Sunday, January 29, 2017

Frank Brogan for U.S. Education Secretary

Frank Brogan is a former Florida public-school elementary school teacher and county school district superintendent of schools.  He has served a state university president, as Florida's lieutenant governor, and as the chief of two state university systems (in Florida and Pennsylvania).  As Florida's Education Commissioner, he led efforts to streamline the state's education bureaucracy, to implement testing requirements fairly, and to eliminate achievement gaps between racial and ethnic groups.  A lifelong Republican who was the first person in his family to graduate from college, Brogan won four statewide elections, including two as Jeb Bush's running mate.  He is a champion of educational reform with a heart.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Longest student

I want you to think you from the bottom of my heart for this touching award, “Longest Student.”  I ran into Lisa and Allison late one night about six weeks ago at Kinko’s on Thomasville Road.  They were finalizing plans for our class reunion.  We chatted for a few minutes and then they asked me – Perry – what are you up to?  And I said – Funny you should ask – I’m actually finishing my dissertation tonight here on my laptop.  They figured out that I’ve been a student most of the time since high school, and said they should give me an award at the reunion.  I thought they were kidding, but apparently they weren’t.

Yes – that’s right.  We graduated from Leon in June 1980, at the old Capital Stadium.  And it’s now June 2000.  I was in college for 5 years, and I’ve been in grad school for 13 years.  You don’t have to be a math major to figure out that’s 18 years in college.  Partly as a way to explain about what the heck I’ve been doing all of that time, I’m going to accept this award on behalf of four groups of people who played a role in my success, or lack thereof.

I accept the award, first, on behalf of the people of the great cities of Philadelphia and New York.  I lived in and around these cities for about 12 years, while I was in college and in residence in grad school.  I ran into lots of interesting people in these cities, including some people who I would just as soon have NOT met – like the person who pickpocketed $800 in cash from me as I left a Manhattan bank branch.  And some of the interesting people in town I didn’t actually meet – I tell people I was in New York for the Parcells, Dinkins, Riley years – and you’ll know what I mean if you’re a football fan, political junkie, or a basketball fan (and I’m all of the above).

I accept the award, second, on behalf of the 411 people who allowed me to interview them as part of the research for my dissertation, which compared the development of the conflict over abortion and abortion policy in state capital areas in two different parts of the country:  in the Northeast – in Albany-Troy-Schenectady, in upstate New York; and in the Midwest – in Columbus, in Central Ohio.  These folks invited me into their houses, gave me access to their records, and shared their life-stories with me, and I couldn’t have come close to earning my Ph.D. without their help.

I accept the award, third, on behalf of my classmates at Swarthmore College and the New School for Social Research and my co-workers at the Florida Flambeau, the independent daily newspaper.  These folks were great friends, colleagues, and supporters.  One person who was in class with me BOTH at Swarthmore and the New School was Andrew Morrall.  The most memorable class Andrew and I took together was Critical Modern Social Theory, spring semester of our senior year.  At the start of the class on the first day of class, our professor said:  “I like two things at seminars:  wine and cookies.  And so every Thursday night, from 7 to 10, we argued about critical theory and had a lot of wine and a lot of cookies.

Finally, I accept this award on behalf of my close friends and family members who have really sustained me as a student.  These folks have given me money, offered me places to stay, and provided great moral and spiritual support.  My Mother and grandparents would be at the top of the list.  So would be two people who are actually here tonight.  During what would have been my sophomore year at Swarthmore, I stayed back home here and worked, hunt out, and took a couple of classes at Florida State.  I lived with two friends who were both Leon grads:  Andrew Maurey, from the Class of 1979, and – from our own Class of 1980 – David Proctor, who is here tonight with his wife Helen.  Thanks, David! 

In grad school many of my friends were anthropology grad students.  They would go off to do their anthropology field work for two or three years in Chile, or Haiti, or Egypt.  I would kid a lot of them that they had “gone native,” because they’d come back to the United States with a spouse or partner.  But then I went and did the same thing.  I went to study the wilds of Central Ohio, and I left with a stepson and wife.  They provided love, affection, guidance, and inspiration.  Thanks, Stephanie!

So, again, I am happy to accept this “Longest Student” award on behalf of these four groups of people who helped support and sustain me.  I was talking with a few of you earlier tonight about my studies.  One of you asked me “So, what are you doing next?”  I don’t want to lose this award, and I don’t want to ruin the ambience.  But I have to confess . . .  it looks like I’m going to be getting  . . .   a job.  Sorry – Thanks!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Lost dog (New Albany, Indiana): $500 reward

Lost Dog

$500 Reward
Black and Tan
Yorkie-poodle mix
Age 15 1/2
Blind from cataracts

Needs heart medicine
Call (502) 314-9322,
(502) 457-7833, or
(812) 913-4313

Monday, March 2, 2015

Adjunct Walkout/Teach-In Day

Some questions I posed to Wednesday's local National Adjunct Walkout/Teach-In organizers:
Thank you for your leadership with Wednesday's event and ongoing organizational development/advocacy!

Several tough questions/thoughts occurred to me:
- I don't believe JCTC is over-administered.  If anything, given the number of adjuncts, probably not enough staff.  For example, it's very difficult to reach people in many administrative offices by phone.  I'm assuming they don't have time to answer the phone.
 - I don't like the term "part-time" because I teach six classes at four institutions.  I am not teaching "part-time."  I'm teaching full time (plus a non-teaching retail job, which no doubt pays more per hour), just across institutions - and being paid part-time.  'Contingent" is probably better but no one knows what that means.
 - I think shying away from part of this being about money is a mistake.  One of the reasons I'm more tired and not as well prepared in class Monday is because I work 16 hours over the weekend at the mall.  If I was paid more teaching, I probably wouldn't work at the mall.  Also, the more time I spend at the food pantry, the less time I have to sleep and grade and do lesson planning. etc.
 - "Full-time" faculty at JCTC - especially after the new regime imposed this spring  - with additional teaching and advising responsibilities for "full-time" faculty and administrators - and with additional administrative tasks because these can't be spread over adjuncts -  are also very overworked/underpaid.  We only hinted at this.
 - Students can and do have choices - they exercise power - probably not so much by lobbying their state legislators or talking with administrators - but by voting "with their feet" - to go more in debt to go to the private and private, for-profit schools (such as Brown Mackie, etc. - where some of us also teach) - where they may get more hand-holding and lower academic standards (or IUS, where my son goes, which I believe receives more state subsidy than KY schools even in all-Republican Indiana) - or by not going to or staying in college.  Certainly, higher tuition, the slow end of the Great Recession, and perceived low value may be among the reasons why our enrollments - especially in face-to-face classes - have dropped.  If potential students don't think it's worth it to go to college, or don't think we offer the best product/best value, they won't sign up and take our classes.
- That House bill won't help me, since I already  have a Ph.D.  How about what one of my private school offers - free tuition for at least one or two classes for my spouse or child?

 - Would some adjuncts be better off if the state had eliminated tenure as it tried to several years?  Would there then be one tier instead of two tiers with more administrators (to pick up the slack from vanishing "full-timers") and everyone being paid less/getting fewer benefits than the "full-timers" currently do but being paid more/getting more benefits than adjuncts currently do?
 - Of course, this is part of a larger trend in the economy - more "contingent" work; lower pay; more "home businesses" - post-Fordism, flexible specialization, McDonaldization, Walmart-ization - whatever you want to call it.  Will students/taxpayers/donors/voters/policy-makers be creative/resourceful/generous to help us out/help our students out when many of them themselves are losing full-time work/benefits/job security/decent pay?
 - We hinted at this.  There's some trade-offs here.  The state maintained much of K-12 public school spending and did NOT increase taxes partly by gutting human services and postsecondary ed spending (plus maintaining or hiking prison spending, which one of our colleagues mentioned).  If we don't want taxes raised, do we want K-12 cut or human services cut more?  In the short run, there may be some zero-sum game.
 - A broader issue that may give us part of our niche at the same time as it challenges us:  the massive educational inequality/underinvestment in K-12 public schools/poverty/mediocre academic standards in our feeder schools, particularly JCPS.  A broader crisis in urban education both gives us much of our mission while it also makes our work very hard - and makes it hard for us to attract support from voters, policymakers, and even potential students and donors in Prospect, Pewee Valley, and even Crescent Hill and the Highlands.
I look forward to seeing/hearing about what may come next with the momentum built by today's event.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Roasting Stephanie

“Love is blind,” they say.  But, I’d like to think that I have my eyes wide open when it comes to the love of life, my wife Stephanie Gregory, who’s here today to be roasted.

Many of you know Stephanie as an educator, a church deacon, and a wife, mother, and daughter.  But today I’m going to try to fill out your picture of Stephanie a little by sharing with you a little about two of her other traits, her mischievous sense of humor and her penchant for footwear.

Stephanie gets her mischievous sense of humor partly from her family.  And one group of people she shares it with is her students.  Stephanie teaches elementary school over in New Albany.  First thing in the morning she may be speaking with some of her students about where they live.  After reporting to her what neighborhood they live in, they turn to Stephanie and say:  “Mrs. Gregory – where do you live?”  Stephanie says, “I live in Louisville.”  And her students ask:  “How do you get here?”  Without batting an eyelid, point to her wet hair, Stephanie says:  “Well, I swim, of course.”  Believe it or not, Stephanie’s second graders usually believe her.  Her fourth-graders – not so much. 

Stephanie also shares her sense of humor with the kids at church.  For example, after worship, she might say to now five-year-old Rose, granddaughter of Martha Miller, “You’re coming home with me, right?  Little Rose looks a little worried and then says, “Uh . . . I think I’m going home with . . . my parents.”  Once in a while, Stephanie pulls out all the stops, and gets caught.  Rose loves pink, and one Sunday Stephanie said:  “Rose, you’re coming home with me.  We’ve got a pink house, and I just got a pink car!”  Without hesitating, Rose said.  “Sure!  Let’s go!  I want to see the pink car.”  Well, Stephanie doesn’t have a pink car.  I don’t remember how she finessed things, but she was caught.

We’ve talked about Stephanie’s mischievous sense of humor.  Now I want to talk about her penchant for footwear.  When Stephanie was growing up, she lived with her Grandmother a lot.  One morning at the breakfast table, she said:  “Grandma, I think we need to buy me some more shoes.  I’m out of shoes.”  Grandma Gregory looked puzzled, but she said:  “Are you sure?  Let’s go up to your room and see.”  Stephanie was a little hesitant, but up they went.  Grandma Gregory went into Stephanie’s closet, and counted 89 shoes.  She was very stern with Stephanie:  “You’re like a little Imelda Marcos.  This is way too many shoes.  Why don’t we go through your shoes?  I bet some of them don’t fit or are worn out.  And some of them you have probably forgotten about and will still fit and still look great.  They’ll be like new shoes.”

Ironically or not, Stephanie grew up to have problem feet.  She’s generally tackled this now, but one of her strategies has been to buy good, expensive shoes, especially Dansko and Birkenstocks.  Vincent and I got used to her buying these shoes.  In fact, Stephanie and I went to a co-ed bridal shower for one of her colleagues a few years ago, and we played a Newlywed-type game where Stephanie and I had to answer the same questions, separately, and then we’d see if our answers agreed.  We were asked how much Stephanie had paid for her last pair of shoes, and I didn’t hesitate.  I said “$120.”  I knew that because that’s how much all of her pairs of shoes cost.

Stephanie still goes astray occasionally, and sometimes she gets caught.  Every once in a while, Stephanie comes home and tells our son Vincent and me:  “I bought some shoes, and I got a great deal.”  “A great deal” is always a bad sign.  Vincent asks:  “How much did they cost?”  And Stephanie hesitates and says, for example:  “$65.”  And both Vincent and I yell at her.  I say:  “$65?  You know what’s going to happen.  You’re going to wear them a couple of times, and then you’re going to have to give them away, because they’ll kill your feet.”  Vincent and I have the “$100 rule.”  If the shoes cost less than $100, Stephanie has no business buying them.

Stephanie has gotten caught in other circumstances too.  One summer Stephanie lived for a couple months in my little apartment in Illinois.  The apartment was furnished kind of primitively and only had a little 1950s black and white TV, that we somehow got attached to cable.  It only got the three basic stations, plus Fox, PBS, the Weather Channel, and QVC.

One night Stephanie called me and said:  “I was watching TV tonight and saw a great deal on QVC, but they were Birkenstocks, and they’ll match a couple of my outfits great, and so I bought them.”  I said:  “Honey . . . . what . . . color . . . are . . . they?”  Stephanie hesitated, and looked nervous, and then said:  “I don’t know.”  It turns out that the shoes did match some of her outfits, but when she bought them she had no idea if this was the case, because she was watching a black and white TV.

I’ve tried to share with you something about Stephanie’s lesser known traits, like her mischievous sense of humor, and her penchant for footwear.  I’ve also hinted out how she sometimes uses these traits in her public roles, like when she kids her students and bonds with guests at church about shoes.  I feel can give you a broader perspective on Stephanie.  After all, I’m in love, but I’m not blind.

 - Perry

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Appalachian mission trip reflections

God, I believe, calls each of us to a ministry.  And God may call us to many different ministries over the course of our lifetimes.  God, I also believe, gives us opportunities to explore new possible ministries, to develop skills for ministries, and to exercise leadership, including spiritual leadership.

There were lots of these kinds of opportunities during our Eastern Kentucky mission trip.  And the trip affirmed for me the concept of call.  Let me elaborate on each of these.

Because our mission team was so small, everyone got a chance to shine and lead.  This was the case even though on a trip with a bigger team, some of us might have been eclipsed by others who were more outgoing or more assertive.

Our chances to lead came at our home base (the house next to the First Presbyterian Church of Hazard – where we cooked, ate, cleaned, played, and had devotions), at the work site (at the two houses which he tried to help the Housing Development Alliance finish), and out on trips where we experienced the beauty of the mountains and learned about the issues that mining raises.

I took a photograph that I love of the three young people – Hannah, Emily, and Ethan – scrubbing the floor of an HDA house that was almost done.  But Emily is taking a break to chance the station – or whatever – on her smartphone.  I was initially skeptical when the kids started listening to one of their phones at this site.  But the kids had all just cleaned a pile of gross garbage out of the front yard and the street, they were into the music, and they seemed to be working even harder to the sound of the music.  I eventually was happy enough that I moved on to our second house, leaving them and Hilda to finish up.

Later that night I was leading food preparation for dinner when I decided there were a couple of more food items we needed.  I wondered whether I should stop cooking and take time to drive to the grocery store to buy those items.  But, after a while, I decided there was no need for me to do  this, when I could simple send the kids to the convenience store a couple of blocks away, which should have what we needed.  And off they went on what turned out to be a bit of an adventure, but they came back with what we needed, and I was happy for them to take the lead on this.

Many of you know that I’ve been involved in a bit of a career transition.  It now looks that I may teach college next year.  It’s been almost 10 years since I taught college students, and occasionally in the past I wasn’t firm enough with my students or I wasn’t very popular with my students, or both.  While on the mission trip, I was sometimes firm with your kids, and they usually listened to me.  And often they still seemed to like me, which was I nice combination that gave me some good experience and confidence going into teaching. 

On those long car rides, they kids also share with me some insight and information on youth culture, which I’ve fallen a little behind on, and on school norms.  For example, they told me that kids a year or two or three away from high school shouldn’t be surprised if they were told to put their cell phones, tablets, and laptops away before class.

Finally, your kids and Hilda and I, along with the carpenters, electricians, HVAC people, and landscaping team formed, I thought, a pretty effective cross-generational, cross-gender, cross-class, and cross-cultural team.  Many of my classes will definitely have to also be this if I am going to succeed back in the classroom.

So, I thank God and you all for this opportunity to serve, learn, grow, and lead.  I’m also thankful for experiences that confirmed for me that I might have a new call and prepared me a little for that call.

May it be so.