Monthly Archives: March 2009

Open Letter to Principal Russo and Gifford Staff

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March 24, 2009

 

 

Dear Mr. Russo and Gifford Staff,

 

I am writing to you today in regards to the interview I had given to The Racine Journal Times concerning school snacks.  I wanted to first convey that in no way, shape or form did I ever intend to disparage Gifford or its educators. I am and always have been very outspoken about my support to public schools and Racine’s teachers.  By reading some of the comments following the article, you may think I feel otherwise. So I wanted to make that clear right off the bat.

 

I would also like to explain how this article came about. One morning I found out that my step daughter (whom I have helped raise since 14 months old) had been taking her allowance to school to buy junk food at snack time. Her father and I were not aware of this and she explained the snack cart to us. Until this time, we knew there was a snack time, but never knew snacks were sold to the kids with the exception of the popcorn Fridays and occasional ice cream. So, needless to say, we were surprised. As I thought about it that morning, I decided to write a blog on the subject. I write on a personal blog site several times a week – anything from personal situations to local politics to movie reviews. If you would like to see the original blog of which I speak, here is the link: http://cheersrayne.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!656F9A4108C3E513!6719.entry

 

I also sometimes share my blog entries on The Journal Times website if I am looking for advice or suggestions. This is when a reporter contacted me and asked a couple basic questions regarding what I had written. So, that is how this was all brought to a head.

 

I know the difficult position schools are in right now. And while my sympathies do not necessarily lie with Unified – they most certainly lie with the educators within the district. I realize the snack cart as an idea was and is a good one with positive intentions. I just think that more common sense and planning could be put into choosing the items for the cart. It is no secret that children are getting heavier and heavier and doing less and less. While I believe all lessons and education need to start at home – I also think it is the school’s responsibility to not undermine the lessons we should be teaching our children. How can a teacher explain to a child about the importance of the 5 food groups and nutritional values when five minutes later the kids are encouraged to buy a Ding Dong? That is all I am trying to convey.

 

I appreciate you taking the time to listen to what I have to say today. Please feel free to ever contact me if you wish about this or any topic. I do try to make an effort to be an involved parent.

 

Regards,

 

Heather Rayne Geyer

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Article in Journal Times Regarding School Snacks

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A couple weeks ago, I posted a blog here and on the Journal Times site regarding the school snack policy at my step daughter’s elementary school. Here is the link to that blog on this site…and here is the link to the JT blog.
 
Shortly after posting the blog, I received an email from a reporter at JT stating she was interested in peruing the story as it ties in to National Nutrition Month. I gladly spoke to her and pretty much just reiderated the statements I had made in the blog. That same night I ended up receiving an email from The American Diabetes Association regarding a bill that is being introduced to congress on this exact topic. Clearly, it is not an issue that only concerned me.
 
Today the article ran in The Journal Time. Here is a link to the online story and comments from readers.  I will also paste the article below:
 

Upset about school snack options

Parent says healthier choices fit prevalent message of the times

BY LINDSAY FIORI
Journal Times
Sunday, March 22, 2009 11:46 PM CDT

FRANKSVILLE — Potato chips, candy and Ding Dongs have Heather Geyer up in arms. Geyer isn’t upset about the poor nutritional value in these foods or even about their prevalence in American diets. She’s upset about their availability at Gifford Elementary School, 8332 Northwestern Ave., where her stepdaughter attends third grade.

Gifford has a daily break during which parents provide snacks for kindergartners and students in first through fifth grades can purchase a variety of snacks, some of which are not the healthiest of

choices.

“I think it’s undermining what I think a lot of parents, or even what society, is trying to teach children about being healthy,” said Geyer, 34, of Mount Pleasant.

The snack break exists because of Gifford’s 987 students, who eat lunch anytime between 11:20 a.m. and 1:10 p.m. and end their school day at almost 4 p.m, said Gifford Principal Steven Russo.

“It’s a long day, so we give them a snack break in the afternoon or morning” depending on when they eat lunch, Russo said. “I’m not going to have a kindergarten child that eats at 11:30 go all afternoon without a snack break,” Russo said.

But, he added, no child is forced to have a snack. Students can bring different snacks from home or not eat anything. Snack break foods are donated by parents or bought by teachers at places like Sam’s Club. Student snack purchases reimburse the teachers and any additional money earned goes toward field trips or other activities.

 

Russo said that, while each grade handles parent notification differently, parents are generally informed about snack break through Parent Teacher Association newsletters, teacher conferences and homeroom notes.

The program started more than 10 years ago and Russo has not received any parent complaints in his time as principal, said Stephanie Hayden, Racine Unified School District

spokeswoman.

Geyer said she knew about the snack break time, but did not know the school was selling treats.

“I thought they just sat around and maybe brought something from home,” said Geyer, who wishes the school staff could sell nutritional items like apples or string cheese.

Good habits should start early

Schools fall back on cheap and nonperishable candy and chips for snack times, ala carte sales and school stores, said Susan Nitzke, professor of nutritional science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Rather than start with that, start as soon as you can with the expectation of healthy food all day long,” she said. “Then, while you’re solving one nutrition problem you won’t be creating another one.”

Nitzke said the importance of starting good eating habits early in life should outweigh the cost and, if cost is an issue, many federal programs exist to get funding for healthy foods.

“It’s much easier to teach children in school than to re-teach adults,” Nitzke said. “Surveys show early if children start to become overweight they are more likely to have obesity problems later in life.”

Geyer’s complaint comes during National Nutrition Month. To celebrate the month, Unified is having Chartwells School Dining Services’ resident dietitian Lori Vavrek read a book about the importance of good nutrition and physical activity to first through third grade classes.

But Vavrek is not scheduled to visit Gifford because no one from the school responded to her letter sent to all school principals.

“I did not get a request from any teachers at Gifford this year,” Vavrek said.

Son Makes Video to Find Job for Dad

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  I hope I do as good of a job raising my kids as this kid’s parents obviously did.

 

Talking about YouTube – Mark by Ben
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Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire Responses

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As I receive the candidate’s responses to the questionnaire I sent to them, I will paste them here. So far, I have only received one response. I was unable to find an email for Jaimie Charon or Raymond Fay.
 

 

Jody Harding

 

Briefly describe your life growing up.

            I was very fortunate to grow up in Hoffman Estates, Illinois in the 1960’s, when almost all moms were “stay at home” moms, and kids could spend summers playing from dawn to dusk without adult supervision and in complete safety.  I lived within 30 minutes of both sets of grandparents, who shamelessly spoiled myself and my two brothers.

 

What has been your most difficult obstacle?

            Over the years, I have found it difficult to be taken seriously as a candidate for management positions because I am a woman.  The “glass ceiling” is still very much in existence.  I have found that, like most women, I have to be twice as smart and work twice as hard as a man to achieve the same results.  Fortunately, I really enjoy overcoming challenges.

 

What accomplishment have you made which has given you the most pride?

            I was extremely proud to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Ancilla Junior College in Donaldson, Indiana, before continuing on to get my BS degree from Indiana University.  I was also very proud to be appointed President of a small manufacturing company in Milwaukee.  However, my greatest source of pride and pleasure is when my husband, my mom and my friends and family say, “I’m proud to have you for my friend.”  No other success can replace that one.

 

Which characteristics about you make you the better candidate?

            My greatest failing and my greatest strength are the same:  I am stubborn.  Once I am convinced I am right about something, it is very difficult to change my mind or my course.  I recognize the importance of understanding the underlying problem before designing a solution, and I believe we have to take the long-term view of most issues, even when the short-term answer is easier.  I am a good communicator, and have a talent for getting people from opposite sides of the table to work together.

 

What do you like to do on your time off?

            My hobbies include reading, crafting doll-houses and raising orchids.  I love working in my yard, playing with my dogs and watching old movies with my husband of 27 years.

 

Do you think you will live the rest of your life in Racine? If not, where?

            I expect to live in Racine for the rest of my days.  We have been blessed with a beautiful home and wonderful neighbors.  Racine was once a safe, friendly and prosperous town, and I believe it can be so again.

 

What are the top 5 things Racine has to offer its citizens?

1.      Friendly and caring people

2.      An island of peace between the bustle of Milwaukee and Chicago

3.      A beautiful lakefront, harbor, zoo and other amenities

4.      Wonderful old neighborhoods

5.      Great potential for business and personal growth

 

What do you think the average Racinian could do to better their city?

            Focus on all of the good that is here, and speak of it positively whenever possible.  Get to know your neighbors, and watch each other’s backs.  Take responsibility for your own actions.  Vote.

 

 

 

Do you have any pets?

            I have – among other things – 3 horribly spoiled dogs.

 

 

If you are elected Mayor, what will be your top 3 objectives/goals?

1.       Support new and existing business by reducing wasteful spending of tax dollars, and by reversing our path of over-regulation.

2.      Reduce crime by giving support, coordination and resources to the local organizations that are making headway in some of our worst neighborhoods.

3.      Promote education through grassroots efforts that encourage kids to say in school, promote the value of education, and provide resources for persons of any age to return to school.

 

Tough one. If you could not continue the Mayoral race, which of the 11 candidates would you prefer to see win this race?

            All of the candidates besides myself and one other have a long history of “public service.”  The worst of these politicians have records of investigations for fraud and unethical conduct.  The best of them have proved that they have no idea how to solve the issues that plague Racine.  Therefore, if I were not running, I would vote for Jamie Charon as the only candidate who comes to the table untarnished.

 

This is the response from John Dickert’s camp:

 

Hello Heather,

In regards to your email request for the questionnaire, I am going to direct you to John Dickert’s website www.voicesforracine.com  You should find all the answers to your questions there.  If there is anything else you need, please feel free to contact me.

Thanks and have a great night.

Gregory Bach
Campaign Manager

 

Just a note…

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My 4 year old daughter, Cassidy, was suppose to be cleaning her room last night. It was very messy and she was NOT happy about the job ahead of her. She was kicking stuff around that was on her floor and whining. As I started walking into another room I heard her scream, "Why are mom’s boobs on my floor??!!!" She sounded horified. Apparently my nude colored bra made its way into my daughter’s tornado-like destruction.

The Books on My Night Stand

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The following is a list of books which reside peacefully on or under my night stand. I have read parts of all of these books but have only completed one of them. It is pathetic. Like right now, instead of writing about the books I want to read…I should be actually READING them. Duh. But my fatigue is just too heavy. If I start to read, I will fall asleep within minutes. It sucks. I wonder, what does my list say about me?? What does YOUR list say about YOU??
 
 

The Five Stages of the Soul: Charting the Spiritual Passages That Shape Our Lives by Harry R. Moody and David Carroll

 

 

 

Wellness Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Maintaining Health and Treating Stress-Related Illnes by Herbert Benson and Eileen M., R.N. Stuart

 

 

 

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Oprah’s Book Club, Selection 61) by Eckhart Tolle

 

 

 

Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by Wayne W. Dyer

 

 

 

Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Caroline Myss

 

 

 

Buddhism For Dummies (For Dummies (Religion & Spirituality)) by Jonathan Landaw and Stephan Bodian

 

 

 

Practical Intuition by Laura Day

 

 

 

Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson and Johnathan V. Wright

 

 

 

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

 

 

 

Please Stop Laughing At Me…: One Woman’s Inspirational Story by Jodee Blanco

 

 

 

Life After Death: The Burden of Proof

Racine Mayoral Race

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As many of you probably know, our former Mayor Gary Becker, was recently arrested and charged with felonies due to his apparent ‘sex addiction’ and taste for teenage girls. He is no longer Mayor and is currently residing in an addiction clinic out East. Here is a link in case you missed the story –
 
 
So, the Mayoral race is on with 11 eager candidates. The list/story is here:
 
 
I know that many people have no clue who they would vote for. And it is clear we need educated and involved voters in order to get this city out of the gutter.
 
I have written a letter and a questionnaire to the candidates. I have already emailed them to the individuals whose email is made available. I will continue to check on the others. And as I receive (or do not receive) responses, I will post them for you.
 
Here is the letter and the questionnaire follows –
 

Dear

 

 

My name is Heather and I am a citizen of Racine County.  I am a married, stay at home parent with children in the Racine Unified School District.

 

I write as a hobby and have a personal blog site where I often write about local topics and politics.  I am also an active voter and very interested in what goes on in our area. Obviously this upcoming Mayoral election is of high interest to me and many others in Racine.

 

I believe that people need to become more involved and gain a greater understanding for how their government works as well as the people involved in out local politics. I think a reason many do not is simply because candidates are not always seen as regular people.  Regular people with huge responsibilities, yes, but people just the same. 

 

The Journal Times will no doubt be asking the typical questions to the candidates – KRM, Property Taxes, Lakefront…What I want to do is ask a few questions in a way that will help us get to know you not only as a candidate…but also as a person.  I think it is extremely crucial to speak about the specific issues – after all, that is on which most people base their votes.  But when I am deciding on a candidate, I also try to look at that person and their values, ideals, personality.

 

I do hope you can take the time to answer the questions I have attached. I think they could really help some of us decide who really is the best person to lead Racine.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

 

 

Regards,

 

 

 

 

Briefly describe your life growing up.

 

 

 

 

What has been your most difficult obstacle?

 

 

 

 

What accomplishment have you made which has given you the most pride?

 

 

 

 

Which characteristics about you make you the better candidate?

 

 

 

 

What do you like to do on your time off?

 

 

 

 

Do you think you will live the rest of your life in Racine? If not, where?

 

 

 

What are the top 5 things Racine has to offer its citizens?

 

 

 

What do you think the average Racinian could do to better their city?

 

 

 

Do you have any pets?

 

 

 

If you are elected Mayor, what will be your top 3 objectives/goals?

 

 

 

Tough one. If you could not continue the Mayoral race, which of the 11 candidates would you prefer to see win this race?

 

Just because I think this is hilarious looking…

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Talking about YouTube – BARACK & BIDEN RIDIN !
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What Kids Are Eating at School – Am I Overreacting?

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I am embarrassed to say that I am just learning this morning that my step daughter eats junk every day.  Uninvolved parent, you may be thinking.  Well, maybe not involved enough I guess.

 

My beautiful step daughter is 9 years old and in third grade in the Racine Unified District.  I have always felt it very important to try to have her eat as healthy as possible – while still being a kid of course. I make balanced healthy meals. I make sure our breakfast cereals have no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. I even try to buy healthier deserts like no sugar added popsicles and things like that. I read labels!! Nonetheless, we have noticed consistent and significant weight gain.  

 

It is no secret that childhood obesity is a pandemic that is literally weighing us down as a country. Healthcare costs will only continue to increase, health insurance premiums will continue to sky rocket, children will continue to precede the death of their parents…this is truly everyone’s problem. 

 

It may sound like a silly bone to pick coming from a woman who is a tad overweight herself. But from my perspective – I became overweight in my 30s. It has been traumatic – honestly. I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to be an overweight child or teenager.  I cannot let my step daughter go through that. I want her to have the best opportunities and the healthiest life possible. I do not think that is probable if she becomes overweight.  Being only 9, her weight is not an issue to her. And it shouldn’t. That is why I only discuss with her about eating healthy to be healthy as she grows up. I would never tell her she is too big or fat or anything like that. Just wanted to clarify that for the record.

 

Okay, so where is this going? Well, I found out this morning that she has been spending her allowance on chips and candy – AT SCHOOL.  I did know that they had snack time in the afternoon. I was already annoyed by that. Why the hell do they need snack time?? I was under the impression that she was bringing something from home or just not having snacks. But apparently, at her school (not sure about the others) they provide a snack cart. In the afternoon they line up and walk to the snack cart where they can buy what they choose. I asked my step daughter what are the choices she can remember being on the cart. Here is the list she told to me:

 

Gogurt

Peanuts

Potato Chips

Candy

Peanut Butter Crackers

Kettle Corn

Ding Dongs

 

So. While some of us are trying to get our kids to eat right most of the time…the schools are basically undermining us.  Kids need to be kids. And candy, cakes, ice cream…that really is part of being a kid – like it or not. But it should be up to the parents to give these treats to their children so that they can monitor what their kids are ingesting and how much.

I am really bothered by this. Am I over reacting? Is there anything I can do about this? Who is in charge of making these decisions in Unified?

 

I am a HUGE supporter of public schools. And I have always been there to defend our district’s teachers. But this is one time I am truly disappointed with our schools.