Monday, October 18, 2004

The concept of civil liberties seems more and more elusive.
Maybe it was 9-11. Maybe it's the drug problems that have invaded our communities leaving much wreckage in their wake.I had an interesting conversation with two of my former Diamond students at a convenience story Sunday.
I asked them what they thought about the Diamond R-4 Board of Education's plan to begin drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities. They both immediately gave the plan their full approval. "The drugs are really bad," one of them said to me. "Somebody has to do something."
I didn't argue the point.I can understand exactly how they feel. Something has to be done. But drug testing is not the way. Drug testing for students who participate in extracurricular activities is only the first step in what would undoubtedly turn out to be more and more intrusions by government into our lives.
I argued against the drug testing proposal in a post under the name "cateacher" at
Drug testing is a band aid for a problem that needs something more than tired, shopworn ideas. I worry when I see people suggesting that all students be tested, or that everyone from the superintendent to the faculty to the students be tested.
And please don't give me that nonsense about extracurricular activities being a privilege and not a right. Those activities may turn out to be the only salvation for people who have turned to drugs. At least when they are participating in them they are not out on the streets where they could get into even more trouble.
Increase the number of after-school activities, strengthen the counseling corps at the schools. Make sure you are hiring people who relate to students and not old cronies of the superintendent or, as in the case of Diamond Elementary and Diamond Middle School, no counselor at all.
Let student leaders begin an in-school outreach program. Get them to see the importance of reaching out to people beyond their cliques and getting to know people who don't run in their regular circles. Many times, the use of drugs and hanging around with the wrong crowd begins when these young people are just looking for a place to belong and something they can call their own.
Let students know they mean more to you than a figure on the average daily attendance chart or an anonymous score on the MAP test and you may be able to reach them.
It would also help if the current administration didn't keep running veteran teachers out of the school system. Many teachers who put in hours far above what they were required to do under their contracts are no longer in the R-4 School District and many more will undoubtedly be on their way, either of their own volition, or through more machinations of the superintendent and the board of education. The teachers that students have related to are now the teachers that students in other school districts are relating to. The sad thing is, these teachers in many cases are the only adults who can reach some of the troubled students. New teachers who are having to feel their way through the educational process are not quite ready for that responsibility. And they shouldn't have to be.
Making the school a more comfortable, inviting place, where students find not only discipline, but people who actually care about them, is extremely important. This is the best wedge the Diamond R-4 School District or any other school district has against drugs. It has been squandered. There are still many good teachers in the school district, wonderful people who show up early and stay late and always have time for students or parents.
But who can blame the ones who feel a lack of support from the administration and no longer put in those extra hours because they are tired of knocking themselves out for someone who has no appreciation for them.
A strong community, in school and outside of school, are the best bulwarks against drug abuse. Drug testing is simply another way of avoiding responsibility.
Severance agreements have been reached with three former O'Sullivan Industries officials, according to documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. The company entered into a severance agreement with Tom Riegel Oct. 8, another one with Richard Davidson on Oct. 13, and one with Tom O'Sullivan Jr. on Oct. 14.
Davidson,the company's former CEO, will be paid his regular salary through the end of the calendar year and will provide consulting services to the company through Dec. 31, 2005, though it is highly unlikely the company will call on him as a consultant.
Davidson and his family may continue to be covered by the company's medical and dental insurance and can continue to receive that insurance under COBRA for an additional 18 months at a premium set by O'Sullivan's Human Resources Department.
Davidson may continue to hold his stock in O'Sullivan Industries.
In return for these considerations, Davidson forfeits any right to file a lawsuit against O'Sullivan Industries, claiming breach of contract or wrongful firing, defamation, infliction of emotional distress, or for age discrimination.
Davidson retains the right as an O'Sullivan Industries stockholder to join in a lawsuit against the company, but he cannot be the one who starts the lawsuit, directly or indirectly, specifically if it involves anything that happened in connection with his dismissal.
The former CEO has to return any "files, records, documents, plans, drawings, equipment, software, pictures, spreadsheets or any other property belonging to O'Sullivan which may be in your possession."
He agreed not to disclose "any confidential or proprietary information concerning O'Sullivan or any of its affiliates, suppliers or customers, including, but not limited to specific processes, procedures, customer lists, financial information, etc. which may be regarded as confidential."
Davidson's agreement also includes a list of competitors for whom he may not work, including Sauder Woodworking, Studio RTA, Bush Industries, Inc., Dorel Industries, Inc., Mills Pride, Masco Corp, Creative Interiors or Furniture Brands International. Inc., or any other such company.
The no-compete agreement ends when Davidson's term as a consultant ends at the end of 2005.
The O'Sullivan officials also want to make sure that Davidson doesn't say anything bad about them. Ironically, in the agreement Davidson has to agree to be "governed by the highest moral and ethical standards, reflecting these values: integrity, honesty, loyalty, trust, fairness, and responsibility."
Riegel's severance agreement has most of the same details, but says he lost his position as Vice President-Strategic Operations because that position was eliminated. O'Sullivan's agreement includes the same provisions a those signed by Riegel and Davidson. O'Sullivan, who was senior vice president-sales, will also continue to receive his automobile allowance through the end of the year and will receive accrued vacation pay.

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