Sunday, December 5, 2004

Sunday Reading

I don’t know about where you are, but the weather here in South Florida this morning is perfect for sitting out on the patio, deck or Florida room with a cup of coffee, some English muffins, and the paper. If you can’t do that, then at least imagine you are. And if you can take your laptop with you, here are some articles you might want to check out.

  • The Blade has two articles of interest this morning. First, there’s a look at the cost of private education and why some families find it worth the cost.

    Sylvania resident Ellen Breininger had a Catholic school upbringing, and she always intended to provide the same for her own children.

    So far, two of her sons have graduated from St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo. Another son is in the school’s seventh-grade academy, and a daughter is at St. Ursula Academy in Toledo.

    At times, however, she didn’t think she’d be able to do it.

    “There were many times, especially when my husband lost his job, that we thought we couldn’t continue to do this,” Ms. Breininger said.

    The Breiningers are among thousands of Toledo-area parents who send their children to parochial schools because they want faith-based teaching, smaller classrooms, a safe atmosphere, and personal attention. For many, it’s an extension of their religious upbringing or simply a family tradition.


    Phineas Anderson, headmaster of Maumee Valley, said parents are willing to pay more than $12,000 a year for high school for a variety of reasons, including an average teacher-to-student ratio of 1 to 9.

    “Parents are also looking at the long-term,” he said. “The foundations for learning and character development that occur in a school like this will hold well for them in college and later in life.”

    Edgar Avila of Perrysburg said his son attended Perrysburg Junior High School, which is rated excellent by the state of Ohio. But he wasn’t challenged enough, so they decided on going to Maumee Valley.

    “[My son] was very excited about the small classroom size and the personal attention,” Mr. Avila said. “The school definitely challenges the students to learn, to be creative, and to explore. … My son is [now] at the University of Pennsylvania and says he is very comfortable in the Ivy League atmosphere.”

    As a product of private education, including one of the schools mentioned in the article, I find it slightly ironic that I now make a living in the public education system. But perhaps my experiences as both a student and a teacher in what is known in the biz as “independent” education can help, in some small way, bring the best of both worlds together.

    The second article is a look at the fading away of Main Street, USA, and the efforts of small towns to bring back the crowds.

    MONTPELIER, Ohio – Cars sporadically crept down Main Street on a recent Friday night past rows of closed storefronts in old-fashioned buildings frozen in the heyday of a half-century ago.

    Other than a few passers-by eating at Mark Earle’s downtown pizza parlor, the streets of this once-vibrant Williams County town square hollowed with the same emptiness of the closed factories nearby.

    It wasn’t long ago that Montpelier’s Main Street served as a crossroads of hope and opportunity as manufacturing soared and the railroad industry whistled through this small town of 4,300 people. In the 1970s, the village tackled an enviable problem – a lack of workers to keep pace with the village’s booming job market.


    More than three decades ago, an economic boom in Ohio’s small factory towns like Montpelier paved the way for vast development in communities built around Main Street USA. These days, that boom is quickly turning to bust as the familiar mom-and-pop shops that once lined city squares turn to downtown decay and empty storefronts.

    Factory closings and fleeting opportunities have forced people to look for jobs elsewhere, while deteriorating infrastructure and chain-superstores have given people less reason to stroll through the downtowns of northwest Ohio communities such as Fremont, Fostoria, and Lima. As foot traffic slows to a crawl in some places, there are grass-roots efforts to revive and refurbish rural town squares before they meet the wrecking ball.


    A year ago, Montpelier won a $400,000 grant from the state to revitalize its downtown. Montpelier plans to invest more than $1 million in an effort to restore the Main Street that served for so long as the village’s gathering point.

    Mr. Earle, whose pizza parlor sits in the former home of the old village pharmacy, said he can already see some improvements. A new school is on the way for his two young children, and the town is continuing to reinforce its image as a place for families.

    “They are putting in new sidewalks, new lamps downtown, new trees,” he said. “It is heading in a positive direction.”

  • Football picks: Buffalo plays at Miami this afternoon. Yeah, there’s a tough call. Detroit plays Arizona at Ford Field. Could be interesting to watch, which won’t happen down here since I seem to be the only person in South Florida who cares at all about the Lions. And Denver plays at San Diego; the Broncos are playing a little better than average (7-4), but the Chargers lead their division. According to TV Guide, though, the late game here in Miami is Green Bay at Philadelphia. Well, that could be fun – they’re both good teams. Failing that, there’s always the crossword.