The Flywheel

Program for September 21ST

The Potomac Foundation

The Potomac Foundation brings us a sneak preview of the history and restoration of FDR's "floating White House: the yacht, The Potomac.

You'll be able to tour The Potomac next weekend at the Home Front Festival.

Planning to go? We want you!


MEETING OF September 14th, 2007

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

President Pam Jones rang the bell and called the meeting to order. Rafael Cartagena led the pledge of allegiance and there was a moment of silence for world peace. Henry’s thought for the day was a wish that national elections were being held this November since he’s already very tired of it all (presumably, the blah-blah-blahs of the folks called politicians).

Rotarians with Guests

  • Pam Jones’ guests were April Jorden and also Enos Johnson of the Richmond Police Department.
  • Sid Chauvin very willingly had his wife join him for lunch.
  • Rafael Cartagena also had a guest but I missed the name.

Sunshine Report

David K had a “no-calls” Sunshine Report, although he noted that Elof Granberg and Charlie Wong were not with us at today’s meeting. While not definitive, reports are that Jim Beaver is on a slow mend.


  • Asked by Pam to provide comments on recent violence in Richmond, Officer Johnson noted 10 shootings in the last several days, including three homicides. He commented that there are indications of retaliatory actions being taken by bad groups from North Richmond going into South and Central Richmond areas, and vice versa. Officer Johnson also talked about the recent incident of a police car exiting the new temporary police facility and having its rear window shatter, possibly from some sort of projectile. There’s been no confirmation of a gunshot or other specific cause of the broken glass.
  • Tom Waller briefly added to Officer Johnson’s remarks that at a recent community group meeting, Police Chief Magnus said there are still things the City of Richmond can do to be more effective n dealing with gang activity. While specifics were not elaborated upon, the implication was there’s need for greater political will (for example, pursuing prosecutions with less than perfect evidence and witnesses).
  • Herb Cole encouraged others to consider joining the January 16-20 trip to Monterrey, Mexico, to follow through on good Rotary work being done there, including wheel chair distribution. He also highlighted the trip to Nigeria in mid-November for, among other things, national immunizations.
  • It was noted by Glenn Daggs and others that the District Governor’s newsletter was complimentary about Richmond Rotary, including Liliane Koziol’s Madagascar project as well as the Club’s focused support of Peres School.
  • Hank Covell gave a last-minute plug for the 51st (wrongly reported last week as the 50th) YMCA pancake breakfast at Hilltop YMCA on Saturday, September 15.
  • Hank also announced Richmond Rotary night at the Masquers Theater, preceded by dinner at the Hotel Mac, on Thursday, September 20. Herb Cole provided historical context, noting that this has been a 20-year tradition at Richmond Rotary, Hank having been a big booster for 17 of those years.
  • And let no one forget that October 2 at the Hotel Mac is the Special Winemaker Dinner featuring superb culinary delights and Sonoma County wines of the Gallo family, all in honor of the charitable auction of the you-know-which bottle of venerable liquid that can not (shall not) be consumed.
  • Rich Brandes reported that volunteers are still needed for Richmond Rotary’s boat-boarding and snack-sales activities at the Richmond Home Front Festival on September 29-30.
  • Rafael Madrigal urged everyone to send in payment for Rotary Foundation raffle tickets. Checks should be made payable to Rotary District 5160. Want more tickets? Contact Rafael.


Margaret Morkowski, though self-described as turning bright red, once again strode confidently to the podium to handle recognitions. There were two birthdays announced. Bob Dabney’s time in the barrel will have to await his attendance at a future meeting. David K, having been born on 9/11 (several years ago), has in recent years celebrated his birthday in August during a fishing trip. This year, his designated day was split, half fishing and half drinking. He said both halves were quite enjoyable! Asked about a past ideal birthday, David recounted one 8-9 years ago when he caught a 27-inch Halibut, for which he won $115 in some kind of contest.

Happy and Sad Dollars

  • David Brown had happy $$ for the Jewish New Year and wished everyone peace and contentment.
  • Nick Despota put forth happy $$ for the Home Front Festival and its emphasis on the positive aspects of the Richmond community. Our web guru also reminded us that Home Front tickets can be purchased online at
  • Jim light-as-a-feather-on-his-feet Young presented happy dollars for the fun that he and his wife have had in providing dance lessons for rusty shufflers looking to have a really good time at the USO dance at the Ford Building on Saturday night of Home Front Festival weekend.
  • David K, still reminiscing about the half-day drinking, offered happy $$ to encourage others to promote the SS Red Oak Victory doing what the Jeremiah O’Brian apparently did recently: they hosted over 80 different beer vendors on board during a kind of malt beverage lovers’ fest. I’m thinking consumption of 80 beers might take longer than half a day.
  • Appreciative Don Lau provided happy $$ to thank Jim Young for organizing dance lessons and Margaret for excellence in handling Recognitions and Happy/Sad Dollars.

Raffle Results

Rafael Madrigal drew the white ball.


Beth Hallbert

Orlando Ramos, Principal of Richmond High School

Jim Young introduced Orlando Ramos, now in his second year as principal of Richmond High School (RHS), which has an enrollment of about 1800 students in grades 9-12.

With more than a hint of bravado, this straight-talking principal appears to be on a no-nonsense mission to take the culture and educational performance of RHS to higher levels. For example, he’s cleaned up school graffiti and has watched students start to self-police the improved look and feel of the place.

Although he didn’t put it this way in the presentation, I’ve heard Orlando say before that “education can save lives”. He quickly points out that he’s a living example. As an angry young Puerto Rican in New York City, Orlando would apparently do crazy things, anything to get attention. He was in special education, then dropped out of school and was homeless for a while, living out of an old car. With the love of a tough-as-nails mother and others, he got back on his feet and vowed to try and help young people avoid his mistakes.

With his gritty street savvy, Orlando knows about gangs but wants to help gang leaders lead in new ways. He knows that all young people are, at some level, looking for love, respect, and honor. He promotes alternative ways of conflict resolution.

He urges caution in comparing RHS with schools in other less challenged communities. For example, about 30-40% of RHS enrollment changes during the year due to so-called “mobile students” who are with families who move in search of work and affordable housing. Also, about 60-70% of RHS students are English language learners. Among various solutions to this problem, Orlando has expanded the computer lab with language-learning software.

With a positive outlook, Orlando points to good progress on several fronts. More students are now passing the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) than before. He’s pleased with scholastic improvements in areas like calculus as well as greater success in Spanish Literature classes at the Advanced Placement/College level.

Orlando’s a change agent and we all know change doesn’t necessarily happen easily. He strives to challenge ineffective beliefs and practices among faculty and students in ways that are “respectful, with support” and to “confront mediocrity on the spot.”

There’s something refreshing and seemingly authentic about Orlando Ramos, a feeling that he tries to walk the talk as well as talk it. We wish him well.

- Rotating Scribe, Tom Waller