Heels are much in the news these days, but we're referring to more than the trailing end of the foot.

It's a word that has long been handy to describe perennial losers, often highly visible figures who find new ways to disappoint, dismay or disgust.

But heels also are made for clicking, or for shaking dust therefrom….

In the “losers” category, consider Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots; George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, and former Yankee third baseman, Alex Rodriguez.

Belichick is taking heat nationally for piling on the points against the Washington Redskins (52-7); Steinbrenner is on the grill for shabby treatment of former manager Joe Torre; and Rodriguez is a dart board for the timing of his “so long” announcement. (News of his “opting out” of the Yankee contract was made during the World Series championship game. His critics think he considers himself bigger than the Series, if not bigger than life.)

‘m in the critics' camp. Classy coaches at any level don't beat opponents as badly as possible, Rodriguez's timing was shabby, and Steinbrenner's penchant for foot-shooting remains an art form. Torre will be better appreciated as the new skipper for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He can shake the dust from his heels, and click them in joy for the freshness of a new challenge….

Maybe the thunderous sound of victorious heel-clicking is coming from some 260,000 retired public school teachers of Texas. They'll receive “13th checks” in January, their first annuity enhancement since 2001.

Though a one-time “fix” is laudatory, surely the educators deserve regular periodic reviews for cost-of-living annuity adjustments.

Most retirees are not in rocking chairs. This year, they've performed more than 4.5 million hours of public service, and have taken more than 12 billion steps in documented exercise programs. Leaders believe that an asterisk should follow the word “documented,” estimating that at least half of the public service hours and exercise steps go unreported. A final stat-this one solid-is that retirees gave 70,000 books to Texas school children this year….

Way too often, good things at the schoolhouse go unreported. Sometimes it's big news; occasionally it's merely accounts of folks in authority exercising common sense to right former wrongs.

A wonderful example is McKinney (TX) ISD superintendent, Tom Crowe. He recently learned of an injustice concerning Ridgell McKinney, now 93, who was denied a high school diploma 73 years ago.

McKinney was all set to graduate, but during a final exam, a friend's knuckle-cracking was disruptive….

Figuring that Ridgell knew the identity of the culprit, the teacher threatened to fail him and dash his graduation plans if he didn't “fess up.”

He wouldn't “rat” on a friend, and she wouldn't back down.

His class ring and graduation announcements remained packed away while his classmates crossed the stage. Ridgell went on with his life….

A lifelong resident in the county named for his great-great grandfather, Ridgell flew combat missions in B-24s over Europe, and he worked at the Veterans' Administration Hospital until it closed in 1965. His servant spirit is well-known.

Last month, at the superintendent's request, Mr. McKinney joined summer graduates for commencement ceremonies. Decked out in graduation finery, he marched in to the familiar strains of Pomp and Circumstance. A smile splashed across his face as flashing cameras captured the moment when Mr. Crowe presented his diploma.

A few days later, McKinney was grand marshal of the “forthcoming parade,” held to celebrate the new Boyd High School in McKinney. And come next spring, he will receive that school's FIRST diploma….

Life lessons come along in unexpected ways. In 1954, Ralph McCalmont, who has risen to the top in Oklahoma banking circles, chose the college job that paid most. He could work on campus for 50 cents an hour, or on the college farm for 75 cents. Ralph chose the latter.

He was a fence-builder in those college years, and he did it right. Attending all but a handful of Howard Payne homecomings in the past half-century, he enjoys the annual visits to renew friendships.

While there, he drives out to check on his fence. The college farm is long since gone, but the fence, now 53 years old, stands strong. Let us cheer, even click heels, for his strong work ethic. I'm hopeful that future generations will be blessed by more Ralph McCalmonts-the kind of folks who are corner posts in the fence rows of life…

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Send e-mail to newbury@speakerdoc.com or call 817-447-3872. His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.