Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ravenna High Review

Front of the new Ravenna High School on August 14th
On Saturday Mom and I had a chance to attend the open house of the new Ravenna High School.  Two weeks prior (August 14) we attended the open house of the old Ravenna High School along Clinton Street, a building I had only been in a part of.  I enjoyed seeing it, particularly the old section, which opened in 1923, one year after the Davey building in Kent (which was the first home of Roosevelt High School).  It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two buildings in terms of layout and style.  One thing I can say for sure, the historical account that the old Ravenna High School had a "1,000 seat auditorium" was a gross exaggeration by the Ravenna Republican in 1923.   Mom and I counted 399 seats in there and it wasn't like there were large sections with seats missing.  While it may have held more with a tighter seating configuration (the seats were obviously not original; I'd love to see a picture inside it when new), the space would only allow for a few dozen more seats, maybe 100 more with effort.  It certainly wasn't 1,000 or even 500.  Despite that, it's a figure that keeps getting repeated over and over in articles about the school opening.

Old Ravenna High School, which dates to 1923,
back in September 2009
Well, out with the old!  The new building is pretty nice, as it should be for something that cost $29 million and was several years in the making.  I'm not someone who is easily impressed, though, so I can't say it totally blew me away with ingenuity or design.  The outside tries to evoke a more classic look with some arched windows, an older roofline, and even a few decorations (little concrete "R"s along the outer walls).  I can go for that, though even as much as I like windows, I thought the main entrance by the cafeteria was a bit too much glass.  I definitely did like seeing lots of windows in the building, though disappointed those windows only had small openings.  I also liked seeing the use of skylights, though they weren't direct skylights.  If you stood under and looked up you can see light but not the sky as the opening is not perpendicular with the viewer.  It allows for some natural light, which is definitely a plus, but I'd prefer to be able to look up and see sky!

The layout works.  Basically all the classes that use atypical spaces like music, theater, physical education, and the cafeteria are all located on one end of the building.  The other side of the building is divided into three hallways separated by two long courtyards and then the library is on the far end of that, kind of like a keystone.  Stanton Middle School in Kent has a similar layout in terms of having the typical classrooms on one side and the "specials" on the other.  Ravenna High School reminded me of a claw when I first saw the layout.  It's also all on one floor; the only actual staircase in the entire building is outside the field house gym.  It goes up to an elevated track that I will address later.

There were definitely elements that made it clear the state had a role in its design.  For one, the school is designed to hold 850 students, which is right about what the school's enrollment is.  The state never designs a school that is bigger than it needs to be or plans for growth, so it has JUST enough room; it fits like a glove.  Stanton Middle School, on the other hand, which has about 800 students itself, is actually designed to hold 1,200.  Guess how much role the state had in designing that school.  Yep.  None.  That said, it still seemed to fit what Ravenna needed and had a few extras thrown in.  The deal to build this involved the district passing a bond issue and then the state paid about 50% ($13.6 million) of the costs and the bond issue the rest.  The bond issue also covered the "extras" the state won't cover: an extra gym and an actual auditorium.  When I was student teaching at Southeast Middle School, I got to see firsthand what a state-funded school looks like.  It wasn't bad at all, but the "audteria" was an absolute joke and the gym was pretty small.  Stanton has an auditeria which I've detested since it was built, but it was WAAAAY better than the sorry excuse for a performance area Southeast had.  It was totally non-funtional for anything like concerts or drama.  Even assemblies weren't that suitable as only one grade could fit at a time.

Now to the elements I really went looking for.  I definitely wanted to see the new auditorium.  I also wanted to see the "field house" gym and the main gym, plus I made sure to see the music rooms.  As someone who enjoys architecture (if I hadn't been a music major I would've been an architecture major) I always enjoy seeing new buildings and different styles.

The field house was the element I thought was best in the school.  Not only does it have the elevated walking track, but it has enough space to have two full basketball courts (which are marked).  The floor is a rubberized surface, so it bounces a little when you walk on it.  I also liked the use of windows, though was a tad disappointed they are translucent.  I'm not a big fan of translucent windows unless they're needed (like a bathroom).  Why not make them clear so people can see outside?  Anyway, overall I really liked it.  I have long wished Kent would get something similar (though larger) at the high school, so I enjoyed being able to see an example of one.  The last one of these I saw was at Avon Lake High School and it was under construction.  I thought it was an excellent idea!
Interior view of the "field house gym".  On the left are entrances to locker rooms and a physical education classroom.
The auditorium was a disappointment to me.  Sure, it's WAAAAAY better than the ancient Greek stage they had at the old building, but there are things that I was scratching my head as to why they weren't included.  The first thing that surprised me was the seating capacity.  All along they've been saying it will seat 900.  Technically, it does seat about 900, but that's only after expandable seating is added.  Most of the time it will seat about 600.  The expandable seating is a section of retractable chairs in the back that slides back into the cafeteria when being used.  This is a problem mostly for sound as it will open the back up and not provide a back wall or close ceiling for sound to bounce off, plus when it isn't open, there's a huge curtain covering the extra seats which will absorb sound.  The other thing that surprised me was the lack of a fly system on stage.  Everything is suspended permanently from the ceiling.  That greatly limits the theatrical capabilities of the stage (we were pretty upset when Stanton was built and it didn't have a fly system after having one at Davey).  The stage is a good size, but lacks that fly system and I wasn't too thrilled with the flooring (seemed like laminated black particle board, which I saw used at Davey after it was renovated).  All in all, a huge improvement on what they had, but this thing still can't hold a candle to Roosevelt's auditorium.
Not the best picture.  Oh how I wish I had my brother's D90 here!  You can kind of see the curtains in the back that hide the retractable seating.  The line of light near the top of the picture is the gap between the ceiling and the removable wall separating the auditorium and cafeteria that is removed when the extra seating is used.
This is a picture from page A9 of the August 29 Record-Courier.  You can see the back section open here.  The pitched roof visible above the back section is actually the outer wall and ceiling of the cafeteria, several feet behind the the back wall of the auditorium
The gym was nice, but nothing that blew me away.  I definitely liked the large windows on two sides, but like the field house, was disappointed they were translucent.  The new gym, again, is WAY better than what they had, though, so it will be nice for them.  The coolest feature I had never seen before was a retractable volleyball net.  Instead of having it set up with poles in the floor, it is suspended in the ceiling and folds up, much like extra basketball hoops.  The gym also has plenty of room to get around and made extra space for the teams to sit in apart from the bleachers.  It will definitely not be as tight as the old one!
I'm assuming this will be the "home" side of the bleachers.  In the top center you can kind of make out the suspended volleyball net with the ref's stand visible (round thing).
Other side of the gym where the teams and likely the visitors will sit.  The teams will sit in front of the railings which makes it easier to get around than at the "old school" type gyms where players sit on the first row of bleachers.  The only problem I see is the railings might be a bit too high for people sitting in the front row...
The choir room was a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  I know Ravenna is a smaller school than Roosevelt, but not THAT much smaller.  It must've been half the size or less than what we have here and the only risers in the room were the ones that are used for concerts (that you stand on).  Maybe it was in "display mode" but it didn't look like a good setup and certainly limited how many people can be in choir.  The band room looked like a good size.  The setup of the music rooms reminded me a lot of how they are at Stanton with practice rooms in between the band and choir rooms.  The cafeteria also struck me as smaller than I thought it would be.  Like many things, it's WAY better than at the old high school (I was literally stunned how small the cafeteria was at the old building), but I guess I expected it to be a little bigger.  Oh well, maybe I have a false idea of how big it needs to be?  :)
Definitely not a horrible setup, but this seemed a bit small for me, especially hearing that Ravenna has some large choirs.  I do prefer risers that have places for everyone to sit.
Another view of the choir room from behind the risers.  Apparently the piano has not arrived yet!
It's definitely a building that the people of Ravenna can be proud of in the end.  It is very bright and modern and has plenty of technology available to enhance the learning experience.  It's a huge step up from the old building, even with all the memories attached to that place.  I hope Ravenna students take pride in their building and keep it nice!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chihuly at Cheekwood

In front of a Chihuly sculpure at Cheekwood
Botanical Gardens in Nashville, Tennessee.
I'm finally catching up on some of my blog posts!  This past week Mom and I had a chance for one more trip before school starts, so we visited my brother and sister in law in Nashville, Tennessee for a week, getting back to Kent this past Thursday (August 26).  Really we didn't do a whole lot.  Mostly we hung out at the house, but that was OK by me!  Usually when I go visit friends or family, I'm not there to be entertained, so it doesn't bother me at all to just hang out, though that's not to say we never went out.  I was able to see a few friends and get out when I wanted to.  Mom and I also watched all 3 of the Lord of the Rings movies on my brother's snazzy huge LED TV.  :)  One thing we were able to see was the display of Dale Chilhuly glass works at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville.  For those in northeast Ohio, Cheekwood is very similar to Stan Hywett Hall in Akron; a large estate that is now used for educational purposes with gardens and other programming.  Chihuly is a leading glass artist who has had work shown all over the country.  His style is pretty recognizable (I remember a large sculpture of his in the lobby of Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City) but still interesting.  Cheekwood put many of his works outside in various locations in the different gardens, plus they had a few in their gallery in the actual Cheekwood mansion, which now functions as an art museum.  We both enjoyed seeing everything and the weather wasn't too bad at all!
The car waiting to be towed with a trail of
brake fluid behind it
We actually went the day before, but just as we were coming in, I was driving and the car went over a speed hump too fast and the bottom of the car got scraped.  It ended up ripping a brake line and we pretty much lost braking instantly.  It wasn't like I was flying over the speed hump (like 15mph maybe) but enough the bottom got scraped on the speed hump when it went over.  Because of rust, it ruptured the line.  From what the tow truck driver and repair shop guys said it sounded like the rust played a major role and likely wouldn't have mattered if it had just gotten scraped without the rust.  The rust on the bottom is a common problem for cars from the North where we are subject to salt during the winter.  Of course, that was the ONE day I forgot my cell phone, so I had to use a phone in the visitors' center later at the repair shop.  Well, thankfully we have AAA and my brother was able to come get us.  All in all, it cost about $300 to get fixed (not too bad!) and it just delayed us one day.  We extended our stay in Nashville an extra day and went the next day.
One of the BEST parts about the visit to Cheekwood was that my brother let me borrow their camera.  It's a Nikon D90, so it takes WAAAY better pictures than my camera.  I really enjoyed being able to use it and was happy how well the pictures came out.  The big negative is that I want one of my own even more now!!
Mom waiting for the tow truck to come...
Me not happy and waiting for the tow truck
(See Mom in the tree?)
View of a sculpture from the parking lot while we waited for the tow truck to come
Car getting dropped off at the repair shop.  Yeah for AAA!
Sculpture I photographed the day before
from the parking lot.
Example of some of the glass sculptures (red things) in amongst the plants
Next to the sculpture seen in the background of the picture at the top of the page
I love waterfalls!

This was in the pond in above the waterfall.  I called it "boat full of rockets"
Did I mention I love stonework too?
Set of sculptures near the mansion
Sculpture called "The Sun" with the mansion in the background

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good schools

As promised in my last post, here is what I think are the best ways for individuals to find a good school or make sure the one they or their children are in is a good school.  Too often people are relying on the various rankings to decide a school when those rankings tell only a small part of the story as I alluded to in my last post as well as a post a few months ago when my high school was named as a "best school" in a high-profile national report.  Another key element to understand is that even if a school is "awesome" by every measure, it still may not be the best school for you or your child depending on what is available at other schools or unique features that may be perfect for you or your child.  I'm going to list the criteria I think are most important.  Some of these I got from my graduate classes where we discussed what makes a good school and watched a video of things to look for.

The first thing to look for is the teacher.  Either from your own interactions or the interactions your child has with them, ask questions.  Too often, students and parents alike cite "being nice" as a reason a teacher is good.  While being "nice" is definitely a great attribute, it is meaningless if the teacher doesn't have a good grasp on the subject and is teaching a bunch of fluff or making things too easy.  There is a fine line between making something learnable and making something easy.  On the flip side, just because a teacher has an advanced degree does not mean he or she is a good teacher.  I think everyone has had a teacher or professor who is incredibly knowledgeable and smart in their field but can't for the life of them bring their vast knowledge to the level of those of us who know far less.  This is why the state showing us what percentage of teachers in a school or district have a masters degree or above can only go so far.  Having that degree is no guarantee that the teacher is a good teacher or that he/she has created a safe environment in the classroom.  Look at the work the teacher gives: is it challenging and worthwhile or just busywork?  Good teachers give students work to help them grow and learn; work has a direct purpose.  When tests are given, find out what is being tested.  Are students being challenged to think (higher level) or to just regurgitate memorized answers (lower level)?  There is a huge difference between memorizing and critical thinking.  A good teacher will also help students who don't do well on tests and recognize that a student doing poorly on a test (especially if a lot of students do poorly) is just as much a reflection on their teaching as it is their student's comprehension levels.  Bad teachers use tests as weapons; they punish students with them and solely blame the student for his/her failure on the test (even if an entire class does badly on a test).  Next, do students have opportunities to develop and express their own creativity?  A good teacher understands that developing creativity is a must and will give students options to achieve that; it does not mean students do "whatever they want" but instead are given choices within certain bounds.  Does the teacher do what they can to facilitate and encourage outside learning or are they "teaching to the test"?  A good teacher inspires while a bad teacher bores or even instills fear.  Another great thing for parents to do is contact the teacher, which can usually be done with e-mail.  A good teacher will be THRILLED that you are taking interest in your child's education and will want to know what he/she can do more to help.

The next thing to look for is the environment.  Part of that comes from the way the teacher interacts with students, which I already covered.  Students should feel safe not only with the teacher, but also with other students.  A good teacher is going to do all he/she can to create a safe environment, which includes confronting and eliminating bullying and other like elements.  He/she will also treat students with respect so they are comfortable talking to the teacher.  A bad teacher will either make a student fear them or even the opposite extreme just be their friend as opposed to being their teacher and guide.  Along with that, look at the facilities.  Be careful not to fall into the trap that good facilities (particularly new facilities) = good school.  Facilities, and the technology they may or may not have, are tools.  If used properly, they can greatly enhance the learning experience.   But like any tool they can be misused or even ignored.  On top of that, if a building has all the bells and whistles, but lacks good teachers and/or a good environment, it doesn't really matter much does it?  That said, facilities that are in very poor shape can be telling too.  And I'm talking about dangerously out of date, run down, etc., not simply older or well-worn.  Facilities that are in horrible shape can often be an outward sign of a community that does not care about its schools.  My advice is to look at them yourself.  Don't be quick to judge a book by its cover, though.  Plenty of schools have fully functional facilities that are not flashy and new; they don't "wow" you per se, but they easily get the job done.  And there are plenty of great learning environments and teachers that do not involve heavy use of technology.

The last main element to look for is curriculum.  What educational options and opportunities are available to students at the school?  A good school will recognize the diversity of learning and offer many different levels of classes and have tools and options to help students learn in many ways and at many speeds.  This includes technology, but also specialists and class options for students who may be "slower" or "gifted" as well as outside opportunities through agreements and programs.  In other words, the school doesn't have a one-size-fits-all curriculum.  This is especially critical at the middle school and high school levels where many more class offerings can be offered and students are more free to build their own schedule and truly prepare for life in the "real world".  At a high school, a course catalog is usually available for students or upon request from the community and many have them online already.  Look at not only what courses are available, but their  descriptions too.  Simply having a lot of classes doesn't mean they are worth your or your child's time at all.  This is where a school may not do well on standardized "rankings" but still be a great school specifically for you or your child, especially if there is a special need involved.  And I personally think there is nothing wrong with asking to meet with teachers and administrators or contacting them through phone or e-mail to ask them curriculum-specific questions or any questions for that matter.  If they are interested in having a good school, they will be happy to answer your question(s) and will greatly value your involvement.  But be careful; like anything, there is a difference between being an involved and supportive parent and being a controlling and over-bearing parent.  

Hopefully this can be helpful for people, especially parents.  With all the confusion and, in my opinion, misleading information that exists about schools and how good or bad they are, it's important that we educate ourselves and don't simply rely on an outsider's view of the school or assume it's definitive.  Outside views and rankings can be great supplemental materials, but there is no ranking or evaluation system I am aware of that gives a true measure of how good a school is.  They all measure certain aspects of a school or district, which is why some schools do very well on certain evaluations but not on others.  It's all dependent on what is being measured and how.

Report card nonsense

The Ohio Department of Education released their annual report cards for every public school district and individual school in the state.  Every year I find myself thinking less and less of these report cards as I see not only how they "rate" schools and their districts, but how certain people react.  Basically, the state will come out and say a school or district was given a designation.  The main overall ratings are Excellent, Effective, Continous Improvement, Academic Watch, and Academic Emergency, which the media commonly references with letter grades (Excellent = A, Effective = B, etc.).  In elementary and middle schools there is additional criteria, that, if met, results in the school and/or district being rated Excellent With Distinction (which the state and media equate with an A+).

I've always been bothered because most people look at the overall rating and make their judgments about a school or district based on that rating alone.  They don't bother to look at the reasoning behind the overall rating or what caused it.  So in one way it can create a false sense of security for schools or districts that are rated Excellent or Effective.  Such was the case in Ravenna last year.  The district was rated "Excellent" by the state despite meeting only 15 of the 26 "indicators" the state uses.  In the other case it can create this false sense of alarm that a school is getting worse or in bad shape because of a particular rating or if a rating goes down from year to year.  I saw this a few years ago when Kent was lowered from "Excellent" to "Effective" and I read comments from parents online who were concerned the schools were getting worse and wondering if they should take their kids somewhere else.

For those who are wondering, the state uses 3 basic criteria to come to their overall rating and then have what they refer to as a "value added assessment" which is used for grades 4-8 and adds the "with distinction" to an Excellent rating.  The first criteria is a series of "indicators" that are based mostly on standardized test scores as well as daily attendance and graduation rate (obviously the graduation rate only applies to high school).  A school "meets" these indicators by achieving the state designated average or above.  The total number of indicators for a district is 26 (24 are test related) while a 9-12 high school will have 12 indicators.  The more indicators met, the better.  To be "Excellent" a school/district must have met at least 94% of the indicators (11 for high school, 24 for a district).

The next criteria is what is known as the "Performance Index".  The Performance Index is a weighted average that measures what percentages of students who passed the state test in different levels of understanding (from "untested" to "advanced") based on how well they scored.  The more students who pass as "advanced" and "accelerated", the better.   Untested students and those who score at "limited" or "basic" understanding hurt the average.  This basically tells us how well students are doing on the test as opposed to that they are simply passing or not.  The highest Performance Index score is 120.  To achieve "Excellent" a school must have a PI score of 100.

The last main criteria is "Adequate Yearly Progress" or AYP.  This is a Federally mandated criteria that to me is virtually unattainable in its long-term hopes.  Basically, in terms of the whole student body and amongst various sub-groups of students (minorities, gender groups, students with disabilities, etc.), there must be certain improvements in test scores.  The theory is that by 2015, 100% of all students will be proficient in reading and math.  Unfortunately, 100% is unattainable in the real world because it not only requires every student to take it seriously, but it also assumes that a student not passing a proficiency test is purely the fault of a teacher, school, or district.  What's scary is that if a school or district doesn't make AYP for 5 consecutive years, changes as extensive as replacing the entire administration and teaching staff or turning the school into a charter school are options.  Mind you, a school will "not meet" AYP if any sub group doesn't make it in a given year, even if every other group makes this alleged "adequate" progress.  How scary is that?  A school can be doing everything right but because of an arbitrary number the entire school could be completely restructured.  And seriously, I have a hard time believing that every school can be making such progress every year.  Eventually you're going to hit a peak.  To be "Excellent" a school or district must meet AYP in all areas or not have it for 3 or more consecutive years.  Even if the other criteria are met with "Excellent" status, not meeting AYP in any area (remember, not meeing AYP with any group means the school/district didn't meet AYP at all) for 3 consecutive years means a school can be rated no higher than "Continuous Improvement", the 3rd or 4th highest rank (equivalent of a "C" grade).  See how that can send the wrong message to someone who just looks at the final rating?

I'm all for accountability.  I really am.  But as an educator, I'm also aware that a student's successes and failures are not completely the result of the school he is attending or the teachers he has.  There are many outside variables that the state doesn't take in account at all or doesn't weigh as heavily as I think they should.  There are also many elements to what makes a good school and those are not all currently measured or even evaluated by the state.  At the same time, there needs to be some sort effective way to evaluate teachers and schools for the benefit of students and parents as there are too many bad teachers out there.  Unfortunately, though, the current system looks at only part of the picture and largely awards or punishes schools and districts for many things they do not have control over.  My next blog will go over ways that individuals can assess whether they or their children are in a good school with a good teacher.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Church history extravaganza!

Geez it's been almost a month...I better blog about this already!  My mom and I were able to take a little road trip to Nauvoo, Illinois and Council Bluffs, Iowa at the end of July, mostly to see the dramatic productions at each location.  Nauvoo does an outdoor production, which is creatively named the "Nauvoo Pageant".  It tells the story of the Church while it was headquartered in Nauvoo, which it was from 1839-1846.  In Council Bluffs is a production called "Come Home to Kanesville", a story of the early Saints who lived in Kanesville (present-day Council Bluffs), a stopover on the Mormon Trail to the Salt Lake Valley.  Across the river from Kanesville in present-day Florence (a northern suburb of Omaha) was another Mormon settlement known as Winter Quarters.  Anyway, history lesson aside, we were able to visit some friends at each location, plus get a another dose of Church History.  On top of our trip to New York in May, This is Kirtland! from May-July, coming out to Nauvoo and Kanesville, and my visit to Utah in April, I've been to pretty much every major Church History site except for the ones in Missouri.  The only other one I missed is one I have never been to: the Priesthood Restoration sites in northwest Pennsylvania.  Our trip took us first to Carthage, Illinois, site of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in 1844.
Statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage Jail with the Jail in the background
Front of Carthage Jail
Mom getting a picture in front of the jail

Mom in the martyrdom room...it was a HOT day that day!

A view of the martyrdom room where Joseph and Hyrum were killed.  John Taylor and Willard Richards were also present when the mob came in.  Joseph fell out the window on the left.

Next we went down the road to Nauvoo, the city where the Saints lived from 1839-1846.  They transformed it from a dismal swamp to a charming little city that rivaled Chicago for size in the 1840s (which was then less than 20,000 people).  Today Nauvoo is a very small town of about 1,100 people but is still a beautiful place right on a bend of the Mississippi River.
Sunstone from the original Nauvoo Temple, which was completed in 1846.  It was eventually destroyed first by an arsonist's fire in 1848 and later by a tornado in the 1850s.  Another Sunstone is at the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington, DC (right as you walk in on the left).  This one is in a glass case right outside the LDS Visitors' Center.

Christus statue in the LDS Visitors' Center

Nauvoo Temple on the hill overlooking the old town.  The temple was rebuilt to look exactly as the original on the outside (new sunstones visible at top of each column).  

Statue of Joseph and Hyrum across the street from the Nauvoo Temple.  It is in reference to them leaving to go to Carthage and looking back at Nauvoo one more time.  You can see the Mississippi River in the background.
In front of the Nauvoo Temple from the Joseph and Hyrum statue and the little plaza around it
In front of the Joseph and Hyrum statue and the plaza
Mom near the Joseph and Hyrum statue plaza across from the temple
Nauvoo Temple.  Such a cool temple!!
View of the Joseph and Hyrum statue plaza with the Mississippi River in the background
Nauvoo Temple.  When we used to visit Nauvoo in the 1990s I always hoped it would get rebuilt (it used to just be an open area with the original foundation visible).  I never thought I'd get to see it so soon!

Monument at the end of Parley Street at the official beginning of the Mormon Trail along the Mississippi River. 
At Carthage Jail...it was hotter than Hades!
Getting my pictures of Carthage Jail and trying not to melt

In front of the Nauvoo Temple...this picture was quite painful...my eyes could barely stay open!
Checking my pictures at the Nauvoo Temple
TINA!!!  One of my best friends from the mission.  Hard to believe it's been 7 years since I served in her branch in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  She and her family are now in North Dakota and this was the first time I'd seen her or her daughter Melissa (who is camera shy!) since I visited them in England in 2007. 
Classic Tina
This pretty much sums it up
Waiting for the Nauvoo Pageant to start
Our last part of the trip was to Council Bluffs, Iowa to see a performance of Come Home to Kanesville, an original musical production about the early Mormon settlers in Council Bluffs (originally known as Kanesville) who settled there temporarily while heading west from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley.  We went because our friend Gretchen Brockett Edwards was the costume designer (and a cast member with her family).  She grew up in our home ward, so it was nice to see her again and meet the rest of her family.  She's also been trying to get me to defect from This is Kirtland! 
Meeting with Gretchen Brockett Edwards and her husband after "Come Home to Kanesville" at the Kanesville Tabernacle in Council Bluffs, Iowa.