Little bitty, ’bout Jack & Cheyenne

Day 174

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Jack and Cheyenne (but not really)

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 19: Little bitty, ’bout Jack & Cheyenne

Jack and Cheyenne met 6 months into Jack’s first term as an elected official, in the middle of his last ditch effort to reverse the decisions to close IMH.

Jack shared equal access to his two girls. He had been separated for 3 years when he and Cheyenne met. That time together had enabled him and his daughters to create a very strong bond between them. Jack found the kid inside. He found patience, determination, and will. Most of all, he found the dad he longed to be and the father he always knew was within him.

Jack had dated a little bit over those years but for the most part it was just the three of them until that Spring of ‘15.

Cheyenne was a single mom who had full custody of her daughter. They had been on their own since her child was 2. Cheyenne was a very successful local manager of a not-for profit and involved in fundraising events when Jack stumbled across her social media profile.

The first connections were really no more than two people building their social  networks, and engaging with like-minded individuals. A month after that first connection however, after many messages back and forth, the two met for the first time over dinner.

They talked for hours about their lives, their work, passions, family, and of course, mostly their children. Jack’s girls, were 8 and 6, and Cheyenne’s daughter was 7.

From that first night, the two were inseparable.

When their kids finally met, at an Annie sing along at a local community theatre, it was also love at first site for the three clowns. They ran around the theater, up onto the stage, through the aisles, and joked around and laughed well into the night in the streets outside the show.

The girls had their troubles over the years as siblings do, but it was always evident when push came to shove (literally), that the occasional cat fight was not something they ever wanted to get in the way of them all being family.

Cheyenne was Jack’s cheerleader – all of their biggest boosters. She was constantly lifting all the girls up, complimenting them and when it came to Jack and his dreams and goals, she was quick to share them with anyone and everyone with great pride and genuine belief.

When Cheyenne believed in something, she would stop at nothing to ensure it got the credit, time, and exposure it deserved. The year before Jack and Chy (shy) met, he had started a little community event for his children after he realized he wasn’t going to be able to spend Halloween with them for the first time. He called it an alternate Halloween that happened a week before the actual holiday, which consisted of a gathering in the park with games earlier in the evening, followed by actual trick-or-treating through the neighborhood at participating homes. That first year seen about 20 kids and a dozen or so participating homes but by the fourth year, the event had ballooned to 250 kids, 40 participating homes, insurance, permits, bouncy castles and so much more.

It was all her. A man is only as good as those he surrounds himself with and Cheyenne was a big influence in all of their belief in themselves. She made Jack stronger. Made him feel like he could conquer anything and everything – including the world which is what this project often felt like. It was a substantial endeavor but somehow she made it feel small – manageable.

From the moment Jack first mentioned the idea for the school and its related entities, Cheyenne was iN. She had questions. She was also Jack’s best critic, but not out of disbelief. On the contrary, she pushed him hard which in turn, helped him strengthen, expand on, and better clarify his vision.

To Jack, Cheyenne was this sweet, giving, forgiving, connector. She was a natural networker in all aspects of her life. Before the idea of the school had even been floated, Cheyenne was making many valuable and sincere community connections. She literally connected people in her full time role, and all those that surrounded Chy benefited holistically from her natural instinct to want to help and the hard work she tirelessly put in behind the scenes. Cheyenne made sure that those she felt needed to get together to achieve like-minded goals, from finding a job/an employee to making a dream come true, met.

One day early on in the project, Jack thought to himself, ‘would I be here today attempting to achieve such a lofty endeavor, had Cheyenne not come into our lives?’. The answer was a resounding no. Chy added so much to their lives. She brought this peace. An understanding and patience with him, his girls, and everything life threw at them – which was a lot. Somehow after all these years together, she was still there by all of their sides. Sometimes she looked a little beaten down, but she still found a way to look at Jack with an adoring love. She would cock her head slightly, do this thing with her lips, and stare so innocently and child like his way.

There were many days where Jack wondered why Chy had stuck around as long as she had. They had been through so much in a relatively short time, but he knew by now that her love was unwavering. He trusted her love for all of them and her pure, and dedicated commitment to being there through everything and anything. There was no doubt in his mind that this woman’s heart was one he could always count on.

Divorce had taught Jack that he didn’t need anyone. It allowed him to see what a great father he was, and that he could do anything he set his mind to surrounded by the right people. Now that he had Cheyenne by his side, he also knew that even though he could survive on his own, he no longer wanted to. Cheyenne was the final romantic path for Jack. It took 40 plus years, but now looking back through everything life had thrown in his way, Chy was worth every obstacle. Every heartache. Every tear.

Jack and Cheyenne. Two Canadian kids doin’ the best they can.

The Stories Data Tell

Day 160

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 18: The Stories Data Tell

Data tells a story. The dangers of data of course, is that it can tell whatever story you want it to.

Data can be manipulated. This was true in the case against Ivor Memorial and its value among the Board’s network of schools.

For one, it’s capacity as a vocational school was 550 pupil places. At 300 students, 55% utilization doesn’t look good to the Ministry or a local board. That alone, has school closures graffitied all over it.

With much smaller class sizes however, the school was technically at capacity. That didn’t matter to the Ministry however. It’s capacity model was one size fits like inclusion itself. The board already had one remaining facility in its network of schools for low functioning students with such a small population, that the ministry wouldn’t fund a principal for the school.

Second on the lineup of strikes against IMH, was low graduation rates. There were many factors in this category swaying their numbers to the side of closure.

First, many students found their way to IMH from other high schools in the district. This meant that graduation credit was tied to the school in which the student started their secondary education – even if that meant other Boards.

The third factor in these faulty numbers was that many IMH students were guaranteed a place in the system until they were 21, meaning they would fall out of range of graduation rates based on a four year cohort.

The fourth item as it related to grad rates, was hidden from any reports the ministry collected. It was about a sense of belonging. Staying in school and being around positive influences. At least gaining life skills, making new friendships, and feeling important enough to be treated with patience, kindness, and love. How did graduation rates tell the story of the number of students that simply stuck it out for four to eight years even after battling day in and day out the first 10 years of their elementary education?

As well, students with IEP’s writing standardized tests affects any schools scores, never mind a school that is completely geared to these students. You didn’t want to get Jack started on this waste of public funds, especially how it wrongfully and blindly labeled a school like Ivor Memorial. The Fraser Institute used these test score results to ghettoize schools and entire communities. Data doesn’t highlight the many wonderful school and community programs behind the scenes.

Lastly, the board of education didn’t hold IMH in any regard. It should have been a beacon. A flagship for special education training and highlighting what personal inclusion looks like. People had to find the school on their own most often when it should have been a facility the board was proud of for how it changed the lives of its students and their families. Heck, for how it changed the lives of its staff and the many volunteers too. The entire city should have known about this school and held it in the same high regards. Jack himself only learned about Ivor Memorial and what it had come to represent, when the decision to close it had already been made.

The success of this school went so far beyond numbers. When you value a car, you are looking at a guestimated number based on age and mileage but if that car was well maintained, technically it’s worth more. Were those highway miles? Was it oil sprayed? Was it constantly towing a large trailer or moving heavy loads? At least with a car you are comparing the same model vehicle when you are generalizing it’s worth. With IMH, they were comparing a minivan to a Cadillac. Both have their value but a family of four and a young doctor are going to have different evaluations of these vehicles and at different times in their lives.

Jack was great at math. It was always a strong point of his which continued into his career managing digital information and building databases. He knew the power of data and the many ways you could manipulate it. He himself had written many data stories over the years, so seeing information negatively shaped to justify closing a school that didn’t fit into the ambiguous ministry definition of inclusion angered, changed, and inspired jack.

The truth was, there was no data on IMH. This is both because the local board never planned for the school to become what it’s last principal and staff formed it into, and because Board staff didn’t understand it, see any value in it, or wanted it to continue.

There is of course that data that lay between the 1’s and 0’s. Hidden to only those deeply impacted by that with which we try to extract numbers from. Not unlike a great novel leaving much to the imagination, the story of the Ivor Memorial students was really only truly known to those that lived it, and those who took enough time to genuinely listen to what wasn’t easily visible, audible or tangible to those so tangled in political and  corporate edubabble.

The story that data will tell of these IMH students is one that will take a lifetime to formulate. Jack already knew how it would end. So many did. Four years out and the students and staff still talked so fondly of their experience at Ivor Memorial. If his own experiences and the love he still fostered for his own high school was any indicator, Jack knew the result of IMH’s data story would be the same. One of great fondness and admiration for all of those who were touched by that school from the moment it had a purpose instead of a place where misfit staff and students were cast. That’s the data that truly matters where education is concerned.

Math is extremely important. Especially how it empowers us with the tools to tell the other side of the story that the data you’ve been given so carefully omits.

Although it was criminal how IMH met its demise, it was for a good reason. That reason is why Jack (why everyone) was here today.

IMH could have never truly been what it needed and deserved to be the way the system was modeled then.

The time and climate was now ripe for Ivor Memorial’s rebirth. The reality post-IMH’s story was telling was increasing suspensions and expulsions, more students transitioning to alternative learning plans outside of mainstream schools, and new generations of students slipping through educations cracks without a choice like IMH to get them excited about education again.

The ministry and the local board had their shot to get it right. Jack and company were now taking education into their own hands.

W to the P

Day 140

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Hello aliens! It’s me, Jack. (but not really). This is my first blog post. (but not really)

Come laugh, imagine, and explore with me. Hopefully in that order.

Let’s buy a school. Anyone have a few extra mil under their floor boards?

No really.

Although this is the day I created this blog, I will be posting the chapters that I have already written as separate posts, and back-dating the threads to correlate with the original chapter release dates.

Not sure why.  Maybe it’s the OC… to provide some kind of detailed timeline to remember this journey by.

Yea… that’s the ticket!

Sideways

Day 134

Sideways 

Pablo Picasso was quoted as saying, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

The beginning of this tale is rather silly. I’m not apologizing. I am just giving you a heads up. If you’ve lost your funny, I might lose you at ‘I’m a girl’, while writing in an English accent.

The underlying purpose of this project is of course anything but silly. Having said that, the end goal is that creativity will absolutely take the driver’s seat through the visioning, planning, implementation, and life cycle of this idea which we hope is infinite.

Education as a whole, stole my creativity. It shut down my funny. So, to borrow a line from U2, we’re stealing it back.

Bear with me as I release years of stymied humor. Allow my inner child to be free, creative, witty, emotional, random and full of wonder.

I don’t want you to take me seriously. I want you to come laugh with me – or better yet at me. Be free. Find that thwarted creative. Discover the wonder that was once alive and thriving within that little boy, girl, kangaroo, or all of the above in you.

Life is serious enough. This project is serious enough. We’re serious enough in our adult, caregiver, employee, employer roles.

I know you are iN. I can smell your curiosity through your screen. Or you’re sitting too close and that’s pastrami I just caught a whiff of. Ew. Here’s a virtual mint.

Cranial Conception to Grad Reflections

Day 119

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 16: Cranial Conception to Grad Reflections

I figured the best place to start was at the end.  Imagining how I felt when the dream had been realized. Seeing the support, the tears, the laughter and celebration as we welcomed a fresh look at education, business, community, and how it could all come together in a seamless network.  

We brought back that village that had been missing. That sense of family. Belonging. Acceptance, and a strong delivery of the whole in a very personal manner.  

This was our first graduating class. We had turned everything on its head. Education presentation and monetary structure, business interconnectedness and how community supports both, and vice a versa.  This was business and community modelled after education instead of the long-standing history of the reverse.

Years of network building, fundraisers, public engagements, learning and the proverbial blood, sweat and tears had led us to finally opening our doors, and now standing on this historical stage. This venue had seen 100 years of graduates before, and today, the first of a new and inspiring era in education.

– – –

It was 5 years before when Jack first stood on this old stage looking out into a full auditorium of parents, family, friends, educators and in those first rows, what was supposed to have been one of the last graduating classes of this historied institution.  

The idea of going into education himself had already long been present,  but as he delivered the first of three graduation speeches he was to make that week, he suddenly seen today’s reality in its completed form. For those moments as he talked of the history and traditions of this school, his own education, and advice for the graduates as they started upon their adult journeys, those students became his own. Their parents and other supports, part of his network. The teachers, principals, and staff dear friends and colleagues as well. This was was his dream (all of their dreams), realized. In Jack’s mind, this was already the end he was only today, realizing.  

There were only 12 students graduating with a Provincially recognized diploma or certificate this first year, and 87 students total in all grades in a facility with a capacity to traditionally hold 1500 students,  but interest throughout semesters 1 and 2 quickly gained momentum thanks to an inspiring, award winning onsite social media campaign managed by their teaching partners and students.

425 new students from within and beyond Waterfall City were already enrolled for year two meaning the schools new capacity based on smaller class sizes, in-house community partners,  and alternative classroom setup and delivery methods, was to already be realized in season two of East City K2Life.

This was unlike any graduation Jack had ever attended. From the decorations, performances, the emotion of the families and students (even educators), who found a special place after years of educational struggles, right down to the awards the students came up with for their teachers and staff.

As the students proudly made their way through the front archway into the Welcome Garden, Jack choked up seeing the teachers and educational assistance sitting in their lawn chairs as they had each morning with their coffees greeting students in rain and snow every school day, now symbolically welcoming them to their adult lives and signifying their and the school’s ongoing support for the remainder of their life’s journey.  

The weather hadn’t cooperated well on this momentous occasion but nobody from students, staff, families, community supports, and of course Jack and his family, allowed any obstacles to stand in the way of enjoying every moment of the journey. The downpour of rain somehow made it all that much more exhilarating and refreshing. Then the thunder rolled and all went screaming and laughing for the cover of home – their school.

Halfway through the evening, the rain suddenly stopped, and the setting sun shone brightly through the open gymnasium doors. At that moment, Jack looked over at his partner Kate, reached out for her hand, and led her to the dance floor.

Kate had been there every step of the way. She believed in Jack and this dream, and worked tirelessly to ensure this vision was shared and realized. She was the reason that East City came to be. Kate gave Jack the motivation he needed through every obstacle that came between 5 years prior, and this very night.

In the end, that became East City’s principal vision. Belief in self. Without it, a dream is just a dream we don’t believe in.

Education – Plain and Simple

Day 68

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 15: Education – Plain and Simple

Everyone has a right to a free public education in North America, but education should also be free from politics. Free from religion. Free from discrimination, judgement and bullying.  We should learn and talk about it all but neither should be allowed to influence educational experiences or outcomes.

Our children deserve to come out of the other end of their early learning journeys with the same confidence, same belief in oneself and equally knowing their value in our society. The same humility, compassion, respect for others, and global understanding of our wonderfully diverse world. That no one is better or smarter or more intrinsic than anyone else. Not a King or Queen, Prince of Princess. Not a Prime Minister. Not a President. Not a human over an animal or our Mother Earth. That we are all equally important pieces of our community puzzles. We cannot take away a bee, a wolf, a river, a tree, you or me without taking something from the spirit and harmony of the grander painting.

Students should take that leap into adulthood with these basic skills and understandings. We can accomplish anything when we believe in ourselves, and only a fraction of our full potentials when we are left questioning all the numbers and letters 14 years of report cards have said about us.

Most of all, our children must have an educational experience as diverse as their many different learning profiles. Inclusion must be individual to what feels right for them. Not what politicians and office educators believe is best for our children.

Inclusion is personal. It’s time for our learning institutions to be holistically reflective of this.

Education is in need of the greatest innovation in how it’s delivered from structure, delivery and budget, to programming and environment. INSE seeks to be at the forefront of this innovation.

Roads Not Travelled

Day 67

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 13: Roads Not Travelled

It’s been said that travelling makes a great leader. I believe international travel is what’s assumed here. Maybe one day I’ll leave this continent beyond ascending/descending back into somewhere North America.

Like papers, travel can also be looked at in an alternative light as well. Not that I don’t think there is great value and learning in seeing the world first hand and not via blurred faces in Google Streetview. I am not questioning world travels value. I may not have seen the world, but I have had many great adventures none the less.

I dream of seeing Denmark first. Having had a grandfather born in Odense – the home of Hans Christian Anderson as we were often reminded, and listening to his stories of home made me want to visit these roots first. England would be my second choice for both the magic in the accent, and the fact that I am not only two parts English, we have close family friends from England. Their influence has left a long-standing desire to venture to these lands.

Africa, Hawaii, Scotland (because of my paternal lineage), and Mexico are also up there. I would however, like to meet the natives while I travel like my grandfather always made a point to. He was never content to lump around a resort in a speedo downing Corona’s until he passed out in the baking hot sun. “I’ll thank you for one but not another”, was my grandfather’s alcohol modo. He made a point to explore and make connections with the locals on all of his travels. These experiences made his stories come across as a lived adventure rather than an all expense list of resorts he’d stumbled around through for a week.

I’ve seen more of the United States than I have Canada. Other than various Ontario destinations, numerous trips to Quebec or a one night adventure in Alberta, there’s so much I want to explore here at home.

I am very lucky in both my jobs to work with a very diverse group, so there has been a lot of learning about different cultures worldwide. Seeing firsthand is feeling the true spirit, struggle, and cultural differences I know, but there is so much to learn, appreciate and gain from our multicultural neighborhoods. Although historically our diversity has been very white European in our town, the past 40 years have really changed our landscape for the better.

I have walked the runway in Model search America, travelled around California for 9 days mostly on my own during a wild mid-twenties adventure, travelled a bit with sport, have worked many jobs since a child from paper boy and referee, to car polisher, warehouse hand, computer-aided designer and of course, elected official. I’ve driven to places like Boston and Montreal myself in pursuit of a good baseball game, saved an 80 year old sports tradition, been engaged, married, divorced, had children, fallen in and out of love, have had my heartbroken, cried on the floor of an emergency vet saying goodbye to a dear friend, buried friends too soon, lost a mentor, and so much more.

None of this may seem like a lot to a world traveller, but I have certainly ventured almost every road in a diverse little big city of many communities, cultures, landscapes and opportunities. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances from never having left, playing sports, working many different jobs, and being involved in my community.

There is also a lot of exploring and learning-based travelling we can do through the documentaries we watch or books we read as well of course. Whether it’s Philomena, 42, Milk, The Kite Runner, Tuesdays with Morrie, Because We Are Canadians, or Words of Peace in a Native Land. Art is a wonderful and empowering way to make world travellers of all of us all whether it’s venturing through history or taking us into the living rooms and backyards of the worlds human spirit.

I am an Explorer at Life and it’s been a wonderful adventure thus far that has left me with no regrets, although sorry for those I have hurt along the way. These are the things we will carry with us always in a lifelong pursuit of learning about ourselves and the world around us.

My grandfather often dreamed about creating one last story as he rocked in his old red chair retelling one of many travel tales, including one we were supposed to take together. I will bring his spirit with me when I cross into international borders one day but for now, I will simply enjoy life’s adventure.

Happy Birthday to us!

Day 46

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A year ago we gave it a name. Now we’re giving it a voice. Happy 1st birthday to us. Looking forward to you being a part of this journey.

Here’s to 100’s more. Well I’ll be dirt but happy 100th whomever the latest INSE protector is on this day, September 9th 2116.

Darn I won’t live to see 2112 day. 21st day of December, 2112. Hope Rush plays loud and proud all day long. I predict records will be making another comeback by then.

Sincerely,
All of us here at INSE – and Jack (but not really).

“I can’t wait to share this new wonder
The people will all see its light
Let them all make their own music education
The Priests Protector praise my name on this night.” ~ Rush (Lyrics by Neil Pert)

Krazy Over You

Day 42

On August 16th 2017, I received a message from a band out of Brooklyn. I was working on growing our followers and as many do when you follow them, Nescora sent me a DM asking me to check out their tunes on Soundcloud. I love music so I did.

All of the tracks were catchy, but one song immediately struck a chord with me. I listened to it probably a dozen times that day. I knew then and there that it would make a great theme song for Let’s Buy A School. I also imagined that the movie depiction of our book would be well served by being named after the song, Krazy Over You.

Krazy Over You is a mesmerizing, gentle ballad about someone who finds strength and meaning in another. Lost and alone, searching for belonging, they have found this person whose company makes time fly.  They spend a lot of time together and there is nothing they’d rather be doing and nowhere they would rather be. The subject wants to be there when things get tough, and cannot get enough of their presence. They have found home in their company.

To me and this project, the song immediately also had a double meaning. This is the way the former Ivor Memorial High School community, the subject of this story, felt about their school and to this day, 3.5 years after it’s closing, it’s still held in a touching regard by it’s students and staff.

Throughout all of their education the IMH students had been bullied, suspended, there were constant calls to home, and they had reached high school with grade 3 reading levels. Ivor Memorial lifted them up, gave them a reason to go to school and made them feel included for the first time. It’s where they met their first friends, had their first boyfriend/girlfriend, where they participated in talent shows, sports teams and went to dances and looked forward to and felt at ease in a school.

Other than the kissing part, although perhaps a character could kiss the floors of a place where they finally found ‘home’, the lyrics hold true for both the underlying human and facility love stories in this book.

Nescora was extremely accepting of the idea to use ‘Krazy Over You’ as our title track and should this project see the light I envision for it, the world will find their way to a song worthy of it’s stage and Nescora will be compensated the way an artist deserves for creating such a beautiful work of art. Let’s make the latter happen anyway.

Please support Nescora and all Independent music, by downloading their album on iTunes. Mini Coop is also a great track (they all are), but it’s our next favorite. It would fit nicely into the human love story as well.

Happy listening and thank you again, Nescora. It means a lot to have you as part of our journey.

Sincerely,

Jack (but not really)

Have a listen to all of Nescora’s tracks on Soundcloud as well.

Finding Our Voice

Day 18

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 12: Finding Our Voice

It took me a long time to find my voice. Well, I found it in humor in english and gym class in middle school, and math class in high school. I also found my buttocks in the principal’s office or at my desk in the hallway.  

As an adult who had long lost his funny internal sidekick, I first found my serious, somewhat mature voice in the form of the written word in my late twenties. It wasn’t until the end of my thirties, that I finally found my vocal cords.

I’m still quite nervous talking in front of others and have found myself pulling away from the public eye from time to time. I have also woken up sweating with panic at the thought of a successful outcome of this project, but I try to push forward in an effort to teach my children to never give up or let fear take the reins. In the end, I do like public speaking for the right cause.  

I don’t want my children to take this long to find their confidence and the inner strength to fight for what they believe in whether it’s starting a conversation with someone they are attracted to, or standing up to woman’s or Native rights or whatever their cause may be one day.

There is so much power in finding our voices. I feel more alive and impassioned than I ever have as I prepare to enter my mid forties – minus the joint and back pain, being tired all the time, and the greys overtaking my thankfully still thick head of hair. Take that, father time. It may take me 3 days to recover from a game of adult baseball but my inner confidence has never felt so young.

One thing I have learned on the journey to finding my voice, is that we can go too far with the courage that comes with learning to speak our minds. I have been left regretting some actions and written words and to a degree am still in the midst of un-finding my voice. By this I don’t mean shutting up and crawling under a rock. It simply means it was time to listen a lot more than talking. It’s hard when you spent your life being that quiet kid forever listening intently, and now you are suddenly an adult with so much to say to someone other than your pet frog, and a desire to be a big part of so many conversations.

To me, it doesn’t matter who you are whether a child, factory worker, office exec or hockey star, all voices are needed in the conversations of life. I especially have a great deal of respect for stars who use their far-reaching voices to promote positive, inclusive change for a harmonious, diverse world. They often catch a lot of flack from peers who feel it’s a stars job to just shut up and play the sport they are paid to play, or act in the movies they are paid to appear in. On the big screen of life, the play is but an entertaining distraction. It’s what those characters stand for in real life, that keeps me supporting their art.

Let’s help our youth and everyone in our societies find their voice,  and to use that call in a manner that unites us rather than places walls between us.