Haunted House: Update

scaredHaunted house update, as it’s just under a week until the doors open for the 6th Floor Haunt at Vintage Parkway Elementary School. This is the second year Mark Greer and I have been in charge and have update last year’s layout to hopefully bring forth another successful haunted house, as the centerpiece for the school’s Harvest Carnival. Back in July I thought I was well ahead of the game, I had the layout nearly complete, we had many props already to go and should have been able to come in what I spent last year (just over $1000, which was reimbursed by the school PTA. Thanks a lot!) Unfortunately, as life goes you get busy and work for a project in October gets pushed to the back burner until you MUST get going in order to complete the project.

I hit that point last week, as I probably overdid it when it comes to what I spent in order to get the haunt done. But it’s materials and props that are needed if the school wants to continue making money (for the teachers accounts) during this carnival. Thankfully there are so many other attractions going on during these event, but the draw is the haunted house. Take nothing away from the ladies who have spent countless hours prepping, making signs, coming up with games for the kids to play and deciding on what food and drink will be served. It all takes time and volunteers in order to be successful.

As for the haunt, we were about 9 days later getting started. School let out on the last Friday of August for 2 weeks, which allowed us (last year) to get started building the haunt on the school stage. This year, we were delayed because the janitor had to wax the floors in the auditorium, which put on hold. We got access to the stage Wednesday of last week and started erecting PVC pipe and 16 feet of walls we were going to use. Actually, as Mark and I talked about, it might have been a blessing in disguise, as it gave us time to hang out and build the 16 feet of walls we were going to use. We made use of this time and didn’t sit back doing nothing.

Even with long hours and constant work, we are still behind. Maybe that is common or maybe it just appears that way. The entire layout took parts of 2 days to get build. The layout did go up much faster this year, thanks in part to the advanced planning and the fact most all of the PVC pipe was cut and I had laid it out in July and bundled it together by sections. Much like last year, we ran out of room as we approached the last section of the haunt. As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once. I know I measured and remeasured, yet we still had to make some changes on the fly. Thankfully I had accounted for potential changes to the layout and we were able to fit the entire layout in, almost as it was drawn up.

One thing we failed to decide upon early was a theme for our haunt, which is key to anyone wanting to tackle this challenge. Last year, being my first year it was a matter of just filling each room and making it fun for everyone. This year, the theme came to me too late and I was not able to order enough props and have another project half completed, as I await the resources to finish it. Next year (and we still haven’t had the harvest carnival this year) we will be moving to a fun house/carnival theme centered around evil clowns.

It’s amazing to hear and see the reactions of people when the word, “clowns” are mentioned. Something seems to strike a chord with individuals that evil clowns are not something they want to be associated with. Mark and I on the other hand saw this video:

…and we knew we had a theme we could bring to our haunt. While it’s only the first year with clowns, we know this will be a continuing theme for the next 2 years until my son is done with elementary school. We have also added a new scare to the haunt, but I won’t go into until after the haunt, as it’s the centerpiece of our haunt this year. With any luck I will have some video to upload after the haunt to show the reactions we got.

We are bringing back the dot room, which was very successful last year. I know many kids will expect this and know there will be someone in this room, hopefully with an upgrade in the black spandex costume (that’s me) with the dots painted on it will improve how I blend in to the walls.

clownsMark will be our king clown this year, I had intended to give him a nice large area to run around in scaring kids. With the changes to the layout his realm is not as large as I would have liked, but should still prove to be a good scare. We are also bringing back the hall of faces, which didn’t work well last year because I waited too long to buy white faced masks and paint them fluorescent colors to be lit up under a black light.

While there is still confuse and questions to be answered about the haunt, things are coming together. My hope is we won’t be running around on Friday, hours before the haunt putting finishing touches on decoration. Hopefully we can have all of that done by Thursday and relax a bit before the lights go off and the frights begin.

Right On! Write In!

vote_writeinNear the end of the 2013-2014 school year I was introduced by my son’s teacher to a third grade teacher, who was the Vice President of OUTA (Oakley Union Teachers Association), as I showed an interest in possibly running for the school board. As a volunteer and PTA board member, I wanted to become more involved and this position was a worthwhile venture.

Under her instruction I attended a few school board meetings, following the agenda and listened to what was going on in the Oakley Elementary Unified School District. After a few meetings, the Superintendent introduced himself to me and I explained my reasons for attending the meetings and considering a run for an upcoming board seat in November and offered his support

Over the summer I procrastinated on my submitting my paperwork, it was always, “next week I will get to it.” I was having a challenge finding a position I wanted to run under. I contacted teachers I knew and inquired about issues and complaints they had with the district in an attempt to find a position I would be passionate about in order to back my campaign.

That passion never appeared. As deadline day for filing approached I still had not written my statement. On the day I was supposed to be submitting my statement, I was finally writing it. The words, the passion never came together in a single 500 word statement. I finished a rough draft and decided to email the union and apologize for getting their hopes up, but I would not be running for the school board.

As a new school year dawned on us, I started volunteering again at school and faced my PTA responsibilities at treasurer. I was approached by the PTA President, who was inquiring on behalf of the teachers if I would accept a nomination as a write in candidate for the school board. After the filing date passed I had not thought much about it, but told her I would accept the nomination as a write in candidate.

While facing an uphill battle, the teachers are backing my campaign as a write in candidate for the Oakley School Board. Business cards (as seen above) were made and distributed to myself and Kim Beede, the other challenger to one of two seats up during the election.

Since that time I have had an interview with the OUTA political action committee, answering their questions regarding my position on a number of different topics. I have also given feedback to a new of the local newspapers as well. My position is “Kids First” as school starts and ends with our kids. Any other topic usually impacts the kids. I support OUTA, as the teachers in our district are in dire need of a raise and continue working at 2007 wages. Sadly the district has not released excess funds in their reserve for things such as raises or material for the newly implemented CCSS (Common Core State Standards). I have been asked by a few individuals on Facebook where I stand on CCSS. As I replied to another parent,

I can’t say I am a big supporter of it. Started seeing it last year, when my son’s second grade teacher started teaching CCSS to them (addition/subtraction). I had to ask the aide how to do the math because I had no idea. I don’t complain about it, since it appears it is here to stay. However, I do think the district needs to shake some money loose from the reserve fund in order to get teachers the necessary materials in order to teach from. CCSS is not only requiring students to make an effort, but teachers as well to adapt and learn the methods. I also think that some students who aren’t up to speed will end up falling behind very quickly and won’t be able to get caught up. The sad thing is many students go home and ask their parents for help. Guess what? They can’t help because they don’t know the methods and revert back to, “this is how I did math when I was your age” answer. I, like many grew up in that age, asking kids to learn new methods that make them think is great, but I don’t like how it was rolled out without the necessary cornerstones in place for the teachers.

Regardless of the outcome, I am very pleased to have the support of the teachers union. It’s really a wonderful feeling, as a father and volunteer to have all these great individuals coming together to provide support and their endorsement. Hopefully the results turn out in my favor after the election, regardless I have nothing but praise for the teachers and everything they do at Vintage Parkway and the other schools, both in our district and outside. Education is very important and these folks do a great job teaching our kids.

My name is STEPHEN TOUMI and I am running as a write in candidate for the Oakley Unified School Board.