Monday, August 24, 2015

The August meeting of the SOCCCD Board of Trustees: another quiet night at the $711 million district

     Please see also Tere's Board Meeting Highlights.
     6:32 - well, I just got here, and it looks like the meeting could start very soon. Three or four of the trustees are not yet in the room, however.
     As you know, recently, Nancy Padberg, who represented area 4, which includes San Clemente and environs, resigned, owing to her health. A few days ago, the board acted to select Terri Whitt, formerly an instructor in SC's nursing program, as Nancy's replacement. Whitt seems to be an excellent choice.
     Nevertheless, some of us at IVC are a little worried that, with former faculty and administrators of SC (Whitt, Wright, Jay [sort of]) on the board, and no former faculty/administrators of IVC on the board, IVC will recede still further into oblivion (as far as trustees are concerned). In the past, I have snarkified over such phenomena as Trustee Wright's routine references to "our team," and our effort, referring, invariably, specifically to Saddleback College's team or effort. This tendency among trustees will soon become interesting, given demographic projections, which indicate that, as thing now look, IVC will eclipse SC in size in the forseeable future. (As you know, recently, an effort to locate district offices "in between" the two colleges was shot down by trustees for fiscal reasons. To some, that action was a slap in the face of the IVC community.)

     6:35 The meeting begins, Trustee Tim Jemal absent.

     Trustee Wright: No actions in closed session were taken
     Trustee Wright: invocation. "Dear heavenly father...." He prays about the fires, etc.
     Trustee Lang: pledge

Public comments:

     Cathleen Greiner: Cal State Treasurer John Chang will speak about the state's debt crisis (of 2008). Tomorrow at IVC's PAC.

     Hillary Nelson: CSNA (nurses?)? A union rep, I guess. Advocating for a good contract, I guess. Notes the great reputation and efforts of faculty at the colleges. Please consider a good contract, etc. (Applause.)

     Paula Jacobs: senior faculty member. Started in Palm Springs school district, high school. Had to go on strike back then. Unfortunate. We hope to avoid a strike here. "Please, let's settle our contract." Applause.

     Autum Estrada: President of CSNA (Cal Student Nurses' Association[?]). Here to speak on behalf of faculty. Mentions (un)availability of office hours. Difficulty for part-time faculty. Best way to support student success is to support the faculty. We'd like to ask you for your support of faculty--support recent contract proposal. (Applause.)

Board Reports:

     Trustee Dave Lang: Welcomes Terri Whitt. (Applause.) Congrats. Thanks colleagues for selecting Whitt among "highly qualified candidates." He couldn't make that meeting. Talks about his trip to Africa or some such place. Broadened him. Still, it's always good to be home.

     Trustee Barbara Jay: she and her son took tour of IVC. What stood out: Veterans Office. Veterans so interesting. Attended orientation for students. Met student ambassador. Spoke to students, a wonderful time. Attended as much of professional development as possible. "Got fed a lot." It was wonderful. Two especially interesting sessions: student success, common assessment initiative. (Sounds scintillating.) Online Education Resources luncheon. You (employees) work so hard. Congrats to Terri.

     Trustee TJ Prendergast: congrats to Terri Whitt. Attended event on Friday. Rep. Mimi Walters at Irvine City Hall. She presented "what's going on" in Washington. Misconceptions about divisions between parties. Couldn't attend Flex Week. I wasn't on safari [like Lang]; I was in Cabo. Welcomed new staff.

     Trustee James Wright: congrats to Terri Whitt, a "wonderful person." We interviewed "8 highly qualified candidates." It was not an easy afternoon. At SC, "Welcome Back" breakfast and President's welcome. Chancellor's Opening had a great speaker, Dr. Paul Grossman. Wonderful job. Attended President's breakfast at IVC's PAC. Geek report at IVC. Flex Week was wonderful, attended 15 sessions.

     Trustee Marcia Milchiker: I first met Prof Whitt many years ago, when she was looking for support for health missions, disaster relief. (Applause for Whitt's efforts.) She's our own "Mother Teresa." (Laughter.) Did an Excel Spread Sheet. 27 events! Went to "Senior Summit," about brain research. "Grease" at SC. (Is it me or is Marcia talking faster and faster? It's a chatterbox blur.) High standards for students and faculty.... blah blah. I can't keep up. "Gardens all over Japan." Somebody's starting a blog. Congressman Walters' breakfast. Won't go into other 27 events. (Laughter.)

     Trustee Terri Whitt: thanks the trustees for their support. Don't have a lot to report but she can say how she feels: honored, eager, proud. (Applause.)

     Prendergast mentions that our students, having been born in 1998, "have never licked a postage stamp." Further, they've never heard of "Mother Teresa."

     Student Trustee: blah blah blah (or worse).


     Chancellor's [Gary Poertner's] Report. Budget report tonight. This will be fully discussed. Also, a brief comment about enrollment. Down districtwide by .2 percent. IVC is up by 2.2, SC down by .9. Nationwide trend. Thus our numbers shouldn't be alarming. The colleges are working hard on strategies to bring more students in. We'll see what happens. (Sheesh, Gary's just phoning it in.)

     President (of SC) Tod Burnett: the usual blah blah blah. Good news: enrollments are flat, which is better than recent prior years. Thanks faculty and staff for their "hard work." Parking was a lot better this fall. Police have new way of directing traffic. It's called the "Disneyland Plan." Thanks the cops. Prof Development week a big success. Thanks everybody. Annual "state of the college" was given. "A culture of excellence" was the theme.

     President (of IVC) Glenn Roquemore: introduces new Director of Student Life. Comes from South Seattle Commuity College. She stands up and beams. Next: new assistant dean of Financial Aid, Ken Leara (?). Sober sort, stands up. (Applause.) Please see our Solar Decathlon House, says Rocky. Students from UCI, Chapman, IVC working together. Lots of work getting done (for competition). Laser Week: students coming for the first time before classes begin. How to be a student, how to be successful. Our 9-11 event will be on 9-10. It will be "a very different event." I think that's supposed to be a good thing.

     Etc. Student government: blah blah blah.

     Consent Calendar: 3 items are pulled, 5.7, 5.10, 5.12.

     5.7 Wright: what's with A400 at IVC? Brandye DeLena: the "building envelope" had to be completely removed. Prendergast: what's a building envelope? She identifies what the phrase comprises: dry wall, plaster, just about everything but the framing. Wright: when can the building be used? Originally set to open in Spring. Now, likely the Fall. Item approved.
     5.10 What are "Commissioning Services"? DeLena: Has to do with HVAC (I think that's what she said). Approved.
     5.12 Wright: this concerns me. Recuses himself. A leadership conference. Prendergast mentions that he too is interested in attending. Approved. Wright abstains.

Action items:

     6.1 Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2015-2016
     Deb Fitzsimons comes up to present. She's got her usual team: C Hilton, Davit K, Kim McCord
     Mentions a replacement page.
     The slide show begins with Carol. Thesis: we follow the guidelines--of which there are eleven. 7.5% reserve for "economic uncertainties." Blah blah blah.
     Future long-term debt issue. Another principle used (something about needing a revenue stream for additional debt). Ways to stay out of debt. That's the ticket.
     Retirement incentives. No such incentives, unless funds available. Using "revenue based model" of funding. Thus colleges cannot spend more than they earn in revenue.
     Deficit financing: it should not occur, especially with regard to ongoing expenses. Retiree dental/vision. She said something about actuarial tables or something. Dunno.
     Basic aid. "The expenditure budgets for ongoing purposes shall be the resources that would have been available from state apportionment." That "principle" will be familiar to anyone who attends BOT meetings.
     One-time cost savings. If that occurs, spend on one-time expenditures.

     Next, Davit.
     Goes back to FTES funding. Blah, blah, blah. Discusses budget planning and 50% Law (i.e., at least 50% of expenditures should be on instruction) and faculty obligation number (how many full-timer instructors compared to adjuncts). District wide calculations.
     Numbers. General fund: $311.3 million
     unrestricted: $270 million
     restricted: $41 million
     Total all funds $711 million.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

(Demanded by SB 361?):
COLA is following 1.02%
Growth of 2%
Base allocation adjustment: 4.65%
Full-time faculty: 1.04%
     Next speaker: discusses "expense recap." Blah, blah, blah.
     Basic Aid:
Balance at July: $24.9 million
Receipts FY 15-16  - 44.7 million
Estimated property taxes: 9 million, yadda yadda yadda
     Next discusses "retirement system increases."  Lists of contributions. Combined Annual increase: over $10 million (that "we need to accomodate").

     Back to Fitz. "Looking ahead." "As costs increase and demands for programs and services increase, the new on-going income does not keep pace."
     STRS and PERS rate increases are large.
     The State Chancellor is warning us to be "cautious."
     Can't expect Prop 30 kind of money in future. Need to be "prudent and conservative."
     That's it. Questions?
     Trustee Wright makes small correction. He loves that shit.

7:31 p.m.

     Student trustee Momand: asked a question about the "Gateway Building." Still on tap? Fitz: Well, no dollars allocated. On list of future construction projects though.
     No further questions. Move to approve. Unanimous approval.

     6.2 Adopted student government budget (per college)
     Student Development Office person speaks, chirpily. Mentions that student government types who've come up before the board in recent years are "now in the White House," at Disneyland, etc. [Well, I made up the part about D.]

     Saddleback College student Prez (I guess). William somebody. Presented tentative budget a month ago. This is pretty close to last month's tentative budget. (I'm gonna tune out on this. I'll let you know if a riot breaks out.) .... This kid is a decent speaker. Not sure if any of his slides add up. Likely so. He finishes and asks, Any questions?
     Milchiker: excellent report. Agrees, she says, that students most at risk are those who come to the college and then leave for home immediately, not lingering on campus, getting involved. Student government kid wants to foster community feeling on campus, I guess. This kid notes that he's "engaged," yadda yadda. This kid is slick. I think he'll be the kind who ends up in some White House shredding some important papers.

     Next IVC.

     The new Director of Student Life (Johnson?) comes up to present. Discussion of fiscal transparency and such. Yadda yadda yadda.
     Student kid comes up, speaks woodenly. He hands off to still yet another wooden entity. Also less-than-polished. Charmingly so? We'll see. Everyone chirpily tolerates this kid's poor English, nodding.
     The next kid continues, again woodenly.
     Milchiker: again, excellent, she says. I noticed that revenues increased. How come? How so?
     These kids got nothing. Student Life gal pops up to explain. Yep. that's it. More bookstore revenue, that sort of thing.
     The trustees approve all this.

     6.3 Public Hearing for SC Tech and Applied Science "swing space"
     Fitzsimons again. An agreement with "San Diego Gas and Electric." Authorizing an easment. Fitz says she and Brandye are prepared to answer any questions. Prendergast solicits "public comments." Nada. Public hearing now closed, etc. Closed.

     6.4 Resolution to authorize this San Diego Gas and Electric thing. They vote: unanimous.

     6.5 BP revisions, etc. Accept for review and study.
     Fitz: BP4011.1 full time faculty hiring. [About a dozen years ago, the two Academic Senates successfully sued the district over its unilateral changes to this policy. Boy was Don pissed. He's still pissed.] BP4309, Duties and responsibilities of the faculty.
     All approved.

     6.6 Academic Personnel Actions. --Unanimous approval.

     6.7 Classified Personnel Actions --Unanimous approval.

     6.8 Initial proposal from SOCCCD Police Officers Association. --Unanimous.

7.0 Reports

     7.1 Pilot Program Hiring policy for classified staff .... Bugay explains.
     7.2 Basic Aid report. Lots of activity over last couple of years.
     7.3 Monthly Financial status report
     7.4 Quarterly financial status report
     7.5 Quarterly investment report
     7.6 FAcilities plan
     7.7 Retiree (OPEB) Trust Fund
     Fitz: in news, lots of stock market activity. Balance in July: $93 million. Today: $90 million. Slowdown in growth. China's economy slowing down. Likely the market will rebound in coming weeks. Good time to purchase stock. Prendergast asks if that's "insider trading info." Yuk yuk.

Reports of Admin and Governance Groups

I'm so outa here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Districtular announcements

* The agenda for Monday’s meeting of the SOCCCD BOT is here.

* This morning, the district announced:

Dr. Terri Whitt appointed to SOCCCD Board of Trustees

August 20, 2015 – South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD) has selected Dr. Terri Whitt to serve as a provisional (interim) trustee for area 4 representing San Clemente, Ladera Ranch, San Juan Capistrano, Coto de Caza, part of Rancho Santa Margarita, Las Flores and unincorporated areas until a candidate is elected and qualifies to serve at the District’s next regular Governing Board election to be held on November 8, 2016. She will replace Trustee Nancy Padberg who resigned in June due to medical reasons.

Dr. Whitt brings a wealth of education experience to the board. She has been a Professor of Nursing at Saddleback College since 1976 and served as the Nursing Program Director, helping to build the program’s national reputation for excellence. Her nursing experience also includes work for the American Heart Association at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. She has extensive community service including work with the California Disaster Medical Assistant Team during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita; Rotary Club; International Service Learning Project in Nonkhai, Thailand; Project Concern International in Ethiopia; and nursing outreach in Belize.

The SOCCCD board of trustees interviewed eight highly qualified candidates. Dr. Whitt stated in her interview that she does not intend to seek election in 2016. Upon her appointment, Dr. Whitt commented that she is honored to serve with such a stellar board and represent the South Orange county community.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New trustee chosen: Whitt

     A reliable source just phoned and informed me that Terri Whitt (a professor of nursing) has been chosen to replace Nancy Padberg on the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees. Padberg recently retired from the board.

     San Clemente resident honored for teaching innovation (OC Reg)


Sordidity and hypocrisy: rich OC Republican Tom Phillips, Fuentes' BFF

     We knew that Scott was writing about some of the Republican hypocrites who move and shake the OC (and much else) and who served as the late Tom Fuentes’ sulfurous circle of BFFs. Well, this morning, Scott’s story—or perhaps its first installment—is out, and it’s a humdinger.
     Our own Tom Fuentes gets a brief and inglorious mention (page 3; see below).

Does An Influential Newport Coast Conservative Publisher Have A Deep Secret?
by R. Scott Moxley

Thomas A. Fuentes, the deceased chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County for decades, lived such a dual life as the husband and father in a staunchly conservative Catholic family. In the 1990s, Fuentes fervently opposed inclusion of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, in the party. Outside of view, he dated numerous younger men, showered them with gifts, mentored their careers and took them to saunas. One of his projects was Fountain Valley traditional-values activist Jeffrey Nielsen, a deeply closeted gay man with an illegal fetish.
Tom sure was pious. Gay is good, but hypocritical is horrid

Stop Universities From Hoarding Money
They pay lavish fees to manage their wealth, while tuition keeps rising.
(New York Times)

In the news: Community Colleges and student orientation

El Camino College (where Rebel Girl started out as a student long ago) was in the news today. Check out Jason Song's article "Community colleges step up efforts to get students to attend orientation" in the Los Angeles Times:

In anticipation of the law, El Camino administrators began pushing all students last year to attend orientation services, which include a tour of the campus, placement testing and meeting with an academic counselor. Students, with a few exceptions, have to complete orientation before they are allowed to register for classes.
At El Camino, which had nearly 24,000 students last fall, those in a special first-year experience program are required to attend orientation. In fall 2013, 92% of those students finished their fall courses with passing grades, about 10% better than students who are not required to go.
State officials haven't tracked orientation statistics long enough to see if they are related to academic success, officials said.
A 2006 study by the Florida Department of Education found that about 60% of students in the state who took a "student life skills" orientation course before classes began passed their courses, nearly 20% higher than their peers who did not.
To read the rest, click here.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Here we go!

Rebel Girl might be wrong but she believes that the SOCCCD is the first to start classes in the O.C. Is she right? Is she wrong? All she knows is that all her teacher friends and relations are still sleeping in and otherwise summering themselves. It's okay, she soothes herself, we get out the earliest. Right? Right???

Today she arrived too late for staff parking but finally got to see where the sand volleyball courts are after all these years. She really needs to get out of A-200 more. It's lovely over there and she admired the rough hewn beauty of the ad hoc parking lot—really!—especially the mature trees that border the sand lot, the tables and chairs scattered around in the shade. Bucolic. Collegiate.

Classes went well, lost students were redirected, students without classes were comforted, even the the A-200 copy machine was cooperative. The interior of A-203 has been painted a brilliant white that makes everyone inside what is called "the fishbowl" look like models in a GAP ad. Really.

On the way back to the parking lot Rebel Girl noticed students at those tables under the trees. One lone student was working already on his computer. The other table was occupied by a couple, a young man and woman, sitting close together. Even from a distance, it was clear they were a couple, sitting apart but leaning close.

As she approached she noticed the couple was being addressed by a police officer in a police car who had pulled up curbside as close as he could get. He was shouting something that sounded like the couple was violating "Title 9" and could get thrown out of school. "Teachers don't like you doing that," he said (or something like that). Once again he repeated that they were violating Title 9 and that they might get thrown out—and then drove off.

It didn't make any sense. When she got closer she asked the couple what happened.

"I think he was stoned," the young man answered. The young woman smiled.  Rebel Girl gently disagreed.

"Did he say you were violating Title 9?" Rebel Girl asked. They nodded. "Do you know what that is?" They shook their heads. "It's about equity and access for women in education, equal funding of programs, especially in sports." They laughed. "I doubt you were violating Title 9."

"He didn't seem to want  me to touch her," the young man said, nodding toward the young woman.

Rebel Girl surmised that there had been some public display of affection going on but certainly not Title 9 infringement.

None of it made any sense.  But it was the end of a long hot day, the first day of classes. Maybe it was some kind of strange college prank on the part of the police officer.  The couple went back to each other's eyes and Rebel Girl left them there. Ah, youth.

One last note: Rebel Girl stopped at Manassero Farms farm stand on the way off campus to pick up dinner—so much to choose from!  She chose what she needed—watermelon, squash, corn, broccoli—and then discovered that they give 20% off to staff, faculty and students. Bring your ID. It's a deal.


Five Years Ago TODAY!

So menacing is he, that no one will sit near him
     AUGUST 17, 2010 [i.e., five years ago today]:
Board President Don Wagner harassed by bumble bee

     If you’ve been following our reports of board meetings throughout the summer, you know that the administration/trustees of the SOCCCD are in a weird place right now. There’s open hostility between Board Prez Don Wagner and his camp (Padberg, Milchiker, Jay, Roquemore, et al.) and Tom Fuentes and his gang (Lang, Williams, bees, roaches).
     That’s the bad news, I suppose. The good news is that today’s “Chancellor’s opening session” was the best such session to be seen in many years.
     It really helped that Fuentes and Williams were absent. No sulfur stink. No milk mustache.
     Lang, pretending not to be the kind of guy who will sell out his friends for career opportunities, gave an "invocation" that seemed to be entirely unreligious. So it really wasn't an invocation, if you ask me. Is that good? Not sure.
     Wagner was on hand, of course, looking pretty strong for a guy who’s been through hell. He even managed to be funny (albeit still a bit dark; he provided the only rays of darkness during the 90-minute event; he can't help being just a tad menacing).

     Marcia Milchiker, Dave Lang, and Wagner were the only trustees to show, which is a first. It’s been a while since Williams has missed one of these things. He’s seriously into milk and cookies, I guess.
     Here’s a quick rundown of what happened today. I missed the first minute or so. Don’t know what happened then. Like I said, Lang gave an invocation that didn’t seem to invoke anybody, but it was nice, if bland. (To the extent that it was an invocation, it was non-nice.)
     Mr. Bob Bramucci did his usual whizbangery in what he called a “Tech Check.” We’ve been upgraded to Blackboard 9.1, he said, and it is packed with fabulous prizes. If you’ve got an iPad, you can connect to all sorts of things of importance, district/college-wise, said Bob.

     He showed us some “IVC aps” for the iPhone that seemed pretty cool. You can look up anybody and get their contact info. You can search the schedule of courses; you can get directions—complete with GPS that tracks you like some kinda perp.
     There’s something called PUSH BI, which seemed pretty good, if you’re into WSCH and that sort of thing. Evidently, our district, along with the usual suspects (Ivy League colleges, UCI) were honored for being really good at something. Tech stuff I guess. Not sure. Big applause.
     Bramucci did his usual thing with funny pics from off the web: cats, dogs, drunk people. It was all in good fun. No Elvis sightings.
     Then he strapped on his eeelectric guitar and did his schtick, which is pretty schticky, if you ask me, but still pretty dang entertaining. He managed to find excuses to play riffs from “Seven Nation Army,” “Day Tripper,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Walk This Way,” “Purple Haze,” “More Than a Feeling,” and so on. He was like one of those old K-Tell commercials. A cavalcade of super-hot riffulosity!
     He must be a seriously hammy guy. The audience gobbled it up. The jokes were corny and the audience loved that too.

     Prez Burnett and Prez Roquemore took turns introducing new faculty. All in all, about twenty-five of ‘em got up there to take their bows and get their grin 'n' grips. They didn't drag it out, which is good. Nice pacing.
     Next came Vice Chancellor of Business-Whatever David Bugay—seems like a great guy—and another one of his eccentric-yet-homespun but highly entertaining showlettes. He called it, “Going to the top: a living mosaic.” That didn’t sound good.
     But I think it was good. In his odd way, he is a bold fellow.
     He started with images concerning the issues of our day, our worry and uncertainty, etc. He moved on to issues in the district: What’s with ATEP? Facilities funding. The Chancellor search.
     But then he offered a series of “encounters” with clusters of students, faculty, classified, administrators, et al., as a janitor swept in the background and the screen displayed big letters and goofy images.
     Bugay is good at this sort of thing. He puts on a good show.
     The running gag was his asking students, as they walked away, “Where you goin’?”, and the kid always says, “Why, I’m going to the top!” Then said kid walked over to some stairs to nowhere on the right side of the stage.
     “It’s about students going to the top," chirped the Vice Chancellor, repeatedly. That sounded uncomfortably close to one of Mathur’s mantras. But the series of charmingly fake encounters (including one with his own son, who asked for twenty bucks) seemed to work very well anyway.
     Wagner then came up to speak, and he was a little menacing (it’s a subtle thing), as he always is, but he was funny, too. (You don't need to be menacing, Don.) He started off with a dig at Raghu Mathur: “Remember when the Chancellor’s opening session was all about Elvis? What do you think of this?”
     Don and Co. pulled it off, I think. It was indeed a new kind of opening session. A friendly one. A “great step up from Elvis,” as Wagner put it. And it was.

     Wagner was keenly aware that this was his last opening session (what with his big Assembly race and likely victory in November). He made a point of thanking everybody. He said it was an “honor and a priviledge” to be involved in a “small way” in what the district does. I think he meant it.
     That’s when David Bugay kept gesturing at Wagner, annoying him (you know Don). I almost ran over to do a body block, but, finally, it became clear that the Wag-Man was being investigated by a persistent bumble bee, who had lit on his shoulder. The bee soon took flight, but then commenced buzzing around Don’s head. He/she seemed especially interested in Don’s hair. The dang thing seemed intent on buzzing the fellow--just like those old planes surrounding the Empire State Building in "King Kong." It was way cool.
     But Don rolled with the punches. “It didn’t happen in rehearsal!” he joked, good naturedly. The bee finally went off to bug somebody else.
     Next, we were entertained by a fake live conversation with Acting Chancellor Dixie Bullock, vacationing in St. Petersburg, Russia. She filled the screen, standing on the banks of a river. It looked like Russia all right. Pretty dreary. We could hear traffic noise. Dead Russians floated by.
     Naturally, the whole thing was taped, but Wagner (and Bullock) did a pretty good job seeming to have a live conversation, just like on CNN. “Yes,” said Dixie to Don’s first question, “I started as a faculty member.” But he hadn’t asked a yes/no question. Pretty funny.
     What are your plans?, asked Don.
     Stability and civility in the district, said Dixie.

     There was a big technical snafu. Don ad libbed: “No, Dixie, go on, really!”
     Fortuitously, the signal was then restored, more or less. She talked a bit about the value of civility, a theme touched on earlier by Bugay. She said we oughta so hello when we pass people on campus. “A pleasant verbal greeting will make our day going right!” she chirped. (She sounded exactly like Sue-Ann Nivens.)
     Just then, the technical glitch returned, and, for a brief second or two, she sounded just like a freakin' chipmunk. She’s already a very popular gal, but, owing to this chipmunk episode, her popularity will no doubt reach new heights.
     Don smiled a winning smile.
     We can be Number 1. We’re not far from it now!, said Dixie.
     Well, then came the “issuing of pins,” an absurd ritual the premise of which is: the longer you maintain your job in the district, the more impressive you are. I don't get it. Some people seem actually to enjoy this exercise, including the recipients, who often beamed with pride.
     And that was it. —RB