Posts Tagged ‘education’

Two Thumbs Up to OBSD!

Friday, November 20th, 2020

As of Monday, the Ocean Beach School District will return to remote-only learning due to the current (and worst yet) Pacific County surge in the coronavirus pandemic.  As a retired teacher and long-time community member, I say “Bravo!”

According to the Chinook Observer, the county’s case rate works out to 438 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week rolling average which puts us in a high risk group.  There were 55 new cases in the county during last week’s reporting period making 246 cases since the pandemic began.  “A staggering number” according to day-before-yesterday’s online article.

I know I will not be popular when I say, “Why am I not surprised?”  Yesterday, Nyel and I drove to Astoria and back for an 11:00 a.m. doctor’s appointment.  Going over and coming back, we both remarked at how much traffic there was.  “You’d never know there was any kind of sheltering going on,” we each said more than once.  It seemed to be business as usual in downtown Long Beach and Astoria.

I have a great deal of trouble understanding how  “we” continue to try to balance “normal” activities with precautionary measures for the coronavirus.  Which part of LIFE CAN NO LONGER BE NORMAL  is it that people cannot understand?  How can we be so concerned about the emotional distress of our children and the economic distress of our families that we are willing to put our loved ones at risk?  Or even provide their death sentence?  I don’t get it.

We are not alone, of course.  Leaders throughout the world are struggling with the same situation and their responses are equally mixed.  We all seem to be in a pattern of tightening up for a while but relaxing before the economic situation becomes dire and, of course, before we have the virus under control.  God forbid we should close our borders to non-residents or close every single business that is non-essential.  We seem able to endure “some” restrictions for about a month at a time.  Alas, not long enough to made a continuing difference.

The OBSD plan is to reopen January 11th.  Good for them for taking this step!  I hope it’s just a first step.  And, how I wish that the rest of the County could follow — both in the private and public sectors.




What lessons should we adults be learning?

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Julia Jefferson Espy on her wedding day, 1870

My great-grandmother, Julia Jefferson Espy, graduated from the University of Salem (now Willamette University) in 1869.  Immediately, she was hired — because she was the prettiest graduate goes the family story — by Oysterville School Board members Lewis Loomis and Robert Espy to teach at Oysterville’s one-room schoolhouse.  She was 18 years old.

Her classes numbered up to 50 and often included “married ladies and hulking young oystermen” who had never had an opportunity to learn the three R’s. I’ve always wondered if she accepted 44-year-old Major Espy’s proposal of marriage at the end of that first school year out of true love or as a graceful way to retire from the classroom.  After all, married women may have been among the student population, but they were not allowed to teach!

Between 1872 and 1887, Julia and Robert had seven children.  Julia chose to teach all of them at home for their primary years — until they could read and write and do basic math.  Once she was satisfied that they were off to a good start, they were sent to the new two-story school (1875-1905) which was situated on the same grounds as the present-day school building (1907-1957), now the home of the  Oysterville Community Club.

Oysterville Schoolhouse circa 1880

I’ve often wondered why Julia chose to home-school her youngsters.  Surely, in those days with no labor-saving devices and without household help (until the girls were older), she had little time to add teaching duties to her busy days.  However, if her belief in a “good start” was the key to successful advancement, she may well have been correct.  All of her children attended college (except for the youngest, Verona, who had a disorder akin to multiple scelorosis). The two other girls became teachers before they married.  Of the four boys, one was an attorney, one a mining engineer, one a water engineer, and one a banker.

I wonder what advice Julia would have for parents today — parent facing the prospect of children being “home-schooled” under very different circumstances than she had faced.  In her world, both parents worked but, for women, that work was usually done at home.  Most adults — women and men — took on teaching their children in one way or another as a matter of course.  Whether it was teaching farm chores or store-keeping or smithing or doctoring, the younger generation often got the basics from the adults of the community — sometimes before their formal education, sometimes after.

R.H. Espy Family, 1895

Education was definitely a community event.  Will we be embracing some of those methods again?  Can we?  Or are we too specialized now?  Too automated, computerized, technologic for parents to oversee the education of their own youngsters?  Especially all of a sudden, without preparation…

And yet… there are many families in our communities who have managed to home school successfully. What “secrets” do they have to share with the rest of the parent/school community?  What advice would our grands and our greats and our great-greats have for us?  Perhaps it’s time we try to find out.

Betwixt and Between

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

So, now that the library is open, we are back to the waiting game.  Only worse.  The books that were on hold for us in March are again making their way through the list of waiting patrons, but the books we were reading to tide us over are long since finished and returned.  So, I’m still reading from our bookshelves here in Oysterville.

Right now, it’s Life In A Medieval Castle by Joseph & Frances Gies (1974) complete with many photographs and diagrams showing towers and guardhouses, baileys and barbicans and all that good stuff.  Probably my dad’s.  I’m interested in the construction methods and designs only because I’ve visited many of the castles and/or ruins that are described.

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke
By Kjetilbjørnsrud, CC

What interests me more are the stories of those who lived in those castles.  Take John Marshal who, in the chronicles of 12th century England won mention as “a limb of hell and the root of all evil.”  Among his other ‘accomplishments:’ during a battle he hid out in the bell tower of a burning church and, despite the lead of the tower roof melting and a drop splashing on his face and putting out an eye, he refused to surrender.

Later, having made good his escape, he was prevailed upon to hand over his young son William to the king as a hostage against a possible act of treachery during a truce.  John went ahead, committed the treachery and when King Stephen threatened to hang young William unless John surrendered his castle, John cooly replied that he did not care if his son were hanged, since he had “the anvils and hammer with which to forge still better sons.”  Yikes!

Magna Carta, 1215

Luckily (probably for us all), young William’s “cheerful innocence” as he was led to the hanging grounds won the King’s heart and the child was spared.  He grew up with his father’s “soldierly prowess but without his rascally character” to become one of the most distinguished of all the lords of Chepstow Castle and the most renowned knight of his time.  According to the authors, “He served King Richard and then King John for many years and played a leading — perhaps the leading — role in negotiating the Magna Carta.”  And I’m only on page 36!

It’s always nice to know how really difficult periods of time turned out.  We can only hope that we are still around to see how our own siege is resolved.  Who will be the William Marshal of our time?


“It’s required.” Except when it’s not?

Friday, May 1st, 2020

I was five years old when the United States entered World War Two.  I spent my early school years collecting tin foil, buying savings bonds, standing in lines with my mom with our ration books.  I remember us all being full of patriotic fervor and singing songs like “The White Cliffs of Dover”  and “Over There.”  It was our government right or wrong, no question.

By 1970, I was married, had a teenaged son, and had been teaching for a decade.  We watched the news and “special coverage” programs on television and felt “up close and personal” with regard to the war in Vietnam.  We participated in the Peace Marches in San Francisco and sang “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” and “If I had a Hammer.”  We wore peace buttons, urged “Save the Whales” and “Make Love Not War.”  We questioned everything, especially the government.

So here we are in 2020.  In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, we look for leadership and wisdom.  Directions from the government are conflicted; from the scientists and health officials, more cautious and, seemingly, more sensible.  If we have to trust one or the other, I’m putting my faith in the science and health departments.

But then last week, the government and the health officials met, face to mask you might say.  Our second-in-command (government-wise) refused to wear a mask when he visited one of our nation’s most esteemed medical facilities.  Of course there is a huge flap.  After all, the Mayo Clinic REQUIRES that no one enter without a mask.  So, why, one might ask, was Mr. Pence allowed inside?  Does “require” have a new meaning now (health-wise)?  Or are our health officials not to be trusted either?  It is disconcerting to say the least.

Stimulus money for dictionaries all around, I say.  REQUIRED READING. Paid tutors to be provided as needed.

Chaos vs. Stability

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

“Remember when we had ten superintendents in eight years?” my friend John asked me the other day.  No, actually, I didn’t.  The RDP (Revolving Door Policy) had developed as an unusual phenomenon when John was teaching here in the Ocean Beach School District (1977 to 1984) but, by now, it is BAU (Business As Usual.)  In fact, I’ve long ago lost count of who and how many have served in that capacity!

In 2005, when I was writing Ocean Park School: The First Seven Decades, I asked my colleague Jan Bono if she’d write a commentary on the District’s superintendents.  She wrote a poem which is one of my all-time favorite accounts of the situation in OBSD’s head office to that time:


(A virtual parade of Superintendents from consolidation through remodeling)
By Jan Bono OBSD Teacher Since 1977

Carl Aase began the transition,
Louis Reis was next in line,
Reis was followed by Thompson,
For awhile things were fine.

John Thompson served for seven years,
In 1980 retired,
Who knew for a quarter century
He’d be the longest hired?

Lew Moorman devoted a pretty good year,
Moved on for better pay,
But after that the “name on the door”
Was changing by the day.

Al Fedje was here for eight short months,
And spent the budget reserve.
Pat Stara made it a year and a half
Before she lost her nerve.

A double levy failure
Sent George Kontos out the door,
Guy Glenn filled in as interim,
His months just over four.

Another interim followed Glenn,
Four months we saw Tom Poe.
July ’87 brought Al number two,
We hoped he would not go.

But scarcely a year went flying by,
And Vandenberg was out.
Dick Grabenhorst agreed to help
When given a short-term shout.

Gil Johnson gave us seven “school years”
Which rivaled Thompson’s feat,
Just four months short of “history”
Vacating the top seat.

The second Dick, the second Johnson,
Was an uncontested choice,
Then his main man, Dennis Bolz
Had a year to sound his voice.

A former teacher, now board chair,
Ray Provo had time to burn,
Then hired a former colleague,
Nancey Olson took her turn.

July ’02 Tom Lockyer came,
We finally passed a bond!
But while yet “under construction,”
Our Lockyer moved along.

We almost had another one,
In June of 2005,
But he changed his mind and faxed regrets
Before he could arrive.

The Superintendents, they come and go,
The only thing changed is the name.
Though Ocean Park School has changed its look,
Her heart remains the same!

I was greatly pleased to read in yesterday’s paper that Amy Huntley – a long-time and Ocean Beach employee with wide experience from classroom teacher to administrative positions – is being considered for the superintendent’s position which is now open yet again!  Stability comes from the inside out it seems to me.  Maybe by hiring from within, OBSD can finally get it right!


Bully for Burger King!

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

From “Bullying Jr.” – Burger King PSA

Nyel and I don’t do fast food.  People don’t usually believe that – not completely.  Especially when I say that we’ve never been to a Pizza Hut or a Taco Bell or a Jack-in-the-Box or a Carl, Jr or… any of the others.  Not in the thirty-five years that we’ve known one another.  Oh… except to a Starbuck’s once or twice.

It’s not just the quality of the food we object to.  We even understand there are some fast food chains that sell fairly healthy foods. Our avoidance has more to do with economic diversity (as in McDonald’s putting small potato farmers out of business) and the obvious problems of low wages to employees and the contribution of the fast food biz to obesity and to a life-style we don’t really want to embrace.

Having said all that, though, I want to give a shout out to Burger King for their current anti-bullying public service announcements – especially their latest one, “Bullying Jr.” which can be seen on YouTube or by cutting and pasting this url:  It is brilliant!

From “Bullying Jr.” – Burger King PSA

I can’t speak to its effectiveness as far as actual bully-ers go, but it gets an A+ from this old teacher for raising awareness in the general public and for reinforcing the need for kids to stand up for one another.  I’m not sure if that PSA (or even their whole series about bullying) is enough to make me change my anti-fast food stance.  But, should circumstances dictate that I had to choose one among the many possible fast food chains, I’d certainly put Burger King at the top of my list.

No Tee-Hee About It!

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

The Doctor’s Diagram

They call the Transesophageal Echocardiography a TEE for short – not tee as in tee-hee but TEE as in the initials said one at a time.  Not much tee-hee about it!

According to the American Heart Association:  Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is a test that produces pictures of your heart. TEE uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to make detailed pictures of your heart and the arteries that lead to and from it. Unlike a standard echocardiogram, the echo transducer that produces the sound waves for TEE is  to a thin tube that passes through your mouth, down your throat and into your esophagus. Because the esophagus is so close to the upper chambers of the heart, very clear images of those heart structures and valves can be obtained.

The Magic School Bus – Inside The Human Body

According to me and my limited understanding:  Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) borders on magic and is reminiscent of The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body.  In Joanna Cole’s story, illustrator Bruce Degen takes Ms. Frizzle’s class on a visual tour of classmate Arnold’s body, where they flow up a blood vessel and into his heart – a healthy heart, of course.  The whole point of the TEE of Nyel’s heart was to show what the trouble is or, more specifically, how his troubles have improved since his TEE of five weeks ago.

Yesterday’s TEE procedure was the third one Nyel has had in the past few years.  From his point of view, the nurses and technicians set up the equipment at his bedside, right in his hospital room; the anesthesiologist prepares an IV, the doctor arrives, and the next thing he knows thirty minutes have elapsed, the doctor has disappeared, and the nurse and technicians are packing up.

Nyel and “Dr. God”

While Nyel was still ‘out,’ the doctor talked to me briefly about what he had learned and what his thoughts were concerning next steps.  Nyel’s blood clot has diminished by 60 to 70 percent.  The mitral valve regurge is also a bit less. Probably no valve repair or replacement at this time.  Perhaps an upgrade to his pacemaker or maybe just an adjustment.  He will get back to us after consultation with the cardiologist who is one of the Cardiac Electrophysiology specialists on the team.  It might be tomorrow in the time-honored fashion of hurry up and wait.  In any case, we’ll probably be here through most of the weekend while they back off one of the dicier meds…  Still not much tee-hee going on here, but things are looking better.

Taking Flight in Oysterville!

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Steve and the Test Pilot

You could have heard a pin drop.  The classroom absolutely thrummed with  concentration.  Twelve young scientists hard at work making… paper airplanes!

It was about 9:30 yesterday morning and I had walked over to the Oysterville School at Diane Buttrell’s invitation.  “Come on over to the Science Academy and see what the kids are up to.”  It was an open invitation and it just happened that yesterday was the day that one of my Oysterville neighbors, Steve Romero, was serving as GE, Guest Expert.

I’m not sure precisely what his topic was – I walked in after the class had begun.  But it seemed like an engineering class to me – or a class in aerodynamics.  Already, after just a half hour into their day, the fourth graders were using terms such as ‘lift’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘nosecones’ and ‘ailerons’.  One youngster served as the test pilot – with Captain status.  They were experimenting with shapes and designs – what did wider wings do?  How about narrower?  Double wings?

Did a plane with a blunt nose do better than one with a pointy nose?  One young scientist attached a paper clip to his plane’s nose.  “Oh!  Good idea!  Let’s see what the extra weight does,” Steve encouraged.   And how about a bigger body?  Or more ailerons?  What if we turn the ailerons up?  Or down?

Diane Buttrell, Founder and CEO – Oysterville Science Academy

In between, the GE suggested kids speculate, analyze, predict, experiment.  He wrote findings on the board – dictated by his fourth-grade engineering crew.  Good results: a happy face.  Poor results: the opposite. How do you spell aileron?  Someone look it up, please.  And all the while, he complimented, expressed amazement, gave suggestions and tested some of the planes himself.  And dignified every single response! When a student chose to not follow directions, Steve pointed out the innovation that had been made and praised that, too.

A teacher extraordinaire!  In the 39 years I taught elementary school, I had many opportunities to observe other teachers – student teachers, colleagues, master teachers, college demonstration teachers.  Great teachers, poor teachers, mediocre teachers.  Steve Romero could hang out his shingle with the best of the best. Why am I not surprised?    This is a man who does well at whatever he sets hand and mind to.

The Oysterville School

Last winter, for instance, he decided to learn how to make pottery – bought the clay, bought the glaze, bought the wheel, set up the garage…  His pots are fabulous!  He’s interested in wines, especially champagnes.  His collection has been sampled by a French champagne vintner.  For nearly two decades he had his own software company in Portland and was recently bought out by e-Bay.  He grows mushrooms in the woods behind his house and, along with his wife, Martie, made fabulous macramé curtains for the windows in their new house.

Is there anything Steve Romero won’t try or doesn’t enjoy?  If there is, he hasn’t let us in on it yet.  He never ceases to amaze.  And those Oysterville Science Academy kids were one lucky group of engineering students yesterday!  I doubt that they have even an inkling.  But I have no doubt that the lesson designing paper airplanes will be long remembered.

Cuddling in the Coop?

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Chicken Coop in the snow

These days, Farmer Nyel heads for the coop about 4:30 in the afternoon, just as it’s getting dark.  By that time, the girls have returned to the coop from their daily endeavors and are settling in for a good night’s sleep. Nyel has only to check the nest boxes for eggs and to close and latch the coop door against the possibility of midnight marauders.

His first duty (the egg gathering) has been complicated a bit lately by those two girls who have decided to sleep in the nest boxes rather than on the roost.  Nyel has a choice.  He can either reach underneath each of the ladies to see if they are atop an egg, or he can wait until morning.  He usually chooses to wait, disliking the annoyed rustling and clucking of disturbed hens.

Sleeping Tail-to-Beak

As reported here some days ago, only one of our four girls has been sleeping on the roost lately.  Besides the two in the nest boxes, one recalcitrant hen has been sleeping above the nest boxes – ‘on the shelf’ as it were.  But last night there was a mystifying change in the sleeping arrangements.

For whatever reason, the girl above the nest boxes has returned to the roost… sort of.  Nyel was flabbergasted to see that she was resting comfortably right on top of her sister on the perch.  Now, we’ve all heard of kids in big families who need to share a bed and who sometimes sleep in toe-to-head fashion.  These two hens were asleep tail-to-beak style, one on top of the other.  Definitely a first, at least in our coop!

Exemplary Roosting – Image from Cyberspace

It’s certainly not because of crowded conditions.  The entire remaining four feet of roost was totally empty.  Both girls were apparently comfortably asleep.  What the heck?  We can only assume that at least one of them didn’t get the memo explaining the protocol of roosting.  Actually, maybe none of them did.  They are arguably the most creative snoozers who have inhabited the coop since it was built eight years ago!

We’ve considered trying to educate the girls, perhaps by showing them pictures of ideal roosting situations.  But… educating chickens is a difficult task.  So…whatever floats your boat, we say.  Or in this case, whatever tethers their feathers…

A Conversation across the Generations

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

My Great Grandfather R.H. Espy

On Monday morning when the phone rang, I was ready.  It was a conference call coming in from ‘somewhere near Issaquah’ which sounded pretty exotic in the first place.  The call had been set up by the tutor who was helping eighth grader, Bella, with a special project and I had agreed to a long distance interview – about my great-grandfather, R.H. Espy.

Bella had lots of questions – What kind of man was he?  Did I know any family stories about him?  Was the family still in the oyster business?  Did I live in his house?  How had Oysterville changed since R.H.’s day?

I shared a few stories – how he had resigned shortly after being elected sheriff because the County expected him to buy his own badge.  And that though the R. H. stood for Robert Hamilton, he didn’t go by ‘Robert’ or ‘Bob’ but by ‘Hamilton.’  And that his mother had apprenticed him to a tailor when he was ten.  That, at 19, he signed a promissory note for $50 so he could leave his indenture a year early and that he paid it back ten years later, walking from Oysterville to Pennsylvania and back here again.


I had some questions of my own, too.  Most importantly, how did Bella happen upon information about R.H. Espy in the first place?  “He’s mentioned in my Washington State History book,” was the answer.  Who knew?  And, how did she discover me?  She ran across my website, put two and two together and decided to make the contact. Wow!

Bella had two more questions for me:  “How does it feel to be a celebrity?”  “Do you consider yourself a pioneer like your great grandfather was?”  I don’t know that my answers (“I’m not.” and “Not at all.”) and my total delight at both questions were satisfactory.  But we ended our conversation with the possibility that Bella and her tutor will visit Oysterville in the spring.  I hope that happens.  When I think about it, Bella could be my great-granddaughter!  And how great is that!