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Friday, June 29, 2018

Tim Sloan, SB district 4 candidate uses his daughter as a prop at forum

First let me say I have no doubt that Mr. Sloan loves his daughter and with him supporting her she will be nothing but successful, but with that being said, come on, she and the public deserve better than him using her as a prop.

Let me set the scene. Fours school board candidates were finishing up a forum put on by the Friends of Northwest Jacksonville Schools had organized and put on. When it was Sloan's turn he left the table and approached the crowd and eventually called his daughter up. Just as surprised as I am sure the audience was it took a little coaxing on his part for her to join him.

When she did so, he promised to do for our children (the people of district 4) what he would do for his.

A nice sentiment for sure but one he could have made without embarrassing his daughter. 

You might have picked up that I am not a fan of Sloan or his candidacy and I am not. His main qualification seems to be he is retired military (thank you for your service) and he has plenty of free time.

At the forum he neither seemed to have a grasp on the issues and lacked ideas. Though one idea I have heard him sell before, the involuntary transfer of teachers I think is horrible.

He would like to see our most successful teachers go to our must struggling schools and when put that way the idea has merit. The problem is he wants to force them to go there, transfer them against their will. Now I have long thought with smaller classes and a combination of behavior and academic supports we could get a fair amount of transfers, notice I didn't say bribes which is what the last super tried to do, but forcing teachers to move I believe would have disastrous consequences. 

Then he once told me when he ran, he would take that sweet sweet Chartrand and Rummell money and not think twice about it.

Finaly to be honest how serious is he? It's almost July and he has neither a web site or a Facebook page.

Undoubtedly Tim Sloan loves his daughter and I have no reason to believe he is nothing short of a great parent too, that being said, it is hubris not care for our schools that has motivated his run for the school board.

If Sloan cares about his daughter the way he says he does, he should drop out of the race and let people with experience, ideas and a track record proceed forward without him muddying the waters. 

Jason Fischer continues to harass Duval County Pubic School while shilling for charters

Jason Fischer was a terrible school board member who didn't care about our schools and he has continued his ways as a representative in the state house. Just weeks after he inserted two million into the state budget for his donors charter school, Fischer has called for an investigation of Duval County pubic schools because the district did well on the civics exam.

From the Tampa Times:


A group of conservative lawmakers has asked the Florida Department of Education to look into allegations that three school districts manipulated which students took the spring civics end-of-course exam to influence the state's school grading system.
The six legislators — Sen. Dennis Baxley and Reps. Jason Fischer, Michael Bileca,  James Grant, Bob Rommel and Jennifer Sullivan — repeated criticisms raised by members of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, an organization that formed to oppose the Florida School Boards Association's legal challenge of the state tax credit scholarship program.
Fischer, a one-time Duval County School Board member, is a former coalition member.
District officials explained they intended to have the students take the exam as eighth graders, after they are better prepared. State officials have confirmed there's nothing wrong with that approach.
But the six lawmakers suggested in a letter to education commissioner Pam Stewart that the "questionable testing practices" could undermine the state's testing and accountability system. They suggest without any detail that other districts might be participating in "these same shameful practices."
The lawmakers' underlying motive? It appears to be support of their recently created program that allows select charter schools to move into communities where the public schools have persistently low scores on state exams.
Fischer and his compatriots don't care about our public schools they just want more charter schools, and who makes up a huge share of Fischer's donors? Charter schools that is who. 
It's monstrous how Fischer would accuse DCPS and the other districts of cheating while giving his donor's school millions of dollars.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It is time to close Jackson High School

I know especially with their back to back B grades and their magnet possibilities this may not e a popular opinion but here me out before you excoriate me.

https://dcps.duvalschools.org/ajhs

I have no doubt great things are going on at Jackson, great kids being taught by dedicated teachers but in this day and age sadly that isn't enough.

I asked the district for the enrollments at Raines, Ribault and Jackson and this is what they told me.


Whoa, 415 students, now I admit they have room to grow, lots and lots of room to grow but should they be allowed too?

You know who also has lots of room to grow? Raines and Ribault. It wasn't that long ago that both of those schools had well over 2000 students.

Jackson is also a dedicated magnet school now which means the kids in the neighborhood that aren't interested in their programs have alternatives.

Speaking of their programs I am not saying we should get rid of them, on the contrary they should be allowed to find homes at Ribault, Raines, Paxon or Stanton.

We just can't have a high school that is that small. We can't, it's a terrible misuse of our limited resources.

But I am not done, what I think we should do next is move the school board to Jackson high school which will serve to give that community and economic boost and then if we get the right price we can sell the prime property where the school board building currently sits.

I know closing schools is an unpopular proposition especially in a neighborhood which has endured such abuse at the hands of the powers that be but as I look at it, in these times of scarce resources, and especially since we can help out that community while doing so, it's time for Jackson High school to go.

Now feel free to tell me how I am wrong, and if you are passionate about it, I get it. 

Darryl Willie says the most Teach for America things at the district 4 SB forum

Oy vey as affable as this guy is, he is also unbelievable.

When talking about improving reading, he said babies in the womb will read better when their mothers read to them as if DCPS should develop a strategy to facilitate this and this will lead to better reading scores. Oy vey, let that sink in.

Um what about libraries Darryl, which have been on the chopping block for years, might they be an option too?

It is true children that are exposed to more words and reading at a young age do better as a group than those that don't but how is DCPS going to improve the mother's reading to fetus rate? Maybe we can get some Teach for America corp members to volunteer their time.

He also said one way to keep teachers longer is to fund the alternative assessment cost that non education majors incur when going from their second to third years. Now who would this give away most benefit? Why Teach for America of course as the vast amount of them are non education majors and that right there should tell you something.

Now I think the alternative assessment pathway to teaching is out of control. When I went through it I had to write what amounted to about 12 essays and undergo a few more observations. It did not cost me thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time like the current iteration does.

I agree there needs to be changes to keep more teachers just as they figure out how to teach but the thing is I am not the director of a TFA chapter looking for another hand out.

Willie wasn't a complete disaster at the forum, he did have one point about how we need to let kids, mostly black boys, move and not sweat the small stuff and I and I believe most teachers agree and have called for this but at the same time it was painfully obvious Willie is not ready for prime time. 

Shouldn't we all be tired of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund blaming teachers by now?

The definition of a juxtaposition is the fact of two things being seen or laced together with contrasting effect.

JPEF was founded by Gary Chartrand who has worked tirelessly to injure the teaching profession yet they run DCPS's teacher of the year program. How does that work?  

Then they have through social media tirelessly run a thank a teacher campaign while writing the following on their webs site.  

From JPEF's website: Over 90 percent of teachers are rated Effective or Highly effective based on the district’s evaluation formula: 50 percent student growth, 45 percent observations and 5 percent individualized professional development.
However, tens of thousands of students don’t pass the Florida State Assessments English Language Assessment each year—our state’s indicator for literacy. Passing this test in tenth grade is one of the requirements to graduate with a standard high school diploma.
The implication is quite clear, Duval's teachers suck and its their fault more students aren't passing state tests.
I have a different take, I thank God they are there because without them and their tireless efforts Duval's kids would be in a much deeper hole.
I looked for the part about poverty and how it is the number one factor when predicting performance, kids who live in it do worse than kids who aren't but I found nothing.
Furthermore JPEF criticizes our teachers while being a friend to Teach for America which does the exact opposite of what we know to be best for our children. 
JPEF continuously shows they are on the wrong side of the education debate.
Ugh.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Becki Couch questions Scott Shine's motives

We are all going to miss Mrs. Couch when she leaves the school board. Unlike Shine, she is always prepared, knowledgeable and cares about our district, teachers, schools and students.

Via Facebook about Shine saying the district was gaming the system on civics tests.

The board voted 7-0 on the student progression plan that has the course pathway included. 

Mr. Shine did not pull the item nor ask questions at the time. 

But now, when the data comes out he goes straight to the press with an allegation of gaming a system of accountability? 

When Dr. Vitti was here, the reason Mr. Shine says he ran for school board, we did the same thing in Algebra, Geometry, and Biology. I asked about the Algebra I A and B courses and we were told, “we don’t want to set students up for failure if they are not ready to take the test”. That makes sense to me because not all kids are prepared to take Algebra I in 8th or 9th grade. I am unsure why this situation would be any different. 

The law mandates students take the (civics) exam in middle school. Some students take it in 6th because they are advanced. 

Should we hold them back because a conservative group of five board members thinks the test should be given in seventh grade? 

I am saddened that a school board member would criticize districts for making decisions for the benefit of individual students but on the other hand say that is the very reason we need more charter schools because we are making school so “cookie cutter” and school should meet the individual needs of all children. 

The students will take the exam in middle school because that is the law.

I didn't say above, That comes from a school board member who has had to work with Shine for nearly four years.

Scott Shine does not and has not represented our schools, teachers and students and instead cow-tows to people like Gary Chartrand who would destroy our schools. We will be so much better off when Shine is gone.


Is Scott Shine clueless a hypocrite or both? Roots for failure, criticizes success

I ask because he doesn't seem to understand how things work while complaining about things he has previously supported.  

Here is what happened, the district had some students take a prerequisite, law studies, before they took the civics class which has a state mandated test. The students who tool civics and who were better prepared did well on the test and instead of thanking the district, Shine attacked it and said it was playing the system. Spoiler alert the whole system has been rigged, mostly to set poor and minority children up for failure, and when the district found a way around it Shine called foul. In effect he was rooting for failure and mad when it didn't happen. 

From WJCT


In 2017 8,649 Duval students took the civics test compared to 5,739 this past school year. The Florida Coalition of School Board Members said fewer test takers likely contributed to higher scores.
The Duval County School District’s Chief Academic Officer Mason Davis said there was no wrongdoing, adding although fewer students took the test, Duval is complying with state statute and the school board’s policy. He said the change started with the district’s yearly review of both the student progression plan and master scheduling guidelines.
“Through those reviews, multiple data points are reviewed and changes are made to better prepare students by adding prerequisites and course progression pathways,” he said.
Now some people might be saying all we are doing is preparing kids to take tests and that is no way to run education and you know what, I completely agree with you. We have a bigger problem than a terrible school board member throwing bombs on the way out the door. We need to address testing but the sad truth is we aren't going to get to while the drill and kill republicans are in charge of education. We need to vote them all out.

A couple people had great comments about Shines ignorance and hypocrisy, I have omitted their names just in case Shine decides to send out nasty emails or threats.

Shine uses taxpayer resources to legally intimidate teachers. He has temper tantrums at SB meetings before walking out. He whips up press to announce the candidacy of his heir-apparent. He telegraphs his every intention, independently of his board, to the reform crowd through the press. "Reformers" want high-stakes testing and privatization. Now they want to whine about it when schools figure out how to better prepare their students for the test? We're not buying it.

Only the kids who scored low on the FSA had to take law studies, next year, when they take civics alongside the high 4s and 5s, civics scores will normalize. It’s not sketchy, it’s basic math.

But when Vitti did it, by sending low-performing students from Geometry through "Advanced Topics" to avoid them bringing down results on the state's Algebra 2 test or by removing students from Algebra 1 into Algebra 1A based on low-performing December interim test results so they wouldn't take the EOC and count in the results, Shine said nothing.

Vitti also changed several schools to game the system but since Shine had a man crush on him, it was okay.

Well friends Shine is nothing if not consistent, and we will all be better off when his tenure on the board mercifully comes to an end.  

Sunday, June 24, 2018

DCPS confirms Teach for America is still in the cards.

Before I get into it. I want to thank the district for routinely replying to my questions, which I understand can't always be easy. The communication team is always professional and they are a credit to the district.

So here is the back drop. With so many teachers being surplussed and the district not allocating any money (thus far) for finders fees to TFA, I was surprised to find that there was a new TFA class in Jacksonville. So I asked the district if going forward they were going to pick up any new Teach for America teachers and this was their thorough and reasoned response. 

1.       Teach for America (TFA) and Duval Schools had a multi-year contractual relationship in which TFA was compensated as one element of the District’s comprehensive program to recruit teachers to fill needs in the district.
2.       Last school year, 2017-18, was the final year of that contract, and that contract was not renewed.
3.       The TFA contract of the past and the current TFA presence in our region have no impact on the process known as “surplussing.”
4.       Each year, enrollment changes and instructional needs necessitate the “surplussing” of employed teachers at schools throughout the district.
5.       For the upcoming school year, state law requires for the first time that surplussing decisions be based on teacher performance, not job seniority.
6.       Teachers who are surplussed are not laid off or fired. Suplussed teachers are reassigned to a different school.
7.       In some cases, a school year begins before a surplussed teacher is placed. These employees are then placed in temporary roles until they are permanently assigned.
8.       Unrelated to surplussing, the district anticipates 1,400 to 1,500 teacher openings each year due to retirements, teachers moving out of district, and teachers leaving their roles for a multitude of reasons. 
9.       District and school based staff work very hard to recruit teachers into these open posts.
10.   New teachers are recruited from multiple sources including in-state and out-of-state teacher education programs and alternative certification programs.

11.   TFA continues to be a source for new teacher recruitment throughout northeast Florida. The district will interview and potentially hire teacher prospects provided through TFA. 

12.   Similar to many of the district’s recruiting efforts, teacher recruits who are interviewed and hired by the district, including TFA affiliated individuals, are offered an open contract.
13.   An open contract means the recruited teacher will have a job. Once the district knows its school and grade level openings, new teachers with open contracts, including those sourced through TFA, are placed. Currently the district has offered 114 open contracts.
14.   Placing a TFA teacher does not cause another teacher to be surplussed.
15.   Placing a TFA teacher does not prevent a surplussed teacher from getting an assignment.
A lot of that is background information and I think they are right, just because a Teach for America teacher is hired it doesn't mean a surplussed teacher won't be given a position.

This however is what I think. The district should be more interested in developing teachers who may spend a career in the classroom, and at some point we need to decide what kind of district we want to be. One that strives to put professional teachers in front of each class or one that is okay with hobbyists working in our most vulnerable classrooms while they wait for grad school. 

I guess at this point it is what it is, which is disappointing.

JPEF doesn't advertise for their own SB candidate forum

It is 9:35 on Sunday the 24th and I have known about the district 4 school board forum for almost a day. A heads up from the good people at the Friends of Northwest Jacksonville Schools.

The NAACP, The Friends of Northwest Jacksonville Schools and JPEF are putting on the forum.

JPEF has quite the immersive social media presence.

Their last post was about Why did the U.S. stop seeing teachers as professionals? A very important and relevant topic and problem, but sadly it is a problem exacerbated by JPEF's founder and grocer Gary Chartrand, who has been very anti teacher and treating teachers as professionals.

Scrolling down, they have an article about low cost solutions to deal with teacher shortages, ugh, low cost? Another one about Teacher leave in NYC and the National Merit program.

Keep scrolling if you like but they have nothing about the forum on their Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/JaxPEF/

Why, well maybe they haven't got around to publicizing the Monday the 25th evening forum. I mean that leave in NYC story is a big one.

Or maybe just maybe they don't care if you or anybody goes or not. You see numerous members of JPEF's board have already put their support behind a district 4 candidate and that is Teach for America director and darling of Gary Chartrand, Darryl Willie. You might also remember he ran for the seat in 2014 and when doing so spread false and misleading stories about Paula Wright.   

See I don't think JPEF wants people to go because they want the candidate must aligned with corporate reforms and privatization, their candidate Darryl Willie to win.

Could I be wrong? Sure, they don't invite me to their strategy meetings, but their bread crumbs are abundantly clear and easy to follow.

An organization designed to help our public schools would be a great thing to have, unfortunately we haven't had one.

When I post this blog, I will have done more than JPEF has done to publicize their very own forum and that should speak volumes.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bill Gates didn't know the price of groceries why did we expect he would know something about education reform?

 Is Bill Gates a smart man? I don't know. I know he is a rich man and all to often in America we confuse wealth with intelligence and we do so to our detriment. If Gates doesn't understand how grocery stores work, why should we expect him to know how education works?



The answer is we shouldn't have but for years we let him experiment on our children and teachers like they were lab rats. How many good teachers lost their jobs or left in disgust? How many children didn't receive the education they deserved because he decided to dabble in education. Gates isn't a hero for trying to help, he is a villain because his hubris not facts dictated what he spent his millions on.

From Chalkbeat:

Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address reflected the heady moment in education. “We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000,” he said. “A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance.”
Bad teachers were the problem; good teachers were the solution. It was a simplified binary, but the idea and the research it drew on had spurred policy changes across the country, including a spate of laws establishing new evaluation systems designed to reward top teachers and help weed out low performers.
Behind that effort was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which backed research and advocacy that ultimately shaped these changes.
It also funded the efforts themselves, specifically in several large school districts and charter networks open to changing how teachers were hired, trained, evaluated, and paid. Now, new research commissioned by the Gates Foundation finds scant evidence that those changes accomplished what they were meant to: improve teacher quality or boost student learning.  
The 500-plus page report by the Rand Corporation, released Thursday, details the political and technical challenges of putting complex new systems in place and the steep cost — $575 million — of doing so.
The post-mortem will likely serve as validation to the foundation’s critics, who have long complained about Gates’ heavy influence on education policy and what they call its top-down approach.
https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2018/06/21/the-gates-foundation-bet-big-on-teacher-evaluation-the-report-it-commissioned-explains-how-those-efforts-fell-short/

575 million dollars wasted. What would have happened had he invested that money in smaller classes, mental health counselors and social workers and wrap around services for children, or you know things teachers have been begging for.  

Maybe this could be excused if this was his only failed education initiative but the thing is he has failed over and over again and our school system has paid the price for people letting him try his mad scientistesque experiments. He is a lot closer to Victor Frankenstein than Horace Mann.

Bill Gates, is a teacher blaming union busting, charter loving, voucher promoting hobbyist and it is truly stunning that this really rich and supposedly smart guy is on the wrong side of every education issue.  

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/search?q=bill+gates+

When made aware of the results, the Gates foundation had the following to say, also from Chalkbeat

“We have taken these lessons to heart, and they are reflected in the work that we’re doing moving forward,” the Gates Foundation’s Allan Golston said in a statement.

Well $#@% you Allan Golston and $#@% the foundation too. Unless you are going to listen to teachers and parents your assistance is not wanted. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

17 candidates qualify for 3 school board spots.

Five in district 2 to replace Scott Shine, six in district 4 to replace Paula Wright and six in district 6 to replace Becki Couch.

https://www.voterfocus.com/CampaignFinance/candidate_pr.php?c=Duval

First the good news, Scott Shine is not running for election, because according to him serving on the board was strange.

Now I don't know who you should vote for yet but I have some suggestions who you should avoid

First in district 2 there is businessman Nick Howland. District 2 you have done a business man the last two cycles. Fred Lee was better than expected but as his one in done service indicates the board wasn't for him, and Scott Shine was perhaps the worst board member in recent memory. I don't say that to be mean I say it because its true. It's time to go in a different way.

Then in 4 Teach for America director Darryl Willie would be a terrible choice. Now he might be an affable guy but you can see he has master of the universe type written all over him. I can't see him being prepared or knowledgeable at all.

Also in District 4, I would be wary of Tim Sloan. he is a local education gadfly and frequent attendee of school board meetings, though that isn't enough. A few years back when I did a piece about who was donating to which school board candidate, he told me when he ran he would take that sweet Rummel and Chartrand money.

Finally in district 6, David Chauncey should be avoided at all costs. He like Willie is a Teach for America alumni which means like Willie he is filled with hubris. He did two years in the classroom while waiting for law school and he thinks he knows it all.

Oh and what do Chauncey, Willie and Howland have in common? They have garnered the support of Jacksonville's elites, those people who are more interested in controlling than improving our schools.

People like Willie (4), Chauncey (6) and Howland (2) really upset me. Being on the school board is a serious and important gig, but they think they can just show up and do it. We don't have time for their learning curve as they use a spot on the school board for bigger and better in their mind things. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

SB member Ashley Smith Juarez is right about school safety, but that doesn't mean we can blame the other board members for being wrong

Let me start by saying I think Ashley Smith Juarez is a hundred percent correct on the hiring of $12.50 an hour armed safety assistants. She and many of us believe it is a terrible idea and  think it makes our students and teachers less safe. She has advocated for full fledged police officers to be in our schools instead of the quickly trained glorified security guards. The problem is money. We have enough, barely, for the safety assistants, but only enough for about a third as many police officers. 

Mrs. Smith Juarez has been very vocal about it too which is her job and for this she has received push back from several other board members.

From the Times Union:
At a board agenda meeting Tuesday, Cheryl Grymes scolded fellow board member Ashley Smith Juarez for persisting in her questions about the district’s plan to hire and arm about 105 safety assistants in the coming school year.
The safety assistants aren’t law enforcement officers, but they will be armed and equipped like officers. They will be trained in a fraction of the time police officers train, and they will be paid $12.50 an hour, much less than sheriff’s deputies or school police make.
A majority of Duval’s school board — by 6-to-1 — last month voted to create the positions of safety assistants to patrol the perimeters of school campuses and deter or stop armed intruders.
They’re complying with a new state law requiring districts to place law enforcement officers or armed staff, sometimes called guardians, at each public school by August. The law, with some accompanying state funding, was a response to Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland.
Duval officials, like many other district leaders, say that the state has not allotted enough money for large districts to hire police for every school. The safety assistants are an affordable compromise, they say.
But parents and community members are skeptical. Many have emailed or called the board.
Smith Juarez, the only board member who voted against the safety assistants, said she heard from more than 50 parents who are against the idea. She also held two community forums to explain the safety plan, but there was opposition there, too.
A petition critical of the plan on the Change.org website has nearly 1,000 signatures, Smith Juarez said.
Oy vey, first Cheryl Grymes should be chastising anyone. The last time she had an opinion the charter school industry gave it to her. Smith-Juarez isn't the only board member who is skeptical about the idea, so is at least one board member who voted for it.  
Also from the Times Union:
Other board members said they, too, have heard from parents and community members skeptical of the plan, but it is an imperfect solution that they have reluctantly accepted.
“This is an impossible position that the school boards are placed in,” said board member Rebecca Couch, noting that the state legislature gave districts only three months and not enough money to hire and arm responsible people for each school.
“This isn’t a perfect choice for me; I struggle with it,” she said, adding she hopes people signing the petition against Duval’s plan will also contact state legislators. She noted that the state still has a surplus and has spent nearly a $1 billion on private school vouchers, so the legislature can afford to better fund school safety mandates.
Couch also floated the idea of asking local voters to foot the bill, either through a referendum to raise taxes or through a bond issue, but it would take two years before the district saw any money.
We are without a doubt going to miss Mrs. Couch when she is gone. She started slow but for for the last few years she has been a fierce and tireless advocate for our schools. I shudder at the prospect that Gary Chartrand sycophant David Chauncey may replace her in the fall.
Mrs. Smith Juarez is right about the fallibility of hiring the safety assistants but so is Mrs. Couch, when she points out that the district has been put in a no win situation by the state legislature, a legislature that Couch pointed out currently controls a surplus and sent a billion dollars to voucher schools, and is a body that includes Jacksonville's own Jason Fischer who funneled two million to his donor's charter school and who is that donor? Why it is Gary Chartrand that is who. 
We can get mad at the board for implementing an idea that they themselves aren't sold on or we can look to Tallahassee and place the blame where it belongs. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Trey Csar out at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

I have always liked Trey Csar. He has never been anything but polite and professional to me despite some of the withering criticism I have leveled against him and the Jacksonville Public Education fund.

I also don't believe Trey is a mercenary, somebody in education to get rich; though he did take home over six figures and believe me there are plenty of people, just not the people doing the teaching that are getting rich. Then I don't think he was a zealot either. Gary Chartrand the founder of JPEF is a zealot, he is on a religious mission to privatize our schools. Csar, it seemed to me was just doing a job.

All that being said, I found him to be on the wrong side of most education issues and the leader of a group and maybe it was because Chartrand and his privatization friends were really pulling the strings, that missed a lot of opportunities.

Over the years I have gone to a bunch of JPEF events, they always feed you, because I really wanted them to get it right and invariably each forum was either about getting better teachers or improving opportunities for teachers to grow besides teaching.

Now I don't want to say those topics don't have merit, but what about properly funding education, discipline, parental involvement and so many other things?

Why was it always about getting rid of some teachers and helping other teachers get out of the classroom? Seriously friends they covered these topics ad nausea and for years. 

JPEF could get these amazing people together. Judges, non profit leaders, community and business leaders too and then ask them, so what does a good principal look like to you? These people could have been used to come up with real solutions but at then end of the day JPEF wasted their time over and over again.

Then there was JPEF's privatization agenda. Years ago they did a white paper which said, charters are worse, we don't know how private schools that take vouchers are doing and we need more private schools that take vouchers and charters. Um what?!?

Trey also once said, I am not for public schools, I am for good schools and where a noble sentiment, he wasn't president of the Jacksonville Good School Education Fund, further frustrating because he knows by and large public schools are the best thing going.

Then they pushed a conference that was about getting more young black students to go to charters and their closeness to charters and Teach for America too. After a while it all adds up.

Jacksonville could really use a private organization that is here to help our schools. It is really a shame that we haven't had one.

I wish Trey well, but I am sad abut what could have been.

To read more, click the link: http://www.jacksonville.com/news/20180615/first-leader-at-jacksonville-public-education-fund-to-hand-off-duties

The next big thing? Teacher ghettos.

In my hometown of Jacksonville Florida we have an organization called The Jacksonville Public Education Fund and under the guise of helping public education often pushes school choice, sorry I meant to say privatization there. Well on it's Facebook page they wrote about a program in Newark that was geared towards teachers living together basically where they work.

JPEF asked:

"If more cities begin to emulate this innovative approach, urban America might find a solution to at least one part of the complicated problem of teacher retention. What do you think, would this initiative work in Jacksonville?"

Sigh

They call this innovative while I find the prospect of teacher ghettos horrifying. With what other profession requiring a four year degree are they saying, hey, I now you can't make it on your salary, so here is a studio apartment where you work, you are welcome. What's next a company store?

From Forbes:

“Teachers Village was an attempt to recruit and retain teachers by providing them a place to live near where they work,” says Linda Morgan, vice president of project partnerships at RBH Group, the firm that built it. Before it opened, only about 15% of the teachers working in Newark lived in the city, says Morgan. Many lived in the suburbs.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilylanghorne/2018/06/08/teachers-village-one-citys-innovative-solution-to-the-problem-of-teacher-retention/#87feb1463b77

Now you can live where you work too!

Oy vey

And lest you think it's just Newark, there are plans for them in Miami and San Francisco too.

From the Washington Post;


Problem: Many teachers around the country earn so little they have to take second jobs, and some quit teaching to get higher-paying jobs to cover their family’s bills. That fuels teacher shortages in districts in every state, creating instability for students and headaches for administrators who struggle to keep their schools staffed.
So what’s the solution?
You might think the obvious answer is to raise educators’ salaries high enough so they can afford to stay in the profession. Teachers in the United States earn less than 60 percent of the salaries of similarly educated individuals, according to the 2017 Education at a Glance report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
But some cities and districts are planning to spend money in another way: for affordable housing.
San Francisco, for example, was rated worst among 50 cities in a 2017 analysis by Apartment List that measured the rent burden teachers face. So officials have committed millions of dollars in public money to build affordable housing for educators to help stem a severe teacher shortage.
Here is an article about another one in Indianapolis.
Why do I get the vibe these are mostly for Teach for America and charter school teachers as well? You know the darlings of the privatization movement.
Here is a crazy idea. Why don't we pay teachers enough so they can live where they want?  You know, treat them like they are professionals.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

DCPS has no money in the budget for TFA but they are still coming.

I would like to thank Board member Ashley Smith Juarez for getting back to me and sending me the budget proposal, which says as of now, no money is going to be allocated for TFA. The thing is that doesn't make me feel any better since many surplussed teachers don't have permanent positions yet.

TFA Jax received 5 million from the QEA last summer, money that was supposed to go to our classrooms that will never see the inside of one and they could foot the bill for the finders fee just to keep their presence in the district. Currently there are two former corp members, Daryl Willie and David Chauncey running for school board and they may be thinking, just hang on and when we are in charge we will bring in as many as we can.

The thing is even if the district doesn't shell out one dime it is still a slap in the face to every educator that has been surplussed and their colleagues and their students, that a new TFA class is coming in while there is so much uncertainty for those veterans.

I am asking the district the following questions.

Have these new corp members secured teaching positions?

Has every surplussed teacher been placed?

If not is there overlap between the two groups? That is to say does a TFA teacher have a job teaching a subject that a surplussed veteran also teaches who as of now doesn't have a placement.

Will the district commit to making sure every surplussed teacher has a job before placing a TFA teacher in the classroom?

I have never been a fan of TFA and I believe to the bottom of my heart they should only be used after every other mean has been exhausted.


DCPS brings in Teach for America corp members while surplussing veteran teachers

You know I have been pretty easy on the district. Tallahassee has done us no favors but it makes me so mad I could spit that DCPS is bringing in new TFA corp members while surplussing hundreds of veteran teachers and pleading poverty. That is both insulting, despicable and outrageous.



That's a fine looking masters of the universe bunch killing time before law school, while hundreds of veteran teachers are wondering if they will have jobs next year.

This is an insult to every veteran teacher that was surplussed.

My wife just said, that's some bull shit and I completely concur.

I don't want anybody with a gun in my classroom

Duval County had a job fair for 105 safety assistants, and received 316 applicants. I am reminded of the Real World tagline, when people stop being polite, and start getting real. Well friends the fact we are going to have barely trained armed personnel in our schools and classes is getting all to real.

From the Times Union:
Micheal P. Edwards, director of the district’s police force, told the School Board that although he is hiring 105 safety assistants — one for each elementary school — 316 people have applied for the newly created positions.
School safety assistants are supposed to provide a first defense against armed intruders. They’re not sworn law enforcement officers, but they’ll carry guns, wear safety gear and get more training than most security guards.
Um, most security guards!?! No #@%^ing way!!!
More from the Times Union
Duval’s dark blue school police uniforms resemble JSO’s and other police agency uniforms. The school safety assistants will wear tan vests and pants and tan or green shirts, he said.
Also, school police officers wear guns and safety gear in plain sight, on their belts.
School safety assistants will have some of the same gear and weapons — even bullet-resistant vests — but their guns must be concealed by state law, Edwards said.
That’s why the vests they wear will be long, like safari vests, covering their waist and their weapons. It will still be easy to reach them, he added.
They are going to wear tunics and look like TV pow's Safari Dan? Oh hell no. 
And some more:
“We want these individuals to be part of the school family,” Edwards said, adding that assistants may speak to children and school staff, but they won’t be counseling, teaching classes, investigating crimes or handling discipline, as regular school police sometimes do.
No absolutely not, I don't want anybody with a gun in my classroom. Now if you are a trained officer and have a legitimate reason to be there, sure, but that's it.
Now some people might ask, am I not afraid about some armed intruder and the answer is sure but what I am more afraid of is some half trained guy with a gun not recognizing a kid in crisis and shooting them. What I am much more scared of is an accident or them confusing defiance and disruption with a situation that needs a gun. 
This doesn't make me feel better about the situation either.
From the Tampa Times
For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to review national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.
Oy vey.
Look I get the district was dealt a bad hand by the republican's in Tallahassee, they are the real villains here, but these safety assistants make me feel less safe and guns really have no place in a classroom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Will DCPS experience a reduction in force? My guess is yes

The district came out with their budget priorities and in my opinion put an all together to rosy of a spin on them. Sadly though If you read between the lines you can see that a reduction in force is coming. With 62 million dollars in the hole its borderline absurd to think people aren't going to lose their jobs.  Here are the three priorities that lead me to believe a RIF is coming.

 While district-level costs represent just over a quarter of overall expenses, district cuts will make up 36 percent of the budget gap. A net total of more than 50 district positions are recommended to be cut, and combined with other operating reductions, overall district-level spending will be down more than 8 percent.

One school-based strategy that will save the district about $2.2 million is an equalizing of elementary resource teachers among large and small schools. In the current funding model, each school has the same number of people, regardless of size. That means students in smaller schools have more time with physical education, music and arts teachers compared to students in larger schools.

Other school level adjustments that will save money next year include: adjustments to the school teacher allocation model that will reduce staffing and save $10.4 million, and a change from a “block” schedule to a traditional seven-period day in middle school that will save $3.7 million. 

https://dcps.duvalschools.org/site/default.aspx?

First those fifty admin spots that are being eliminated, they aren't just going to be shown the door. Those that don't retire or leave will be offered position in schools, though schools will have fewer positions to give.

Next who wants to bet that a lot of those art, music and PE teachers aren't going to be going to bigger school part time, but they will be splitting their time between other small schools, meaning we will need fewer people in those positions.

Then finally middle schools are going to need 15 percent fewer teachers. I happen to like a 7 period day better than block scheduling but it means teachers will have less time to plan and collaborate and schools will need fewer of them.

Across the district hundreds of teachers have been surplussed. The district has not come off the numbers but its my bet it is the 700-800 range and with middle schools needing fewer teachers and elementary schools needing fewer art, music and PE teachers, and with a lot of school based coach and coordinator positions being phased out, sadly I believe more than a few people will be out of a job. 

Here is the thing, as mad as I want to be at the district, I can't, because even though Vitti spent like a drunken sailor on the way out of town, it's the state and their chronic and I believe criminal under funding of education, which is the main culprit.

People are going to lose their jobs, kids are going to get fewer electives and/or bigger classes when they take them and a lot of support positions, coaches and coordinators are going to go away and it is bound to have an effect.

This is what 20 years of republican leadership looks like and I want to remind everyone that while DCPS is begging for change. Jason Fischer funneled 2 million to his donors charter schools. Who does he really care about again?'

Notice the reduction in school positions figure.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Where KIPP may be mediocre at educating , it is great at getting extra money out of tax payers.

In 2010 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited a brand new charter school on the Northside of Jacksonville, The Knowledge is Power Program or KIPP school. Of all theschools he could have visited and back then Stanton Prep and the Paxon school for advanced studies were annually considered some of the best in the nation, he chose to visit a small charter school. Did I mention he brought a 500 thousand dollar grant with him? This as schools in Jacksonville were surplussing teachers, growing classes and cutting, the arts and libraries left and right. It was insulting to say the least, I didn’t know then but I needed to get used to that feeling.
The KIPP school was brought to Jacksonville by local businessman Gary Chratrand who spent nine millions to bring it here and it was placed in the old north side dog track, which was donated to a foundation that supports the KIPP school.
The converted schools first class was 88 students.
KIPP is known for a few things, some they are quite proud of and some they would probably rather you not know. Their school day is longer, kids are required to attend Saturday school and music classes as well. KIPP’s teachers are required to be more accessible to their students than regular public school teachers, and they secure commitments ofinvolvement from the parents of their students as well. Those are some of the good things.  Some of the bad things are they experience an incredibly high rate of teacher turnover and their academic performance which has been lackluster despite the above mentioned advantages to say the least.
That first class I mentioned above received the lowest grade in all of northeast Florida. The next year they went to a miraculous B but in their third year they fell to a grade protected C. Back then the state had just initiated a rule which they have since discontinued which said school letter grades could only fall one grade at the time. Did I mention that KIPP benefactor Gary Chartrand had parlayed substantial donations to a position as chair of the state board of education which helped craft that rule?
That wasn’t the only time KIPP has been allowed to manipulate it’s grade.
Last year the school board allowed KIPP Voice, a kindergarten through fourth-grade school, that shares the same building with KIPP Impact, a middle school, to take the highest state grade of the two for its joint report card. If they wouldn’t have done so Impact would have received a C, while voice a D but instead it was graded as one school and given a C. Furthermore, as far as I can tell they weren’t required to return the six-figure new charter grant they had received just two years’ before when they expanded. And if you are wondering why KIPP had at one time three different schools on one property, I will get to that in a bit.
School board members who at one time or another received money from Gary Chartrand and allowed that to happen, Becki Couch, Cheryl Grymes, Warren Jones, Ashley Smith-Juarez and Scott Shine.
Even Floirda’s education commisioner Pam Stewart has felt the need to question their reputation which often outshines their perfrmance.  
From Politico: State education Commissioner Pam Stewart, in a sardonic text exchange with a colleague, accused a prominent GOP donor who chairs a Jacksonville charter school chain of using misleading data to boast about students’ test scores, according to public records obtained by POLITICO Florida.
Stewart said in a text message to a top staff member that the leaders of KIPP Jacksonville overstated the percentage of third graders who passed state reading exams. 

In the May 19 conversation, Stewart was critical of Gary Chartrand, a member and former chair of the state Board of Education who also heads the governing panel for KIPP's three Florida charter schools. Chartrand, executive chairman of Acosta Inc., a Jacksonville sales and marketing firm, is a reliable campaign donor to Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott. 


In the texts, Stewart suggested Chartrand and the network’s executive director, Tom Majdanics, had been bragging that 41 percent of third graders at KIPP VOICE Elementary School passed this year’s reading tests, when the figure was actually 35 percent.
No educationg children, as their grade has been up and down more often than a yo yo, is not what they do best, but what they are phenomenal at is securing extra tax payer dollars from the city and state.   
This year state representative Jason Fischer secured two million extra dollars for the KIPP school, in the budget signed by Rick Scott.
This is a little strange because last year Rick Scott used his line item veto power to veto 500 thousand dollars to the KIPP school. Now Scott has routinely signed state budgets that gave the KIPP school extra money, he after Jason Fischer filed a bill to do so that gave them, 1,244,000 dollars the year before, so it was unusual that he picked last year to draw a line in the sand and then restate the largess this year?
Well it may have had to do with the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, now known as the Kids Hope Alliance and controlled by Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry, changing their rules last year and awarding the KIPP school a grant for 752,796 dollars to pay for their longer school day. Up until then The JCC had never worked directly with a school or paid for a longer day.      
If you are following at home that is four million in extra dollars in just the last three years but sadly I am just getting started.
Oh, and what do Rick Scott, Lenny Curry and Jason Fischer have in common? Gary Chartrand has given all of them or their pacs a considerable amount of money.
Continuing, in 2015 the KIPP school received 1.6 million dollars in the form of a cooperation grant from the state so the district could learn from and emulate the KIPP school. Since the KIPP impact school’s grades had been up to that point, F, B, D*, B, and D I am not sure what the district was supposed to learn but the money was allocated anyway.
They also received 900 thousand extra in 2014 and that’s as far back as I went, though I have no doubt I would have found other large sums of public money earmarked to KIPP had I done so.
Some of you might one wondering why one campus needs three schools and if you guessed that had to do with money then you wouldn’t be wrong. First there is the aforementioned new charter school grants, but it may also have to do with money given to board members and the district itself.     
In 2012, despite experienced great growing pains it was allowed to expand by the Duval County School Board and did I mention back then they didn’t use text books?
Members on the school board that had received money from Chartrand in or before 2012 and allowed it to happen, Hazouri, Gentry, Barret and Couch
In 2014 KIPP had which had expanded to 660 students just two years before was looking to expand again and this time to a little over 1,800 students. Such a big jump was unprecedented and perhaps not even warranted considering their mediocre performance. The discussion became mute however after Gary Chartrand stepped forward with what was called the Quality Education for all Initiative which at one time promised 50 million over five years to DCPS. It ended up delivering just 38 million and much of that never saw the inside of the classroom. At least 5 million was diverted to Teach for America Jacksonville, which has also provided numerous teachers to the KIPP school.  
Did Gary Chartrand of the State Board of Education, buy the KIPP expansion with the QEA initiative and all his school board donations? I can’t say for sure just like I can’t say for sure if his tens of thousand in donations to Fischer, Scott and Curry resulted in millions extra for the KIPP school and just like I can’t say for sure his position as chair of the state board of education brought the KIPP school a 1.6 million dollar cooperation grant or protected its grade from falling but unless you believe in coincidence after coincidence after coincidence, it sure seems like it. 
Are there good things going on at KIPP? I bet you would find plenty of parents and students who would emphatically say yes but at then end of the day despite extraordinary advantages they have a mediocre record and what they are truly good at is securing extra funding. You will have to make up your mind for yourself whether they deserve it and secured it ethically.  
Finally, remember that first class of 88, well only 64 made it through eighth grade and of them only 48 bothered to return to a graduation ceremony that KIPP had for them, that’s just a little over half. I think perhaps that more than anything else speaks volumes.