see no harm in the Do it, request from ESC.

dusty
dusty
8 years ago

I would love to see several audits. But I think Scanlon is the only outsider allowed to peek into city finances.

I am pretty sure if you asked the taxpayers on a ballot question if they would be willing to pay for an independent audit for the last 5 years they would do it. But nothing of the sort is going to happen in this burg until all statue of limitations have come and gone.

Rivetor
Rivetor
Reply to  dusty
8 years ago

I’d like to see what DV calls for, a forensic audit. Totally independnet and given the power to look anywhere and at everything.

Blind Justice
Blind Justice
8 years ago

Dear Dan,

I was a bit too young to remember Yaz’s first hit, but do remember holding a transistor radio outside the school bus window so we could hear the 1967 world series (back when the games were held at times appropriate for children to watch/listen to).

I was wondering if you could have a look at recent events in Lenox involving disgruntled members of Town government.

We have a park commission member who cannot understand why townspeople are upset over their handling of a private monument in a Town park. This given the fact that a commission member, voted on the issue, then PROFITED FROM IT! The member was cleared of ethics violations by the shrubs in Boston, but this may be because he has a D- in front of his name. The only member of the commission I have ANY trust in is former Selectman, Joe Nolan.

The only monument appropriate for the park would be to honor it’s benefactor, John Kennedy.

Then we have the recent announcement that the Town Mis-Manager is leaving. Thanks you Manchester Ma, and God help you.

Concerning an appropriate title for the piece; Rats leaving the sinking ship.

skier1
skier1
8 years ago

Scanlon did a fantastic job on the last Lenox audit giving the town a C-. Books weren’t reconciled for 15 months. Now Lenox can move forward when we get our new town manager.

Blind Justice
Blind Justice
Reply to  skier1
8 years ago

Town was a nicer place for it’s Citizens, and managed along just fine, before it had a “manager”

Relax
Relax
8 years ago

Here’s the thing: Dan does a fairly decent job of highlighting potential chicanery in the budgeting of tax payer dollars for public education, TIF agreements, tax credits, and the like. But, nothing much changes because the average voter simply pays no attention to these issues.

Moreover, mere irregularities in budgeting does not in any way suggest that someone is on the take or is somehow corrupt. Everyone who pays attention knows that City Councilors get their health insurance paid by the City. And yet, these people continue to get elected. And, the set up never changes. Everyone who pays attention knows that there’s too much administrative fat in the public school budget.

But, the cycle repeats itself year after year. Sure, there may be the occasional salacious story, but the fundamentals don’t change. Why? Because the interests are too entrenched, and no one has thought of an alternative meaningful enough to result in profound change.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

Maybe it’s you!

FPR
FPR
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

You say, “Moreover, mere irregularities in budgeting does not in any way suggest that someone is on the take or is somehow corrupt”.

Then there should be no problem with an audit. However, watch, there will be.

There is nothing wrong with councilors receiving health insurance. How is that corrupt?

Scott
Scott
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

FPR you’re wasting your time relax isn’t interested in an even debate only insinuations derived from personal opinion however flawed it doesn’t matter from couples retreat just hold up your hand like Vince Vaughn “I know my truth!”

Home schooling is an excellent option when good parents have the ability, knowledge and time to invest.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  Scott
8 years ago

I agree Scott. You are one of the ones who “get it”.

I enjoy you comments on here.

This relax is obviously GOB and tries to demonize those who want to think freely. He obviously wants to keep his cash cow running, whatever it is.

Any parent who plans the curriculum knows children need time with other children and would plan accordingly. However, whoever says when actual learning takes place that a child needs to be sitting at a desk next to other children?

70% of everyone’s taxes, even those who choose not to have children, goes to a very inefficient educational system of things is preferable to a parent teaching their own children? I think not.

The Kraken
The Kraken
Reply to  Scott
8 years ago

Scott, your statement “Home schooling is an excellent option when good parents have the ability, knowledge and time to invest.” is the key. Most parents simply don’t have any of those. Although I consider myself an intelligent person, I don’t have the time to do home schooling, and would never dream of attempting to teach my kids advanced chemistry, trigonometry, etc. as I would do them a disservice.
Conversely, blaming the public school system for creating an unintelligent populace is ridiculous. Once one graduates, it’s up to him/her to continue their education and retain what they’ve learned. Very few do that. People need to take responsibility for their own idiocy and stop blaming the public school system.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  The Kraken
8 years ago

Your point only validates the public school system not as a necessity but a convenience and I don’t think you even realized it. Of course personal responsibility is essential for self growth I would never state otherwise. In fact I would say society in general needs more of it. See no one is blaming the system for what it is just simply pointing out pro’s and cons. I was educated in public and private school. I have a child in public school now.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

The school districts are independently audited each year, and those audits are available for public inspection. Take some time and look them up if it’s that important to you.

And, giving councilors health insurance is simply another form of compensation for their time, just like getting health insurance paid by a private employer is another form of compensation for the employee. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it; it’s simply a governing choice.

Now, if it really bothers you so much, then why don’t you try to get a referendum question about it put on the ballot? There’s a mechanism under the City Charter for voters to put referendum questions up for consideration. If you can get enough signatures, and then mount a campaign, then perhaps you could require that the City not provide its councilors health insurance. Unless and until you try that, you’re all cry and no wool. Whining about it is for children.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  Relax
8 years ago

relax, I’ve already stated that there is nothing wrong with the councilors getting health insurance. Why would I ever put something on a referendum that I have no problem with?

You are the one stating it is a problem and keep bringing it up. You are the one who has a problem with it.

You are the one who fails to read and misunderstands. You are just a troll who likes to stir the pot on here.

Must be that public education you received.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

I’m not the person who idiotically thinks that the US is becoming the next Weimar Republic. I’m not the person who thinks we need to return to the gold standard. I’m not the one who thinks the Bilderberg Group runs the world.

Those are the intellectually lazy sentiments of a person, like you, who gets their education from polemical websites, Wikipedia, and Ron Paul.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

Ah now you show your true colors.

You are definitely an internet troll of the highest order.

You seek victims to attack.

Do me a favor and do not address my posts ever again. I will only respond to you in the negative. I am diametrically opposed to everything you stand for.

Don’t turn Dan’s website into Topix.com.
Speak to me again and it will get ugly in here.
Dan will have to moderate and delete post.

Leave me alone. Go and attack someone else with your nonsense.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

FPR cannot logically debate an issue without resorting to wallowing in conspiratorial nonsense. If something is idiotic, like comparing the US to the Weimar Republic, then it should be denominated as such. And, relying on Wikipedia or the fatuous writings of an obvious whackjob like Ron Paul to support one’s assertions is indeed intellectual laziness. FPR needs to develop a thicker skin if he wants to engage on these issues.

Quite frankly, I’m rather surprised that Dan lets people post such self-evident nonsense. And, when this nonsense is called for what it is, those spouting it whine and complain about it like the dilettantes they are.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

Dan,

The lawsuit Nilan brought against you was absurd, and I commend you for fighting it.

But, as you well know, the First Amendment applies only to the government restricting speech. You, as a private entity, are not constrained by the First Amendment and are free not to publish comments for whatever reason you like.

FPR gets away with petty personal insults all the time. It’s ok, I can handle it, but the nonsense he peddles in these otherwise substantive discussions needs to be called out for what it is.

You, as a fan of George Carlin, should not fear words like idiocy and nonsense, especially when they’re appropriately used.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

Dan,

I have never spoken one word that was not the god’s honest truth.

I truly wish I am wrong about the economy but I know in my heart what’s coming.

I try to make my comments in line with your subject matter of the day. No one has to agree with anything I say. Personal attacks are not necessary.

Someone advising you to censor your comments section is despicable to say the least, especially after what you’ve been through.

Yes I believe in real money – Gold and Silver. It is constitutional. Yes I believe parents should educate their children and teach them to be free thinkers. Children should not be indoctrinated by the state, and giving them psychotropic drugs to behave is insanity. Making the entire public pay for it all.

Some want to demonize such thinking and censor it so perhaps it won’t “catch on” and others start thinking the same way.

Relax
Relax
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

FPR,

The price of gold has fallen 17% since the end of 2011. In fact, Goldman Sachs has predicted that gold will fall to $1390 per ounce within the year, a further 11% decline. And, the price of silver has fallen sharply as well. Gold and silver prices, over time, are just as much of the fiat currencies that the goldbugs rail about.

And, education is not the same as indoctrination. There is no evidence that children in public schools are being indoctrinated. Teaching children to be tolerant and non-judgmental is not indoctrination. If you have a moral or religious objection to a public policy matter, such as abortion, gay rights, or affirmative action, then you are free to have those discussions with your children.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

Hey Dan,

After sleeping on it, I made a decision not to post anymore on your site.

I really don’t need to add stress to my life and quite frankly this Relax – can’t stand the guy. I don’t need a stalker.

I started posting right after your first amendment victory and right at the time of Molly’s death. In fact it was Molly who welcomed me here with open arms. One of her last posts on here was inviting me to come back. I took it to heart. I didn’t get to know her but felt privileged to receive her heartfelt invitation.

I originally only wanted to congratulate you on your victory and have read your column every day since. I resonated with what you are saying and felt free to add my input. I agree with 99% of what you say.

It seems the entire internet is overrun with these trolls. Stress free is as simple as turning off the computer.

Anyway, I wish you well in all you do. Take care.

FPR
FPR
Reply to  FPR
8 years ago

“And in the end – the Love you take – is equal to the Love………you make”.

MrG1188
MrG1188
8 years ago

Dan, Good find on the letter and good story. But I figure you above most would appreciate this criticism; the editing is either horrible or non-existent. Lots of uncharacteristic typos, grammatical problems (“Talking later with a member of the school department and also an Egremont parent (not a member of the ESC), the ESC’s letter set off fire alarms…” LOL, the letter did not talk!) and even confusion between School Committee (the governing body of the district) and School Council (an essentially honorary body from an individual school. Finally, unless you’re being tongue in cheek, the phrase “At the word “audit,” the school committee and its bosses in the administration gasped…” is, as I’m sure you know, incorrect. The committee is SUPPOSED to be the boss of the administration, not vice versa. Sorry for the nit-picking, but you usually do better work!

MrG1188
MrG1188
8 years ago

LOL…I’d prefer to do this offline, because it’s probably of ZERO interest to any but a couple of old English Majors…but here goes.

“Talking later with a member of the school department and also an Egremont parent (not a member of the ESC), the ESC’s letter set off fire alarms…”

The first verb in the sentence in gerund form needs to have reference back from the subject of the sentence. “The letter” did not do the talking. It DID set off the fire alarms, and therein is the mistake. The grammatically CORRECT structure would be, “Talking later with a member……I was told the ESC’s letter…”

Typos/grammar citations:
“things that are there of (or) have happened”
“Why we should remember that particular day and moment out of so many?” Either change we should to should we or drop the ? at the end.
“the ESC deman(d)s an “audit.”
having to give our(t) free food
in particular to determine is(f) a disparity exists.”

“For your information, the Egremont School Committee consists of…” Here you were referring to the Council…NOT the Committee.

Subject Matter & presentation (even from a Yankee fan!) A
Grammar & spelling: B- Thanks

MrG1188
MrG1188
8 years ago

And by the way…I still have a team picture pennant of that very same 1967 Red Sox team!

MrG1188
MrG1188
8 years ago

I’d welcome the coffee. I’m nearby in lovely Housatonic and am happy to make my way to Stockbridge, or wherever the fortress may be. Also, I have been in publishing long enough to know to NEVER mention errors after something is printed, but the flexibility afforded a publisher in cyberspace can make “after the fact” criticism actually useful. Good weekend.

MrG1188
MrG1188
8 years ago

I’d welcome the coffee. I’m nearby in lovely Housatonic and am happy to make my way to Stockbridge, or wherever the fortress may be. Also, I have been in publishing long enough to know to NEVER mention errors after something is printed, but the flexibility afforded a publisher in cyberspace can make “after the fact” criticism actually useful. Good weekend.

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
8 years ago

Just a little note on the Egremont School Council, several of the people you have listed as parents work in school departments in other capacities. I see maybe 3 members not directly involved as a paid educator.