Being a military brat, and having moved a fair number of times during my childhood, I missed out on a lot of time with my grandparents. One set lived in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, the other in Southern Mississippi, and after leaving Mississippi at the age of four for California, I never lived fewer than eight hours away from either pair. In fact, with my dad taking two tours of duty in Germany during my teens, I was an ocean away for six years.Looking back, I cherish the way I was able to grow up, living around the country and the world, but there is a regret there, an envy, when I hear from friends who were able to grow up closely surrounded by their extended families.Nashville based songwriter Chris Kessenich took inspiration from his grandfathers, both named Art, for his latest project. Arts Fishing Club, named for the time Chris spent on the water with his grandfathers, released the first part of its debut record, Human, late last month.Human I is the first of a two part song collection featuring jangling guitars, equally soaring and contemplative keys, and introspective lyrics highlighting the lessons his imparted to Chris at the feet, and behind the reel, of his grandfathers.I recently caught up with Chris to chat about grandfathers, the new record, and life lessons learned from fishing.BRO – Fondest memory of those fishing sessions with your grandfathers?CK – Unfortunately, my dad’s father, Colonel Arthur Kessenich, passed when I was in fourth grade. I literally only have one or two memories of him and one of those was him teaching me how to fish off a dock at a cabin in Wisconsin. The fishing connection with him is particularly meaningful, as it represents 50% of my memories with him. My other grandfather, Arthur Schmidt, used to take my cousins and me up to Canada fishing. I don’t know that there is one particular memory that sticks out. Just getting to spend that much time with people you love doing nothing but slaying pike and walleye. Those were some pretty special times.BRO – Fly fishing? Spinners? Preference?CK – I’m so enamored by fly fishing, but I am god-awful at it. We grew up fishing on the lakes in Wisconsin, so it’s primarily spinners, spoons, bucktails, and jiggin’. To be completely honest, I’m a pretty terrible fisherman relative to all my cousins. I’m the guy that will be in the boat and everyone else will have caught four big ole boys and I’ll have lost my one hit. I think I’m better at singing and drinking. Things have been better in recent years, but that is probably why my grandfathers’ philosophy – it’s not what you catch, but who you share it with – has resonated with me so much.BRO – Human is coming out in two volumes. Is there a particular theme that defines this first set of songs and sets it apart from the upcoming second volume?CK – The subject matter in both parts of Human covers a lot of emotions and ideas, so I wouldn’t say there is a particular theme, except for the exploration of what it means to be human in this day and age. Human I is much darker in lyrical tone. Human II is less lyrically intense, though it still has its moments.BRO – We are featuring “Icarus” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?CK – “Icarus” was written to be a bit ironic or satirical. Whichever one, I always screw those up. The story of Icarus in Greek mythology is about hubris and excess. When I wrote the song, I was looking back on a time in my life that was marked by partying and undue excess. It’s supposed to feel like a party song that gets you dancing, because that’s what we’re doing. We’re partying. But when you start peeling back the layers, you’ll find it is more of a critique than a rallying call or manic party tune.BRO – Flash forward to your first time fishing with your own grandchild. What’s the first lesson you impart?CK – Well, that’s a fun though to entertain. Suddenly, I’m grinning from ear to ear. I think I’ll steal from my grandparents. That taught me that fishing is about casting over and over again, coming up empty-handed and doing it over anyway. And if we don’t catch anything, we haven’t wasted our time. I think that fishing is such an amazing metaphor for creativity and life. I’d want that lesson to sink in. Either that or make sure you know what’s behind you before you cast the hook!Arts Fishing Club’s tour schedule is pretty quiet until December, when fans can catch the band in Nashville and NYC. Until then, be sure to check out the band’s website for tour updates and how you can get your hands on Human I and the forthcoming Human II.Make sure you take a listen to to “Icarus,” along with new tunes from The Brother Brothers, The Watson Twins, Greta Van Fleet, and many more on this month’s Trail Mix.
The Palm Beach County School Board was planned to fire a Forest Hill High School teacher on Wednesday, after an investigation discovered that he had changed more than 18,000 grades in the district’s online learning programs over a two-year period.Forest Hills’ former principal, Mary Stratos, says she first alerted investigators and transferred the teacher, Randy Whidden, from supervising classes with access to the online programs, as soon as she found out about the situation in 2018.The 66-year-old Whidden, who has been with the district for seven years, continued to teach there during the investigation.“In his mind he’s helping kids,” Stratos said. Instead, she said, he was hurting them. “We shut it down,” Stratos says.The online course results that investigators say Whidden change are contained within a set of programs known as Edgenuity.Access to Edgenuity was abused in a similar fashion three years ago at Seminole Ridge High School.In that case, the district’s Inspector General’s office concluded that an assistant principal at the school changed grades on hundreds of assignments in the credit recovery class. At least 13 students went on to graduate from the high school with the altered grades. Assistant Principal Randy Burden told investigators that he did know how to change a grade, and suggested that students could have gone into the system when he stepped out of the room without logging off, according to the report.However, the investigators found that explanation “incredulous” and “not plausible.”Despite Burden’s claim that he did not know how to change a grade, experts found that he did it 256 times in two years. Only 11 of the instances had a reason or justification noted within the records. Scores increased from zero to 95 in four insurances.The district’s audit committee recently began looking into the grade-changing situation in Edgenuity.A report issued to the school board last month concluded that “access controls to Edgenuity system need improvement.”While reviewing access, the committee reported that it found 14 people who do not work for the district, as well as 144 former employees, had the online credentials needed to change student records in the system.In addition, around 25 people who changed jobs within the district still had access to student records granted to them in their last job.The investigators also found that 65 percent of Edgenuity grade changes were done without valid justification.
FAIR HAVEN – Borough Administrator Theresa S. Casagrande has been elected to the executive board of the New Jersey Municipal Management Association (NJMMA).Casagrande, who has been Fair Haven’s administrator since February 2011, holds an MBA from Monmouth University and registered municipal clerk and certified tax collector’s licenses in New Jersey. A Spring Lake Heights resident, she previously served as vice chair of the Southeast Monmouth Municipal Utilities Authority. In 2009, she received the NJMMA’s New Professional to Municipal Government Award in recognition of her outstanding work in municipal shared services.Founded more than 50 years ago, the NJMMA is dedicated to the professional training and development of municipal managers. It has more than 200 members from throughout New Jersey. NJMMA has been instrumental in shaping legislation and policies that affect services to residents and business. It is affiliated with the Rutgers Center for Government Services in New Brunswick, which provides administrative support for its members.
She thanked O’Neil for “a great race” and said she was honored to have been chosen by the voters. Broullon said she is the second female mayor in Highlands history, as well as the first openly gay mayor in Monmouth County. “I’m deeply humbled to show all our citizens you can do anything you set your mind to accomplish. I recently heard a woman say, ‘Kids need to see what they can be.’ It’s a great quote and words to live by.” How important is yourvote? In last week’s election,one municipal race was wonby a single vote and anotherby three. Liu said the campaign experience was very tough for her, starting in January and especially through the primaries. “It just got even harder,” she said. But she will take her positive experience from sitting on the school board for 10 years and bring it to the township committee. While it is a different type of public service, her “heart and passion” for it is still the same. Broullon said she hearda recount may be requestedby her opponent. O’Neil didnot respond for comment bypress time. Santhana said he and his team are considering filing for a recount, but that decision is not final. On Election Day, unofficial results gave him a 26-point lead. “If I were to lose by three, I’d like to understand why it happened,” he said. All the while, the clerk’s office waits for results and then posts them to the monmouthcountyvotes.com website. Now that official results have been posted, they show that Weber will be taking a seat on the dais alongside Liu, not Santhana, after Liusurpassed him by three votesas of Tuesday, 2,082 to 2,079.There were 17 write-ins. The updated results also show scales tipping in Holmdel Township for Republican candidate Chiung-Yin Cheng Liu. She and incumbent Republican Mayor Eric Hinds were down in the polls on election night, with Cathy Weber and Prakash Santhana leading the way on Independent tickets. “There’s always a town in Monmouth County that is close and oftentimes we have a recount. Sometimes the results change and sometimes they stay the same,” said Hanlon. Official results were posted Tuesday, Nov. 12, by the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office, which now includes late mail-in and provisional ballots. Candidates have until Friday, Nov. 22 to ask for a recount, according to Christine Giordano Hanlon, the county clerk. According to Hanlon, there are three offices involved in the election process in Monmouth County. The Superintendent of Elections Office is responsible for counting out provisional ballots and determining whether or not the sender is eligible to vote in the county, without opening the envelopes. The office counted over 3,000 provisional ballots this season, Hanlon said. “I stayed strong and that is very difficult. I’m so proud of myself. I reached it and passed the finish line,” Liu said with enthusiasm Wednesday morning. She expressed appreciation for her campaign team and for the voters of Holmdel who believe in her and said she is very excited about the results. “The closeness of the race speaks to multiple factors,” said Broullon. “We are literally living a civics lesson right now. All elections matter and all voices should be heard.” Election officials denote their findings on the outside of the ballot envelope. Those findings are then given to the Monmouth County Board of Elections for counting. The board makes the final determination on whether or not the ballot is valid and decides what will be counted and what will be voided. The board of elections also counted late mail-in ballots both on Election Day and Friday, Nov. 8, and made determinations of write-in candidates. She said close elections are normal in the county and that year after year, some elections come down to fewer than five votes. “It is not unusual to have a close election in Monmouth County. We have 53 municipalities and it happens regularly,” said Hanlon. In Highlands, Councilwoman Carolyn Broullon defeated the incumbent mayor of the town, Rick O’Neil, by one vote, 603 to 602. There were four write-ins.