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Duval County disrespects experience, the debacle at Beauclerc Eleementary

Instead of trying to find experienced teachers to staff our classrooms, the leadership of our district has a love affair with Teach for America which takes people with no experience and puts them in our classrooms. 

Maybe our superintendent loves them so much because of his lack of experience. Now I am not saying he doesn't have any but a lot of people questioned if a 35 year old was the right pick to run the 20th largest school district in the nation. I heard people say this would probably be the perfect job for him when he was 45 and had some more experience under his bet. But he was Gary Chartrand's darling and Chartrand thinks anybody could show up and do a job in education.

That brings me to Beauclerc elementary. It's principal who may be a wonderful human being, I don't know, but she followed up 2 years as a math coach with 9 months as an assistant principal before becoming principal. 9 months

Read these comments I got a few weeks back about Beauclerc Elementary.

 What is happening at Beauclerc Elementary? You have a principal that was an AP for 9 months but was promoted to principal because she is bilingual. However the school is in shambles and both AP's were moved to different schools. How can he pick and choose who he is moving? This school has had 3 different principals in 5 years. This superintendent is the worst in Duval County in the past 20 years. This is only a fourth of the crap that's going on with DCPS. At least school boards in the past would have spoken up and called out the superintendent for this mess.

The 2 AP's were new to the school. One was a demoted principal and the other came San Jose. The school is in shambles. Until last Tuesday, the demoted principal was running the school while no one listened to the principal. This is due to her lack of experienced-9 months as an AP. Now, the 2 AP's have been moved to other schools and replaced with another demoted principal-Hyde Grove and AP from Alimicani. This school has moved from an A to C in 3 years with 3 different principals. Kornblum, Manabat and now Mangual.

Literally 9 months. This past summer at the June board meeting Ashley Suarez vouched for her. "It would be a good idea". It will promote the Dual Language program. Remember she was not the 1st choice. The 1st choice was from out of town and had dual language experience. Once she backed away from the offer, Mangual was selected. How can she have the skill set to be a principal after 9 months as an AP? Before that she was a district Math Coach for 2 years.She is the laughing stock of the district in many circles

Ashley Smith-Juarez with barely any experience herself is another one of those that thinks anybody can show up and teach, or lead a school or a district and that's just not the case.

Now things there are unraveling at Beauclerc and some say the district as well.

The QEA's default position is to spin and decieve

I went to the QEA web-site and it did not take me long to find some spin and deception, this from their page on TFA:

Jacksonville TFA corps members often remain teaching past their 2-year commitment, and/or continue working in education in Duval County either as district administration employees or with non-profits in the city.

Well we know that is a straight up lie, some do, a few do, traditionally less than a quarter do do but that's not what they are saying they do. They are implying the vast majority do.

I don't know about you but I don't want to be spun, I don't want to be deceived, instead I want to be convinced they are doing the right thing. We all know there are problems, instead of burying them we should roll up our sleeves and work on fixing them, what would they have lost had they said, retention has been a problem but with this new grant we are looking to overcome it. But instead of being honest they decided to be deceptive. On a side note if a first year administrator, in their third yer overall tried to tell me what to do, I might have issues as would most veteran teachers.

We should all be wary of organizations where their default position is to spin and deceive.

Read the page because they also talk about all the extra money being spent on TFA and shouldn't we find out where that 1.75 million is going and shouldn't the public know we spend a ton more on TFA than we do regular teachers? The local media who never mentions it obviously thinks not.

The QEA could do some good, we need the cities rich to take an interest but trying to trick the people of Jacksonville is not the way to go. 

School vouchers lack both academic and financial accountability.

School vouchers have been in the news a lot recently but probably for the wrong reason.

According to Step for Student's the average private school that takes vouchers has 157 kids and 24% of them have vouchers or roughly 38 kids. The value of the voucher is 5,272 dollars which means and again this is according to Step up for Students the average school receives a little over two hundred thousand dollars. That figure is very important because also according to Step up for Students, every school receiving more than $250,000 in scholarship money each year must file a financial report by an independent CPA. Presumably the report tells us how the money given to them is being spent. This means for your average private school that takes hundreds of thousands of dollars that other wise would have went into the states coffers, we have no idea how the money is being spent. As I see it the system was set up that way because if not why not just have every school that gets money submit a report? What amount is to little that we shouldn't care about?

There are over 1,500 participating schools, of those at least several hundred do have to report, schools that take more than fifty students, so we can monitor how the money is being spent for them but for the vast majority that is not the case. With a wink and a nod Step up for Students and the state of Florida has told those schools keep it under 250,000 and we will look the other way and hope for the best. Once again all of the facts and figures above comes from Step up for Students, the group that administers the vouchers, website.

Now do I think all of those schools are on a 249,999.99 dollar gravy train, no, there are probably plenty of great private schools that take vouchers but I bet there are more than a few that are and thus far the state has no interest in assuring there is any accountability in how the money is spent.

The states voucher program as it is now, resists accountability both financially and academically, obliterates the First Amendment since 71% of the schools that receive them are religious, takes hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state coffers, 714 million this year alone and is a bad deal all around. 

Instead of siphoning money out of the state coffers and giving it private schools that have practically zero accountability, we should invest in our public schools.

The Times Union misses 5 million reasons to get rid of TFA

Every time the Times Union does a piece about Teach for America they leave out a very important detail, and that is they are expensive. The district has committed six hundred thousand dollars to Teach for America, then with the QEA donations that goes up to five million (over three years), finally throw in the 5,300 that each TFA teacher receives a year for two years in loan forgiveness and and we have now spent almost 15k extra per teacher.

Now you might be saying only 600 grand comes from the district but even that means we are spending, sans training and first and second year teachers get a lot more training than veterans, the same amount on these novices which create an ever revolving door of and exacerbate the teacher retention problem what we spend on a 7th year veteran.

What would happen if we spent that five million dollars to attract veterans or top grads? Why don't teachers get the same loan forgiveness?

It's because the powers that be behind Teach for America dislike labor and want to reduce the teaching profession and every time the Times Union does an article about them and leaves out all the extra expenses then they have joined the wrong side on the war against teachers.

To read the TU piece, click the link:

How absolutely bad Rick Scott has been for teachers retirement.

The FEA's really bad week. Unions letting teachers down.

I am a member of my local union, DTU which is affiliated with the Florida Education Association. I believe in unions and am grateful for them too but at the same time I have to scratch my head at some of the poor choices they have made this week, which is ironic because they are currently having their annual convention and this should be a celebration of all they do.

First they gave 500 dollars to local school board candidate Scott Shine. Some of his other contributors are Gary Chartrand, Thomas Baker and Charter Schools USA, three of the biggest advocates for school privatization in the state. How can I go after him and point out all of Shines dubious allegiances when the FEA chooses to support him too?

Then they are giving an award to another supporter of the privatization movement. 

From the Tampa times: The statewide teachers union on Friday will honor Bishop Victor T. Curry with its Human and Civil Rights Leadership Award.
Look I am sure this guy has done some good work but at the same time he's snubbing his nose at what the FEA knows is the right thing to do. Were they trying to smooth things over or did they just not know or care.
Either way the FEA has to get with it and stopping supporting privatizers who would get rid of the FEA if they could should be step one.

The despicable behavior of voucher supporters

The supporters of vouchers led by Tampa Millionaire John Kirtley have deep pockets, unfortunately they don't want to use that money to pay for vouchers, instead they want to make sure that you do and to facilitate this they have created a group called the Florida Federation of children to further their aims but make no mistake it's not public school children that they care about.

Instead they have pledged to use their considerable wealth to influence school board races and that's despicable. School board races are supposed to be intimate affairs where neighbors pick one of their own to represent them and their schools. Now if the supporters of vouchers have their way then people will be represented by board members who prefer privatization to improvement and school board races which have typically been low budget affairs are the perfect places for them to buy seats because money typically outweighs message.

Message is a problem with voucher proponents too. Instead of answering legitimate concerns about accountability they try and drown them out with money provided by Charter Schools USA and John Baker of Jacksonville a man with close ties to several charter schools who along with Kirtley are the backers of the Florida Federation of Children. Ask yourself, do you want millionaires and charter school owners influencing your school board races, electing board members who are loyal to them not to you?

It's already happening too. Misleading mailers in Miami, John Kirtley bragging about getting school board members not from where he lives defeated and the republican party of Jacksonville threatening board members with political retribution if they don't support vouchers.

You know if these ultra rich individuals wanted to pull their money to provide vouchers nobody would have a problem. They however don't want to do that and instead expect the citizens of Florida to make up the losses to the state treasury that the scholarships incur. Last year alone that was 714 million dollars. Read that again.

People must ask themselves do they want school board representatives to be people who are dedicated to improving our public schools or to be people who are dedicated to replacing our public schools, the voucher group falls into the latter.

To read more, click the link:

Another terrible report about Florida's charter schools!

When will Florida wake up and stop wasting money and harming young people's lives? 

From the Sun Sentinel:

But more than a thousand pages of public records obtained by the Sun Sentinel raise questions about the private company’s management of its six charter high schools, including five in South Florida, which are publicly funded but independently operated.
 Many of the company’s schools have been investigated and asked to return public dollars. Three have closed. Local, state or federal officials have flagged academic or other problems at Mavericks schools, including:
 • Overcharging taxpayers $2 million by overstating attendance and hours taught. The involved schools have appealed the findings.
 • Submitting questionable low-income school meal applications to improperly collect $350,000 in state dollars at two now-closed Pinellas County schools.
 • Frequent academic errors that include skipping state tests for special-needs students, failing to provide textbooks and using outdated materials.
 The schools are overseen by volunteer governing boards, which pay the West Palm Beach-based company to manage the schools’ academics, finances and operations.
 Administrators defended the schools, despite the financial issues and low grades.
 Mavericks schools have been repeatedly cited for flawed enrollment and attendance numbers, which Florida uses to determine how much public money charter schools get.
 The Miami-Dade school district counted no more than 200 students during four visits to the Homestead school in February 2011. Yet the school had reported a 400-student count and 100-percent attendance on those days, the district found.
 A Broward school district official discussed a similar discrepancy in a June 2012 email to district staff members. Broward school district officials accused the Fort Lauderdale school of inflating attendance numbers, according to the email.
 An audit released by the Palm Beach County school district in 2013 found 300 discrepancies between the attendance records logged by teachers and those reported to the school district, and no evidence that 14 students enrolled by the Palm Springs school were actually taking classes, the report states. The school was forced to return $158,815…..
 Jim Pegg, who oversees charter schools for Palm Beach County school district, “said problems with Mavericks in Education have frustrated district officials. State charter-school laws do not address the performance of management companies.
“The statute doesn’t give any kind of authority to hold those management companies accountable; we can only hold the schools accountable,” Pegg said. “We need to be able to have some authority with [management companies]. They are the ones taking the tax dollars.”
From Diane Ravitch: Mavericks and the many other for-profit management companies flooding Florida are an integral part of former Governor Jeb Bush’s “Florida miracle.” The schools can be accountable, but the management company that gets paid cannot be held accountable.

Councilman Richard Clark willing to endanger children to bring Charter School to town

Duval County has 31 charter schools, 31, that's more than some Florida counties have public schools and council man Richard Clark thinks we need one more and is willing to bend the rules and endanger children to make it happen. 

From the Times Union: 
The property falls within a “school regulation zone” that bars new schools in certain areas within the vicinity of airports. The city can waive that restriction by determining the public benefit of a school outweighs the risk of a plane crashing into the school.

City Councilman Richard Clark filed legislation saying the benefit of expanding the city’s network of charter schools would justify granting a waiver.

But the city planning department had not done any report on the legislation, so it had no recommendation for or against the waiver. The city had not posted signs at the property or mailed out notices to nearby residents about the proposal, which also is standard for city decisions affecting how property can be used.

The “school regulation zones” extend 5 miles from the end of airport runways. The width of the zones varies depending on the airport because the width is equal to half the length of the runway.
State law lets local governments grant waivers for new schools on a case-by-case basis.

Clark’s legislation argues a waiver is justified because Duval County competes with surrounding counties on public school performance, and “new charter schools have demonstrated a successful alternative to the existing, traditional public school system.”

Why aren't our elected leaders required to be informed about issues? Duval's charter schools as a group grossly under perform when compared to public schools.

From Context Florida: 
In Jacksonville, with its areas of almost intractable poverty, it’s easier said than done. While some school-grade calculations are still pending, 32percent of Jacksonville’s elementary and middle charter schools graded so far this year have earned F’s.* By contrast, so far, only 12.5 percent of Duval’s traditional public schools scored F’s this year. Speaking in proportionate terms, and without accounting for sample sizes, Jacksonville’s charter schools, as a district, have 2 ½ times the number of failing schools than do our traditional-district schools.

We are paying for it dearly — not only in terms of student failure, but also in terms of diffused resources. Test-based accountability is a little too high-stakes in Jacksonville as compared to our nearest-peer district, Hillsborough. (Hillsborough County is exempt from the provisions that count test-scores as 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations.) Nevertheless, standards-based accountability permits educators to zero-in on students’ specific academic needs in order to better serve them.

But here is Richard Clark, at best ignorant, perhaps compromised willing to bend the rules, possibly endangering children to bring another unnecessary charter school to town.

Florida forces us all to support religion!

The First amendment of the constitution allows me to participate in the religion of my choice or not to participate in religion should I choose not to. So why does the state of Florida think they can get away with forcing me to support religions and their activities which is exactly what it is doing with the states Tax Credit Scholarship program better known as school vouchers,

Last year corporations donated 357 million to Step up for students, who by the way is allowed to take a three percent cut, the corporations then received a dollar for dollar tax credit. That means 714 million dollars, a number that can rise by 20 percent every year, did not go into the states coffers. That is revenue lost that could have paid for a lot of things or a 36 dollar rebate every person in Florida could have received. Well who is forced to make up that loss? I was, my wife and neighbors were and if you live in Florida so were you. Then since 90 percent of the voucher money goes to private religious schools, many affiliated with churches, the state is in effect forcing me to support organized religion and most likely not my religion.

Also if it is such a good program why can't ordinary citizens donate to it after all we all know corporations don't really pay taxes they just pass those expenses on to their customers. The state takes plenty of money from me in the form of fees and taxes. Why can't I write a check and then get the same amount back from the state?

I submit only private citizens should be able to donate to the voucher program and then they could pick if the money went to a religious institution or not. Right now none of us are given that choice.  Either that or we should amend the constitution because I an sure this is not what the framers intended. But if the state does want to give a tax break to corporations let it be for money they would give to public schools, something Charlie Crist has proposed but Rick Scott has rejected.

I believe supporting religion should be a personal choice not one forced upon us, after all this is the United States not some middle eastern theocracy. This back door trick that forces the citizens of Florida to subsidize and support religion should not be allowed to stand.

Which Vitti do you want to be your superintendent?

I have to say the concept of charter schools is an appealing one. They are supposed to be parent/teacher driven laboratories where they experimented to see what was best for the child. Unfortunately what Florida has created are publicly funded private schools and they are often sold that way too, which care more about making profits for their owners than educating our children. They don't work with districts to fill needs and instead they work to undermine public schools and siphon resources away.

Superintendent Vitti has had a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with charters, sending letters to the state to apply for grants to bring charter schools to town and attending conferences with the same goal. All the while saying below to the people of Jacksonville.

Way to go Superintendent, way to push back. The man in the video is somebody I can get behind, unfortunately that is the same man from the first part of the post and him I can't.

Vitti might not get it but public schools are at war with the forces of privatization and to be frank I would prefer a super that took a side, instead of taking both. 

Marco Rubio only offers bad choices.

Marco Rubio writing for Fox News criticized the opponents of school choice in an op-ed. I don't think the venue should be overlooked because it says he is playing to a far right base rather than willing to engage in meaningful discussion.

I think the people of Florida should have grave concerns about the direction Rick Scott and the republican dominated legislature have steered education. They have signed us up for an experimental curriculum, common core, that does not address poverty. They have constantly marginalized the teaching profession They have starved our schools of resources, they have put non-educators in charge, look at the make up of the state board and they have created an accountability system that the states superintendents, teachers and parents, feel is so unfair they  have rebelled against. In short they have created crisis after crises and Rubio like politicians often do is now seeking to take advantage of them and is using choice to do so. The problem is the choices Florida are offering are bad choices.

Private schools that take vouchers, that's money that would normally have been paid into the states coffers, resist accountability and aren't required to have certified teachers and recognized curriculums. Charter schools, of which over 260 have taken public money and failed often exclude poorer students, disabled students and students who speak English as a second language. Neither of these options despite having sizable advantages like who they take and keep and being able to put requirements on parents, perform better than public schools.

Instead of playing to a far right base, Senator Rubio should encourage Tallahassee to work to improve our public schools, anything else does us a disservice .