Monday, October 1, 2012

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another Legacy: Riggs4kids

Summary of Riggs* Advocacy

2003/4 Riggs training at Rigggs Institute in Beaverton, OR. The Forest Grove School District paid for my training because I was tutoring emotionally disabled high school students at the time.

I was very impressed with the simple logic of the program, and started mentioning it informally to teachers and principals I knew as I moved into substitute teaching after 2006. I did as much research as possible into local schools using Riggs, and came up with 1 in Multnomah County and three in Washington County (two public schools.) Emmaus Christian School in Cornelius has used Riggs for 21 years.

FG Staff pointed to Jennifer Frentress, Curriculum Director. I contacted her in the summer of 2008, and she promised I could meet with reading teachers to demonstrate Riggs. Patti Howe, a TOSA, called me and said she "knew about Riggs" and did not think it was appropriate for ESL students. She was never trained in Riggs.

I approached the board directly because I had a gut feeling Jack Musser would not move forward with Riggs. Three times I spoke during "unscheduled public comment" times. I did finally have a conversation with Jack and showed him a PowerPoint on Riggs. He said he would bring it before his "Council of Principals" to ask about a trial. Unfortunately, there was a budget crisis, so the idea was shelved, and then he retired.

I was able to get a Riggs Orientation put on YouTube. Karen R., from Emmaus School, permitted me to videotape her presentation to Kinder parents. The quality of the recording is low, but it does give a broad overview of the program.

A new super was hired. I brought three friends with me to talk to her about Riggs: Kayla B., whose niece entered Tom McCall (5th grade) with a 1.5 grade level in reading. Margaret L. who has known about my advocacy for years and a friend of hers, Deanna R., whose son attends Emmaus and overcame ADHD and Oppositional Disorder while studying Riggs. We received a "thank you for your input" letter.

I volunteered to tutor Elizabeth 4 hours a week with Riggs.

I attended a Site Council Meeting at Echo Shaw, where Elizabeth had attended 4th grade. They sent me a "thank you for your input" letter.

During a parent-teacher-tutor conference with Eliz' teachers I learned that:
"44% of the incoming two-way-immersion students entered Tom McCall several years below grade level." It seems since at least 2003, the district had a policy that TWI students would not receive English instruction until they reached mastery at 3rd grade Spanish. Most students never reached that benchmark, and were passed along to 5th grade without English instruction.

I was flabergasted at the implications this failed policy held. Staff assured me that the requirement was rolled back to 2nd grade.? How does the district intend to remedy the vacuum of English instruction for the K-4 students since 2003?

I think I am the only person asking this question. There are Latino advocates in the district who might be interested, but so far I have not been able to get their numbers. I have their names through a HSD employee.

I have tried to get info about the Textbook Adoption Committee at the state legislature, which plays some kind of role in this scene. The new super, Dr. C, oversaw the TAC when she was deputy super of public instruction, under Susan Castillo. I wrote to my representative Chuck Riley and he forwarded me to Susan Castillo, and nothing happened.

*Riggs or Riggs/Spauding Explicit Phonics refers to a multi-sensory Socratic instruction where students learn to correctly form their letters and identify the 71 phonemes in the English language. Begun in the 1930's, it was tossed aside in the 40's when the US Department of Eduction made an "about face" and endorsed "whole language" or "sight reading" as the favored methods of reading instruction. 70 years later, we are still forcing public schools to use this instruction, even as the tide of unserved students has been rising, creating a drop-out rate of about 30% nationally.

I tried to find out more about the reading programs offered by the district; I sent a letter to a board member, asking that my request be forwarded to Jennifer Frentress. I sent the letter to Anna T., who works at Oregon Legal Services. (We worked together there from 1983-87.) The letter came back unopened. I sent the letter on to Jennfier Frentress. I hope she choses to answer it.

You can see how I cannot continue much longer by myself--it is just too discouraging. I need contacts in FG that really care about improving the reading instruction in our district.

Watch for More Riggs Advocacy on this blog.

Your friend, Mary

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Decade!

I find myself at the beginning of 2010--wondering what it will bring?

I remember saying, "2009 has GOT to be better than 2008." Maybe the unknown always has a secret allure.

I'm very dissatisfied with Mr. Obama. He is a wonderful speaker--very inspiring--and a lot of people were drawn into the political process with that most valuable motivator: HOPE.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama surrounded himself with Bush-era advisors and he has not been able to show leadership in the most important area of health care reform. After a year of wrangling, we have a bonus for the insurance companies and not much more.

I'm considering attending the Air America Cruise from LA to Cabo. So many positive, progressive voices--I need to hear them!

My trip to Korea has been pushed back to July; they are feeling the pinch of the failed global economy, too.

Hope all of you, out there in the blogosphere, have a great year with many wonderful surprises! My friend, Kayla B., has dedictged herself to starting a new business: a soup cart for downtown Portland. She is leaving 20 years of massage to retouch her culinary roots with Western Culinary Institute (now Cordon Bleu?). I wish her well.

Take care, all!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Driving 5000 miles in a month!

Since Labor Day, I have made two round trips to San Diego. I transported my daughter's possessions to her dad's in Chula Vista. Also visited my high-school-and-college buddies in Coronado, a marina/housing community near Chula Vista.

I took the motorhome, so I had a comfy place to rest on my trip.

I like to help people and I picked up a homeless man on the freeway, named Don. I took him from the Oregon border to Stockton, helping him with laundry and a meal. He said he was an Air Force veteran from a 3-generation military family. I felt sad that a veteran could be in his position, but I know he's not alone.

I'm addicted to AM620KPOJ. Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy, Ron Reagan, etc. They give voice to so many of my thoughts! I'm looking forward to seeing Ed on November 15th in Seattle at the Town Hall Center. Hopefully I will connect with Joan S., my long-time friend from the old ERA days (my first legacy), and let her "wine and dine" me at her cozy place on Camano Island. She and her partner Tim love kayaking and exploring our natural world and Joan has dedicated her professional life to helping women keep access to birth control. She's a modern day Margaret Sanger!

I'm missing my dog, Lucy. Hopefully soon I will upload her photo, made by Margaret L. This photo captures Lucy's lively spirit and beauty. I'm so glad Margaret took this picture when she was taking care of Lucy when I was in Germany this summer.

Good news on the Riggs front: the Emmaus Christian School overview of the explicit phonics program is now on You Tube. Karen R., who has taught Riggs/Spaulding for 21 years, presented the information. Apologies for the video quality. I am now preparing a self-paced explicit phonics program for YouTube, so anyone anywhere in the world can take advantage of this very logical and effective reading program. That's my second legacy.

My hoped-for third legacy is planting trees in Africa with Magawi Mathai, the Nobel prize winner.

What I'm reading: Ralph Nader's Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! It's very uplifting. I also found a sequel to an old favorite: The Eight by Katherine Neville. It reminds me how much I love playing (losing at) chess! Chess is truly one of the most wonderful things in this crazy world.

Hope all's well in your life! If it isn't, hope you can sit down, breathe, and go to your internal "happy place." :)

Your friend,


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me and a Magnificent Sadness

62 years ago, many babies squealed as they emerged from many wombs and one of them was me! I spent my birthday night in a motel somewhere in central California, counting the hours till I would be back in merciful Oregon.

Still embroiled in the mortgage mire: hanging onto the house with fingernails...the renters are Jessie and her daaughter Becca and Jessie's sister Lauren, Pacific students. The house is up for sale. They wanted to buy it but ...

My humble abode is my motorhome, a 1986 Toyota Dolphin, in the back of the lot; it's handy for sleeping but falls way short on "showering." I do have a working phone, but the best way to reach me is still

Movies: Saw Surrogates with Bruce Willis. 3.5 stars. Can't wait for Michael Moore's new Captialism: A Love Story, although reviews complain it's a little slow.

Radio: Are you listening to AM620KPOJ? You can listen on the Internet, too. Progressive radio accounts for only 94% of all radio. It's radical, it's logical, it's dynamic, it's hope!!

"Wait for me, Big Girl!" On September 17th, my canine soulmate of 3.5 years was in a tragic accident and was paralyzed. I had to put her down on the 19th and I' still going in and out of grief. My friend and neighbor Margaret held me up and gave me the most beautiful photo card which I will try to publish: Lucy Lu (a perfect profile) and shots of her having fun on an Oregon beach during a camping trip while I was in Germany. I need a way to express how much she meant to me, working on that. I wrote a poem for her:

To My Dog Lucy
Mary Whitmore

You helped me feel more fully alive
Giving your joy freely to all who happened
To cross our path

You gave me all the bits of your being
And its wholeness
You lovingly waited eight and a half hours
In the car, chill or heat,
While I taught the children
You waited for me

I gave you love in every way I knew how
Because like a black mirror
You reflected my love back

You understood me
And I, you
Yet there were promises unspoken
Of worlds we would walk through
I wanted to help you walk into your
Dog Old Age
I knew you would stay with me for my ever

I know someone hurt you
When you were little
When you could not find your mother
You were lost
But with Big Lucy’s help
You found me
You adopted me
You herded me
You protected me

I am sorry for my part in your leaving
I am sorry for the silly squirrels’ part
I am sorry for the driver’s part
For the hardness of the road
For the beating of the sun
For the staring of the bystanders
The spinal cord
The bruising
The pain

You turned me from a cat person
To a Lucy person
Your love lifted my heart/soul/spirit/
To look into your eyes was to see ….
Unconditional love, sparks of light
Your only thought:
“What does Mary want or need?”
But you felt free to look the other way
When I wanted one of those tricks
Or offered you some morsel that just wasn’t
Exactly what you wanted right then
But I want you to know, Lucy,
The best tricks were the things you did
On your own:
Margaret and I agree that your
Lying with your hind legs stretched out
Behind you
Was just the cutest!
Your lying on top of me as I watched TV
Was so endearing—
Your good morning greeting
Made Mom smile
You amazed all of us not only
With your intelligence
But how you were a magnet for love
Children, adults, dogs, cats,
We all were drawn to your

Thank you, Lucy,
For three + years of joy.

Wait for me, Big Girl!
That's all I can say for today. Many thanks to Marv, Shannon, Kayla, Kassy, Janice, Marilyn, Barbara and others who comforted me--what would I do without you?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chula Vista, Coronado and points south

(Reviewing my blog, I need to mention Jessica did NOT end up going to Afghanistan after all, but rather left in June for an 8-month deployment in the Pacific.)

On 9/3/09, I drove my new 1986 Toyota Dolphin motor home down to Chula Vista, CA to visit Lewis T and drop off boxes of Jessica's stuff. I realized I need an HD radio for trips of any distance. The trip down went smoothly--no car trouble and for some reason I did not notice the heat. CV is a stone's throw from the Navy base and she is due back from deployment in Feb. Lewis has a trailer a few blocks from the beach, but he misses Oregon a lot. He might be coming back "after the winter."

I remembered from my SU reunion that a former high school classmate and his wife now live in Coronado, which is 11 miles from CV. Carmel and David Fleck are the most financially successful of any of my acquaintances. Dave ran a plastics injection company for 16 years, retired and then un-retired, buying a company that repairs yachts and becoming a distributor for an electric put-about boat called a Duffy. Yes, their back yard is a marina. Carmel is retired from nursing and collects Disney memorabilia. They took me out in the Duffy, and it whetted my appetite for a spin in their 36' sail boat. I hope Jessica gets a chance to meet them; maybe she can go out for one of their weekly races.

I visited the Dutch Consulate to discuss work and resident visas for Amsterdam. There is a three month limit for tourists. If I could find work there, I could apply for a work visa. It would be very comforting to be only 4 hours from the grandkids. I can see myself with a part-time job assisting a professor in a University English department.

I bought a kodak digital camera for $100--it only holds 6 pix--so had to buy a memory chip. Want to download some pix for this blog...wish me luck!

The return trip to Oregon seemed much longer than the ride down. I could not pull over and rest because of the heat. Turns out the A/C on the Dolphin does not work and I can't run the fan to keep cool with the inverter/battery connection for very long. I just could not take the heat and pulled over in Corning, CA; it was 105 degrees! I broke down and stayed in a motel--the first since I left 9/3. Tomorrow's my birthday--I will be back in FG! Kayla promised to bake me my favorite carrot cake!

Lucy's fine--still attracting friends. I was worried she had a flea problem because she was scratching a lot. The groomer in Santa Monica found ONE flea. I finally found some dogfood she will eat! Cesar (little plastic tubs with aluminum seals, about $1.)

Planning on attending a Peace Corps meeting 9/16 in Portland. The cutoff date for aps is 9/20 to be assigned for fall 2010. Fingers crossed.

What's up with you?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back in the USA!

The visit to Shlosborn, Germany kept me busy: touring, laundry, waiting for the sun, swimming, great wine, getting ready for new carpet, my daughter's wonderful cooking, three grandkids under 5 with all their activities, friends, playdates, and a few hugs and kisses.

I had an unespectedly revitalizing visit to Amsterdam. It has more canals than Venice and bikes have their own lane (unfortunately motorcycles use them, too). Yes, they have cannabis for sale. Great knowing taxes for this recreation help pay for Dutch social services. I have an appt 9/6 to visit the Dutch Embassy in Los Angeles to discuss a work visa. Holland controls immigration like a hawk on steroids. Maybe that's why the city feels so great--I have never felt an environment more stimulating yet relaxing. I hope I can work there part-time to supplement my meager retirement income.

The job in Korea did not materialize, but I have almost completed the exhaustive Peace Corps application.

The Seattle University 40th Reunion was way better than I expected. Like a journey into the mists of time--and people were so excited to relate their anecdotes, and it was rewarding to see all the new buildings and programs. SU has the highest rated Law School in the nation. I may be able to make an Africa connection with the director of Alumni Relations. Of course, I had to mention "the ordination of women" to murmurs of agreement. Wonderful to see Carmel Widman Fleck and her husband David, with whom I went to high school. I missed seeing Karen Wagner (best friend at Auburn High School) but Carmel reminded me Karen dropped out in her junior year to get married, so she's not a '69er. 100 of our graduating class have already passed fragile is our energy link to etermity. Ours was the largest class SU ever graduated (GO BOOMERS!).

I'm slowly outfitting my motorhome for the next stage of dog is by my side. I'm getting a whole new lease on life.

Special hello to my friend Shannon J.

Please do not use my Forest Grove address, as the house is rented now. Just use

Your friend,