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Monday, October 16, 2017

WJCT hosting anti-public school event, for shame

Why don't you reserve a seat and go.

WJCT is hosting a showing of School Inc a controversial series that asks why schools are not run like businesses, this Thursday, October 19th at their headquarters downtown. Then stay for the panel, made up mostly of charter school executives, discussion.

Created by the far right Cato Institute, and funded by the Koch brothers School Inc hits all the high notes of privatization while ignoring poverty.

The real question is why public television would show it and I believe you have to look no farther than their donors which locally include Gary Chartrand, and if you think that is sort of like putting the wolf in charge of hen house security then you are not the only one. Trey Csar of JPEF and Daryl Willie of TFA Jacksonville are also on WJCT's advisory board.

I plan to go and if allowed ask tough questions and to try and make sure public education is defended. If you have the time you should too.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Have you ever taught a murderer? (rough draft)

It was twelve years ago and I was new to Ed White and I had a run in with convicted murderer Randall Deviney then a freshmen or sophomore. He was lingering in the halls after the tardy bell had rung and I told him to move along. I was met with a tirade of threats and curse words. I stepped forward to do something when a coworker waved me over and said, Chris let it go, the main implication being this was a bad one, though I later learned even if I had done something, like gasp write him on a referral, nothing substantive or equal to his offence would be done, this was just a kid teachers would have to tolerate and hope would go away. Three years later he did go away but that was only after he murdered his 89 year old neighbor, somebody he described as his grandmother.

What's my point? How many kids have we turned on our backs on who went on to do what Deviney did, or met the fate of his neighbor because we as a district didn't want to tackle discipline, because we play lip service to it, because we don't take it seriously, and the reason is because it is hard.   

Deviney may have been to far gone once he got to high school and I was warned away, but was he to far gone in middle school or elementary? What would have happened had we as a district said no to his behavior, here is first a consequence for your behavior and then some help for you so it doesn't happen again. My bet is I wouldn't be writing this blog, heck I bet I wouldn't have written a lot of blogs like this either.

We could and should be doing better, if not society will continue to pay a steep price.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Will veteran teachers be allowed back on the grandfather pay scale?

Duval County has two pay scales for its teachers.

One for teachers hired after 2010, who are on annual contracts and veteran teachers who opted to join it that gives teachers raises of up to 2001 dollar if their evaluations are highly effective. The veteran teachers however had to give up their professional services contract, and go on annual contracts to join it.

The other for veteran teachers gives more modest step raises but they are allowed to keep their professional contracts, which they can renew every five years and can continue to do so as long as they are considered effective. This is called the grandfather pay scale.

I stayed on the grandfather pay scale (hey no jokes about my ever whitening hair) which means
while first and second year teachers were being given 1000 and 2000 dollar raises over the last few years while I received a 750 dollar step raise. The other difference is I am on a five year renewable contract while they are on a one year contract.

I voted against the new contract, I thought it was great for new teachers and veterans who switched to the new pay scale but a bad one for veterans who stayed on the grandfather scale. Scott Shine even chided me for saying I was against it.

As the old contract is coming to an end and a new contract where the district wants to greatly reduce raises, 2000, and one thousand dollar raises having proved unsustainable, I wonder how many people would have voted against the last contract knowing what we know now and if veteran teachers would have switched, giving u their professional contracts. 

Three years ago, the board with a few questions here and there from Couch and Wright was pretty much rubber stamping anything Vitti brought to them and Vitti made a lot of promises including about being committed to increasing teacher pay.  Now he may have been sincere because Florida has recovered nicely from the economic down turn and has more money for public education, unfortunately they have decided to give it to charter schools, vouchers or just not invest in education. When inflation is factored we are spending at a lower level than before the recession, but we could and should be doing more and maybe Vitti thought we would be. The thing is if you follow public ed in Florida you should have been able to see this coming as the legislature routinely does all it can to kneecap public ed.

This is what I think should happen. If veteran teachers switched from the grandfather pay scale to the optional pay scale because of the promises of higher step raises, if the district greatly reduces those raises which is the proposal now, they should be allowed to get their professional contracts back and yes I know the state won't go for that but the district should do what is right and make arrangements for them anyway.

I think most of us get it. The state sucks when it comes to public education, its run by a bunch of bastard coated bastards with bastard fillings, and sadly past administrations thought they had to follow suit. It doesn't however have to be that way.

I feel like we have a new board and new leadership, one that isn't just interested in hobnobbing with the city's so called elites and making splashy shows that rarely pan out, one that is more interested in doing the right thing. I wish we had more money as I am sure they do too, but as usual the state is letting them and all of us down and since that is the case I hope they settle for at least doing the right thing.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Representative Aaron Bean doesn't understand how things work. Why did people vote for him?

When Scott Shine said Representative Aaron beam was gutless and clueless when he supported HB 7069 a public school kneecapping bill, I didn't realize how right Shine was. 

When a parent asked his office about the class size amendment,

From Action News Jax: 

A Bean legislative aide emailed her back saying cutting class size has cost the state money because more classes means more teachers, classrooms and supplies.

Um yeah? Um, what? Did Beam think smaller classes was just going to magically happen? Of course it cost the state more money because more classes does mean more teachers, more classrooms and more supplies.

This guy represents people by the way.

Why do people vote for letters next to their names and not qualified people? I am a democrat, heck I am a liberal democrat, heck Bernie Sanders might tell me to slow my roll, but if there were a republican who supported public education and wanted to fund it properly, I would say, sign me up, and yes, I know there are more carrier pigeons than the type of republican I described. In 2012 so disillusioned with Obama's education policies I looked hard at his republican rivals, unfortunately all of their policies were worse, which if you look back is kind of hard to believe.

This is what I am saying, just because Beam is the son of a former legislator, it does not make him qualified, heck Scott Shine said he was gutless and ignorant, and this from a self proclaimed friend of Beams, who would know better?

Don't vote for the R, or even the D, vote for somebody who is gong to support public education, our children and our state deserve it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

DCPS says no to bully Gary Chartrand and Teach for America (rough draft)

Before Teach for America lovers lambaste me, just know once somebody is in the classroom, they have my respect, but that being said, I believe with every fiber of my being that TFA is a terrible program and we should strive to put professional teachers or teachers that have a chance of making it a career in our classrooms. Plus its ridiculously expensive to boot.

A quick primer, Teach for America takes non education majors, puts them through a six week teacher boot camp and then plops them down in our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve two years and then they go work for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. I kid you not check out their staff list, which is a large collection of individuals who love education but who don't want anything to do with being in the classroom.    

Pat Willis and the board did something they couldn't do while Vitti was here and that is stand up to a rich grocer, Gary Chartrand, who despite the fact he never taught a day in his life and sent his children to expensive and exclusive private schools wanted to control local education, and like a villain in a Scooby Doo cartoon, he almost got away with it.

Today however despite the fact he tried to black mail the board and sent his bought and paid for hatchet men, Fischer and Curry after them, the school board said no, well except for Scott Shine, but at this point he is little more than Chartrand's errand boy so that was to be expected. 

From the Times Union:

Scott said he did not agree with some of the cuts to this year’s budget, especially those affecting the Teach for America program and some initiatives backed by the Quality Education for All Fund.
Teach for America is a national nonprofit that recruits non-education majors to teach in high-need schools. The district has, for the first time in several years, declined to work with the organization to hire newly recruited teachers.
The Quality Education for All Fund is backed by a group of local philanthropists. They funded a variety of school initiatives, including teacher and principal training, and bonuses for high-performing teachers at certain low-performing schools.
This year, Duval reduced its funding for some of the QEA-backed programs.
The thing is we need the philanthropic community to help out, but what we don't need them to do is tell the district how to do things. Children are to important for them to experiment with ideas. Chartrand despite his money was finally told no and even if that costs the district a few dollars that's a good thing.

I haven't said this often, but I am proud of this board, well most of them anyways.

Ashley Smith Juarez calls out Scott Shine... again!!!!

Having checked get elected off of his bucket list, Mr. Shine continues to be a poor representative of his constituents and don't take my word for it take board member Smith-Juarez's.

From the Times Union:

Scott said he did not agree with some of the cuts to this year’s budget, especially those affecting the Teach for America program and some initiatives backed by the Quality Education for All Fund.
Teach for America is a national nonprofit that recruits non-education majors to teach in high-need schools. The district has, for the first time in several years, declined to work with the organization to hire newly recruited teachers.
he Quality Education for All Fund is backed by a group of local philanthropists. They funded a variety of school initiatives, including teacher and principal training, and bonuses for high-performing teachers at certain low-performing schools.
This year, Duval reduced its funding for some of the QEA-backed programs.
Scott said after the meeting he believes those cuts were not necessary, that there is money in this year’s budget to fund these efforts. For instance, he said, the district should look into cutting its “under-performing reading coaches and interventionists.”
He also noted district officials have promised to conduct an audit or “deeper dive” into the district’s spending last year after an over-expenditure of $21 million caused the district to borrow from its five percent reserve fund.
Board Chairwoman Paula Wright said the board’s auditor did issue a report, which she will discuss with the board at an upcoming workshop.
Ashley Smith Juarez, vice chairwoman of the board, asked Shine why he didn’t bring up alternate spending proposals before now, considering that a state deadline for the approving the district budget is just a few days away.
Shine said he didn’t believe he would have been successful before, but he wants to register his concerns.

Dammmnnn, I can take a stab at answering her question, and this is just my opinion from having watched him for the last three years so take it for what it is worth, and that is he had no idea the deadline was coming up and why would he. he treats the job like its his hobby and long ago stopped representing the people of district 7.   

Oy vey

Let me also review a couple of Shine's other recent hits.

Teachers are paid enough because of Florida's low cost of living, and a bill that would cause schools to be taken over by charters is a good one because union teachers will be fired. He also said the Duval delegation that supported the bill was both gutless and uninformed and here I actually happen to agree with Shine.

District 7, is this the person you want representing you? You have to do better. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Florida charter school and voucher legislature advocate sentenced to sixty days in jail

One of the biggest advocates of charter schools and vouchers former state Representative Eric Fresen was sentenced to sixty days in jail and a year of probation. Where he had no problem sending tax payer's money to for profit companies that run charters and private schools with barely any over site, he sadly had a problem with paying his own taxes. Welcome to Florida.

From the Miami Herald:

Even though he failed to file tax returns during his entire eight years in the Florida Legislature — a two-term tenure during which he headed a powerful budget committee and preached fiscal responsibility — former Miami state Rep. Erik Fresen still walked into the federal courthouse for his sentencing Friday expecting to get slapped only with probation.
He walked out with a jail sentence.
The Miami Republican will have to serve 60 days in jail — and a year of probation — after pleading guilty to the crime of failing to file a 2011 tax return on $270,136 in income.
He will begin his jail term on Nov. 17 and serve 15 days in jail per month for four months, an intermittent sentence intended to keep him earning some income to pay back his remaining tax penalties.
“I want him to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in jail so that every holiday for the rest of his life he’ll think back to that,” U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said.
During his time in the legislature despite close ties to charter schools Fresen routinely pushed the sending of more tax payer money to them.
Also from the Miami Herald:
A familiar face is back at the center of a perennial tug-of-war in the Florida Legislature between privately-managed charter schools and district-run public schools over taxpayer money for construction projects:
Erik Fresen, the Miami Republican who controls the purse for education funding in the Florida House. His connections to the charter school industry continue to raise questions about conflicts of interest.
He has fast-tracked a mid-session bill that would limit school district spending on capital needs. It would also force districts to share their construction tax money with charters.
Fresen is a $150,000-a-year land consultant for Civica, an architecture firm with a specialty in building charter schools. Many of those schools were built for Academica — which has been described as the largest charter school management company in Florida and which counts Fresen’s brother-in-law and sister as executives.
Fresen says he simply wants to hold districts accountable for the money they spend and ensure equitable funding for charter schools, which are classified as public schools.
“Nothing in this bill has anything to do with anything that I do for a living,” he said.
But Fresen, 39, is dogged by questions that his goal isn’t so well-intentioned. His ties to the charter school industry — well-documented during his eight years in the Legislature — have long rankled public school supporters and made him the subject of at least one ethics complaint since he was elected in 2008.
“Our Legislature should not be for sale. I think that seems to be what’s happening,” said Kayla Rynor, who helps lead the advocacy committee at Miami Beach Senior High’s PTSA. “The appearance of impropriety just doesn’t sit well and I’m not sure why it’s not a violation of state ethics laws.
I am not sure why writing legislation for charters while having close associations with them doesn't violate state ethics laws either but if it did, about a dozen other republican legislators would have or be violating them as well. 
Sadly in Florida our ethic laws are so porous you have to be caught with a live boy or a dead girl for anybody to take notice.
It's beyond ironic and insults the senses that he wanted to send our tax payer money to charter schools while thinking at the same time he didn't have to pay taxes. 

Is Willis listening to the people about weather days?

I really think so.

First I think the new schedules placement of the bulk of the weather days at the end of the year was masterful. That being said, nobody really has the appetite for making up the weather days and Superintendent Willis seems to be listening.

From the Times Union:

The School Board will vote at its Oct. 3 meeting how to make up the six school days lost to the storm. One proposal from Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis would have one weather day and six early release days be restored to full school days

Using the early release days is a suggestion I and many others have given, and even from an instructional point of view makes sense. What's more valuable, time in the middle nine weeks, or time at the end of the year when nobody wants to be there. 

Superintendent Vitti got a lot of credit for going on listening tours and there was a time even I applauded him, that is until I realized he wasn't listening. I doubt there was one substantive change made from all the listening tours and community meetings he did, they were all just for show. Willis is already leaps and bounds ahead of him on that front.

If you like Mrs. Willis's plan, and I love it, please let your school board member know. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Scott Shine says teachers don't need raises.

Are you $#^ing kidding me? #$%^& #$%@ on a stick What is wrong with this $%#& *&%@!!!!

Deep breaths, deep breaths. Also symbols above only replaced the words puppies and kittens, so please nobody write me up or threaten to sue me.

From the Florida Times Union: Among its requests is a general bid for more state money to raise teacher salaries beyond the one-time bonuses. Florida is the 36th lowest paying state for in the nation for teachers, according to the Florida School Finance Council, a group of district officials which advises the state.

Board member Scott Shine pointed out that those rankings don’t consider the cost of living differences among states.
You know because the cost of living is so low here in Jacksonville. Teachers are riding high on the hog.
Mr. Shine a millionaire by the way has the chutzpah to imply teachers salaries are just fine because the cost of living in other states is higher and the the thing is he couldn't be more wrong.
Want to see how wrong, play around with this.

There are plenty of places that have a lower cost of living and pay more but hey facts...
District 2 is this really the guy you want representing you? How many of you think teachers are paid to much?
You have to do better.

John Meeks: use early release days to make up weather days!

Dear Editors,

After the damage has been done by Hurricane Irma, there is still a storm to be weathered with the remainder of the school year in Duval County.

The school system has built-in 'weather days' on which are treated as additional days off until they are needed to make up for school closings.  There were five weather days allotted for this school year.  Hurricane Irma closed Duval County Public Schools for six days.  And hurricane season is not over yet.

I know that it is essential for us to recover lost learning time for our students.  I also know that we cannot win any war debating which days to sacrifice to play a futile game of catch up.  For example, December 21 is slated to be a make up day.  Do we really think that attendance will be high on that day?

Instead, I think that we should suspend early dismissal days for the remainder of the school year.  First of all, those 'half days' wreak havoc with block schedule planning, parent pick up times, and after school programs.  

For those who would lament the loss of professional development and faculty collaboration, don't worry.  Teachers have PLC (department or team) meetings, monthly faculty meetings, and online training that can do the job just as well if not better than early dismissal days.

For those parents who still can't quite pin down when their child gets out of school on any given Wednesday, this is your chance to have one less thing to worry about after the storm and the school system can make it happen.

I know that I am not alone in this sentiment.  Please prove me right, community.


John Louis Meeks, Jr.

DCPS should use early release days to make up weather days

Last year, Duval was the only county in Northeast Florida to make up the days missed due to hurricane Mathew. Every district missed days, but we were the only ones to make them up.

I also have to say I think Willis and the board were masterful with their placement or weather days, putting the bulk of them at the end of the year.

That being said, I don't want to be staring at the few kids that come that week, asking them what they want to do, when the truth is neither of us will want to be there.

Several people including teacher/advocate John Meeks have suggested we use our early release days to make up at least some of the weather days, a suggestion I also made last year, and a suggestion I wholeheartedly agree with.

We could make up two or three days using early release days.

You might be asking about the training we would be missing, well let me tell you about the training I received last year. Now there were a couple good trainings that I thought had value, but there were also three or four times were insurance agencies and banks came to sell us their products, and there were a couple times the PTA fed us too and have you seen me, I love to eat, but they could probably feed us during the day.

Then there were the district trainings consisting of remote power points where if we managed to stay awake or not go mad from boredom we weren't allowed to ask questions. As close to being a waste of time as possible.

Principals are allowed to call staff meetings where teachers are supposed to stay late and where not a fan of those times either, if there were relevant trainings, we could have them then.  

I will say, I thought the district did a good job with the hurricane, unlike last year when nobody seemed to know what was going on, but let's join the rest of Northeast Florida and build a schedule where weather days are no longer needed or lets show some more flexibility and use time, early release days, which for most people could be better used.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Becki Couch points out how important public schools are while Scott Shine twiddles his thumbs

I think we re going to miss Mrs. Couch when she is gone next year as she has been a fierce advocate for our public schools and this was on display once again when it was pointed out how important DCPS was during Hurricane Irma.

From the Times Union
Board member Rebecca Couch pointed out that 11 of the 12 shelters open in the storm were public schools. District public schools have construction requirements that make them withstand storms and enable them to be used as shelters, she said.
Charter schools do not have such requirements and frequently are located in private buildings, which are not open to the public during storms, she said.
This is an important issue, she added, because the district is legally challenging a new state law which will force districts to share its school construction dollars with charter schools, even though many charter school buildings are privately owned.
While Couch is sticking up for our schools it shouldn't be forgot that board member Shine was for House Bill 7069 a public school kneecapping bill that favors charter schools and partly because he believed union teachers would eventually lose their jobs, and voted against joining a law suit pushing back against it. Inexplicably he also called the republican delegation to Tallahassee who voted for it both gutless and uninformed as well. Saying they only voted for because they were both afraid of speaker Corcoran and didn't know what was in it
My question is, ten years from now if Shine has his way and most public schools have been replaced by charters and a hurricane is bearing down on Jacksonville where will people go? Probably just one of the many things he nor his ilk have considered.

District 2, you have to do better?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The class size amendment is under attack... again

Once again, the class size amendment is under attack from Dominic M. Calabro, CEO, Florida Tax Watch and Bob Ward, CEO, Florida Council of 100, and once again they use faulty reasoning in the editorial they sent to the states papers to do so.
A little history about the class size amendment, it was overwhelmingly passed by the people of Florida in 2002, and then reapproved in 2010. However, since then, the Florida legislature has systematically tried to water it down and dismantle it until today when it is just a shadow of what was originally approved with loopholes so big you could drive school buses through, yet still it is under attack and the reason is money, people like Calabro and Ward and sadly the Florida Legislature don’t want to invest in our public schools. Florida consistently ranks in the bottom five of student spending on education and without the class size amendment funding we would undoubtedly be lat.
Calabro and Ward talk about reforms that don’t work, but they don’t mention the hundreds of millions of dollars the state has sent to charter schools of which over 350 have taken public money and closed leaving children and neighborhoods in a lurch and tax payers on the hook for their losses. They don’t mention the hundreds of millions annually filtered away from public schools to vouchers, which have practically no oversite, most of them don’t even have to report how they used the money. Then there is the best and brightest bonuses, which teachers earn based on their SAT scores and yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds. No, the only reform that has drawn heir ire is the class size amendment.
They point to a Harvard study which says smaller class sizes play little role in achievement after third grade and that study undoubtedly does exist, but it’s not the end all be all as there are many studies that say smaller class sizes are beneficial. I prefer to ask teachers what they think. If they think they can make more of a difference with 20 students at a time or 30 or 35. I think you already know their answer. I also don’t think it is a coincidence, especially considering our poor funding. that our graduation rates have skyrocketed since the class size amendment was initiated.
What’s always been amazing to me is these critics of public education, that want to experiment with fringe ideas (best and Brightest), jack up class sizes, the one reform that has evidence that says it works, or want to push privatization under the guise of school choice, is they never suggest reforms that will help teachers.
This is what always baffles me about the ed reform movement, they never say, you know what we have to pay teachers more, a lot more, and they never say let’s take some pressure off teachers, lighten their work loads, give them more resources, let’s back them up with discipline or you know common sense things that teachers have been begging and clamoring for. Nope, it’s let’s make YOUR children’s classes larger.

The class size amendment has already been approved twice by the people of Florida, instead of continuing to ignore the will of the people, the Florida legislature should do what the people demanded they do, after all, we are supposed to be in charge.

If you want to support your children and the state’s teachers ignore the proposal to further gut the class size amendment and please demand the legislature properly fund education.

Chris Guerrieri

School Teacher

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jason Fischer's lackluster and tone deaf's response to hurricane Irma

This guy, deep breaths, don't want to get written up by the district, two disciplinary hearings, threatened to be sued and being called a parasite by a school board member in a little over a year have taken their toll, but Fishcer, this guy takes the $#%^ing cake.

On his Facebook page he posted pictured of the shelters that people could seek refuge in during hurricane Irma and they are almost all public schools, you know those schools he wishes to starve and dismantle in favor of who pays his campaign bills, charter schools.

Oh and how many people did the local charters take in? Zero as far as I can tel and partly because they are blood sucking parasites who for the most part only really care about the bottom line but partly because they aren't built too, while public schools are required to be built that way because they are part of our emergency infrastructure.

Something Becki Couch pointed out on Facebook, Yet, they will receive property tax money equivalent to district public schools whose staff, food service, and schools were serving during the hurricane. Also, they are not built to code (SREF) like our schools. Take a look at Representative Fischer's FB. He is taking pictures at the hurricane shelters (all but 1 are public schools) and doesn't even see the irony that he is trying to starve public schools.

Here is a link to his page,, if you want to point out what a hypocrite he is.

Thus far he has a ton of money and no opponent in what is considered a safe republican district, but he's terrible and we can and should do better. If no democrat steps up and I have to believe Fischer who ran a scorched Earth Campaign against his republican opponent last year is very beatable, then a decent republican needs too.

Come on folks we deserve better.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Why would Lenny Curry freeze out the non-profit community?

I believe it is so he could benefit one of his biggest campaign contributors, Gary Chartrand and his pet charter school KIPP.

From the Times Union article, Mayor's plan to reform Jacksonville's Children services took place in secrecy

Critics of the mayor’s sweeping overhaul have said not only that they were excluded from the process, but they were intentionally shut out. Notes from a meeting with more than 40 nonprofit and children-serving organizations show that none of them had been asked for input on the legislation, or knew anyone who had.
Curry’s office said it called on a team of “child resource advocates” to advise about the reforms. But, records obtained from the city and the commission — and comments from the Jacksonville Children’s Commission CEO and board chair — seem to directly contradict claims by a city spokeswoman that current commission leadership was “empowered by the mayor to oversee the study and analyze the information provided.”
Instead, emails show that input on the process was kept to a small group, including current Jax Journey leadership and two past commission board chairs selected by Curry himself.
Some invested observers have said the legislation will give the mayor — and subsequent mayors — too much influence over children’s programming. City council members who once stood beside the mayor in support of his reforms before ever seeing his plan are qualifying their statements now that the legislation has been made public.
“Ultimately, this legislation … becomes a marketing ploy put together for politics, not kids,” Children’s Commission Board Chair Matt Kane wrote of the reforms in an email to the Curry administration. “It’s renaming some things. I like the term ‘at-hope’ kids, but you don’t need legislation to call them that.”
Silly non profits, why would you expect to have any influence over Curry? Your history of good works? No you need to pony up to his super pacs, like Gary Chartrand did, if you want a seat at the table. 
Jacksonville is officially becoming a banana republic.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Former Teacher of the year says the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, isn't all that

And a bag of chips, okay I added that last part.

From a former teacher of the year, I have chosen to keep their identity anonymous because of the influence JPEF has in the district.

As a former T.O.Y., I was invited to take part in a forum of teachers sponsored by JPEF, a round table type talk to discuss issues facing teachers and what we hoped district leaders would do towards resolution. 

Some highly regarded teachers from across the district were in attendance when I was there. 

I was in attendance for only a few such sessions to end up feeling very dismayed. 

After sharing that I had attended, several people in different settings strongly implied that JPEF was more interested in working by Vitti's side rather than on behalf of educators. 

The process seemed sincere, yet clearly wasn't in the best interests of teachers or their students.

If you look at JPEF's political leanings and the actions of its board members you can definitely tell they don't have the best interests of public schools, teachers and students at heart.

An organization that zealously advocates for and supports public education would be a boon for our community, unfortunately we don't have that with JPEF.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Teachers, do you ever hate your job and it has nothing to do with the kids? (rough draft)

I hear that all the time, and where I think we would all agree we would like to make more, what I never hear about is our salaries either, most times it's the actions of other adults that make teachers feel that way. In my case it's district staff and the administration, who are telling me to do things they never had to nor will ever have to do, greatly increasing my work load and they are doing so with a smile and without an explanation . 

Let me tell you what is going on with me.

I work at a center school just for profoundly intellectually disabled children, well except for the few violent kids they sprinkle in because they don’t know what to do with them.

Well they want us to start using this new software to collect daily data on the students IEP goals. ESE students have what are called individual education plans that have goals students are supposed to be working on.

Now we have been collecting data on goals for I guess forever, but they want us to use this new system, Dsctop.

It seems like a nightmare, which is only backed up by the service providers (speech pathologists, Occupational therapists, etc) who I have spoken to who have been required to use it for the last few years, which have said it ranges from, nightmare to soul crushing.

Now I went to the union which has been very attentive and after they talked to the district they seemed very confused. Chris, they said, the district reports it being very easy to do, after the initial set up, which they admit can be a lengthy process, it should only take five minutes a day.

Oh, did I mention when I asked the service providers how long it took them to daily input their data, they invariably said, an hour. Now we will have different goals to enter, but I have eleven kids on my caseload all of which have at least 5 goals.

Here is the thing too, this is the beginning of the year. What am I going to do when IEP writing season starts, or testing season starts (my kids are give their tests individual and learning literally grinds to a halt for weeks, or addendum ESY season starts because the district can't tell us when ESY is. Times when I barely have enough time in the day to think let alone teach.

I pointed out that I believe ordering teachers through fiat violates the teacher contract in many ways. It adds new paper work, it forces us to create a data notebook, it wasn’t brought to the union, and I must say I think the district was straight up lying about how long it’s going to take (I could be wrong) which greatly increases my workload. One service provider said to me when I asked about the difference between what they did (an hour a day on dsktop) and what the district said we would be doing (5-10 minutes) and  they said, well they don’t have to do it, so they probably don't have a clue.

Isn’t that always how it is too? People who don’t have to do it, telling those that do how easy it is?
So yesterday I was told by my administration I wasn’t a team player, when it got back to them that I told the union teachers (I am the union rep at my school), I had no plans to do Dsktop, until the union got back to me. I pointed out that in this instance the teachers needed a zealous advocate more than a team player. 

Then today on the way out the door, the staff received an email saying, we are undoubtedly going to do Dsktop, and to hell with my and others concerns, okay that last part was just implied not said.

So, I came home with tears in my eyes feeling overwhelmed and its not even the end of week three, and not because of anything my kids did, but because of what adults, adults who are telling me to do things they won’t have to do, did.

When will the powers that be realize that if they continue to violate the contract, put yokes on the backs of teachers and make them hate their jobs, there will be significant repercussions, when will they care?

It certainly wasn't today.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Times Union's disappointing reporting about KIPP

These are facts

Gary Chartrand gave mayor Lenny Curry and pacs supporting him, buckets of money

Lenny Curry had the Jacksonville Children's Commission, change it's rules to send buckets of money to Chartrand's KIPP school.

They did so at the expense of poor children at other schools on the North and West sides of town.

The KIPP school is loaded, and I know, I have seen their filings.

Finally I had to read the article three times to catch it but we aren't paying for an extended day program at the KIPP school we are paying so their school day can be longer. That's messed up as up to now the money had just gone for extended day programs. 

In the Times Union's article they didn't mention the first two things and I know they know them because I have told them several times since the spring.

From the Times Union:

KIPP’s after-school funding, in addition to the shakeup in the way the children’s commission awarded funding this year, caused fear among parents and after-school providers that some 16 locations would get no money this year, said Warren Jones, a School Board member whose district includes many of those after-school sites.

WTF Jacksonville, this is how banana republics are run.

Does Trey Csar believe teachers are professionals? And why you should care

Who is Trey Csar? He is the president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and among other partnerships with the district most notably the administration of the Quality education for All funds, they are running the Teacher of the Year awards.

I had the following email exchange with him and I will let you be the judge. Mr. Csar is in bold


I had this message in my inbox after I wrote a piece about the upcoming teacher of the year events.

 When I worked with Trey, he said that he thought that teaching probably should NOT be a profession but a job that people do for a while and then move on.
He seriously believes that the TFA model should be the national norm!

I think the source is pretty credible so I am going to write about it, but I thought I would give you a chance to refute, explain, give context  if you want.


Chris --

Thanks for reaching out. I think your source is misunderstanding the context of what we've started to talk about relating to the teaching profession and the desires of an increasingly millennial workforce.

What we know from a ton of generational research (see this and this, among others) is that millennials are significantly more likely to change jobs, and even careers, and to do so more frequently than their peers in other generations. When you put that up against the traditional view of a classroom teacher, who spends the majority, if not all, of their career in that role, there is clearly a mismatch.

Across the country, districts need to be asking themselves what they can do to create opportunities for teachers to customize their careers in ways that allow them to have additional impact, and gain additional professional respect and compensation. We also have to be proactive in thinking about the impact of a workforce where the average tenure is likely to continue to get shorter, including additional professional development and recruiting costs, and whether districts and states should explore changing compensation systems to increase early-career pay (and retirement benefits) to be more competitive in recruiting talent.

If we as a society don't address this, and soon, we're going to continue facing the quality teacher shortages we've been seeing grow in recent years.

At JPEF, we have been exploring, with teachers, how such a "career lattice" could be structured that allows for great teachers to keep one foot in the classroom, teaching a reduced class load, while also contributing to the needs of their school and district in news ways, such as coaching new teachers, writing curriculum, and the like.

We don't have all the answers, that's for sure, but we're eager to continue that conversation with educators to see whether Duval County can find innovative ways to address these challenges.

Again, I appreciate you reaching out in advance to seek additional input and clarification. I'm eager to continue to conversation at any time. If any of your readers want to be part of these discussions, many of them happen as part of our Teacher Roundtable work, and folks can contact Zak Champagne at for information about how to get involved.

-- Trey

Thanks for getting back to me and where what you said is vastly different from what i was told and when I went back to them they were more than a little incredulous, I will take your word for it, sometimes misunderstandings occur. Just so I am clear though you are not for using the TFA model as a national model and you want to help find solutions to get teachers to stay longer such as having them do other things besides teach.

This is what always baffles me about the ed reform movement, they never say, you know what we have to pay teachers more, a lot more, sure they try merit pay schemes every once in a while and like the QEAs has they ultimately fail or are patently ridiculous like the best and brightest but raising salaries has never really been on the table, especially here in Florida.

Then they never say, also lets make classes smaller, a lot smaller because that has evidence it works, no, here in Florida when the citizens demanded it, the legislature gutted it.

Also they never say, lets take some pressure off teachers, lighten their work loads, give them more resources, lets back them up with discipline or you know common sense things that teachers have been begging and clamoring for.

It seems like your solution is, hey let a few write curriculum, be coaches or move to administration, which seems like only a small percentage of teachers could do. there are only so many AP and coach positions available. To professional teachers that's not a solution and spoiler alert no veteran wants a 27 year old AP or coach with three or four years experience telling them what to do or critiquing them.

So can I use what you sent me for a piece? I will send it to you for review before I put it up.

Thanks again

I didn't hear back from him so I figured I was good, but if I do I will let you know.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Cheryl Grymes absent again

Mrs. Grymes has been absent from several very important school board meetings over the last few months leaving her district unrepresented and seeing how she leans that's probably a good thing.

My sources tell me her husband Warren Grymes is in hospice care and if they are right this is truly sad. Mr. Grymes just retired from Big Brothers and Big Sisters a few months back after years of notable and laudable service. His ill health is a tragedy not just for the Grymes family but the entire community.

Mr. Grymes and I sparred a few times but even though we didn't always see eye to eye I could just tell he was a good guy.

I think we should all offer the Grymes family our thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.

If Mrs. Grymes needed to step away from her responsibilities as a board member I don't believe anyone would fault her.

Duval Joins HB 7069 law suit

It took us a while to get there but we finally did. Voting 4-2, Shines and Smith Juarez against and Grymes absent yet again, the school board voted to join ten other school boards/districts to join a lawsuit against the disastrous HB 7069.

From the Times Union:

The law known as House Bill 7069 contain a number of measures that lawyers for school district’s around the state say are unconstitutional and will hurt school districts but benefit charter schools.

The biggest legal target is the new law’s so-called “schools of hope” measure, which sets aside more than $100 million to create charter schools in areas near D- or F-rated public schools. Some of those schools will be forced to close by other sections of state law.
Opponents of the law removes most of what little oversight school districts have over charter schools, which are privately run public schools. Duval County has 31 charter schools.
The schools of hope provision would divert local tax revenues districts receive for school capital improvements to charter schools. Duval officials estimate they’ll lose at least $16 million in school improvement dollars over five years.
The law also absolves schools of hope from some local laws and allows the schools to employ uncertified teachers. It also appears some charter schools will be given a status similar to school districts and take more Title 1 federal money for poor schools, according to the analysis.
I want to personally thank the district and board members who voted to join the lawsuit. You showed bravery and leadership something that had been missing from the district.

Scott Shine shows a complete lack of leadership, while blogging

Let that bit of irony set in for a second.

When discussing HB 7069 instead of being a leader of our school system, he attempted to justify his complete lack of leadership and voted not support a lawsuit against the disastrous bill. He basically had a word salad full of reasons.

The best predictor of the future is the past

Shine says the lawsuit is a loser because in the past other lawsuits have failed. If we are looking at the past, we see that the Florida Legislature has been openly hostile towards public education and on balance public education has just gone along. If we're not going to push back now, then when? Shine would prefer us to wait until public education is irrevocably destroyed. 

Public schools need funding now

Shine says if we start a law suit then the legislature will be less willing to fund public education. Mr. Shine has apparently been vacationing in clueless land because the legislature has never properly funded public education. Furthermore Shine initially supported HB 7069 because he thought the legislature was going to add a hundred dollars in per pupil funding, unfortunately they ended up adding just 17 dollars. I think its safe to say, he's just guessing about what they may and may not do.

The concern of retaliation

This one made my head hurt. Tallahassee is like a bully that nobody stood up to and got more and more aggressive hence we are where we are at. Saying they might do something to further harm public education is like saying puppies are cute and the sky is blue, it's a foregone conclusion. We can take it or fight back because the truth is if Tallahassee cared about public education they wouldn't have passed HB 7069 in the first place.

Litigation as an option

Here he says we shouldn't bother because it takes time and we may lose. Well if we don't bother and if we don't take the time we definitely know what will happen. For profit companies will get more money without any oversight and our pubic schools will lose millions of dollars and be further hurt. I wonder if this is Shine's philosophy on everything, oh why take out the garbage, there will be just more tomorrow.

He finished with his worst and most pathetic reason of all.

The conflict of democracy

Basically he says, because people who were elected passed the bill it must be what people want. A few weeks back he said many of the people who voted for it were ignorant, they didn't know what was in it, and gutless, they were afraid of Richard Corcoran, now he is changing his tune. The people of district 2 elected him to be a zealous advocate for our schools and they as sure as heck didn't get what they expected, I would guess that is the case in Tallahassee as well. 

Scott Shine showed a complete lack of leadership but sadly nothing is new there and then tried to justify it with ridiculous and specious reasoning.

District 2, you have to do better.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

So that happened at school, teacher of the year addition

We had a hastily called Shared Decision Making Meeting today to discuss Teacher of the Year nominations, because the results have to be in by September First, um what??? Yeah for some reason the district wants to have each schools nominations in a week from Friday so there is an abridged and rushed selection process. At my school we are going to give people one day and a smidge more to get their picks in. I guess it sucks to be one of the dozen or so new staff members, who are still looking for the teachers lounge.

So there at the top of the three page selection document was a logo for the Jacksonville Pubic Education Fund, which for some inexplicable reason has been allowed to co op the Teacher of the year awards.

I and in all fairness was about five minutes late said, let me throw out a crazy idea, and please feel free to vote it down.

I had the groups attention, so I continued. I said, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund was founded by a man named Gary Chartrand, he is anti-teacher, saying it's good that teachers are now on one year contracts and don't have job protections and is pro charter school. JPEF is not pro public school/ teacher organization, why don't we send them a signal we are not going to put up with it and say we won't participate.

Yeah, i knew it was a long shot, and to be honest not knowing what the meeting was about before I arrived, just thought about it on the fly but I thought it important enough that we spend a few minutes talking about it, and right then and there, the Shared Decision Making Committee Meeting  became the Assistant Principal Decision Making Meeting and i was summarily dismissed. I thought to myself, why am I here again and didn't say another word.

Yeah, that was annoying but what is far more annoying is the District has outsourced its teacher of the year awards, to a group that is pro charter school, pro privatization, which pushes Teach for America and whose founder, is an enemy to teachers everywhere. Sorry that's not just annoying, that's heartbreaking.

Now I think teachers should be recognized, why doesn't the district recognize 20 or so a week? Each region could have one representing each level, and electives and ESE too, we certainly have enough great teachers that this is more than possible.

Throwing them a few hundred extra dollars is what the QEA money should have went to fund instead of its doomed to fail merit pay scheme.

for the record I am not against Teacher of the Year awards, I just wish a group that was pro public education and really pro teacher was in charge of it.

So that happened today. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

About that new paper work your principal wants you to do.

Don’t do it, unless it has been approved the right way.

New paperwork must go through your shared decision-making committee and principals must give teachers input.

Every department should be represented at SDMC meetings and then those representatives should take any new proposals back to their departments.

Your principal cannot just give you more forms to fill out because in their infinite wisdom they think it will help. Principals’ are supposed to be instructional leaders, not instructional tyrants who rule by fiat.

From the contract:

1. Identification of Forms - The district and DTU have collaboratively identified those workload documents/forms which shall be required for use by all districts for 2015-2016. Only those district approved forms, which shall be identified and marked as DCPS forms and made available on the district’s official website, shall be required by teachers at any district school. The initial number of required forms shall not exceed twenty (20), inclusive al all elementary and secondary forms. No one level, elementary or secondary, shall have more than ten required forms. Other optional forms shall be provided but not required. Schools may utilize the waiver process to approve other forms on a school-wide basis.

2. Addition of Subsequent District Forms – Prior to approval of any additional required, DCPS forms, the district shall first consult with DTU and shall provide the rationale, authority (i.e. federal/state requirement, Pupil Progression Plan, etc.) and proposed method for training teachers in the use of the newly required form. DTU shall be provided a reasonable opportunity to provide input in the forms format prior to implementation.

3. Training – The parties shall jointly develop training for teachers and school–based administrators on the use and requirements of the approved forms prior to requiring teachers to implement them. Training shall occur at the district or school level during school hours at no additional complementation to teachers. Any training occurring after work hours or during the summer shall be voluntary and compensation shall be as negotiated by the parties.

Look we have some great principals who are going to do things the right way, but then we have some bullies masquerading as administrators too who are going to try and steam roll teachers too. Don’t let them.

Furthermore demand your union representatives make sure your schools do it the right way, that is why they are there.  

I get it, it can be scary to push back, especially for teachers on one-year contracts, but you can be a victim and most likely miserable or stand up for yourself.