New Data

I discovered today that earlier this month, America's Promise Alliance released their 2009 Crisis in the Cities report, "Closing the Graduation Gap."

Bottom line, it presents bad news for Indianapolis. The Circle City is now 50th out of the 50 largest metropolitan cities in the country, for a graduation rate of 30.5 percent. Last year the report had Indy at 49th of 50 and it's no fun being one of the cities that went down, not up.

The report covers some traditional ground, looking at the disparities between urban and suburban districts, potential earnings of non-high school diploma holders vs. those with more education and rates of poverty for those without a diploma compared to those with or with more education.

I think the conclusion of the report draws some of the strongest attention to what this crisis really means.

At no point in our nation's recent history has the economy found itself in such dire straits. And at no point has the critical role of a quality education been more evident. For individuals facing a worsening economy and weakening labor market, a strong education may offer the best protection for weathering the storm. Likewise, it is also clear that the brunt of the crisis will be borne by those with the least education -- those without a high school diploma.

As this report and other research have shown, two very different worlds exist within American public schooling. In one, earning a diploma is the norm, something expected of every student; in the other, it is not. The stakes attached to graduating have never been higher.

I remember, in my previous time as a reporter, one school board meeting where a parent asked why the socioeconomic level of students in school buildings mattered. At the time, I remember being shocked as I sat there, about the complete lack of understanding this parent had about the challenges faced by those growing up in poverty and how much more it takes from schools and the community to help those children succeed.

Clearly, the parent lived in the first world and too many students in the school district were living in the second world.

I sent the Crisis in Cities report out to my colleagues here at Starfish. It's sobering data, but as I said to them, when you are at the bottom, you can only go up and that's why we're here.


One Month till the Big Check

We found out yesterday that Starfish was chosen by a local group to receive their annual grant of $15,000. We're really pumped about this because it's been awhile since we got any major money.

Let me just say, the no major money thing isn't because of the economy, it's the funding cycle. We've got a bunch of applications out to funders that we'll start hearing from in May/June. Still, it's nice right now that we know this funding is coming because it lets us work on fall plans for camp.

We'll officially get the big check at an award luncheon in May.

Also, the construction progresses along. They are hard at work on the lounge and the commons areas. There was some loud sawing/pounding noise for a bit this morning, but I'm really hopeful that the loud stuff is going to be over soon.



Today was not at all like what I thought it would be.

I spent a good three hours this morning cleaning and organizing our new kitchen. Because we stored all the kitchen stuff in the garage, all of it was covered in a fine film of dust. I washed EVERYTHING and found it a logical home in the new kitchen.

We have tons more space to add to our kitchen, things like pots and pans. We haven't been able to cook for our Scholars in a long time, but we really like doing that and now the new kitchen makes it possible.

Not bad for having prune-hands now.


Fighting my Alligators

Yesterday I went to a brown bag lunch-and-learn deal all about how to prioritize. I signed up for the workshop because it had such a great title: When you are up to your neck in alligators, it's hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp. This was a fantastic workshop and I thought some of the points were worth sharing.

Generally, I'm a pretty organized person. I'm left-brained; I scored pretty high as a "C" on my DISC profile, meaning I like organization, lists, systems, etc. I'm normally good at seeing both the forest and the trees and figuring out how to get through tree forest and avoid the underbrush that would trip me up.

That said, ever since I took over this job for real in October, I've felt on the verge of being overwhelmed. It's not easy to fundraise in a recession, but it's still possible. It's not easy to be a mostly one-woman development/PR department, but it's still possible. My problem is that when I get overwhelmed, I can become paralyzed. Forest. Trees. I'll plunge in, but let myself get distracted by the pretty flowers or the stream or whatever makes it easier.

This prioritizing thing has been on the forefront of my brain for a while. I've been listening to what people say about it, from the advice of one of our board members, to veterans in this field and now this workshop.

Here are some great tidbits from what I've been hearing lately:
1. You can lose 2-3 hours of work time a week because of having a cluttered desk.

2. Follow the OHIO principle -- Only Handle It Once. Maybe it's hard to handle something only once, but if you can reduce this from 4-6 times to 2-3 times, it's still an improvement.

3. Don't live in your inbox. Turn the ding off that tells you when you get new mail. Turn off the little box that pops up in your corner. Organize your e-mail with folders so that your inbox never has more than a certain number of emails in it. (One I'm adding... deal with it and delete it if it doesn't need to be archived.) I read/heard somewhere that it takes 15-20 minutes for a person to get their concentration back after checking email/blackberry/phone, etc.

4. Most people do their best work in the mornings. Therefore, don't meet in the mornings. Push meetings into the afternoon when the day starts to drag.

5. If you are the only one screaming for a job to get done, maybe it's not that important. Sometimes important jobs are the self-directed ones, but really, most of the time, they aren't.

So, how am I using these tips?

Since the move into the new office, I'm determined to have an uncluttered desk. Yesterday, I spent a bunch of the afternoon dealing with boxes of stuff that got bequeathed to me. I circular-filed a lot of it and have a new pile that I need to go through a second time to really decide what to keep and then where that goes. I'm sure this will be a constant battle to keep things under control, but I know that when they are, I'll feel more in control.

I also started going through my inbox. Right now, mine's got 485 emails in it. I'd like to set 100 as the goal. I know it's going to take me a while to get there, but I'm being pretty ruthless with this.

I'm sure this will continue to take time, but I'm going to fight off these alligators.


More Construction Photos

Now that my network is behaving again, here are some more images. This is the upstairs meeting room, set up classroom style.

This is the wall of my office and my window!

This is my wonderful new desk, with tons of storage space and drawers with handles and locks. Hopefully, more pictures will follow when it's all unpacked and cleaned off for the open house.


Office Renovations -- Sneak Peak

Since the downstairs offices are mostly done, I thought it high time to get some photos posted for a sneak-peek at the renovations.

So, beginning at the front of the building:

This is the new reception/lobby. Note the fun swirly orange carpet.

This is the former blue office. Not blue anymore. Also, not the space where I work anymore.

Argh. I just lost my network connection and can't get to the photos on our shared drive.

Sigh. Hopefully more later.


The new office

I'm moved in to my new office. Hooray!

Yesterday I was without Internet while the move happened. Today, I am without a camera because we've got a group of Scholars on spring break who are taking a trip with Starfish staff to Ball State. Since college access and planning is a big deal with what we do here, I won't begrudge them taking the camera.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have the ability to share photos.

The great news though is I'm in and it looks fabulous and I have wonderful file storage for everything and all the other offices are beautiful too.

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