Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Until The Pain of Change

The Iron County Board passed a resolution during the February
12, 2013 meeting.

From the meeting minutes:

"Peretto made a motion, seconded by Aho,  to approve the
Agenda as presented with the following additions: 1) A
resolution saluting the WIC school district; 2) A resolution
about the Medical Care Facility’s selection of a prescription
drug vendor, and 3) Discussion about travel to attend
seminars. On Voice Vote, the motion carried."

Later in the minutes, the following is found:

"Resolution: Brennan made a motion, seconded by Peretto, to
adopt a Resolution recognizing the West Iron County Public
Schools Earning Academic State Championship. (They ranked
42nd among 560 public and charter schools in Michigan.) On
Voice Vote, the motion carried."

Your humble correspondent had written about this "award"
recently, and subsequently submitted the following letter to the
editor of the Iron County Reporter that the paper published in
their February 27, 2013 issue: But of course, the Iron County
Board appears to be politically driven while handicapped by a
corresponding tunnel vision.


"I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the recently reported
award to West Iron School District (WI) for achievement needs
a reality check. The schools achieved better scores than the state
average in only three of seven measured academic categories
leaving sorely needed improvement. The school district as a
whole is behind most of the state in academic achievement.

Graduation rate: state-76 percent, West Iron -84 percent
(not an academic measurement)

College readiness (ACT proficiency): state-17 percent,
West Iron -14 percent

4th grade math: state-91 percent, West Iron-93.5 percent

8th grade math: state-78 percent, West Iron-63.5 percent

4th grade reading: state-84 percent, West Iron-88.7 percent

8th grade reading: state-82 percent, West Iron-69.8 percent

4th grade writing: state-47 percent, West Iron-69.8 percent

8th grade science: state-78 percent, West Iron-63.5 percent

I agree that the fourth grade deserves commendation, but the rest
of the faculty and students need a substantial nudge to improve
rather than a pat on the back for achievement they have not
earned. We really need to keep politics out of the children’s


As a nonpartisan publication we don't expect the county board
to pay attention to us. It is far more important that the electorate
become more aware of the serial ineptness of our elected officials.
The February 6, 2013, issue of the Iron County Reporter published
an opinion letter from Jeremy Jones entitled "The Price of Apathy."

Jeremy wrote: "Personal conviction, history has proved; has time
and again produced tyrants, maniacal and bent on the personal
preposition of selfishness; simply because the populace they have
sworn to protect, and serve, have been silent."

Without the conscience of the populace asserting itself, our
elected officials (I refuse to call them leaders) run off half-cocked
following one another instead of looking after the interests of the

There seems to be an almost universal sense in the US that it is
more important to make failures feel better about themselves than
it is to encourage improvement. Many of us did not grow up in
that sort of world and seriously disagree with such sentiments.

One of my friends in Illionis introduced me to a more appropriate
concept some years ago that belongs to the genre I find appealing
as did all generations before me.

"Until the pain of change is less than the 
pain of same, change will not happen."

As publisher and editor in chief of this little news publication, I am
going to adapt that as our banner and hope that more folks in Iron

County Michigan will embrace it as their own.

When you read something in a newspaper, on the internet, or hear
it someplace, it is not safe to believe it unless you verify its
authenticity. This article clearly demonstrates that proposition.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Education Award for West Iron

The Center for Michigan (The Center) offered group meetings
last year to discuss education. Our discussion of those  meetings
may be found at:   and

If you're going to read this article, we recommend you brush up
on what we reported there.

The report that resulted from the meetings all over the state was
recently released, with information going to our state legislators.
We have provided a copy at:

Equally important is an Iron County Reporter article that made
the front page in the February 6 issue with the banner headline,
"West Iron Schools selected 'Academic State Champion.'

Oh wonderful, yet another feel good piece presented to us by
Iron County Michigan's version of Pravda! Where is the
editorial explaining what the "award" really means? The
Center published something of an explanation at:

We strongly recommend critical reading of that article.

The Center's article explains that all it takes in a small
school district is a few students to skew the results. In
fact, we can actually ignore, as reality dictates we do, the
newspaper's claim that "rank based on how much value
schools add to the students' expected achievement."

A few parents, adding to whatever the schools provide (as
reported earlier in this publication) can, and do, achieve
much more that the school system does where it comes to
the anticipaated achievement. And if you look at the actual
data that this current ranking of West Iron District is based
on, you can clearly see what is happening.

 We urge the reader to type in "west iron" in the blank,
and then compare our "award winning" school district to
the rest of the state. What is immediately evident is that a
group of 4th graders has excelled in 4th grade math, 4th
grade reading, and that the rate for graduation is above
that for the state. Our award winning school district
falls short of the state averages for every other measured

This hardly gives rise to any claims about how much
"value the schools add to the students' expected
achievement." Rather we point out that state wide some
17% of graduates are acceptably "college prepared" while
West Iron only musters 14% in that category. Do those
smart 4th graders go somewhere else to complete their
education? What happens to these children between the
4th grade and graduation from high school? And too,
look at our earlier articles about the percentage of
graduates attempting college that require remedial
courses before advancing into college level work. Alas
West Iron doesn't have a very good track record there.

Iron County Doings isn't saying that West Iron School
District cannot achieve the status already claimed, just
that the school district is far too hasty in claiming that
they're a silk purse when factually there's a lot of
work to be done before the claims already made come
to fruition. We politely ask the school district to stop
with the sort of propaganda we see in the newspaper
article and work harder to achieve more parental
involvement along much more assistance to those parents
presently unable to help their children to maximum

Sad to say, in our opinion, the newspaper article presented
to readers is baloney. We can only hope that the newspaper
provides more accurate information in the future because
we discern that, as published, the information in the
referenced article is inadequate.

Bill Vajk

Sunday, February 3, 2013

First Annual Awards

Recent reading brought me to the partial contents of a letter
written  by Supreme Court Justice Miller to his brother-in-
law in August of 1869:

"It is not to be denied, that the leaders of the radical party
in the Gulf states since the Rebellion have many of them
been men of bad character, and without principle, and
that still more of them have been ignorant, and unused to
the exercise of political power."[1]

In Iron County, Michigan, we have a plethora of that type,
with many seeking and holding local political office.

However, in selecting individual for awards for the year
2012, we have been forced to ignore Miller's observation,
with which we strongly concur, and stick to some single
characteristic deserving of the awards we have found it
prudent, and necessary, to award. I feel certain that were
I to have the time and energy necessary to read more ancient
texts, perhaps from Greeks and Romans contemporary with
the heights of those civilizations, I might find many similar
sentiments vocalized in those ages. In short, Iron County is
only special in the context of what is promised to us by the
form of governance we allude to have in the United States,
and the model demonstrated for all to see by less corrupt

That being said, the awards for 2012 number three in total
as follows:

Lump of Coal Award to John Alan Archocosky

Lump of Coal Award to Alfred James Perlongo

Meritorious Service Award to Wayne John Wales

We will not here explain the Lump of Coal awards as they
were obvious enough. Mr. Wales Meritorious Service
Award does deserve a bit of additional comment however.

Wayne demonstrated that a single individual, with the help
of a few friends, can break the stranglehold of machine
politics on a community like Iron County, Michigan. That
doesn't mean that Iron County Doings, or any individual,
agrees with each and every decision rendered by Wayne
during his tenure on the Iron County Board. The important
feature of his membership on that board is that the county
took desirable new directions not previously possible.

We hasten to add that other local government boards are
not free from the stranglehold of the local political machine.
We need strong individuals to run for office and take their
place on the various commissions in order to achieve the
same goal. All this takes time.

We hope that this year, or perhaps at some time in the
future, we can eliminate the Lump of Coal Award

Bill Vajk

[1] American Constitutional Decisions, Charles Fairman,
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1948

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