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Minikin's Journal

Routine Ramblings of an Occasionally Interesting Texan

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Chess Club
Okay, I'll try to write up one of the myriad things that is causing evil stress in my life.

Yes, I know, calling 15-20 parents over the course of two evenings, fielding last minute additions and deletions, and then attending tournaments boasting hundreds of kids could be considered stressful.

I should be all relaxed, now that the tournament season is over, and we've just the fun part of chess club left: Tic Tac Chek, Tile Chess, Nightmare Chess, Omega Chess, Martian Chess, at club, a sleepover, a year-end party with cake and ice cream. Sure, there's some stressy things left, like supervising up to 60 kids using my games, organizing the party, the year-end gift, having yet another sleepover in the house, hand-stamping and embossing participation certificates for the kids...

There's stuff to do, right?


On the upside, I've got a nickname for the interim Headmistress: Umbridge.

So, the story on chess club....

It really starts with Flar and I establishing ourselves as disgruntled parents, with our vocal opposition to the cancelling of 9th grade, and the manner in which it was handled. The year continued to present major and minor disgruntling opportunities, such as the change in school pictures procedures, the new dress code, the cavalier attitude of the evil English teacher, etc. That's background. It's clear that Umbridge doesn't like me, since I'm not interested in kowtowing to her line.

Earlier this year, I had a very unpleasant meeting with Umbridge and the division heads for the lower school and the middle school. The invited member of the board of trustees didn't bother to show up. In this meeting, they informed me that the chess club faculty sponsor next year would not be assuming any Saturday responsibilities. As there would be no school employee present at tournaments, they were interested in changing our current procedures to minimize school liability.

I'm getting sick of that word. It's tossed around by non-lawyers all the time, as if everyone knows what they're talking about, but never really checking facts with lawyers. Liability for what? For the actions of our students, I think is the implication. But it's never made clear. Just that vaguely evil word: liability. This is a school that arranges multiple-day field trips for each of the middle school grades. The 9th grade trip is over a week long. But suggest that the speech time actually stay in the hotel where they're having a state-level tournament with events running from 8am until as late as 11pm at night? Egad! The possible liabilities!

Excuse me, I digress.

The issue regarding tournaments -- they no longer want the team to enter tournaments on a team roster. Even though: (a) the roster is compiled and confirmed by a parent volunteer (me); (b) the students will be treated as a school team by the tournament, whether they enter individual entries or come in on a roster. I don't see where having the parents send in individual entries instead of one combined entries removes the school from any liability issues. The students are still representing their school, either way. If the liability issue is a fear that TLS parents will sue TLS over something that happens to the kids while they're at the tournament, that is not going to be any less likely just because they entered their kids themselves. The school is still behind there *being* a team in the first place. Heck, by their plan, they would still be informing parents of when tournaments were being held, etc. All this really does is guarantee that 30-50 percent of the kids who currently participate *won't* next year, because they don't make up their mind to enter the tournaments until after the registration deadlines. And hey, they get to enter late the way we do it now, because I've actually built up credibility with the tournament organizers. Kids who call up tournament organizers trying to join late get told "Check with [minikin], if she calls me to confirm, then you're in."

Okay, yeah, that was an ugly, messy paragraph and I just don't have the energy to break it apart and pretty it up and make this issue more clear. What it boils down to is the school wanting to pull away from supporting the tournament aspect of chess, without actually telling the kids not to play.

When this all blew up, I talked it over with Berry, and we decided to wait until Umbridge is out, and bring this issue up with the new Headmaster. I don't have a nick for him yet; time will tell on that front.

Fast forward. Last tournament. State. The tournament was on March 13th. Deadline for entries was the Mar 7. I did calling for the tournament on Mar 4 & 5. It's pointless to call earlier, because parents/students always want to wait until the last minute to decide. If I call earlier, they forget entirely. On the 6th, I made tournament handouts with preliminary rosters listed. I made sure that every player who was confirmed or interested in the tournament got a copy of the handout, and was able to confirm two of the unconfirmed players. Two of the kids who were interested were H&H. They were excited about playing in the tournament, but I told them I needed to hear from their mom before I could confirm them, and to call me by end of day on Saturday (the 6th).

Saturday morning I got a call from Imperious-mom. She was panicked, thinking that the tournament was already in progress, and that her kid(s) were missing it. So the first part of the conversation was reassuring her that the tournament was in a week, and that all I needed was for her to tell me that day. I asked her whether one or both of the boys would be competing.

But she had all this energy left over from panic mode, so she had to turn it elsewhere. She blew off whether the younger boy would participate, implying that she would call me back on that, then started haranguing me about not using email to notify parents about tournaments. When I started to try to explain about getting used to a new work schedule this year, at a job which doesn't provide internet access, and how I do the calling on dinner break, and ready to segue into how I ended up having to do the calling anyway last year, when I *did* the email notifications.

But. She kept interrupting me, derailing my train of thought and being increasingly hostile and well, imperious. Like I'm her servant or something. I asked her to stop interrupting me, but it became clear that she wasn't listening, and I was tired of being harangued, so I hung up. And walked back into the bowling alley to watch Tigger play.

Later in the day, I called her. She hung up on me. Fair reaction - tit for tat. I called again. Left a message on her answering machine, telling her that I still didn't know which of the boys would be in the tournament, and to call me by 6pm or I couldn't confirm them on the roster.

I didn't end up finishing up the roster until Sunday. She hadn't contacted me, so I included her kids in the "unconfirmed" list in the email, and then email her to once again ask whether to include (and which of) the boys in the tournament.

Monday (the 8th), I got a call from Bride, telling me that she wanted to add the boys to the tourny. Turns out Bride was assuming both, but when I called her on that, she wasn't sure, rang off, called to check, and called me back. Only one of the boys. There were one or two more changes during the week; I coordinated them with Bride, who gets the school to cut one check for the entry, and then the parents pay TLS instead of the tournament.

H was already at the tournament when I got there, and Imperious-mom had made arrangements for Bride to drive him home after the tournament. She had also left money with Bride to treat the team to lunch. Very generous. H got to play, that division of the team even got to play in the four-board competition, although they didn't place high enough for trophy material. As far as I knew, as well that ends well.

The next Monday (the 15th), I opened a letter from the school. Umbridge tells me that ImperiousMom complained about me, and accused me of threatening her. She asked the school to "handle this." Umbridge went on in the letter to state that since the tournament season was over, she would prefer if I would not attend chess club for the rest of the year.

I called Umbridge and spoke with her on Monday morning. I forwarded my email to IM to her, to show her its non-threatening tone. In both communications, I stressed my disappointment that she would made such an extreme decision without even asking for my side of the story. I called up Berry and asked her to take over as "committed parent volunteer" for the rest of chess club. Have on my list of things to do, sending her all the phone numbers so that she can do the calling for end-of-year party, and for end-of-year gift. For MrCoach at least, if not Bride.

Flar wrote up a lovely angry letter for me. I then wrote out information about the order of events and such for him to make some corrections. The gist of the letter is "we think you made a decision contrary to school policies. Take it back and apologize, or call a meeting of a committee of board members to investigate this." Flar writes good angry letters.

Meanwhile, we still haven't turned in Tigger's application for school next year. We were hoping to mail it in, at the end of the this month. Flar got to looking at the terms in the contract, which have changed from previous years. And he didn't like what he saw. The school has written into the enrollment contract a requirement to support the school in all of its decisions. Previous contracts deal with procedures for amicable dissent. There are also rather draconian measures written in about late payments, involving pulling students out of classes.

Flar pulled out the phone book and called Sayre. We took Tigger for a tour yesterday. Tomorrow, we decide. One hand, we could give TLS another year of Tigger's life, betting on the new headmaster being able to turn things back around. On the other, we could give Tigger a new start at a school that hasn't turned away from the small private school tradition in which TLS started.

If we stay, Flar's finishing the current angry letter. If we go, he pens a new letter, setting forth all of the reasons for our departure.

Meanwhile, I'm not going to chess club.. But, my contribution to the end-of-year party is the participation certificates - I'm still making them. And, I told Berry I'd contribute to an end-of-year gift, if she organizes one.

That's what's up with chess club.

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Wow - what a shitty situation! I'm sorry sweeie (huggles)
It's not like a know a damn thing about private schools (or kids, for that matter); but since TLS is shutting down anyway, I think you'd be best off to avoid it's stress producing abilities next year, and head for Sayre. maybe *they'll* appreciate you!

of course, that's just my opinion - I could be wrong.


I'm not sure what I wrote to give you that impression. TLS is not shutting down. There was an interim headmistress this year, while they searched for a replacement. The old hsadmaster got an attractive offer in his home state, and moved away at the end of last year.

We ended up deciding to stay at TLS and give the new headmaster a chance. Middle school is a more natural change time, so we *may* switch schools then, if things are still awful.

are they doing away with whatever grade Critter will be in? Cause I'd thought he wasn't going there next year because it wouldn't be there for him to go to, and then ran with it from there.
Or maybe I'm just insane again...

Yes, they have cancelled 9th grade.

TLS used to provide K-9, dating back to when Lexington had junior high schools (7-9) and high schools (10-12). At some point, Lexington switched to a middle school system: middle schools (6-8) high schools (9-12).

Families who sent their kids to boarding schools always had to choose whether to stay or go for 9th grade: stay at TLS for 9th and start boarding school as a sophomore, or go: starting boarding school as a freshman, but finishing up TLS through graduation. TLS has always had only one graduation ceremony, for its freshman class.

Since Fayette county schools switched to a middle school system, which added the freshman class to its high schools, this decision was mapped onto the entire TLS 8th grade class.

The middle school faculty claimed that this decision created undue stress on 8th graders, causing many to "act out" etc. There were concerns about the ones who chose to go, having to miss out on graduation, etc. There were concerns about the ones who chose to stay, having to enter high school after all the cliques are formed, etc.

Shortly after TLS announced the cancellation of 9th grade, Jessamine county toyed with the idea of creating a "Freshman center" out of East Jessamine, and re-combining the sophomore through senior classes of East and West Jessamine into a single county high school housed at West Jessamine. Their strongest reason was pointing to studies that show the freshman class is at highest risk for dropouts and other problems.

So TLS cancelled the best program available for freshman (a class of 10-15 total, in a private school setting; independent course designs, etc.) at a time when freshman are being identified at the number one At Risk class.


Meanwhile, TLS has been morphing into a preschool "early education center." It started with K-9. By the time we enrolled Christopher, TLS offered a choice of Pre-K through 9 and Montessori through 9, where Montessori was two-year program that replaced Pre-K and started a year earlier. TLS now offers a program called Kinderklasse, which I *think* starts a year earlier (kids-age-wise) than the Montessori program starts, but I don't know the details, since that started after Timothy did. All I know is that the littlest ones at school seemed to get littler and littler.

We put both the boys through a half-day preschool program elsewhere, and then moved them into TLS starting at Pre-K. Critter went T-Th the year he turned 3 after it started, then M-W-F the next year. Then he attended TLS Pre-K halfdays, and then full day kindergarten.

Tigger went one year, M-W-F, to the preschool, and then entered TLS at the same point that Critter did. The difference in preschool reflects the difference between a November and March birthday.

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