Doctor Jill Biden turns 70

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in 2007

Jill BidenI noted before the 2020 election that Jill Biden would hit the big 7-0 this year. Frankly, I wasn’t sure there was enough I wanted to say about her. Others helped.

First, there was that op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that she “should think about dropping the honorific” of Doctor, since she is not a medical doctor. The guy suggested that her using the title “feels fraudulent, even comic.”

“In 2007, she received a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware.” Lots of non-physicians use the title. I don’t if it’s snobbishness or sexism.

Here’s something clearly sexist. The hypocrisy of the invented scandal of Jill Biden’s fishnets. The horror! The number of articles on this non-issue, sometimes dragging Melania into the discussion for reasons that bore me, is quite staggering.

Eldest child

Jill Biden is fairly normal, in a good way. Here’s the White House bio. “Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden was born on June 3, 1951, in Hammonton, New Jersey, to Bonny Jean Godfrey Jacobs and Donald Carl Jacobs. The oldest of five daughters, she grew up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. She graduated from Upper Moreland High School in 1969, then graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1975.” She has taught at various institutions.

Jill had married Bill Stevenson, a former college football player, in February 1970; she had a turbulent divorce from him in May 1975.

In March 1975, she met Joe Biden, widowed US Senator with two young boys, Beau and Hunter. They married on June 17, 1977, at the Chapel at the United Nations in New York City. Joe and Jill’s daughter Ashley Blazer was born on June 8, 1981.

“As Second Lady, Dr. Biden focused on advocating for community colleges, military families, and the education of women and girls around the world. As First Lady, Dr. Biden continues her work for education, military families, and fighting cancer. The professor of writing at Northern Virginia Community College is pushing for free access to community college and training.

Joe and Jill Biden released their taxes! You can do that? They earned just over $600,000 in 2020. Their effective federal income tax rate of 25.9 percent after donating about 5 percent of their income to charity, paying about $157,000. For 2019, the Bidens had an adjusted gross income of $985,000 and paid federal income taxes of nearly $288,000.

Check out the page on Politico about her.

Vote for Albany (NY) library, school board candidates by mail

ACSD Board of Education adopted a $261.6 million budget proposal.

voteAlbany voters will have a safe way to vote for Albany Public Library trustees, the Albany City School District board, and the ACSD budget. It is being conducted entirely by absentee ballot.

Ballots will be mailed on May 26 to qualified voters and are due by June 9 at 5 p.m. This is NOT a postmark deadline. At that time, the district will begin the process of counting the votes to determine the results.

Since the APL trustees did not request an increase in the library budget for 2020-2021, no vote is required. There are eight candidates on the ballot for two open APL trustee seats in the election. There are two seats, both carrying full five-year terms, open.

The candidates were placed on the ballot in alphabetical order:

(1) Jessica Balarin of Partridge St.

(2) Kewsi Burgess of Catherine St.

(3) Donna Dixon of Fleetwood Ave.

(4) Jeffrey Keller of Walter St.

(5) Thomas McCarthy Jr. of Stueben St.

(6) Katharine McNamara of Cardinal Ave.

(7) James Munro of Glendale Ave.

(8) Brigette Pryor of Myrtle Ave.

The library will publish candidate biographical information on its website by May 26. APL will be hosting a virtual meet-the-candidate forum on Tuesday, May 26 at 6 pm. It will be live-streamed on YouTube and recorded for later viewing.

School budget

Per the ACSD website: “The ballot also will include Proposition #2, a proposal to purchase a piece of property adjacent to Delaware Community School for $13,300 using funds from the capital reserve. The property would be used for additional recreational space for students. Proposition #2 would have no impact on taxes.

“In addition to the school budget and proposition votes, three candidates are running for one open board seat: Victor Cain, Hassan Elminyawi, and Edith Leet. The board appointed Elminyawi last summer to serve the remainder of a vacant position; that term expires June 30.

See if you’re registered to vote for the library and school board candidates, and the school budget HERE. If you do not receive a ballot by the end of May, contact the school board clerk – Tanya Bowie (518 475-6015, – who will verify your registration status.

Note: The Presidential, State and Local Primaries will take place on June 23, 2020. Contact the Albany County Board of Elections for more details.

The Lydster: Academic Achievement

kidsheaderThe Daughter just graduated from sixth grade. It was really nice having her attend at a building that was literally a stone’s throw or two from our house for a half dozen years.

This fall, she will be taking the bus, as she moves on to middle school, what they used to call junior high when I was of age.

In June, there were a lot of awards given. She was recognized by the school board for being first in First in Math in the state of New York, the only person in the Empire State to be in the Top 100 in the country. She gave the board two terse sentences of explanation.

Her school gave out a set of achievement recognition. There were LOTS of these – I’m guessing a couple reams of paper worth – and I could see from a distance that she was disappointed that she got only three awards, two for honor role, and one for music, while some of her classmates were collecting quantities in double digits. She thought she might get one for citizenship, as the only active student in the PTA, e.g. She didn’t even get the award for math, which we both had expected.

Finally, there was graduation. There were awards from the state comptroller, the attorney general and other luminaries. A couple kids, including her best school friend, received The President’s Award for Educational Excellence, which “recognizes a student’s academic success in the classroom.”
Then The Daughter and another student received The President’s Award for Educational Achievement, which “recognizes students who show outstanding educational growth, improvement, commitment to or intellectual development in their academic subjects.”

It goes on to say in the description on the website: “This Achievement award should not be compared to the President’s Award for Educational Excellence or be seen as a second tier award; it recognizes a very different type of academic achievement. It is meant to encourage and reward students who work hard and give their best effort in school, often in the face of special obstacles to learning.”

I do not know what “special obstacles” the award is referring to, but no matter. The Daughter is thrilled by the award, “signed” by President Obama, which totally eliminated the disappointment of four days earlier.

I should note she got a paper certificate, rather than the pin.

From Where the Lion Roars: The Hunt for an American Education in Binghamton

Dr. Kitonyi’s grandmother took him to a school run by missionaries at the age of 9 and it was then that he began to view education as key to his future.

kitonyiA library friend of mine asked if I were familiar with a book called From Where the Lion Roars: the hunt for an American education in Binghamton by Peter N. Kitonyi. It is in the Local History room of the Albany Public Library. From the book information, Kitonyi attended Binghamton North High School, the “other” public high school besides Central in my hometown, back in the 1960s.

I was not familiar with the surname or the book. But I posted the information on a few Binghamton-based Facebook pages, and while no one remembered him, one person found an article in the Ithaca Journal, Ithaca being a small city about 50 miles from Binghamton, about how the American Civic Association helped him, as it has assisted immigrants for many years.

The ACA was familiar to me. My late father spent time volunteering there, and sometimes the family would be with him. My 16th birthday party was at that venue. And unfortunately, it was the site of one of those terrible mass killings in 2009.

The article read:

Kitonyi…was a teenager living in Kenya when he came across a letter in a magazine from a Binghamton resident, a letter that discussed the need for better education programs for disadvantaged children.

Kitonyi wrote to the author, expressing his desire for an American education. The ACA, along with the Rotary and Lions clubs and local churches, rallied around the cause, and Kitonyi came to the United States in 1961 at age 17.

The ACA worked with Kitonyi even while he was still in Kenya to find a host family for him.

“The ACA was instrumental; they really played a role,” said Kitonyi, who works in Albany in correctional education. “Because of their experience in knowing how to place families or children or refugees, they were in a position to help the Rotary Club and Lions Club to determine what neighborhood was good for me, what family would be good for me.”

Once he arrived in New York, the ACA continued to assist, helping with his paperwork and providing a social environment where he could meet other immigrants coping with adapting to life in the United States.

“Being an immigrant, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are – we were all undergoing the same assimilation process,” he said.

Even though Kitonyi dived into his studies, that process of assimilation wasn’t always easy. About a year after he arrived, he felt homesick; he missed his parents. Sometimes when he was feeling down, he’d go to the ACA. There, he’d talk with a volunteer – the same woman who signed the very first letter he’d received from the organization, back when he lived in Africa.

“It was a place to go if my chips were down,” he said. “I could go there and say what was going on. The door was open … and everybody knew I was Peter.”

I Googled the book title, and found several references to it, apparently out of print. But then I came across a RESOLUTION COMMEMORATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2013 AND HONORING THE EXTRAORDINARY CONTRIBUTIONS OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS TO THE NATION AND THE CITY OF ALBANY. This is something that has happened annually here, though I don’t know for how many years. On page 17, I come across this:
WHEREAS, residents of the 7th Ward are proud to nominate and honor Dr. Kitonyi during Black History Month for his many years of exemplary community service. Dr. Kitonyi’s remarkable story begins with his childhood in the 1950’s and early 1960’s in Kenya, Africa. During this period, Kenya was a British colony that practiced racial discrimination. Many Africans worked on coffee and sisal plantations in deplorable conditions.

A civil war, the Mau Mau Rebellion, was underway in the 1950’s and according to Dr. Kitonyi, many innocent people were unjustly incarcerated or killed. He and his family lived in fear for their safety. Dr. Kitonyi’s grandmother took him to a school run by
missionaries at the age of 9 and it was then that Dr. Kitonyi began to view education as key to his future. Child labor was the norm in Kenya, however, and Dr. Kitonyi was working full time by the time he was a young teen.

He would stop at a U.S. Information Service Library in Nairobi on his lunch break from work and it was then, browsing American publications, that he learned about life in America. Dr. Kitonyi’s native language is Swahili and, though his English was limited, he began corresponding with individuals from Binghamton, N.Y….

Though Dr. Kitonyi only had the equivalent of a fifth grade education and spoke limited English, he persevered, graduating from high school in Binghamton and then, college, at the State University of N.Y. at Delhi. Dr. Kitonyi studied agriculture while in college and after completing his associate’s degree went back to Kenya for five years to assist people in his homeland by teaching basic, subsistence farming skills in rural areas.

Dr. Kitonyi returned to the United States, to work and go back to school. He received a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Oneonta and pursued both master’s and doctorate degrees at the State University of New York at Albany. Dr. Kitonyi’s long career in public service in New York State included years at the Division for Youth, the Department of Education, and the Department of Corrections, retiring in 2012. During his years of public service, Dr. Kitonyi taught vocational skills to incarcerated youth and adults, and administered numerous educational programs…

Dr. Kitonyi continues to assist people in his homeland through programs such as Eyes for East Africa, a program that helps destitute individuals with various medical afflictions to their eyes, and programs that improve access to water in impoverished and drought-stricken areas of Africa.

Dr. Kitonyi and his wife Yolanda are proud parents of four adult children. Their two sons are police officers in the Albany Police Department. Residents of the 7th Ward are grateful for Dr. Peter Kitonyi’s many years of service to our community and believe he is most deserving of this honor…
OK, so this guy spent time in Binghamton; maybe my father even knew him. He’s lived in Albany for a number of years, which explains why the book is in the ALBANY collection, but, despite his accomplishments, I was totally unaware of him.

I’ve reached out to this man through some Africans in the area; it’s a tight-knit community, even though they came from a number of countries, to see if anyone knows him. Whether or not I meet him, I need to read that book.

The Lydster, Part 134: Opting out

Neither my wife or I want to have our daughter become a tool to our own sense of activism, ESPECIALLY when it affects her directly.

opt-out5There has been a great deal of controversy in the state of New York about the school tests tied to something called Common Core. It is more complicated than I wish to get into here, but I wrote about it a bit in my Times Union blog.

There was a statewide movement to get students in grades 3 to 8 to opt-out of the test, which was somewhat successful in many districts, including in my area.

The movement has been around a few years, but I had not paid a great deal of attention. The Daughter took the tests the last couple of years.

This year, however, the framework and the rhetoric changed, with Governor Andrew Cuomo specifically tying education money to teacher performance, based on these tests, and practically ignoring their classroom effectiveness, in the budget passed at the end of March 2015.

Here’s the thing, though: neither my wife or I want to have our daughter become a tool to our own sense of activism, ESPECIALLY when it affects her directly. Moreover, she’s generally a compliant child, eager to please others.

The Sunday before the tests began, on a Tuesday, we FINALLY broached the topic, quite gingerly. I said something like, “You know there are those tests coming up this week. Some people are opting out. Whether you take them or not is entirely up to you.”

She said, rather quickly, “I’m opting out. They’re using the test to grade the teachers, not us.” This is largely correct and astute.

We hadn’t specifically talked about this, certainly not directly to her, although we’ve been watching news reports. Most parents would say they chose their kids to opt-out, but The Daughter made her own decision. I happen to agree with it, but I’m more pleased that she’s become this separate, thinking person.

For the periods of the test, a total of 18 hours over a few weeks (!), she was assigned to help the kindergarten teacher read to the kids, and the like. She liked it.
Here are some anecdotes about the English language test. There are many out there.

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