Dear Mayor Emanuel: I resign my position as principal of the #1 rated neighborhood school in Chicago

I am reblogging this without much comment. The author speaks clearly for himself. I am inspired by his courage and dedication in the face of the Chicago political machine.

Power concedes ....

Dear Mayor Emanuel:

In 2010 Chicago Magazine ranked Blaine Elementary School as the 16th best elementary school in Chicago, and the 6th best neighborhood school. After being hired to lead Blaine in the fall of 2011, I told my Local School Council (LSC) I had a “six-year plan” to turn Blaine into the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago.

I have the pleasure of informing you that I lived up to my promise to the Blaine LSC, and I did so a year earlier than promised. Last Monday, Chicago Magazine released its elementary school rankings for 2016. Blaine is now ranked as the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago, and #3 public school in the City overall. In the process, working with motivated teachers and engaged parents, we increased the percentage of students meeting reading standards from an already high 79% to 89% in just our first two years. That kind…

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Camelids and High Desert in the Southern Peruvian Andes

I spent the weekend in the high Andes in southern Peru. I took a tour, which is something I normally avoid, but there was no other way to get to the places I wanted to see, and it cost, including lodging, $35 US. It was a great choice, and we had a splendid tour guide.I went with Carlos Zirate Adventures. as they come highly recommended, for good reason. The best part was the extremely knowledgeable tour guide, Laura.

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Our tour began with the Reserva National Salinas y Aguarda Blanca. This wildlife reserve sits at 4000 to 5000 meters (13000 to 16000 Feet) in altitude, and gets relatively few visitors. Wildlife and wild rock formations and volcanoes abound. The 5000 meter part takes a toll on some visitors, especially if they haven´t taken the time to acclimate. Two of our 18 person group got vomitingly ill and there were many headaches. The high Andes is one place where slow travel is really the only way. One of the sick was a young woman from Lima, up from sea level for the weekend.  The wildlife was incredible as well as the lunar landscapes.

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We first spotted the vicuña. There are only 200,000 left in the world, their world being the high Andes of Peru, Chilé, Bolivia and Argentina, at over 3200 meters. Their lovely wool is the major reason they are endangered. The Incans simply caught them and cut their hair, but hunting has decimated their numbers in modern times.

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Plenty of llamas and alpacas still populate the altaplano, as they have been domesticated. This means lots of close up hands on contact with the furry camelids.

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The alpaca has a flatter face and shorter legs.

Our sharp-eyed guide spotted one lone rabbit for us. They have adapted with great coats, long ears and long tails, and Maybelline eyelashes.

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The landscape at 3000-5000 meters (up to 16,000 feet) at this latitude isn´t as polar as it is in more northern climes, but it is cold, and the coveted furs of the wildlife are adaptations to this cold desert climate. Rocky and almost barren, tonality and form gives the landscape a striking beauty.

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Water flows through the rocks, and in the winter, now, it freezes in place.

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A sleeping volcano

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This year round source of water is home to the wild vicuña, as well as wild geese, ducks and other fowl.

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Stacks of rocks are a way of communication among the herders.

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Vicuña can achieve speeds of 45 K per hour across this landscape. We saw them do this, lithely kicking up no dust, but, of course, no pictures.

I´ll post later about the rest of the trip, the highlight of which was soaring condors.

Lima Peru in One Day

Is impossible. On-line sites tell you to do it in one or two days and then move on to Cuzco. What a mistake that would be. The museums and public squares should take a week alone. Then there are the restaurants, not to mention huge archeological sites being excavated in real time in the heart of the city. I almost made the mistake of skipping Lima altogether. Silly me.

This post is about one day in Lima. A Sunday, just an ordinary Sunday.

It started with breakfast in a little joint next door to our hotel. We stayed in a place called Hotel España, a few blocks from the plaza major, or main plaza, or Plaza des Armas. The hotel deserves its own post, but here are a few pictures, the first is of my room, the second of the hallway outside my room, and the third is two men at the reception desk (they were guests, not Hollywood extras):

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After breakfast we made our way to the Museum of Anthropology and Archeology. Of this museum I have no photos, as my camera was being charged, and photos are not allowed, anyway. We made it half way through the exhibits and it was time to go meet our friend, Marcel, for lunch. Lunch in Peru, as in Ecuador, can be a fixed menu ¨almuerzo¨ for a very reasonable price, like $3.00. Salad or soup, main dish of chicken, goat, beef or fish is a variety of preparations, and juice. Sometimes there is dessert, but it is not worth mentioning. We lunched in a lovely cafe on one of the main squares.

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From there we walked to a shopping area which seemed to be very popular with people in Lima on Sunday afternoon.

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From here we went to a pedestrian only street to the Plaza Mayor, where we bumped into an exhibition of mummies, and a parade of people in regional costumes, complete with bands and a thousands of people, out for a fine afternoon in Lima.


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This was one day in a week of great, exhausting, time in Lima. I loved this city, full of life, and celebration of all it holds, including death and history.



Blogging While Traveling

I may have mentioned along the way a while back that I have been traveling in a camper van with a couple of friends. We have traversed and traveled along the tops of the Andes, down through a bit of the Amazon, and back to the beaches and capital, Lima, of Peru.

Well, camping is great fun, BUT, there is usually no or little electricity, night comes when the sun falls, and day starts when it breaks the horizon. Little time or possibility for posting. That was before last week when my already balky little ASUS pad decided to commit suicide. It was an untimely death, but I think it was anticipating my throwing it off the side of a 4000 meter cliff, which was becoming increasingly likely.

The upshot is that I haven´t posted much since I left Cuenca 7 weeks ago. For both of you who may have noticed this, I apologize. I hope to be able to make up for that lapse as I now have a new computer and I am no longer camping. There will be hotel rooms and electricity, and my shiny new red Lenova with an international warranty. I do have tons of photos and more stories to share, and I hope to find the discipline to catch up and also post what is currently happening.

With that in mind, here are a few photos from the )$15 a night) hotel where I am staying here in Lima, the Hotel España. I will write more about Lima later:

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Outside my bedroom
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My bedroom walls
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