Times: It's great to catch up with you. How are things?
Me: Good. Pretty good.
Times: Fascinating. What are your thoughts regarding the whole Charlie Sheen saga?
Me: I haven't really been paying that much attention. I would act like I'm above it all, but the truth is that I'm just getting too old to care. Twenty years ago, I would have eaten this story up. Now, I'm too concerned with the fact that my father-in-law is stuck in Wyoming, the closest real town is Deadwood, and we need to find -- and pay for -- a place for him to live. He smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and has grimy dogs, and I don't want to get into it.
But at least I'm looking for a way to use "Winning" in a humorous way. Maybe in the next department meeting when we do one of those around-the-room deals in which everyone says what they're up to, I can say "Winning" in a deadpan way. I'm sure that joke won't get old.
Times: Speaking of winning, you've won the Academy Awards betting contest for three years running. Did you make it four in a row?
Me: Sadly, no. It was a tough year. I can usually pick up points by doing a little research, like finding out which documentary shorts deal with the holocaust. This year, there was not a single holocaust movie. No easy points in those weird categories. Apparently, we've finally let ourselves forget about the holocaust.
But there were easy points to be picked up with The King's Speech. It's a British costume movie, for crumpet's sake! If I had picked that movie for Best Director, I would have won. Or if I had picked Melissa fucking Leo.
Towards the end, I did have one chance to win my fourth straight Oscars betting pool. I needed Gwyneth Paltrow to win for Best Song. My thinking was that the Academy doesn't necessarily like the perception that it's a leftist group, and I thought they would throw the red states a bone by giving an award to "Country Strong." When I heard Paltrow perform the song, I realize that the Academy actually knew what they were doing in this case. That song sucks.
Plus, I didn't realize that Randy Newman was up for the same award. For some reason, people from L.A. LOVE Randy Newman, they LOVE him, even though he's only ever written one lounge song with different lyrics.
I blame myself.
Times: You're still a winner in my book! What's going on with the kids?
Interesting that you should ask because it's something I want to write about. We're looking for a new school for the boys to go to. Budget cuts and mismanagement have made the local school a bad choice. Things have changed since we did research on Gatewood Elementary before sending our kids there:
Then: 260 students before school closures.
Now: 460 students, including a bunch of Somali refugees who speak English as a second language and wear unflattering burkas.
Next year: 520 students, with new double-wide trailers for overflow classes filling half the playground.
Then: Seattle parents could choose any school to send their kids to, and the school district would pay to bus the kids. This plan came about as a well-meaning attempt at optional desegregation, but it ended up diverting too much money into unnecessary transportation costs.
Now: The school district makes parents send their kids to the local public school, but with a grandfather clause. This means that kids from the nearby poor neighborhoods can keep attending the better elementary schools, causing severe overcrowding in some schools, including ours.
Then: 18 students per class. The principal took advantage of the active PTA to get funding for a few extra teachers so that she could reduce class size. To make this work, the principal got rid of full-time positions for an art teacher, a music teacher, and a P.E. teacher.
Now: 28 students per class. Schools are no longer allowed to manipulate class size, so Gatewood's class sizes are now the same as those of the nearby schools -- but with no full-time art teacher, music teacher, or P.E. teacher.
Then: Full-inclusion policy. Excellent learners, good learners, bad learners, problem kids, ESL students, and Swedes are all part of the same class. Children are not separated. They learn together.
Now: Same policy. Only now, each teacher has 30% more kids to worry about, and many of those additional kids demand more attention. Oh, and some of the better teachers will be laid off because they haven't been teaching long enough.
Then: Children who score well could attend a Spectrum program at a different school.
Now: Children who score well could put their names on a long waiting list to attend a Spectrum program with dramatically reduced funding.
To make matters worse, the Seattle School District was recently rocked with a scandal. Basically, a guy named Silas Potter was involved in a program to qualify minority and women owned businesses to bid on district contracts. Many a dollar went missing. Anyone who asked questions about the program was called racist. Winning!
So what now? One option is a private school. The less expensive private options are religious schools. I did some research though. While the tuition costs are relatively low, hidden costs such as indulgences and hair shirts add up. For the price of a new Honda Civic, we can send the boys to a non-religious private school. If we get accepted, that is.
Another option is putting the boys on a ferry and sending them to a school on Vashon Island. It's a good public school that gets state funding for each student, so they want non-island kids to attend. The drawback is the commute. Drop-off, ferry ride, and bus ride add up to about 90 commuting minutes each day. Not winning! I don't want to put second graders through that kind of commute.
I'm sorry. I kind of went off on a tear.
Times: Not a problem! I enjoyed it! I'm turning off the interview tape now, but I'd like to keep talking with you! Do you mind?
Me: I don't see why no-