I'll be honest. When I sit down to write my "first week of the month" weekly blog, I feel like I've been scooped by the Bugle big-time. For example, I was all set to tell you about the new artist's co-op opening up in the old Suka-Rama space in the Healy building called Something New. The Feb. Bugle has an article on it. Or the stormwater project in Langford Park. Page 3, Bugle. Or the "Little Libraries" popping up in neighbor's front yards. Front page. You can read more about those items as well as interesting stories about a local hockey player who could be headed for the NHL, our 2012 nominees for the Neighborhood Honor Roll (Tim & Tom, Hans & Tom, Michael Russelle), a Dillinger gang member from the 30's who lived in Como Park with his mother and much, much more. Thanks, Kristal. Read more about those topics and other happenings in the area by clicking here.

I haven't written much about the schools lately. Primarily because they seem to be humming along smoothly while waiting for bigger news to emerge from the district. Today brought reports of a potential contract agreement with the teachers, which is good, and also a recommendation from the District's "Integration/Choice" committee regarding diversity. This unique approach would reserve 20% of the seats in desirable elementary and middle schools for students from high poverty neighborhoods. Not clear to me is whether those seats would be reserved for students from the school's Area (remember, the new plan divides the district into 6 distinct Areas. Students would only be bussed to schools in their Area, except for unique schools like the Spanish and French Immersion programs) or whether they would be open to students district-wide, which would seem to counter the cost-savings that would come from the reduced bussing. More to come.

D12 - Applications are still open for new board members...there's also a link to the video of the Neighborhood Honor Roll ceremony which I mentioned earlier. Guest speaker was Jane McClure, an area historian who shared the interesting history of St. Paul and it's neighborhoods. Definitely worth checking out just to see our honorees dressed up...Kasota Pond clean-up, Earth Day and the Progressive dinner are all coming up soon. Visit the D12 website and find out more.

Schools - Again, the Bugle has a very comprehensive listing of everything that's going on in our local schools, so please refer to that source for updated information. As I read through all that's happening at our area schools and get reports from my various sources at those schools, I am confident the new district plan will be very beneficial for our entire area. We have three successful elementary schools in Como, Chelsea Heights and St.AP, and Murray is in my opinion, the best Jr. High in the city. I am also impressed by the progress Como High School has made over the past years under the leadership of principal Dan Mesick. To be honest, both of my daughters attended, so I'm a bit of a homer, but our family really appreciated the mix of EQ and IQ imparted during their years there. Como has always had exceptional teachers, but I think the overall strength of the programs and faculty have never been stronger and that includes music and art. The sports and music programs are apparently working together to ensure that kids can participate in both, and that is a positive sign. That's one of the big things we appreciated about a school of Como's size, there was always room for our kids to participate in the sports and arts offerings even if they weren't all-staters. I know that for our community, there will always be choice at all levels for the education of our kids, but I think it's worth checking out the open houses to get a first hand look at the excellent local options. Murray's Open House is Thursday, Feb. 9, Como has tours most Wednesdays in Feb. and they also have shadowing opportunities.

listserv - the St.AP branch library is reducing its hours on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The new hours are 10-5:30p on those days. The rest of its schedule remains the same: Mon. & Wed. noon-8pm; Thurs. & Fri. 10am - 5:30pm; Sundays closed...good opps to raise your heels at the Oddfellows Hall above the Hampden Park Co-op. You can call Adam Granger at 646-3732 if you're interested in "Contra" dancing (sounds revolutionary) on Saturday nights or if you're interested in private lessons on Saturday afternoons click on this link to email Heidi Smith-Miranda...When Adam isn't dancing, he's apparently swigging water right from his tap and has noticed a decidedly sulfurous smell to it recently. The theory has been proposed is that recent stormwater work in Langford Park has dredged up water from previously idle lines but that this Sunday's traditional Super Bowl halftime habits should clear the pipes.

St.APnotes - nice letter to the editor by Arlene West showing some love for the "Shop Home" event this past December sponsored by the Foundation and MetroIBA in conjunction with local businesses. The real organizational work is done by board member Clare Caffrey and friend of the community, Michele Slifer. Kudos to them...if you want to see one of the "Little Libraries," there's one across from the UCC church on Chelmsford in the front yard of Anders and Julie Himmelstrup. Pick up a book and leave one, I guarantee they will be worthwhile companions...Silent Movie Night is coming back to our branch library Feb. 24. Local son, Norris Anderson, will play live music for a collection featuring Chaplin, Keaton, and Laurel & Hardy. It's free, but the popcorn'll cost ya 25 cents.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.