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Vitti announces on First Coast connect, teachers are allowed to take their kids out to play whenever they think they need it.

I kid you not, listen at the 22:00 mark.

Vitti said, I have given schools the flexibility and teachers the flexibility, saying this on the air so everyone hears it, all you parents, if a teacher believes it is time to take kids outside to run around and to expend that energy they have the flexibility to do that.

He later repeats, they (teachers) have the discretion and flexibility to do that (take kids out).

The problem however is often what the district says and what they really do are two different things. When Superintendent Vitti first arrived he sent out an email saying they were going to relax the learning schedule allowing teachers to reteach and get in depth on subjects should they feel that is what their students need.  Now teachers feel the pressure to adhere to the learning schedule is greater than ever.

If Vitti is being sincere about allowing kids to play then this is a great thing, making school fun for kids is a lot more beneficial than constantly drilling kids.  My concern is how sincere was he and will principals allow play time because thus far many have not.

Vitti should repeat his remarks and make sure everybody hears them not just the audience of First Coast Connect.

When given the opportunity to lead, Vitti punts the ball.

When the school board members whose schools were going to be effected by some of Vitti’s radical suggestions asked for more time to get community engagement they were blocked by two school board members whose schools were not going to be effected using an obscure rule.

Instead of being a leader and saying to the board that they could take all the time they needed Vitti on First Coast Connect said, well that’s the rule and I guess we have to follow the rule.

You know it’s the rule. He can’t do anything.

Leaders lead, if his plan is the best then he should be out there selling it not leaning on an obscure rule and two ideologically driven school board members to force it through.

When Chartrand does something it’s okay but when Brown does something it’s offensive.

I am not a fan of either Chartrand or Brown but it’s just an example of how the city works. 

When Chartrand who doesn’t even live in Jacksonville but has collected school board members like kids used to collect baseball cards wrote a letter to the board while he was the chairman of the state board of education requesting they drop out of a law suit questioning the states voucher system, he was greeted with a collective shrug by the school board and superintendent.

However when Representative Corrine Brown went to a school board meeting and questioned the district’s plan to radically transform seventeen schools with limited community involvement the superintendent characterized her visit as offensive to some board members.

I will let you be the judge about what is offensive.

District 7 has a candidate, Nick Harding

Jason Fischer has already announced that he is not running for reelection in district 7 which means we will probably have a wide array of candidates. Four years ago something like seven people vied for the spot.

Well friends we have our first candidate Nick Harding. I looked for a web-site page for him but couldn't find anything but he does have a facebook page. I didn't see a lot of education related content but I did find one post from late September that I think people might find interesting and I have to say for the most part I found it both ignorant and hateful. You be the judge and as you do so remember right now he is the only candidate looking to represent district 7.

By Nick Harding via Facebook,

Time for some poorly formatted unpopular opinions.
Abortion is not a right and doctors that perform them should be punished. But since it is legal, the fetus has the father's DNA as well so he should have the ability to override the mother if she wants an abortion. If she didn't want to carry the baby she shouldn't have had unprotected sex, and if the contraception failed then she should've gotten emergency contraception immediately after realizing.
America should never elect a Muslim president nor should there ever be a Muslim federal judge or Supreme Court justice.
The whole LGB movement is an abomination. Not because they're homosexuals, but because their entire identity is based around sex and their sole method of disagreement is to bitch, moan and name-call.
Gay marriage is not a right, no marriage is a right. The state shouldn't be involved with it at all actually. Marriage is a religious institution that has historically received high regard in America. It is a fact that it has not, historically, been between people of the same sex and the Court saying that marriage changes with society was hypocritical because they then forced the change instead of letting it happen socially.
Transsexuals are mentally ill and any doctor that performs castration (gender reassignment) for them instead of committing them to a mental institution deserves to lose their license.
Bernie Sanders is a stupid old man and him allowing protestors to take over his speech proves he's too weak to be in charge of his own event, let alone the entire US military.
Minimum wage is to start out and all those people that say they're trying to feed a family on minimum wage would starve to death in nature because they only have minimum skills. Minimum skills would barely feed them, let alone anyone else in nature.
All drugs should be unconditionally legalized. If people want to destroy their bodies, it's their right, the only restriction should be for minors.
Illegal immigrants should be shown no mercy and deported en masse regardless of how long they've been here, they broke the law as their first act in the country and they have to pay the price. After they're deported the laws should be changed to make it easy to get temporary and permanent citizenship if you have skills that are useful to America.
Black lives matter is not about police brutality or black people being killed, it's about hating white people. If they really thought black lives mattered they'd encourage people in poor black neighborhoods to speak to police when something happens so that the people actually killing black people can be brought to justice.
Obama only got the democratic nomination because he's a minority. Most of the people he's appointed only got their nomination because they're minorities and he's not only tainted the office of the President, but also several executive departments with these appointments.
America should not support Israel. We sink money into them and they provide us with nothing. "Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion."
Israel is a Jewish state. Supporting them is unconstitutional.

One year in and Scott Shine, District 2, has been a disaster

Scott Shine rode high name recognition and tens of thousands of dollars from people who would privatize our schools to the district 2 school board seat and I think it is fair to say that he has been a disaster.

He started off by giving Vitti an evaluation that Jesus would have been envious of. I wrote this back in February. Scott Shine our  freshmen school board member who probably doesn't even know what he doesn't even know yet gave the superintendent 48 out of fifty highly effectives (4) and two effectives for a stellar average of 3.96. How is that possible? If Scott Shine isn't going to take his responsibilities seriously then why did he run for the board? I hope it wasn't so he could add another line to his resume.

Then earlier this year Ashley Smith Juarez made him look clueless when he objected to several organizations that the school board belonged too. Despite the fact that she pointed out how beneficial they have been he elected to vote against them.

Then earlier this week he voted to disenfranchise thousands of people he doesn't represent about a measure that only peripherally impacted district 2. He told the board members who represent the districts facing massive changes that they can lump it.

He also voted to extend Vitti's contract nearly a year before he had to without the district experiencing any signs of improvement and he is all over the place on charter schools, saying we needed more while he was running but then complaining about them as a member despite voting to allow several new ones to start and several existing ones to expand.

Scott Shine is finishing up his first year and the district is poorer for it.

Shame on you district 2 you had two more highly qualified candidates to choose from and yet you chose Shine. When will the city learn to elect people who are both knowledgeable and care about our schools. Unfortunately Shine doesn't poses either quality.

DCPS attempts to freeze out the community.

Earlier this week the DCPS school board voted to limit community input into the radical changing of seventeen schools. The district was scheduled to vote on the changes in January but most of the school board members asked for more time to involve their stakeholders. Unfortunately board members Scot Shine and Jason Fischer, despite the fact none of the schools are in their districts were able to limit input.

Some of you might be saying, January, geeze how much time does the community need, that’s three months away. Well let’s think about it. A few weeks to notify the community and establish working groups, a few more weeks of meetings, then a few weeks to notify all the stakeholders about what they decided. And there we have a nice slide into January.

Except, we have holidays coming up which will put wrenches in many people’s plans. Some of you might be saying but if it’s important enough it can get done and fair enough though I don’t think we should be in any rush to radically change our schools.

There is however one more thing you should consider and that is the district hasn’t formed all the working groups yet nor has any met, this means the board has voted to limit debate before it has even started.

From WJCT:   The proposed changes are for the 2016-17 school year. Board member Becki Couch says she wants working groups to know pushing back boundary changes to the 2017-18 school year is an option if working groups recommend an extra year for planning Working group meeting dates have not yet been set.

Working group meeting dates have not been set yet. Wow!

Here is another concern people should have and that’s the district has a well-deserved reputation of ignoring parents and their concerns and that all of these working groups and community input are just window dressing.

I like some of the super’s ideas and if changes have to be made then changes have to be made but cutting off community engagement and rushing headlong into things is not how we should be doing things.  

Jason Fischer apparently doesn’t know what a bully is. Spoiler alert he is the bully.

I talk about what a bully is in my class at school. I teach my kids that a bully is somebody who has power over somebody else and uses that power to fill a need at the expense of the person being bullied.

When four out of six school board members voted to give the communities effected by Superintendent Vitti’s proposed school changes more time to examine the changes, Jason Fischer put forth the idea that they had been bullied into doing so.  I don’t think they were being bullied instead I believe they were listening to their constituents who voiced the need for more time to understand what was going on and to determine if it would benefit their communities or not.

Fischer joining with Scott Shine due to an obscure rule were able to cut off community engagement months before the rest of the school board wanted to and here is the most outrageous thing, none of the schools in their districts are facing the radical changes that the superintendent has suggested.
Fischer in effect is the one bullying the north and west sides of town and all the families that their school board members represent due to a rule that requires five votes out of seven to change the rules. 

Fischer has the power over them and he has used that power to further his personal agenda. I also want to remind everyone that nearly a year ago, Fischer announced he is running for the Florida house and would not be running for reelection to the school board.  So not only has he usurped the will of the people he doesn’t even represent, he is doing so while he is heading out the door.  

Last year when Gary Chartrand chair of the state board of education, somebody with real power and influence over education wrote a letter to the school board members asking them to drop out of a lawsuit challenging the state’s school voucher system, Jason Fischer applauded him and voted the way the chair wanted the board too. Now he has the nerve to imply people who are representing their constituents are being bullied.

We have had some bad school board members over the years but Fischer is by far the worse.

Dear Black People kindly shut the $#%^ up, sincerely the school board. (rough draft)

The title may be bombastic but that is what the school board effectively said when they voted to cut off community discussions, many of which have not even started by January, about radically transforming schools that for the most part serve mostly poor and minority communities and it’s shameful.

During the October 6th school board member the board in a backwards fashion voted to end community debate in January and vote of the Superintendent’s proposals to radically change 17 schools. I say in a backwards fashion because only two members of the board, Scott Shine of the beach and Jason Fischer of Mandarin wanted to end community input.

Chairwoman Cheryl Grymes was absent and all the other school board members voted to involve the community as much as possible and delay deciding on the proposals for a few months. Unfortunately the school board has an obscure rule which says a change in their rules, takes five votes, and thus the vote to cut off the community prevailed 2-4.

Now let me switch gears a little and talk about the former mandarin school board representative Tommy Hazouri. I have to say I didn’t think much of his time as a school board member. He is one of those lifetime politicians that everyone complains about but enough people vote for to assure he always has a job and his time on the school board was no exception. His tenure on the board was unremarkable to say the least but he did do one think that I thought was admirable.

If the district was going to do something that affected a school he would often defer to the school board member who represented that school, point of view. Unfortunately Scott Shine and Jason Fischer don’t subscribe to this courtesy.

Why did I feel the need to mention this and Hazzouri? Because none of the proposed changes are taking place in either Shine’s of Fischer’s districts. Read that again. That means none of their constituents will be effected and those board members whose constituents are who asked for more time to inform and involve them were told no, you can’t do it.   

Shine who is a millionaire and Fischer who I would describe as upper middle class are two white men who just said “we know what’s best for the African American community and their schools.” This is a message that the power structure has regularly told the African American community in Jacksonville and it is a huge reason for why we find ourselves where we are and in case you are wondering, I am a white guy who can’t jump.

Furthermore neither Shine nor Fischer have any education experience. Shine like Hazouri looks at the school board as a line on a resume, while Fischer who has already announced he is running for the Florida House and did so almost a year ago, obviously sees the school board as little more than a stepping stone and friends before he loved education he loved soil and water because he ran for a seat there before running for the school board. It’s hubris and their personal agendas which drive their decision making not what is best for our schools and certainly not what the community thinks.  

As bad as all that is, it gets even worse.  I imagine as the vote was unfolding, Vitti was sweating bullets you see not even he believes in all his suggestions and even said as much in a September 8th Times Union story

I’m not going into this process believing everything in the recommendations needs to be done,” he said. “But my responsibility as superintendent is to be proactive regarding the short-term and long-term challenges... This is an opportunity for us to leverage our buildings, to not give them to a charter school and not sell our properties and land.”

He said, I’m not going into this process believing everything in the recommendations needs to be done.

Then what the heck is he doing? Just spit balling ideas? Throwing paint against the wall and hoping something sticks? Wouldn't it be nice to know which ideas he thinks we desperately have to see come true and which ideas he was just messing with us with? Since he isn’t even behind all of them, is it too much to ask that the communities that will be effected get the chance to find out if they can?

Almost unbelievably it gets even worse. The district through the Quality Education for All initiative has invested fifty million dollars over three years into thirty six schools on the north and west sides of town. The district is calling these schools the transformation schools.

They are using the money to put in extra resources and financing a massive merit pay scheme designed to attract the best and brightest to those schools. Now I think it’s going to end up being a waste of money and its beginning to look like the district thinks so too because most of the schools they want to fundamentally change are part of the QEA schools. The QEA is barely a year old and the district is already throwing its hands up and saying, you know what let’s try something new.

So let me sum up, we have two well off white school board members telling the north and west sides of town that their opinions about the future of their schools don’t matter supporting proposals at least some of which not even the superintendent who made them believes in while initiating the district’s second massive turnaround plan in a little over a year and a half a year and a year and a half before the first is supposed to come to a close.

We have problems here in Duval County, I can’t sugar coat them but the biggest one by far is a lack of effective leadership.

Trey Csar and Superintendet Vitti call Gary Chartrand out.

You know its bad when two men who owe their jobs to him cal him out for his disastrous testing policies.

From the Times Union: Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said it seemed designed to make schools and districts look bad and state leaders look tough. “No student, teacher, principal or school deserves to be labeled as failing based on this flawed process,” he told teachers. “State officials are manufacturing and ensuring lower performances in the name of ‘greater accountability and higher standards.’ But to what end? … Florida’s system has … been ruined by political and ideological ambition and arrogance.”

Meanwhile, parents should pay attention to the percentile ranking of their students on the reports, said Csar, of the public education fund.
Percentile data makes it easier to rank students along with their peers. Students with 88 percentile scored higher than 87 percent of the students in their grade.
Even if a child’s percentile is substantially below 50, parents shouldn’t panic, Csar said. They should contact their child’s teachers and look at schoolwork and homework.

“It’s just one window from one test,” he said. “It has the potential to be helpful.”
Admittedly Vitti's words were a lot stronger than Csars but there can be no doubt that one of the people that they are talking about is state board member Gary Chartrand who brought them both to the city.
Now we have to just hope that Gary Chartrand which has called for raisin the cut scores and going ahead with school grades listens, sadly though I wouldn't hold my breath.


Republican Legislator says he is tired of people blaming Tallahassee for education problems.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne said “It’s so easy to blame Tallahassee” for the problems in the education system, adding that he’s tired of hearing “how we screwed everything up.”

As the head of the Brevard County delegation I guess this is what passes for leadership.

When he is talking about how Tallahassee which has been completely controlled by republicans for going on for seventeen years screwed things up I wonder what he is referring to?
Maybe it is the demonization and marginalization of teachers which has led to an exodus of veteran teachers and a shortage.

Perhaps he meant how Tallahassee has chronically underfunded education and the lottery scam that gave them the cover to do so.

Maybe he means how they have ignored the will of the people with the class size amendment which Tallahassee has effectively gutted.

Then again he could be talking about siphoning nearly a billion dollars out of education and into voucher schools which have practically no accountability, the growth of for profit charters of which over three hundred have failed, the dozens of changes in the accountability system which have culminated in the FLDOE deciding using a flawed test to grade schools and evaluate teachers is okay? Perhaps its ignoring poverty and completely altering the system to go with Common Core may be the screw ups he is talking about.

There are problems in education and most were created by Representative Workman and his colleagues not our teachers or their unions as they would have us believe.

It’s time we fixed the problems in education and a lack of leadership is one of the biggest we have. 

Unfortunately Tallahassee where it is supposed to come from seems much interested in harming our schools than improving them.

Public schools pay the price for Tallahassee’s hypocrisy.

Often the people and legislators in Tallahassee who are fighting hardest to keep Florida’s failed school accountability system in place are school vouchers staunchest defenders. They scream that we must have accountability for our public schools but then they shrug their shoulders when it comes to private schools that accept vouchers.

In the public school system schools can be labeled as failures, children can fail or be forced to take remedial classes, teachers can be fired and every penny has to be accounted for. In the voucher system the only real accountability measure that private schools have is they are required to report what they do with the money if the amount is over 250 thousand dollars, which only a handful of them take in.

The people who support vouchers also say we must listen to the parents of children who accept vouchers because they know what is best for their children but at the same time they ignore the parents of public school children who have been complaining about a lack of resources and high stakes testing for years.

I will close by saying the state constitution calls for a high quality and uniform education system. What we have is neither high quality nor uniform as public schools pay the price for Tallahassee’s hypocrisy.

ELA teacher vents about the new curriculum

From a reader, a veteran teacher in the district,

25 books for 80 kids.... each kid is supposed to have their own so that can make it home...the curriculum call for a portion of the reading to be done at we are naturally way behind... and then demeaned by the district for being behind.

Unit 1 assessment.... literally makes no sense.... they hired some third graders to cut and paste in from Engage NY..... it was a disaster.

The time it takes to implement these lessons is actually double the time...everyone is behind...and everyone is getting crap form Bays (assistant superintendent) and her minions

Chris, I am not one of those complain about everything teachers...I work hard...I have one numerous awards for my teaching, but this new curriculum is BAD... I mean really, really bad.

Teachers are afraid to speak up and when they do, they get a visit from the district and they don’t come to offer support.

Veteran teacher speaks out, says the curriculum guide is killing us.

From a veteran Duval County Teacher,

I just read your post on the reading curriculum and the topics on each grade level are so inappropriate. Just another little pointer... The math curriculum is way too difficult for our kids too and we are pressured to be on the CG (curriculum guide), whatever it takes.

We had CC (common core) envisions textbooks the year before that were brand new and only used last year- ONE YEAR!! They have been taken away... Brand new books that are appropriate grade level material that DO have rigor no matter what they say.

I bet the public would be shocked to know these materials are available but teachers are not allowed to use them b/c principals do what their bosses deem is worthy not the teacher of 20 plus years. And I adore my principal, it's not their fault. Thank You for keeping it real when everyone else fears the wrath of the lead by intimidation administration.

I have to say it’s better than the years of Math Investigations which screwed over a generation of kids... At least it has a script and work included but it's way too difficult for most kids to process directions independently and the fact of being pressured to be on the CG when the lessons are so long is disturbing!

They don't care.

And having another tool that is brand new and we are not allowed to use per our judgement is so frustrating. I talked my principal into letting us use the books for "centers" as long as we can show data as to why a kid may be using it when someone walks in the room. And we we are not allowed to have  of the books at that! There is a chart of the only materials we are allowed to use . That text is not on the chart. I've purchased stuff from TPT and can't use it unless I sneak it. Anything copied must be approved. Micromanaging to a "t". Ok I'm done with the rant. Just adding material to your blog... 

Gary Chartrand paints a very poor picture.

By Greg Sampson

How do you judge an artwork? If your criteria are whether or not the artist painted a picture that aligns with your tastes, you have made a subjective judgment, but more important, you have made a biased judgment.

If, on the other hand, you look at the brushwork, the use of color, the perspective in the scene, the choice of medium, and the originality of the artist’s conception, you are making a subjective judgment (one based upon your perception) but it is valid because it is not biased.

You may not like an artist’s work if it does not look like a photograph, but you can view a Picasso cubist painting and see how he distorted the perspective into geometries that nevertheless conveyed something essential about his subject in a brilliant way. You can proclaim him “proficient.” Maybe even “Highly Effective.”

Or you could try for an objective measurement. Take rap music, which our youth love and I abhor. Nevertheless, I can tell good rap from bad rap. We could measure rap music objectively: how many beats to the rhythm, the variations upon the main beat, do the couplets really rhyme; we could even look at the spellings of the rhymes and pass judgment. I could analyze an artist’s rap and report on those facts. But does that tell us if it is a good rap or a bad rap?

You are now wondering why this post is appearing in this blog, Education Matters.

I am responding to Gary Chartrand’s statement: “The FSA test score is the only objective piece of information the state provides to parents about how their individual child is doing,” said Gary Chartrand, a member of the board and a recent chairman. (

I challenge that statement:
·         Why does Chartrand not believe that subjective judgments, if unbiased, are valid?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that only one measurement is valid?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that only the State of Florida can provide an evaluation about how their children are doing?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that school districts, individual schools, and teachers are unable to provide feedback to parents about how their children are doing?
·         Why does Chartrand believe a state test that aligns to less than two-thirds of Florida standards is more valid than the test I give in my classroom that aligns to all of Florida standards?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that a child’s inability to solve a problem correctly on my test is not an objective measurement?

Gary, if you’re reading, I invite you to submit a response. I am sure Chris will publish it.