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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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First off, let me start by saying that I'm not a Republican. I'm not really a Democrat, either. I've always considered myself politically agnostic, and have always agreed with someone I heard quoted as saying whoever WANTS to be president probably isn't qualified. All of this said, my thoughts really have no agenda. I just thought it was interesting.

As I read Hannah and Patty's accounts of a thrilling encounter with the leader of our country, I was reminded of my experience on the same day.

As I think I've mentioned before, I teach at two public schools, Gulfview Elementary in Lakeshore, and Charles B. Murphy Elementary in Pearlington (two small communities close to Waveland). Both schools were entirely destroyed in the storm, and both schools are now housed in portable trailers behind the Middle School (Incidentally located on Stennis Airport Road, which actually comes into this story.) Both schools are populated with low income, "high risk" kids, many of whom came from disadvantaged circumstances even before the storm. About 85 to 90% of my kids were on free or reduced lunch before the storm, and 100% are now in that program.

On the 12th, no one told us that the president was coming to town. No announcements were made. No festivities planned. I knew the president was supposed to visit the Coast and New Orleans that day from the morning newscast, but didn't know he'd planned to come to my neighborhood. The first thing I knew about his proximity was the intercom announcement at the end of the day.

Before I launch into that, return with me now to your past. Remember what the last five minutes of the school day was like. Remember the zipping of zippers, the rustling of papers, and the anxious anticipation of what you'd do when you got home that afternoon. (Which I feel here is a good time to mention that due to the destruction of many school buses in the storm, our kids have to wait for a bus to run one route, then return to school to pick up another load, making some of the kids get home 2 to 3 hours after dismissal.) Remember how ready you were to leave. This was when the announcement came on the intercom "Teachers... Please do NOT release your classes until we give the OK."

No explanations, no indication of how long. Just, don't let them out until further notice. I figured that there was some logical explanation, and stuck my head out into the hallway to see what was up. That was the first time that I heard that the president was anywhere around. Now, the real problem comes in, in that classroom behavior generally turns sour in unstructured time (at least that's what all of those staff development workshop speakers keep telling us), and teachers are encouraged to keep students engaged in learning activities the whole time they are in the classroom. But how can you do that when you have NO idea how long you'll be there?!?

About 40 minutes later (!) we were given the OK to dismiss students to go wait for their buses.

I think what I find "interesting" is that the current president, who, if you will recall pre-storm news, was SO concerned with education, that he signed the "No Child Left Behind" legislation (which, by the way, is impossibly idealistic, impossible to attain, and impossible to criticize, because no one wants to sound like they are in favor of leaving children behind), and has talked at length about the failings of schools and teachers, and overhauling public education chose to speak at a PRIVATE school.

Don't misunderstand me. I understand completely why the current president decided to talk at St. Stanislaus. It's still standing, has classes in it right now, and was on his route. And further, don't misunderstand me about Hannah's entry in the blog. I used to live next door to the Andersons, and love those kids (in fact, Heather and I always said if we ever had kids we'd give them to John and Allison to raise, 'cause their kids are so great), but kids like the Andersons are so far away from the danger of being left behind that it isn't funny!

I do think that for me, as an educator, I would have been a little more touched by his concern and visit if he had decided to pay a call to Hancock Middle School, where three public schools are crowded onto the same grounds. Instead, he spoke at the "privileged" establishment, and drove DIRECTLY by our public school on Stennis Airport Road, on his way to Stennis Airport, leaving them cooling their heels in their classrooms, wondering what was going on.

I also found it touching, how excited the kids were the next day, that as they sat on their buses (waiting for his motorcade to pass and their FURTHER OK to return to their small white FEMA campers to be given) Air Force One flew over their heads as the president flew back to his large White House, leaving them behind.

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28 COMMENTS

Your federal government is spending big bucks to rebuild the gulf coast area. Many people have lost everything including family. I feel that your energy should be focused on putting your lifes back together NOT WHERE A POLITICAL FIGURE GOES TO SPEAK. Dont you have better things to worrie about

Well bless your little heart DEAR Doug. Would you mind writing and letting me know where the big bucks can be obtained. My son is constantly on the phone and email trying to piece together enough money to try and start rebuilding. He's got two mortgages now on a home that is gutted... the gov will not allow him to use the money however until he PROVES that he needs it and then will only give it out in small amounts. Nothing has been GIVEN to him so I'd really like to know where to go to get some of the millions of dollars that the latest news reports have said have been given to those not even in the area when the devastation occured. Seems that if you have a local address (or did have before the storm) you are suspect and fair game for red tape, while the guy in prison who listed his address as a cemetary...got his without any problem at all...oh yeah and the guy that spent months in a hotel in Hawaii... IF ONLY they (gov) would actually SPEND some of my hard earned tax dollars in the BayWaveland area I would be happy to see it come out of my paycheck each week. The fact is that the LACK of help to the citizens is as one person said above...criminal.
As for Bush speaking... or not. Who cares. We got coverage of the devastation in the Bay area NOT because the pres flew by. We got it because a few news journalist recognized a story and stuck with it. We thank them. We thank the ordinary citizens, friends and families that sent or brought aid, week after week, month after month. We thank the strangers that showed up and offered to clean out the drowned homes. But Bush? Can you even begin to estimate the cost of one of his trips (paid for by you and me..and the poor folks in BayWaveland that are working)?
First one was a few days after the storm... he went to Pearlington, not the coast. I know because I saw the troups being brought in to guard him. At the time I thought it was wonderful that the gov. had mobilzed help so quickly. NOT. That was the only use I saw of the troups, expcept to guard the railroad access routes to the beach side of the coast. Other than that they handed out ice and water. Nothing else. Oh yes we are grateful for those things too... we are grateful for ANYTHING that is given. I wonder that the National Guard troups can be mobilized to guard the south Texas border from the hoards of invading Mexicans but so far it has not been "leagal" to mobilize them to help muck out the mess in our fair state.
I hope Doug that when the fault lines open up and your home is swallowed in the earth...the pres. will fly over and wave at you and yours. It will be such a blessing to your little heart.

--all you need to do is use Firefox instead of IE. It checks your spelling as you type. Like, say you're typing a speach or have a slight worrie about something.

Jo-Jo

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