POST 100! Big Changes, New Classes, and Dropped Languages

Welcome to the 100th post on Misadventures! 

What an insane ride this has been. I’m stunned, excited, and humbled by the support readers have given to me; especially those whom I’ve never met before. All 135 of you mean everything to me, and keep me going on a daily basis.

That being said, there’s a lot to tell all of my lovely followers today.

First of all, I’m pretty sure I aced my second Statistics midterm. I studied for six hours and left after twenty-five minutes.

That’s what I get for taking an Elementary Statistics course in college after passing AP Statistics in high school.

Second of all, I dropped French for next semester. That might seem crazy after I’ve worked so hard, but once I found out that Sign Language can satisfy the foreign language requirement, I couldn’t get my mind off of it. I don’t have time to do both, and I’ll most likely never use French again in my life, so I’ve decided to move Sign Language to my junior and senior years, so I’ll have something simple and interesting to look forward to.

The way I see it, why waste my time and energy in classes that I don’t care about? I only get to experience this opportunity once. I’m not going to spend it complaining about required classes that I’ll never use in the future.

That being said, I got to schedule classes for the Spring semester today. I’ll only be going to my courses on Monday and Wednesday, and every single one of them is a lecture. There’s no way to emphasize how happy I am about this. Not only do I get five days a week free from class, but I won’t be forced into discussions when I learn much better by listening and comprehending.

I’ll be taking:

American Constitution

Journalism Ethics

Comparative Politics

Investigative Journalism

All short names, and all pretty self-explanatory.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be taking classes that I actually have a genuine interest in. After spending an entire semester struggling with French and wasting my time in Statistics (as well as working in an English class that only encouraged me to drop English as a major), I’m ready to focus on something that I’ll be able to use outside of the classroom.

This schedule also leaves my week open for a real job. At the moment, I don’t have one (*hint* BuzzFeed *cough*), but it could happen. And, if it does, I’ll be able to realistically handle it. That’s always a plus.

The only regret that I have about Spring semester is that I won’t be able to visit my family as often as I do now. We get one break, and that’s only for a week in March (though I have a feeling I’ll be coming home for a weekend in late April to see Dad, Katie, and Jack involved in Peter Pan). My schedule leaves room for more surprise visits, but I’m hoping I don’t get bored on my long weekends.

Maybe I’ll actually start exploring the city past Midtown.

Oh, and last week, I did the first cultural thing I’ve done since I moved here. My friend/coworker Kirby invited me to a screening of the documentary “Still Dreaming” as part of the New York Documentary Film Festival, sponsored by HBO.

The documentary was about a group of elderly retired entertainers living in an Assisted Living Home who, led by up-and-coming New York City directors, put together Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The video focuses on the memory-related and physical struggles of the actors, but also on the incredible potential that each of them had to continue working on a project.

I really enjoyed it. Remind me of that the next time I want to be anti-social.

Thanks ❤

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The Single Most Important Thing in College

What will you do more than anything in college?

You’ll read.

And read.

And read.

You’ll do so much reading that you’ll actually want to write.

But no. No, no. You must read.

This year, I’ve read more literature in one semester than I read throughout an entire year and seven courses in high school. I’ve read Born on the Fourth of July, War and Liberty, The Great Gatsby, Regeneration, and an endless number of essays by authors like Rodriguez, Sontag, Roosevelt, Stone, as well as dozens of others.

I’ve spent more time reading literature than I’ve spent writing on this blog. And, I have to tell you, I have very mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, there’s nothing better than curling up in bed with a good book, especially when the harshness of the winter weather is knocking on your window. When the writing is interesting, you can lay there for hours just soaking it all in. Not to mention you’re getting a grade to walk into a classroom and discuss it. That’s my kind of thing.

I can’t tell you how embarrassed I was when, on the first day of Welcome Week, we gathered to discuss Regeneration, which had been our summer reading, and I was the only one with sticky notes and writing plastered throughout the novel. (On a side note, yes, I sometimes end up destroying books when I read them. If I find a book interesting, I will likely mark it up, on the general rule that it’s already old, yellowing, or was purchasable for less than $5 in the first place.)

But when you’re reading something dry, there’s nothing more exhausting. Not only are you required to read it, but you’re required to understand it, regardless of the fact that it’s boring and frustrating. Have you ever tried to read something and it refuses to register? Like your brain just won’t take in one more ounce of useless, uninteresting information? And then you get to class and have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about because the text went in one ear and out the other?

So far, that’s been the contrast in two of my classes. Obviously, I don’t do a whole lot of reading assignments for French and Statistics (and by that I mean none at all). But Writing the Essay and my history class could not be more different from one another.

The reading in History, Memory, and the Quest for Social Justice in the United States is generally intriguing, or at the very least salvageable, if I really put my focus on it. To be honest, most readings in that class have been downright enjoyable for me. I have two books sitting next to me right now that I brought to work, and if I had a reason to read historical novels, I’d almost call them pleasure reading.

But the readings in Writing the Essay are a struggle. I think my professor is great (I just want to throw that out there because this is, you know, a public blog and I would never publicly say anything bad about a professor of mine), but the class itself is just dry. It definitely aided me in my decision to drop English as a major. The course is split into three progressions. I got through the first one on that “beginning-of-the-year” initiative. I got through the second one on leftover fuel. I thank God that the third one is entirely about an author that I have a personal interest in.

Still, reading lengthy essays that I just don’t comprehend or enjoy hasn’t been a very pleasant part of the year. Trust me, Mara can tell you. I’ll sit there complaining about a piece for fifteen minutes rather than reading it.

Aside from all of that, though, I have to find time for pleasure reading. Because Stephen King is an integral part of my life, and I’ve missed his presence. So, at this very moment, I’m reading three novels, ten Rodriguez essays, and six books about my research paper topic. And (believe it or not), I’m mostly enjoying it. Last night was the first time in months that I’ve spent three hours switching between novels.

Did anyone else experience this in college?

From a Wilson Supporter: Why the Recall Will Continue

When I picked up this story in September, I had absolutely no idea the monster it would turn into. Back then, it was a harassment allegation. A very serious, but still fairly quiet, situation within the district.

Now we’ve finally reached the beginning of what I hope is the end. Hundreds within the Howell community threatened to recall the board if Wilson was terminated, and he was.

We are simply following through with our promise.

Over the past few days, statements from board member Michael Moloney have reached the press. He has called into question the intentions of the recall committee, and he has accused those pushing for punishment of board members to be engaging in the very thing they hated so much about this issue: the bad press.

We wanted you to stop the bad press months ago. In fact, we begged for it. We pleaded for it. We asked the board to solve this issue behind closed doors, and they did not. We asked the board not to do such a drastic thing, and they turned a deaf ear. Make no mistake, we do not want to do this. But what does it say about our community, as a people, if we shut up and move on without so much as questioning the integrity of the decision our board made?

What does that say about Howell?

I make time for this every single day. I don’t live in Howell. I don’t even live within 600 miles of Howell. I don’t get paid to do this. I do it because it matters. Some days, I want to shut down my computer, shut off my phone, and ignore everything about this. It was never meant to become such a critical part of my life.

There are struggles. Such as the fact that I personally like a majority of the board members. I have nothing against Stacy Pasini. I think she’s great. I have nothing against Doug Moore or Deborah McCormick.

Do I want to remove them from the board and destroy their careers? No, I don’t. I really don’t. They’re asking us for understanding, and I want to give it.

But then I remember that they didn’t lend understanding to Ron Wilson. They didn’t pause to think about destroying his career or taking away a job that meant the world to him. It was impersonal. They did it regardless of the moral and legal issues surrounding it. Because, many times, once you believe you’re right, there is very little to convince you otherwise.

We gave the board an opportunity to end this quietly, to do the right and rational thing. And it wasn’t done. And now they want us to back down and do the same?

I’m sorry, but that just isn’t fair. There was not valid reasoning provided for terminating Ron Wilson, and whatever has “come to light” since that Wednesday night is all but useless.

It is of little consequence that Mr. Moloney has now come out with concerns about performance issues, and for two reasons. I’ll preface them with this. Yes, performance issues are a serious problem indeed. Yes, the district losing close to $1 million over dropping ACT scores is catastrophic.

However, neither of these concerns were delivered to Wilson’s door with the charges. Neither or these concerns surfaced in the board meeting before Wilson was terminated. In fact, none of these concerns have been credited with any actual proof at all.

The point is that those two accusations will never make it into a courtroom. They will not be taken into consideration by the arbitrator. If the board had concerns about Wilson’s performance as superintendent, they should have: (1) refused to renew his contract and (2) included these performance issues in their reasoning for termination.

Therefore, for all intents and purposes, they do not matter. 

My personal belief is that it is absolutely ludicrous to blame the superintendent alone for ACT score reports and over-budgeting. In all reality, the board should be looked to for at least a portion of the blame if these are true.

But that opinion aside, I want to address a few other things.

I do not, and never have, claimed to speak for anyone but myself on these issues. I often present facts as I am given, and I often share my personal opinion (though, lately, I’ve attempted to keep them separate). There will always be members of the community who disagree with this recall, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But that doesn’t change the facts. That doesn’t change what will be upheld by the law and what won’t be. It doesn’t change the fact that Wilson was fired over $309.33 and, as of yet, I haven’t seen any proof that he ordered anyone to give him that money. Just as I don’t take the opinions of Wilson supporters at face-value, I don’t take the words of the board members at face-value either. To do so without researching is to succumb to the ignorance of “cheering on a team”, and that isn’t at all what I’m here to do.

I’ve done the research. I’ve read the contract. I’ve seen every piece of factual information and documentation that has been made available to me, and that is how I’ve made my decision. Every single member of the Howell community can, and should, do the same. It is the job of voters to take on the responsibility of knowing what they stand for. It is the job of members of a democracy.

If I’m being completely honest with you, Ron Wilson and I, when last I wrote about him, could not have been on more opposite ends of the argument. He showed me respect, we talked the situation through, and it ended there. I, by no means, left Howell on wonderful terms with the superintendent. Much the opposite. To say that I, or my family, have a biased opinion is to speak about something that you don’t understand. Until a few months ago, we were anything but avid Ron Wilson supporters.

Then I read the stories, studied the documentation, conducted the interviews, and learned about what was really happening in Howell. I didn’t get my opinions from words. I got them from facts. Facts that are all provided (in detail) in my articles.

Ron Wilson is not right in theory. He is right legally, and he is right morally, and I am confident that an arbitrator will prove that.

It is my job as a voter to stand up for what I believe is right. I will not back down from doing so because I am afraid of the bad press. Over the past year, I believe I’ve generated more good press for my hometown than anything else.

And I will continue to do so, because I believe in my school district.

Making Major Decisions: BuzzFeed and Politics

It all happened very quickly.

One minute, I was a Journalism & English major, and the next I was questioning my decision while staring at the required classes for an English degree. I hated about 75% of the options.

Over the past few months, as I’ve been working on the Howell Board of Education story, I’ve realized that I have strong feelings about politics and law. I also want to do a semester in Washington DC to focus on journalism, because political viewpoints are so important to the career.

So why not make my other major Politics?

Don’t worry, I’m not planning on being a politician. Not even a little bit. I’ve learned, over the course of covering these stories that it’s a dangerous job, with much more criticism than praise. Obviously (have you seen my blog?), I can’t live like that.

But I can obtain the knowledge I need to get involved in political scandals and help keep those in office in check. Journalism is a huge tool in a democratic society. It ensures that politicians who abuse their power will have to answer for their actions.

It gives the little people a voice. That’s kind of my thing.

I’m pretty excited about this decision. I’ll be seeking an Honors degree in both majors, and hopefully I’ll break a few more stories along the way.

I’ll try not to bombard all of you with those, though. It seems you’ve seen enough of that over the past 10 weeks.

Speaking of big decisions, I did something semi-risky last week. I applied for my first real, full-time job related to my career. That job was as a Staff Writer at BuzzFeed.

If you don’t know what BuzzFeed is, first of all you live under a rock, and second of all, you probably just don’t know that you’ve seen it. Most of the humorous videos, list-articles (10 Reasons Why, 15 Things That, 14 Signs That), and quizzes that pop-up on your Facebook or social media feed are probably from BuzzFeed. It’s mostly an entertainment website, but it also covers hard news stories and is constantly evolving.

BuzzFeed is also constantly hiring. According to an interview, they have hired a new employee every single day for the past five years. That kind of growth is incredible in the journalism world.

I honestly can’t imagine a better place to start my career. The mood that BuzzFeed shares with its readers is something I try to capture in Misadventures, and I love the fact that it’s always looking to improve itself. BuzzFeed does so well because it isn’t set in its ways, like the New York Times and other large news sources. Instead, it prides itself in altering articles to fit the needs of its followers.

There are a few catches, though, as always.

The odds that I’ll get called for an interview are minimal. It’s a plus that I have a blog with so many followers, views, and posts, and it’s also great that I have a long journalistic resume. However, BuzzFeed’s internship program is only open to juniors and seniors in college. If that’s true, I can’t imagine they would be interested in hiring an 18 year-old fresh out of high school.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Nowhere on the application did it require a degree or a specific age. In fact, I fit all of the requirements listed. But I’m trying to be realistic. Most companies don’t want to work around a student schedule.

On top of that, if in some crazy world, I got the job, a large portion of my life would change. I wouldn’t live in Howell anymore. I’d be getting my own place in the city, and I’d start living here full-time. I wouldn’t come home for J-Term or summer break. I also wouldn’t work at Bobst Library anymore.

Getting this job would be the difference between living in both places and having to choose one. I would be starting my career here, and making that commitment.

Granted, it would be more than worth it. I wouldn’t be living like a poor college student, I could save $8000 in dorm fees (essentially eliminating several loans and my outstanding bill), I could pay for my own cell phone, I could actually afford a Metro-Card that lasts more than two rides, and I could finally get a few outfits that fit New York City a little better than my snap-backs and leather jackets.

Not to mention the job itself. Talk about loving what you do. I write BuzzFeed-type articles for fun on my blog. Now, I’d be getting paid for it. It would be like a dream come true, it really would.

But for now, that’s all it is. A dream. My application is submitted, including a cover letter and resume, and now I wait. I’m going to assume, if I don’t hear from them within 2 weeks, then that’s probably it.

Either way, I still have you guys. And that’s the most important thing.

This blog has come so far. A week before I left for school, I wrote a post talking about how much Misadventures had been through. It turns out, that didn’t even scratch the surface. At the time, we had 40 followers and about 10,000 views. I’d posted maybe 20 times.

Now look. 128 followers, over 32K views, and I’ll be hitting 100 posts within the next week (maybe tonight, who knows?). Misadventures has grown on an exponential scale. Part of me is sad that a lot of that push has come from negative things, like the School Board Controversy, but every follower that I’ve gained who enjoys reading what I write is a small moment of pride for me.

It’s only been 5 months. I can’t wait to see what the next 42 have in store.

Howell Community Erupts as School Board Wrongly Fires Superintendent

It was like watching a courtroom drama in which you have a personal investment.

There was a judge, a jury, and two attorneys. The room was filled with an emotional audience that often supplied laughter, gasps, and applause. At the end, a verdict was delivered.

But here’s the major problem with the picture.

It didn’t follow a form of standard procedure that any courtroom in America is familiar with.

First of all, the attorney representing the Howell School Board was also the “unbiased” lawyer hired to investigate the case; something that would never be allowed in court.

The judge, played by Gary Collins as the hearing officer, was also a laughable expression of an “unbiased” opinion, considering the man was smiling and chatting away with Board President Michael Witt during a ten-minute recess.

Indeed, the only proper representation of the case was given by Wilson’s attorney, who explained (in clear terms) exactly how ludicrous the charges against the superintendent were. His fifteen-minute speech glistened in comparison to Howell’s representative, who used big words and an hour-long PowerPoint presentation to describe what the community already knew was a petty allegation to begin with.

She stepped down to the silence of the room. Wilson’s attorney had to pause for nearly forty-five seconds of resounding applause.

But the worst part of the proceedings came at the very end, after nearly a dozen community members stepped up to the podium to show their support for Wilson and to express their warnings to the board about the drastic effect the wrong decision would have on the Howell community. Nearly 8 of Howell’s Citizens of the Year were there to show support for the superintendent, as well as teachers, students, parents, and business owners.

But, like Wilson’s original harassment allegations against Mike Witt, the community’s words fell on deaf ears. The board had clearly made their decision before the hearing had even begun, a mistake that violated their policies, not to mention the basic rules surrounding due process.

Wilson was removed by a vote of 6-1, with Stacy Pasini as the dissenting vote. She may very well have saved her career with that decision.

What the board does not seem to realize, even though the community gave them fair warning of their intentions, is that the recall process has already begun. A lawsuit will likely be filed against the school district.

Howell could lose more than just a superintendent, at this point. They stand to lose programs, teachers, students, and community support.

The decision made last night could not be more off-base. Whether or not you believe Ron Wilson is a good man, basic knowledge about the law is sufficient to analyze what will happen in the event of a lawsuit. The school district will be laughed out of the courtroom.

As board member Doug Moore explained last night, Wilson wasn’t fired over $309. I think we’re all well aware of that fact. Wilson was fired because the board doesn’t want to work with him. Because, if placed back in office, they feel they would not be able to function because they can’t get over their differences and focus on the future of the Howell School District.

Although the words came a little differently out of his mouth. He used words like “respect” and “integrity”, two things the community strongly believes Wilson has and the school board does not. The board feels that it’s the other way around. This, in itself, is a disappointment.

But it also won’t hold up in court. The charges against Wilson included $309, $500 donated to the Howell Education Foundation, and a laptop that wasn’t immediately returned to the district. All of these allegations were easily refuted by Wilson’s attorney, and will be easily refuted in court.

There is nothing in Wilson’s contract that says he isn’t entitled to mileage reimbursement. The black and white facts are: it doesn’t matter if the board intended for something else to be done. It doesn’t matter if e-mail communications were had between them and the superintendent regarding the reimbursements. What will matter in a court of law is the document that all seven of the board members signed, regardless of their other intentions. The contract still gives Wilson the right, and every single one of you signed it. Therefore, you owe him that money. If you didn’t want to pay it, you should have removed the clause that allows him the reimbursement.

The other charges are miscommunications at worst, and even come close to complimenting Wilson for things such as donating money to the school district, and not requesting mileage reimbursements for two consecutive years.

This is what a judge is going to see when this case shows up in his/her courtroom. It doesn’t take a college education to know what that judge is going to say. Hearsay and complaining does not hold up in a courtroom.

You have truly put a stake through the heart of this community, and it will take years for us to heal. But, if there’s one thing we can do, it’s to make sure we heal without any of you representing us on that board. The petition is being made.

And my name, and the name of thousands of others who mistakenly believed in you, will be on it.