Our Boys

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas is just around the corner!

The meaning of Christmas is not lost on me. I truly love the spirit of Christmas! I love the feeling of putting up the tree and being with family. I love church in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I also love the gift giving. I love that this is a time of year that we can show those of us around us in a little extra way what they mean to us. I also love the process of compiling my own Christmas list complete with shopping info and color pictures. Here's a few highlights this year...

A pair of Toms - for every pair sold, a pair of shoes is donated to a child in need. How can you resist that?!?! They come in a variety of colors and designs....here are a few of my favorites!

Uggs - I have the tall chestnuts that are the greatest things to ever grace my feet. This year I would like an upgrade...something just as warm but a little cuter...the gray cardy! I have a feeling that box won't be under the tree as they are quite difficult to attain, but a girl's feet can dream! A Pave Diamond band...I was thinking one, but this twist design is quite lovely!
A microplane grater...one kitchen gadget I don't have!
The movie Prime - I watched this during my week long couch vacation with the flu and fell in love with it!

Happy Birthday Brett!

A little over a week ago (December 8) Brett celebrated his 34th birthday. As is customary on his birthday, things didn't go as planned. I surprised him at the office and he truly was super surprised and then we had drinks with the Berger's. Due to the weather though, plans changed and we came back to the 'burbs for dinner rather than go to Morton's downtown. We did go to Morton's, just not the original one in Chicago, but the new one in Naperville.The walk to the train left us soaking wet, but we were all smiles. Brett loved his gifts, dinner was fantastic and all in all a great birthday!
On a side note, a HUGE thank you to the Morton's in Naperville, that took our last minute reservation and made Brett's birthday so special. We were greeted with a menu that was printed with "Happy Birthday Brett" at the top, had our picture taken and presented to us in a card and a free dessert to round off an incredible meal. Quite possibly the best dining experience we have ever had!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Today's generation of kids...not so bad!

So it's been a while and I don't know who is still reading, but I hope there are a few of you out there.

There are some things going on in my hometown and at my high school that are causing quite a stir. Trinity High School has a new school board, one that has allegedly not followed procedure and made some rather rash decisions, one being firing the football coach/ athletic director and another being firing the head of the food service department. Whether you support or reject what the school board has done, I would like to to bring to your attention the thoughtfulness and passion through which both of my brothers are responding. They have become spokesman for their peers. They have written letters to administration, faculty members, and newspaper reporters. They have posted things on facebook and tried to get the word out about what is being done to show their support and loyalty to Trinity. Teenagers get a bad rap, I should know because I work in a high school. Right now, I would like to commend both of my brothers, Ben and Scott, for their hard work over the past few days. Showing this kind of leadership secures my feelings that they both are in for great things.

If you are interested in what is happening at Trinity, here is the email the Ben wrote to several members of the board, newspaper, faculty, etc. It sums things up pretty well. If you are interested in getting involved, join the facebook page in support of Coach Dalton as well as the "For Every New Trinity School Board Member, Something Good Dies" page.

I would just like to send this email to the school board, as well as teachers, other administration, and the media, in addition to the hard copy I will be mailing to the members of the board, to prevent any misunderstandings in the details of the writing.
I would just like to say Mr. Tuscano's article in today's Observer Reporter (12/15/09) is open and honest about the school board, and honestly represents the feelings of Trinity's constituents, in my opinion, better than our own school board does.
Do not underestimate "those annoying little high school kids," as we have been referred to.
My name is Benjamin Brownlee, and I am a senior at Trinity High School. I know that public notifications regarding the recent changes at Trinity will be 'polite' at worst, and I feel it is necessary for someone to state, bluntly, the destruction and flat out misguided actions taking place at Trinity.
As a student, I have chosen to take every one of my classes at the honors and Advanced Placement level. I have taken multiple AP exams and standardized tests. I can say without reservation that I disagree wholeheartedly that the statement made by Mr. Bodnovich voicing his opinion pertaining to Trinity's 'declining standing.' Trinity has long been an institution characterized by its quality in education, in athletics and in the arts. Trinity students have annually obtained scores that trump national averages in AP courses and standardized tests. If the board is looking to do some good, the board would find it useful to contact officials with influence in the quality of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment. This test, taken by high school juniors in high school as well as younger students, has deteriorated into nothing more than an annoyance. AP students are asked to miss valuable class time, time needed to prepare for Advanced Placement exams in the spring. Students who don't do as well on the PSSA, mostly because it contains some material not covered yet in their classes, are mandated to take a remediation class, taking away from their normal class time which would be spent covering said material. In the classroom, I have had the privilege of receiving my education from, in plain words, the most educated and highly motivated adults I have ever come into contact with. They have been fully supportive of both myself and of my fellow peers during school hours and beyond. Multiple teachers offer after school tutoring sessions, AP exam practice sessions, SAT prep classes, and actively participate in student organizations such as the National Honor Society and every student-run club and activity. In short, the current state of Trinity's standing in terms of education is nothing short of elite.
As an athlete, I have had the privilege to receive instruction from my teachers and faculty members outside of the classroom. One of my coaches, who I consider to be my mentor and the most influential person in my life, was recently terminated for reasons unknown to the public. Mr. Edward Dalton has done more for Trinity than any school board member or other official has even attempted to. Coach Dalton, who was and will always be like a father to both myself and hundreds of other young men, was not only successful as a football coach and as an outstanding Athletic Director, but also as a motivated individual devoted to everyone in his life. Mr. Dalton not only aided in the rise in quality of Trinity's football program as football coach, but was also able to continue the careers of dozens of athletes. From Division I, national-title contending teams, to smaller local Division III teams, Coach has placed many high school students on competitive collegiate sports teams during his tenure at Trinity. Thanks to Dalton's instruction, I have developed my skills as a football player and was an All-Conference selection in football this year, as were eight of my teammates (An unusually high number for members of the board who know nothing about football, as I discovered during my telephone conversation with Mrs. Sandra Clutter. She gave me permission to quote our conversation.. Two that I wrote down are very interesting. 1) "Trinity football has never had a winning season." 2) "Coach Dalton will not get the coaching job back, you can quote me on that. Because I don't want him there.") Coach has done wonders for Trinity's athletic facilities as our Athletic Director, from the new turf installed at Hiller Stadium to a highly advanced weight and cardio center in the high school. He was key in our fight to get men's volleyball to be an official sport at Trinity, and thanks to him I am proud to say I received the distinction of being named Honorable-mention All-section (being named all-section in a sport in its first year is unheard of; i credit every bit of it to Edward Dalton). He was an extremely fair and balanced athletic director, and his accomplishments will not be matched by any replacement. His termination was not only unnecessary and unreasonable, it is a downright shame that the school board would attempt to find any reason at all to fire this individual, a man who has given everything he had for those around him. It is not unknown that members of the school board are not fond of Dalton; many dislike the man. However, this does not matter. Many of the board members did not attend Trinity, and do not currently have children in the district. They are representing their own wishes, not the wishes of the students, parents and faculty. I would do anything for Dalton, because he has done more for me than any other administrator ever has, or ever will. Firing a football coach and allowing arguably the best Athletic Director in western-Pennsylvania to be let go because of a simple feeling of dislike toward the man is not reasonable; it is a classless action showing the true character of the newly elected school board members. In addition to a lack of reason, the action was wrong in that it was done in a cowardly fashion. The Athletic Director of eleven years was informed of his termination by a phone call: the board did not possess the courage to meet a respectable and honorable man face to face. I also witnessed the confrontation between Interval and Mr. Edward Dalton on the morning of Friday, December 11. I felt embarrassed that a school board member would raise such a commotion in the halls of Trinity. No, Colleen. Mr. Edward Dalton is not "nuts," as you referred to him multiple times. You are nuts for causing such a ruckus during school hours in such a fine institution. I remember every speech Dalton has ever made to me; these words, however, are the most powerful: "My girls, Trinity Athletics, and Trinity Football are everything to me and God always has a plan."
As for the termination of other fall sports coaches, I can find no reason for the recent firings. The girls' volleyball coach, for example, led the team to a second-place finish in the section and a playoff appearance in her first year as coach. It would appear obvious that there is in fact a hidden agenda behind the school board's actions; however, I will not continue as this would give the board an excuse to punish a student, and my fight is not finished. Should these firings be merely a coverup of Dalton's firing, as I as well as hundreds of others have predicted even before the release of Mr. Tuscano's article, the events that have taken place are even more tasteless and lack even more class than previously assumed. In a quote from Mrs. Sandra Clutter pertaining to the firings, "We just needed a change." Why would we change such a success story?
It seems that Mr. Chambers and Mr. Knapp are the only faces in this cloud of 'apparent' corruption who is not attempting to dismantle a stunningly successful institution. I am not aware of the "Sunshine Law"; however, our legal council does, Mr. Chambers does, and the fact that a school board member is publicly stating that the process has been corrupted warrants a need for the issue to be investigated further.
As a member of a tax paying family, I find it curious that the board finds it necessary to enact spending freezes, asking Assistant Superintendent Weaver to also assume the position of principal at Trinity South with no additional income, while paying Manley and Dick, a consultant and a new superintendent respectively (to my understanding), for their work two to three days per week. In comparison, Weaver will be losing an amount of money roughly 80% that of her current salary. Mr. Marks is paid only $50/day more than Manley and Dick are paid, and Mr. Marks is extremely interested in the job of permanent Superintendent as many school officials have informed me. Why will the board not consider him for the job? Even if he wouldn't be willing to lose a mere $50, which I think he would considering he has a son at the school and a tie to Trinity unlike many of you, paying only one superintendent would save money. This is simple math.
As a healthy individual, I have supported the school's changes in terms of food service. I disliked the closing of vending machines during the day and removal of snacks, but supported the fact that it was ultimately in the name of nutrition. I was excited for the addition of new foods, healthy foods, in the cafeteria. Trinity has also installed a juice bar in place of the old soft drink stand in the cafe. I see no reason for the termination of the food services director; this issue, like all new legislation brought about by the new school board, is shrouded in mystery. In the cafe, we now have a variety of sandwiches, sides, main line lunches, pizzas, breakfast foods and drinks. The cafeteria and its lunches have never been of higher quality. When I inquired about the reasoning behind Mr. Sabol's termination, Mrs. Sandra Clutter asked me, "Don't you think the cafeteria is just terrible?" First, the cafeteria itself is in fine condition. The tables and chairs are all relatively new; however, I doubt this falls under Mr. Sabol's jurisdiction. If she is referring to the food, it is delicious, which I doubt she can argue with because I doubt school board members dine in the cafeteria on a daily basis. For the record, I received word today that Mr. Sabol had fired Mrs. Clutter's sister in the past. This is merely an observation; I do not claim that it is 100% true or that it infers a motive behind Mr. Sabol's firing.
In conclusion, I see no reason why this frivolous behavior should continue; this action is utterly and completely adverse to the education process and athletic programs. Actions made should be reversed immediately. In the school board's actions, I wonder if any thought was given to the students and parents of the district, the people the board is truly supposed to represent. Since few of the board's members are Trinity graduates, I find it hard to believe that the board could possibly have acted with the school's well-being in mind. They acted on their own behalf and in doing so have forgotten any morals they should have carried into their new positions. Change for the purpose of change is fruitless. It has no place in this world; what we need is purposeful change, backed by those who will keep the wishes of those who matter in mind: the heart and soul of Trinity, the students and faculty.
If there is a personal agenda behind all this, which is seemingly obvious (whether it be in regards to bus contracts, coaching positions, past terminations, or other unknown events), I would advise any member of this process to abandon the idea. Terminating coaches and faculty for the purpose of having a family member hired needs no definition; it is uncivilized and immature, as well as the definition of corruption.
Please excuse my bluntness; if I am fully convinced that what I have said is untrue, I will write a formal apology to each and every one of you.
I speak on my own behalf; I have been influenced by no other student, teacher or administrator, family member or friend.
I have sent this email to a random assortment of teachers and faculty at the high school to let the board know that I am not a coward in my opinions, and will state them in front of anyone questioning either side of this issue. They had no collaboration in this message, nor any influence on its creation.
See you at the board meeting.
Benjamin Brownlee
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