The Importance of Having a Pencil

Education, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Teachers' Corner

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     “Pick your battles,” the lady who had never actually taught school said at the teacher in-service training. “If a student fails to bring a pencil, just lend him one.”

     Then, she proceeded to tell the group of novice teachers how to set up a station where a student could simply borrow a pencil and then return it at the end of the class period. It sounded like a good idea since some parents had criticized my policy of giving after-school detention to students who came to class unprepared. I rarely had more than five kids for detention in any given week, but maybe that was too many. Plus, I only had one year under my belt. What did I know? Surely, the teacher trainer knew more than I did, so I tried it.

     I placed 24 freshly sharpened, yellow pencils with new eraser tops in a coffee can I decorated with colorful paper flowers. I put up a cute little sign that said: Borrow and Return, Please. I even drew a smiley face on the sign and colored it with a highlighter so that the students would notice it immediately upon entering the classroom. “Great!” I thought. “This is going to save time!” I wouldn’t have to write detention slips for kids with no pencils or call parents on kids who failed to show up for detention or defend my philosophy of how to make kids responsible by actually holding them responsible. That lady at the service center was some kind of a genius!

Pencil

     I don’t recall exactly how many days went by before all the pencils disappeared, but I am sure it was less than a week. I reminded the little rascals that part of the privilege of borrowing is returning that which has been borrowed. “Do you understand?” I asked. They nodded. “You are on your honor. I realize it’s easy to forget to return the pencil when you are hurrying to get your things together to get to the next class.” They nodded. “So, I am taping a big flower to the top of each pencil so that you won’t forget.” They giggled.

     “But, how can we use the eraser?” one bright little chap asked.

     “Well, I thought of that. In here,” I said, pointing to a second decorative coffee can, “are 24 big, red erasers. The rule for them is the same as for the pencils. Return what you borrow. Got it?” They nodded again. All was well – or so I thought.

     Again, I am not certain when every pencil – and its decorative blossom – went missing. I guess about the same time as the 24 big, red erasers! I decided at that very moment that the lady from the service center was an idiot, and I wanted to tell her just what I thought of her stupid idea. Alas, I controlled myself and simply returned to my former practice of giving kids the “opportunity” to be responsible. Those who came prepared to my class were able to complete their work without receiving detention. Those who didn’t suffered the consequences. It was that simple.

PBS

     Years later, a sociologist, who was selling the idea of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention Systems), told me that the pencil-lending program failed because I didn’t reward the little darlings immediately and without fail for returning the writing utensils. I actually tried this when I was forced to hand out good-behavior coupons (30 per week) to students who came to class on time, waited to be recognized to speak, treated others with respect, and brought a pencil. The idea was to reward the obedient child in front of the non-compliant one so that Mr. Naughty would get the big picture: Those who follow the rules receive rewards right away. Once again, I put the pencils out. I thanked profusely the students who returned the pencils and gave them coupons they could turn in for a chance to win a Walkman or a bicycle in a drawing at the end of the six weeks. (This was about 90% of the students, the ones who always did what I asked of them anyway.)

     I could go on, but the following is the short version of what happened next:

• The good kids continued to display good behavior, danced to music on new Walkmans, and rode new bikes around the neighborhood.
• The teachers often made things up so that Mr. Naughty could at least get a coupon and a taste of life on the other side.
• Mr. Naughty often left this highly coveted coupon on the floor and sometimes even refused to take it.
• Schools spent lots of money on food and prizes.
• Mr. Naughty still received detention, in-school suspension, and sometimes even a trip to the alternative campus.
• Teachers tried to convince the authorities that we were wasting valuable resources and lots of teaching time on a program that failed to reach the targeted 10%.
• Many of us retired and quit fighting the system.
• PBIS conditioned kids to acting responsibly only if there is an immediate reward.
• The good students grew up, went off to college, and failed because they just didn’t see a good grade or a good education as reward enough for doing the work.
• Then, they entered the workforce and expected to have well-paying jobs just because they had degrees.
• They wrote “IDK” on job application forms when asked to describe their “work ethic.”
• Cities such as Richmond, California, started paying career criminals (to the tune of $9000 per year) NOT to kill people. (This is for real.)
• Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that I lost a record number of pencils!

     Okay, maybe I’ve exaggerated a bit. We still have many great kids (maybe not 90%) who have overcome such nonsense and will go on to be successful, contributing members of society. I wouldn’t bother getting up each morning if I thought otherwise. My best advice to a new teacher, however, is to ask her students to walk through the classroom door with tools in hand prepared to work hard every day. Then, hold them accountable. This approach might just revive the strong work ethic that many of us remember so well.

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Chicago, 1855: Digging Down to Reach New Heights

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial, Travel

The stories of Corpus Christi battling its streets problems reminds me of another story…

Chicago River Clark Street Bascule Bridge
Chicago River Clark Street Bascule Bridge

     A man who was passing through Chicago discovered another man buried to his neck in mud. “Sir, it appears you have a problem. You must need some help,” the passerby said.“No, thank you, I’ll be all right. I have a fine horse beneath me,” the man in the mud replied.

    People have proven many times over that while under the influence of necessity and behind the power of many, a whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. As the old adage goes, “Together, we can move mountains.”  A brief look to history shows us how Chicagoans demonstrated the truth of this idea during the mid-19th century. Only they weren’t moving mountains; they were moving the entire city!

     At the time, Chicago was young – a mere 20 years – and it had a severe drainage problem. Streets became impassable in wet weather. Chicago is situated along the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan – a body of water the size of a small ocean.  The elevation at the time was essentially no different than that of sea-level. Besides being an annoying living condition, health and sanitation issues quickly became a major concern. The people needed an answer if they hoped to see their city grow and reach a point in which it could eventually become home to nearly 3 million people and one of the tallest skyscrapers the world has ever seen.

    After several failed attempts to plank over the streets and redirect standing water into the river, the Chicago Common Council (i.e. City Council), behind the plans of E.S. Chesbrough, determined that the only hope was to manually elevate the city (anywhere from 4-14 feet, location pending) and install the country’s first comprehensive storm-sewage system to solve the drainage quagmire and ensure the city would not become a permanent cesspool and breeding ground for cholera.

     A solution of such extreme measures, however, stimulated a greater and far more interesting obstacle: How in the world would they lift a city full of large buildings, homes, hotels, and not to mention – people – 14 feet in the air?  Enter George Pullman. Pullman developed a method employing hundreds of men turning thousands of jack screws beneath building foundations. Over the course of two decades, they jacked buildings up like cars (many with people still inside them) so that new foundations could be successfully poured beneath them, leaving both the city and its structures permanently elevated. Smaller homes and businesses were placed on rolling devices and wheeled to new locations. The streets were then leveled up to new heights to meet the level of front doors. New sewage drains were installed and designed to run from the streets down to the river and lake in an amazing effort which lifted Chicago from a wasteland of sludge.

     A report by the Chicago Press & Tribune in the March of 1860 issue:

“The entire front of first-class buildings on the north side of Lake Street between La Salle and Clark streets is now rising to grade at the rate of about twelve inches per day. It will be at its full height by tomorrow night, when it will constitute a spectacle not many of our citizens may see again, if ever, a business block covering nearly one acre, and weighing over twenty-five thousand tons resting on six thousand screws, upon which it has made an upward journey of four feet and ten inches.”

 

Raising of Chicago
The task of raising the Briggs House, a hotel at Randolph and Wells Streets, in 1857 involved the coordinated efforts of hundreds of workers. During the raising, the hotel remained open for business. (Chicago Historical Society)

     Cities, they say, develop a persona of their own, all of which is nothing if not indicative of the spirit of its citizens. Ultimately, when problems arise, people become faced with choices: accept your collective fate, ignore the coming future, or act accordingly. Mid-19th century Chicagoans proved early that they were determined to create the possibility that their city might eventually become the megalopolis that it is today. Little did they know that shortly after they were able to ascend from the squalor of sewage, the citizens of Chicago would be faced with yet another test in 1871, The Great Chicago Fire.  This time they would be forced to ascend from the ashes.  Ultimately, the people, like their story, now belong to the ages. But, such as any good anecdote – if remembered and studied – it can offer deeper answers for particularly troubling problems of the present. Perhaps Henry Ford said it best: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

 

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Chicago Today: Chicago River from Lake Street Bridge

Articles about Corpus Christi streets:

Takin’ It to the Streets: A Highly Qualified Committee

Takin’ It to the Streets: A Man with Questions

Takin’ It to the Streets:  Addressing the Status Quo

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Time and Work: According to Dad, the Builder

Around the State, Arts, Education, Opinion/Editorial, Personal History
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Dad, the Builder

     Sometimes I feel like an escaped convict being chased by time:  ever-long to-do lists and never-long to finish them. Plans for plans of plans to accomplish things which need only be accomplished in order to accomplish other things. And then comes the rising, surging impatience as one menial task seemingly steals time from a larger, more important task. “It’s all work; it all takes time; and it’s all necessary,” my dad would tell me. “You can lug and stack 6 pallets of brick for the bricklayer who stands in wait atop the scaffold, all the while wishing you had his job instead of yours, but you will have forgotten that he is about to move all the same bricks, setting and leveling each one by one as his two hands build a wall.”

     Without time, there may be no depth. All too often, we waste time and effort by spending time and effort trying to save time and effort. Short cuts, loopholes, and corner-cutting may be useful in a pinch, but real progress cannot be achieved unless you are willing to “walk the path” in its entirety. Our sweeping mentality of always wishing to find a tool that will give us more and faster typically results only in superficial levels of quality and knowledge which deliver neither more nor fast. Worse yet, cramming with shortcuts to learn quickly a little about everything ultimately means that you’ll only ever know a little about anything.

     The frustrating truth is that there is no cure for time. Be it spent or wasted, nothing passes more steadily than the tick of the clock. All we have are the choices we make about how to pass with it. The good times move with the speed at which we wish the bad times could, and the bad times linger in ways that only good times should. In the end, our only real solution is mindful, steady work. Couple this with a specific objective, and we may rest assured that the amount of time it takes to complete any task will be exactly equal to the amount of time it should take to complete the task, no more, no less. Only with years of repetition does the length of time needed to complete our work begin to shorten, a frustrating fact of life that is otherwise known as patience.

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A Cow Named Horse: Political Correctness, Doublespeak, and Trickery

Around the State, Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial, Religion

Co-Authored by Dan Thornton and Matthew Thornton

A Cow Named Horse
A Cow Named Horse

     Several years have passed, but I still remember the joy I found in naming my cow “Horse.”  It was a little mischief I played on my young nephew Matthew, a special bit of humor you might say. Certainly, it was not an original idea.  I think I most likely took my cue from the Viking’s naming of Iceland and Greenland, another obvious attempt at deception.  It was many years later, after many re-tellings of the story, that I realized that I was using a harmless form of “Doublespeak.”

     Have you ever wondered about the difference between the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Defense? What about terrorists and freedom fighters? Did you ever think that a preemptive strike seems more like an unprovoked attack? Why are some people unique while others are weird? And what is a substance abuse problem if not a drug addiction?  Why do we refer to failing a grade as being held back? Are we just trying to be PC (politically correct)?  Exactly what does it mean to be politically correct?  If you look for synonyms in the dictionary, you’ll find a myriad of terms, such as: considerate, diplomatic, gender-free, inclusive, inoffensive, liberal, multi-cultural, sensitive, non-discriminatory, non-racist, non-sexist, bias-free, and respectful, to name a few.

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     George Orwell, who perhaps commented best on the subject in his novel Nineteen Eight-Four, developed what he referred to as Newspeak and Doublethink.  Unfortunately, the Orwellian term, Newspeak, has come to carry a negative connotation because it is defined as the manipulation or switching of words to make an unpleasant, or otherwise negative situation, sound… not as awful. In contemporary news, we refer to this as spin.  In particular, Orwell created the word Newspeak to describe the dangers of its use by governments to control the masses. In reality, political correctness is hardly different.  It has acquired a cult status and is frequently used to suppress free speech, prevent meaningful discussion, and ultimately create hate crime laws.  If it all sounds a bit Orwellian, it is.  Political correctness is a coercive device used to punish nonbelievers, reward cultists, and ostracize anyone who questions the philosophy of the government as it attempts to achieve its goals.  (As a quick reference, consider The Patriot Act, which allows the government to monitor  – or secure – phone and computer records without a search warrant. A better term for this legislation might be The Loss of Privacy Act. Before political correctness was in vogue, it was crudely referred to as tyranny.

“I have appointed a Secretary of Semantics–a most important post. He is to furnish me with forty to fifty dollar words. Tell me how to say yes and no in the same sentence without a contradiction. He is to tell me the combination of words that will put me against inflation in San Francisco and for it in New York. He is to show me how to keep silent–and say everything. You can very well see how he can save me an immense amount of worry.” – Harry Truman

     Let us consider a recent and particularly controversial example. In the summer of 2015, the Supreme Court decided that gay marriage was legal in all fifty states.  Of the masses that the ruling did not directly affect, many could not have cared less to see the finalization of such an amendment. Certain religious groups, however, became very upset with the decision, and their point, as we shall see, is valid. In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, a 2013 story resurfaced about an Oregon bakery whose owners refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding and suggested an alternative to the potential buyers. The would-be customers brought legal action, and the owners were forced to pay an exorbitant $135,000 fine that resulted in the closing of the bakery. Whether or not the bakers’ decision to turn away paying customers was a business-savvy or morally aligned move is debatable as a matter of opinion. Such debate, however, will not change the fact that from a legal and constitutional standpoint, the Supreme Court put the state in a position to forcibly negate and sacrifice religious rights in order to preserve gay rights.

     More recently there have been cases where the courts have forced individuals to take sensitivity training in order to overcome their religious beliefs. Imagine a nation that boasts its freedom of religion and freedom of speech yet denies both and enforces the politically correct rights of another. How much more totalitarian can it get than to take a so-called progressive freedom such as that of gay rights and turn it into an inverse function that negates one of the nation’s oldest and most traditional freedoms? The bakery, previously referenced, would certainly be in the minority in Portland, Oregon, as most bakeries would not turn away perfectly good business under such circumstances. Why then was there the need for government intervention? Why not just allow the business owners to succeed or suffer the fate of their religious conviction? Is that not what freedom of religion entails? Perhaps the irony of the whole matter is that marriage itself is a Christian religious tradition that has nothing to do with the state. We may recall that it has always been referred to as holy matrimony.

“If people can’t control their  own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other peoples’ behavior” – Robert Skinner

StopPC

     It might be meaningful at this point to examine the true meaning of political correctness in order to gain a full understanding of its underlying tyranny.  First, the word political comes from the Greek word, politikos, and refers to the practice of influencing others. Children, in their earliest days of learning to speak, begin trials of informal politicking. From the first time they play mother against father to get an extra serving of ice-cream at dinner, they come to the understanding that they are able to manipulate the world around them and create the circumstances of their desire. In its most rudimentary form, then, politics is nothing more than a person’s attempt to get what he or she wants. What one person wants, however, could very easily result in the pain or loss of another. In our politically correct, highly evolved, ever-so-civilized world, people are not socially or legally granted the freedom to go out and seize whatever they wish to have without at least considering the perennial destruction that may be left in the wake of their otherwise self-centered campaign.  Sound politicking, therefore, requires not only getting what you want but doing so, without looking like a bully. As such, political correctness is most accurately viewed as a style of semantics that can be manipulated and used with the intent of achieving the political agenda of a person or group. Moreover, we can deduce that being a cultist to politically correct language results from only one of two possible causes.  Either users are trying to influence other people with their own political agenda, or they have been influenced by the political agenda of some person or group.

     Like Newspeak and Doublethink, being politically correct is often, wittingly or not, used by governments as a deep-seeded technique for mind-control. Are there instances in which politically correct language might be used as a tool to further unite a people in freedom or equality? Maybe, and certainly there are cases in which people simply use politically correct language to be harmlessly polite. However, using political correctness as a common language cannot be forced upon people without infringing upon the guaranteed freedom of speech which is supposed to be judiciously protected. The truth of a person’s thoughts, after all, do not change just because he or she feels obligated to sugar-coat the way in which the thought is conveyed.  To clarify, I am not referring to Orwell’s Doublethink here.  Ultimately, being PC, in its best and most harmless form, is lying, and, in its worst form, is a medieval oppression of the mind.

John Cleese with Further Thoughts on Everyday PC:

Click to View – 2 minutes

PragerU: A Progressive’s Guide to Political Correctness

Click to View – 6 minutes

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Tickling the Funny Bone

By Kids for Kids, Flour Bluff, Front Page

Lane Z. is a 4th-grade student at Flour Bluff Elementary.  He loves hunting, baseball, dogs, a good riddle, and a funny joke.

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Q:  Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?

A:  He didn’t have the guts.

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Q:  What has a mouth but never talks?  What runs but never walks?  What has a bed but never sleeps?

A:  A river

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Q: There were 48 cows and 28 chickens. How many cows ate chickens?

A: Twenty

Head of funny cow looking to a camera with Alps and green meadow on the background

Q:  Why does a golfer wear two pairs of pants?

A:   In case he gets a hole in one.

Golfer

Q:  What three candies can you find at school?

A:  Nerds, Dum Dums, and Smarties

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Lynn Kaylor Has Left the Building!

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Personal History

Lynn Kaylor Hornet     Lynn Kaylor, Flour Bluff ISD Public Information Coordinator, retired in January after faithfully serving the district for twenty-four years.  Hired in 1992 as an administrative assistant to Leroy Dehaven and Carol Goodman, Kaylor began a job that allowed her to work where her kids went to school and have the same days off as they did.  In those first days, she had no idea what her job would become when administration handed her the first of many tasks that changed the face of Flour Bluff schools.

     Dehaven put Kaylor  in charge of planning and executing the school’s 100-year celebration, which came with a homecoming parade.  Being a King High School graduate, Lynn knew only a little about Flour Bluff from her husband Jimmy and his family and friends who grew up in the area.  That quickly changed.  During her research into the beginnings of the school, she interviewed many people whose families settled Flour Bluff or taught in the district in the early years. She collected memorabilia, listened to stories from locals, and became immersed in the rich history of a little community dubbed “Gateway to Padre Island.”  Before long, Kaylor didn’t just live in Flour Bluff; she lived Flour Bluff.  She was evolving into a Hornet!  The transformation was so evident that people often asked her what year she graduated from Flour Bluff.

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    “Everybody thinks I went to school in Flour Bluff. They always want to know what year I graduated and are quite surprised when I tell them that I didn’t attend Flour Bluff at all. It’s just that I’ve been here so long, and I know so many people through my husband Jimmy, my kids, and all my contacts through work.”

     The Public Information Office, created by former Superintendent Carol Moffett to advertise what was going on in Flour Bluff ISD, became Kaylor’s home base.  There she performed a myriad of duties, which included handling all district media and publications, running the print shop, organizing special events such as Relay for Life, setting up the Hornet Spirit Shop, creating t-shirt designs, developing an employee wellness program, tending to student registration, working with all the booster clubs, maintaining the district website and social media sites, taking care of employee service awards, helping former graduates with their reunions, building relationships with local businesses, and anything else that no other department in the district managed.  In her early days with the district, Kaylor used the school van to pick up kids to register for summer school if they had no way of getting there.  “I just did whatever they asked me to do to serve the kids of this district.”

     “Mrs. Moffett gave me this job along with a bunch of duties.  I started visiting with Realtors, giving tours of the district to families wanting to move in,” said Kaylor.  “I come to work every day with a mission, knowing what I need to do, and it rarely happens.  Once I get here, I get a phone call to take pictures or meet with the media or set up tours.  Even people just lost on the street who see ‘Information’ on this building come in to ask about city bus schedules and things like that.  I would let them know that I didn’t have that kind of information, but I always try to help them by looking it up or putting them in contact with the right person.”  Kaylor has also worked with law enforcement to give them information about former students and was once asked to provide old yearbooks for an investigation by NCIS of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.

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     Kaylor said that she faced many challenges during her tour of duty with Flour Bluff ISD.  Her husband, Jimmy Kaylor, served on the local school board for many years, and some people often thought that she received special treatment because of that.  “That couldn’t be any further from the truth,” Kaylor said.  “If anything, it made my job harder because of other people’s wrong perceptions.”  She went on to say that it even made it difficult to visit with a teacher about one of her children.

      One of the biggest challenges, according to Kaylor, is “heading off the negativity from the media.”  She explained that FERPA and privacy laws prevent her from offering some information that may be crucial to understanding the full story of a particular incident.  “All I can do is sit back silently and listen to the rumors.  I wanted to say ‘Let me tell you what really happened’, but I can’t.  The media often reports just a part of a story that comes from something a person said, which sometimes shines a negative light on the teachers, administrators, and kids, which they don’t deserve.”  Kaylor said, “I’ve made a lot of friends in the media, and I know they have to do their jobs.  But, they can respect me, and I can respect them.”

     “What I like most about working here,” Kaylor said, “is the diversity of the kids, who come from all kinds of backgrounds.  The Navy base brings in lots of families from around the world, and we get their children who have been all over the world.  Every student learns something through these military kids’ experiences just by going to school with them.”

     “I also like the way we’re set up with all of our campuses on one block.  In larger districts, there are feeder schools.  Here the kids move from campus to campus and know about the buildings and the teachers and principals before they ever get there.”  Kaylor explained how the students move with the same basic group of friends from building to building, play on the same teams, and get to work together, in some cases, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  “Everybody knows everybody else.”

Flour Bluff

     One of Kaylor’s favorite projects is the yearly homecoming parade.  “It’s been such a staple in this community, and it is a lot of hard work. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that has to be done ahead of time.  But, when you’re standing down there that night lining up everybody and you see the kids all excited and the streets lined with hundreds of people watching, it’s great.  It’s like a wedding.  You work really hard to make it a memorable time for everyone, and when it’s over, you can finally relax.”  Because Kaylor runs back and forth constantly checking to make sure that every float is in place and that nothing happens along the way, she has never been able to sit and watch the 24 parades she has put in motion.  “It is so much work, but it is so worth it!”

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Homecoming Parade

     Throughout her career, Kaylor collected anything pertaining to the school.  “When I did the 100-year celebration, people brought in all kinds of things for us to display.  They didn’t want it back, so I kept it.  For many years, in the back of my mind, I had a vision for a school museum.  I just felt we needed to put up a display of what we have and highlight the past.  What other district functions the way we do?  How many districts brought in an old aircraft hangar and made it into a gym?  Nobody does that kind of thing.”

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     Kaylor has displayed many items on the walls of the building where she spent her career.  It is the start of the Flour Bluff ISD Museum.  Behind a locked door in the same building, pieces of Flour Bluff school history rest in boxes, on shelves, in filing cabinets, and on tables awaiting the return of a retired Lynn Kaylor who will finish out the vision.  “When I’m digging through these old records and pictures and such, I get even closer to this school.  It makes me feel like I grew up here. I just hope the district doesn’t grow so much that this room becomes real estate that they need for something.”  Among the memorabilia is a collection of Hornet mascots, designed by Kaylor and drawn by Joungsik Chung, a local artist.

     “When Coach Mike Crowe came in 1998, he thought we needed a more ‘intimidating’ Hornet.  He, along with Mrs. Moffett, asked my help to come up with a new look that showed power and strength.  That’s when I contacted Chung, and from there it’s history.  We just kept making Hornet after Hornet to represent every activity, group, club, and organization of the district.  I even have one of Elvis,” Kaylor said with a smile.

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Kaylor’s collection of Hornet mascots

     “I call Lynn Elvis because she is such a huge fan of Elvis,” said Flour Bluff Superintendent Joe Kelley.  “And, like Elvis, her legend will live on in a positive way for many years to come. Her dedication to the kids of this District has been steadfast for twenty-four years and is greatly appreciated. She is a trusted friend and colleague, and I will miss our day-to-day interaction. I wish her the best in retirement.”

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      January 30, 2016, brought to a close Lynn Kaylor’s career with Flour Bluff ISD.  “We plan on being in the community, and I am keeping my season football tickets.  I’m never going to give those up.  People know they’ll be able to call on me to help serve on committees or volunteer in the district;  they know I’m not just going to walk away.  I will still help with the Foundation for Educational Excellence, another thing I helped start.  I want to continue to be a part of the community because I feel I still have something to contribute,” said Kaylor about how she plans to stay involved with the district.

     Kaylor said of her replacement, Kim Sneed (resident of Flour Bluff with two children attending FBISD) who will use her skills and knowledge from working with the Corpus Christi ISD Office of Public Information to follow Kaylor’s lead, “She’s going to be great.  She just has to put her mark on it.”  There is no doubt that Lynn Kaylor left her mark on Flour Bluff ISD, a school she continues to love and serve in any way she can.

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Lynn Kaylor and Kim Sneed with quilt made by Kaylor
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Unplugging into the Outdoors

Education, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Outdoors

 

    Kyle and Carson Pape“Get off the video games and go outside!”  How many times have I said that in the last 5 years?

     Even though I don’t particularly enjoy yelling about video games to the kids, I probably do it several times a week. I played my share growing up (maybe I still test a few just to make sure they are safe for the kids), but the older I get, and the more ingrained I see computers, video games, and other forms of technology take hold in our society, the more I feel moved to remove myself from it. Getting my kids involved in hunting and fishing is the way I see to unplug from all the technology we have in our lives, slow down, and inject activities that aren’t forced at the speed of a button push.

     Kids today lead extremely systematic lives with limited recess, extended school hours, increased testing, and more homework. In general, the academic expectations are higher across the board than ever before. Expectations are important, but with the volume of expectations our young ones are under these days, it’s just as important for them to decompress as it is for us. Long day at work? Meetings all day? Our kids do this day in, day out.

     Although I have absolutely no professional training, license, or work experience in child psychology (other than having 4 kids of my own), my personal opinion is that video games, computers, and other forms of like technology are responsible for the instant gratification mindset we too often see in kids. Perhaps, it could even be extended to causes of ADHD issues, as well. How do you help your children learn patience, when so much of their life revolves around an instant response at the push of a button?

     For example, how many of you have a DVR in your home? In our day, cartoons were on Saturday mornings. You didn’t wake up in time? Tough! You missed it. Miss your cartoon today? No problem!  Just pull up the DVR, and right at your fingertips are the last 17 seasons of “Pokeman” or “Sofia the First” to binge watch. Long line in a restaurant? No problem, whip out the iPhone, iPad, Galaxy tablet, etc. and play the latest version of Angry Birds or Minecraft rather than engage in anything that could possibly be construed as meaningful conversation.

     Wait a sec, what was this article about again? Oh, yeah, outdoors!

Reagan and Kyle Pape

     I started taking my kids fishing and hunting before they were two years old. Expectations were set at “fun,” which included throwing out handfuls of corn, walking through the brush looking for shed horns, going for short boat rides, catching piggy perch at the dock, then building up to more significant trips. This allowed them to go through a discovery process at their own pace. Since then, they have matured and become more capable over the years. I often get compliments about my oldest son (12 years old) being more “hardcore” when it comes to fishing than many adults! Both of my sons have taken turkey, hogs, and deer in the last couple of years, and all four of my kids have been catching fish of some sort since they were toddlers. Spending time learning about the outdoors, in an arena removed from all the technology that normally surrounds them, helps develop a strong bonding experience, allows for conversations about the world we live in, and most importantly, enables (forces?) patience.

Cameron and Kyle Pape 2

     We have sat on a hunt many times waiting for a deer to come out, and end up seeing nothing. We have spent many fishing trips catching small fish, or very few fish. These realistic experiences make the occurrence of catching a big fish or taking a nice deer even more special. It teaches them that you have to work at whatever it is in order to achieve a goal. It teaches them that things don’t always happen exactly when you want. It teaches them the circle of life, life lessons that everyone needs.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty….”
– Theodore Roosevelt

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Flour Bluff Schools: A Notable History

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page

The Beginning: 1892

The Flour Bluff Independent School District was created by the convergence of three very divergent entities: oil and gas, ranching, and the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Through the use of student labor, frugality, and a visionary superintendent, it became a unique campus catering to a community with strong bonds.

The first school was opened in 1892 in the community of Brighton, later to become Flour Bluff. Precariously located next to the Laguna Madre, it served twenty-five students for a six-month term. In 1900, Miss Florence Savoy instructed twelve students for a total of four months. In 1916, the school board voted to replace the Brighton school; however, before it was completed, the hurricane of 1916 destroyed the building. Utilizing student labor once again, the school was rebuilt slightly inland where the Flour Bluff Early Childhood Center now sits.

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1916 Flour Bluff School Building

Influence of Ranching

The schools that cropped up were scattered throughout the Flour Bluff region to accommodate the ranching families located in the area. 1920 saw the opening of Flour Bluff No. 2 at the north end of present-day Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. A third school, Flour Bluff No. 3, opened in 1926 and served the Flour Bluff students for two years. It was located at the Hannah Roscher home near Oso Creek, one mile north of King Ranch. Thirteen students attended at this location. In 1928 both Flour Bluff No. 2 and No. 3 were dissolved, and all students attended what became known as Flour Bluff No. 1, located once again at the 1916 site on Waldron Road. In 1932, the school board purchased a car to transport the students to Flour Bluff No. 1. Soon another industry would change the community’s idea of public education.

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School “Bus” for Flour Bluff in 1930s

Role of Oil and Gas

In the 1930’s, oil and gas exploration came to the Flour Bluff area. In the midst of economic uncertainty throughout the United States, workers were drilling in Flour Bluff, and they were bringing their families. In 1937, a new brick building was constructed with the economic backing of Humble Oil. It was built adjacent to the Flour Bluff No. 1 at the Waldron Road and Purdue Street intersection. Although the community was increasingly becoming an oil and gas economy, the district was still very much a ranching area, and a fence had to be constructed around the school to prevent the intrusion of roaming cattle from the area ranches. World-wide events would soon reach the small community of Flour Bluff with yet another influence on education.

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Flour Bluff School 1939

World War II Brings the Navy

World War II brought the Navy to Flour Bluff, and with it came progress and innovation. In 1941, a new nineteen-room junior and senior high school was built next to the 1937 building. The high school required 18.5 accredited units, which was 2.5 more than what was required for college entrance at that time. The “Laboratory of Industry” was created as a vocational center for boys. It was the product of Principal A.L. Smith at the request of the federal government to train men to work at the Naval Station Training station plant. Families in the northern area of Flour Bluff would be moved out to make way for training station. Throughout the early 1940’s, NAS Corpus Christi made a tremendous impact on Flour Bluff. However, when World War II ended, the school saw a reduction of students from NAS and developed a new need to keep the schools motivated and financially independent.

Flour Bluff Junior High
Flour Bluff Junior High (old high school)

Ernest J. Wranosky’s Vision

The residents of Flour Bluff voted to become an independent school in April 1948. Superintendent Ernest J. Wranosky expanded the boundaries of the district to 56 square miles of land surface and 100 square miles of water surface. Every year, the district committed to a construction project which utilized government surplus along with local and student labor. One such project consisted of dismantling a hangar at Fort Point at Point Bolivar, Galveston, Texas, by using district equipment acquired from the Texas Surplus Property Agency and manual labor provided by the Flour Bluff students. The surplus hangar was trucked and then floated to Flour Bluff where it became the new gymnasium for the school district. When asked how many seats the new gym could accommodate, Wranosky commented, “I hope none. We are building this for students to use, not sit.” This building, which was later appropriately named Wranosky Gymnasium, is located on Waldron Road and continues to serve students of all grade levels.

FB 1948
1948

Flour Bluff’s purpose of all instruction and activities can be summed up with Wranosky’s philosophy which was to “advance and equalize, as far as possible, the opportunities of all students regardless of their mental abilities and social economic status.” This meant lots of student participation, which even included supervising and managing activities of the school. The philosophy also included an appreciation of all creeds and institutions and a desire for students to earn status in society, industry, politics, and professions “through fair and honest dealings, hard work and persistence.” Patriotism was ever present in this philosophy as Wranosky wanted students to acquire “a knowledge of and an appreciation for the great size and value of this great country, its resources, its surface features, and the relative opportunities of its sections.” The ideas also included an appreciation for the Creator, new fields in science, industry, and social progress. Not until 1963 would that social progress come to Flour Bluff ISD with the end of segregation. Black elementary students living in the Flour Bluff district had been previously bused to Booker T. Washington Elementary in the Corpus Christi Independent School District. The changing climate concerning segregation coupled with encouragement from the U.S. Department of Navy moved Flour Bluff ISD toward desegregation.

Ernest J Wranosky
Ernest J Wranosky 1973

The twenty-nine years of leadership of Superintendent Wranosky saw changes in curriculum to set expectations above the state mandate. It also included a wide range of additional curricular studies, including auto mechanics, building trades, cosmetology, and hospitality. Students who successfully completed four years of cosmetology were taken by bus to Austin, Texas, for the State Board Exam in order to complete their educations with state licensing.

In cooperation with the Corpus Christi Museum, Flour Bluff ISD owned and operated a museum on campus. The museum was housed in one of the surplus properties and was operated by students who received their instruction from their teacher. The Corpus Christi Museum curator at that time offered his expertise, as well. Many of the specimen in the museum came from findings of the district’s oceanography class and from the annual field trip to the H.E .Butt Foundation Camp in Leakey,Texas.

Open-Air School and Outdoor Education

Beginning in 1956, the first year the camp was opened, Flour Bluff students in grades three through eight made the annual trek to the H.E. Butt Foundation where they studied real-world science, social studies, math, and language arts. They were also given responsibilities in cabin maintenance and kitchen duties. “If students are to learn responsibility, they must be given responsibility,” said Wranosky. Currently, the eighth-grade students are the only ones who still make this trip to the H.E.Butt Foundation camp as Flour Bluff continues to foster this community partnership with the H.E.B. Foundation.

HEB Camp

Effects of the Cold War on the School

Another important community partnership evolved with the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. The Navy’s involvement in the school district was a natural one since the children of base personnel attended Flour Bluff schools and made up a large part of the student body. This involvement influenced the school in many ways. For example, a curriculum was provided for military training, which included the “Laboratory of Industry,” and the push for the end to segregation created a whole new school environment. Even the day-to-day activities at the school were affected. The Cold War and the possibility of a hydrogen bomb attack had the Navy initiate an evacuation program for the entire district. Students and teachers practiced drills where they would load over 1300 students, teachers, and other personnel on to buses in eleven minutes. These buses then carried them fifty-one miles to the Knolle Dairy farm where everyone had an assigned duty. Some high school students erected a portable kitchen and an emergency hospital tent while others helped to organize and supervise younger children. During this time period, teachers were required to be in a state of readiness by keeping the gas tanks of their personal vehicles full at all times.

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Flour Bluff Building Trades Students Build Homes 1958

Pride of the Community

Flour Bluff ISD is indeed unique, a true product of its ever-changing community. Created out of necessity by a rural population, the district has experienced tremendous growth over the past 111 years. The influx of the oil and gas industry, the growth of ranching, the building of the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, and the determination of its citizens, students, teachers, and superintendents made it a model of efficiency, innovation, and collaboration that is the pride of the community today.

Flour Bluff
Google Map of Flour Bluff ISD today

Sources:
“100 Years of Educational Excellence,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 1.
Marston, Opal Roscher. “Tales of Early Flour Bluff Schools,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 3.
Warner, C. A. Texas Oil and Gas Since 1543. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company, 1939. p. 298, 300, and 307.
Rouse, Thelma Darby. “Brighton’s One-Room Schoolhouse,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 7.
Order Authorizing the Issuance of Bonds. Nueces County Commissioner’s Court Record. 1 July 1937:
Vol. Q, pp. 465-468.
“100 Years of Educational Excellence,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 6.Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 7, 1940.
Hearn, Roxie. “Flour Bluff History Unique and Colorful,” Flour Bluff Sun, July 1, 1976: p. 2.
Ball, Jeffrey. “School Door Opened in Flour Bluff a Century Ago,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, October 17, 1992: 2B.
Field Notes: Flour Bluff Independent School District, pp. 1-3.
Arnold, Dorothy. “Thirty Years in Retrospect 1946-1976,” The Sun, July 15, 1976: p. 6.
Flour Bluff Public Schools: System-wide Report of Evaluation Committee, May 1958, pp. 1-2.
Pearson, Spencer. “Segregation May Bring NAS School,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 4, 1963:B1.
“Vocational Training,” Emphasis on Education, March 1969: p. 3.
“New Concepts in Learning Are Now Being Demonstrated,” Focus on Education, March 4, 1968: p. 3.
“Open Air Classroom Program,” Emphasis on Education, March 1969: p. 4.
“The History of Flour Bluff Schools,” Focus on Education, March 4, 1968: p. 2.
“The History of Flour Bluff Schools,” p. 2.
Russell, Cliff. “Ready for H-Bomb Attack,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 22, 1958: B12.

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By Kids for Kids: You Can’t Keep God out of School

By Kids for Kids, Front Page, Religion

The following is an article by Owen B., a second-grade student at Flour Bluff Primary:

Owen

   Has anyone ever told you that everything would be better if God was allowed in school?  I think that’s a funny thing to say since the Holy Spirit lives in my heart, and I go to school every day, which means God is always in school with me.  God is everywhere, so I’m pretty sure that He didn’t forget to go to school.  All I have to do is pray in my head to talk to Him.  I know that He’s there because He tells us we can trust Him.  Maybe more people need to believe in God so that everyone would understand that He is with them everywhere they go, even school.

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