A Tale of Two Turkeys

Those of you who know Julie and I in our "school setting" have probably noticed that I have omitted any "war stories". This has NOT been oversight on my part. I put the war stories right down there with the "health updates"...stories too depressing to warrant reminiscing.

However, as I considered today whether to fix a Christmas dinner "for old times sake", memories of the bad ol' days danced in my head. You were expecting sugar plums?

Before I go any further...I have had several invitations to "Christmas Dinner" and have politely declined all. Do NOT think that you need to feel sorry for Ron, sitting at home...alone...with nothing to eat. I may be at home and alone, but that is in accordance with my personal wishes. And...I have lots to eat!

In fact, I have a turkey downstairs in the freezer...one I bought for Julie (and I) last year when she was too sick to cook. It's one of those prepared turkeys that you simply pop into the oven...thawed or frozen...and 3 or 4 hours later, it's done and ready to eat. I have some "Glory" mixed greens, that if you like greens and haven't tried them...you need to. Even Julie liked them and she did awesome greens...won this white boy over! Oh, Julie would doctor them up some - they were a little too spicy for her drug-enhanced palate - but if you don't want to go to the trouble to fix greens from scratch, they do a damned good job!

Yes...the turkey's a year old, but I've eaten things with expiration dates a lot older than that! And, a year in the bottom of our freezer...shouldn't be a problem. (If you don't see me on January 3rd, you'll know that I was wrong!)

But, back to the REAL turkeys...fowl and foul!

I'm taking the liberty of posting a reprise of an article that ran on CAT Tracks back in December 2000. Most of the folks involved no longer work for Cairo School District Number One...a blessing in itself!

The article doesn't mention Julie by name, but you school folks know that she was the villainess who had the audacity to cook a turkey dinner for the Emerson staff, teachers, and administration...and whoever else might have happened onto the premises that day. Julie never left anyone out of her "feedings"!

The background for her dastardly deed was that we had purchased one of those turkey deep fryers and had used it at Thanksgiving...to the raves of all who partook at Chez Newell. And, you know Julie...she wanted to share! So, she had me cart the deep fryer over to Emerson...setting it up outside in the no-longer-in-use "doggy cage" next the the "outhouse" where Julie's office was located. (Oh, I'm sorry, Emerson teachers...your lounge!) On my lunch hour, I went to Emerson, got the fryer lit and the oil heating...leaving the rest to Julie and her assistants.

After action reports were favorable...nary a scrap of meat left on the two turkey carcasses!

Well, as evidenced by the story below, not everyone was pleased with the Julie Newell "cookout"...turkeys most foul!

CAT Tracks for December 4, 2000


New financial crisis?...No!

Concern about low achievement scores?...No!

What, then?

Why...To cook or not to cook...That is the question!

Folks...I don't make these things up...stuff just seems to always happen in Cairo School District Number One.

Despite the fact that employees have had potlucks, including cooking on site, for years at Cairo High School...

Despite the fact that employees have had potlucks, including cooking on site, for years at Cairo Junior High School...

Despite the fact that employees have had potlucks, including cooking on site, for years at Bennett Elementary School...

Despite the fact that employees have had potlucks, including cooking on site, during previous years at Emerson Elementary School...

AND...Despite the fact that employees (including present and past superintendents) have had potlucks, including cooking on site AND grilling out back...at the Central Office...

Superintendent Isom issued an edict last Wednesday that there would be NO MORE COOKING AT EMERSON ELEMENTARY!

What does this have to do with "A Tale of Two Turkeys"? Well, evidently Dr. Isom's edict was brought on by a complaint by someone at Emerson who chose to go over the principal's head (or behind his back). The complaint was that one of the secretaries was spending her time cooking everyday...instead of performing the duties listed in her job description.

IN FACT...as I found out when I asked..."cooking" has only taken place on three occasions...and on one of those occasions, the food was actually cooked at home and brought to school and warmed. The "last supper" consisted of deep fried turkeys.

But what about "cooking" everyday? Those "transgressions" consisted of having assorted snacks available before school, during breaks, and during the lunch period...fruit, cookies, and the like...Things that the District provides during inservices...IF we are lucky!

I went to the school board meeting last Wednesday to report all of the above. Why? Employees at Emerson Elementary School have been brought much closer this year...morale has soared! Faculty and staff looked forward to coming to school, unlike some of us at other buildings. This is something that the Board has always professed to want...knowing that happy employees tend to work harder and accomplish more. The Board has even spent some of its scarce resources to accomplish this purpose--beginning of the year breakfast, end of the year luncheon, tokens of appreciation during American Education Week. THIS morale booster cost the District nothing!

BUT...Someone evidently thinks this is bad...and this person evidently is receiving a sympathetic ear.

What was the Board's reaction to my appearance? Superintendent Isom told me after adjournment (1:05 a.m.) that the Board had declared a "MORATORIUM ON COOKING ACTIVITIES"...IN ALL BUILDINGS...until such time that they could "consult with their attorney and their insurance carrier! GIVE ME A BREAK! More money spent on lawyers to FIGHT employees instead of working WITH employees for the improvement of the District!

So...Stay Tuned...Will we be able to have the annual Christmas parties...or will we have our own local showing of "THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS"?

The "footnote" to this story is the real reason that I'm posting it...the happy ending!

Again, you school folks know that Julie Newell got fired...for "incompetence", not for the turkey cooking. But, after a two-and-a-half year legal battle, she got reinstated. Arriving in her "settlement" Lincoln Town Car, Julie returned to the Central Office...under a new superintendent.

(One friend suggested that Julie get personalized plates for the Lincoln..."WE WON 1". In retrospect, wish we had!)

Well, was Julie Newell cowed by her dismissal...and the previous edict against cooking on the premises of Cairo School District Number One?


Julie Newell simply started cooking on site at the Central Office! And, she harbored no grudges. (Okay, I lied!) However, Julie and I were "hired" to cater a meeting at said Central Office - ribs, chickens, and all the fixin's!

During the final two years that Julie spent at the Central Office, she daily fed whoever was willing to eat...BOE members, superintendents, teachers, staff, and anybody lucky enough to wander through her office!

Remember the old saying..."If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen"?

As Rachel's chosen song at the funeral service stated about Julie: "You can stand me up at the gates of hell and I won't back down!"

Julie Newell could stand the heat...she took her kitchen with her!!!