Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Back To 4th Grade

My first two visits to the Seminole County Student Museum were field trips when my two sons were each in the 4th grade. This beautiful brick building sits in the heart of Sanford, FL and was originally built as Sanford High School in 1902. The extravagant price tag then was between $5000 and $7000.

The entire structure is solid brick, and all the plumbing and lighting was added in later years. Two additional wings added in 1916 face as East and West porticos. The building continued to be used after a new high school was built. From 1911-1984 the school was known and used as the Sanford Grammer School. Since then, the site has been used by the Seminole County Public School System for all 4th graders during their state history curriculum.

The entire site is run by volunteers who maintain and tend to the colonial garden, while providing tours to eager 9 and 10 year olds. The 5 rooms used in the tour include the Geography Room, Grandma's Attic, Pioneer Room, Native American, and Turn of the Century Classroom.

It is an overwhelmingly beautiful building. The items and stories that are shared within those brick walls are a step through a time portal. Back to when Florida was familiar, with the gators and the heat. But different with a glimpse into the simple and seemingly safer days of old.

The kids find it surprisingly did I.

6th in the State?!

I have attended school meetings that range from IEP, to PTA, to 'meeting between frustrated teacher and exasperated parents'. This was my first SAC meeting. It was held at my son's high school, and in attendance were parents, teacher, faculty, and the elected county school board supervisor. To my surprise and delight, they had a buffet.

Supervisor Dr. Bill Vogel opened the meeting and explained that this meeting was scheduled for the entire cluster of schools which includes the 'feeder' elementary and middle schools. Dr. Vogel's presentation to over 100 in attendance began with the expected praises of the Seminole County school system.

- Lyman High School within the top 5% of High Schools nationwide for performance.
- Lyman has 10 sports teams in 8 sports score the highest GPA statewide.
- And drum roll please....Lyman has the 6th largest band in the state.

Following Dr. Vogel's presentation, Walt Griffen from the school board gave a presentation that outlined the coming change to state grading of our public schools. Great emphasis was placed on how the changes would, of course, affect the percentages and therefore the perceived effectiveness of the schools.

Throughout the meeting questions were encouraged and taken with great attention. All questions, whether from parents or teachers, were treated with respect and answered completely.

Dr. Vogel closed the meeting with the final presentation. As can be expected in this economic climate, it came down to dollars and sense. He expressed concerns about several stimulus packages that will expire in the coming school year. The school board is hopeful that the penny sales tax will be continued by the supportive voters of Seminole County.

As a voter in Seminole County, I am all in favor of pitching in a penny tax to continue the successful track our schools are on. What I cannot do, is again chaperone bus #4. It takes 8 buses to transport Lyman's band to Friday night games, and bus #4 is the one that transports the drum line. 6th largest band in the state? Outstanding. But that is too many drummers on one bus for this Seminole County mom.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Walk Down The Path of Technology

It has been quite a journey!

Truthfully, I would never have taken this course, had it not been required. I would have likely spent the rest of my life as a non-blogger. I don't envision that my blog will continue, but I am better for the mental stretching that it has required.

My computer now has 6 new free programs that I would never have found, if not for this class. Videos, pictures, and blogs are new creations in my life and on my laptop.

My husband teases me that I am more receptive to change. Maybe, or maybe he is simply enjoying the new video camera that he purchased 'for my birthday'. I had borrowed the neighbor's camera to create and edit my first video posted on youtube. I fell in love with the camera...kept it for over three weeks. I used it to record my son's concert and then uploaded it, and after some editing, posted it online and made it available to our family out-ot-town.

Simple enough, but a big change for me. Maybe my husband is right?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Take Your Place On The Committee

There is one committee that I will join based solely on need. My need, not their need.

Schools and school districts use a technology committee to achieve the following goals:

To integrate technology into all aspects of instruction in the curriculum
To develop staff competency in technology
To enhance student achievement
To promote effective and efficient use of technology by students and staff

Members of such a committee consist of faculty, parents, and even local community residents and business leaders. While anyone with a skill or interest in academic technology integration would be welcome, there are certain key people that must be included. A department leader from each curriculum branch, as well as the computer lab/media center employee.

Perhaps most important would be committee members just like me. The employee or faculty member who needs to work hard at staying current with the integration of technology. What better way to learn how, than by becoming an active participant in the process from start to finish.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Who Doesn't Like Free Things?

I like being free. Debt-free (LOVE that), fat-free (in my dreams), and free to create websites!

The free website, for creating your own web page is And I am know the proud creator of my own website, named of course, with numbers in mind "The Firios Factorial". Yes, I know how much of a geek that makes me. has templates and categories that make designing and building your web page simple enough for even me. I have added videos, pictures and a webquest for those who cannot sleep until they learn more about the Pythagorean Theorem.

My only difficulty in building "The Firios Factorial" has been the usual technological stumbling blocks that I am forever climbing over. Editing and saving new categories takes me longer than it should, and I often save a page, only to find out the the website didn't get the memo. Even with the extra steps it takes me, it has been enjoyable and worthwhile...and FREE!

Monday, March 29, 2010

More Math Please!

Having two math courses this semester would be easier if the test for one, would alternate weeks with the other. I am never that lucky. Hours and hours have passed this weekend, with my pencil and calculator hard at work. The fact that this was my 'birthday weekend' made it less than tolerable. The ends will justify the means if both tests reflect my efforts.

As we drove last night to a version of 'My Big Fat Greek Familiy Birthday Dinner', I was still contemplating the last math problem that I had worked. The mush that was in place of my tired brain struggled to remember the answer. So, I picked up a scrap of paper and worked it out we drove...arcsin-1)pi/12. It was at this point that my husband quietly observed, "that's a bit weird, Diane".

I love mastering the numbers, and I fully understand that many others do not. Case in point, my younger son. He struggles in 8th grade math, in spite of his mother's love for the subject. Personally, all he needs is extra practice. As any concerned mom would do, I introduced him to my favorite math site. It is free and accessable to him even on the school computers.

The site allows the student to choose the math class, the section to be covered, and each segment can be replayed over and over. After several sessions practicing the basics of factoring, my son was able to earn an A on his 3rd quarter math test! That's all it took.

He may not be interested enough to search for scrap paper in the car, but there is hope for his math skills thanks to a great online site.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pastitsio and Public Education

I married into my 'Big Fat Greek Family' almost 21 years ago. Until 4 years ago, I had never bothered to try my hand at any Greek recipes. Then I found the ultimate pasta dish, that was my destiny - pastitsio. It is a Greek version on lasagna, with sweeter spices such as cloves and cinnamon. After several practice attempts, with all the expected fine tuning, I took a deep dish pastitsio to the family dinner. Face with all the Greek in laws, I earned their deepest respect and was crowned the best pastitsio maker in the family. (An honor I do admit to deserving...the last sister-in-law to make it, must have used glue.)

At these monthly family dinners, we share all the events of our individual families. The latest discussion over my perfect pasta was Christine's upcoming Easter vacation to Greece. Most of the family has been there, and we are told that my husband and his siblings actually own property there. Haven't yet seen pictures, or money from said property, but it is supposedly there somewhere. And while my husband had been to Greece several times while growing up, he has yet to take his lovely wife and teenage boys.

The closest I can get is with family pictures, and my assignment to look into a foreign country's education system. Naturally, I spent time learning about the options for students in Greece.

As in all European countries, the Greek educational system is governed by laws and administrative Acts. While preschool can start as early as 2 1/2 with either public or private institutions, it is not mandatory. For children ages 6-15, education is mandatory in Greece. The system consists of three increasing levels: Primary (Dimotiko), Secondary (Gymnasio) and Tertiary education level.

Primary or Dimotiko education if for children 6 to 12 years old, after which they enter the secondary level. This next portion of education is further divided into two sections. The first of which lasts until the age of 15, when a student may decide to leave school. If they choose to continue, they will finish the Gymansio portion of their education and can proceed with the Tertiary level. This is completed by way of a State run university or a technological institute.
Technological Educational Institutions (TEI) form part of higher education just like the universities but belong to the non-university sector. Military Academies enjoy the same status as universities but they fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence. There are no private universities. The diplomas awarded by certain private post-secondary education institutions are not recognized by the State.

As all of my Greek in laws have been educated here in the United States, they are not terribly interested in the details of the tri-level education of their ancestry. However, I will gladly share with them what I have learned about that, but will keep the secret to a perfect pastitsio to myself.