Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saranac Lake Teacher Base Salary Increase Over 3 Years

Data was obtained from the current agreement between the Saranac Lake Central School District and the Saranac Lake Teacher's Association. Each step is generally 1 year on the job.

Start Here to Understand Islam

An brief article by John L. Esposito in todays Washington Post should be read by everyone to better understand Islam. He also provides this great link to the Muslim-West Facts Initiative.

Another good link to understanding Islam is here at There is also an Islam blog here where you can make comments.

UPDATE: Four articles in todays Washington Post:
Why Do They Hate Us? by Mohsin Hamid
As American As You Are by Mohja Kahf
Bush Still Doesn't Get It By Akbar Ahmed
Losing My Jihadism By Mansour al-Nogaidan

Anyone Worried?

VP Dick Cheney is temporarily in charge of the USA. Now that is something truly instills fear into me. Let's hope the Chimp-in-Chief has a successful colonoscopy.

UPDATE: Looks like we survived the Cheney-in-Charge for 2 hours and 5 minutes. No word of any nuclear attack on Iran or North Korea (at least not yet)

What About Pakistan?

The worst fear in the administration of G.W. Bush is the formation of a fundamentalist muslim state armed with nuclear weapons. That's why we attacked and invaded Iraq. Sort of. It wasn't a fundamentalist muslim state before the war but it is now. That's also why we support the military dictator of Pakistan. He is all that stands between us and a fundamentalist muslim state armed with nuclear weapons. Pakistan's military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, has a very fine line to tread. He is all that stands between us and a nuclear armed muslim fundamentalist state.
On September 19, 2001, Musharraf addressed the people of Pakistan and stated while he supported the Taliban, unless Pakistan reversed its support, Pakistan risked being endangered by an alliance of India and the USA.[34] In 2006, Musharraf testified that this stance was pressured by threats from the U.S,[35] and revealed in his memoirs that he had "war-gamed" the United States as an adversary and decided that it would end in Pakistan losing such a conflict, especially since arch rivals India would also join in such an attack.[36]

Friday, July 20, 2007

Saranac Lake Teacher Base Salaries

Let me state right from the beginning that I do not think these salaries are high. But they are well paying jobs for this area.

What everyone obviously wants to know is how much are teachers paid. That is not an easy question to answer but the below graph shows the base salaries for 2007-2008 (final year of the contract).

Add to these salaries $500 for a Master's degree and 1 month salary for attendence (please don't ask me what attendence means). I'm guessing it's a bonus for showing up to work but I could be wrong. Notice how the curve goes up significantly the last 3 years on the job. That is for retirement reasons.

Cannot forget the teaching assistants.

Next we will go into the pay one gets for extracurricular activities and other activities. Then we can discuss benefits.

Saranac Lake Central School District Teacher Contract Ends June 2008

The agreement between the Saranac Lake Central School District and the Saranac Lake Teachers Association ends on June 30, 2008. According to Article II of the agreement "the parties will enter into good faith negotiations over a successor agreement" starting no later than December 15th. And, "If such an agreement is not concluded by 120 days prior to the end of the district's fiscal year, June 30, either party may request the use of mediation."

Negotiating a teachers contract is always very secretive process. In the past, both parties have agreed not to discuss anything about contract negotiations outside of the formal negotiating format. In other words, it's not kosher to go to the local newspaper and let the public know that teachers don't want to contribute to health insurance or that they might be asking for a 15% pay raise over the next 3 yrs. etc. The only party that is at a disadvantage to this "gentlemans" agreement is the teacher's association. What? The public doesn't have a right to know whether either the teachers or the school district are being reasonable in their demands?

I have a copy of the July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2008 Agreement. I suggest that every interested person go to the SLCS district office and get their own copy. I'd reproduce it here but it's over fifty pages long. However, I will discuss certain sections of the agreement in future posts.

I will admit to being biased. The reason for my bias is that I actually sat in on the negotiating process several years ago. Teachers are extremely professional. That is... until it comes time for negotiating a new contract. Then their collars turn a very, very deep shade of blue.

Superintendent's Day at SLCSD

Have you ever wondered what happens at Superintendent's Staff Development days? These are the couple of days just prior to school beginning and then perhaps another couple of days during the school year where your school system's faculty and staff meet to become 'developed'.

From the Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent's webpage:
The district and the Staff Development Committee have reviewed and modified the Staff Development Plan for 2007-2008. This document is required to be reviewed annually by the State Education Department, and is used to plan training/in service programs for the staff. The Board of Education will be asked to adopt the plan before August. The staff development activities planned for September 4, and 5 of 2007 include:

• A welcome back breakfast for staff, and board members
• A recognition ceremony for outstanding employees and retirees.
• A presentation to all staff by Jones Loflin on the topic "Juggling Elephants" which will focus on managing changes.
• Training on bus safety to all bus drivers
• Training for all support staff on the topic of change
• Content/department chair presentations to teachers.
• Personal health service profiles for all interested staff
• A presentation by Dr. Zacharie Clements on the topic "Miracles Begin With You."
• A presentation to all staff by Dr. Robert Sylvester on the topic "The Brain-Classroom Connection."
• Faculty meetings/classroom set-up time.
I imagine much of this time is spent doing things that NYS requires at the beginning of each school year. I'm not really sure what the Content/department chair presentations to teachers is all about because my understanding is that SLCSD does not have department chairs [UPDATE: surprise, surprise, the School Board just appointed academic chairs at their June 20th meeting. Too bad this good move hasn't received any attention in the press. It's been a long time coming]. At least not academic department chairs. I could be wrong because there really isn't alot of information presented about what is actually going on in our school district on a month to month basis.

But what about the presentation by Dr. Zacharie Clements? Dr. Clements is what's know as an "inspirational speaker". From Dr. Clements website you can see what "Miracles Begin With You" is supposed to accomplish.
Miracles Begin with You Through humor, role playing and drama in this presentation recommended for his first visit to a district, Zach:

-explores hypocrisy in contemporary society and its impact on schools (“In-my-day” disease, Responsibility buck-passing syndrome, and more);
-portrays what‘s happening within schools (retire-itis, imagined burnout, educator buck passing);
-allows educators to assess their own attitudes without feeling threatened;
-leaves educators laughing at themselves, yet challenged to make a positive difference in students‘ lives;
-rejuvenates total staff audiences, both certified and support.
So like with most "insirational talks" the point is to make you feel good about yourself (and hopefully make some changes).

"Exploring hypocrisy in contempory society" sounds like it could end up being parent and taxpayer bashing (not that some of them don't need it). But how many times in your career has someone paid to have you rejuvenated? But the main concern here is what is the point of this "inspirational talk"? Is it to help teachers make objective changes in how they make positive differences in students' lives? If so, how do we know if the "inspirational talk" had any effects?

Let's try this. After hearing the talk, how about having every teacher write out three methods they will use to effect positive change in students lives. Then, at the next superintendent's day, they can have a forum on whether their methods were effective or not? Let's get something out of this "inspirational talk" besides a day or two of "inspiration".

They have another speaker "Dr. Robert Sylvester (sic)" (actually Sylwester). There is an interview with Dr. Sylwester here which seems to be a mix of biology and psychobabble. It's confusing to me where in the interview Dr. Sylwester talks about getting a Ph.D. when he actually has an Ed.D. Yes, there is a difference.

Saranac Lake Rainfall

According to the weather statistics at the Petrova Middle School Weather station Saranac Lake has had 6.16 inches of rain thus far this month.

Stop Blaming Mr. Bush

There is an interesting idea voiced by none other than Paul Krugman in the NYT (must pay to read).
You know, at this point I think we need to stop blaming Mr. Bush for the mess we’re in. He is what he always was, and everyone except a hard core of equally delusional loyalists knows it.
Krugman has a point. Bush is just being the only Bush he knows how to be. What about all his enablers like Sen. Lugar and McCain and Mr. Krystal? The Republican Senators that blindly support Bush are now the ones that bear the brunt of the blame for refusing to change course on our Iraq War policy.

In the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson asks why is the President so happy?
One hopes the leader of the free world hasn't really, truly lost touch with objective reality. But one does have to wonder.
In Bush world, he didn't start the Iraq War. He actually tried to solve the problem diplomatically. It was Saddam's decision to make.
That means Bush is claiming that Saddam Hussein "chose" the invasion -- and, ultimately, his own death -- by not showing us what he didn't have.
I believe that Bush was brought up in a world of his own reality. He has never made a mistake, nothing has ever been his fault and he sees himself as a sucessful businessman, ex-military pilot and politician. One thing G.W. Bush does have going for himself. He actually has the ear of God. Not even Abraham Lincoln had that advantage.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Brave Young War Supporters

So young yet so ill.

SL Community Store Selling Shares - Update

The Saranac Lake Community Store has issued a prospectus (available at Scott's Florist) and is selling shares in the store. You can also have a prospectus emailed to you by going here.

The Community Store is a tax paying C corporation. They propose to sell a minimum of 5,000 shares and a maximum of 6,000 shares with 100 shares being the maximum number a single person may purchase. The shares are only available to bona-fide residents of New York State. Investors investment will be held in a bank account until the minimum $500,000 has been raised. Every shareholder will be entitled to one vote for each share of stock owned. Obviously, if the store is successful and makes a profit, dividends will be declared by the board of directors. This will almost certainly take a few years.

The store expects to have a manager, an assistant manager/buyer, and 3-5 staff associates. Names of the officers and directors of the Community Store can be found on their website.

Saranac Lake and residents of the surrounding communities should be very thankful for the selfless volunteer work put into this project by some very experienced business people.


Is that really what happened the other day? The Senate rejected an amendment to pull our troops out of Iraq? I guess the ignorant readers of the Washington Times (owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon)might want to believe that.....but it's a lie. What actually happened is that a minority of Republican Senators voted against allowing a vote on whether to pull out of Iraq or not (cloture vote). Why did the Republicans do that? Because a majority of Senators would vote to begin pulling troops out of Iraq. Although Bush would almost certainly veto such a bill.

I'm just wondering. Do conservatives really believe headlines like that? Do they really buy the story Tony Snow is selling in a guest editorial in USA Today?
We never argued that he (Saddam)played a role 9/11; political opponents manufactured the claim to question the president's integrity.
Does the Washington Times and Tony Snow think their readers are stupid? Surely anyone can search the internets and see that Snow is lying. How about this line in the joint resolution to authorize force in Iraq?
Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
Why does 40% of the population of the USA believe that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks?

Snow goes on to say:
Al-Qaeda doesn't have the strength it had six years ago, but it remains committed to killing Americans.
The recently released National Intelligence Estimate seems to disagree with Tony boy.
Six years after the Bush administration declared war on al-Qaeda, the terrorist network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report to be discussed today at a White House meeting.
And more here.

Just who are the people that buy in to this claptrap?

BTW, you want to buy a cool t-shirt? How about this awesome Uncle Sam "Fear" t-shirt from UrbanMedium?

Ampersand Mountain Pictures - Part 2

The Seward Range. You do not want to get lost in there.

Ampersand Lake (privately owned)

More of Ampersand Lake.

Middle Saranac Lake with Saranac river channel to the right.

Middle Saranac Lake. Above it is Upper Saranac Lake and to the far right is Lower Saranac Lake.

Lower Saranac Lake with Kiwassa Lake to the far right.

Werewolf? There wolf.

The remains of the fire tower footings.

Lake Kiwassa and camps and homes. Weller Island is privately owned.

Long Lake at full 10x telephoto.

The memorial.

George Bush and his Good Ideas

A quote from G.W. Bush in todays Washington Post:
"I'm not going to surrender a good and important idea before the debate really gets started,"
Oh really? Bush actually thinks he has had a good idea. Must be a first in his pitiful life.

So what's the rant about this time? Our esteemed president is against providing health insurance for an additional 3.3 million children in the USA. It costs too much! Can you believe that? Providing health coverage for poor children costs too much? The program would be paid for with an increased tax on cigarettes. The man doesn't have a soul let alone a brain.

One thing Bush is good for.....I think he is proof of common descent. He may actually be the missing link that so many anti-evolutionists claim has never been found.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Saranac Lake Community Store is Selling Shares

I missed the kickoff for the SL Community Store share-selling extravaganza yesterday because I was on Ampersand Mt.. But, tomorrow I will go and purchase my shares. This morning's Talk of the Town (Wed) was quite disturbing to me. Caller after caller explaining why they won't shop at a community store. Ridiculous reasons, most out of Wal-Mart spite. Then, of course, you get the stories about the "transplants" with "disposable income" that are trying to take over the town. It's almost embarrassing to admit I was born here. Residents of Saranac Lake have changed, but not for the better. People in other communities in which I lived were much more welcoming to newcomers.

Ampersand Mountain Pictures - Part I

The start.

The first 1.7 miles is a very slight upgrade. You hardly know you are going uphill.

You know you have a mile left to climb when you reach the clearing where the caretaker's cabin used to stand. Only a mile to go but 1300 ft more in elevation.

The trail up from the clearing is pretty rough, covered with large boulders but it has been significantly improved since I last climbed about 5 years ago.

Lots of stairs now courtesy of the Adirondack Mt. Club trail crews.

Much of the trail is very steep. This particular area looked like a lot of dead trees had been washed down in our recent heavy rains.

You can find really awesome glacial erratics as you get closer to the top.

Near the peak the trail levels out and even goes downhill in some places.

This is the most difficult part of the climb. You have two choices and both involve being careful. I've seen medium to large dogs climb up these but if you are climbing with a little dog you will need to do some lifting and boosting.

Finally a scramble up to the peak. Really, follow the yellow painted markers because you don't want to fall here.

The peak. One of three actually but the highest part. I'm standing near the Walter Channing rice memorial when I took this picture.

More to follow, the views are wonderful.

Michael Moore has Conservatives Running Scared

An article in todays Washington Post by Dr. Paul Howard of the Manhatten Institute's Center for Medical Progress is called A Story Michael Moore Didn't Tell. You see people with very rare diseases in the USA, unlike in other countries, are treated very quickly with the latest drugs and procedures. Dr. Howard relates a very tender story about the daughter of Utah Jazz star Derek Fisher who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She got the best medical treatment in the world but I'm sure her family had insurance and even if they didn't were probably rich enough to pay for her treatment.

Dr. Howard, who is also managing editor of Medical Progress Today then goes on the explain the Orphan Drug Act, how we have higher cancer survival rates in the USA when compared with Europe and how the latest and greatest drugs are launched in the USA do to a lack of drug price controls.

I wonder if Dr. Howard has any idea how drugs are developed? I wonder if Dr. Howard has any empathy for the thousands of children in the US that have no health insurance. Did I mention that Dr. Howard has a Ph.D. in political science? Two of the trustees of the Manhatten Institute happen to be William Kristol (perhaps one of the most dangerous conservatives in the USA) and Hillary hater Peggy Noonan.

BTW. Let's update ourselves on what a great prognostician William Kristol is:

On Sept. 18, 2002, he declared that a war in Iraq "could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East." A day later, he said Saddam Hussein was "past the finish line" in developing nuclear weapons.
On Feb. 20, 2003, he said of Saddam: "He's got weapons of mass destruction.... Look, if we free the people of Iraq we will be respected in the Arab world."
On March 1, 2003 -- 18 days before the invasion of Iraq -- Kristol dismissed the possibility of sectarian conflict afterward.
On March 5, 2003, Kristol said, "We'll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction."
More recently
Kristol says "we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome."

A Few Words on the Latest in Politics

What are the headlines after last nights all night session in the Senate? Here is one from the NYT. "Democrats Fail to Force Vote on Iraq Pullout". But here's a question? Why wasn't the headline..."Republicans Succeed in Preventing Vote on Iraq War"?

Then the editorial explains that we are now returning to more of the politics of fear. It's worked in the past and is likely to work in the future. Six years after the attack on 9/11 and guess Qaeda is a strong and as capable as ever. But why should that be a surprise when our country is being led by the most incompetent man on the planet? When will Mr. Bush decide to go after the terrorists that attacked us? Is it because he doesn't want to upset our Pakistani allies who are protecting bin Laden? Did the latest NIE say bin Laden determined to strike the USA just like the one several years ago did?

Lastly, Tom Friedman (of the Friedman unit of time), asks why our soldiers should continue fighting and dying in the summer heat of Iraq when the Iraq parliament is taking the month of August off?
So let’s get this straight: Iraqi parliamentarians, at least those not already boycotting the Parliament, will be on vacation in August so they can be cool, while young American men and women, and Iraqi Army soldiers, will be fighting in the heat in order to create a proper security environment in which Iraqi politicians can come back in September and continue squabbling while their country burns.
I don't understand why 100% of Americans don't find this situation to be so egregious that our troops should come home yesterday if not sooner.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ampersand Mountain

I'm climbing Ampersand today. I'll have some pictures when I get back.

UPDATE: It was a very successful hike. Perfect picture taking weather. The pictures are coming soon, be patient.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Senate Democrats Finally Get Some Stones

Sen. Harry Reid is going to force the Republicans to really filibuster the Reed-Levin amendment. The Reed-Levin amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill (S.AMDT.2087) calls for the reduction of US troops in Iraq within 120 days of the enactment of the Act and mandates a withdrawal of most of the combat troops by April 30, 2008.

Reid will use to force 30 hours of non-stop debate on the amendment. Republicans need to filibuster this amendment because it would otherwise pass. Although, it would certainly be vetoed by Bush.

Remember less than a year ago how Republicans were clammering for "up or down" votes? Seem like they don't think the filibuster is such a bad thing now. Let's just keep in mind who is preventing votes on many Democrat-led bills.

More here including Harry Reid video.

Who is this Young Man?

All Video All the Time

I never visited Politics TV before but it's worth a visit.

Censure Iran and Not Saudi Arabia?

I haven't seen this in the news in the US but evidently the US Senate passed a Joe Lieberman amendment that "censures" Iran for meddling in the Iraq War.

Of course Iran is meddling in Iraq. We instituted a Shia-led government in Iraq by outing Saddam. Iran is the other major Shia country in the World. There are two thoughts on what Iran is doing in Iraq. They are helping their fellow Shia muslims take firm control of Iraq or they could be meddling in such a way that the Shia have control of Iraq but not a democratic Iraq. In any case they certainly deserve a censure as indicated by a 97-0 vote in the Senate.

Unfortunately, some see this move as a prelude to an attack on Iran.
The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.
Bush has already offered opportunity to mix it up with Iran when British hostages were being held by Iran. But cooler heads prevailed.

Sy Hersh has also reported on the desire of the Bush administration to go to war with Iran.

Senator Jim Webb is concerned that Bush will initiate action against Iran without congressional approval.

But where is the outrage towards Saudi Arabia or Pakistan?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Iraq Foreign Insurgents

We hear alot today about foreign insurgents fighting in Iraq. What country do you think most of these insurgents come from? Surely it must be Iran. Afterall, Sen. Joe Leiberman can't wait for us to make a preemptive (preventative) attack on Iran. Syria would be a good guess. The Bush administration would love a reason to attack Syria. And, isn't Syria the country that Saddam shipped all his weapons of mass destruction to just prior to the war?

But it's not either of those countries. The most foreign insurgents, about 45% of them, come from our good ally Saudi Arabia.
About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.

Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.
I guess this shouldn't be too surprising since the leader of al Quada is a Saudi and it was Saudi's that attacked us on Sept. 11th. It also makes sense that Saudi's, who are primarily Sunni, want to help out the Sunni tribes in Iraq.