A Day of Kindness at Wilder Elementary

Tree of Kindness

Tree of Kindness

“A Day of Kindness” was enjoyed at Wilder Elementary School on Wednesday, March 14th. This school-wide theme was chosen to promote compassion and enhance a sense of belonging for all our students and community. Everyone at school was encouraged to wear blue to represent kindness and show unity. Teachers and other school staff were outside that morning greeting students as they arrived via car drop-off and from the busses. The extra smiles, waves, and hugs went a long way to establish a positive start to our day. Here are a few other examples of activities that focused on kindness.

A school-wide read-aloud was enjoyed by each class. The school principals, counselor, and office staff went into each classroom as a guest reader of the book, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed. This wonderful picture book illustrates how a small act of kindness leads to more and more acts of kindness. A special video was also created featuring students from all grade levels speaking their own ideas and examples of kindness.

Wall of Kindness Cards

Wall of Kindness Cards

A patchwork art project was started by a second-grade class where students drew and wrote about examples of kindness. Together their paper squares created a beautiful kindness quilt display in the hallway. This project was inspired by the book, The Kindness Quilt. The book was then passed along to other classes who were invited to add to the kindness quilt in the hallway. Our display keeps growing just like kindness does.

Tree of Kindness 2

Tree of Kindness 2


First graders started a Tree of Kindness by writing acts of kindness on green paper leaves and hearts. These are hung on a giant paper tree in the school hallway. Leaves are being added as more students notice or think of new acts of kindness.  What a wonderful visual to illustrate the idea that kindness grows and spreads!


Anna Tavener
2nd Grade Teacher
Wilder Elementary School


Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victim Families Unite on the STOP School Violence Act

Once again, the families of the victims of the senseless violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School unite in support of legislation to improve school safety and ensure this time will be different!  #STOP School Violence Act


Family Statement on STOP School Violence Act


Link to PDF of STOP School Violence Act Family Statement

Senate Judiciary Committee Statement of Ryan B. Petty


Ryan Petty Senate Judiciary Testimony

Senate Judiciary Committee
Statement of Ryan B. Petty
March 14, 2018

I will read a short statement from the families, and then I will begin my personal statement.

We, the families of the amazing children and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, would like to recognize the first responders who were witnesses that day to an unspeakable evil.  Many acted heroically, putting themselves in harm’s way, and saved many lives that day. Thank you.

To the caring & gracious people of the cities of Parkland & Coral Springs, the citizens of our home state of Florida and those across America who have shown support for us in our time of sorrow and loss, we can only say, thank you.  Please know that your kindness and support is deeply appreciated, and has made a lasting impact on our lives.

As families, we came from different backgrounds, and we hold a variety of viewpoints; yet we united around this simple idea: our children and teachers should be safe at school.  We rallied to the battle cry: This time must be different!

We implored our state leaders, and specifically the Florida Legislature, to take action.

We came together to build on common ground, and we made history in Florida by passing legislation to achieve the first step in just three weeks.  It was a good start, but it is not enough – there is much more to be done.

Now my personal statement.  

In a season of loss, it is difficult to find meaning in tragedy. The senseless murder of so many — including my own beloved daughter Alaina — tests the limits of faith, and demands more endurance than we thought possible. It is a test abruptly forced on us, and we bear it as best we can.

Each of us — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives of those lost and loved — strive to find that meaning. I believe we will be seeking it to the end of our days.  However, our abiding faith tells us that our Father in Heaven has a plan. Although the loss of our daughter Alaina, was to us unforeseen, it was not a surprise to Him. This gives us comfort during this difficult time.

Our knowledge that at the end, when we each return to see our God, as we most surely will, He will grant us a full understanding — that when we see His face, we will, at long last, see the faces of our loved ones, taken from us too soon.

We will not know what all this means until that time.

But we know what this thing that has happened does not mean:
It does not mean evil will triumph.
It does not mean we may do nothing.
It does not mean we should turn against one another.

We must not struggle over ashes in the shadow of our grief.

So, instead of the media-fed, activist-inflamed, and politically aggravated din of the past month, I speak today about the real and substantive legislative and policy achievements in the State of Florida, earned at an unimaginable cost, that are already making our schools safer. And I share a few ideas on how the United States Congress can emulate and expand upon those accomplishments.

The steps taken by Governor Scott and enacted by the Florida legislature have little to do with the opportunistic agitation launched in the wake of the Parkland killings. They serve no political agenda — but they do serve the people’s agenda because they build on common ground.  They are inclusive rather than divisive.

Americans aren’t interested in surrendering or curtailing their Constitutional rights. That is a simple statement of fact borne out after every similar event–time and time again. Americans are, however, deeply interested in safe schools, in caring communities, and in secure neighborhoods.  As the family of one of the victims, we’ve also learned at great personal cost, that Americans can come together.

Policy and political action ought to take their cues from this American majority. We don’t have to all agree on guns — and we won’t.  But we can agree on the most fundamental things.

We can agree that students & teachers should be safe.
We can agree that schools should be secure.
We can agree that law enforcement should be competent and must do its job.

I want to focus briefly on that last point especially. Nikolas Cruz and the deadly danger he posed were the worst-kept secrets in Parkland–with one inexcusable exception.  His was a secret kept from many of the parents of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Every relevant authority knew he was a deeply troubled youth with potential for lethal violence.  

The foster system knew it.
The FBI knew it.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel’s department knew it.

Despite the fact that each of these agencies was fully authorized and empowered to take action well before tragedy struck, not one of them fulfilled their duty. The testament to their failure is seventeen dead children and teachers, 17 more with life-altering injuries, a burden we must bear forever.

Add to this failure, the failure to warn the parents of the students.  By this action or inaction, we were rendered powerless to fulfill our most sacred trust as parents, to protect our children.

Forgive me, then, if I do not believe government is the ultimate solution. Our trust in our institutions and our officeholders is deeply shaken. Our broken hearts will cry out every moment of every day for the rest of our lives…

…because the FBI bureaucracy didn’t take a warning seriously;
…because a county Sheriff didn’t act;
…because many of those whom we trusted to protect and serve let us down.

So, what is the solution?

The legislation just passed in Florida is a good start. There is more to be done to secure our schools.  Legislation being considered in this body will continue on the efforts begun in Florida. I call on the Congress to pass this legislation.  Follow the lead of what has been accomplished in Florida. Build on common ground.

But it is not the whole solution.

The problem of man against evil is as old as humanity itself, and we cannot face it alone. If we think of school violence as a disease, we would not just treat the symptoms or only don protective gear to avoid accidental exposure.  We must learn to identify these troubled youth before they turn violent and get them the help they desperately need. We can look to programs like the SafeUT in Utah, or the work being done by the LA County Schools to identify potential threats.  Even the US Secret Service has studied school shooters and defined six common characteristics which can aid in identification and interdiction. This has become my mission — not one I ever wanted, but one I accept in Alaina’s name — and I will see it through.

Ultimately, the solution is not in any single policy, not in any piece of legislation, and not in any activist’s fervent prescription. It is in our hearts. We can try to stop the next Nikolas Cruz with better screening, with competent law enforcement, and with better security. Sometimes we will succeed, but sometimes those measures alone will fail.

Where we stop the next killer is in our homes, in our communities, and through our faith. The best defense against the next Nikolas Cruz is in building up strong families where love can be shown to a hurting child. It is in the care we show to a struggling or overwhelmed neighbor. It is in the charity we extend to a stranger. It is in the comfort we give a wounded heart. It is in the kindness we show to an isolated, struggling young man.

It is in the reflection of God that we have in ourselves.

That isn’t within the power of this Congress or any body of men to give or command. But it is within each one of us. Until we as a society understand that, our efforts will continue to fall short.

It is my hope that senseless, tragic events like the one that took my dear daughter, will awaken people across our nation that we need to work collectively to create a significant cultural shift.  If we work as individuals, as families, communities, churches, and yes, with government to create an America that is more caring, more kind, and more loving, perhaps we can put an end to these tragedies once and for all. This time can be different!

I hope we do.  

If we do, it will be part of us that is most like Alaina.

Thank you.

Senate Judiciary Committee Statement of Ryan B. Petty (PDF)

Forget the A-List After All

You’ve got to read “Is the Tipping Point Toast?” by Clive Thompson in FastCompany. The gist of Thompson’s piece, based on the work of Duncan Watts of Yahoo Research, is that the theory that a select few “key influencers” matter more than “the rest of us” when it comes to viral and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns is flawed. Said Watts:

“It [achieving marketing success through influentials] just doesn’t work. A rare bunch of cool people just don’t have that power. And when you test the way marketers say the world works, it falls apart. There’s no there there.”

In contrast to influential marketing, Watt’s believes the key factor is the readiness of the market: “If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one—and if it isn’t, then almost no one can.” There will be first movers, but almost anyone can be this first mover—and therefore what Watts calls an “accidental Influential.”

My money is on Watts. If you agree, it should change your perspective on marketing:

  • Spend less time and effort on industry events and other focused PR and marketing that involves sucking up to journalists, analysts, and experts. Spend more time and effort pressing the flesh of real customers. Typically, you won’t meet too many customers at a Ritz Carlton.
  • Try mass marketing because you never know who will be your “accidental Influential.” Or, as the saying goes, “Let a hundred flowers blossom” to determine who “gets” your product. Admittedly, the challenge is to find a cost-effective way to do mass marketing.
  • Forget A-list bloggers. Lousy reviews by them cannot tank your product. Great reviews cannot make it successful. Focus on big numbers—any Technorati 1,000,000 blogger can be a channel to reach people. If enough people like your product, the A-list bloggers will have to write about you.

How does Watts’ thinking square with evangelism? I don’t see a conflict because evangelism is about “bringing the good news” to everyone and then supporting the people who “get it.” Evangelism is not about sucking up to only people who are famous and self-important. To wit, few Fortune 500 CIOs helped make Macintosh successful. It was unknown artists, designers, hobbyists, and user-group members who made the Macintosh successful, and we could not have identified them in advance.

Man learns to read after 17 years of teaching high school

John Corcoran graduated from college and taught high school for 17 years without being able to read, write or spell. Pretty amazing story.

read more | digg story

Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

On one thing, the experts seem to agree. The differences between hillaryclinton.com and barackobama.com can be summed up this way: Barack Obama is a Mac, and Hillary Clinton is a PC.

That is, Mr. Obama’s site is more harmonious, with plenty of white space and a soft blue palette. Its task bar is reminiscent of the one used at Apple’s iTunes site. It signals in myriad ways that it was designed with a younger, more tech-savvy audience in mind — using branding techniques similar to the ones that have made the iPod so popular.

read more | digg story

Microsoft succumbs to Apple envy, buys Danger

Microsoft was too busy to read its rejection letter from Yahoo this morning, as it announced its intention to buy Danger, the maker of the popular Sidekick smart phone. The move suggests that the Redmond Giant plans to compete with its partners in the handset business.

read more | digg story

Seattle Taps Its Inner Silicon Valley

Many communities dream of becoming the next Silicon Valley. But Seattle is actually doing it. The influx of entrepreneurs and of venture capitalists to bankroll them is slowly reshaping this city and a regional economy long buffeted by the booms and busts of the aerospace and timber industries. A start-up ecosystem needs social networks, support businesses and a business culture that views failure as a badge of honor, not shame. All of that is in place in Seattle.

Money is pouring in. During the last 12 years, venture capital investment here has more than tripled, to about $1 billion annually. Last year Washington tied with Texas as the third-largest destination for venture capital money nationwide, behind California and Massachusetts.

read more | digg story

Inspiration vs. Substance

Joe Klein writes in a Time article. Speaking of the Obama campaign, he says,

The man’s use of pronouns (never I), of inspirational language and of poetic meter — “WE are the CHANGE that we SEEK” — is unprecedented in recent memory. [sic] there was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism — “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” — of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign. “This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It’s different not because of me. It’s different because of you.” That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential.

Klein sums up the Obama campaign, “The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.” It is time for Obama to speak substantively.

100 Things to do with Google Maps Mashups

100 cool things you can do with Google Maps Mashups. My favorites: 1) Find Fast Food in the US 2) Find a WiFi Hotspot in the US 3) Map US telephone area codes 4) Google Map your blog or website visitors 5) Check the time in a world location. What are yours?

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