Sunday, February 22, 2009

RIP Mr. Tibbens

Today is the funeral for one of my favorite teachers of all time. The obit says this:
Vance Arnold Tibbens, 90, of 8 Robertson Street, died Friday, February 20, 2009 at Rex Healthcare. Mr. Tibbens was born in Clinton County, Pennsylvania on August 29, 1918 to the late Dalfus Tibbens and Bessie Gramley Tibbens. He attended Lock Haven State Teachers College. Mr. Tibbens taught Jr. and Sr. High School Math for 38 years in the Wake County Public School System. He was a member of Knightdale Baptist Church.
By the time I took his class in 8th grade Mr. Tibbens was a local legend. In fact, he had taught my mother (class of '58? '59?) at Knightdale High School before he taught me at Vaiden Whitley Middle School. It's amazing to realize now that he was 60 when he taught us. I knew that he was old, sure, but he was so on top of things.

Our class was a bunch of smarty pants, by definition -- we were the first kids to be offered Algebra I in the 8th grade. Looking back I'm sure we were obnoxious, but I definitely remember working very hard ... and I'm also still very good at algebra. Every time my students have issues with high school math I always sit down with them to try to help them out. (Calculus kids, you're on your own.)

I remember Mr. Tibbens was always a little gruff and formal -- I remember a suit with a vest everyday -- but never unkind. I also recall that he had little sayings and nickname, like "the peanut gallery" for those of us who sat in the back. He was a really good man and a great teacher, and I'm sorry I didn't let him know what an impact he had on me. Rest in peace, Mr. Tibbens.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In four short years he met his every goal

Yesterday in honor of Presidents Day C-SPAN released its 2nd poll of historians ranking the leadership qualities of the former presidents -- polling a "cross-section of 65 presidential historians [who] ranked the 42 former occupants of the White House on ten attributes of leadership," as they put it. I was pleased to see that James K. Polk finished again at #12 (or #13, as he appears to have the same number of points as Andy Jackson).

And why, do you ask, my interest/concern in James K. Polk? Yes, I'm a social studies teacher, but it all comes down to They Might Be Giants. See the performance below and check out the kids who can't quite figure out if they're supposed to be rocking out on this one or not. Lyrics, by the way, should definitely be read and internalized at your leisure.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The new project

This is what I'm spending more of my time doing these days ... check it out, even if you're not a high school psychology teacher!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Yeah, not so much

Screen shot from WRAL after midnight last night. Compare the estimated snowfall (2-4") with the actual (0.00").

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brown goes down

Durham City Council member Eugene Brown recently hopped on his high horse and reamed the city for holding an employee appreciation luncheon in these tough economic times. Brown claimed that in addition to the costs of the luncheon itself there would also be a $31,500 loss of productivity in employee hours lost.

Oh, good grief.

Fortunately he was rebuffed by many (including Bull City Rising's Kevin Davis) for last-minute grandstanding. In response to the criticism on BCR, Brown posted a lengthy defense in the comments section. What follows below is snipped from the comments section, first Brown's statement, then a second statement written by "City Employee" which just blows him out of the water. Enjoy!


In my six years on the Council I have voted for every pay raise for employees and I appreciate and enjoy working with almost all of them. This is not an anti city employee proposal. As an elected official I get no joy from this, but we all have to recognize the harsh economic conditions we face as a city. My message is rather simple: this is not the time to be hosting a 3.5 hour luncheon on a workday that costs taxpayers nearly $20,000 for around 400 city employees. Including loss productivity, aggregate cost to our city could be over $50,000. I am in agreement that it may now be too late to cancel the event, but we could have cut it back to two hours and/or eliminate some food or desert as well as the number of non- city employees who are invited. These are coommon sense steps that many private companies are taking including those who cater gatherings at the Washington Duke. Shouldn't a five star city work force respond in a similiar way as those who use a five star hotel. Nor do I understand why the city is honoring 219 employees. We have about 2,000 employees. At this rate everyone should have already been honored since the luncheon has been hosted for 2o years. On occassion, symbolism and jestures are important and I believe the city needs to send a message to our citizens that we too get it,that we understand that many of our citizens have lost their jobs and face an uncertain economic future, and that we in the public sector we who have jobs are willing to sacrifice a little to help in a small way eliminate our nearly $4 million city deficit. Eugene Brown Durham City Council

Mr. Brown is very out of touch on this issue. But that's nothing new for him. He's almost been the most unfriendly council member to employees.

First, he got the name of the department wrong that actually hosts this event. It's Human Resources, not Human Relations (a department he has openly criticized; does some of his criticism of the luncheon come from his dislike of Human Relations?).

Second, he has not even attended the event in the past few years. How would he know anything about the event? How would he know if employees like it or not? He should show up sometime. He would actually find that most of us like the lunch.

Third, his comment "At this rate everyone should have already been honored since the luncheon has been hosted for 2o (sic) years" shows his ignorance. The luncheon honors employees when they reach 5 year milestones in service (5, 10, 15, 20, etc.).

Fourth, people hardly ever take 3.5 hours for the lunch. If Mr. Brown showed up one year, he would see employees coming and going from the lunch as their work responsibilities call for.

Fifth, there isn't the kind of lost productivity Mr. Brown says. Nearly all (I can't honestly say all) of the employees there work more than 40 hours each week anyway. The emails, voice mails, and paperwork will be there for them when they return. Cutting it back to 2 hours won't make a difference in Mr. Brown's made up cost figures. That whole $50,000 figure is such a joke.

Six, while Mr. Brown says he voted for pay raises, he's the same council member who recently said at a work session, "City employees are lucky to have their jobs. If they don't like working here, they can go find other jobs." That's really motivating!

Seventh, if you want "jestures" (sic; this guy was Joe Biden's speech writer? Maybe he meant jester!), Mr. Brown, let's do away with the Council's Monday night dinners and sometime Thursday lunches. Take away some of your second helpings and dessert.

We're willing to sacrifice, Mr. Brown. You keep asking us to do more with less, and we respond. Sure, a $100 bill would be nice and would cost less for the 219 who are being honored for their service, but sometimes people like to be thanked in person by their bosses. We'd like to know once in while that we are appreciated.

Maybe that's just too hard for you to understand. With that kind of leadership, I'm glad to be on heading to retirement.

Posted by: City Employee