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Monday, January 15, 2018

DTU and DCPS reach a tentative contract agreement

Most people don’t know but Jacksonville’s public-school teachers have been working without a contract since the last one expired in July of last year. A huge sticking point had been the amount of raises for teachers and this is going to get a little wonky for a moment.

Seven years ago, after the passage of Senate Bill 736, districts were forced to change how they evaluate and pay teachers. Now student test scores would factor heavily how school districts would do both. During the last contract Duval teachers United and the district negotiated in 2014, two pay scales were created. One for teachers who were hired after 2010 when another bill stripped teachers of work protections, which were commonly and inaccurately referred to as tenure, which put new teachers on one-year contracts where they could be let go for any or no reason at the end of the school year and the other pay scale was for veteran teachers who still had their work protections. They were put on what was called the grandfather pay scale. 

Teachers without work protections could expect a thousand dollar raise for an effective evaluation and two thousand dollars for a highly effective one, while teachers on the grandfather pay scale received more modest wage increases, though they could give up their job protections and join the new pay scale should they choose. I and most veteran teachers I know chose to remain on the grandfather scale.

That brings us to the current negotiation where the sticking point was the 1000 and 2000 dollar raises. The district feeling the pinch from the previous superintendent’s financial mismanagement, started this year 12 million dollars in the hole. Couple this with the state continuously in my opinion criminally underfund education and the district was caught between a rock and a hard place.

So, teachers started the year without a contract and without the raises, either 1000, 2000, or the more modest raises that were negotiated. Likewise, stipends for hard to fill positions or for teachers that worked at special schools were held back and as you can imagine as the year dragged on this has caused a lot of frustration with a lot of teachers.

That frustration however may be coming to an end as the district and union have reached a tentative agreement the week of January 8th where the 1000, and 2000-dollar raises were kept intact. So that should be the end of the story, after all the pitch was about how teachers were working without contracts and soon they will have them ending an ongoing problem.

Except it’s not, not even close because as long as we have a government in Tallahassee and education leaders here at home that continue to underfund and kneecap public education then we will continue to have problems.

Florida is chronically near the bottom when it comes to education funding and when you factor in inflation our schools get less than they did in 2007 the year before the great recession. Furthermore, now thanks to last year’s House Bill 7069 the district is required to share what meager funds it has with charter schools many of which are for profit.  

Locally board member Scott Shine supported the measure because he said he expected Tallahassee to dramatically increase education funding, which it did not, he also supported the bill because he said he believed union teachers would lose their job but that would be a whole different post.  

Last fall at a board meeting when discussing suing the state over House Bill 7069, Mister Shine went onto say that the republican members of the Duval delegation voted for the bill because they didn’t know what was in it and because the bill was speaker of the house Richard Corcoran’s priority, and those members were afraid to cross the speaker.

Then there is local businessman Gary Chartrand whose name you have probably heard a lot. He is responsible for bringing Teach for America, which takes non-education members puts then through a six-week access course and then into our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve a two-year commitment ensuring our most vulnerable students have a revolving door of teachers, or the exact opposite of what they need.

He also brought the KIPP charter school to town and if you didn’t know it, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, after Chartrand made large donations to Mayor Lenny Curry, changed their rules so that they now fund part of the KIPP school day, before this they had only funded after school programs.  Now the mayor, Chartrand and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, might argue that correlation is not causation, but the relationship is clear.

Chartrand also banded together with a group of philanthropists and pledged nearly fifty million dollars over three years to Duval County public schools, with the only caveats being that the district must spend the money on what they told the district to and the district had to continue funding the programs when the money ran out. Last summer when the district balked, Chartrand threatened to withhold the money that the QEA promised the district but had not yet delivered.

Perhaps worst of all however is Chartrand is currently finishing his second term on the state board of education despite the fact he has no education experience, he was never a teacher and he sent his children to expensive private schools. While on the board he advocated for teachers to lose work protections, but he has never advocated for Tallahassee to adequately fund education.

Duval County is at the epicenter for what ails education in Florida. A school board member who roots for schools to fail so union teachers can be fired and for-profit charter schools can make even more money. A mayor who has rules changed to fund his donors pet project.  A delegation that is ignorant about what they are voting on and only did so to satiate a powerful legislator, and an influential businessman out of his depth who wields money like a club and gives campaign donations to get what he wants and threatens when he doesn’t.

Despite my spending much of the last decade criticizing DCPS I believe we have such promise, but it is promise we will never meet as long as the city reflexively votes for and supports people like Shine, Chartrand and the republican members of the Duval delegation who seek to harm our schools.

So, Duval Teachers United and Duval Public Schools have finally negotiated a new contract and I sincerely believe they have both done the best they can. Unfortunately, it is a contract where most teachers don’t have work protections, and which pays teachers far below the national average and what professionals with the same level of education receive, because sadly, that is all the state of Florida allows.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wonder why teachers are afraid to speak up?

This teacher dared question why the superintendent in their district revived a large raise while the teachers had received none. She didn't break any rules or laws and likewise was civil while doing so, despite this she was handcuffed and humiliated. Dragged out.

Teachers in Florida since 2010 or if they want to be eligible for decent raises are all on one year contracts which has a chilling effect on teachers speaking up, asking questions, or even hoping to have reasonable work weeks as the pressure on them to like it or leave it has intensified. Many teachers are already fearful for their jobs, so why would they speak up when they could be so poorly treated or let go for doing so?
Since I started the blog a current siting school board has threatened my job repeatedly, harassing me. They have also called me a liar, a parasite, and maladaptive and said that I shouldn't be a teacher for doing nothing but exercising my rights on my time. Furthermore the district has threatened to sue me and another school board member who has never seen me teach nor talked to my parents or peers, questioned my teaching ability. Maybe I should be glad I haven't been placed in handcuffs.

The district the teacher above came from announced they wouldn't press charges. No apology, no, hey sorry about that things just got a little carried away, just a, we're not going to have you thrown in jail and your job is safe... for now. Teachers all over the nation received their message loud and clear.

The thing is we will never reach our potential as long as the powers that be ignore teachers. As long as the system treats teachers like adversaries rather than collaborators. We will never reach our potential as long as teachers are considered easily replaceable cogs, to be disrespected, insulted or fired for speaking out or dragged out in handcuffs, never.

This should give us all a long pause, when we think about where education has come. Do we want a system that disregards and disrespects teachers or do we want a system that embraces and appreciates them because I will tell you its the second one that we currently have. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

As contract negotiations drag on Duval teachers are getting frustrated.

Let me start by saying, Tallahassee has done our district no favors, something board member Scott Shine said they were going to do last summer when he spoke of huge increases to per pupil spending.

Instead of allocating money like they should, Tallahassee has continued to kneecap public education siphoning resources to charters and vouchers. Well friends, elections are coming and we need to replace all the anti-public education, i.e. republicans, representatives in Tallahassee with people who will support our schools. 

All that being said, come on DCPS, Broward County, pretty much in the same boat as us, found enough money in the couch cushions to give their teachers between 2.5 and 3.6 percent raises.

They year is half over on Tuesday and there seems to be no end in sight to the negotiations and it's frustrating.

Now in years past when there were negotiations the district has always retroactively paid teachers which is great but another teacher pointed out, I hope that comes with interest.

Let this sink in too. I teach at a center school as do hundreds of others, and last year I had to agree to stay for three years to get the center school stipend. Well it's not just step raises which are being held back but the stipends are being held back as well. I am making less this year than I did last and now that my student loans have come due I am making less than I made six years ago. I get it I chose this job and chose to stay but at the same time we are losing teachers hand over fist and nobody seems to care.

Teachers are already way underpaid and this prolonged contract negotiation I have to think is doing harm to the profession. 

More and more teachers in more and more districts are working just to the contract, well friends we don't have a contract right now, what should we work to? 

Monday, January 1, 2018

How the Democratic party is letting Education in Northeast Florida down

I usually call out republicans but now it is time for Democrats to take their lumps too.

I am very frustrated with the Democratic party of northeast Florida and here is why. The elections are less than a year away and Jason Fischer the representative for district sixteen still does not have an opponent.

There is nobody more anti-public education in the Florida state house than Jason Fischer and that is saying a lot, yet for some reason the democratic party has not found somebody to run against him and this despite him being unpopular.

In 2016 he ran a scorched earth nasty campaign against republican Dick Kravitz and barely won but I know it had to create a lot of hard feeling with Kravitz's supporters, so much that had a democrat run in 2016 they may have won.

Then lets factor in how Fischer quit the school board, the best thing he did while on it by the way, while using the position and our children as a stepping stone to a state office. Lets not forget this guy ran for soil and water and lost before riding anti-Obama sentiment to a narrow school board election in 2012.

Yeah, he has a lot of money in he bank but more and more people are waking up to the type of politician he is and that is one who just seeks power and advancement even if our schools, children and teachers pay the price. He hasn't represented his constituents for a second, he only cares about his donors interests (and the money they send him) and they would privatize our public schools if given the chance.

If we want to see our schools improve, we have to start electing people who care about our schools, not the same cookie cutter republican who doesn't give a damn about them, except in an effort to make a buck.

Why democratic party have you not found somebody to run against this very beatable opponent?

Come on, do something and why you are at, find somebody to run against Cord Byrd as well! 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Times Union doubles down on excluding parents and teachers from the superintendent search

On Tuesday the Times Union's editorial board supported the Civic Council, aka Gary Chartrand and his friends at the country club's proposal that the current board does not hire the next superintendent. They supported the Civic Council's idea to,

The Civic Council recommends a working group of business, nonprofit, philanthropic and higher education volunteers to develop criteria for the new superintendent.

Not once in the editorial do they advocate for teachers and parents participating in the superintendent search though they do make several dubious claims.

It gets old writing the same thing over and over.

How many times can I sound the alarms about privatization, explain how ridiculous Teach for America is, point out Gary Chartrand's associations, or how often the Times Union's editorial board is wrong. I feel like I am stuck in Groundhog's Day.


Here I go again.

The editorial implies Vitti saved us, not true. It also implied he knew what he was doing, which is also not true, his leadership style was to throw spaghetti against a wall to see what stuck.

The editorial implies the philanthropic community has only been involved the last few years, not true, though recently they started telling the district how to use the money.

The editorial says TFA is a good thing, not true.

The editorial says we must listen to the civic council, only they can save us, both not true and dangerous.

If only we had an editorial board that was interested in what the district's teachers and the parent's of out students thought rather than the so called city's elites, maybe then we would see some real progress.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Darryl Willie's wife donates one dollar to his campaign

Talk about standing by her man right?

I can't imagine things being that tough for the Willie family what with the six figure salary he takes in from Teach for America, and the QEA has given TFA Jax millions of dollars too though I have no ideas to do what other than pay huge salaries.

I kid the Willie family some after she gave him what she found in the couch cushions, because it exemplifies how ridiculous the Willie campaign really is. You see Erica Willie joined 31 other people who gave ten dollars or less. Now Willie can say, look at all our small donors, and most people won't know the vast majority gave a dollar or two and came from his wife and either current or former Teach for America members, in short it's a gimmick and those seems to be all that Willie has.

Darryl Willie made his bones working for Teach for America which takes non education college graduates and puts them through a six week access course and then in our neediest classrooms where they are supposed to serve for just two years. It's a gimmick too and a gimmick that DCPS has grown weary of as it has sought to separate itself from this expensive program which does the exact opposite of what we know our neediest students need most and that is an experienced teacher who is going to be around for more than a cup of coffee.

You see Willie thinks gimmicks like two dollar donations, putting hobbyists in our classrooms when they need professionals and last time around when he ran he used misleading flyers to denigrate his opponents Paula Wright, will work. He is not the type of person we need on our board and instead we need serious people with serious ideas.

Don't feel to bad for Willie as he raised a lot of money this reporting period and sadly I think he is just getting started.  Gary Chartrand, the anti teacher and pro privatization grocer, had quite a few of his friends donate to him and unlike Willie's wife they could afford more than a dollar. Here is a hint though, if you see people like the Clements, Halverson or Stein supporting somebody running for school board you should support their opponent. They just believe in gimmicks too.

The election is a long way off but Willie has already proved he is not worthy of being on the board.

To see who has given Willie money, click the link:


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gary Chartrand and The Civic Council don't think parents and teachers are worthy of the super search

Democracy will die with a whimper not a bang.

The Civic Council, a who's who of people who would control or schools told the school board today they wanted them to hold off hiring the next superintendent until next November, when arguably our two strongest board members, and the ones they also arguably like the least Paula Wright and Becki Couch will be termed out and I am sure they hope their hand picked replacements will be on the board. Note, last time around in their rush to hire Vitti, they didn't want the board to wait until new board members were sat but back then they had more influence over the board. 

From the Florida Times Union,

As Duval School Board members on Tuesday discussed how they are hiring a superintendent search firm, a prominent group of Jacksonville philanthropists and business owners sent a letter asking the Board to wait to hire a new education leader until November 2018.
The Jacksonville Civic Council said it wants the Board’s newly elected members to have a say in who is the next superintendent. At least two sitting Board members of the seven-member board face term limits, so there will at least be two new faces on the Board by then, the letter notes.
“We’re not asking you to sit idle during this time,” the letter states. “Rather we recommend that you partner with the community work group …. to develop a robust profile of the next superintendent.”
The civic group said this working group should include business, philanthropic, nonprofit, and higher education volunteers to advise the Board during the superintendent selection process.
Notice they didn't say teachers or parents and friends I can't make this stuff up.
The civic council doesn't seem to think parents and teachers are worthy of being part of the superintendent search, our incomes and minds to small. They seem to want to lord over us and why not, because under Vitti they practically were.
Why wait till November to pick the new super? Because if past is prologue I am sure they hope to replace Couch and Wright with new members who will bend to their will because they want the control to hasten their privatization agenda. 
The board should tell the civic council to stick their letter, well, I think you know where I am going.  
We need to be vigilant and support whoever they don't, our schools, children and teachers will depend on it.
To see who is part of the Civic Council and if you guess Gary Chartrand was front and center, you are correct, click the link.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

In a sense, this is what teachers do.

Just who the beep is Bob?

A couple weeks ago I reported on some behind the scene machinations from a group looking to thwart freshmen board member Lori Hershey from becoming vice chair. They had sent letters to the other board members questioning her fitness, you can read the piece  Dirty Tricks should you want to.

I was told that Mrs. Hershey was the recipient of several vindictive freedom of information requests so I asked the district for a list of all the freedom of information requests over the last three months and sure enough there were two of them from Ken Kniepmann entitled opposition research who asked for: 

Information regarding the sessions attended by Board Member Lori Hershey at the Florida School Boards Association Summer Conference, held June 14, 15, 16, 2017 in Tampa Florida. A document listing the sessions is attached for your convenience. If used, acknowledge attendance at sessions by checking the appropriate box. Not all sessions will apply. If not used, please provide a list all sessions that were attended

An electronic copy of any and all communications by Board Member Lori Hershey since 6/1/2017, limited to the following: (1) All text messages from any private or personal cell number(s) being used for public business or public communications, including communications with board members, school district employees, constituents, and local, county or state officials. (2) Emails from any private or personal email addresses, including but not limited to and, being used for public business or public communications, including communications with board members, school district employees, constituents, and local, county or state officials.

They are bad enough but there was also a a third suspicious request from Bob, yes just Bob who requested:

(1) An electronic copy of any and all documents received since November 1, 2017, by the Duval County School Board, or Member Lori Hershey alleging ethics violations on the part of Board Member Hershey. (2) An electronic copy of the statement read by Board Member Lori Hershey at the meeting on Tuesday, November 14, 2017, in response to apparent allegations of ethics violations. (3) An electronic copy of any and all communications, including but not limited to, business or personal phones(text messages) or emails, between School Board member Lori Hershey and Becki Couch, and/or Paula Wright and/or Karen Chastain, including any staff members of the General Counsel in regards to the matter referenced above, since November 1, 2017. This request includes, but is not limited to, any document drafts, new or amended ethics compliance documents, and/or opinions offered by the General Counsel to Board Member Hershey

All that for Bob.

I asked the district if they had maybe omitted his last name, and they said no, that the request had  come from Bob, just Bob.

I sometimes get some grief from people when I talk about Gary Chartrand and his cabal of friends who I believe are seeking to control our public schools. I have been looked at like I was Mel Gibson in the late 90' movie Conspiracy Theory by more than a few people.

But here we have somebody named Bob and another man Ken Kneipmann digging for dirt about a school board member, and a very good one at that. Why? 

There are forces some working behind the scenes while others like in Tallahassee working squarely in the light who are looking to do our public schools harm. One of them is Bob.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Republicans gave tax breaks to the rich to starve our public schools.

I wonder if this is what my republican friends voted for, another tax break for the rich so they can send their kids to private schools while they starve the public ones.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

To read more click the link:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Does Scott Shine want our schools to fail?

It sure seems so in a piece by Action news Jax.

When Scott Shine's friends (who he called gutless and ignorant for doing so) passed house bill 7069 the state ratcheted up time tables for schools to better their state grades and if they didn't they could be closed, turned into charters or management companies would be brought in to run them.

The district chose the last option fr our so called struggling schools and hired former principal James Young's consulting group turnaround solutions for 480k.

Now I am not happy that the state has forced the district to hire an outside consulting agency but if we had to hire somebody we could hardly do better than James Young.

From Action News Jax

Turnaround Solutions is run by James Young, the former Jean Ribault High School principal who turned it around from an F-school to an A-school in three years.

As principal, Young also turned Pine Estates Elementary from an F-school to a C-school in three years.
He also turned Rufus Payne Elementary from an F-school to a B-school in his three years as principal.
I know several teachers who worked for him who said he was a teacher's principal and empowered and supported his staff.
All this success however wasn't good enough for Shine who hasn't met a charter school contract he didn't like and who is a proponent of Teach for America both of which drain funds from the budget.
Also from Action News Jax
But Shine said he has new concerns after voting in favor of the contract.
Shine told Action News Jax he has questions about the other former school district employees that Young plans to bring on board.
“I was unaware of the personal relationships some of these folks had with people in the district,” Shine said.
Sonita Young, assistant superintendent of human resources, who I am reasonably sure Shine will forward this to as he complains about it, is James Young's wife, perhaps that is the relationship he is speaking about.
It's befuddling to me his reaction, especially since this is a bill he supported (at least partly because he believes and wants union teachers will lose their jobs). He has the chutzpah to complain when the district hires perhaps the best option possible.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dirty tricks and politics on the School Board

A source at the district told me about the intrigue surrounding the recent elections for chair and vice chair of the school board both of which were nearly unprecedented.

It seems someone engaged in a smear campaign against board member Hershey sending letters to other board members leading up to the election. Where I haven't seen the letters first hand I am told they mentioned a business lean against the Hershey's in 2007 and some vague assertions that Mrs. Hershey was profiting from her position on the board and relationship with Superintendent Willis.

This smacks of the campaign literature allies of Darryl Willie used when he ran against board member Wright in 2012. Then, one of his campaign flyers alleged she to was profiting from her position on the board and referred to her exorbitant board travel expenses which turned out to be one seventh of the amount the board spent on travel, though I guess just about anything can sound ominous when phrased in a certain way. 

Who were Willie's supporters in 2014? Why Gary Chartrand and his friends of course this is the same Chartrand who has already donated to Scott Shine who has to be disappointed in the recent board leadership elections.

He can't be happy that a first year board member was elevated to vice chair, a position he sought last year and obviously coveted.

As somebody who has faced his threats and attempts at intimidation first hand and who has witnessed his supporters underhanded tactics a smear campaign against board member Hershey who in my opinion has been both a fierce advocate for public education and a very able and competent board member doesn't sound completely out of the picture.

Whether Shine or his supporters had anything to do with it, all I have is suspicions, is actually irrelevant because there is a much bigger problem with Jacksonville's education landscape and it is that people like Shine, Chartrand and the folks at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, also financed by Chartrand present them as serious players but the truth is they are not. 

JPEF and Shine are often ignorant about what our schools need as they push Chatrand's privatization agenda. They aren't serious about fixing the problems in our schools but are instead worried about carving out their little niches as they chip around the edges of public education in the hopes that it will one day crumble.

Any person or group trying to smear Lori Hershey in the eyes of the community or board members was bound to fail as her passion and love for public education and her fierce advocacy, excuse my choice of wording, shine through. The board obviously saw these attempts for what they were and elected her anyway but its just shameful that somebody thought to try.

Sadly this isn't the last time I think we will hear about dirty tricks like above and it's because those who seek to tear public education down don't have any good ideas so they rely on what they think will work and that's tearing down good people.

Our schools deserve serious leaders like Willis, Wright and Hershey, not self serving ones like Chartrand, Shine and JPEF.