Smoke And Mirrors From The Great And Powerful Oz

great-powerful-ozKen Knickerbocker (former school board member, former Parkesburg borough council member, and owner of the ParkesburgToday blog) is upset. I believe there is more to it, but he accuses me of “[having] bluntly accused the nine-member all-volunteer Octorara school board of 1) having “narrow, rigid vision,” 2) spending “like drunken sailors,” 3) intentionally deceiving Octorara tax payers, 4) ignoring events leading up to 2008 epic economic collapse and intentionally deceiving Octorara tax payers and 5) misrepresenting academic achievement.” (link)

This is what happens when people pull back the curtain. Most school board apologists don’t have answers. They just want to take the focus off spending, and silence dissenting opinions. They vigorously avoid discussing why controllable costs have not been better controlled. They avoid discussions about Octorara’s high labor cost issue. They avoid discussions about why the High School renovation was not at least delayed when the economic climate became harsh, and taxpayers asked them to reconsider timing and cost. They avoid talking about academic achievement data.

I’ve tried to ignore Mr Knickerbocker’s ad hominem attacks and logical fallacies, but things can only go so far before something needs to be said.

  1. While I do talk about the board as a whole political body, I’m not accusing every member of the board of anything. The Board is responsible for this situation, just like Congress is responsible for our national budget crisis. The Board is responsible for governing the school district.
  2. That the board is “all-volunteer” is irrelevant to any argument about cause and effect. It is also an insult to taxpayers to try and assert being a board member has no personal value, and is always done with selfless motives. I’m not questioning motives. I am questioning decisions.
  3. The vision of the board being rigid is my opinion, based on my analysis of the facts and data. It was only when the well started to run dry that there any attempts to make real cuts to the budget.
  4. Saying the school district spent like drunken sailors was insulting… to drunken sailors, who are spending their own money.
  5. Was there an attempt to intentionally deceive taxpayers? I don’t think I specifically made the accusation of deliberate lies, and I think the facts speak for themselves.
  6. Where there misrepresentations of the school’s academic achievement? Misrepresentation may be too harsh a word. I would say there was a concerted attempt to downplay or take focus off things like achievement scores, graduation rates, and college readiness.
  7. Did the board ignore events leading up to 2008 epic economic collapse? The foreclosure and credit crisis existed long before final approval to proceed occurred, and the major collapse was happening and ignored while contracts were being awarded and the vote to proceed happened. This is fact. They either ignored what was going on, or… what?

The school district leadership does not want to be held accountable for past decisions. They instead want to switch the subject, and make it a conversation about shrinking State and Federal contributions, about farming tax waivers, and about the community rejecting vigorous development. They want the blame to be on people who send their kids to charter schools, taking funds out of the budget, not the school district.

They don’t want us talking about…

  • When faced with a global financial crisis, considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the school district chose to move forward with the High School Renovation schedule.
  • When people spoke up about taxes, and wanting them to take pause and re-evaluate the possibility, extent and financing of renovating the high school, they were told it was too late to voice their objections.
  • The fact Ocotrara has had a labor cost issue, going back before 1999 that only escalated.
  • The budget increase and tax hike of $1.2 Million, after other debits and credits, is almost completely labor costs of $1.1 Million.
  • Labor costs (salaries and benefits) represents $27.6 Million of the total $47.8 Million 2013-14 budget.
  • Salaries representing $19.2 Million of the $27.6 Million labor cost.

The Complexity Conundrum

The argument that the school budget is too complex for the average voter or “novice activist” to grasp, and even comment on, is a false argument. It is merely an attempt to keep taxpayers and voters from peeking around the curtain, and invalidate the opinions of those who have the audacity. Information seems often presented in a way to have people looking away from cost that are/were controllable, and upset with uncontrollable costs and funding issues.

It is true that the issue is complex, but the complexity comes from large amounts of information being disjointed, and presented in an incomprehensible way. It is done in a way that keeps many from even attempting to pull all the information together, and making comparisons.

The Personal Attacks and Name-Calling

From feedback, I feel confident most people recognize Mr Knickerbocker’s ad hominem attacks. I have no idea what his thought process is other than since he can’t prove the facts I post wrong, or my assertions invalid, he must attack me personally. He’s a veteran of the school board, and has a vested interest in trying to not have people digging too deep.

The ParkesburgToday blog is commentary packaged as news. It is not true coverage of the area. For all the saber-rattling, there has not been any substantive analysis. He just sits there screaming it is too complex for the average taxpayer to understand.

When we compare mill value, tax rate, and total student body, we see our tax rate should probably be around 31 mills, not a projected 37. Our spending should look more like Oxford and Solanco, not West Chester and Great Valley. Even then, West Chester’s spending is much more controlled… remember, they have almost 12,000 students compared to our 2,600.

The reason one would resort to attacking the messenger is because they can’t refute the message. Mr Knickerbocker has not provided his own analysis. He has not provided any information or data that refutes the facts I have posted, or invalids my point of view. He is not trying to solve the problems facing our community. The ranting is just an attempt to silence opinions which he does not share, nothing more.

22 thoughts on “Smoke And Mirrors From The Great And Powerful Oz

  1. Parkesburg “rants” today is also full of comments from people who have close ties with the school board, the borough council, and Kenny in my opinion.

    Moving forward I would like to say that we need new board members that actually care about the education, the financial burdens of the tax payer, and not give us all the run around circular arguments. I would like to call out Lisa ,and Brian and say please have the courage to admit you made the mistakes, and fix them. Playing the blame game is not a moral way to get the issues under control. All you are doing is stalling, and dragging out the process.

    I can imagine these problems were caused by the Knickerbocker age when he was a school board member, and a borough council member. Both the school ,and the town thrived before Ken stepped on the scene, but that is just my opinion without facts to back that up. I have not read anything on parkesburg rants today that has helped our area at all in any way shape or form, so why do we need this tiny little so called news blog? My answer is that it is put in place to keep us all from knowing the truth, but I have no facts to say that is true either, but I have a good feeling in my gut that it is!.

    When I mentioned I was running for Mayor of Parkesburg Kenny bashed me, so I guess I would make a great candidate.

    When Tim said he was running for school board Kenny bashed him, so I guess he is a great candidate.

    Vote for Tim Alexander for school board, and vote for Joey Rzonca for Mayor…I bet you get results!

    • I’m voting for both of you guys because we need transparency in Parkesburg, and on the school board. As a patron of Parkesburg and a long time resident I believe it is time for a new Mayor, and a new borough council. The school board will eventually fail if it keeps going in this downward spiral of spending, and many residents will move away. I also heard that we used to have people come to town daily to eat and relax until they had a run in with the local police force who were so rude to them that they vowed never to return. This year we have 2 amazing men running for key positions in town and on the school board, so lets give Tim ,and Joey our support! Help these guys end the out of control spending vote for truth, and justice.

      • I posted this on Parkesburg today rant page to see if it would get posted. Ken has a silly find it Friday game to draw in more readers to his gossip page and even tried to recruit someone like me to join in. Here is the (bait) post he used to get my attention along with my response.

        “Second, why doesn’t Joey “Vote for me, I’m running for Mayor” Rzonca ever submit a Find It Friday guess? He knows so much about everything else I find it hard to believe he doesn’t know enough about Parkesburg to play Find It Friday every now and then. Joey, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome to play FIF any week. I promise to consider your guess as long as you 1) don’t insult anyone or 2) use profanity in your guess.”

        Let me answer this as nicely as I can without expressing my 1st Amendment right to say bad words:
        Does the acting Mayor play along with your silly find it Friday game? I never hear from him on here…

        Oh and one more thing I never said I know so much about everything, which means you are stating something that is not true. For good news go to Tim’s blog!

  2. Dear Mr. Alexander:

    From the time, some weeks back, when I first started noticing posts and comments you had submitted to that other website, I cannot recall a single instance when anything you said was expressed in anything less than a polite, respectful, civil manner. And I think it’s true that by and large most of the people who have offered comments in reaction to something you had posted on that other site did so in much the same vein; i.e., in a civil manner. Regrettably, as is all too common and characteristic of that other website, some have chosen to attack instead of politely disagreeing, most notably the site’s proprietor. So it is unfortunate, but more than understandable, that apparently you finally reached the point where you felt the need to fight back, and did so quite effectively in your March 17 posting, ‘Smoke And Mirrors From The Great And Powerful Oz.’ As usual, indeed as always as far as I can see, you relied on facts and polite, civil argumentation of what you at least perceive the past and present facts of the matter to be. One can agree or disagree with your take on things – this is after all America, and robust civil debate for getting things done is the way the Framers set the system up. But I say again: whereas you have always comported yourself in a calm and respectful manner — asserting your views calmly and respectfully, and responding in a respectful way to even the silliest of some of the cheap shots thrown at you, too often your critics have resorted to cheap, transparently cheap, rhetorical tricks…or at least tried to, and almost always failed. American editor, publisher and writer Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) said that: “If you can’t answer a man’s arguments, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.” And President Harry Truman once quipped: “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” Those nefarious notions seem to be the operating principles of some of your critics.

    It seems to me that from the beginning your message has been clear and simple: (1) school taxes are too high, unaffordably high for a growing number of Octorara taxpayers; (2) per-student costs are out of line with national and regional averages; controllable costs have not and are not being adequately controlled; return on educational investment is questionable; and regardless of anything else the school board must come to grips with the simple fact — and for a growing number of taxpayers it is a simple, hard, cold, painful fact – that the existing tax base is tapped out; (3) that regardless of whether, in that famous and familiar government catch-all excuse, ‘mistakes were made in the past,’ the fact is that we are living in the here and now; it’s pretty much tough times wherever one looks locally; and so it is incumbent upon the school board, as well as all other local officials, to smell the coffee and to see things not as they (or for that matter any of us) would like them to be, but simply as they are. Hard times demand cold, hard eyes.

    As to the central issue in this whole argument – is education in the OASD too costly – allow me to reference only a few of the interesting facts I found when I did just a cursory Google search of the phrase: ‘average costs of public school education in the U.S’:

    1. According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2008-09 school year (the most recent year for which statistics are available), the national average expenditure per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools was $10,694.  (Note: the average expenditure per pupil In the Octorara Area School District for the current school year is nearly $18,000.)

    2. A February 8, 2011 study by the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California pegged the average annual spending per school-aged child in the U.S. at $7,743.  This expenditure was the highest in the developed world, nearly $2,000 more per year than the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Finland, and France, and way, way higher than a lot of other countries, such as Japan.  (Note: and yet, as high as the U.S. average annual expenditure was, according to this study, it was less than half of what the current average cost is in the Octorara Area School District.)

    3. According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, the national average annual cost for tuition, room and board for full-time undergraduate students (i.e., at colleges and universities) for the 2010 – 2011 school year (the last year for which statistics are available) was $22,092.  (Note: according to the Octorara Area School District’s own budget numbers, the current average annual cost to have a student in any level of the OASD schools is nearly $18,000.  So in other words, on average, and across the country, it costs only a few thousand dollars more per year to have a student at a four-year college or university, and living on campus, than the average annual cost of a student enrolled in the OASD.) 
     
    4. According to an August 24, 2010 article in U.S. News & World Report, the average annual cost for students to get a college education, including expenses, in the United States at a public 4-year school was approximately the same as the current annual average cost per student in the Octorara Area School District.  (Note: the article referenced here relies on statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, and the numbers reflect the 2007-2008 school year; nevertheless the point is striking: you can send your child to college for about the same money as it costs local taxpayers to have a student in the Octorara Area School District.)
     
    5. According to a May 26, 2011 article published on FoxNews.com: “If the quality of public schools can be measured by the amount of money spent per student, then U.S. students should be performing fabulously.  The national average in fiscal year 2009 was $10,499, a 2.3 percent increase over the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, citing data from ‘Public Education: 2009.’  Some states spent way above the national average, starting with New York, which spent $18,126 per student. Other top spenders include Washington ($16,408), New Jersey ($16,271), Alaska ($15,552), and Vermont ($15,175).”  (Note: Admittedly the numbers cited in this article are now three or four years out-of-date.  Nevertheless, the numbers remain striking in light of OASD’s current average annual expenditure per student of $18,000.)

    6. According to a May 28, 2010 posting on a website called ChaCha.com, “The average cost per student in public schools is $10,000. (Note: The current average annual cost per student in the OASD: $18,000.)
     
    7. According to a June 21, 2012 item posted on CNN.com, “Public school systems spent an average of $10,615 per student in the 2010 fiscal year, according to Public Education Finances: 2010, a U.S. Census Bureau report released today.” (Note: current average annual cost per student in the OASD: $18,000.)
     
    8. According to a website called surveysez.com, “The average cost per year for a public in-state college was $20,339 for 2010/2011, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses.” (Note: The average annual cost for kindergartners, grade- schoolers, middle-schoolers and high-schoolers in the OASD: $18,000, and of course that has nothing to do with room and board.)
     
    9. According to the Fall 2012 issue of EducationNext.org — which is sponsored by the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute — “the United States now spends more money on K–12 schooling than any other nation in the world. More is spent by the United States, in the aggregate, than by hugely populous nations such as China and India. Spending per pupil is higher in the U.S. than in every country except Switzerland.  Achievement levels in the U.S. are not commensurate with spending, however. Many nations exceed the United States in science and math test scores, for example.  Spending increases have been directed overwhelmingly toward adding school employees. Professional-to-pupil ratios have become ever more favorable (or unfavorable, depending on your point of view). Whereas 30 years ago there was one professional educator employed for every 18.6 public school students, the equivalent figure today is one for every 15.4 students. When other personnel are added to the mix—cafeteria workers, custodians, clerks, and so forth—the ratio falls to one employee for every 7 students.”

    In conclusion, Mr. Alexander, I would say that all of the facts cited above support the clear and simple message you have been trying to get out. And if anybody doubts the data I have cited, well then let them Google the phrase ‘average costs for public school education in the U.S.’ and see for themselves that what I have said here is based on published facts, most especially including data from the U.S. Department of Education.

    It’s lonely out there in the wilderness, isn’t it, Mr. Alexander? Trying to call attention to pressing problems too long neglected, excused, sloughed-off invites vitriolic, cover-your-ass attacks from vested interests. Take heart. An increasing number of people are hearing your message, rallying to your cause, getting your back. Hopefully all of those will support, come out and vote for your election to the Board. Every governing entity, especially governmental entities, needs at least a few cold, hard, pragmatists on board.

    Just one more final thought: I have no personal axe to grind against any individual member of the school board, or against the collective board past or present. With one exception I don’t even know any past or present members. Hell, I moved here less than three years ago. I have no children or relatives in the district’s schools, and I never will. I have only two real interests in this matter: (1) speaking both nationally and locally, I have serious, fact-based questions and doubts about the overall effectiveness of this country’s monolithic public school education system: as a taxpayer, as both a father and grandfather, and simply as someone who cares about the future even after I’m gone of course I care about the world that my descendants and all of our descendants will inherit; and (2) it is long, long past time for government and all governmental entities, including local school boards, to realize that you can’t get blood from a stone. You cannot keep increasing taxes to fund unrealistic ambitions and grand illusions when people simply no longer have the means to pay. That road leads only to a ruined economy, or riots, or both, as we increasingly see in the countries of Europe. The funding of the Pennsylvania public school education system may or may not be genuinely complex. But the underlying problem is clear as day: taxpayers can no longer afford the idealized visions and grandiose notions of too many of those in government who — their own jobs, incomes, and retirement packages well protected — seemingly cannot connect with the everyday worries of those of us who pay their salaries and fund their out-of-line, indeed exorbitant and extortionate, benefit and retirement packages…that is to say, the poor, struggling, everyday folks like me who are forced to pay the freight, left to wonder where all the money goes, and most especially, left to wonder how to make our own ends meet.

    Chuck Vail

    • Tim has one thing that eludes the name calling babies, and that is courage! His passion for a fair tax system has opened up the flood gates on those who like spending other peoples tax dollars like its a game. Well I would like to say the game is over, your not going to get another dime from us until you can show us positive results.

  3. Look folks, I need no introduction to those close to the Parkesburg community or the Octorara Community for that matter. Those who know me, know a small portion of what I have personally contributed to the area in a forty-three year span. I am a contributing editor to parkesburgtoday.com. I am not here to defend Ken Knickerbocker, he is able to defend his position on his own. I do not write the hard hitting political stories that appear on the site. I do have my opinions and when I did “report” from the school board meeting in February, it was because on my availability to attend due to my busy work schedule. I rely on and depend on the honesty and accurate description of meetings from Ellen Brown and that is my source for Octorara News. One of the most read articles that I posted was featured on the gentleman born and raised in Christiana who is a producer on the Howard Stern Show. This one story garnered some of the most “looks” on the sight’s history. I am also researching a story that has nothing to do with local politics or the school tax situation. And “Find it Friday” is a very popular feature on parkesburgtoday.com. Not everyone is as intent on reading the constant verbiage on the school tax system on a day to day basis however, anyone who wants to look behind the current story may easily click on the Week’s Top Post to access the hot topics of the week. It is not that difficult to find stories that are “allegedly” buried under the other news and feature items. Two years ago, when the water main broke just off of East First Avenue, there was no newspaper coverage or radio coverage to alert Parkesburg residents as to what was going on. These folks who had no water had no clue. Parkesburg Today broke the story and remained up on the issue so that those who had access to the site, could find out when they were getting water back on. Due to my work schedule and my other commitments, it is difficult but I work very hard to produce stories for the site that people might enjoy reading. When someone attacks “the site” it strikes a nerve with me. As I said earlier, after living in the area almost sixty years and serving the community over forty three – risking my own health and safety, I sometimes comment on the issues and I sign my name to each and every one. I like readers and I enjoy them reading my tales but if an individual does not wish to read post on the site simply – don’t access the site. It’s that simple. I am available most mornings in Parkesburg unless personal or work commitments dictate otherwise. My photo is available on public media. If any one of your readers wish to address me face to face, personally, I will gladly accommodate same. Thank You. -Jack Mariano

    • We all come to Tim’s blog because Kenny has a biased page and false facts from what we have all seen in my opinion. He likes to play devils advocate and get people to fight with each other on his ranting blog in my opinion and that is fine with us. We are here to find solutions to the problems we are facing as a district, and Tim has proven to be the number one draft pick rookie! We don’t appreciate the false news propaganda that is published on the ranting blog, so Tim has his own news blog with great information and excellent news coverage. We don’t take well to what sounds like a threat where you are asking us to meet face to face for whatever reason perhaps it will stay unknown. We all would like to thank you for visiting our blog, and if you want good news coverage please visit this site daily.

      Moving forward I would like to say get out and vote this year for 2 underdog contenders! Tim Alexander for school board, and Joey Rzonca for Mayor! Let us all join in and make a difference, vote for transparency,and truth…It will set you free!

      • Can we get a comment of the day on here?

        I found one from Mr. Vail, and it is informative!

        “C. Vail
        March 19, 2013 at 5:52 AM
        Famous last words, if only they were, from the amazingly egotistical and arrogant, yet laughingly silly, mind of the intellectually challenged, stooge-like proprietor of this poor excuse for whatever Parkesburg Today might have originally set out to be and still purports to be, but which has become, ispso facto, a laughingstock:

        “But hey, what do I know? I voted for that ‘community organizer/activist, law school instructor’ . . . twice.”

        Just so. Need anything else be said? Knickerbocker and tens of millions of other knuckleheads voted for Obama, twice, on the basis of, well, nothing. For such low information voters (LIV’s) it was enough that Obama seemed like a cool guy, and he promised ‘hope and change,’ and that was enough for idiots like Knickerbocker to make like lemmings and happily plunge over the cliff.

        To any and all readers of this blog, and if in fact the idiot proprietor of the blog deigns to post this comment, please be advised that Parkesburg Today is as stale and irrelevant as yesterday’s news and the stuff you threw out in last night’s garbage. There is an alternative. Google ‘Ken Alexander.’

        To be sure, Knickerbocker can still do a bang-up job of covering local social events, high school sports, and recording Parkesburg’s past. We all thank him for that. He should stick to that. But whenever he strays into the arena of public affairs, on any level, he almost always comes across as an illiterate boob. He sometimes goes to great lengths to stir up controversy, to what purpose I’m not sure. But in his replies to comments you shall know the man. To those who agree he offers a simple, blanket thumbs-up; to those who disagree he offers a simple, blanket, illogical and nonsensical argument: a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Knickerbocker’s stock answer to comments and questions he doesn’t like is that the matter is “complicated,” “complex,” requiring many years of attendance at Board meetings and diligent study before one has any standing to speak out.

        Knickerbocker, the idiot, the stooge, has failed to realize that, suddenly, there is a new wind in town. Or more accurately, Knickerbocker has suddenly felt the hot blowback of discontent with his endless and mindless ‘feel good’ pablum that all here in Parkesburg is just honky-dory.

        Surely I cannot be the only person to note that as crucial, critical issues come to the fore — and as a great deal of discussion takes place in other forums –Parkesburg Today shrinks away and resorts to more and more coverage of nice little things like the high school’s recent production of The Sound of Music. Nothing wrong with that. But the point is that, as he once confessed to me, Knickerbocker sometimes intentionally tries to stir up controversay. And there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that, once the hornets’ nest has been poked, Knickerbocker prefers to stay on the sidelines, never ever really getting into the game. He just likes sitting back and enjoying the fall-out of the contretemps he instigated. If that’s not the definition of Machievellianism, manipulation, cynicism, then I don’t know what is.

        Bottom line: Knickerbocker should stick to ‘Find It Fridays’ and other such frivolities. For despite the fact that he previously served on the Octorara School Board, and on Parkesburg Borough Council, with almost every word he writes it becomes increasingly apparent that he is a blithering idiot.

        Given Knickerbocker’s past service, no damn wonder we are confronted with the problems we face. Idiots, even well-intentioned idiots, can screw things up big time.

        I call here and now for a boycott of Parkesburg Today. The proprietor of the site is at best an idiot, at worst a slick charlatan, devoid of any principles or scruples, at least any I can discern, other than mindless allegiance to a mindless liberal, so-called ‘progressive’ agenda. And I’m not even sure Knickerbocker buys into that. Who the hell knows where Knickerbocker’s mind is? I suspect he doesn’t even know. He is just off there, out there, like a hippy I suspect he once was, just ‘doing his thing.’

        Here is the truth: as the heat of genuinely controversial issues has ramped up, Parkesburg Today has more and more fallen back on side stories. Go to Knicerbocker’s site and you will have to scroll back four or five pages before you encounter anything of genuine significance. Ken Knickerbocker may be a likeable guy, a bon viviant in the neighborhood, but in the end he is a bully, a coward, a fraud. And the proof of my assertion will be whether or not he posts this comment, and how he responds. Tell us, Ken, while in the midst of serious matters, and serious challenges to your credibility such as several I have previously offered, your preferred course of action has been to ignore and turn a blind eye to that which you simply do not want to see. But caution: if you choose to post and to respond, be assured I will come after you with all the opprobrium and rhetorical fire you might attempt to level at me. Do not make the mistake of trying to slough me off with what you might consider a glib sentence or two. I will eat your lunch. You know I will.

        Through your egotism, your arrogance, your smugness and smarminess, you have brought all of this upon yourself. You deserve whatever you get.

        We await, with bated breath, to see whether you have any real cojones, or whether you are in fact just a cowardly blowhard.

        Chuck Vail”

        Thank you Chuck!

  4. Can this be the comment of the week instead? It is also from Chuck Vail who is an American Patriot!

    This may not have much to do with the school board topic, but it does have something to do with courage, and Chuck has it my friends. Here is a comment he left to some guy on the ranting blog explaining the real sacrifices in society. We need more patriots like Chuck and Joey to lead the way in our fight for truth.

    “C. Vail
    March 20, 2013 at 1:36 AM
    And after I finished my education I was almost immediately drafted into the Army. After Basic Training, and during Advanced Infantry Training, where I and my cannon-fodder colleagues were informed in no uncertain terms to get our minds right, that we would soon be shipped-out to Viet Nam, fate intervened. I wasn’t sent to Viet Nam, but was instead assigned to the Army’s ceremonial unit in Washington, D.C., the so-called ‘Old Guard.’ Once there in the Old Guard, I was trained as a casket bearer. And for the next 400-odd days I helped to lift at least as many caskets onto and off of the horse-drawn caissons, then to carry the caskets to their burial places in Arlington National Cemetery, and there to stand by at the grave site as final rites were administered, and to bear witness as grief-stricken parents, young wives, and bewildered little kids broke down in convulsions of tears…all the while thinking that there, but for the grace of God, might likely be me.

    So please, don’t presume to lecture me about hardship, sacrifice and suffering. I experienced none of those things personally, but I saw far more of some of the truly anguished moments of life, up close and personal, than I was emotionally prepared for, more than most people can imagine. And that was my lot in life, and my honor, on a daily basis for well more than a year. Nobody other than the families of the fallen can tell me anything about true emotional suffering. For more than a year, sometimes four times per day, witnessing terrible emotional pain was my daily diet.

    Respectfully,
    Chuck Vail”

    Chuck thank you for your incredible service!

  5. I’m quite uncomfortable with several comments posted above. To be clear, I did not post the comment about my military service on that other blog to in any way draw attention to myself or to suggest that my service was in any way courageous. I did so simply to remind the proprietor of that other blog, indeed all of us, that whereas almost any kind of service to country and community is to be respected and honored, there have always been those who have given the last full measure of devotion…and those with broken hearts left behind for whom no degree of military pomp and ceremony could possibly compensate for their loss. Mr. Knickerbocker understood what I was trying to convey, and I appreciate his thoughtful reply.

    Please, let no one call me courageous. Don’t even hint at such a thing. I did not volunteer for military service, I was drafted. I did not pick my duty assignment, I went where I was told to go. It just so happened that because I met certain physical requirements and presumably had scored well on tests, I was spared the maw of combat in Viet Nam and was instead sent to Washington, to in effect be a professional military pall bearer. From that day to this I have never, ever, lost sight of just how fortunate and advantaged I was. The circumstances that sent me to Washington, and kept me out of Viet Nam, were accidents of birth. Never, not once in the 400-plus funerals I attended did I ever fail to realize what an incredibly lucky SOB I was. And never since, but especially on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, have I failed to honor the genuinely courageous lives of all the young men, cut short, whose caskets I helped to carry to their final resting place. Back then I had to be stoic and maintain military bearing. Since then, especially on Memorial Day, I let tears flow.

    I don’t know if there is a single exact quote, and if so to whom it is attributed. I suspect much the same thing has been voiced tens, hundreds of thousands of times, and never more profoundly than when the speaker was some mud-caked, totally exhausted, dog-faced GI trying to slough-off any hint that he was a hero. The common refrain was: ‘the heroes are in the ground.’

    Lest we not forget.

    C. Vail

  6. The most hilarious thing I have seen so far is a tiny ranting blog calling itself the news when all it has is biased information that is false at best. Maybe all the so called editors will stay on their ranting blog instead of fishing for stories on Tim’s Tax blog. Remember this blog is for facts, and nothing more. If we want to complain about stuff without finding solutions we will go to the little ranting news blog run by a guy who likes drama.

    It is time to change to public’s view on how the tax money is spent during these tough economic times, so if you want transparency vote for Tim Alexander, and Joey Rzonca!

    Look at the facts uncovered so far imagine what will happen if Tim gets a seat on the board.

  7. If the school district budget is too complex for the average person to comprehend.. The how is it that a high school drop who is also a board member can understand it?

      • I think Mr. Lapp may only have a 8th grade education, but I could be wrong. Don’t let that change your perspective though because he is very intelligent, and has excellent ideas for the school district. I believe he is a great asset to our school board and I hope he expresses more ways to keep the budget from increasing.

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