Monthly Archives: February 2017

Meanderings on Dr. Khelfaoui, Ph.D

A long, long time ago, as Don McClean says in his iconic “American Pie,” I was born into a family that was adhered to education.  My father, at the time, was getting himself in trouble for writing against Joe McCarthy’s views on Commies in the government.  This was at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  After obtaining his Master’s Degree in Administrative Education, he became the youngest School Superintendent in Iowa.  At twenty six years of age, he took over the rural school in Cosgrove, Iowa.  Now Cosgrove was mostly a town which catered to the surrounding farms.  There were twenty six people in the town, and television was a brand new invention so it did not cover a small Iowan school district.  We had a television but because we were so far away from the station, I grew up without television.  I learned from my father, he made special toys for us, and we greatly admired him.  I even learned to clap my hands from him.  He used to cup his hands to make a louder clap than the other men in town.  I was a young boy there in Cosgrove.  I grew up in a town with a small population – including eight nuns and one priest in the town.  They were part of the twenty-eight.  I was very proud of him when he brought home a rowboat that he had built himself.  I thought it was beautiful.

I grew up with a Superintendent of Schools as my father.  Every new idea he learned at the University of Iowa doctoral program  was practiced on me.  After years of trying, he got his Ph.D and we had the best party I have ever been to when he got his degree.  One of my friends stole a cigarette from his father, and I learned not to smoke that night.  A neighbor watching us trying burst into laughter as we burned ourselves trying to light up.  Fortunately, I never did smoke cigarettes.  However, it was one of my lessons of my young life. And, it happened on the day my father became Dr. Wayne R. Peters.  Quite an accomplishment for a man whose father had always been a blacksmith.

I was very proud of my father.  He was neat.  He gained a reputation as a reformer.  He instituted many changes in his school district.  It was exciting.  Years after Cosgrove, he became the Superintendent of Schools in Lowell, Massachusetts, a depressed milltown in the northern part of the state.  I think he was a magnificient superintendent.  He found thirty three classrooms not being used in Lowell High School.  He fought the two unions that then existed.  He started a Modified Open Campus to decrease overcrowding because he knew that Lowell could not afford new school buildings.  There was no tax base for that type of expenditure,  I believe there is no tax base for the “new” high school that can afford an estimated 100 to 150 million dollar expenditure.  I believe the existing building must be fixed and brought up to code.  But, that money will not necessarily come from the state, the city must spend a great deal of money getting prepared for the state’s largesse.  It will not be easy.

Now, that is how I feel about my legendary father.  The Lowell “SUN” stated that “The selection of Dr. Peters came after an extensive search for a highly qualified man.”  In its editorial on the movement to deny him tenure, the “SUN” said, ‘We believe that Dr. Peters has done a creditable job and, with greater cooperation could have accomplished more in the past three years.”   I agree with that assessment .

Where am I going with this.  It is really very simple.  I believe that Dr. Salah Khelfaoui Ph.D has also been doing a very creditable job during his short tenure thusfar in the city.  He is facing a School Committee that denied him a contract recently when Robert Gignac changed his promised vote to a negative one after promising the reformers that he would vote for the Superintendent’s contract.  This action reminded me of those people who voted against my father’s obtaining tenure.  It was the same type of mischief.

I told Dr. Khelfaoui that I firmly believed, and this is not to put anyone down, it is just an observation by a former teacher and administrator that he is the best Superintendent that we have had since my father learned how to play politics in Lowell.  His first year and one-half has resulted in a reintegration of the Citywide Parent Council, a slew of Parent Teacher Organizations, a review of the busing practices, a potential new High School, an effort by Robert Hoey to get fair pay for the para-professionals who act as teachers during the classroom teacher’s meetings, sick-days, Field Trips, etc.  Everyone, it seems, is aware of the fact that para-professionals are paid poorly.  Nothing is done to rectify the situation.

The teachers are paid far more equitably and get a living wage.  Para-professionals make far less, and many have four year degrees or are working towards them, in the field of education.  Dr. Khelfaoui is strongly aware of the discrepancies between what should be and what actually exists.  This man meets with me every month during “Peters’ Principles,”  We get a chance to talk a lot about education, something I have known about since I was about three years old and my father used to get me a carton of chocolate milk everyday.  Now, it is possible that that violated an Iowan law, but my understanding is that now we feed every child in the system.  Yesterday, the newspaper stated that Mr. Gignac and Mr. Hoey were examining the daily lunch for “quality,”  As one person said to me, what about taste?  Does the lunch taste good, as well as be of high quality?  Perhaps Mr. Gignac  can find out.

This is the best Superintendent since my father.  My father was so popular in Lowell that he got five thousand votes more than his second place challenger.  Mrs. Stoklosa was the second place challenger, and she was always gracious about that level of bullet-voting.  She never begrudged my father  his accomplishment.  She was a wonderful lady.

So, this is where I am coming from – First, Dr. Khelfaoui deserves a contract.  Second, the schools must give the man a chance, at least three more years, to institute his ideas for the curriculum.  Third, he needs the support of the most jaded School Committeeman or woman.  Finally, he deserves our respect for doing a tremendously difficult job with a staff that has been trimmed in order to save money on salaries.  Denying him a contract for no stated logical reason is the epitome of bad taste.  This man is essential to Lowell at this time and he is the person I want to see manning the wheel during a time when the city seems confused.  If, in the end, he cannot do the job, we at least must give him the chance to show his mettle.  Those Committeemen and Women who do not support him owe us an explanation as to why they feel that way.  He does not deserve to be denied a contract at the last minute for no given, or a sparsely legitimized, reason.

Constitutionality and James Madison

I keep a copy of the Constitution on my body virtually all of the time, except when sleeping perhaps.  The reason for this is because I spend a great deal of time with friends who are Republicans, and they are often wrong in their interpretation of a section of the Constitution I believe.  I read the actual document to them.  For instance, they all think the Second Amendment protects the ownership of firearms.  I generally point out that the Constitution protects the rights of the average man to own a gun.  But, it does not protect a man’s right to own a nuclear weapon.  There are definitely restrictions on certain automatic weapons, nuclear weapons, and chemical weapons.  I live in the state with the hardest law governing gun ownership.  It has not been overturned, despite its lack of allegiance to Article Fifteen of the Massachusetts Constitution, which also states that the right to keep and bear arms is sacrosanct.  Yet, despite that, Massachusetts residents have not appealed to the state courts to use Amendment Fifteen and free the right to bear arms.  It is not only protected by the state, it is protected by the U.S. Constitution.  And yet, we buy off on certain corrolaries to the law.

Here is what the Constitution says on the Second Amendment.  It says that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and that the gun can be used to ensure the formation of a local military regiment.  The gun serves a purpose, in the Constitution.  It is there to guarantee that the average man can protect himself in an organized way, as in the formation of a militia.  Hence, each city and town, or even persons interested in the right to keep and bear arms (that phrase is catchy, isn’t it?) can form a regiment to challenge the laws of the Federal government.  Shay’s Rebellion struck down much of that interpretation and people left the rebellion defeated.

We cannot possibly guarantee that every miscreant on American ground has the right to form a militia.  But that is exactly what is in the Second Amendment.  Specifically the amendment says that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security o a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The Fathers wanted to solidify the rights of the people to revolt against their government when the government became too overbearing.  The rights correlate with the right to protect your home from the government when it was too strong, or, as I said, too overbearing.

We often equate our right to keep and bear arms with the use of certain arms that are not legal in today’s society.  In the early 1970’s, a college student passed in as his dissertation, how he would use common materials to build a working atomic bomb.  He was visited by the FBI, the Secret Service, and persons from the military.  He had a working recipe for splitting an atom with sufficient force that it would do what the Hiroshima  bomb did to Hiroshima.  The government did not arrest him, if memory serves me right, but did make sure that he would do nothing further to exacerbate a dangerous situation.  He agreed not to share his plan, and not to build a bomb.  But Constitutionally he was within his rights to “keep and bear arms.”   He did not form a militia, he seemed like a normal student who guessed accurately how to make the most feared weapon ever devised by man.  And, I would argue that he was within his constitutional rights to do so.  There is no limitation on procurement or technology in the Second Amendment.

Enough about the Second Amendment.  It is well-reasoned that guns are legal.  That does not cover the Constitution, however.  There are now twenty-seven Amendments to the Constitution.  Some freed slaves, while others mitigated by an attempt to soften some of the laws in the Constitution, did other things that righted some of the oversights in the document.  Immigration policy was part of that movement, I believe.

Women were given the right to vote.  A right to vote was guaranteed to all citizens except those who were felons.  The Constitution was used to fix small but basic impediments to daily life.  The poll tax was deemed unconstitutional, I think.  Many items that we now take for granted were first espoused in the Constitutional Amendments.  It always puzzled me that the Equal Rights Amendment was given a time-line for passage.  Most amendments were not so laden.

Now, I am going to take a minute to make a twist in my thought processes.  So often, I have heard people lament that we have no record of what the original framers of the Constitution wanted to include, or omit, from the document.  I have been reading a book on the viability of the Constitutional Convention.  I have concluded that we know exactly what the forefathers wanted and we have it to the finest point in James Madison’s Minutes of the Constitutional Convention.  James Madison spent every day of the convention taking down elaborate notes which included precise quotes from the people who were writing the Constitution.  The only person he failed to quote was George Washington.  How could he make such a slip?  Washington did not speak to the Convention.  Other than that, Madison has everyone’s nuances.

I have a tome (book) called “Messages and Papers of the Presidents,” and in it Madison was one of the best writers of his time.   When describing the taking of American sailors off of their ships illegally, Madison says, “In this new posture of our relationships with those powers, the consideration of Congress will be properly turned to a removal of doubts which may occur in the exposition and of difficulties in the execution of the act above cited.” (Page 469)

I use that passage to prove that Madison could write, and do it well.  If we take time to study what Madison wrote about his fellow delegates, I believe we can ascertain what the forefathers were contemplating.  They had minor matters that took front stage, including the use of different money in each individual state.  There was discussion of that, although I do not believe it ever became an amendment.  There was a great deal of discussion of state’s rights, taxation, and slavery.  However, the slavery question was not as it would seem.  Massachusetts did not reject slavery until 1802.  It was a hot topic.

So let’s tell our elected representatives to take a few minutes to see what Madison wrote about the formation of the Constitution.  The answers are right there, staring back at us.  We can finally do what has not happened in America, we can interpret the Constituion based on its history.  That would be something.

I have had a few requests for some advertising here and there, so this is the blog with the advertising in it.  First, the Talbot House Inn (photo below) is a bed and breakfast of first class character and owned by my sister, Elizbeth Henry.  Not Elizabeth, her first name is spelled correctly.  She owns a huge building and a building down the street.  She is very imaginative and really rebuilt a declining old mansion and turned it into a wonderful overnight stay type of place.  She gets a lot of traffic so it is good to book your vacation early.  Anyway, the picture of the Talbot House Inn and the front of her brochure is found below.  It is an honor to have such a hard-working sister.  The house includes five rooms with private baths; Twin, Full, and Queen size beds and a full breakfast included.  The rates are very reasonable, especially when compared to a motel stay in a quiet Maine town.  There is a 15% military discount, probably because her husband was active in the Army and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel two years ago.  You can visit them on Facebook and TripAdvisor.  Enjoy yourselves!

talbothouse