Monday, June 27, 2011

Keller ISD Board Meeting Notes According to Me

Ok, here is a summary of what happened at the board meeting tonight. We left after the discussion about budget cuts when they started talking policy. I hope I understood everything correctly, and I am doing my best to interpret what I heard. I'm sure David Stevens and our principals will be able to put things in more eloquent terms than myself.

Staffing Cuts
Three different cut options were presented to the board. The option recommend for adoption to the board was the one that saved the librarians, middle school academic associates, 66 teachers, and what they referred to as 'other professional instructional staff' (this is the category that the 34 fine arts positions fall in, I think). These jobs are being saved for ONE YEAR with federal money the district is getting through a fund called EduFund. This is $4.8 million that we will only see for the next school year. They recommended this option because they said it buys the district a year to figure out how to restructure things for when we will inevitably have to cut these positions at the end of the 11-12 school year. They also said that they would not have to cut any counselors or nurses because these positions were eliminated through attrition already (I think I understood that correctly). Of course, they are not going to fill any positions and there will probably be a lot of shuffling around. They made it clear that they would still have to cut 113 campus professional positions at the end of the 11-12 school year. They were adamant about making any other staffing cuts hastily so that no one is left hanging, wondering about their job for too much longer.

Salary Schedule
THERE WILL BE NO RAISES FOR ANYONE IN KELLER THIS YEAR. They also made it clear that the superintendent has not received a raise in 3 years, contrary to popular belief out there in tea party land. They adopted a salary schedule that was essentially the same as last year, so there is not even going to be that small incremental raise that you get for your extra year of service. You will be making the same as you did this year.

Dr. V proposed a pay to ride system. This is the only way we can still keep buses. I was unclear about how much it would cost, and they were looking in to having assistance programs for needy families. They were saying that the kids would have a transportation account just like they have a lunch account. They were also talking about allowing anyone to pay to ride, even if you are within the mile and half radius of the school. It was stated that there is still a lot of research and numbers to crunch before a plan can be presented, and that there will be more discussion about this at the next board meeting.

Furlough Days and Other Cuts
If Senate Bill 8 passes this week, KISD will have the option to furlough teachers for three days. Dr. V brought this up as a possibility to think about and said it would be discussed further at the July meeting. He also said that there would be several other budget cuts to deal with at the July meeting as well.

I hope that I understood all of this correctly and am reporting to you accurately. Don't shoot me if I misunderstood anything!!! I was very impressed with our board. They did a great job of making sure that several of the false rumors that some voters had were dispelled and stated on record. I hope everyone understands that the next school year is going to cost more out of pocket for families than if the TRE would have passed. I also found out this week that the supporters behind the VOTE NO movement were not even from Keller. I am disgusted at this display of politics. I hope I do not offend anyone with this statement, but I do not understand how educators can continue to vote for these republican leaders that are so hell bent on destroying public education. Rick Perry wants to privatize education and he is definitely on his way to doing so. He needs to be stopped. They all need to be stopped.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Suz, This Blog is For You!

Yes, I have STILL been a very bad blogger. The only excuse I have is that I was so busy with work that I had nothing else to write about but band. That is pretty much all I've had going on since March. A lot as happened - good and bad. First, for the good news!

We found out last week that the recording of our top band will be advancing to the state level for Texas Honor Band. This is a huge deal for us. We had some stiff competition at the Region and Area level. This is our first time to submit for this contest and we never imagined it would go this far so soon. We thought this would be something we would be working towards several years from now. We are thrilled that our band will be representing Keller at the Texas Bandmasters Association Clinic/Convention at the end of July. We will be competing against 13 other bands and I will be perfectly fine if we place 14th!

In other good news, I have booked myself a vacation!!!! I will be spending four nights at a resort in Mexico later in July. It's my 32nd birthday present to myself! I'm leaving on my birthday and I'll be back just in time for the TBA convention. I was super excited to find a small resort that is brand new, and from the reviews on Trip Advisor, seems to only be booked to around 30% capacity most of the time. This is perfect for me! I'm not the kind of person that likes to be around large crowds of people, so this place seemed to fit the bill. The resort is in Playa del Carmen and is called Azul Fives. I can't wait for a little rest and relaxation!

And in even more good news I got to see my favorite gal, Chelsea Handler, in person yesterday at her book signing in Allen. We waited in line for nearly two hours, but it was worth the wait. She was was so nice.

And I got my book signed! Really, all you can read is my name, but trust me, that is actually her autograph. If you don't know who Chelsea Handler is, let me explain. She is a comedian with a late night show on E! and has written several books. She is highly inappropriate, says absolutely everything that she is thinking, and is a single, independent career girl. I love her for all of these reasons. I'm saving this book and one of her others that I have yet to read for my vacation.

And for some bad news. We found out late last night that the citizens of Keller decided that forking over $15-$20 more a month in taxes was too much to maintain all of the exceptional programs that Keller ISD has been able to offer. I am appalled that this measure did not pass and I know that the people who voted against this do not fully understand the ramifications this will have on KISD. I was already having second thoughts about staying in Keller before this mess, and now I am seriously considering my options. I am very anxious to hear from our administrators to see what the final damage is going to be. It's going to be bad. There is nothing in Keller but the schools. There is nothing else brining in revenue except for real estate. Why do I want to stay here now? This is a mandate from the residents that they do not support teachers, they do not value education, and they clearly do not value their community. I have a lot of thoughts weighing heavily on me and some pretty big decisions to make. I'm going to wait to hear from the administrators before I share any more. I guess for now, I'll just try to make the most of my summer and enjoy my time off.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I've Been a Very Bad Blogger

It does not seem like it has been that long since I made that Nutella Sandwich. Nearly two months with no posts. I guess I've been very preoccupied with work. It has been a great semester so far with the Trinity Bands, and we are looking forward to competing at the upcoming spring festivals. UIL was a great accomplishment this year - we were the only school in Keller to get Sweepstakes with both of our bands. Looking back to where we were five years ago, neither of us thought this would ever be possible. It is so gratifying to know all of the hard work, late nights, weekends, and rivers of tears has finally paid off. I've never had so much fun teaching band! We will be submitting our top band in the TMEA Honor Band process this year for the first time. I am working to get a good recording of my group to submit to the Mark of Excellence National Wind Band Honors Project, too. I am having a blast working on their music with them - it is the first time I feel like we can really make music. A few days before UIL they actually brought me to tears - I just couldn't believe that our little 7th grade peanuts could sound so good!! I am so crazy proud of them. I've got to learn how to post recordings so I can share them with you.

I made this recipe for Mediterranean Salmon Salad at some point in the last few months. I LOVED it. It was very light and fresh, with the bright flavors of lemon juice and kalamata olives. A little feta on top made it perfect. This recipe had a lot of my favorite things in it: salmon, olives, feta, and red bell pepper. I will most definitely be making this dish again soon. If you are looking for a light lunch with the flavors of spring, look no further!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Celebrating World Nutella Day!!

I learned too late last year that there was a whole day devoted to the celebration of Nutella. That day is February 5th each year. I could give a crap about Valentine's Day, but World Nutella Day - now THIS is a manufactured holiday I can get on board with! If you have not discovered the joy of this chocolate hazelnut spread, then you need to RUN to the nearest store and get some now. Seriously, go. You won't regret it. I cannot put the taste of this stuff in to words. Just dip yourself a spoonful out of the jar and discover the goodness yourself!

I found a recipe for a Grilled Nutella Sandwich on one of my favorite foodie blogs, Two Peas and Their Pod. She used raspberry jam with hers but I opted for Cara's homemade strawberry jam. It was the perfect compliment to the Nutella! I sprinkled some powered sugar on top for some extra sweetness, and here we have it - pure bliss! And I apologize for the bad of these days I'll be able to afford the camera of my dreams. Until then, any pictures after the sun goes down will just be sad.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Icepocalypse Crafting

So, we are currently on day three of being stuck in the house due to the thick layer of ice coating most of Ft. Worth. This storm has been something else! I'm very glad that I went grocery shopping over the weekend. There is really no way that I can safely get anywhere until everything thaws out. Thank goodness for brave neighbors who were nice enough to get out to the store and bring me a two liter of diet coke! I've been having some serious afternoon withdrawals. Since I have had nothing but time on my hands I have been able to get a few projects completed. I've been reading a lot about these super crafty ladies that take items from the dollar store and turn them in to fantastic things. I decided that for a dollar, it was worth a try! I picked up this pair of earrings over the weekend. They have good bones, but were pretty much a hot mess.

I stripped them down to nothing, added some teeny pearls, and turned them into something dainty with a vintage feel. I really like the way they turned out!
I made this bracelet to match. I feel like I'm on Chopped: Crafters Edition. I can't get to the store, so I've gotta make due with what I've got! It's been a fun challenge. And BONUS: I'm not spending any money! Hope everyone is staying warm! What are YOU doing during this ice storm?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My All Time Favorite Lunch: Tabbouleh Salad With Chicken

This dish is my favorite thing to make ahead for lunch during the week. I make it at least once a month. It is full of crisp, fresh vegetables and herbs, and is dressed in a lemony olive oil vinaigrette. The flavors of this salad are very bright, and, to me, it tastes like spring time in a bowl. I found this recipe a few years ago after watching the Barefoot Contessa make it on her show. I have adapted her recipe to my own taste and have included my recipe below. The only differences are that I cut down on the amount of salt, omitted the mint and pepper, and added chopped chicken breast and feta cheese. You can find her original recipe here. You can add the chicken breast and eat a larger serving for a satisfying lunch, or leave out the chicken and serve it as a side with some falafel. Don't be afraid of the bulgar wheat! You soak the wheat in boiling water to soften it up. It absorbs the flavor of the lemon juice and olive oil and ends up looking like tiny pieces of rice. It is a whole wheat with lots of fiber so you don't have to feel guilty about eating it. It is a little hard to find in stores, though. The only place I have had any luck finding it in the Keller area is at Albertson's. I have not checked at Central Market or Whole Foods, but I imagine you would not have a problem finding it either of these stores. I know that one of my Houston friends went to no less than four stores in search of this stuff a few months ago, so if you find it my advice would be stock up like squirrel hoarding nuts for winter. And good luck if you live in Houston.

Tabbouleh Salad with Chicken adapted from Ina Garten at Food Network

1 cup bulgar wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Juice of two small lemons
1/4 olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups chopped chicken breast*
1 cup reduced fat feta cheese

Pour bulgar wheat into a large bowl and cover with the boiling water, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Stir a few times and cover with a tea towel. Let it set for one hour.

Meanwhile, chop vegetables and prepare chicken breast. After one hour, combine all the chopped stuff with the bulgar wheat and give it a good stir. Serve with about a 1/4 cup of feta cheese on each serving.

*If you are looking to save time buy a precooked rotisserie chicken, remove the skin, and cut the breast meat off of the bones. You can eat the the leg and thighs for dinner with some rice and vegetables or cut up that meat and toss with barbecue sauce for tasty sandwich! If you are looking to save money buy packaged chicken breasts and cook them yourself with a little salt and pepper.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Warm Up With a Spicy Homemade Soup on a Cold Day

Today was the perfect day for a spicy soup! I have made this soup once before and I really enjoyed it. I decided to make it again because it made a enough for several meals and I was able to freeze half of it. It tasted just as good after being defrosted. This recipe for Turkey Mole Soup is quick and easy. You only have to chop an onion and a bell pepper, brown the turkey, and the rest you dump in the pot from a can. One serving is low in calories but very filling. You can get creative with your garnishes on top, too! I like it with a squeeze of lime and some chopped cilantro. This would also be good with a little scoop of pico and sliced avocado. If you are not worried about counting calories you could add some shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Be creative to your satisfy your own taste. Try this soup while it is still cold outside and enjoy it's warmth!