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Sunday, May 9, 2021

The district's actions, speak louder than their words... and a pin.

 During teacher appreciation week, DCPS had their faculty meet and watch a video where Greene thanked them for their hard work. The schools, I imagine at the behest of the district, then gave newer teachers blankets and senior teachers pins with years of service broken into five-year increments.

Some of my colleagues, people I respect and appreciate, were quite taken with the gesture. I do not want to diminish how they felt, but I think teachers are worth more than this tiny gesture, and I think it is safe to say more than a few teachers were insulted.   

The district has had numerous chances to show they appreciate teachers all year long, and they passed at every opportunity.

If the district truly appreciated teachers, you would have thought they would have wanted to keep them safe, but all year long, teachers risked their health and worse, because of the woeful contact tracing and the lack of social distancing, which never occurred.

When the state passed its terrible teacher raise bill, which will actually see many veteran teachers lose money the super and board could have stood up and said, that’s not fair; they could have let the public know too, but they didn’t; they passed.

Then several bills attacked teacher’s unions this past legislative session, attempting to end automatic deductions. But, again, instead of explaining that it was no problem to do so and that the union is important, the district was silent.

With testing, they could have rolled it back, taking some of the stress that it brings with it away from teachers, but instead, the district doubled down and increased the pressure. In fact, all year long, the district has acted like there wasn’t a pandemic and put more and more on teacher’s plates, when many teachers were just trying to survive.

With evaluations, schools and the district won't be graded on this year's tests, but teachers will still be. The measures are bad in a good year, and this has not been a good year. If the district appreciated teachers, it would acknowledge that and then work to make sure teachers were evaluated fairly.

Elementary teachers don’t have enough planning, ESE teachers have a terrible IEP program, and nobody has enough time to do everything that the district thinks they should be doing, but instead of helping out, nope we get a pin, that for many, many teachers did not reflect their actual years of service.

All year long and at every opportunity presented, the district has shown its staff they don’t appreciate them. Unfortunately, their actions speak a lot louder than words and a pin.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

If Greene said being gay was a choice and they were going to burn in hell people would flip their lids. However when other education leaders say it, it gets barely a blip.

 Senator Kelli Stargel when pushing the transphobic sports bill across the finishing line said being gay was a choice and received zero backlash for her remarks. Erika Donalds among a heap of other bat sh*t crazy remarks said gay people don't have to burn in hell, it's a choice, and DCPS rewarded her with a second charter school. How is this acceptable?


She later apologized, sort of. 


I am not sure if she was admitting she was wrong or chastising people who kind of agreed with her witch, monster bigot comment. 

Then there is Erika Donalds whose husband Byron is a representative in congress.

 


Sigh, so what does DCPS do? If you thought put measures in place to make sure LGBTQ children at her charter schools weren't discriminated against, you would be wrong, instead, DCPS said, hey here is another, charter for you.

How does nobody care?

Why a 20 year teacher got a 15 year pin

For teacher appreciation week and more on that later, the district handed out pins with years of service in 5-year increments on them. This is my 20th year as a teacher, and yet I received a 15 yer pin. You would think it wouldn't matter so much, but it was really a reminder of how little the district appreciates teachers, especially veteran ones.

In 2010, superintendent PrattDannals declared a financial emergency, and the district skipped giving step raises; the district did the same thing this past year for the entire district but then later and again for veteran teachers gave them out and called them raises. 

In 2010 it was later discovered the district had something like 186 million in reserves when the financial emergency was declared, and Pratt Dannals was eventually fired. You would have thought the step raises would have been reinstated, but you would think wrong.

Back then, the step raises weren't all that great, but if you were around year 15 or sixteen, you got the big bump, something like 5k, and I remember talking to a teacher in tears because they didn't get it. 

So, where I have 20 years of service, I am only on step 19, and thus I got a 15-year pin. 

Because of that step loss, some back of the napkin math tells me I am out about 9k (though if teachers were still being paid the same as they were on my first contract in 2000, I am out a lot more). There are 1400 or so teachers on professional contracts, which means we are collectively out millions, but hey, here is a pin and a reminder of what you lost. 

I would say suddenly I don't feel that appreciated, but that's been the district's way for a long, long time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

DCPS's testing shenanigans

A lot of schools are doing a new testing regimen. In years past, an entire class would test all at once, but now higher achievers are testing first and lower performers sometime after. My initial thought was the district is trying to pull a fast one. The district knows kids talk, so the thought is maybe some could pass on some info to their peers, that and teachers just want to be helpful too. Now I don't see any teacher saying the answer to 26 is C, but if they see a subject on the test that could be covered a little more before the lower performing group took the test, that would be okay too. That's what I initially thought anyways.

Then somebody pointed out that it was being done so the lower performing kids could get more instruction. I can rationalize that, okay, sure why not. The district isn't some evil despot with plots within plots but maybe not so fast.

However, now I am learning that many of the "lower kids" aren't getting extra instruction because their teachers are proctoring the tests. A friend at the district pointed some more things out to me the district probably hasn't considered because "it seems like they look at every kid like they are dollar signs and test scores" instead of, well, instead of them being kids.  

Isn't it going to be a kick in the pants when some kids realize they are the lower performers as they take the tests after their peers? Many of these kids experience test weariness; that is, there are diminishing returns from all the test prep, and if some burnout, worsening returns. How's that going to affect their mental health, something the district pretends to care about? My bet is not well. 


Their tone-deafness is deafening. @$#&ing deafening.

In my mind, the district is doing everything they can to cook the books. Greene can taste that almost A from two years ago, and nothing is going to stop her.   

I would say we were sold a bill of goods with Greene, but the reality is she came here with one scandal and dubious practice after another under her belt. Her actions, do whatever it takes, even if it leaves a trail of broken bodies and burnt-out teachers in her wake, speak louder than her words. 

DCPS approves charter with racist and anti-LGBTQ ties

 I sent below to the school board after seeing their plans to approve a second classical charter school. I knew it was going to pass, to fight back against what is wrong takes courage, and as we have seen all year long, the board lacks it, but I had hoped for some toke resistance, but apparently thinking racism doesn't exist and gay people are going to burn in hell doesn't move the needle for our school board.

  I have grave concerns about the expansion of the Classical Charter school. 

They get their curriculum from the Hillsdale Barney Charter school initiative. 

https://www.jaxclassical.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=424057&type=d 

Hillsdale is a small far-right liberal arts college out of Michigan, and recently they have sent out a series of mailers to locals.   

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Imprimis_Mar_3-21_6pgNM.pdf 

 

They espouse some pretty radical theories where they basically say racism is a made-up tool to divide society so the radical left can seize power. 

 

For as long as I can remember, the right has accused public schools of trying to indoctrinate kids; well, friends, this seems like some straight-up far-right indoctrination on their part. 

 

Furthermore, last year, Hillsdale sent out a Facebook poll asking how afraid of socialism people were; I kid a little, but the answers were basically really scared, and really #$@%ing scared, 

 

https://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2020/02/troubling-details-about-jaxs-new.html 

 

How can we be sure that far-right indoctrination isn’t going on? Then, however, it gets worse. 

 

This is an Optima Foundation. 


https://optimaed.org/schools/


 

The Optima Foundation is led by Erika Donalds 

 

https://optimaed.org/leadership/  

 

Erika Donalds has rather interesting views on banning books and troubling views on LGBTQ individuals. 

 

Banning Books 

 

http://cbldf.org/2016/09/collier-county-school-board-voters-reject-censorship-agenda/ 

 

Removing LGBTQ protections 

 

https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/education/2018/01/01/mother-gay-teen-critiques-collier-school-boards-anti-lgbtq-decision/983839001/ 

 

Gay people are going to hell. 

 

 

 

Just some random troubling stuff, from the Tampa Times, 

 

 She led the conservative Florida Coalition of School Board Members, which split from the larger Florida School Boards Association over vouchers. She pressed for school board term limits and a statewide charter school authorizer in an amendment that famously failed Supreme Court muster amid heated statewide debate. 

 

https://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/2019/01/23/off-her-school-board-erika-donalds-focuses-on-florida-school-choice-expansio 

 

If being related to far-right indoctrination and blatant hatred of LGBTQ people isn’t enough, your own analyses only give them partial credit in about two dozen areas.  

 

I understand that the state does districts no favors and stacks the deck against them when it comes to charters, but I would urge you to vote no until all the standards are completely met.  

 

Then some board members have taken campaign contributions from Classical Charter board members, those members should recuse themselves. 

 

Finally, at some point, some board has to say no, and have a proper conversation with the community about what charters have become. Or, at some point, that is all we will have. You all ran to make a difference; maybe this is it. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

DCPS approves charter schools hand over fist, other districts fight back.

 This should be all you need to know. DCPS approved a charter school right across the street from an A-rated school. They approve charter schools all the time in areas of town that don't need them; District 7 Lori Hershey's district, Mandarin has more charter schools than any other part of the city. Schools doing great; no problem, let's put a charter in their neighborhood. Schools are underutilized; that's cool; let's put charter schools there too. Out superintendent and board approve them, like that, and not supporting the district's public schools is their job. 

Charter schools were supposed to be teacher-parent laboratories of change that, if successful, were to be replicated in public schools. They were supposed to be innovative and work with public school systems. But, unfortunately, that's not what we have in Florida and Jacksonville in particular.  Here it's all about the money, and since the referendum turned Jacksonville into a cookie jar for charters, the money is flowing like water into the pockets of charters, and we can expect a lot more to open up in the next few years. 

It doesn't have to be this way; districts could fight back.

From Tallahaseee.com,

 After a lengthy debate, the Leon County School Board denied a new charter school's application during Tuesday night's board meeting. 

Red Hills Academy submitted the charter's application in February, which school board members officially reviewed during Monday's agenda review meeting. The proposed site would have been Leon County's sixth charter school. 

The school would be located at 3551 Austin Davis Boulevard near the corner of Mahan Drive and Capital Circle North East. 

The school's application sparked the latest local flashpoint in the debate over the creation of new charter schools, which public school advocates say drain resources from the traditional education system. 

https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2021/04/28/leon-county-school-board-denies-red-hills-academy-charter-application/4863727001/?fbclid=IwAR01YrnNIpaeF0KTNSvjVnCgT-wJ1H2pLpM7Bdxccnxr1cNDs8yMiPtRZ_0

Now I don't want to sugarcoat it. Despite what the state constitution says, Tallahassee has stacked the deck against districts and for charters, including putting the district on the hook for any legal fees should a charter fight being denied in court. That being said, if a charter school wants to open up across the street from an A school in a neighborhood that doesn't need one or isn't innovative, isn't this a fight we should have? Doesn't the district have an obligation to fight for the city's children and inform the city's citizens? I think so, but apparently, Greene and the board don't.

We can and should be doing better, and it's a shame that we aren't.

Friday, April 30, 2021

A tale of two high schools named Robert E. Lee.

The city has been tearing itself apart for a year now as DCPS fails the city once again by not quickly changing the names of schools named after confederate generals. Instead of doing both the easy and right thing, DCPS has engaged in a year-long odyssey. Another school district faced with the exact same issue did things much quicker and better.    

From the USA Today, 

The eleventh-largest school district in the U.S. has renamed a high school formerly known as Robert E. Lee High School after civil rights icon John Lewis.

The school board in Fairfax County, Virginia, voted Thursday to rename the school after the congressman, who died this month. The new name, John R. Lewis High School, takes effect this school year.

Representative Tamara Derenak Kaufax, a Fairfax County school board member, proposed a resolution to remove the Confederate general's name from the school in Springfield, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., in February.

Several board members cheered when the unanimous vote was announced.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2020/07/23/john-lewis-new-name-fairfax-virginia-robert-e-lee-high-school/5498267002/

Here is a little more from the Patch,

In February, the school board voted to start the renaming process and seek public feedback. However, that process was delayed after K-12 schools were ordered to close for the rest of the academic year due to the pandemic.

https://patch.com/virginia/kingstowne/robert-e-lee-high-school-renaming-process-resume

The process started in February. The pandemic delayed vote was taken in June. The name was changed in July. 4 months it took and only because of the pandemic compared to Jacksonville's 11 and counting.

This should have been an easy decision, the board isn't going to have many easier, but instead of doing the right thing and saving the city a lot of pain and division, they dragged it out because that's what poor leaders do, and we have a bunch.

If DCPS can't get the easy stuff right, it is no surprise that we are failing at the hard stuff. 

Do Greene and the board think being gay is a choice?

 Senator Stargel said being gay is a choice as she pushed Florida's transphobic bill across the finish line. I would like to know what our superintendent and school board think of this bill, and not just because they will be the ones carrying it but because, at this point, their silence is complicity. 

The anti-trans bill, which called for inspecting children's genitalia, passed in the house, but it stalled in the Senate, and there was hope that Florida would be spared this horrible bill. But, unfortunately, it was added to a last-minute train bill chalked full of anti-public education provisions and is now heading to the governor's desk, where he has vowed to sign it.

This bill does not protect girls' sports from men as it has been framed. Still, it does send a loud and clear message to our LGBTQ children, and that's the Republicans in the state legislature who think they are second-class citizens. So they can pass special legislation that segregates them from everyone else. Even representative Tuck, the bill's sponsor, couldn't point to where men dominating girls sports was happening as if it would, but that didn't deter him and his ilk from pushing this solution without a problem bill threw.   

This brings me to Greene and the school board, who have also remained silent as the legislature attacked teachers and unions; I think we should all know if our trans children should be excluded and if they think being gay is a choice. 


The superintendent and board have a voice they refuse to use. They have an obligation to educate the people about these bad bills and what they do, but they refuse to do so again. At some point, and I think that time has passed, their silence becomes complicity and shame on them,

  

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

With the school name changes, the district sets up the racists to win even if they lose (draft)

DCPS has set up a system where people can vote to change the name of Lee High School, but Robert E. Lee can still get the most votes. This is failure a failure in leadership and it would not surprise me if it was by design.   

I wish I could vote to change the names of all the schools, as a citizen of Jacksonville it is an embarrassment that in 2021, we have any schools named after slavers and traitors let alone six. Furthermore, four of the six schools are minority-majority too which means most of the children that attend them attend schools named after somebody who thought they were subhuman. 

The process that DCPS has set up has been a slog. I guess they have never heard of just ripping the band-aid off and instead went with the slow painful way, a way that has seen racists emboldened, teachers doxed and a community unnecessarily divided.     

All of this could have been avoided had the district had any sense of urgency but of course, they had none. 

When the district decided to go on this arduous journey, who exactly was it for? It was not for the communities of color that many of these schools are in or serve. No, it was for the guy who thinks Jesus supported slavery and the people who nodded along. This has been for them, they are the constituency the district has been playing to and it is shameful, but it may just get even more so as the district has set up a way for them to win even if they lose. 

When voting, the first line is to change the name or not. Do you want it to stay Lee high school or be named something else? Yet inexplicably the next question gives you a choice of names and one of those is Lee high school. This means where even if most people vote to change the name, Lee can still get the most votes. How is this even an option?  

Can you imagine what will happen if Lee does get the most votes? It will embolden the racists; it will give them the credibility that thus far they have not had and diminish the credibility the next name will have. It will also further divide the community that has already been torn apart by a year of this fiasco. I can see it now, they might call it Riverside High, but most of the people wanted to keep it, Lee. This stain was created because we have a district that both does not think ahead and who kowtows to a loud minority who hasn’t figured out the south lost the war.  

We could and should be doing better, but time and time again when in a hole instead of climbing out the district chooses to dig deeper.   

The district is complicit or incompetent, I will let you decide which you think more. 


 

How does that make any sense? The answer is it doesn't unless the district is trying to give the racists a second bite at the apple.

In fact, very little of the entire process, which will stretch on for another six weeks, makes sense.

This should have been easy, and it should have been done last summer. The fact that it didn't makes me wonder what who all this has been for? Not the communities of color which have had to endure this slight for way too long, that's for sure, and all the leaves are the people who want to live in a past where people of color were treated as if they were subhuman.

The thing is, you don't reward the baby for having a tantrum, and that's what the district has done to a small vocal minority for the last few months. You also do what's right because it is right, even if a few people stuck in the Jim Crow era don't like it.

This shouldn't have been this hard, but for some reason, the district decided to make it so.

I think Greene and the school board have some explaining to do. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Greene is a fox in the hen house, joins Jeb Bush's anti-public education club

 In case you were wondering why Greene had been such a disappointment, it turns out it is by design as she has joined Jeb Bush's Chiefs for Change, a group that pushes corporate reforms, i.e., high stakes testing, punish the teacher evaluations, and scabs as teachers, and privatization, the expansion of charter schools and vouchers. Friends, we have met the enemy, and it is Greene.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, i.e., a way station for Teach for America alumni, congratulated her on joining the Cheifs for Change, just proving a tiger can't change its stripes, once for privatization, always for privatization. 

From in the Public Interest,

Emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and state education officials, show that the foundation is writing state education laws and regulations in ways that could benefit its corporate funders. The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations, and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers.

“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business,” said In the Public Interest Executive Director Donald Cohen. “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies.”

The emails conclusively reveal that FEE staff acted to promote their corporate funders’ priorities and demonstrate the dangerous role that corporate money plays in shaping our education policy. Correspondence in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Louisiana paint a graphic picture of corporate money distorting democracy.

https://www.inthepublicinterest.org/jeb-bush-emails/

Hmm, let me ask you how Florida's laws have treated teachers and public education? If you answered not that great, I agree, and here is Greene going well; that's the group for me. 

Cheif's for Change gets a lot of their funding from Bill Gates, who has behaved more like Frankenstein tinkering with education, one failed idea after another than somebody who cares and knows what they are doing. 

Common core, high stakes evaluations,  and the list goes on and on.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/petergreene/2020/05/08/why-bill-gates-is-not-the-man-to-reimagine-new-york-education/?sh=761ac44b79cc

I can't imagine anyone who cares about public education wanting to have anything to do with Cheif's for Change. They have been on the wrong side of every education issue and have actively worked to injure the profession, hamstring public education, and privatize whatever remains. Greene joining this group is a slap in the face to all the staff, parents, and schools in the district.

To read more, click the link, https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Chiefs_for_Change