President Lincoln was Shot Where?

Traveling is always interesting. Sometimes too interesting.

When I’m on the road and go out to eat, I’m not looking for drama.

I want to dine in peace.

And not get in the middle of an international incident.

I am pretty sure the guy at the Subway in Chinatown was cursing the customer before us… but I will never know (I think he said “I am going to strangle your fish with a bar of soap if you get Sprite instead of water!!!”… but it was hard to tell… angry Chinese man spoke very quickly).

Chinese Subway.

Chinese Subway.

While I’m not sure what he said exactly, there was definitely a tone.

And almost an attack. Not sure who was going to attack whom, but it was about to happen.

I don’t care what nationality you are, if someone in your restaurant orders a water then fills the cup up with soda… you’re going to be angry.

Turns out, very angry.

Screaming and pointing angry.

Willing to do bad things with Lava soap angry.

Saying 14 consecutive Chinese curse words in a row angry.

But, lesson learned. Stay on the good side of the Chinese Subway owner.

And if you order water, get water (also, don’t eat items in the grocery store… the grapes aren’t free…).

My day in Washington D.C. started off innocently enough. The evil spawn and I were wandering the streets looking for a McDonald’s.

Since we aren’t completely stupid, we started heading in the opposite direction of people we saw holding McDonald’s sacks.

The good news is our plan worked. The bad news is it took us 40 minutes.

After we ate (if you consider “eating” at McDonald’s eating…), we again headed out into the city.

I think we were headed south, but just like with the Chinese cursing I may never know.

Before I knew it we were standing directly in front of Ford’s Theater.

As anyone who passed (or didn’t) junior high social studies, we all know President Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater.

It was a very surreal moment because while I have studied and taught this fact, I never expected to be standing directly in front of where Lincoln was killed (especially when I was basically lost and in a food coma from way too many hash browns).

As I glanced across the street, I could also see the Peterson House where they took the President after the shooting.

If I remember my history, I think he died there the next morning (I also remember something about a Cabinet Meeting being held there, but I digress… and possibly bore…).

As I stood next to the theater, I was torn.

Being excited to see where someone died seemed a little morbid.

But it is history, so I wanted to document our experience.

What better way than to take a picture of my daughter. As I focused the camera, I noticed something.

And once again (don’t forget my time at the Alamo!), I became disappointed in seeing history up close.

For you see, Ford’s Theater… where our 16th President was assassinated… is next door to…

… the Hard Rock Café.

You Can See the Hard Rock Flag Next to the American Flag.

You Can See the Hard Rock Flag Flying Proudly Next to the American Flag.

That’s wrong.

Just wrong.

That fact that you can see where Abraham Lincoln was shot… and then walk 20 feet and see a pair of Mick Jagger’s pants is just not right (picture will be added when I get home… or when my wife finds the camera cord…).

It gets better… or odder… across the street from the Hard Rock… the FBI Building. Somewhere, J. Edgar Hoover isn’t happy. Happier than the Chinese Subway owner, but not happy.

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Field Trip to Washington D.C. and While I’m There, I Need to Swing By NECC.

NECC 2009 - Washington, D.C.

NECC 2009 - Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, I will be blogging (posting… whatever) from Washington D.C. and the National Educational Computing Conference.

It starts with a trip to the airport on Saturday night with the Queen of Technology, my Evil Spawn, and the Mother in Law (before you email me… Buddy the Dog is staying with Grandpa… which could very well be a blog in itself).

I’m not sure if this is a great deal for me or not… dropping off man’s best friend and picking up my mother-in-law. I have noticed Grandpa doesn’t seem disappointed about the swap.

A long drive to the airport, security, hotels, cab rides, 3 women… what in the world could possibly go wrong???

Hopefully a lot because that makes blogging so much easier.

First stop on the field trip… being a panelist at the SIGTC Forum: The 21st-Century Technology Leader for Max Frazier from Newman University. This will take place Sunday , June 28th from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm in Room 207B at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Please join us for the discussion and the first person who walks up and says, “I read the Blog and at times it rises to the level of not terrible,” wins nothing but my undying gratitude and admiration (and possibly total consciousness on your deathbed… so you would have that going for you).

After that, the wife and mother-in-law will be attending 8,000 sessions on technology (feel free to instant message them on Windows Live Messenger … or find them on Twitter at @brachsmith… @nbrach).

They will then report back to me about everything they learned that I can use at my school.

This is so much easier than if I attend the sessions.

Plus, they are so busy they don’t even eat lunch and that is just wrong if you ask me.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I will become tourists (although I might swing by and see my “father” Alan November speak).

If we take any good pictures of the White House, the Capital, Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, the Mall, etc. I will post them on the blog.

If we die of heat/humidity, I will most likely not be posting.

Once (if) we return from Washington, it is possible the Blog will be going slightly more mainstream.

I may be going to work for “the man”.

More on that later but right now I need to pack. And packing almost never goes well.

But it will take my mind off the Buddy the Dog for Mother-in-Law swap.

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Girls and Sports. Why Their Love of Sports Isn’t Really Love At All.

It Might Be Love.  It Might Not Be.It’s summertime.

You would think this means a slower pace of life for someone who works in education.

This isn’t true in my case because I am the proud owner of an evil spawn (at least I am half owner for a few more years).

My daughter is in the middle of another athletic season (if I can use the word “athletic” in reference to an 8 year old). As the seasons change, so do her activities.

Summer means softball, golf, and camps. Fall brings soccer. Winter is basketball. Spring brings us back to soccer.

I didn’t even mention Girl Scouts, piano lessons, skiing, church activities, swimming, and sleepovers.

The activities change but the cycle always repeats.

And repeats.

And repeats.

And repeats (you probably get it by now).

My behind can now instantly recognize the season/sport by the type of uncomfortable wooden bleacher on which I am parked.

I miss my youth. That was a special time when I could sit on bleachers for extended periods and not be bedridden the following 2 days with a mystery pain shooting up my tender backside.

I used to think old people were foolish for sitting on seat cushions at games. Now, I am considering buying stock in the company.

My daughter’s yearly schedule is always the same. That is unless she decides that her parents aren’t busy enough and decides to add another sport.

Lately, she has a strange obsession with auto racing but hopefully she sticks to Mario Kart.

I really don’t have the disposable income to invest in a stock car.

Knowing all of this, one would think she loves sports. One would be wrong.

She doesn’t.

I know this because she is a girl.

What she loves is participating. She loves being part of a team. She loves getting a uniform and trophies. She loves seeing her friends at games (she even talks to the opposing team like they are hated rivals… it’s really hard to watch).

Most of all she loves the juice boxes and snacks that moms provide after the games.

What she doesn’t love is the sports themselves.

Those she likes.

She wants to win, but more than that, she wants to participate. And she wants everyone on both teams to have a good time (at times it is almost embarrassing… the encouraging… the smiling… it’s really quite sad).

I have a feeling the day new uniforms and juice boxes aren’t exciting is the day she finds another way to spend her time.

It could be a job, a boy (pray that it’s not), or reading a book.

I really think boys and girls are very different when it comes to sports.

Boys want to win.

Girls want it to be enjoyable.

This should be a lesson to those millions of parents who think their 8 year old daughters are going to be star athletes in college.

They might.

But I have a feeling that my daughter will come home from practice one day and say “This isn’t as much fun as it used to be. The coach yells too much.”

To which I respond “What is the coach mad about?”

She will say “Who knows. I think I’m going to get a job at the mall.”

You see, she won’t even know why she quit playing sports. She just will.

Girls are just different than boys.

And I hate to say it, but girls may have it figured out.

Thanks for reading the 250th Blog.

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It’s Time for a Midlife Crisis. I Just Wish I Had Time.

Scissors.Life moves pretty fast (so says Ferris Bueller). If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

In my life this couldn’t be truer. My best estimates tell me, if all goes well, I am halfway through my lifetime.

That would make me 82 when it all comes crashing to a close.

This becomes more and more apparent as my evil spawn of a daughter continues to age at an alarmingly fast rate.

She is now 8 which is amazing considering we just brought her home from the hospital last week (at least it seems like last week).

I wouldn’t think about my age nearly as much if she didn’t point it out in a variety of ways.

She say things like “You’re old.” And “You”re really old.” And the ever popular “Don”t hurt yourself old man.”

She said the last one when I was doing the very strenuous task of picking a golf ball out of a puddle.

Does she think I am made of glass?

For her information, I having been hitting golf balls into the water for over 35 years with a spotless record of never injuring myself.

Sometimes her comments are more subtle.

Yesterday I got my driver’s license renewed. She pointed out that in 8 years she will be getting her license.

How is this possible?

How will she be old enough to drive? How will I be old enough to have an evil spawn that is old enough to drive?

One day I am a sophomore in high school with no clue, and the next I am 41 years old (still in school) with no clue.

It’s just not right that I will have a daughter who is old enough to drive (I am frightened for everyone who travels by car, truck, or walks on a sidewalk within 100 feet of a street).

Maybe she is right. Maybe I am old.

I have noticed that in the last 5 years, I attend far more funerals than I do weddings.

It is also apparent that my memory can at times be… what’s the word I am looking for… oh yeah… sketchy. My memory isn’t what I remember it being 10 years ago (I think, but who knows… because I can’t remember).

How many times do I have to go the store and stand in the middle of an aisle for 3 minutes because I can’t remember why I am there? When will I realize that I am incapable of leaving the house without a list?

This doesn’t bother me too much, because I realize a slight memory loss is the price of aging (and getting older sure beats the alternative).

What does worry me is what happened yesterday.

I was picking up the house so I could sit down and write a blog.

My last task was to clean off the kitchen counter.

No problem. Or so I thought.

Until a couple of hours later when I found the scissors I had put away… in the refrigerator.

The spawn may be smarter than I think. I am old. Maybe I will break a hip bending over to pick up a golf ball.

Which leads me to my newest problem.

I am the perfect age to have a midlife crisis. Except, I don’t have time because I am too busy.

I’m not exactly sure why. If I remember correctly (and since it’s not on a list, who knows), I used to have loads of free time.

Weekends were spent watching hours and hours of TV. I could complete all of my yard work in 2 hours. Now it takes 2 days and I’m still not finished.

Something has changed.

Where does my time go?

I spend a lot of time at work, but no more than normal. I also spend a lot of time playing with my evil spawn (even though one day she will no doubt put me in a nursing home), but not anymore than other parents.

And I spend time exercising.

That’s it.

That’s the one thing I do more of now, than I did 5 years ago. I exercise.

I exercise so I am healthy. Because if I am healthy, I can do more.

Except I am so tired from exercise that I actually do less.

Is this the official sign of being old?

Or is it when you put scissors in the wrong place? Or is it when you are a regular at funerals?

Who knows?

To tell you the truth, I don’t even have time to worry about getting old because I lost my wallet (with my brand new license).

There are good things about getting older. One, you get wiser.

That’s why the first place I am going to look for my wallet is the refrigerator.

And if I find it, I am going to the store because I need to get… something (it will come to me… sooner or later).

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Vote Early. Vote Often. Vote for Joseph Arthur Middle School!

The staff (me) of gets lots of requests to promote education products, businesses, etc.

I usually turn these down based on principal (get it… principal). Mostly, I turn them down because people won’t send me free stuff.

But today I am going to make an exception. Today, I am going to use the Blog for good instead of evil. Today, I am doing something nice for the kids.

An ex-colleague of mine is now principal of Joseph Arthur Middle School in O’Fallon, Illinois. They have have applied for the Good Foods Garden grant provided by Reader’s Digest/Food Network and have been lucky enough to be chosen as one of eight finalists in the nation.

The most votes through a public website will determine who wins. So, they need your help.

Please vote as many times as you please (no limit… it’s just like politics in Chicago).

If you don’t do it for me… do it for the kids.

And I will be patitently waiting for my brand new XL Joseph Arthur Middle School t-shirt.

How to Vote:

Go to the following link and press vote for: Pioneers for Change – Joseph Arthur Middle School

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Dancing Without Shoes? Not on My Wife’s Watch.

Women’s Restroom.

Women’s Restroom.

When you are employed as a school administrator, you get lots of opportunities to attend the very best social events.

Games, retirement dinners, more games, sports banquets, even more games, graduations, more games than anyone in the history of games has attended, school board meetings, musicals/plays, and dances.

And games.

Most are fun.

When I say fun, please note that I am not talking about dances.

There are dances for every season: fall, winter, and spring. Each one brings an opportunity to watch students dance.

If you want to call it dancing.

Personally, I think dances should be called “I Wouldn’t Dare Move My Body Like This In The Vicinity of Someone Else’s Body If My Grandmother or a State Trooper Was Within 100 Miles of This School” Event.

Ahh, the kids with their loud music and borderline criminal behavior.

What happened to the good old days when society was going to be ruined by Elvis’s swiveling hips?

The good part of dances for school administrators is… well, there isn’t a good part.

The bad part is you have to go. It’s not like when you were in high school. Back then you could just tell people “you didn’t want to go” and skip the dance. Of course this was code for: no one asked me out… again.

But that is a very sad blog for another time.

Actually, I consider a dance successful under one condition. Nothing horrible happens.

And remember, no matter how bad a high school dance is, it could be worse. It could be a junior high dance (actually it is only a dance for the girls… for the boys it is simply an excuse to run into the bathroom and pester their buddies).

At my house, every dance brings a special moment.

No, not a new suit, limo, or corsage.

A discussion.

A very long discussion.

You see, my wife has an issue.

Actually, she has many issues but I like living in my house so those will never be discussed in a future blog (unless I change the names to protect me…).

Her issue with dances is that girls spend lots of money on their appearance only to kick off their shoes 10 minutes after the dance has started.

And then they dance barefoot.

On a dirty and gross dance floor that she likes to call “Infection Central”.

This bothers her. But it gets better.

She used to simply hang around the edge of the dance floor and point out to young ladies what a bad idea it is to dance in your bare feet.

Now she has turned it up a notch.

She is officially the unofficial Restroom Gatekeeper.

You will find her close to the bathroom. This puts her in prime territory to point out not only how foolish it is to dance barefoot, but how young ladies compound their troubles when they go into the restroom.

Surprisingly, some young ladies don’t head her advice.

Even after she tells them they will get ringworm and their toes will fall off.

I am paraphrasing, but one time she told a group of young ladies that leeches were going to crawl onto their feet, up their legs, into their ears, and eat their brains if they took one more step. They did.

And they are still alive (as far as I know).

All of this leads me to my future.

A future of my one day 17 year old evil spawn arguing with her mom at a dance about footwear (or lack thereof).

I can even envision door slamming, yelling, and the phrase “You’re her father, I blame you. Go talk some sense into your child.”

I can hear this discussion in my head and its 9 years away.

My only hope is that I am not supervising that night. At least then, I can leave and not have to watch my daughter “dance.”

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If I Write a Blog About Politicians, Do You Think My Chances of Getting Audited Go Up or Down?

Happy Flag Day!

Happy Flag Day!

This country is facing difficult times. Don’t be alarmed; we will be saved. By whom you ask?

The government.

Excuse me if I don’t sleep well tonight. Or ever again.

All over the World Wide Web you can read about the “good” work our elected officials are doing to save this country.

They are attempting to pass legislation that will make our lives better.

Call me crazy, but when politicians start coming up with “ideas”, I get really nervous (originally I used “great ideas” in this sentence, but even I couldn’t take myself seriously on this one).

When it comes to education, politicians continually have brainstorms on how it can be improved. This is fine with me because as an educator I believe we need to be pushed and challenged. This is the only way for us to maximize the United State’s most important assets.


My only concern lies in the fact that politicians always want to make education slightly better, but seem unwilling to attack the large problems because that might upset the voters.

After all, the next election is always right around the corner (I am in no way insinuating that politicians are only concerned about getting reelected… how do I type this stuff up with a straight face?).

While I’m leery of bureaucrats saving us, I have always thought school administrators and politicians have many things in common.

When you think about it our jobs are very similar.

Of course as educators we don’t get great health care, big pension checks, or wear flag pins like politicians (Political Rule #1: If you wear a flag pin people will naturally assume you are patriotic and thereby more electable).

There are many areas in which we are alike.

Both groups are expected to look professional. We wear suits (thank you Mrs. Hilary Clinton for making this statement asexual). Male politicians and school administrators both seem to own ties with various mystery stains on them (no matter what the job, never trust a man who can’t feed himself without a bib).

Administrators and politicians both live and work in the public eye. One slip up and your entire career can come crashing to a close.

Examples of this are when a politician misspeaks about the facts on TV (this is bad) or a superintendent mispronounces a name at graduation (really bad… really, really bad… in fact there might be a future blog on how really, really, really bad that is).

Politicians work long hours. Principals work long and productive hours.

Both groups are quite familiar with the standard All-American meal; fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, a roll, and iced tea.

Politicians eat this type of meal at fundraisers while begging people for money. Administrators eat this same meal at sports banquets while watching young people get recognized for their outstanding achievements.

Politicians and school administrators are both elected to their offices. Politicians are voted in by the people and administrators by the local school board.

Each gets a term in office. At the conclusion of their terms they are judged strictly on their performance (and on things way out of their control like wars, recessions, and how the basketball team did this year).

Politicians must run for reelection, while administrators hope for a contract extension.

I could go on and on with their similarities.

Both groups face the challenge of being responsible for large groups of people from various economic and social backgrounds.

Both work within a budget (my side is hurting on this one… like politicians have to follow a budget…).

Both enjoy parades (one throws out candy at the homecoming parade, while the other organizes it).

Both have spouses who are scrutinized under the public eye (say what you want… that Todd Palin is one cool guy).

So much in common, yet at their core there is a subtle difference between the two professions.

Administrators make tough decisions on a daily basis for the betterment of their students.

Politicians make decisions (or not) so they can be reelected and make more decisions (or not) so they can be reelected.

I will let you decide about my chances of getting audited. Happy Flag Day!

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Be Available. Just Don’t Be Too Available.

Technology is quite possibly the best thing to ever happen to school administrators. It could also be the worst thing to happen to school administrators.

Computers, email, Twitter, etc. are everywhere. And at a cheap price.

The only thing that separates technology from drugs is the absence of a dealer standing on the street corner giving you your first “Tweet” free.

If I am anything, it is street wise, so I know how these things work.

The first one is always free. Then you are hooked.

I don’t want to be hooked.

There is nothing more pathetic than a middle aged school administrator who checks his BlackBerry 412 times a day waiting for the next email.

This includes but is not limited to checking it first thing in the morning, while golfing, when walking the dog, and during breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

And in the bathroom.

The CrackBerry is Adictive.

The CrackBerry is Adictive.

I may have a problem.

I may end up in a 12 step program saying, “My name is PrincipalsPage and I am hooked on my CrackBerry.”

Life is about moderation.

At least that is what people say. I have noticed the people who say this are usually eating or drinking way too much. But as always I am not here to judge.

I have my own problems.

I can’t get away from work.

Even in the bathroom.

This is one thing that has changed in my 6 years of school administration.

In the old days (2004), you could leave the office and your troubles behind.

Whatever crisis existed (and there is always at least 7 crises at any given time), would lie rotting on your desk until you returned to work the next day.

Or even better. Until you returned from vacation (if and only if you found the time to actually go on vacation).

Since you couldn’t see or smell this carcass of impending disaster, you could put it out of your mind.

Not now.

Now it is 2009.

The stench comes right through your cell phone or computer.

Everyone has access to you.

There is no such thing as time set aside to meet with actual human beings. They just email, text, or Twitter you at all hours of the day and night.

6 years ago there was a little thing I used to call weekends.

Now every day is the same.

If someone has a question, concern, or a comment, they can contact you at anytime.

Day or night.

Here is a little tip for brand new administrators. When someone threatens you in an email at 2:07 a.m., they don’t really mean it.

Actually they do mean it. They will just have second thoughts in the morning. So do your best to go back to sleep.

Although it wouldn’t hurt to double-check that your doors and windows are locked.

Access is wonderful. In moderation.

We can’t blame the people emailing us. Technology gives everyone the same amount of access, which is a good thing.

It is our fault as school administrators that we can’t turn off our phone or not check our email.

I probably shouldn’t be giving this advice because I am the idiot who has looked at my email 4 times while typing this blog.

And my Twitter account 3 times. And my Plurk account twice (all in the last 17 minutes).

Technology is great. If you can control yourself.

I can’t.

I have a problem.

The good news is the first step to conquering this demon is admitting that I am powerless to control it.

And that’s what I am going to do.

Just as soon as I answer a few emails.

Because while I may have a problem, I can quit anytime I “want”.

I just don’t “want”.

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Retirement is Wasted on Old People.

I spend hours thinking about some of the larger questions in the universe.

Heaven or Hell? Was President Obama cool when he was 12? Why do junior high boys feel the urge to shove each other in the hallway? Who is foolish enough to drink out of a school water fountain after 1st graders have put their mouths on it? And why do people complain about the quality of school food when the entire meal cost $2.50?

What do people expect for a couple of bucks? If the food isn’t moving, you should consider yourself lucky.

I am particularly interested in how the whole heaven thing works out for me. But that is a long term goal (hopefully long term).

My immediate focus is retirement.

Only 20 years to go! (barring some sort of incident where I am “encouraged” to leave school grounds and not come back… and mark my word, I will not be going quietly)

It’s not that I don’t like work, because I do. I just think I would like not working a little more.

If I am lucky enough to retire in the far away future, I have a feeling that I may end up being disappointed.

This is My Future.

My Future.

It seems that people retire at such a young age that many find themselves going back to work.

After all if you retire at 62 it’s possible that 1/3 of your life is left (if you are 62… this would be a good time to knock on wood). Your retirement years could last as long or longer than your work years.

The only downfall to retiring is being old.

Although old is a relative term. I used to think people in their 40’s were old. Now I see one of these old people in the mirror every morning and I find him youthful, vibrant, and breathtakingly handsome.

Not really.

I find him tired, grumpy, and slightly creepy (but I don’t want to bother you with my self esteem issues).

I can remember my dad’s 36th birthday party. For some reason one thing struck me that day.

This guy is a dead man walking. I didn’t think there was any way he would live to see his 37th birthday (yes, he is still alive over 30 years later).

Today when I see a 36 year old, I think they are childlike and shouldn’t be crossing busy streets by themselves.

So it turns out my thoughts about age depends on how old I am at the moment.

I am sure that when I turn 62, I will think I am young. Albeit, slightly tired, a little grumpy, and slightly creepy, but again that is a me problem.

While I look forward to my retirement in only two short decades, I do think the entire system is a mess.

I think the concept of when we retire needs to be discussed.

Presently, we attend 13 years of school and then go to college, the military, or work.

The first 65 years of our lives are taken up with these obligations.

Where is the time to have fun?

Where is the time to enjoy life?

Why is retirement dangled out in front of us like a carrot?

Why do we get the carrot when we are too old to chew it with our own teeth?

Retirement should come much earlier, like after you graduate college and earn a master’s degree. Or serve 8 years in the armed forces.

If you accomplish that, you should get the next 20 years off (retirement) and then go into the workforce at 45.

Then you would work until you die.

These days, many retirees go back to work only months after they retire. Why not get some time off when you are young enough to enjoy it?

Just think. If I retire when I am 62, my golf game will have deteriated to such a pathetic level that I won’t even enjoy playing.

Under this new system, I get to enjoy early retirement” while my golf game is still mediocre.

Let’s not kid ourselves.

Retirement is for old people. It should be for young people. And my golf game is barely mediocre.

I want to retire before I start setting the thermostat in my house to a balmy 84 degrees. Or before I am driving 27 mph on the highway (in the passing lane with both hands on the steering wheel looking straight ahead).

Of course, I am only offering this “new retirement idea” for a very limited time.

When I am 62, retirement won’t be for old people… it will be for me.

And by then I will be more focused on my heaven/hell issue than my retirement problem.

Plus, 62 isn’t really that old. It’s not like I will be 85.

But no matter how old I get, or where I end up spending eternity, I will never understand why people drink out of a public school water fountain.

Comments: 4


While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.