Back to Basics

Unreal offers tips to the youngsters, learns about the much-desired Dodge Neon and breaks down the real cost of a Thickburger; plus, did Roosevelt High School take the name of Baton Bob in vain?

 The [St. Louis Public Schools] invested $45,000 this year on a campaign to get children to class on the first day of school.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 7, 2004

Buoyed by the recent success of his district's $45,000 outreach campaign to remind parents and students when the first day of school was, interim St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Floyd Crues today announced his intention to launch "Back to Basics," a series of similar campaigns to, as he put it, "enrich the basics of everyday life" among district families.

The first Back to Basics effort: a $60,000 campaign to remind students and parents to put their shirts on before leaving the house in the morning.

Dan Zettwoch

"How can a topless child learn?" Crues asked at a morning press conference in the Children's Apparel department of Famous-Barr downtown. "When a second grader's nipples are freezing in a spacious classroom, it's tough to concentrate on his or her studies."

According to district statistics from 2003, an average of 2.4 students per week arrived at school without a shirt on.

"That's two-point-four too many," Crues said. "This program sends a positive message to parents that we're willing to spend whatever it takes to educate students on the importance of putting a shirt on before heading to school."

Some district parents see the "Shirts On! Brains On!" campaign as a waste of public dollars.

"How about teaching my son to read a little better?" said Cornelia Johnson, who has spearheaded Mothers Opposed to Funding Obvious Stuff (MOFOS). "My kids know to put on their shirts in the morning. Like: Duh. They need to spend money on getting my boy's six-year-old mind around the pronunciation of three-syllable words, not the finer points of Van Heusen's fall line."

Crues announced that funds have already been set aside for two more Back to Basics initiatives: "Hands Off: Eat Food With Utensils" and "Pull Down Your Pants Before You Pee-Pee."

Steal Wheels

Escalades, of course. The new Chrysler 300C Hemi is a very nice car. And the ever-popular Jeep Cherokee -- any teen would be proud to cruise down Natural Bridge in that ride. Yes, many nice cars occupy the north-county parking lots of the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. But somehow the Dodge Neons appear to be standing out. Or, as detective Tony Griemel of UMSL's police department puts it, "The month of August was a very unusual one for us."

During a single 24-hour period at the end of last month, three Neons were swiped from UMSL's north-county lots; two additional attempts on the low-priced compact were thwarted that same week.

The spree began sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. on Thursday, August 24, when an UMSL student discovered that his red Neon was missing. Later that day a green Neon vanished. The next night a black Neon was stolen. All three were recovered in Pagedale within the day. Then, two days later, the black Neon was targeted again, though witnesses happened upon the thieves in flagrante delicti. Described by Griemel as "two very youthful teenagers," they ran to the south-campus MetroLink station and made their getaway on a train.

Later in the week another Neon (color unspecified) was stolen. That car was recovered in the lot after the teens, who apparently flunked driver's ed, bailed out. "They lost control of the car, hit a curb, gave it a flat tire and got out and ran away," Griemel recounts.

Why the Neon? "Chrysler products right now are really popular," says Griemel. "They're very easy to steal."

Indeed, the Neon appears to be climbing the various greatest-hit lists of stolen cars. Maybe it's because pint-size teens can see over the dashboard.

The perpetrators remain at large.

Chew on This

Pretty much anywhere you go, a Hardee's 1/3-pound Thickburger will lighten your wallet by $3.09 (including tax). But depending on where you live, the cost of this 851-calorie flagship patty varies wildly in terms of time-worked for burger bought. Using our own complex mathematical formula, Unreal presents the amount of time various St. Louisans must work before treating themselves to that key economic indicator, the Hardee's Thickburger. Click here and enjoy.

A Bob-O-Thetical Situation

Let's say you're a security officer working at a St. Louis public school. One day Baton Bob arrives for a visit, decked out in all his drum-majorette glory. A parent who's on hand, and who apparently has no eye for fashion, spies Bob and goes ballistic -- literally. Flashing a gun, he grabs Bob by his tutu and takes him hostage in a classroom full of kids. What would you do?

Unreal doesn't surprise easily, but we cop to having cocked an eyebrow when we heard that the abovementioned scenario was one of several presented to 100 security officers gathered in Roosevelt High School's lunchroom for a September 1 training session.

"It was a mock drill for our safety officers, of a situation that could happen at any of our schools at any given time," confirms Charles McCrary, director of the security division of the St. Louis Public Schools. "To teach them to call the police, to get the kids evacuated. It was just something we kind of pulled out of the air."

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