Monthly Archives: March 2012

Destination Imagination (DI) New Hampshire, Appraiser Conflicts of Interest Bothers Me

I have a long, and until now very positive, history with New Hampshire Destination Imagination (NH-DI). All 4 of my kids have taken part in DI. Consequently, I have been involved one way or another with NH-DI since 1996. My son, who did NH-DI for four-years, won State twice, in 1999 and 2001, and went onto DI Global Finals in Knoxville, TN.

Last year I was an Assistant Team Manager. This year my wife and I were both Team Managers. I was also an Appraiser and appraised at the Sanborn Regionals (Kingston) on March 17, 2012. My wife and I both attended DI Team Manager training workshops this year, and I, in addition, did the online Team Manager and DI Appraiser training offered by the ‘DI University’. [That our 11-year old ended up as the Gnome at Kingston was a bonus.]

So, I have no axe to grind with NH-DI. I have been a great proponent of NH-DI and have enjoyed being a part of NH-DI.

So what is my gripe?

When my elementary team competed on March 10, 2012, at the Kearsarge (N. Sutton) Regional Meet, in the ‘Coming Attractions’ challenge, I was shocked to see that two of the appraisers were from our school! One of them had even attended our last dress rehearsal the week before and had spoken at length with the kids about their performance.

Until that point it had never crossed my mind that NH-DI permitted such Conflicts of Interest.

Right after their performance the kids (ranging in age from 8 to 11) asked me how it was possible that they were judged by two of their teachers! They found it incongruous.

We did not do well in the challenge, mainly due to stage fright. But, we came 4th out of 10. Here are the results. Given the blatant Conflict of Interest we feel that there should be an asterisk next to our placing! We don’t feel good about it because we know of the Conflict.

So there is my issue. Plain and simple. NH-DI should let all concerned know, from the get go, that it is possible to have Conflicts of Interest when it comes to appraising. That is it. Period.

I just want transparency. NH-DI should publish a list of all the appraisers and their affiliations. That way everything is all above board.

Yes, many sports employ ‘partial’ judges and Olympic ice skating and free style skiing comes to mind. But, the affiliations of the judges are always disclosed.

To me, having these secret conflicts of interest totally undermine the integrity and credibility of NH-DI.

In my opinion, it is not fair on the kids. They put a lot of effort into the competition. Let them have a perfectly level playing field — SANS suspicions of Conflicts of Interest.

What have I done?

Right after the competition, on March 14, 2012, I e-mailed Jim Heedles the Regional Master for that event. I also contacted, via e-mail, Kara Swedlow, the NH-DI the Affiliate Director. They, for obvious reasons, want to play down this issue. I also tried but they just referred me back to NH-DI!

I have also spoken, by e-mail and in person when I attended the March 17 event, with a number of NH-DI officials. All of them expressed ‘surprise’ at what I had to say and ‘promised’ to look into it. But, nothing has happened — and I can fully appreciate that NH-DI does not want their results and reputation to be compromised.

The young lady coordinating my appraising on March 17 had asked me via e-mails whether I had any conflicts of interests. I informed her that I had none at the meet that I was officiating — but told her what had happened at the March 10 meet. She assured me that they try very had to avoid such conflicts.

So imagine my shock when one of the appraisers I was judging with, on March 17, informed us that he was a teacher at the school that had just performed — and he had appraised!

I spoke with the coordinator. She was aware of it, but said that the teacher had assured her that he did not know any of the kids in that team.

Come on! All I am asking for is transparency. With DI there should never be any doubts or suspicions that the kids did not get a fair shake of the stick.

Thanks for reading this. I feel much better now that I have got this off my chest.

Anura Guruge

Devanee Is The Gnome At NH Destination Imagination (DI) Kingston Regionals On March 17, 2012

This was serendipitous to say the least.

I was an appraiser for that meet and Devanee came with me because she enjoys going to DI meets. They were looking for a person to wear the costume and they spotted Devanee, looking bored, sitting on a bench at 7:30 am (the appraisers having to sign in at 7am). It was great. She did a great job. This was even better than her performing at DI the week before. She was the star at both the opening and closing ceremonies.

Here is Devanee with me, after the closing ceremonies – 12 hours after we got there at 6:50 in the morning!

Anura Guruge, DI, destination imagination, gnome, Devanee

Devanee and I.

For more pictures of Devanee as the irrepressible gnome check these two links:
1/ Opening ceremonies at which she danced and greeted each team.
2/ Closing ceremonies at which she also did her stuff.

Alton ‘The Baysider’ Coincidence

The very day that (I again) cite ‘The Baysider‘ in one of my blog posts, ‘The Baysider’, unbeknown to us, and totally coincidentally mentions us in the paper.

Click image to access the March 1, 2012 issue of 'The Baysider'

This is at the end of Josh Spaulding’s regular weekly column — ‘have a great day‘ citation, as of last year (from what I recall), the now de rigueur ending for this always entertaining and often educational column.

‘The Baysider’ first covered our work in 2008. Though it would be quite a few more years until we physically met Josh, he from then on has been a very supportive friend.

We did not expect to see our names in his column because we do get mentions in other parts of the paper on a fairly regular basis — Deanna sometimes submitting community-related photographs for publication. It was nice. Made our day. Thank you Josh. You really are, to use Bl. Pope Urban II (#160) phrase, ‘salt of the earth‘.

Alton Central School (ACS) Administration Should Do A Bit More Homework

My wife was involved in this Facebook dialogue on the ACS Facebook page earlier this week. Her question was based on this little snippet that appeared in the local Baysider Newspaper last Thursday, February 23, 2012.

Click image to access the Baysider online ... it is on page 12.

Homework has been an issue at ACS and we were delighted to see that the Administration was at long last is trying to implement a policy. See related posts: homeschooling decision and ‘questionable’ (I am trying to be polite) homework.

I was immediately struck that something, crucial, seemed to be missing. Every time I read it there was something palpably jarring. Then I realized what it was: there was no ‘time period’ specified for the ’10 minutes per grade’! Was its ‘per night’, ‘per 5-day week’, ‘per 7-day week’ etc. Don’t tell me that it was obvious. Definitely not obvious to us for one very simple reason. We had a 5th grader at ACS, who had been there for 4 years.

5th grade = 50 minutes.

4th grade = 40 minutes.

We can’t remember her ever having 40 minutes of homework a day last year — in 4th grade. 40 minutes a week was more like it.

Definitely NEVER even close to 50 minutes of homework a night in 5th grade. Lucky if she got 10 minutes. 5th grade science and math were particularly bad. No homework — the teachers are off the hook for having to mark anything (let alone having to justify the ‘applicability’ of the homework).

So here is the Facebook dialogue. It is kind of funny in a sad way. Well, given their recent lack of diligence (and again I will be polite and not mention the very public faux pas though I think there is a post about it on this blog) you would think they would have read, re-read and then asked a few others to read their homework policy before presenting it ‘half cock’. But, that is just my opinion.

Click to ENLARGE.