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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The runaway train wreck that Tallahassee has become

The Florida Legislature is once again attempting to subvert the legislative process by jamming into two bill, Senate Bills 524 and 1166, nearly thirty nominally related topics. It’s become typical in Tallahassee to add bills that are going nowhere to bills that have a real chance at passing. The reason behind this is the hope that some legislators will hold their nose and ignore the things they don’t like in order to support the things they do. 

Originally SB 524 and SB 1166 were very small bills that only dealt with public universities’ performance funding and education funding.

Now the 59-page SB 524 includes the “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus plan that most teachers have rejected, forcing school districts to share their tax revenue with for profit charter schools and at least a dozen more topics. 

Then the new, 85-page version of SB 1166 now includes open enrollment that would allow students to cross district lines, high school athletics proposals that many believe would create a type of free agency and a proposal to give high impact charter schools fifteen years contracts. I want to remind you that currently high impact teachers hired after 2010 only get one year contracts. 

Most of these proposals were unlikely to pass on their own but now they have been give new life.

These are called train bills but the truth is they are more like train wrecks. I think they should be called Frankenstein bills because they are cobbled together from different bills and in the end all they create is a monster.

One proposal, almost universally supported by parents and teachers, mandatory recess, however didn’t make these train bills, which should tell you all you need to know about who are legislators in Tallahassee are truly representing.

This is not how the legislative process is supposed to work. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What Florida is for

The Florida Legislature plans to force districts to give local tax money to for profit charters.

Pro charter school bills are moving through the Florida Legislature. Perhaps the worst would require local districts to share their tax revenue with charter schools, the majority of which are run by for profit management companies.  

One of the biggest beneficiaries of this give away that will also hurt public schools by siphoning away resources is Charter Schools USA who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to republican legislators in Tallahassee.

Then despite the fact that CUSA does the lion’s share of its business in Florida and none in Delaware, CUSA is incorporated in Delaware. According to NPR Delaware is helping wealthy individuals and multinational companies hide assets and avoid taxes.

This means that not only are we not requiring CUSA to pay taxes in Florida but now the Republican dominated legislature is proposing giving them even more money.

Why should Florida be giving any money to charter schools other than the approved per child rate? I want to also remind you was that one of the selling points of charters was they could educate children cheaper and better than public schools, neither of which turns out to be true. 

I always thought republicans were for local control and against crony capitalism. With this one bill which will force local districts to share tax money with for profit charter schools they have shown what they really are is hypocrites.

Becki Couch points out that Scott Shine doesn’t know what he is talking about.

From the Folio: 

His (Jason Fischer) tag-team fellow conservative on the school board, Scott Shine, called for the district’s internal auditor, who received the text, to be fired.
Shine also recently left a comment on educator Chris Guerrieri’s blog referring to the latter’s “liberal friends” on the nonpartisan board — Wright, Hall, and Couch. Guerrieri, who is known for his bombastic and hyperbolic style, often criticizes Vitti and board members in his blog.
Shine was ostensibly celebrating the board’s decision to renew training for its teachers on social media policy, but according to Couch, the policy targets teachers’ statements about and interactions with students, not teacher blogs. Limiting government employees’ speech would run afoul of the First Amendment, after all.
Hyperbolic and bombastic? Sigh…

I don’t know what is more disturbing the fact that he gloated on the blog about me and by extension other teachers losing their first amendment right or he doesn’t even know what he is talking about.

Remember friends this is the same man who has voted for Charter Schools to go into district 2 despite the fact they aren’t needed and will siphon away resources from the schools there hurting them. This is the same man who will be voting on our curriculum, uniforms and numerous other important subjects. Is he informed about what those things mean? Or is he just making it up as he goes along?

He has to get it together.

What else is this kid clueless about? It’s my bet the list is long.

Ron Littlepage completely misunderstands the importance of school grades

I will let his words do the talking for him.

In an article defending Superintendent Vitti, Littlepage wrote.

Hall and the NAACP complained about the increase in the number of Duval schools that the state recently tagged with D’s and F’s.
They conveniently ignored the fact that those grades are meaningless because the state keeps changing the rules, making year-to-year comparisons worthless.

Sure they are meaningless unless you are trying to sell your house and you live in a neighborhood with an F or D school.

Or unless you are a teacher and your VAM score is low because students at our poorer schools don’t do as well. Not only can you lose out on school recognition money but you can potentially lose your job.

Sure they are meaningless unless you are a charter school operator looking for easy pickings. Wait who am I kidding, charter schools only set up in affluent neighborhoods now.

School grades are so meaningless that superintendent Vitti warns whoever he can that unless we blow up our neighborhood schools the state will take them over.

They are not meaningless. they are clubs used to punish schools, teachers, students and neighborhoods. Unless they are associated with Vitti, then according to Littlepage they are totally meaningless (sic).

Ron Littlepage should keep to writing about the river and stay away from things he doesn’t know anything about. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Times Union circles the wagons to protect the anointed one

Wow, the Times Union being in the tank for the superintendent was really on display this week as he got three separate editorials supporting him. Talk about circling the wagons to protect the anointed one.

It's easy to debunk most of the sited data used to justify their support too. Yes the grading system is terrible but we can use it to compare ourselves with other large districts that have to play the same terrible game of which for the most part are doing better than us, yes we did have encouraging NEAP scores but they were so encouraging the district saw fit to replace the old curriculum with the universally reviled Engage NY, then yes our graduation rates up but they were heading up before Superintendent Vitti got here and so are everybodys, everywhere. 

To be honest I don't blame the super for the districts grades which have dipped marginally under his watch, though I am not sure that's why he was brought here or expected after three years. I blame him for his terrible ideas and policies. We don't need to blow up our neighborhood schools to bring families back, the curriculum he picked is terrible, teacher morale is rock bottom and discipline is worse than ever and under his watch charter schools have increased over 300 percent. 

Furthermore he's not passionate about public schools as evident by his constant association with charter schools, Teach for America, The New Teacher Project and Gary Chartrand entities and people who would privatize our schools given the chance and he throws ideas like paint against a wall hoping something will stick. Is this really the best we can hope for? The Times Union is like the captain of the Titanic telling his passengers everything was fine after they hit the iceberg. 

Finally I wonder if anybody at the Times Union bothered to talk to any teachers. And let me suggest before the Times Union prints any more misleading all is well we have the man for the job editorials that they should.

Monday, February 22, 2016

DTU doesn't give us a lot of cover to say no to the New Teacher Project coming into our classrooms.

Hey I agree with DTU, just respectfully say no. Here is the thing what if you are on a one year contract and are afraid of your principal or are even a veteran but don't want to get on their bad side?

Well now you may feel stuck and forced into saying yes.

Couldn't and shouldn't have DTU said, no thanks, if you want this to happen what are you (the district) going to give up?

Isaaiah Rumlin president of the NAACP comes out against Teach for America

At today’s press conference I asked Mr. Rumlin about how the district puts Teach for America teachers in our lowest performing schools.

Just a reminder, TFA takes non education majors, puts them through a five week teacher boot camp and then places them in our neediest schools where about a fifth leave before the first year is over and most leave after two.

Mr. Rumlin seemed well familiar with TFA and said that, we don’t need them in our schools, most leave after two or three years.

Mr. Rumlin’s assessment of the districts use of TFA is correct, we are condemning our most vulnerable children to an ever revolving door of barely trained and novice teachers who quickly leave.

And some people wonder why the NAACP is frustrated with Superintendent Vitti’s leadership.  

Why would Scott Shine call out Ashley Smith Juarez like that?

Scott Shine complained about dysfunction on the school board last week. Then when the school board chair reminded the members of the board’s policy not to publicly criticize other board members he complained to the media about her.

He didn’t say, can we talk about this, I think the policy is wrong, let me plead my case, can we meet about this or anything reasonable people might do when they have a disagreement with a co-worker. 

Nope he called Action News and said lookie here.

This is the same guy who complained about dysfunction on the board. I wonder how his call to Action News where he publicly states Ashley Smith-Juarez is trying to censor his first amendment rights is going to go over. Here is the thing, I don’t disagree with him but isn’t there a better way to do things?

Also since this is on the heels of him calling for the firing of a female employee for simply receiving a text, and calling blogger Chris Guerrieri a liar because he disagrees with him, I wonder what is next.

Unhinged people have better weeks. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Scott Shines hypocrisy, the first amendment is for board members not for teachers.

From the, I can’t make this up file and ActionNews: 

A Duval County school board member is pushing back against a call for his fellow elected officials to stop criticizing each other in the media. 

Scott Shine said it’s a violation of board members’ First Amendment rights and voters’ rights to know what elected officials are saying to each other.

Then this is what he quite gleefully told me the other day in a comment on the blog:
Just an fYI on the social media policy, this was proposed as a policy addition from Dr. Vitti and was taken up by your liberal friends on the board in the policy review subcommittee (against my wishes)a month ago. They were unanimous in moving it to next years employee professional standards. So, you only have a few months to add to your resume of false and reckless statements. Sadly, I did not even get a chance to vote on it. So, give your thanks to Hall, Wright and Couch for the "anti-Guerrieri" code of conduct addition next fall. While I am highly disappointed I did not get in on the action, and still want to bring it forward as a policy addition as originally submitted by the superintendent, so it can take affect in before the end of this school year.
So the First Amendment is sacrosanct for board members but teachers should have their rights stifled? He's bragging there because he thinks my voice will be silenced.
Also from ActionNews:
“They (board members) have a duty and obligation to speak to the public and some of the things that need to be told may not be comfortable things to talk about,” said Shine.
Um, yeah Scott I feel you on that one, sometimes the public needs to be told uncomfortable things like how your hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Superintendent Vitti laments, only is we could find and keep great teachers. (rough draft)

I will just let his words speak for him.
From the Times Union
Teacher recruitment and retention are key. A great teacher makes all the difference. But finding them and keeping them is a big challenge. The district is paying substantial bonuses with major help from philanthropists to attract teachers to the most challenged schools.
Well there you have it friends, if only the district could recruit and retain great teachers then we would be doing all right. I imagine he said that with his hand next to his mouth so not many people can hear and whispered, it’s a ‘big challenge “ to find great teachers so we’re making due with what we’re stuck with.

Who cares that experts say in school factors, which if I am not mistaken teachers are part of, only account for about 20 percent of a child’s success.  Sure a student’s teacher is a good part of that 20 percent but like society often does the superintendent is blaming teachers for things outside their control and before Scott Shine trolls me and calls me a liar I feel comfortable saying that because having involved parents or overcoming poverty, factors probably more important than who a child’s teacher is, didn’t make the supers list of lessons learned.  

When the super says, Teacher recruitment and retention are key. A great teacher makes all the difference. But finding them and keeping them is a big challenge, he joins the scapegoat teachers crowd.

I want to make two points. Maybe the super if having a hard time recruiting and retaining teachers because of his leadership. Creativity and innovation are stifled, and teachers are routinely micromanaged, overworked and marginalized.

Second, I think we have a lot of amazing teachers who are succeeding and doing a great job in spite of the super not because of him. Dedicated individuals who give and sacrifice so much and they deserve a leader who both appreciates and values them, not one who laments if we just had better teachers.

Duval's big challenge isn't our teachers, it is our leadership. 

An anonymous 3rd grade teachers speaks out

via Facebook, without comment:

I am a Florida third grade teacher and have never been so miserable. At best, I leave school each day feeling like I've failed my students. At worst, I leave feeling like I've committed child abuse. I see their tears from the frustration. I listen to children call themselves stupid because they cannot master developmentally inappropriate skills. I watch as students randomly guess at answers on reading tests because the passage they have to read has a Lexile level of 1000. I see 8-year old boys and girls who lack basic social skills because play has been eliminated from our early childhood programs so that we can teach academics in preschool and begin standardized testing in kindergarten.

I go home and cry most nights. I dread going to work in the morning. I am bound by poorly conceived and written curriculum maps. I crunch data, prepare math lessons from another state's failed curriculum, and write FSA style questions for my students to answer collaboratively rather than explore the mathematical world with them. I teach my children close reading strategies rather than guiding them through the magic of getting lost in a book and exploring new worlds and new ideas through the original virtual reality medium.

I love teaching. I always have and always will, but this is not teaching. I so desperately want to resign, but I cannot afford to as a single parent. In my mid-forties, I find myself looking for a new career. Pray that someone likes what they see on my resume. Until then, though, I trudge through my days and continue to try to tolerate a job that is nothing like the one that I adore.

Scott Shine says, receiving a text is a firing offense.

Oy vey, I can’t make this stuff up.

Last week when the text Connie Hall wrote about the superintendent came out, Scott Shine had an inexplicable reaction. He demanded that the employee that received the text should be fired.

From news4jax:
Shine said he wanted the board to be issued county phones so all texts will be public record. Shine also said he'd like to see the district's auditor, Michelle Begley, fired.
"She is a board auditor. She is not supposed to play a partisan role," Shine said.
Um, how is receiving a text partisan?
The Times Union also reported that he felt Michelle Begley was biased towards, Hall, Wright and Couch and thus aganst him.
Interestingly these are the same board members Shine called liberal in a comment on the blog Education Matters earlier in the week.
I could not pick Begley out of a line up. Though I would like to suggest that if she is biased towards the three above mentioned board members maybe it’s because they are informed, and are trying to improve our schools or you know the exact opposite of Shine.
Regardless if she is or isn’t should somebody be fired for receiving a text? A text from their boss?
Shine is proposing new rules to limit what employees can say and do. He has taken the old adage, if you can’t beat them join them, to if you can’t beat them get rid of them.
This is just another example of Shine attacking somebody that they don’t like. That's what bullies do. It’s personally embarrassing to me that a person like this is on the board.
We need and deserve better.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A history of Superintendent Vitti's remarks about staff.

Here are three times the super spoke ill of staff in the district.

You know if a board member would have said disparaging things about me I would be upset too. Oh wait Scott Shine has already done that.

Fair enough, I knew there were risks when I started the blog but the thing is for a super who routinely belittles his staff the super is remarkably think skinned.

Remembering the supers remarks about librarians

From the Times Union: Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said most high schools and middle schools in 2013-14 hired more teachers for subjects such as reading, math, science or social studies to meet state mandates for classroom sizes. Principals devised class schedules and hired the teachers needed to avoid millions in potential class size violation fees, he said, but that left less money for schools to hire media specialists.

For about five years, Duval’s board and superintendents have funded about half of each school’s media specialist’s salary, leaving it up to principals to use discretionary money for the rest. When given a choice, most principals had other priorities, Vitti said.

“I believe they see more return on investment by investing in teachers and instructional coaches,” Vitti said, adding that he also put reading coaches and reading interventionists into many schools. Reading coaches specialize in helping teachers and reading interventionists help below-grade-level students.

Vitti added: “If I add media specialists I want to see their roles evolve … Some of them already do this, but I want to make it explicit that it’s all hands on deck.”

First the class size amendment is no joke, but the thing is it didn’t just start two years ago when Vitti started cutting librarians. It has been around for nearly a decade and it wasn’t until Vitti got here that librarians suddenly became unimportant.

Next when talking about return on investment, two years ago, Vitti had schools budget for fifty less students in his zero sum budgeting. Now I have read that zero sum budgeting is probably a good thing every so often. It cuts out the waste rather than just letting budgets roll over each year but let’s not pretend principals all of a sudden went, “what do we need a librarian for”, when they were forced to cut staff. Many cut librarians because the district gave them no other option.

Finally his disdain of school based staff is bordering on pathological, Vitti added: “If I add media specialists I want to see their roles evolve … Some of them already do this, but I want to make it explicit that it’s all hands on deck.”

What does he think librarians have been doing? Sitting with their feet up all day reading cosmo eating bon bons. No schools librarians have been working just as hard as everybody else to get students ready and for him to denigrate them is despicable, par for the course when it comes to teachers but at the same time despicable.

No other district with a reading problem thinks it is acceptable to cut librarians and turn libraries into testing centers but Duval and that should really tell you all that you need to know.

Remembering that one time superintendent Viti tried to shame the staff of a local high school.

From First Coast News

Vitti wants the board to address Dr. Hall's remarks so board members can talk about them, reconcile their differences and put the "distraction" behind them, the superintendent told First Coast News in an interview Thursday. 

"I don't want to put anyone on a cross, I don't want to shame anyone, but there has to be a reconciliation," he said.

This is what the super had to say today about Connie Hall's special ed comment. A comment that was off the cuff and sent to one staff member that was not meant for public consumption. I a not defending the comment I am just pointing out the facts behind it.

Reading what he said I am reminded about a meeting the super had with the staff at Ed White who were being told they would be getting their 5th principal in six years.

In what has to rank as one of the worst motivational speeches of all time Superintendent arrived today to share the news, and told the staff of mostly first year and Teach for America Teachers (sic), that they had lost the fire and that had led to Ed White becoming a Raines, Ribault and Jackson type school, (mostly minority, poor, crappy????) whatever that means.

Not content to allow the staff to start the summer with just a principal change he added this nugget. He said Ed White may end up like Blockbuster with the doors closed. 

Blaming and threatening staffs is what passes for leadership in Duval County.

Where was Ed White's apology, where was their reconciliation?

The media has completely ignored that the super has been talking down to teachers for years.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Did superintendent Vitti just admit the QEA was a failure?

It's no secret that I have not been a fan of the Quality Education for All initiative that sent extra resources into what are now called the Duval transformation Office schools. 36 schools in the Jackson Ribault and Raines feeder patterns.

Now I believe these schools could use extra resources but most of the money went into Teach for America and a merit pay scheme not based in evidence. Furthermore it eroded democracy as most of the plans were made in secret and gave school privatizers a foot hold in some of our most delicate schools. I don't think it is just a coincidence that Gary Chartrand one of the big donors to the QEA was just the keynote speaker at a symposium attended by many of our students on the North and West sides of town whose theme was charter schools.

I will say this however despite my grave concerns that we were wasting money that could have been better used I hoped I was wrong. I really hoped the district could have went, geeze Chris you really blew that one. Unfortunately at just a little way past the half way mark of the QEA grants Superintendent Vitti seems to be signaling it was a failure.

Superintendet Vitti just recommended that Jackson be changed from a neighborhood school to a magnet school in the same vein as Paxon and Stanton, something I imagine he wouldn't be doing if the QEA was working.

Jackson joins R.L.Brown, S.P, Livingston, John Love elementary, Long Branch elementary, as DTO schools that the superintendent has targeted for radical changes. Why would he do that if the QEA was working? The answer is he wouldn't.

That's the thing too, just a year and a half into a three year plan, the super has said, lets switch gears and try something else. what's going to happen if his latest plan doesn't match up either?

To see a list of the DTO schools, click the link,

A rare victory in Duval for parents and teachers

Despite overwhelming disapproval of the elementary school ELA curriculum Engage NY/Duval reads, the superintendent was poised to expand it to middle school. Then something happened.


In Cowart’s classroom at Frank H. Peterson, she said she can’t deny Paths is the most aligned with state standards, but it’s too repetitive and not engaging. She doesn’t like it.
“You spend so much time going over and over and over the same two or three pieces of literature for literally weeks, and the fact that it is so scripted,” she says. “I said in the committee meeting, 'If we are trying to make kids hate school, we couldn’t do a much better job of it than we’re doing right now.'”
The School Board shared some of Cowart’s hesitation at a January meeting. So Vitti enlisted 29 middle-school teachers to review Paths and its runner-up. This time they also looked at user-friendliness, and 70 percent of the teachers picked the runner-up, Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt Collections, or HMH.
School Board member Becki Couch says she’s more comfortable with that one because it provides more supplemental materials like online help, Weekly Reader-style booklets and textbooks.
“I think that's been a big complaint that we’ve heard with the K-through-5, and I just wanted to make sure that we don’t really go down that road with middle-school curriculum,” she says.
That elementary curriculum came from the same developer as Paths.
This week, Vitti changed his recommendation to HMH, though he says most principals prefer Paths. HMH is also a little cheaper, at around $2.2 million over three years.

What gave the board hesitation? Well it had to be all the teachers and parents speaking up letting them know what a disaster the current curriculum has been. It goes to show that the super cannot just bulldoze his way through the district. That he has bosses and the school board have bosses too, and those are the people of Jacksonville.

Now we just have to hope this is just step one and by the start of next year elementary schools will once again have a decent curriculum and Engage NY is in the dust heap where it should be with all the other latest and greatest curriculums.

So parents and teachers embrace this victory as they have been far and few between but not only that let it embolden you to not only believe things can be better but to work to make them so.   

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Scott Shine escalates his war of words.(rough draft)

From Florida Politics

Shine tells, “Chris Guerrieri routinely makes false and misleading comments in his blog that he knows or should know are false. Citizens often see things differently and I welcome that discourse. All I ask is that Chris do this in a truthful manner and stop lying to the public.”

I get the vibe I hit a nerve there.

First I would ask Scott Shine to point out one instance where the blog or I was deceptive, just one. Now I imagine he could find plenty of instances where he may disagree with what I write but there is a difference between disagreeing with someone and them lying.

You know who Mr. Shine reminds me of? He reminds me of someone who bopped his way through life never having to work to hard while receiving lots of pats on the backs and at-a-boys along the way, very rarely if ever hearing the word no, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Except because of it now he can't take criticism. He lashes out whenever anybody disagrees or dares to question him. He doesn't want discourse he wants people to fall into his way of thinking and if you don't you had better watch out. He is like the kid in the check out line who is perfect until his mom says he can't have a snickers bar and then has a tantrum. Shine's nothing more than a bully lashing out because he doesn't agree with me, a baby having a tantrum because an adult had the audacity to say no to him. He calls me a liar yet at know point can he point to a lie and also friends don't you think if he could have caught me in a lie I would have some sort of legal papers in my hand right now? 

But worse than him trying to bully me is that he has been a terrible school board member for district 2. District 2 has some of the greatest schools not just in Jax but in the state and he voted for a charter school that the super himself said he wouldn't have approved if it was going into a less affluent neighborhood. His reason basically boiled down to, just because.

Shine has routinely represented the interests of charter schools and their supporters that he took money from, though as he put it, he didn't need to but just took it anyways.

District 2 you deserve more than a bully who is only on the board to fill some bucket list line on a resume. You deserve somebody who cares about and is going to fight for your schools. Somebody who knows what they are doing and you definitely don't have that in Shine and if you don't believe me look at what Ashley Smith Jurez and Becki Couch, two other school board members have pointed out.

District two, you deserve better,

What is a D school? What is an F school? What is an A school? Does anyone know?

By Greg Sampson

Florida has released new school grades for the previous school year. What do they mean?

School grades mimic the traditional report card that parents receive for the children. Four times a year, teachers assign grades to the learning of children. Even those grades can be hard to interpret. If a child failed, that is, received an F, why is that? Do they fail on tests and that is the overwhelming factor in the report card grade? Or does the teacher weight homework heavily and the child who refuses to do it will fail regardless of work done in school and test results? Or is it a gifted student who is bored and refuses to do work, but can ace a test if she feels like it? Or does the teacher believe that no child should fail and never assigns a grade lower than a C? Even individual grades must have context to have meaning.

Those school grades: What do they mean?

They are not comparable to previous years. Every year, the State has changed the grading rules until the grades have become meaningless, a result pointed out by the State’s Association of School Superintendents.

For 2015, because of new standards and new tests, learning gains are not part of the formula. This year, learning gains overall and for the bottom 25% will be part of the grade. So if a school rises or drops in their grade, does that mean they performed better or worse? How can anyone tell?

What do these grades mean? Can anyone tell me?

What does it mean when a school’s entire worthiness, it’s justification to exist, relies upon test results of only one reading test, one math test, and a few other selected tests that are not given every year?

Science, for example: Students only take it in their 5th year, 8th year, and 11th year. But it covers the previous years since the last test. Is it a true measure of student learning that they don’t remember in 8th grade what a zygote is because that was in the 6th grade curriculum? If you think so, you don’t understand children and you don’t understand pedagogy (how children learn). Do you remember what a zygote is? And if you don’t, should we go back and close the schools you attended because you had to go to Wikipedia to look it up?

That is how Florida school grades are determined. A few tests. Period. And on that basis, if a school doesn’t measure up, it and all the people working there are threatened with closure and termination of career.

Why do parents love their F schools and resist their closure? Can it be that the teachers care about their children? Those so-called non-performing teachers, who clean their children’s wounds, provide bandages, let them cry upon their clothing although that will mean dry-cleaning bills—those that attend to the whole child because that two-word phrase is not a slogan, not a talking point for the media, but something that defines them?

School grades are meaningless. If you really want to know where the good schools are, there is a simple way to find out. Ask any real estate agent. Schools are important to families moving into a town and real estate agents know where to take their clients so that they can move into the boundaries of the best.

As for me, I repeat my call for accreditation agencies to review schools and issue reports. Florida officials should look at that process and revise it. Only when committees of experienced educators and other stakeholders visit a school, stay for a week, and see what is really going on will we receive an accurate snapshot of how well a particular school is doing.

Once we go that route, we can dump the stupid testing that distorts the learning process.

Until that time, Florida school grades … cow pie bingo, anyone?

Who exactly is teaching at the local Charter Schools USA schools

From Greg Sampson

Recent email received. I offer it without comment for your pondering of charter schools.


Message: Substitute Teachers Needed in Orlando & Jacksonville, FL

Teach a variety of subjects!! Substitute teaching can be FUN!

Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) is one of the oldest, largest, and fastest-growing education management companies in the United States:

Charter Schools USA is actively seeking Substitute Teachers for our schools that are located in Orlando and Jacksonville, FL. Pay range from $10.00/hr. - $12.00/hr.

Immediate Needs!!

If you are interested in a potential future employment opportunity with CSUSA in the Orlando and Jacksonville, FL area, please answer the following questions and email your resume to Lynda Aransevia at:

1) Which above noted locations most interest you?

2) What is the highest level degree you have achieved?

3) Have you interviewed with Charter Schools USA previously? If so, when and at which of our schools?

4) What is your most recent salary and salary need?


Thanks for exploring and considering our instructional employment opportunities with Charter Schools USA! I look forward to receiving your emailed personal resume along with your answers to the questions noted above.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Veteran ELA teacher says Engage Duval is ridiculous at best

From a reader

Engage Duval is ridiculous at best. No regard to developmental readiness, learning modalities, age appropriateness, UBD, infusing the arts into learning and much more that those of us who've been teaching a while have known to be best practices are pretty much void from most teachers plans.

Learning "guide"? Um, guide means just that, a guide not a dictated document. Yet, teachers are interrogated about what page their on at any particular time. That's not guiding, it's dictating.

Low teacher morale - that's an understatement. Rip away our autonomy and micromanage us to death with more paperwork and over testing than ever and then be amazed that teachers are unhappy, stressed, worn out, and wanting to leave their chosen careers? Really? How is it possible that those of us who began our careers 2 and 3 decades ago were able to help students learn and grow without any curriculum or with true, not micromanaged, guides and objectives along with the autonomy to do what we knew worked with our group of kids?

When I started my career as a brand new teacher recruited to teach from rural Indiana and thrown into inner city Jacksonville I had no curriculum yet was expected to get 33 third graders with no para - professional to be proficient (70%) at a battery of IMS objectives for math and communication - i.e. Language Arts - while promoting an understanding of grammar, spelling, cursive handwriting, basic math facts, 2 areas of S.S., and health. Students were to be ready for the E.S.T. assessment in the spring, but it wasn't as "high stakes", or didn't feel that way then, as the stresses teachers, students, and parents exhibit now.

How was I successful at moving students in a low socio-economic/Title I (and I detest those and other labels) many with poor home conditions, poor conduct, poor hygiene, and emotional issues a long with no curriculum back then? Just a side note, two of those little North Shore Elementary third graders graduated college to become a district TOY candidate several years ago and one is currently an AP. Not to forget that one of those little boys is a successful business owner. How did we make it then? What's different now? I'm thinking many of you know those answers.

Scott Shine tells me to get my resume together, and attempts to belittle other board members.

Scott Shine, SB district 2 left this comment on the blog Education Matters

Just an fYI on the social media policy, this was proposed as a policy addition from Dr. Vitti and was taken up by your liberal friends on the board in the policy review subcommittee (against my wishes)a month ago. They were unanimous in moving it to next years employee professional standards. So, you only have a few months to add to your resume of false and reckless statements. Sadly, I did not even get a chance to vote on it. So, give your thanks to Hall, Wright and Couch for the "anti-Guerrieri" code of conduct addition next fall. While I am highly disappointed I did not get in on the action, and still want to bring it forward as a policy addition as originally submitted by the superintendent, so it can take affect in before the end of this school year.

First I would like to acknowledge that above shows real growth from Scott, usually he just leaves mean and nasty comments posted anonymously.

Let’s dissect what he wrote.

The first thing that stands out is “your liberal friends”. The school board positions are supposed to be non-partisan, it shouldn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative or whatever, because what’s best for our schools should trump all political leanings. The fact that Scott sees fit to call Hall, Wright and Couch “liberal” is telling.

Furthermore was he name calling there? I get it calling somebody “liberal” isn’t like calling somebody retarded but I get the distinct impression he was trying to belittle and marginalize when he wrote that, as if liberals are somehow less worthy of respect.

Then Holy Hostile work environment Batman. He writes, “So, you only have a few months to add to your resume of false and reckless statements.” Is he telling me to get my resume ready? Is he saying that the district is going to put an end to the blog? Both are threatening. He’s a school board member and here he is threatening a teacher he disagrees with, he’s not giving an alternate point of view, he’s not defending his decisions or positions or asking readers to explore alternate points of view. He’s saying get your resume ready because next school year you are on your way out.  

Connie Hall’s text was sent to a third person and seemed off the cuff and superintendent Vitti said he felt like it created a hostile work environment. Shine on the other hand addressed me and sent me a 141 word note. Should I follow the supers lead and look into legal counsel?   

Then think about this. Connie Hall sent her text to one person, where Shine left his comment on a blog that on good days gets thousands and thousand of hits. He wanted to make sure his comment was widely read, and do you know who most of the readers of the blogs are? Teachers, that is who. His threat wasn't just to me, it was to teachers as well. He just said look at me, the district can silence whoever it doesn't like. That's a chilling message for a district that already has a reputation for quashing dissent and punishing teachers who speak out.  

Then he accuses me of being false and reckless, couldn’t I consider that to be libel or if he has said it to people slander? I have opinions about how things are being run, I do but last I checked it was still legal to have opinions. Furthermore, if I get something wrong, I own up to it on the blog because I understand it does my argument no good to get things wrong. I once wrote a blog saying Scott was a lifelong member of the government dole and after he pointed out I got it wrong I not only retracted it but I apologized.

Then he wrote “affect” when he should have written effect, but have you read one of my blogs because if you have, you know I can really forgive that.

This just just reaffirms my thoughts about Mr. Shine and that is he is in way over his head, and that he is driven by his ideology not by what’s best for children, schools and teachers.  The question I would like you to ask is how isn’t what he did today just as bad if not worse than what Connie Hall did? 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Scott Shine proposes the anti-blogging Guerrieri rule

I had the following conversation with an attendee of today's afternoon school board meeting. I had left before it started as I had an important date with my couch and Netflix.

Shine has completely lost it... He called for the board to fire Michelle Begley
He also introduced a social media policy against bloggers, and etc

hahaha did he?
that should be interesting
shoot me some details and I will blog about it

All he said is you accused Gary Chartrand of using his influence to break the story and he is not okay with you as a district employee being able to get away with it. He says he is calling for a social media policy against it and the firing of Michelle Begley the board auditor
Here is the thing that Scott Shine and WJCT should know. If WJCT doesn't want me questioning their integrity they should stop taking money form Gary Chartrand. Now some people agree with him but lets not pretend for a second that he is not agenda driven and I don't know about you but I like my news sources to be above reproach.

It is also unrealistic to think that his agenda doesn't seep into the organizations he finances, JPEF anyone?

As for Shine and other board members, if they don't want me pointing out the crazy things they say, their positions that are the antithesis to supporting public education, or the money they take from special interests, then they should stop saying crazy things, stop taking money from charter school operators and start supporting our schools, children and teachers.

If I was Shine I wouldn't like the blog either, but the truth is he gives me plenty of material to write about.