Tuesday, June 28, 2011

HCCA Social #3

The moon bounce (The kids loved it)

Hello again fellow neighbors. Once again we had another wonderful social. This time it was hosted at Ayanna & Tim's house. As usual, the host chooses the details of the event. Ayanna & Tim decided not to have a topic for discussion and left it open to participants. The social was kid friendly and our hosts took it upon themselves to rent a moon bounce and provide various ice cream and Popsicle treats. It was also decided to have more than just wine. Tim and Ayanna grilled hot dogs and burgers (both were Turkey) and everyone brought a dish, wine or desert. Everything was delicious!

This social was the biggest yet with about 15 adults and just as many children.The great thing about this social was that many of the attendees didn't already know each other. It was a great time for everyone to get to know their neighbors.

Good food, wine and company

Since there were so many neighbors at the event, it is difficult to describe the many various conversations that took place. Some discussions were on schools. Other discussions were about DC politics and other community issues.

Redistricting! What's the 411?
Fill my cup up again. PLEASE! lol
I forget what time, but around 9 PM, Council Woman Alexander arrived at the social. Shortly after her arrival, Ayanna put Councilwoman Alexander on the spot and said that anyone that has any questions for her, now is the time. People were reserved at first until our good neighbor Michelle shouted, "Let's talk about redistricting!" Everyone laughed, then Yvette began to explain her thought process and how she came to her decision. First she started with an analogy.  Yvette asked us all, "How did you feel when the rumor was spread that Hillcrest was moving to Ward 8?" As she expected, everyone frowned their face and said, "I don't think so!" She said that the Hill East of Ward 6 in question to be moved to Ward 7 reacted in the same manner and voiced their opinion about it vehemently. After it was all said and done, it was decided that Ward 7 doesn't want residents that passionately don't want to be part of Ward 7. Yvette also explained all the growth and potential growth for Reservation 13. She also made additional statements on how the negotiations went down with Marion Barry (Ward 8) and Tommy Wells (Ward 6). I don't remember the details.

Costco is off the chain. We want Costco at skyline! Holla!!!
The next topic of discussion was skyline and the anchor store. We spoke about Wallmart, Target, Costco, BJs and Sam's Club as possible anchor stores. Some people mentioned that any of the aforementioned stores would suffice and other's didn't have much of an opinion. We all agreed that no matter which anchor store was chosen, we would need to stay on top of the store to make sure services were up to our expectations.
I left the party around 10:15 PM. As we were pulling off, my wife exclaimed, "WAIT, we forgot to get a piece of that Red Velvet Cake." So as a good husband should, I went back into the house and got a few pieces of Red Velvet Cake to go. We ate the cake as soon as we got home, ... it was DEEEEELICIOUS.

HCCA Social #3 was a huge success and thank you all who have participated. Hopefully we will see you next time. See below for additional pictures for your enjoyment.

Hello neighbor. My nam is...

Quit staring at my buns!

Tim says, "You don't have to go home, but you have to get the," well you know the rest.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2nd Social Mixer - Education

Good evening neighbors. Today was the second installment of the HCCA social mixer series. Once again the topic was education and once again I was the host. It was originally scheduled to take place at Kimmy's home (thanks Kimmy) but unfortunately she came down with a cold (get well soon). In order to keep the momentum going, I decided to relocate the event to my home since no one else volunteered.

Today's discussion was a very interesting discussion. All the participants are in the education field except me. Dr. Koura Gibson is a high school teacher at Ballou public high school. Derek Andrews is a counsellor at Maya Angelo public charter school. Sean Compagnucci is a manager with DCPS special education department (or something like that).

The first hour of the discussion revolved around getting to know Koura and Koura getting to know us. I was fascinated with that fact that Koura knows five languages and has lived in at least five different countries and four different continents. She also has an African Art Gallery, so I can't wait for her to host the next social mixer.

After introductions we randomly chose topics to discuss before we moved on to education. The first point of discussion was Michelle Rhee. As always there was a mixed bag of disapproval and approval of the actions Michelle Rhee took as the Chancellor of the DC schools. Most people agreed that something drastic had to happen in order to turn around schools. But within the same breath, the same people (including myself) stated that some of her drastic measures were the wrong measures to take. Never the less, everyone agrees that something had to be done.

Enough about Rhee, she's the past now, let's move on to the future....

After touching on Rhee, the discussion moved to special education. Sean works in special education, so he was our SME (subject matter expert). I've heard about DC's special education system before, but I wasn't aware of the details. I won't mention the details discussed since I'm finishing this blog a few weeks later and I can't remember the details.

Shortly after the special education discussion, the conversation turned towards describing the social ills of society that are partly responsible for some of our education problems. The usual afflictions were mentioned; drugs, broken families, violence, etc. As usual, I asked my usual question, "So what can we do about it?" Koura, quickly answered with confidence, "We need to reach out to the parents." I quickly shot back at her, "Do you mean like Morgan Freeman on Lean on Me?" Koura sharply responsed, "Exactly!" Koura mentioned creating education programs for the parents. She mentioned that we (the entire community) need to start knocking on doors and helping parents become better parents. We all agreed that this is one method to solve this multi-headed education problem, but a very difficult one to implement.

Shortly after the parents resolution conversation, the wine started to put me to sleep. I think a few people noticed and the party started to wrap up.

Once again, another great conversation about education and an opportunity to get to know my neighbors.Until the next social, have a good night.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Anne Beers STEM

It was 6 PM and the STEM program at Anne Beers started. I had to wait until my wife brought my daughter back from dance class before I could leave the house. She doesn't get out of class until 6:30 PM, so I didn't get to Anne Beers until around 7 PM.

The first thing that I noticed as I arrived is that there were cars around several blocks. I've never seen the street next to Beers so crowded. I thought I was going to one of my old Pittsburgh high school football games. As I walked past the field and around the side to the front door, I seen people every where in the school. Since I was late, some people were leaving but most people were in various rooms within the building. The last STEM program I went to, I just remember going to the auditorium and that was it. It looked as though the entire school was being used for the STEM demonstration.

As I walked into the door that let to auditorium, there were people everywhere. People upstairs, downstairs, in the auditorium, in the library, in Mrs. Harris NASA simulation and various other rooms in the school.

I spent most of my time in the auditorium speaking to a couple parents and looking at the exhibits. The first exhibit that caught my eye was a plastic human torso that a few young girls were putting together and taking apart. Another young lady (I believe from the children's museum) was explaining how the stomach works and the large and small intestines. The young girls giggled as she mentioned the last step of human digestion, "this is where the poop comes out". I'll be honest, I giggled too... a man's giggle (if that exists), not a little girl giggle!!!!

The next exhibit was two real pig lungs hooked up to an air pump. One of the lungs was injected with die to simulate a smoking lung. The smoking lung also had a fake tumor to demonstrate what happens to a lung when the air pathway is restricted. As the children pressed and depressed the air pump, you could see the lungs expanding and contracting. Both of the healthy lungs would expand and contract as you expected. The smoking lungs with cancer barely expanded at all because of the restriction in the air pathway caused by the tumor. There was one little girl that kept touching the lungs. I didn't dear put my hands on those things, but she didn't mind. The young lady working the both had to keep giving the little girl a baby wipe to clean her hands. But I only seen her use it once. Maybe she'll be the next real Gray's Anatomy star. I'm sure she'll learn to clean her hands properly by then.

There were a few other exhibits that were interactive and had many children surrounding the table. I didn't want to get ran over, so I watched from a distance.

The last exhibit I visited was a group of Georgetown students that were running a Marine Discovery Program. To my surprise, Anne Beers is the only school with this program. Basically, once a month, students from Georgetown will come to Anne Beers and teach students about and dissect different marine life. They are dissecting a squid next month. Go here for more info, http://marinediscovery.arizona.edu/ or email yjt3@georgetown.edu.

In conclusion, the STEM night was a huge success and was a treat for all. Mrs. Payton and Mrs. Harris and the rest of the school staff did a wonderful job and I'm certain that with the help of the parents and the community, Anne Beers can be one of the, or the best, school in the city.

To learn more about STEM, go here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STEM_fields.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

HCCA Education & Recreation 1st Social Mixer

Sam schooling the group

The EduRec committee had its first social mixer on October 15, 2010, 7:00 PM at my house. It was a wine tasting, let’s talk about education mixer. The timing for the meeting was perfect with the election of our very own Vincent Gray, the resignation of Michelle Rhee and the national publicity of DC public schools. The purpose of the meeting was tri-fold. First, I want to get to know my neighbors. Second, I want to discuss talking over the schools in our neighborhoods. Third, I wanted to have fun drinking wine for a good cause :-)

Karen and Shawn making a point
Not including myself and my wife, we had six people join the mixer. Shawn Bucker, a neighbor I met at one of the HCCA meetings several months ago. Sam Clayborn, another neighbor I met at the HCCA meetings and at the recreation center in the weight room. Monica Bell, a neighbor that I met at events around the neighborhood that are focused on the children. Kimberly ?, a neighbor that I met for the first time at the social mixer. Karen Williams, the HCCA president. Derek Andrews, a neighbor I met that lives a block up the street from me.

Derek poppin' bottles
The beginning of the night started with people talking about all the reasons why education in DC is so horrible. Some suggested that parents were the issue, others thought it was teachers and most thought it was a combination of the two. There were a slew of other reasons that our kids were not succeeding educational but aren't worth mentioning.

After letting people discuss the reasons that public education is failing, I swiftly moved the conversation to, "We know the problems, so how do we fix it'". Below describes a few of the thoughts that were discussed.

Monica sips and listens, sips and listens
I basically boils down to resources (a.k.a. money), resources that fill in the gaps that the government can't fill. For most schools that do well, this resource generating organization is the school’s PTA. In order to fix the educational issues with our public schools, we (the community) need to work with the school’s PTA to raise money to hire teacher assistants, councilors, special education teachers, etcetera. The community can raise money by writing grants, holding fundraisers, soliciting businesses, and etcetera.

The community can also organize a small army of volunteers to come to the schools to help the school staff in various capacities. Volunteers can be mentors, tutors, read to the children, sports coaches, hall monitors or anything else the staff needs.

I'm getting tired of writing so I'll get to the result of the meetings.

1. Start of movement by getting as many people involved with revolutionizing the schools in our community (includes but not limited to parents of school age, school principal and staff, PTA, concerned citizens of the community).
2. Start small and choose one school to support (HCCA has already chosen Beers).
3. Establish concrete goals and measures for success.
4. Develop a strategic plan.
5. Implement the plan

Overall the meeting was very production and entertaining. I'm sure the 6, 7, 8, ummmm (whose counting anyways) glasses of wine didn't hurt either. Hopefully we'll see more of our neighbors at the next social.

P.S. This was a kid friendly event. The kids had a great time destroying my basement (my kids did most of the destroying).

Boyle Stuckey
HCCA Educatioon & Recreation Chairman