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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Vitti is leaving and the shame of it. (rough draft)

Many members of the business community lament his leaving, they say it is a shame. They don’t think about all the careers he ruined when he thought of teachers as little more than widgets. When I hear people like Scott Shine and John Peyton talking about him leaving will be a loss for the city, I think it’s shameful. The teachers he forced to leave, many the profession all together or who he chased into early retirement, they represent the real loss to the city.

That being said there is a fair degree of, “the shame of it all”

The first thing Vitti did when he arrived was called for a relaxation of the learning schedule and I know to lots of teachers, who now feel they can’t fall even a minute behind, that might seem crazy, but there it was in an email in his first November, administrators shouldn’t threaten or cajole teachers who deviate from the learning schedule. Talk about a complete 180 Batman.   

He also made bringing back the arts a priority, though I don’t think many of us realized how ham fisted it would be as lots of classes ballooned to untenable numbers and librarians at most schools paid the price for it.

While I am on the subject, why does this guy hate books so much? I know his dyslexia is widely documented, but did that cause him to get rid of most of our libraries and choose a bookless curriculum? I imagine books didn’t play a huge roll in his march towards education domination, but come on.    

Though that might explain a lot of his disdain for teachers. He was one for two years and then a decade later he was running one of the biggest districts in the country. Things that didn’t meet up with his personal definition of success, books, libraries, being a teacher, had little importance to him. Want more evidence, his dyslexia, now we have an entire school dedicated to kids with dyslexia. That was personal and important to him, while the other things weren’t.   

Vitti has been lauded for going on listening tours to find out what members of the community thought, though sadly what they really were, was a waste of people’s time tours, as almost from since day one he has ignored community members. It’s only those business leaders that Scott Shine referenced in a recent Times Union piece that he really listened to. Hobnobbing in board rooms was his aphrodisiac while he avoided teacher’s lounges like the plague.  

On the surface, these were great ideas and gave people hope. Hope however can be the killer of worlds as Vitti revealed his true colors.

Personal loyalty to him rather than ability determined promotions and despite the fact he barely had a cup of coffee as a teacher he came to think he was the smartest person in the room. when surrounded by them. His hubris and if you have ever been to one of his graduation ceremonies, you know exactly what I am talking about, was on display.

Then desperate to show improvement he started to throw one idea after another against the wall to see if anyone would stick and when most of his ideas proved unworkable or unpopular he started a three shell Monty game with the district, moving kids around and creating schools that were protected from the state assessments.

The cherry on top was despite his tough talk against charter schools the reality is charters in Jacksonville have never had a better friend than him.

He did have a few wins, the parent academy is a great idea, though since this administration blows everything remotely positive way out of proportion, I do wonder how effective it really is and then there is grants.

This admin could write grants like I have never seen before and grant writing, not graduation rates which are up everywhere and the fact that some people see fit to give him credit for them up here is infuriating and sickening, grant writing is his one, as far as I can tell untainted success.

You might be thinking I have been harsh, to which I will reply, talk to a teacher about what they think. Ask them if the district improved and what the super has done to make it happen. I don’t want to imply we haven’t had successes, on the contrary we have had many, 8000, teachers and six thousand support staff showing up every day in challenging conditions have made quite the difference, but the vast majority of those successes have happened in despite of the super not because of him.

Then look at the conduct of the school board. I get it everyone there has egos but would they really wash their hands of somebody who had moved the district? You might be thinking, hey, Shine, and Grymes really, really like him, to which I reply, okay but would the board members who have bothered to do their job, really let him go if they thought he was effective?

There is a shame in Vitti leaving, he is obviously a smart and capable man. Smoke and mirrors won’t get you to the super job at the 20th largest district in the nation but somewhere along the way he started to believe the press clippings and that ultimately caused his downfall and make no mistake going to Detroit is a dramatic step back.

I wish him and Detroit luck, but if the same guy who leaves here shows up there, then they are going to need it.

If you re interested, the Times Union has a different take.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Scott Shine, good God man, let it go

Do you know that person who always has problems with other people. People do even mundane things that make them upset, They always feel disrespected by someone, it's always somebody else's fault? You're probably not close with them and you constantly want to tell them hey maybe it's not everyone else that has the problem, maybe it's you. I give you Scott Shine.

While most of the board is being diplomatic and wishing Vitti well, he's still trying to hold on to Vitti like a tenth grader whose first kiss has traded up.

Scott just what are you seeing that they aren't?

From the Times Union:

Shine, speaking during an emergency Board meeting, said Jacksonville’s community and business leaders are watching the Board’s actions, hoping they won’t let Vitti walk away.

“Yes, Detroit is Dr. Vitti’s hometown; but I believe here today that Jacksonville is also his home,” Shine said. “We could change the situation if we present a unified board and say, ‘We want you to stay.’”

Notice he didn't say teachers and parents? I mean really he could have said anybody, but he chose business leaders. Most teachers and parents I know and am talking to and I bet I am talking to a fair bit more than Shine are glad Vitti is taking his talents to Detroit.

I don't want to say Shine is alone on the board, I imagine Jones and Grymes wouldn't mind going through the couch cushions to look for extra cash but the majority of the board has spoken and they are more than okay with Vitti leaving. He has to know this too but there he is banging his drum. 

It's time Shine got on board before he further divides an already divided board.

Vitti is leaving the building, it's time Shine moved on.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The district calls Teach for America "questionable" ya think!?! (rough draft)

Okay before the Teach for America apologist crowd lambastes me, let me say I am sure there are great and dedicated Teach for America teachers and people who have had all the training and education in the world who have probably chosen the wrong field.

It's not the people who show up to work with our kids that I have a problem with, it's the very expensive program, that exasperates teacher turnover, belittles experience, and gives our neediest students novice teachers when they need veterans, that I do.  

From the Times Union.

In the strategic abandonment report, the reading and the math coaches were listed as questionable. At total of 14 of the 37 programs were questionable, including Teach for America, a national nonprofit which recruits, trains and places teachers in high-poverty schools, including 50 in Duval schools this year.
Over the past three years, Duval has spent $600,000 with Teach for America, not counting teachers’ salaries. The report says the teachers’ students do as well as other Duval students in reading and slightly better in math.
 Six hundred thousand dollars beyond salaries, let that sink in. Now prepared to get outraged. What we have really spent, when we include the QEA initiative is 6.5 million dollars over the last three years.


I did a piece a while back and the district spends more on TFA teachers than it does on ten year veterans. Also remember the vast majority of these TFA teachers leave after two years assuring a revolving door in our most vulnerable schools.

What would have happened had we used that money to recruit veteran teachers? You know people who weren't killing time until grad school and to whom being a teacher was the career they had chosen?

What if we had spent that money on mental health counselors, or social workers, something many of our most vulnerable children need more than a novice teacher without an education background?

How about spending that money to make classes smaller, or provide summer school and after school opportunities? Any of these would have been a better use of the money.  

Questionable? My %$#, it's a bad deal for our schools and kids no matter how you slice it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Will Monday be the beginning of the end for Superintendent Vitti?

Regardless of what happens in Detroit, if he gets the super gig there or not, Monday may be the last day for Superintendent Vitti here in Duval. Let me lay it out for you.  

In Detroit despite considerable push back from the community, the school board has passed the statutory time limit for picking a super, Vitti is still the favorite to get a job there. Monday may be the day they make their choice.

If not but more importantly if they pass, that doesn’t mean the super’s job here is safe.

You see there is a special school board meeting here tomorrow at 9:00.  It’s no secret a segment of the board was all right with Vitti applying for the job in Detroit.  If a boss wants to keep an employee they don’t say, we wish them well in their future opportunities, no, instead they check the couch cushions for more money, something this board was obviously unwilling to do.   

Furthermore, I can’t imagine at this point the relationship between the board and the super is repairable. The Detroit position is definitely a few steps down the ladder, and even though it is his hometown that tells me he has a foot, and probably a few more body parts, out the door. The board must know this.

Finally let me ask you a question, if you were on the board would you rather have a super that you had a good relationship with and wanted to be here, or one you had a poor relationship with and didn’t.

Most of the time special board meetings are ho-hum affairs, I however think tomorrows may have some fireworks. My bet is he gets a note that says, thank you for your service and you may finish the year but then it would be best if we went our separate ways.    

Check this space.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Superintendent Vitt, even on the way out the door shows he just doesn't get it.

In the last few weeks he referred to teachers as easily replaceable widgets and interviewed for the superintendent position in Detroit. Then once again this week he showed that he just doesn't get it.

WJCT did a piece about his concern over teaching vacancies, and it would have been nice had they mentioned he was at least partly responsible for so many. They didn't but they did show how little Vitti appreciates teachers and what they do.

From WJCT:

 “We know that the number of teachers that would be coming into our district right now, if all things stay the same, would be less than it was the year before,” Vitti said.

Vitti said that could mean using reading and math coaches as full-fledged teachers.

Wow, that might work if all our teacher vacancies were in math and reading, unfortunately they are not.

In the same piece he said:

Another strategy to keep teachers is to promote them into a master teacher role, coaching peers “so that our strongest teachers stay in the profession and don’t leave for other districts or other professions because they’re not growing professionally,” Vitti said.
He said one area where the district struggles according to the research group, National Council on Teacher Quality, is lack of career advancement. But the group also ranked Duval high in other areas like compensation and student support.
Teacher recruitment studies show programs like paid residencies, apprenticeships and a work environment where teachers feel valued and appreciated rank high.
Vitti said the district is improving in school culture according to district surveys.
Um he referenced the National Council of Teacher Quality, an astro turf group with scant credibility which consistently attacks teachers. What, Betsy DeVos or Jeb Bush weren't available? 

Then they ranked us high on salary and student support??? Are they high? Oh boy, teachers ask yourselves would you rank us high in those categories? Did he fill out their survey? I ask because we all now how he fills out surveys. Remember when he gave himself 47 out of 50 highly effectives after a few months on the job.  

Furthermore District surveys cannot be taken seriously. He can reference them all he wants but nobody is buying it

Now the idea of a master teacher is a good one, a suggestion made in this blog over and over throughout the years but when he says teachers crave advancement, he belittles all the people to whom teaching is the career. He doesn't get it, he seems to think that people who just want to stay in the classroom are stupid for doing so. Do some teachers want to go to admin? Sure but you know what most want? A decent salary, realistic expectations and support. Duval county is 0-3 in those categories. 

Finally I want to dissect the following sentence to show how ridiculous it is and how little he says can be taken seriously. Teacher recruitment studies show programs like paid residencies, apprenticeships and a work environment where teachers feel valued and appreciated rank high.

Teachers want to have paid apprenticeships and residencies? Um what? Are they recruiting professional teachers or college freshmen?  And yes teachers want to work in environments where they feel valued and appreciated and because Duval does not have that type of environment is why we find ourselves where we are.

Teaching is a hard gig and if the super was one for more than a cup of coffee he might know that.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Vitti and Wright show the Detroit delegation around, and that's a problem, here is why.

I wonder if I applied for another gig if I could bring in my potential employers to school and show them around, if it would be okay that I took a day off from doing my duties. Hmm would I have to put in a leave form?

The district is knuckling down for testing but there Vitti and Wright are showing people from other districts around, and you know I get it we probably get people every few weeks or so and somebody has to show them around but generally they aren't here to poach employees, and yes it is true I think the district would be better off if the super took his talents elsewhere but at the same time there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

Here however may be the bigger problem. One of the Detroit school board members live streamed a visit to the Grasp academy where he prominently showed kids. Now all of the kids may have signed a press release but why is my guess not? There is the super and Iranetta Wright just standing back as the principal and a Detroit school board member interview a junior high student who by the shuffling of her feet at least appeared uncomfortable.  

I asked the district if this was permissible and rather than answer my question they blasted a comment I left on the live stream.

I wrote: Why are there 8 kids in that algebra I class while I have 12 in my IND, the most profound kids in the district, class? If only one of the super's kids went to my school.

To which the district instead of answering my questions responded, 
While researching your previous request, I am sending this email to set the record straight in reference to your post about class size and the Superintendent’s children on the Detroit Board Member’s Facebook page. None of Dr. Vitti’s children are enrolled in this class, and their attendance at GRASP has nothing to do with course offerings and class size. As you know, Duval County Public Schools made a commitment to ensure all schools with an 8th grade class offer Algebra 1. The overall 8th grade class at GRASP Academy is small, and an even smaller number of students take Algebra 1 which determines the class size.

To which I replied, 
You know a lot of people feel the superintendent used his position to create this school to serve his families particular needs and believe a disproportionate amount of resources are being used on the school. As someone who teaches at a school with profoundly disabled children in classes that run 12-15-16 deep I am more than a little outraged that an algebra I class even at a school for dyslexic children is considerably smaller.

My snarky comment and the district's tone deafness aside, we are a district with rules and procedures or we are not and at least for the super it seems like we are not.

Finally I would like to remind you that this seems like a pattern that the "elite" can do what they want when they want too. Last summer Jason Fischer filmed a commercial at a school and the district shrugged and yawned despite the fact that is supposed to be unacceptable.

Welcome to Duval County.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Vitti’s had a few pretty bad days.

I still think he is the odds-on favorite to get the Detroit Superintendent gig, but them pumping on the breaks must be disconcerting.

When the Detroit school board on Thursday scheduled a special meeting for next week, it seemed like a sign that a vote for superintendent was near.
But late Friday, the board canceled the special Monday meeting, signaling that it is unlikely to make a final decision then — even though Tuesday marks its legal deadline to choose a schools chief.
Members still plan to meet on Tuesday but have pushed off the major discussion about who will lead the district. Later Friday, the special board meeting to discussion the superintendent candidates was rescheduled for Thursday, April 13.
Two finalists are vying for the district’s top position: Jacksonville, Florida, schools chief Nikolai Vitti and Derrick Coleman, who runs the suburban Detroit district of River Rouge. Each spent a day interviewing in the city recently.

The schedule change comes as board members face pressure to slow the search down and consider other candidates, including interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather. Both of the city’s leading newspapers this week called on the board to reopen the search, and Dan Gilbert, the businessman and philanthropist who is heavily involved in Detroit issues, joined the chorus supporting Meriweather with a tweet on Friday.

Then the Jacksonville Journey voted to end the District’s suspension centers. I believe these have been expensive boondoggles and after years and millions of dollars the city finally agreed with me.
The district and its supporters may spin that the ATOSS’s were a success but the truth is if you look at the numbers they went empty more than not and they never explained why the district should pay for services that schools could provide. ATOSSs’ were glorified and expensive ISSP programs and in schools is where they should have happened.

Detroit pushing on the brakes and one of his signature programs biting the dust can’t be good news for the super, though like the millers daughter in Rumpelstiltskin I am sure he will be able to spin it into gold.  

Public education and teachers are under attack in Florida… again!

Public education and teachers are under attack in Florida… again!

Zippia a career building site ranked Florida 49th out of fifty for teachers, and that’s wasn’t al about pay either.

You see according to the teacher portal our ranking zooms all the way up to 44.

No Florida is attacking the teaching profession and education in increasingly creative ways.
This year alone there have been proposals to increase the money sent to charter schools, which amounts to public money for private and for profit money.  The house is close to passing a bill that would give public schools to charter schools despite the fact nearly 350 have failed in Florida and for the most part they do no better and often do worse than traditional public schools.

Instead of giving Florida’s teachers a long overdue raise they legislative bodies have been haggling over a teacher bonus schemes that is reviled by most teachers that bases the bonuses on things like SAT, GRE and even LSAT scores.

And let’s not forget the union busting bill that exempts police and firefighting unions that is attack against teachers and their representatives.

A highly controversial measure opponents describe as “union-busting” legislation meant to target Florida public school teachers passed the Republican-led House Thursday in a near party-line vote

Then once again the legislature is seeking t ignore the will of the people and further cripple the already watered down class size amendment. If there is going to be no enforcement of the law, then the law will exist in name only.

Even promising and popular recess and testing bills have experienced resistance and push back.

Friends we’re not on the verge of a teaching crisis we are in the middle of one that unless things change is only going to get worse. What’s Florida’s solution? To double down on their attacks on teachers and education.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

What pressure really is

He would have fit in quite nicely in Duval.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Duval's HS social studies teacher experience a cruel joke

I tried to tie the title it into April Fool's day but I couldn't make it work, that being said what the district wants them to do is no joke.

Here is an email sent to many of the district's HS social studies teachers.

 Good Afternoon,

The Social Studies Department will be providing professional development for Economics and American Government teachers on April 6th & 7th. Please view the attached flyer for the time, date, and location of the training session you are scheduled to attend.

If I have omitted anyone in error, please forward this information to them.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


TiLena Robinson

Um, April 6th and 7th? When schools are testing and teachers are reviewing for the CAST test? This by the way has nothing to with what is happening this year, which begs the question why couldn't this with until things slow down?

The answer is it definitely could and this is just one more example of a tone deaf administration that doesn't take into account what teachers are doing or going through. It's like they don't even care and we wonder why so many teachers are unhappy and are making contingency plans to leave.

Welcome to Duval County.

Please support the third grade retention law suit!

You aren't going to fund a more worthy cause.

Dear Friends of Public Education,

As the Plaintiffs move towards the Florida Supreme Court, they must continue to pay their attorney. They have agreed to pay $7400.00 to progress this case. This is a small portion of the entire legal bill. With your generous donations, we can make it.
Here is a compelling video appeal from one of the parents: 

At this time they have raised over $5000.00 of that $7400.00 and for that we thank you!
The families now have until April 4th to commit so please share the campaign and continue to support the fight to make sure that #180DaysCount

There are 3 ways to donate.
2) Paypal link on
3) To avoid GoFundMe fees, you may send a check directly to Attorney for the Plaintiffs:
The Law Office of Andrea Flynn Mogensen, P.A.
200 South Washington Boulevard, Suite 7
Sarasota FL 34236
Note on your check: "Third Grade Florida Supreme Court" and please let us know you have sent it at

It has been encouraging that SO MANY teachers have donated. 

If you can contribute a challenge match to help the families get over this first hurdle, we would be very grateful. 

Thank you,


Friday, March 31, 2017

Detroit, you been talking to my boyfriend?

Hey Detroit, how you doing?

I see you asked our super to interview for the job. That's cool. We haven't been together for that long. Sure he said we would always be together but you know supers say "you're special" to everybody so we don't take it personally him stepping out.

After all you guys would be a great match, he loves charter schools, half your kids are in charter schools, that's probably where we were heading with him in charge, so he has lots of experience working with them.

I read you have problems with teacher morale too, well teacher morale here would skyrocket if you hired him, so if he left he could say, teachers haven't been this happy in years and it would be completely true. Think about it this way, you're doing us a favor, that's how we are thinking about it anyways.

Oh have you heard our graduation rates are up? I mean they are up everywhere but they are still up right. Oh they are the same as yours, well that's cool too.  

I know why you like him, he has a gift for gab and everything is always great, nothing is ever his fault either. He'll sweep you off your feet just be careful because the landing may be difficult.

The thing is he's a Michigan boy, you're in Michigan, it seems like a great fit. Florida with its mild temperatures and great attractions and larger salary never really seemed like a good fit for him.

Just wanted to say no hard feelings. We here in J-ville wish him and you nothing but the best.

A promising legislative session turns into another %$#^ show

I will admit, I was encouraged by this legislative session more than any other in memory. There were bills mandating recess, dramatically scaling back testing, increasing teacher pay and even putting some modest restrictions on charters. Sadly however most of those bills have petered out and the Florida legislative session has devolved into hurt kids, teachers and public education #$%^ show.

First there is recess which had 56 co-sponsors. With that many people behind it there was no way it could fail right? Well the house bill has gone from all elementary students getting 20 minutes of recess a day, to K-third grades getting it occasionally and to hell with 4th and 5th graders.  

Next there is a union busting bill that overwhelmingly passed in the house. It states that union with less than 5o % membership would have to decertify and thus end collective bargaining. Oh police, fire and correction officers would be exempt meaning the bill really just effects teachers unions. The house routinely passes bills that seek to harm the teaching profession.

Then despite the fact hundreds of charter schools have failed wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and throwing tens of thousands of students and their communities into disarray and the fact as a group they don’t do any better than public schools. The legislature is seeking to expand them. Talk about political donations in action.

When the Florida House Education Committee meets Thursday, it will take up a proposal that could dramatically change the face of the state's public school system, opening it to more charter schools.

Finally, at the beginning of the session there was a push to increase teacher salaries, well that has devolved into a fight on how much to fund the best and brightest bonuses. The universally reviled and embarrassing system that awards teachers’ money on not how they did in the classroom but on how they did on the SATs.

HB 7069 was fast-tracked to the floor in the past three weeks, with only two committee hearings. It's unclear how fast the House will take up the bill; it could be as early as next week.
The expansion proposal allows more "highly effective" teachers and — for the first time — principals to qualify for an annual bonus. Instead of only using on the teachers' SAT or ACT scores from high school, teachers could qualify next year by also using graduate school entrance exam scores, like the GRE or the LSAT.
Democrats on the Appropriations Committee said they still don’t like the premise of rewarding teachers based on assessment scores and they want the Legislature to use the additional funding to instead find a way to raise the salaries of all teachers.
“We just need to give our teachers raises and stop beating around the bush in how we do it,” said Broward County Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park.

You know because BS bonuses for some just aren’t going to do the job.

I want to remind you that republicans have controlled both branches in the legislature and governor’s mansion for over 20 years and for the last 15 or so have done all they can do damage public education. Isn’t it past time we said no more?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Atlantic Coast principal tells staff to get graduation numbers up, talks about losing money.

I will start by letting Debra Lynch, principal at Atlantic Coast High School, words do the talking for her.

It says right there and the implication is obvious, teachers lets get those graduation rates up or both the reputation of Atlantic Coast and your pay checks will suffer. I bet memos or conversations like this are taking place at high schools all across the county.

The pressure some teachers have told me they are put on is nearly unbearable especially for teachers not on a professional contract who are just year to year. Then to be honest with all the bending over backwards I am told teachers are required to do, I quite frankly am surprised our graduation rate isn't 90 percent or higher.

As frustrating as this is, what is more so is the system we have set up. Schools and  teachers are incentivized to do whatever it takes to have children graduate whether they are prepared or have earned it or not.  

Teachers shouldn't have to fight for bonuses, they should be paid a decent wage, and society and the media shouldn't be so obsessed with graduation rates and instead should be obsessed with children being prepared to be contributing and responsible adults, even if it takes them a little longer to get there.

I believe the vast majority of kids at Atlantic Coast and at all our schools in fact are getting a great education, but I also believe more than a few are just being pushed out so the district can look better and schools can get higher grades. I also believe the powers that be at the Ivory tower know about this, subtly encourage it and are more than okay with it too.

Debra Lynch and our school system in general were dealt a bad hand but shame on both for worrying about reputations, rather than worrying about what is best for teachers and students alike.

Here is the full memo.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Veteran teacher explains how Vitti made things worse

From a reader and a veteran teacher

Historically Teachers in Duval County have been ignored and not treated as the "Professionals" they are or should be. Vitti has taken to a new high! 

Those who are outside the profession that continually criticize and offer solutions have no experience in actual teaching but rely on their experiences there and if it those were good or bad. They when they are criticizing teachers call them professional but when it comes to listening to them they are not considered competent to have any say in how things are done in the Educational process. 

The history of Schools here in Duval County since the early sixties has been one of ups and downs, from becoming discredited to integration to improvement, to the change to Middle Schools and all that involved, to the changing thoughts of school choice and charter schools, not to mention the changes in evaluation and compensation of the Teachers including the loss of tenure. 

At one time the Union fought for the teachers and there was the time of cooperating with the Administration to show good will etc. That's where things are now and with the anti-teacher attitude of Vitti nothing will change until he is gone. 

He's received praise for championing the Arts and yet many of the classes are overloaded (loads of 50 to 60 students) and under funded. What kind of support is that? 

He's pushing so many changes that it's difficult to keep up with what school is for what. And he's pretty much undermined the Teacher's authority with his ideas of discipline. 

I could keep going on but it's flogging a dead horse, Perhaps it's time for the Teachers to "take action".

Veteran teacher gives his perspective of Vitti leaving

From a reader and veteran teacher

When Vitti first came on board he did some great things and I thought benefit of the doubt. 

Then fudged graduation numbers and you better not write referrals. Not to mention telling some of us on the Wednesday of pre-planning 3 years ago that we will have to implement a computer program as part of our curriculum then constantly changing the rules of how that program will be utilized. 

Real data shows that most admin spent 2 maybe 3 years in a classroom. They are so removed from that setting they don't know what's going on. Granted, I have met a few who get it but they have to walk a fine line. 

All of these business people need to stop dictating policy in how education should be run. Some teachers may think Vitti is good for the district and they are entitled to their opinion. I challenge those teachers to take a deeper look at what's really going on. 

Parents in the know also know what's really happening in the schools and I think they are finally tired of it. Watch out for a grassroots movement of parents fighting for the teachers and working to take back the schools.

Is Duval Cooking the Books with Graduation Rates?

Just a few weeks ago a principal at a charter school complained about how kids were counseled out of public schools to go to his school.

The state has also announced an investigation into districts after allegations that they had been cooking the books about graduation rates surfaced.

Then yesterday I received this comment which has echoed comments and tips I have received over the years.

From my principal's 3/17/17 weekly memo (insulting bribe):

"Counselors and administrators are working tirelessly to support students and help them graduate in June. Please be aware that their success in fulfilling graduation requirements not only affects their future but the reputation of {our school} as well. If we do not have a final push with teacher support for out seniors to graduate, our rate could be as low as 80% compared to last year's rate of 90%, which will negatively impact our school grade and reduce the chances of reaching our goal of "B" with recognition money...If grade recovery is needed for first semester, please work with the student to master those standards covered. A teacher may submit a grade change at any time, when the student shows mastery of the standards."

Wouldn't it be ironic that the one thing that the superintendent's supporters always point to, an increase in the graduation rates, happened because the district has been cooking the books.

Please contact me at cpgbonjovi@gmail,com, if you have any information you would be willing to share. I can keep all tips confidential. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why superintendent Vitti is leaving (rough draft)

Why superintendent Vitti is leaving

It is true, he is from Detroit. He also may indeed have friends and family members there and I imagine for some there is always a call to return home. All that being said, something seems out of place.

Take for instance the huge pay cut. In Duval he makes 275 k. Detroit has a range for its superintendent that goes from 123-182k. A best he is facing a 90 thousand dollar pay cut.

Then look at his career progression, it’s been up, up and up. I never expected him to last this long, but being in Duval is his longest stop yet. Now I had expected him to leave by now but to go to the state as chancellor or maybe even commissioner. Detroit is definitely a step backwards. Forty-seven thousand kids compared to 120k in Duval and fifty fewer schools.

Sure, Detroit has challenges a mostly minority and poor make up but Duval has a mostly poor and minority make up too.

No, it has to be something else and here are some thoughts as to what it might be.

He may see the handwriting on the wall here in Jax. Despite the city’s elites rallying around him last fall he barely kept his job. I wondered at the time if he would be humbled by this experience or be emboldened by it. Well friends if he was humbled I have not seen it as things seem as contentious between him and the board as ever.  Then when the story broke at least three board members, Couch, Wright and Hershey all seemed to wish him well in his future endeavors, hardly the ringing endorsement of a job well done. Only Shine and Grymes seem broken up by him potentially leaving.

Then again, the board, the sensible part of the board that is, may just be tired of all the scandals. Just in the last year alone, Rachel Vitti following a sitting school board member, a police officer revealing the city has children baker acted to keep arrest record numbers low and a charter school principal complained about the district counseling out poor performers have rocked the city.  I have written how it is hard to understand how Vitti survived the last two.   

There may be bad news about to break. It was widely reported that DCPS did poorly on its mid-year scrimmage which was supposed to approximate how the district is going to do on the state test. The district explained it away as it does all bad news but it may have been a red flag for Vitti, that getting out before the results are in is his best move.

If we do get poor results the blame would have to be squarely in the superintendent’s shoulders as the curriculum we use, that uses handouts instead of books to save money, engage NY is almost universally reviled and is his baby.

Perhaps a scandal is about to hit the district. Whenever anybody defends Vitti, they always say, look at how the graduation rates are up. I believe this is intellectually dishonest because rates are up everywhere but maybe there is more to the story.
From the associated press: Florida’s education commissioner announced Wednesday that the state has launched an investigation into whether school districts are moving students around as part of an effort to manipulate graduation rates.
Commissioner Pam Stewart said that late last year the state began taking a closer look at students in 10 counties who were switching to alternative schools in their senior year but now the probe has been expanded statewide. The investigation will look at all students who were in the 12th grade but somehow weren’t included in data used to determine graduation rates.

I get tips regularly about how schools are manipulating their numbers but nobody will ever go on the record. This means all they are thus far is innuendo but wouldn’t it be ironic if the one thing that people point to as an indication of his success turns out to be fabricated?

So yes, he if from Detroit and home is often where the heart is, but at the same time, something seems off about him leaving.

That being said, I hope he gets the gig, good luck sir, may you find what you are looking for.

Another reason he might be leaving? It looks like because of global warming, Michigan will be the place to be.

Cheryl Grymes wants to throw Vitti a parade

In yesterday's... In yesterday's Times.. In Blech... sorry I just threw up in my mouth, okay better now.

In yesterday's Times Union, Cheryl Grymes is quoted saying, well let me just let her words do the talking for her.

From the Times Union:   Board member Cheryl Grimes said she is bothered that Vitti was not invited to Wednesday’s meeting. “Nothing has changed,” she said. “The superintendent is still the superintendent. He is still leading the district and still doing the work. So even though there’s this thing out there… I want to make sure we proceed as a team.”

She also said she wants the Duval Board to acknowledge the great things Vitti has done while superintendent here. “I want to be sure that we give those accolades and appreciation … if he decides to take this other job,” she said.
First she is outraged that he wasn't invited to cut his vacation short and return for a meeting, but then she wants to throw him a beeping parade.
I wonder what the parade would be for? Thinking teachers are widgets perhaps or maybe ending teachers careers? How about leaving before his contract was over? Maybe lying to the people of Jacksonville when he said over and over that this would be his last gig? The division he sown in the community, does she think that is parade worthy? Oh I know its the graduation rates, it's always the graduation rates.
Full disclosure, I think Vitti moving on would be best for him and the city and I wish him nothing but well, but come on Grymes, as usual you are being ridiculous. I notice you didn't have this persecution complex when you were in the majority of the board and would tell Hall, Couch and Wright, can't we all just get along when you would vote to blow up the schools they represented, and when the toughest question you would ask the super, with your eye lids fluttering, was, so how's your day going.
Grymes if you can't do your job right, then why don't you do the city a favor and go with him. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Scott Shine continues to show he just doesn't get it

It's no secret that School Board member Scott Shine and I have not seen eye to eye. I think he is a terrible school board member and he thinks I am a terrible blogger and teacher.

To be honest I won't disagree with his blogger assertion. If you have read my blog and cringed at bad grammar and inartful phrases, you aren't the only one. As for my teaching well he's never seen it so how he can judge that is beyond me, but I have seen his, um, err school boarding and it has been dreadful and he's been showcasing how dreadful it is this week.

When he heard the superintendent may be leaving, he expressed some remorse but also wished him well. A far cry from the apocalyptic sentiment he expressed last fall when the school board almost parted ways with him.

“It would be a tragic mistake to terminate Dr. Vitti in the middle of the comprehensive school reform work we are currently undertaking,” Shine said. “In addition, termination in the middle of the school year would send a shock wave through the school system and likely damage students’ academic achievement.”

He went from it being apocalyptic, to, that sucks, be sure to write.

Hyperbole be thy friend Scott, just like when he said in News4Jax: "The last time the district looked for a superintendent that was a 9 to 12 month process," Shine said.

Unlike Scott I was there through the process, and the reality is it took about six months. The board voted not to renew Ed Pratt-Dannal's contract and spent the summer and early fall looking for and hiring his replacement.

Shine also said:

Duval County School Board member Scott Shine said Monday that he doesn't want to lose Vitti and will do what he can to keep him in Jacksonville.
“I'm concerned. We've had a lot of progress in the school district. Academic achievement is up. Graduation rates are up. Teacher morale has increased, so he's made a positive difference,” Shine said.
The graduation rates are up canard is frustrating as grad rates are up everywhere, but when he said teacher morale is up, what went up was my blood pressure.
He is probably referring to the TNTP surveys which the super touted as showing morale being up but the problems with the survey are legion but of course Shine chooses to ignore them so he can defend his man-crush   and just go with what sounds good to him.
First ten percent of teachers didn't even bother to fill the surveys out. Then some teachers have told me they were forced to fill out the surveys during early release training and others said they filled them out in a positive fashion because they wanted to avoid hours of in service training.
I can relate too because last year the staff at my school seemed to be asked a half dozen times, why we didn't have a best friend at school.  
The thing is I know a lot of people like their schools and even their administrations, but that doesn't mean their morale is up and that doesn't mean they think downtown is doing a good job either.
A reader pointed out they don't ask questions about how the super or the administration is doing on those surveys and I believe the reason is they don't want to know what teachers really think and Scott Shine definitely doesn't want to know.
Why should Shine do his job and be out their talking and meeting with teachers, when he can point to some self serving survey and say, look things are peachy? The answer, since being on the board is little more than a check on a bucket list for him, as he unsuccessfully ran for the city council twice before he ran for school board edging out more qualified candidates, is there is no reason for him to do so.
We deserve better than the superintendent and we deserve better than Shine as well.
Being on the school board is serious business, it is time Shine started treating it that way.