(NOTE: As the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals continue to accelerate, more and more US schools will be categorized by the pejorative brand: “Program Improvement School”.  NCLB’s kiss of death.  By 2014 as many as 90% of America’s schools could be categorized as underperforming “Program Improvement” schools.  Perhaps it provides a handy label for politicians to rail on public education in general… but inside our schools, where we know our children’s names and faces, it is a different story.

This is the FOURTH POST IN A SERIES as Mueller Charter School awaits its test results from the 2007-08 school year. Look for the SERIES every Monday as we get our results, assess the trends, and make strategic adjustments for the coming year.)    


It’s mid July in San Diego. The Padres are 13 games out, there are 200,000 bizarre movie characters taking over downtown for Comic Con, and the purest athletic tournament on the planet has just come to an end.  That would be OMBAC’s world renowned Over-the-Line tournament. 

Never heard of it?  Check out the website.  Baseball without bases… you hit line drives for base hits on a field about the width of a milk truck.  Hundreds of three-person teams play in multiple divisions, age groups and genders.  The hot sun on Fiesta Island bakes the sand and near-naked spectators.  The Corona flows…as do the team names that are constantly read over the loud speaker while the tournament organizers manage games on 24 simultaneous courts.  You can’t repeat the names but you can remember them.  They are creative and obscene and it is hard to stop laughing at them.

“Next up on Court 12… Three %$#$# with Hard %$*&^$  versus %$%$, #@#%$# and One Bouncing *$#$^%%^$.”

The names never stop coming and neither do the games.  For two solid weekends.

It’s part of the summer tradition.  And right about the time that Over-the-Line ends Mueller Charter School begins.  And so, as sure as the sun will rise on the now freshly-abandoned back stretch of Fiesta Island—the 2008-09 school year has begun.

In fact, today, nearly 1000 children arrived for the first day of school.  If it seems awfully early to be starting school– it is.  But our students go 200 instructional days instead of 184 and this is when we start.  And we are serious about it.  We will be full “go” by the end of the week and you would think that it was mid-October.  We had some absences today– but no more than we will have the first time it rains hard and parents fear their children will somehow melt if they send them down the street to school. 

I never like to acknowledge that we had a smooth opening.  I’m too superstitious for that.  It’s like mentioning that the starting pitcher is throwing a no-hitter.  I don’t care when you do it or who you are or where you are sitting in the stands– if you mention that the pitcher has a no-hitter going– it is over.  The reason why no-hitters are rare in Major League Baseball isn’t just because the hitters are so good.  It is because there are so many people watching the game in the stadium and on tv and the internet.  It is just a matter of time and odds that some nimrod is going to blurt it out:  “Hey… I just realized… Maddox has a no-hitter going.”  CRACK! A double down the line and into the corner.

Holy smokes.  Don’t they know the rules that govern the baseball universe?

So we opened the school year today and we’ll just say that everything went… ok.  

Except the test results still haven’t come in.  The teachers are dying to see them.  They want to know how we did.  I do too.  But we have to wait.  That’s part of the summer ritual too.  Padres and Comic Con and obscene Over-the-Line team names and opening day and us waiting here and making decisions based on data we haven’t seen.  

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