Category Archives: personal responsibility

An open letter to families within the Mt. Lebanon School District

Hi everyone,

Let’s begin with the obvious: Roughly half of you are going to support the words you’re about to read, and roughly half of you aren’t.

Roughly half of you will think I’m sane and rational, and roughly half of you will think I’m something else.

The board of the Mt. Lebanon School District continues to be guided by the best available science and health information as it determines how the school year should unfold. Unless you have specific evidence the board is lying or otherwise deceiving us, you need to clam up and support those members who are demonstrating ethical and strong leadership; it’s desperately needed at the moment.

The decision to shift to remote-only instruction for the next couple of weeks (and let’s be honest, it likely will be for longer) is absolutely the right decision.

Full stop.

Our schools should NOT be open right now.

Our sports teams should NOT be playing right now.

A normal school year is NOT possible right now.

The notion that our sons and daughters somehow “deserve” sports, musicals, proms and more is foolish. It’s also dangerous. Of course, we want these opportunities for our children, and we’re blessed to be able to have a school district that can offer so many extracurricular and social programs to our kids. However, we’d be derelict in our duties as parents if we threw our children into those activities knowing what we do about coronavirus.

Many of us have had to deal with crises in our lives or in our families lives during which we temporarily scaled back what we were doing. Whether that crisis was physical, emotional or something else, it required us to invest much more time in taking care of the person or people in need of attention; everything else became irrelevant.

That’s where we are in late November of 2020 with coronavirus. The school board’s first and only obligation right now is to ensure our sons and daughters are educated and in the safest environment possible; everything else — including those prized perks of living in a community like ours — gets put on the back burner.

Full stop.

COVID-19 is a vicious virus that has taken advantage of horrible leadership from our federal government and from too many of our states’ governors in order to spread like wildfire. Coronavirus also has benefited from that often admired, but at times misguided, sense of individuality embedded into the DNA of too many Americans. We love to do what we want, when we want, and we want no one telling us we can’t.

Well, right now, we can’t. Pandemics will happily take advantage of your precious individuality to help it infect even more people.

As you consider that, please also divorce yourself of the idea that Mt. Lebanon’s teachers “work for us” and therefore must teach in a face-to-face environment. Of course, face-to-face instruction is best, and we’re fortunate to have some of the best teachers anywhere in Allegheny County in our high school, middle school and elementary school classrooms. But don’t ever forget they, too, are husbands, wives, sons, daughters and parents. They ought not be required to risk their health because they “work for us.” Such arrogance benefits no one.

If the chance to work remotely — and many of us in this community have that option right now — is available, our teachers ought to take advantage of it, as well.

The county relays coronavirus information each day, and those data tell us quite clearly the number of people diagnosed with the virus and the number of people dying from it are increasing. Sadly, we can anticipate that narrative to be familiar in the coming months. Thankfully, no Mt. Lebanon school teacher, staff or student has yet died from coronavirus. But pay attention to the news and you know that school districts throughout the county and the country haven’t been as lucky.

This school year will be a great one if we get to June and no teacher, staff person or student is lost because of COVID-19.

We’ve received some remarkably positive news in recent weeks about vaccine trials. It’s possible that as early as next month some Americans will receive that vaccine. As the winter months unfold, we can anticipate more and more Americans also being vaccinated, presuming of course that the vaccine is working properly and without side effects.

The stories I read suggest that we could see something resembling normal life returning in 2021. (Here’s one such story; it comes from the Associated Press, which enjoys a reputation for producing solid journalism each day.) Whenever that day comes, we ought to celebrate it like our forebears did when World War II ended.

But until it does, a variety of limitations on this atypical school year are necessary.

We who live in Mt. Lebanon should recognize many of our school board members are doing the right thing. We also should recognize many of our teachers want to remain in that role, nurturing our sons and daughters. We should join with those board members and teachers showing wise and ethical leadership.

Four more years

It’s possible that within hours “President-elect” will be attached to Joe Biden’s name.

For the more than 70-million Americans who voted for him, this will be great news. For the almost 70-million Americans who didn’t, this will not be.

Biden’s win —and it appears from an Electoral College standpoint it might be as narrow as 270-268 — affirms America remains a divided nation: Roughly half of us who voted did so to endorse the promise (and uncertainty) of tomorrow, while roughly half of us chose to endorse the memory (and certainty) of yesterday. Those ideologies will remain baked into our political DNA.

For four more years.

That divide would be acceptable if the two camps actually enjoyed positive relationships with each other. They don’t. And because of that distrust, dislike and disdain, the real challenges that face this country seem destined to stay in gridlock.

For another four years.

Does anyone see any reason why the Republicans, who likely will retain a majority in the Senate (likely 51-49), will treat President Biden with any respect? Led by their disgusting majority leader, the GOP did everything possible to stall Barack Obama’s political agenda. They will do the same.

For four more years.

All the nonsense talk about Russia gumming up elections, China trying to cyberattack everything, and Iran itching for war masks a more important war: the view millions of Americans have of the other side of the political aisle being the enemy. That’s not going to change.

For four more years.

Good luck, Mr. Biden.

One Texas university won’t give up on sports

An excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website:

The University of Texas at El Paso is urging students and faculty members to avoid coming to the campus “wherever possible,” closing the student center and campus dining for two weeks. Professors should conduct only critical aspects of classes in person, according to a Thursday letter to the campus. The changes come as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in El Paso have climbed steadily this month.

One big exception? Athletics. “UTEP athletic teams competing in their championship season will continue to practice and compete under the NCAA and Conference USA stringent testing protocols,” Heather Wilson, the university’s president, wrote.

A football game against the University of North Texas has been canceled, despite Wilson’s advocacy to keep the game scheduled. She said in a statement this week that the university had a “safe place to play” and was “disappointed” in North Texas’s decision. 

What is not clear to me is whether these “stringent testing protocols” can be made available to the entire campus — not just at UTEP but throughout the country — and are not being done (too costly?), or if there’s some special arrangement between the NCAA and its partner institutions in which it pays for these tests.

Does anyone know?