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Some Pandemic Observations From Personal Experience

Dear Editor:

     Since the pandemic started, I am now responsible for all the family shopping at Walmart. Although I have occasionally shopped at Walmart, my wife and I never shop together. After 57 years of marriage, we have failed to master the art of peacefully shopping together at Walmart.

     I know where all the important items (chocolate chunk cookies) are located, but I have discovered that my Masters Degree in Education isn’t much help in locating lots of others.

     My wife’s grocery list has suddenly turned into a perverse and challenging scavenger hunt. How many men have an idea what is in the bakery aisle, let alone where it is located? Just try to find the cornstarch or for that matter, the Pepperidge Farm Raisin Bread (which is hidden near the eggs in the back of the store). Even though we are supposed to stay six feet part and some stores even have red tape strips on the floor for those shoppers who have no clue how to judge this distance. Just try going down an aisle when “bubba” in his Harley jacket, his wife, her sister, a “possible” cousin, and three pre-school, runny nosed kids are blocking that aisle with two overflowing shopping carts (one with two cases of Budweiser). Remember we are not supposed to be hoarding food or toilet paper and do we really need to shop in groups?

     Over in the bread aisle you can find one of my fellow male seniors (I’m 81) with his hands in his pockets (not pushing the cart) following his elderly wife (not the sharp 35 year old blond) with a rather blank (why am I here) look on his face. How about those evangelical Christians (I used to be Catholic) in Kansas, Michigan, and Georgia who are still holding Sunday services with hundreds of people in attendance (80% of them who voted for Trump)? Hopefully they are praying for a large supply of ventilators because they may need them in the near future. I guess they are not listening to the medical experts on CNN & MSNBC who are warning us to stay away from large groups.

     I suspect that the pastors of these mega churches are not interested in giving up those large 10% tithing collection that they collect every Sunday (after all it’s all about the money, not God). It’s interesting to note how some business owners and managers are operating during this crisis.

     In early April I received a nice letter from Bob, the owner of the Decatur Athletic Club, informing me that he was not requiring the members of his club to pay their April dues due to the pandemic.           However my friends who run a local antique mall, insisted that we pay our full monthly rent on our booths for the month of April. Since several staff members have been laid off since late March, collecting storage rent (50% of full rent) for the month of April would have been a fair compromise. If the booths had been located in the mall in Clinton, the entire rent would have been waived.

     On one of my recent trips to Walmart I noticed three men getting gas for their late model BMW. Later one of the men paid for the gas with “gas coupons”. Maybe I should locate some of those “gas coupons” before I fill up my 2017 red Focus.

     Recently my grandson, Parker, who attends Richland Community College, and works part time at a fast food chain had an unpleasant and totally avoidable experience with a customer. He was working the back drive thru window (where they take your money) and was waiting on an elderly gentleman who told him, “I just got a test for the virus, so you might want to wash your hands after I leave.”

     I guess I’m lucky to be here writing this editorial since my father, John, came close to being exposed to the Spanish flu in the late summer of 1918. He had joined the army as a minor that summer. After my grandmother realized what he had done, she went to the army base in Kansas where he was getting his basic training (the same base in Kansas where the Spanish flu started) and brought him back to their home in Emporia, Kansas.

     Yes, the pandemic has brought out some of the best in many people but not everyone.

Robert Raymond Pickett, Decatur

Flawed Leadership In Decatur Public Schools Board Of Education

Dear Editor:

     John C. Maxwell defines leadership as the quality of knowing the way, going the way and showing the way. Good leaders know how to motivate others to form a cohesive team that works together for the good of the people they serve. Good leaders neither push nor pull but rather guide and support.

     That said, what happens to a team when leadership is flawed? I feel we have a perfect example of flawed leadership in the Decatur Public Schools School Board. If things were going well within the district’s educational team composed of administrators and the school board, why would three of the main central administrators opt to leave the district within one school year.

     Gone are the Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, The Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, and The Assistant Superintendent of Support Services. Add to that, we seem to have a “lame duck” superintendent who appears to not be actively involved in any decision making at this critical time. An assistant superintendent with little experience in the district appears to be doing all the interviews and hiring at this point. Thus, who is really running the district or is there a “ghost” leader and the superintendent is powerless?

     One wonders what is wrong within the board leadership that has forced or suggested these professionals leave. Why are they leaving? Were the administrators not committed to the board’s BOLD plan? Were these administrators never an integral part of the plan or were their opinions not valued? Did the administrators leaving question what is being done by the board and how it is being done? Did these educators see flaws in the BOLD plan and voice their concerns? OR, did these administrators simply not like the direction the district is going under this school board and choose to leave while they could?

     Under conditions of uncertainty regarding the Coronavirus situation and critical staff changing, it would seem logical that the BOLD Plan be put on hold immediately. In fact, what has been done thus far needs to be studied so not to repeat the mistakes that have been made. Closing schools, consolidating schools, adding on to schools, all need to be studied further in regards to staffing, space and meeting student/teacher needs.

     Let’s not forget this board has never resolved the contract with DFTA and the teaching assistants this entire school year. “Knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way” does not seem to fit the leadership style of this school board. Weak leadership, no team building, no support, no guidance, no true direction, “band aid” solutions, a BOLD plan filled with flaws, never listening to any one or any group, and certainly little or no knowledge of the educational process have plagued this board from the beginning. Yet, they seem to claim omniscience.

     One wonders how many other staff will leave at the official end of the school year. Could it be that the “House of Cards” is falling?

B.A. Buttz, Decatur

Exterminate the Invisible Enemy Among Us

Dear Editor:

     We have been told we are at war with the infamous invisible Coronavirus. But so far, all we see, is that we are trying to save those already infected/wounded, which is, of course, a very important part in all wars. But, we are not seeing a massive effort to kill the enemy before it enters the human body.

     News on television has shown massive spraying against coronavirus in cities by other nations, but we have not seen that done in America. In war, the objective is to “kill the enemy before he kills you.” And obviously, this extremely dangerous enemy needs to be killed before it enters the human body.

     Yet, we do not see much visible evidence that this country is on the attack against this murderous virus. This invisible enemy could be anywhere, since it has been spreading around the world. Our super smart human race has been playing with it in laboratories, growing it! To make it worst, our tax dollars paid for it! This enemy has already taken more than 50,000 precious lives in America. Wake up America!

     It is time to attack, and eradicate this menace everywhere! In doing so, we should take all safety precautions, of course, in trying to exterminate this enemy in our homes, our vehicles, all business, offices, public buildings, and everywhere else!

Manuel Ybarra, Jr., Coalgate, OK


  1. Roger German on April 30, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    B.A., why can’t you support the current school board instead of picking at them. You had your chance and the voters voted you off the school board. Your sour grapes are childish

  2. Mike Dirst, East Peoria on May 3, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    I saw a recent report in the Journal Star of Peoria Illinois about a protest at the statehouse on the day that happened to be the first day face masks were mandatory for people in public places when unable to maintain social distancing. The report stated that few attendees wore masks, including four Illinois state lawmakers who were present, and no one adhered to social distancing. Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, was reportedly one of those NOT wearing a mask.

    The advice Rep. Caulkins chooses to ignore comes from individuals with far more education about the risk from coronal virus. For example, in a “Fox News Sunday” interview, Dr. Deborah Birks came down particularly hard on Michigan protesters who stormed the state capitol in large numbers without wearing masks. I suppose Rep. Calkins fits the description.

    Rep. Caulkins was quoted as saying: “This is our first amendment right” and ”everyone has to evaluate their own risks” and that people should not be forced to wear one.

    From the CDC ( “a significant portion of individuals with corona virus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.”

    Rep. Caulkins may properly choose to evaluate his own risk. What gives him the freedom to evaluate and affect my risk? He may be asymptomatic and transmit the virus to others. His behavior is irresponsible and uncaring. His leadership by example behavior may well cost some of his constituents their lives.

    A point for Rep. Caulkins to consider: The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.

    • Roger German on May 5, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      Mr Dirst, Tell us when Illinois is going to be totally safe?? Not just from the Wuhan virus, but everything. Tell us how many people have already had the virus but don’t know it because they had mild symptoms that required no medical intervention. Some studies suggest 80-90% of the people would have only mild symptoms. We have not lost the right or ability to become morally outraged because we are having our financial and mental health harmed by govt.

      “We must recognize, that part of the price for freedom may well be insecurity, but the price for complete security is inhumanity.” ~ Martin Luther King

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