Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Pie For Anybody.....Except Maybe Some Humble

Man (the species - not the gender) is a primate. Please do not get all hopped up on Natural Selection on me or start some sort of Scopesian dialogue. We the humans are among the primates who occupy a spot in the roster of the animal kingdom - although since Marlin Perkins died we have not had anyone to host the program. We are among the primates who possess opposable thumbs. In no small part we are the dominant primates - and the "De Facto Because We Said So" dominant species on this particular planet because we can move our thumb farther across our hand than any other primate can, which not only gives us unrivaled ability to do all sort of nifty things, great and small, but also an incredible advantage when hitch-hiking.

It has been written and said too many times to count (well, perhaps someone with far superior math skills to my own is up to the challenge) that it is our thumbs and our ability to think that separates the humans from the rest of the animal kingdom - including our fellow primates. Judging by the headlines that dotted the newspapers yesterday here in Levelland, it appears as if thumb protection is not a luxury, but rather a necessity for a number of us.

Take for instance the sad and somewhat difficult (for me at least) to understand case of David Yanvary. All he did was spend twenty-nine years serving the residents of Edison Township, New Jersey as a member of the Township's Police Department. His career progressed to the point where as a patrolman he had been earning $113,000 a year. For reasons perhaps one part arrogant and one part incomprehensible, he threw it all away. And he did so by stealing $42 worth of items in March from a supermarket in the township where he was working in uniform on an off-duty security detail. While working on the detail in a Shop-Rite supermarket, Yanvary was caught trying to steal a DVD ("Role Models"), a bottle of Shop Rite canola oil, a fragrance candle and a container of Golden Blossom honey.

On Monday of this week he entered a plea of guilty to one count of shoplifting, a plea that ends his career with the Edison Township Police Department and in public employment. The latter condition is most unfortunate given all of the openings that have sprung up in the aftermath of the arrests that have taken place among our public officeholders during the past thirty days.

If you like your "non-thinkers" to walk on the distaff side, then perhaps you empathize more readily with Lisa Glide. On Monday Ms. Glide was sentenced to five years' probation for her guilty plea to the crime of endangering the welfare of a child, a fourth-degree offense, prior to a grand jury review. The welfare Ms. Glide endangered belonged to one of her 17 year-old male students with whom she admitted to having sex while he was (a) underage; and (b) a student at Old Bridge High School - where she worked as a teacher. Forgive my cynicism but the lad appears to have come through the experience just fine - thank you very much - judging by the letter he sent to the judge in which he requested that his former teacher not be required to serve jail time. "I feel the entire case was blown far out of proportion and reason,'' the victim, now a college sophomore, wrote. "I was the initiator of the contact, not Lisa Glide. I was clearly not a young child and Lisa Glide was not a sexual predator.''

Ms. Glide shall not go to jail but at age thirty-five she too, like Patrolman Yanvary, has tossed her career away. She relinquished her teaching certificate as a condition of her guilty plea and is forever barred from teaching in public school in New Jersey again. Perhaps Dave, Alex, Eddie and Wolfie shall look her up. According to the paper, she taught drama and directed at least one of the high school's productions.

Finally, if you prefer your mittens to be institutionally-sized, then perhaps the actions of our State's Commissioner of Education are more to your liking. The Commish has upheld the decision of an Administrative Law Judge, who ruled that the appropriate punishment to be meted out to an Asbury Park High School teacher who violated that school district's policy against teachers making non-emergency personal cell phone calls while performing job-related duties was the forfeiture of 120 days' pay - $50,000. The teacher, Desly Getty, made a four-minute personal call while in a classroom in early January 2008, while she was monitoring a test. According to the Press of Atlantic City, "While she was at the desk, Getty placed a cell phone call to the district's suspended superintendent Antonio Lewis. While she was on the phone, two students danced in front of her desk and between her and the class. Another student played music on his cell phone and recorded the dancing with a digital camera, then posted an almost two minute edited version on YouTube." Apparently Getty found out about the video's existence and returned to the class the following day and interrogated the students about it, which presumably slowed the pace of learning perceptibly. She was reprimanded by the school's administration for a number of things, including not maintaining control of the class, violating the district's cell phone use policy, and causing embarrassment to the district through the YouTube posting.

It is mind-boggling (to me at least and admittedly I have a tiny mind, which is quite susceptible to boggling) that the punishment for this teacher's stupidity should be the loss of 2/3 of her annual salary. Granted she screwed up but given her clean track record (a point conceded by the ALJ who dropped the hammer on her) and her lengthy service at Asbury Park High School, one might argue that the Commish has unsheathed the sledgehammer from the custodian's closet to go to war with a lone mosquito. Ms. Getty does have the right to appeal the Commish's decision to our Appellate Division, which presumably she will do. Unlike Ms. Glide and Patrolman Yanvary she is permitted to keep her job. That is something - although it shall be only 1/3 of something unless she gets some appellate relief.

To these three little kittens and the rest of the thought-challenged among us, ignore the Mercury. Always carry a pair or two of mittens with you. Better safe than sorry, right?


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