Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kipp & Maegan Reda (1), Tavernier


Maegan: We were both born and raised here in the Keys. My family goes back quite a ways down here, my mom’s family especially. My grandfather was a drag line specialist/operator and he dug almost every canal here in the Keys.
Kipp: My grandfather owned a motorcycle dealership up in Michigan. He came here on vacation, went fishing, and the next thing you know he bought a boat and a house down here.
Maegan: I knew his grandfather my whole life. My parents (the Bynum’s) were business owners down here; they owned a parts store called Tavern Stores Auto Parts in Tavernier. Kipp’s grandfather used to come into the store all the time when I was growing up. So when we got together, it was funny that I had known his grandfather since I was a little girl!
Kipp: I remember we were all at the bowling alley one year on Valentine’s Day, and I started talking to her mom and asked her to hook us up. So, her mom actually got us together!
Maegan: At that time, it was just my parents, my 7 year old son Bryce, and me. It was just the funniest connection ever. I think we both felt it and knew it. It was a cool story, but now we’re kind of sad because the bowling alley is being demolished. We wish we could go in one more time and have a date there before they tear it down.
Kipp: We’ve been together 6 years now. We bought this house in 2010 and remodeled it. We were fortunate to get it for a good price when the housing prices were kind of low.
Maegan: Things moved pretty fast for us. We got pregnant with Kaiya just about 5 months into our relationship. It was kind of crazy. Kipp had an uncle pass away and we found out we were pregnant within a week or two of that. People say that sometimes when one soul goes, another comes, you know? Then we had Irie. She was planned though! We have been on the fence about whether or not to try one more time to have a boy. But Kipp’s afraid we’ll just keep having girls.
Kipp: And I love my two girls, don’t get me wrong! But, to have three or four… I don’t know…
Maegan: If we knew it would be a boy we would definitely have another. They do keep us busy. We don’t really go out that much except for the kid’s activities. We don’t drink, so we don’t really go to bars anymore.
Kipp: We quit drinking about 4 ½ years ago, when we got married. Not because it was really an issue, but when you’re born here, by the time you’re through your 20’s you’ve done your share of drinking.
Maegan: Between our pool-cleaning business and the kids, we stay plenty busy. With Bryce especially; he is currently playing on two basketball teams. He’s playing for the school and for the community league. Last year he played baseball and also played for two different leagues. Getting to go watch him play is the highlight of my week, it doesn’t matter what sport it is. He plays golf, baseball and basketball. He played football for a while, and might play in high school.
Kipp: The high school coach is already talking to him, basically asking him to name what position he wants to play.
Maegan: He’s just special. He has that “It” factor. Some have it and some don’t. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I’m watching him play, because he is just an incredible athlete in every sport. I keep telling him if he keeps his head on the right way and keeps his grades up, there’s no telling what he can do.
Kipp: He’s making straight A’s and is in two honors classes in eighth grade. Better than I did!
Maegan: He’s just a natural. He’s been playing golf since he was three. My dad got him into it and he just loved it. They really started to see his potential within months of him picking up a golf club. After my dad sold the parts store, he went to work at Napa, and he would deliver parts up to Ocean Reef. Some of the guys offered to let him come play golf there, so he would take Bryce.
One day, a pro saw them from afar and was so impressed by Bryce that he started talking to him, giving pointers and tips. Now that guy is his mentor. He has taken Bryce under his wing and he won’t let me pay him a penny. I couldn’t feel more fortunate. He just got his second hole in one a few weeks ago. His first was at Ocean Reef and they gave him the flag off the hole. His second was at the Redlands Country Club in Homestead. We’re looking to get him into some tournaments this year. He’s going to finish high school here and then we’ll see what happens.

Kipp: We are just raising our family and trying to build our business. I would love to have the kids involved and make it a family business eventually. We don’t want to live anywhere else. The Keys are our home.
(To contact Kip & Maegan about Island Time Pools, call 305-741-7375, or email islandtimepool@gmail.com)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Flat Head Ted, Key Largo


From Ted's Daughter - Melinda Lambkin, North Carolina
"Tell everyone thank you! I am proud to be a true conch! The community of Key Largo, my hometown, has shown what it means to be compassionate and helpful during a time of need and everyone of you who helped my father and me!"

***UPDATE ON TED'S ROOF***
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! We have amazing, giving people here in the Keys with hearts bigger than the island they live on!
It took only 1 day to get Ted's roof patched up!! A BIG THANK YOU goes out to Ken Tafoya for supplies and Ken, with the help of Neal Hoover, patched up Ted's roof. Way to go gentlemen!!
Ken and Neal, your kindness has given Ted peace of mind, which is priceless. His daughter cannot express her thanks and appreciation enough!
Shout outs also go out to:
Karen Johnson who coordinated and got the ball rolling from the middle of Florida!
Tim and Laura Maloney who have been loading Ted up with hot food.
Edith Zewadski-Bricker with Monroe County Social Services who did an amazing job helping Ted take care of some business.
Bobbi Haugen who got all of Ted's prescriptions filled and her husband who helped Ted get to town to get his house taxes paid. Bobbi is also taking Ted to the airport.
Ted is overwhelmingly grateful for the outpouring of kindness and help!
Ted is now packing and is expected to be with his daughter by Wednesday night.

***Ted needs our help!! ***
"Our beloved Key Largo Transit, "Flat Head Ted" has had a really rough time. He broke his pelvis and was in hospital for weeks.
He came home this week to a flooded house. He has a hole in his roof in one corner about a yard long and wide. He is asking for help in fixing it and asking for help does not come easily to Ted.
His daughter has bought him a plane ticket to come stay with her in North Carolina until he's back to his old sassy self. He doesn't want to leave until his roof is secured. His daughter is hopeful he can come to her by Wednesday of this week.
We arranged through some Key Largo angels to get Ted some food and get his prescriptions filled and some other things he needed. If you can grab some supplies and help Ted out you'd be one of those angels.
Ted lives at 201 S Bay Harbor Drive in Key Largo. Ted's number is 305-852-2763. You scan PM us here at HOK, or, you can call Ted if you can help. He's not looking for a professional new roof, just some help getting his house secured so he can go stay with his daughter for his recovery.
Ted helped so many people, so many times, for so many years, let's see what the amazing Humans of the Keys can come up with.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Doug Hattendorf – mamaOcean


I started mamaOcean after 20+ years of fishing, diving and taking pictures of the ocean. Over the years I see less and less life out there and more and more garbage. As more people come to enjoy these islands, there is more pollution to deal with.
This county brings in over $4 billion a year thanks to fishing and tourism. Somehow some of that money needs to go to keep the place the people came to see clean. It’s the ocean that brings the people here and the ocean that deserves some respect. I have written many political rants with only one response, from Florida State Representative Holly Raschein, who might join us for a clean up one day in the future.
Garbage is killing our marine life, both mammals and birds, on a daily basis, and has grown to be a big problem here in the Keys…bigger than the once a year cleanups can keep up with. Cleaning the garbage from our waters and shorelines needs to be done, and should be addressed as a matter of utmost importance, because it is only getting worse. We need crews out there four days a week in the upper, mid and lower keys. This needs to be done for a few months at least, until we know where most of the garbage congregates and can designate where the weekly or monthly clean ups are most needed and will be the most effective.
It doesn’t require that much to do this, mostly just devotion and time. But one person, or one group, cannot do it alone. It takes everyone pitching in. We have an obligation to these waters and I wish more people felt that way about this place where we live. Anyone who has lived here more than 5 years has seen the difference. It’s time for her; it’s time to help our mamaOcean. She Needs Our Love!
Whether you're a surfer, a diver, a sailor, a fisherman, or just an everyday honest ocean lover, we have all been getting something from the ocean at some point in our lives. She feeds us, she balances us, she amazes us with her beauty, day in and day out, and now it's time to give back. We have been taking for too long!
We at mamaOcean are working towards joining forces to bring awareness to all ocean-goers through action. We are dedicated to giving YOU enough reasons to believe there is hope to save our oceans and providing opportunities to HELP!
******On December 19th from 9am to 12pm there will be a shoreline clean up sponsored by mamaOcean at Curry Hammock State Park mm 56.2. It will be free admission for volunteers participating in the clean-up. Meet in the day use area of the park for sign up and instructions.
Come early to sign up and stay after to enjoy hotdogs provided by mamaOcean and Winn Dixie. For further information or questions regarding the clean up call the Ranger Station at (305)289-2690. Hope to see you there!******
For more information about mamaOcean, find us on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/MamaOcean-774669082678658/?fref=ts
or our website:
http://www.mamaocean.com



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jack (Update)


***JACK UPDATE***
HOK - "We have received numerous inquires as to how Jack is.
I stopped by to see Jack, and he is fine. He spends a lot of time in his trailer and enjoys his quiet, secluded life. Jack likes it that way, and that is ok.
Jack's a loner, which is understandable, and he enjoys his privacy, doing whatever it is that Jack does.
We will respect Jack's privacy going forward and will be content knowing that he is ok and not sleeping in the dirt under the bridge anymore.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Frank & Noah Pauly, Marathon



(HOK: I met Frank at his home in Keys RV in Marathon. It was a breezy, sunny day, so we sat outside for the interview while his 5 year old son, Noah, used the water hose to rinse a big natural sponge.)

FRANK: “It takes stamina to live on an island. Between high rent, having seasonal income and the storm season, it takes backbone to live on a beach or an island. People arrive with the dream of lazing on the beach with no cares and discover that they have to contribute to the infrastructure of a small community. The burden is too much for a lot of the dreamers. I call them "turnstile" people. They might make it for a season, and then they bail.

I've lived in Marathon for 11 years. I was living in Tybee Island, Georgia and within one week, three strangers out of the blue, told me that I would do very well in the Florida Keys. I took it as a sign. After 6 months of researching and talking with friends, (many of whom had lived in the Keys before,) I moved.”

NOAH: "Daddy I'm washing my sponge."

FRANK: "You can step on it to ring it out.

Noah found the sponge at a construction site. The guy who lived there was a sponger. It’s in good shape but it was buried in dirt. I told him he had to clean it up before he can bring it in the house.

Marathon is a nice place to live. It's expensive to live here, but I've always lived in high dollar places. I'm a property caretaker. I like knowing a property and improving it. I had a housekeeping / property management company for 8 years; four years in Georgia and four here. I am looking for a place now where I can maintain and manage the property.

Hey Noah, that's probably enough water. Have you stepped on it?"

NOAH: "No."

FRANK: "Well you need to step on it and squish the water out."

NOAH: "But, I just want to see what the sponge can do; what it will hold."

FRANK: “I got out of housekeeping after the economic crash in '08. The cleaning chemicals were getting to me anyway. I work very hard to be able to enjoy my free time. I'm not trying to get rich. Keeping life simple allows us to be able to enjoy it.

Noah, the water is for cleaning the sponge not flooding the driveway. Turn the water off and get the dish soap."

(Noah is splashing in the puddles he has created with the water hose. A couple of minutes later the sponge is covered in a froth of dish soap.)

HOK:" He's a cutie. Do you have him full time?"

FRANK: “Half time. I had to fight tooth and nail to get that. Family Court was messed up. I feel like I was being discriminated against. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be subjected to the court system in order to be able to enjoy time with my child. It sucks. His mom and I agreed to make the world a better place by having a child together. I thought I was going to see him every day of his life. That all changed just before he was born. I went to all but one of the prenatal visits, the labor and C-section surgery. It was an incredible experience. He's a Conch; born in Key West.

We like to go swimming, fishing, visit the beach and local parks. Noah has friends all through this small town. I'm homeschooling him. He's excited about learning and growing by leaps and bounds. People say that he should go to public school to be socialized. He has plenty of friends. School should be for learning. I don't want a tax subsidized babysitter. I had a child to raise my child.

I like Marathon. It still has character from being a fishing community. The people are mostly down to earth. All of the Keys have their share of "colorful" characters. The classic problem is that people move someplace and homogenize it to feel safe in a familiar environment. Then they spend the next 10 years complaining about how it isn't the same.

I want to raise Noah in the keys. I think he will probably be a pilot among other things. He has a passion for aeronautics. It's all up to him. My job is to make him aware of the opportunities that are available to him and encourage him in his interests. I want him to be a simple man who has an honest and fulfilling life.”

NOAH: "Look daddy, I made a boat. Do you think I will it will float?"

(Noah shoves a coconut husk full of twigs in his dad's face, before setting it afloat in the driveway puddles.)

FRANK: "Yeah, son. I think your passengers are light enough.

I'm grateful that I was born again 33 years ago. It gives me a very different perspective than most people. I have an assurance that a lot of people don't have. I believe things a lot of people would rather mock than believe. I believe in miracles. I see prayer as a way of interacting with God's creation. I don't know that we change anything, but it allows us to participate in God's will. I don't like religions. They cause separation. We are all part of the same body with the same basic needs. We are here to help each other. I try to make things better with the talent that God has given me. Knowing God makes life better."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lauretta Ann (“Retz”) Reeves - Islamorada



"I’ve lived in south Florida for over 30 years. My husband moved to Key West when he was 8 and he’s in his early 60’s now. I’m originally from just outside of Pittsburgh, and he is from the other side of Pennsylvania, but we met in Davie, Florida. We’ve had the house here in the Keys for about 17 years and have lived here full time for 14. We’ve beenmarried almost 25 years. Our babies are our dogs and cats. That’s one of my passions, which is why I wrote the book, “Adopted Paws.” It’s about all the animals that we have adopted from Pompano Beach to the Keys. Now we have 3 dogs and one cat.

I was the co-chief investment officer at a global investment firm in Ft. Lauderdale for 16 ½ years. The last ten years I commuted from down here. I would drive up on Tuesday morning, stay in a hotel and then drive back on Thursday night, and worked from home on Mondays and Fridays. But, I was travelling about 100,000 miles a year doing research on international companies and marketing and things like that. I was pretty much living out of a suitcase.

After I left there, I ended up starting to work with Islamorada Investment Management. Cale Smith is the general partner; he manages our US folios, and I manage the international ones. One of the reasons I wanted to work with Cale, and I’m glad he chose to work with me, is because we are both fiduciary responsibly minded. We’re not pushing products on the client’s because someone is paying us commission; we’re not paid to make those decisions, only on the assets we are managing. We use an outside financial advisor to determine how the assets are allocated. That lets us put the client’s interests first. Not everyone can afford to do that, but I’m glad I can and still live down here.

I love my work. My other book, “Advice from a Broad Abroad” is about my years of international travel. I still get to do that since I’m continuing to invest internationally, but I’m going to be very careful when I go to Europe this upcoming year. I’ve already bought my tickets back and forth to Paris in March. I probably won’t be taking trains as much as I have in the past. But, I was in Japan during the earthquake and the tsunami. I’ve been in ash clouds, and typhoons and airplane strikes, and much more. That’s what inspired me to write that book. It is especially focused on the challenges that women travelers might confront.

My other passion is helping women with financial, business and travel advice. I’ve done a lot of informal talking with woman, especially those who have never had any real financial training and don’t even know how to start to make a budget or plan for retirement. I’ve done some work with the Keys domestic abuse shelter, doing training to teach women how to raise enough money to escape from the situation they are in, and then hopefully help them get started down the line. I think that not enough women have been trained to do that and they are afraid to try. I have women ask me to just sit and talk with them because they don’t even know where to start."

(HOK: As Retz and I talked, she mentioned doing fund raising with Pam Freeser, who was featured in a recent HOK story. We are also all members of the Upper Keys Business & Professional Women, and we discussed how they are an amazing group of women. We both commented on how the Keys are such a small town.)

"It’s all interrelated and it should be down here. By definition, it’s a community and you would want people connecting, and that’s fine with me.

I love the Keys. I love the water and the people down here. We have a boat. I love to eat and drink wine. My husband is a great cook but we love to go out. We have so many great restaurants down here. That’s a lot of what we do for fun! I notice that wine tasting is coming back around here. The Green Turtle is going to start one up. That will be nice. I love it here, this is home. I travel all over the world, meeting with companies to decide if we want to invest in them. I end up at a lot of dinners seated next to the CEO’s, and once they find out where I live, you wouldn’t believe how often all they want to talk about is how they want to live in Islamorada.

Music is another of my passions. I used to take voice lessons in Ft. Lauderdale, and I’ve taken piano lessons for the past 7 years. I think it’s important to keep learning, and it’s one of the things I try to teach women especially; just because you turn 50 you should never stop learning, and never be afraid to start anything. Some people laughed at me because I started piano lessons at almost 50, but I don’t want to be almost 70 and regret not doing something. Of course, if you’re 70 you still shouldn’t stop!

Never stop learning, and always try to grow. Keep growing, no matter what you do. Sometimes, during the process you have to be true to yourself, and that might upset people. But you have to do the right thing and stay on the path. If you need help, reach out. Get involved, but don’t get over involved. Be a little bit selfish. Enjoy being here and enjoy living."


Monday, December 7, 2015

Steve Sullivan aka “Sully”



“In 1917 my grandfather, Edward M. Sullivan, was fighting in the first World War in France as a pilot. It was at the very beginning of the air war, of air travel. He had a partner and they would alternate flying; one day he would fly and his partner would throw ordnance (artillery) out of the plane, and the next day they would switch. Back then the bombs weren’t attached to the plane, they were stacked up in the cockpit.

As you can imagine, the planes were very slow, it was 1917, and they had to fly low, they had to see who they were throwing bombs at, so of course those people could see them! The people on the ground had guns and they would shoot back.

My grandfather and his partner got shot up really badly one day and by the time they got back to the base my grandfather’s partner was dead and he was shot and wounded very, very badly. In triage, the medics moved people to the left they thought they could save, and to the right the people they gave morphine to and allowed them expire as comfortably as possible. My grandfather was given a toe tag and moved to the right.

The right side was a very serious place to be, so they brought in another doctor to give a second opinion. If ever someone needed a second opinion, that was the spot! So the doctor gets to my grandfather, who is conscious, and reads the toe tag. Edward M. Sullivan, Brooklyn NY. The doctor asked my grandfather ‘Are you any relation to Iron Mike Sullivan from Brooklyn?’ My grandfather replied ‘that is my father’. The doctor told the orderly to move him to the left, they were going to save his life.

The doctor was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn. The only thing more difficult than being Jewish at the turn of the century was being Irish in Brooklyn. This Jewish kid was kicking around Brooklyn looking for a job so he could pay for college. He couldn’t get a job for love nor money. He went into a riding stable, which later became Prospect Park, and the stable master gave him a job mucking out stalls. More importantly the stable master shared his tea with this kid, talked to him, asked him about what his plans were, and treated him like a human being.

This kid ended up going to medical school and became a doctor. He is sent to France in the First World War. He is the doctor that read the toe tag on my grandfather. If it wasn’t for that happenstance, that one in a million shot; of that individual who was befriended by my great grandfather and being the one to make a decision about my grandfather, I wouldn’t be here, nor would anyone else in my clan.

You could make a movie out of this story; the best part about it …it’s a true story.”


Friday, December 4, 2015

Sue Woltanski - Tavernier


We purchased a place in the Keys in 1999, right before we got married.  We bought the property next door to my in-laws, who had been coming down here since the 50’s.  They had retired and were snowbirds from Michigan.  At first we used the house as sort of a cottage.  Once we had kids, we arranged our schedules to come down one week a month.  I am (was) a pediatrician and my husband is a physician also, so we had the flexibility in our schedules to make it work.  When my kids were young, I went to part time.  No one ever said they wished they had spent less time with their children when they were young, so we made a point of taking time off to be with them.  

When my daughter turned 4, we realized that once she started school we wouldn’t be able to make it down for one week a month.  We couldn’t pull her out of school, so we would be limited to holidays which are hard for physicians.  She was used to spending time with her grandparents and we liked that relationship.  We wanted her to grow up next to her grandmother.  We made the move at that time, so she could start kindergarten down here.  That was in 2008.  

We moved here because we knew there were A-rated schools, and the people in our neighborhood liked the schools.  We are big proponents of the public schools system; my daughter is at Plantation Key School and my son is at Ocean Studies Charter School.  My daughter started kindergarten at PKS, and we could do nothing but brag. She had Spanish, music, art, and computer classes for an hour and a half each a week. They called them “specials” and we thought they were pretty special. When she moved to first grade, she had the most amazing teacher; it was all project based center work, hands on learning.  By 2nd grade she was moved into a half day gifted reading program which was a blessing for her because she loves to read.  It was perfect.

Right around that time, the housing market, property taxes, scandals and whatever led to tremendous difficulties with the schools.  They were underfunded to begin with, in my opinion, but now they were ridiculously underfunded.  So, the special programs were cut.  By the time my daughter was in 4th grade the gifted program was gone.  I wondered how you could have a high quality school system that doesn’t attend the needs of all students.  But, I also realized that the budget was tight.

That was when I got on the school advisory council.  I decided that I was going to fight to get gifted education back.  At the same time I knew I needed to fight at the state level to improve education funding across the board, because I didn’t want to fight for my child’s needs at the expense of another child with a particular need.  So, I started a letter writing campaign.  I got a lot of gifted parents together and we did advocate for the return of gifted programs.  It’s still a work in progress, but there is now more attention given to gifted students so that was a success.  

Then I started looking into what was going on in Tallahassee, and the more I looked into it the more disturbing it was.  We have a governor who says we have the highest education funding ever, but we are still 47th in the nation, and when you compare us with states that score high on national test scores, they are spending a lot more per child to educate.  Then I became aware of how the money was being spent, and the large amounts of money being spent on the standardized tests.  So I started watching education committee meetings and trying to find out how that works.  I actually met a group on Facebook and we watch these committee meetings and discuss them; we’re all trying to learn what’s going on.  I’ve met a lot of people across the state with similar concerns.

For a while I had been concerned with all the stress and all the focus placed on the FCAT.  I wasn’t happy about that because it seems all the state is concerned with is whether a child does well on the math or reading FCAT test.  My children read well above their grade level, so I know those tests aren’t going to tell me anything about my child’s progress because they are testing them at grade level.  So no information is going to come to me from that test.

Then I started learning about all these extra tests.  They are district mandated tests; sometimes the data is required by the state to monitor children’s progress.  But, what is happening is the tests are being used to see if children are prepared to take the state test.  It is a standardized system and it encourages teaching to the test.  I felt that since my child was performing above grade level, there was a potential for her to get short shifted; that a teacher would look at her and think she didn’t need to worry about her, and her needs wouldn’t be attended to.  I’m not saying that happened with any of her teachers, only that it seemed there was potential for it to happen.

I was watching one of those Tallahassee meetings, and a representative named Keith Perry was speaking.  They were talking about how disruptive the testing had become and how narrow the curriculum had become and what a mess everything was. During that debate, he described the current state of education as a period of “Creative Destruction” in which only by destroying our schools will we emerge in the future with something better.  He called it “the American Way.” Yes, he really said that, destroying public schools is the American way.  That was about 2 years ago. According to the school calendar for 2013-14, my daughter was scheduled to take 45 standardized reading tests during her time at PKS.  The amount of time and money spent on these tests could be better spent on creative things.

I spoke in front of the school board about those issues, and then people started finding me.  We put together a group called “Minimize Testing, Maximize Learning.”  It’s a grass roots effort and its goals are to inform parents about the amount of testing in the schools, and to inform tax payers about the amount of money spent on the tests.  We also advocate decreasing the amount of testing in Monroe county schools to the minimum required by law, and using the time and money that would have been spent on testing, and has been spent previously, for creative engaging learning experiences. We’ve made some progress.  

Normally if you want to know how your child is doing, you ask their teacher.  And without standardized testing, the teacher can tell you the child’s progress, because they know.   Standardized tests provide data to make the people farthest away from the classroom feel like they know what is going on in the classroom.  The closer you are to the classroom the less you need it.

The real problem I’ve learned is that the problem is really not the testing itself.  The problem is the way the state uses the tests to punish, or reward, the schools that has distorted the system.  So schools are doing things to avoid the punishment, or gain the reward, instead of just teaching the children and then testing them on what has been taught.  This is not a complaint against the teachers; it’s a complaint against the system.  The second you set the bar, and then punish those who don’t make it over that bar, the more people are going to distort the system to try and get over the bar.

My hope for Monroe County is that we can start to look beyond the test scores and look for what we think a quality education system entails.  Instead of jumping through the state hoops, let’s create our own hoops that actually serve our own children and meet their needs.  There is no reason our little schools can’t be academically stellar institutions where everyone is delighted to send their children. But the estimate last year was that a quarter of the time in classes was spent preparing for testing. That is a lot of money being spent on measuring.

I like to speak to organizations about the impact of high stakes testing because I think what’s happening in the schools is shocking but nobody wants to say anything because everybody loves their teachers.  So I like to give these talks to let people see what’s really happening and I hope people will become sceptics and stop thinking that high test scores equal quality education.  I think parents know that even at the best schools, the homework looks like test prep, and the closer they get to the FCAT the more practice tests there are.

I spoke at a testing forum recently.  Senator Bullard was there and he said that what is happening in education is outrageous and people should be outraged.  There is a suggestion that the move is to privatize the public school system.  One of the ways they will privatize them appears to be by computer based learning.  There is a new move called Competency Based Learning, and the idea is that once they get the standards, they will have the path that all children should move along. So eventually children would be able to sit at a computer and move along the path.  It’s presented as though it’s really great for your child because they will get to move at their speed, but the truth is that every child will move along the exact same path.  There will be no diverging from the path, no following a child’s interest, no engaging them.   I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but…

Right now there are teachers supervising the digital learning and that would continue for a while. It’s already happening with on-line testing.  But the worry is that eventually people will wonder why their tax dollars are paying teachers when the computers are doing the teaching.  I don’t want America’s kids to be taught by computers.  I don’t find that inspirational.  I was told that education in America is the 4th largest industry.  So that’s where this is going.  They see the money and it’s at the expense of our school children.

Parents need to be aware of what’s happening and start saying no.  They need to question the number of tests and the purpose for them.  I’m hoping that parents will go to the school board and express concern over these issues.  It is going to take people getting involved and speaking up. The state is not listening.  And if they don’t start listening, parents will rebel.  Last year, across the country, half a million parents had their children refuse the tests. Because what else can you do?  We’re getting tired of writing “Sincerely” at the end of our letters to our legislators.  Really, my kids only get one chance at an education.  This is our kid’s future, and it’s a huge battle. There isn’t a lot of money on “my side” and there are billionaires on the other side.   But, you know what?  You don’t mess with Mama Bears.  

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