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Alma Intermediate School Newsletter – December, 2014 Click the link to open the full newsletter.
From the Principal…
As a teaching intern in my last year of college, I was able to visit my great-aunt who lived close to the school. Aunt Nance made me feel special and was interested in what I was doing. That made me want to visit her often, even though we were from different generations.
Aunt Nance had a well in her yard, a big vegetable garden, and loved to share her biscuits and homemade jelly. Going to her house was like stepping back into a simpler time. I don’t remember her having a television. Conversation was our entertainment.
I loved our visits but dreaded seeing her pull shoe boxes out of her closet because that meant we were going to look at old family photos. Many of the pictures were of people I’d never met, but I would try to pay attention and be polite.
I was recently telling someone about Aunt Nance and realized that I would give anything to sit down with her and go through some of those shoeboxes filled with pictures today. I would ask her to tell stories about the family members in the pictures. I would ask her if we could label the pictures and make copies for me to keep.
My hope at this Christmas season is that we will treasure our time together and make some good memories. Ask the elders of your family about Christmas when they were children. You just might learn some good stories about your family. Let’s give our cell phones a rest and have a conversation with parents or grandparents. Time and attention might be the most valuable gifts we can share.
From the Principal…
Some of my favorite memories revolve around Thanksgiving. I can still picture my grandfather as he looked up from a meal, patted his stomach, and said, “Best meal I ever had.” My mother recounts her resolve to become a better cook because of the constant praise and encouragement from her father-in-law. Whether a cool drink of water or a Christmas gift made by a grandchild, he always said a heart-felt thank you.
When I was a junior in high school my work and school schedule caused me to be at home for Thanksgiving while the rest of the family was out of town. I was to have Thanksgiving dinner with my grandfather in the nursing home. I visited him often but was not excited about having dinner there.
He had very limited speech because of a stroke, but as we sat quietly eating our Thanksgiving meal I began to think of all the gifts this great man had given me. He had taken me on long walks, shown me where old family historic places were, told me hunting stories, and taught me the names of plants and trees. I was overcome with a sense of thankfulness for his life and his influence. This quiet meal with my grandfather has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories.
Today I am thankful for my family and friends. I’m thankful for having meaningful work and great people to work with. I’m thankful for the children whose lives we can touch and make a positive difference. I hope this Thanksgiving will be a time of reflection and joy as we give thanks and make new memories.
News Alma Intermediate 1114 Open this link to read the newsletter.
Some things get better with age. Members of the 1974 senior class who visited El Dorado for their 40th reunion saw evidence of many changes. They were encouraged that so many changes were for the better. It was an honor to see the progress made in our little south Arkansas town, despite economic challenges and a reduction in population. The community has a treasure in El Dorado Public Schools.
Those who attended the tour of El Dorado High School were amazed. Alva Reibe, one of our classmates, is now the principal and gave us an excellent walk through the campus. The high school we attended was built in the 60s. This 2012 campus reflects the changes that have occurred over the years. The campus is secure, yet beautiful and inviting, and packed with new technology.
As you arrive, there’s no doubt about where to enter. The entrance and lobby make you want to hang out and enjoy fellowship with others. This was also a good place to enjoy some Spud-nuts. If you’re not from El Dorado, you might not understand the significance of these little treats.
The tour took us down several hallways. I commented that it was like a mall, with wide, open hallways, and windows into classrooms. Alva explained that administrators can stand at hallway intersections between classes and cover all hallways to see that transitions are smooth and safe. They are also able to observe teachers watching transitions between classes.
Many of us were excited to see new Fine Arts facilities. The band room was large and beautiful, with several smaller rehearsal areas. The theater was a great improvement over the little theater we remembered from our campus.
The new gym has seating on all sides which is a change from the one-sided seating we remembered from our campus. The gym featured large wooden beams and natural light, a testimony to the importance of the lumber industry in the El Dorado area.
A short program at the South Arkansas Arboretum was held to remember classmates who have died over the years. Of our class of 400-plus, about 60 had died. Beth Waldrop, classmate and now methodist minister, facilitated a short service assisted by classmates who sang, read poetry, and place small stones with classmates’ names at the fountain. It was a moving time of remembrance and thankfulness.
When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou’s
Reading by Sheila Primm
When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, Lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken. Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, lowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be, and be better. For they existed.
A highlight for me personally was hearing Rusty Meadows sing a little chorus he wrote related to the work he does in family counseling. He was hesitant about singing, but we were glad he did. Sometimes the strength of a song isn’t so much in the music as it is in the life behind the music.
As the placing of stones concluded, Don Parks filled the air with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. We left thankful for renewed friendships, and thankful for our journeys thus far. Our paths often look crooked and confusing as we travel, but when we pause to glance back, the way seems to make sense. It sometimes seems to be exactly the path we should have taken.
I wish all the best to the class of ’74 and look forward to seeing you in five years.
Link to the script for the memorial program: EHS 40th Reunion Memorial Service-script
Disclaimer: The following is base on my own best recollection.
We’ve been down some interesting, and often wayward, school improvement paths in Arkansas. I recently came across a school improvement document written for my present school back in the early 1990s. It was called Comprehensive Outcomes Evaluation (COE). We had a similar plan where I was teaching in south Arkansas about that same time. It was nice and thick with a pretty cover. I should have held onto it for future reference and a few laughs. But, the thing is, it wasn’t funny because educators had invested time in this plan.
Research to support why you were doing what you were doing was not necessary, and results were not tracked. It was just a litany of things to do that MIGHT improve student learning in your school. Areas to improve included almost everything. There were goals written for literacy, math, and science, social studies, and school discipline. I’m not sure how the arts and physical education escaped being topics for improvement.
A few years later I became principal at Yocum Elementary School in El Dorado. Leading this school was a wonderful experience. After being there a few months, I unearthed their COE. I almost cried. It had lists of task in each content area involving all staff. I read it and then placed it on my shelf. I learned that my predecessor and one teacher had stayed in the office for a couple of weeks, writing that COE with no input from staff. I never referred to the document again, but harbored the hope that we would involve teachers in the development of our COE.
The name changed sometime in the late 1990s. The word “Outcomes” from COE became a politically loaded term. The new name was Arkansas Consolidated School Improvement Plan (ACSIP). Later, the term “Consolidated” acquired negative connotations due to controversial consolidation of smaller school districts, so the name was changed again to Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (still ACSIP). Over time the ACSIP lived up to the term COMPREHENSIVE.
In the early 2000s, while attending the Arkansas Leadership Academy, I advocated in favor of the ACSIP. I argued that, if developed collaboratively, the ACSIP could function as a real improvement plan, influencing the work of the school. The leaders of this training believed that the ACSIP was becoming a compliance document and that there was a need for writing another REAL improvement plan with your staff. They were right. It didn’t take long for every piece of legislation to end with the phrase, “and this shall be documented in the schools’ ACSIP.”
What we ended up with was the humorous, yet tragic, spectacle of a Health and Wellness committee as part of the school improvement plan. The State Department of Education prescribed goals to improve student health and lower the body mass index of students (BMI). Thanks to state legislation, we had school improvement actions stating how many times per year we could offer students snacks in school. I support physical fitness (see my other blog) but do not think this has a place in the school improvement plan, unless a staff makes it their priority.
We’ve puttered along for several years now, watching our ACSIP swell in size and shrink in impact. Finally, we had a State Department of Education Commissioner and a couple of legislators who listened and realized that the ACSIP needed to change. We were so excited about this development that we gladly signed up to be a pilot school in the new program being used to enter school improvement goals and actions. I’ve continued to hold the belief, though sometimes fleeting, that it is possible to have a school improvement plan that truly influences the direction of the school and improves student learning.
This short history brings us to the present and our attendance of a day of training at the Convention Center in Fort Smith in September. We entered the room with our laptops in hand, looking forward to learning how to use the new web based program to document real school improvement planning in our school. At 1:15 p.m. we still had not opened the program together or gotten our hands into the real work. We were frustrated! What we endured that day was a remediation course in school improvement. I expressed my frustration in a letter. I was troubled that this opportunity to build on our enthusiasm was squandered.
Our district’s technology trainer worked with us later, accomplishing in 1.5 hours what was not accomplish in a whole day with the state training. We maintained our enthusiasm and are now on the path of possibly making the ACSIP a meaningful school improvement process for our school.
ACSIP still stands for Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. I think the name should be changed to something like ARSIP for Arkansas Responsive School Improvement Plan. We should then rise up and say “NO!” when the inevitable additions begin to flow down from Little Rock. We must say, “We will NOT put that in our school improvement plan. It is a living document that we are revising based on best practices and the needs of our students, not what some external entity dictates.”
My hope is that we don’t end up adopting the name, “Arkansas Prescribed School Improvement Plan.” Our best defense against this is to become deeply engaged in making our school improvement plans real, while guarding against the incursion of distant forces who think they can best prescribe to the needs of our school.
I choose to be hopeful. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.
Reese Kennedy was my mother’s older brother. He was an artist. He was a complex, soft-spoken man, but there was a richness and generosity in that complexity. He was kind and gentle, and loved his family very much.
I’ve written the story of convincing Uncle Reese to draw a Texas Longhorn for me when I was five. What I didn’t tell was how that ink and chalk drawing later disappeared.
I assumed that it was lost or accidentally tossed when my parents moved several years after I graduated from college. I would think of it often, but eventually gave up on ever seeing it again. I was sad that this icon from childhood was lost and possibly destroyed.
While attending Reese’s funeral, I thought again about that drawing while hearing stories of those he influenced over the course of his life. Stories were shared of his work as an artist, teacher, father and friend. He had led a distinguished life personally and professionally. He was a founding member and first president of the Southwest Watercolor Society and taught art at Stephen F. Austin University prior to his retirement.
Several years later I was helping my parents clean Aunt Lucille’s home following her death in Nacogdoches, Texas. She and Reese were both highly respected watercolor artists.
While I was sorting through books, Reese’s son-in-law, Larry walked in and said, “Is this something that belongs to you?” He was holding the Texas Longhorn drawing. My parents theorized that they had given it to Reese years before, with the idea of having him make a frame for it in the frame shop of his Nacogdoches art gallery. It ended up in one of his collection folders and time passed by as it sat safely in his home.
I had the drawing framed, and it is now on display in a prominent place where I see it daily, thankful for this gift from the past. Knowing Reese, he would humbly say, “If I’d realized how special this drawing was going to be to you, I would have spent more time on it.” I would reply that in dealing with me at age five, he probably needed to make that longhorn appear quickly to hold my attention. It was beautiful to me then and still is today.
I posted the initial story of this drawing in January of 2014.
In July, I received the following email from the feedback page of my blog.
I think I have one of your uncle’s watercolors. The signature matches the one on your longhorn painting. The piece I have is a watercolor of a log cabin. Would you like me to email you a photo of it for you to see?
I would enjoy seeing a photo of the painting and forwarding it to Reese’s daughter. Reese was a founding member and first president of the Southwest Watercolor Society. He was a wonderful person.
Scott Dressel-Martin lives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. After visiting his web site, I realized he was a gifted professional photographer. He once worked with one of my favorite nature photographers, Galen Rowell. I was delighted that my blog entry had led me to an artist who appreciated Reese’s art.
Then in August, the story continued.
At long last, here is a photo of the painting I think is by your uncle. Thank you for your patience. It’s about 20×24 framed, and it’s beautiful. I keep thinking it doesn’t match anything in my house, but it’s such a lovely painting I was never able to let it go.
Does this look like his work and signature to you?
I was given the painting by a friend in Vail about 20 years ago as he was moving out of town. I’ve enjoyed it ever since.
That’s my Uncle Reese for sure! That is a beautiful painting. He once drove up scenic Hwy 7 through Arkansas, stopping to paint and photograph old barns and structures. Could have been that this old barn was from one of those trips. Or, it might have been a scene from East Texas. Thanks for sharing the photo.
The next message from Scott was a complete surprise.
Now that we’ve determined that this is your Uncle’s work I’d like to make you an offer. If you’d be willing to pay for the shipping I’d be happy to give you the painting. I love the piece but it truly doesn’t fit in our home decor. It would make my wife and I very happy to know the work is being appreciated and cherished by someone that has a connection to it. It would feel like the piece is going home in a way.
Wow! Must say you’ve brought a tear to my eye with your kind offer. I would be delighted to have this painting and would treasure it for years to come.
Just let me know the cost after you ship and I’ll gladly reimburse you to your Garland St. address. I will also make a donation to the David Kennedy Music Scholarship fund in appreciation for your gift to me. David, a gifted classical guitarist, was Reese’s son pursuing a doctorate in music performance from North Texas State University in the 1980s when he died in his early 30s. Reese’s daughter, Carol, has applied any sales of his paintings to the scholarship fund over the years.
Excellent!! I will have the painting shipped in the next week and let you know when it’s on the way.
It is wonderful to know that we are playing a small part in helping the scholarship fund. Music and theater are important to us and helping students in need is always a worthy endeavor.
I can’t wait for you to have this painting!
And so, this is how another painting by Reese Kennedy came into my possession. It is perfect for my office and even ties in with our school colors of green and gold. I look at this painting and think of Reese’s brushes shaping every inch as he sat behind his easel along Highway 7 or somewhere in an East Texas field.
Reese was an artist. He couldn’t help but paint, but I wonder if he had any inkling of the paths some of his art would travel? That one of his drawings would be “lost” then found and cherished years later. I think he would be pleased to know that his work would be treasured and shared for years into the future.
Recently I attended a school principals’ conference in Hot Springs. Heading home up Central Avenue, I saw Bailey’s Old Fashioned Hamburger and couldn’t resist a quick stop. I enjoyed visiting with the owner who had grown up in the area. He said Bailey’s was built in 1938, but my first memories went back to the 1980s when I attended an Arkansas Bandmasters’ Association conference just a few blocks away.
Following a day of workshops, Dr. Don Kramer, John Webb, and I walked up Central Ave. to Bailey’s. Dr. Kramer taught trumpet at Henderson State University. John was my supervising teacher during my internship. A highlight of Dr. Kramer’s career must have been teaching me in brass methods class. One day he looked kindly at me and sighed, “Thank goodness you play percussion.”
As we approached the front of Bailey’s, we gave a friendly greeting to the elderly lady behind the screen window. There was no response.
Dr. Kramer ordered something like a burger, fries, and a soft drink. The response to his order was a scowl and statement laced with profanity, asking why in the world anyone would order in such a way. Dr. Kramer laughed until he had tears. We were confused but laughed along. The lady flatly told Dr. Kramer what he should have ordered, and he agreed, still teary eyed.
John ordered next. His order drew the same response. He had not ordered as she thought he should have. By now we were all howling with laughter. John ordered as she dictated.
Having watched the two previous attempts, I had it figured out. I wanted something that was just slightly different than the special the lady was recommending. I received the same critical comments and gladly agreed to order as she indicated I should. Dr. Kramer and John enjoyed laughing at my ineffective attempt.
We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed our burger and fries. I don’t think we made any more attempts to converse with the elderly lady crouching behind the little screen window. The combination of her verbal attacks and Dr. Kramer’s response made for an entertaining dinner at Bailey’s and some special memories with good friends.
Here is a link to Dr. Kramer playing Carnival of Venice. Six musical minutes you’ll want to hear! Don Kramer was a musical giant and John Webb was one of his best students. I was Dr. Kramer’s worst trumpet student, but he was kind and encouraged my drumming. I was honored to know him.
I’ve never been “father of the bride” before, but it was a joyful experience. Taylor is exactly the type of young man every father hopes his daughter will bring home. We’ve watched Taylor’s and Anna’s love for each other grow over the last two years. As a matter of fact, the wedding was exactly two years after their first date.
We’re proud to welcome Taylor into our family and appreciate the acceptance Anna feels from Taylor’s family. We’re also thankful for the support of their wonderful circle of friends.
The location was excellent. We did find it a little funny that most doors wouldn’t close due to settling of the old home.
Pastor Matt Carpenter had a relaxed and worshipful approach to the rehearsal which worked well. The band had a humorous approach which also worked well but made us wonder what songs they would actually be playing. During the ceremony, they were pros all the way. The music was beautiful and in good taste.
The 79-year old owner of the home commented that the meal was better than most she had seen catered. A friend of the couple grilled chicken. Everything was delicious! We noticed the homeowner talking the chef out of his chicken recipe.
Pastor Matt mentioned that Rachel and Anna were inseparable when they arrived at UCA. They both became involved in missions and grew tremendously. What Matt didn’t know was that Rachel and Anna were actually inseparable since sixth grade when Anna arrived in Alma.
I left all cameras and my cell phone in the car for the duration of the wedding ceremony. Afterwards, I rushed to the car, grabbed my camera, and caught some pictures as the groups posed for photographer Elizabeth Sneed. She was a friend of the couple and did a great job. I stayed out of her way and caught pics where I could. I mentioned to her that this seemed to have much in common with wildlife photography.
It was great to see a group of young men so supportive of each other. Several of them had been friends with Taylor since childhood.
Pops (standing), Taylor’s grandfather, was telling Anna’s grandparents about his six-dollar wedding which has lasted 50+years. Anna’s grandfather shared a nickel phone call with his college roommate so they could ask two girls out at once. He and Anna’s grandmother often comment that they got all of this for a nickel. They’ve been married 63 years.
A big thank you to Aunt Martha and Larry for helping Anna’s grandparents get to the wedding. Meant a lot to us all to have them there.
Some of those in attendance didn’t think these bridesmaids should have access to sharp utensils. Everyone seemed to have a task and know what their responsibilities were. This wedding was very much centered on the organization and work of the many young people who participated. Great team and fun to watch!
Venusa, Anna’s friend in Alma and at UCA, can be seen reaching for the bouquet on the front row. It was a treat to see some of Anna’s long-time friends. We were thankful that she found a positive peer group when she arrived at Alma in the 6th grade. Lots of lasting friendships!
Anna and Taylor Lucas