The Flywheel

Next Meeting: June 8

Our web communications: Is there a better way?

The Flywheel combines decades-old newsletter formatting with more recent web design features.

But is there a better way of meeting our communications needs? Can we revamp the Flywheel so more people read it, while at the same time cutting the time scribes and the websmaster invest in it each week?

Nick Despota will walk us through an assessment of this electronic "rag" to determine what's working and what's not. He welcomes your ideas.


Meeting of Friday, June 1

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Past President Alan Baer rang the bell and called the meeting to order. Heather Kulp led the pledge of allegiance and Stoney called for a moment of silence for freedom, peace, and justice on earth. Henry Kelman’s thought for the day was that bad jobs data can move the stock market, like in Friday’s sharp downturn.

Rotarians with Guests

  • Jim Young introduced his wife, Linda, as they both recently returned from Asia while attending the Rotary International Convention in Thailand.
  • Herb Cole introduced his guest, Aquacena Lopez, a financial advisor to the West Contra Costa Unified School District for many years as it sought to pay off a long-standing California State loan that enabled continued operations in the early 1990’s. A ceremony celebrating the final loan payment (made four years early) took place in the morning before the Rotary meeting.

Sunshine Report

Tom Waller reported that he spoke by phone with Michelle Itagaki, who broke her hip in a boating-related accident in Arizona over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Doctors have pinned her back together with a 70% chance of full recovery without hip replacement surgery. She’s in good spirits and looks forward to getting back to a Rotary meeting as soon as possible.


  • Jim Young announced that incoming Rotary District Governor, Laura Day, will visit Richmond Rotary on July 6.
  • Henry Moe modeled a sharp-looking, Rotary-branded jacket like those provided to student members of the Salesian High School Rotary Interact Club, which is sponsored by Richmond Rotary. Many thanks to Rotarians who donated to cover the cost of the jackets.
  • With special appreciation to Jan Brown and Nick Despota among others, Herb Cole announced that the Teen Mom kits prepared at last week’s Rotary meeting were delivered to Richmond High School with warm appreciation by all recipients. Herb commented that this kind of hands-on project, like the recent Saturday carpentry and painting activity at NIAD, exemplifies the best of the Rotary spirit of service.

    With regard to Teen Moms, Herb also noted that none of the kit recipients this year have other children (which is good!) and that 12 of them are now graduating from high school. To recognize the achievement, our club is giving each of these girls a $25 gift certificate to Target.


  • Heather Kulp was recognized for her recent birthday and 4th wedding anniversary.
  • Herb Cole recently celebrated his 48th wedding anniversary.

Happy and Sad Dollars

  • Hank Covell was happy about his son and daughter-in-law celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary.
  • Jim Young had happy dollars for being able to attend the recent Rotary International convention in Thailand with 40,000 other Rotarians and guests. Jim also attended a Rotary meeting in Singapore, where that Club has expressed interest in doing a joint project with Richmond Rotary in Richmond. More info to follow on that at a later date.
  • Henry Moe was happy that winning boys and girls basketball teams at Salesian High School are traveling to Sacramento for recognition at the State Assembly.
  • Herb Cole was happy to see John Nicol in attendance again.

Norm's Nonsense

A Jewish mother took her son to the ocean so he could play in the sand and water. Suddenly a huge wave came in and swept him out into deep water. Not being a swimmer, the mother could only stand at the shore and scream for help.

A man came along, saw the situation, jumped into the surf and swam out to the boy. He grabbed the boy and carried him back to the shore and the frantic mother.

She said to the man: "Thanks, but he had a hat."



The WriterCoach Connection

The program speaker was Shelli Fried, a teaching professional and current Board member of Community Alliance for Learning, an Albany-based non-profit that administers the widely acclaimed and highly successful “WriterCoach Connection” (WCC) program in the east bay.

Shelli was anxious to share the WCC story because the program is starting up at Richmond High School in September and volunteer writing coaches are needed. As one seasoned writing coach volunteer says, "This is a program that was well conceived, is well run, and is delivering results. I'm proud to be a part of it."

Here’s the WCC vision statement: “We envision that all students discover the power and richness of their own voices and learn to communicate their ideas with clarity, confidence, and pride. These skills will enable students to create academic success, meet personal challenges with self-assurance, expand their career options, and become greater contributors to their communities.”

Started in Berkeley over 10 years ago, WCC provides volunteer writing coaches with two 3-hour training sessions that equip them to go into scheduled English classes during the school year to give students one-on-one support with writing assignments from their teachers. Coach training offers strategies and best practices to work effectively with students at all levels of achievement and all stages of the writing process.

Volunteer writing coaches make a commitment to attend one scheduled class period (about one hour) 1-2 times per month (generally 10-12 times over the school year). Substitutes are available if coaches have to miss an occasional scheduled class. There are no obligations in between scheduled classes. When they meet together, coaches inspire and encourage students to develop self-confidence and writing proficiency, strengthen their comprehension, and boost their creative and critical thinking capabilities.

Today, there are over 500 WCC volunteer writing coaches serving more than 2000 students in 12 east-bay middle and high schools. These volunteer coaches include a mix of college students, business owners, corporate employees, student parents, and retirees. Evidence shows that employers with a strong corporate social responsibility philosophy are happy to release employees to work in a proven and well-organized program that builds bridges within and among the community.

WCC began in our own West County school district at El Cerrito High School in the 2010-11 school year and positive results were dramatic, including documented improvements in student pass rates on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).

Based on the results at El Cerrito High School, here’s what Bruce Harter, Richmond Rotarian and School District Superintendent, is quoted as saying: “WriterCoach Connection works. Student writing achievement goes up, teachers get much-needed relief with the extra individual attention to students, community members bond with their schools as they walk the hallways with their students and sit with them to help develop more effective writing and deeper critical thinking. Everyone wins and we need more of it.”

The argument can easily be made that effective development of student communications skills actually requires one-on-one writing coaching. In that regard, Jim Young’s wife, Linda, herself a long-time teacher and instructional coach for other teachers, was at the meeting on Friday and offers the following paragraph worthy of inclusion here in the Flywheel notes.

Here are Linda’s thoughts: “Learning to write is very different compared to learning history or math. Learning to write is like learning a craft and requires support of someone like a coach. Effective writing instruction these days recognizes and trains students in the several “stages” of the writing process: Brainstorming, Drafting (note taking), Organizing, Revising (such as adding details to explain, substantiate an argument, or re-organize), and Editing. Learning can be most powerful when conversations and opportunities for reflection are provided one-on-one at each stage of the writing process. Coaches provide conversation and a “safe place” to discuss and clarify ideas and give the writer an opportunity to reflect and clarify their own ideas. In our schooling, many of us only received feedback on our final product and that mostly consisted of red marks in the margins. With simple, teachable techniques, a volunteer writing coach can, among other things, encourage a student through conversation to tap into what they know and then get it ‘down on paper’.”

Prospective writing coaches (any of us, people we know, etc.) should check things out on the WCC web site and click the “Volunteer” button to register for an upcoming training class (either June 12 and 19 or yet to be determined dates in August/September). Shelli also welcomes any questions directly: email or call 510.530.7600.

This is a unique opportunity to directly engage the education system and potentially make a significant difference in a young person’s life! 

- Rotating Editor, Tom Waller