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Saturday, November 26, 2016

DTU asks why the district ignores teachers. (rough draft)

Now to be honest it was about the weather days but it could have been about so many other things. Take a look at the 1:42 mark.

The district asked the union what they thought about calendar and the make up days, the union asked its membership and they got back to the district and what did it result in? The teachers of the district and their opinions being ignored yet again.

But this is how the district operates.

Thoughts on the curriculum? Ignored.

Discipline? Ignored.

The need for recess? Ignored.

So many other issues? Ignored

Terrie Brady asked why do we (the district) even bother to ask the employees if we are going to ignore them? This by the way does not mean the district can just give us a lot of bad choices and go, hey we asked what you thought. There needs to be real collaboration.

This is not a new phenomenon either as one of the first pieces I ever wrote was about the district changing he email addresses. Rememebr when it was dreamsbginher? Ugh. Well there was a survey, the teachers decided what they wanted and yeah, the super announced over Christmas break  he was going to ignore the results and go with something else.

Then there is the TNTP survey, the climate survey the district is pushing. I didn't fill it out again because two years ago when the staff of First Coast begged through their survey for help and said their principal was terrible, Vitti responded with saying, he was one of our bet and wasn't going anywhere despite overwhelming evidence and the aforementioned pleas for help that indicated otherwise.

From a reader: Spare me from the TNTP survey that never asks about district personnel or leadership. They are afraid, so very afraid, to add those questions to the survey. They can anticipate the answers they would get.

About the weather days, we are the only county in Northeast Florida making them up. Read that again, the only one. I think if they can get by without making them up, so could we but if we have to make them up, then lets dissolve early release days. There has been a lot of conjecture if they are valuable or not and let me tell you about two of my last three. During the last we had our thanksgiving lunch, nice but hardly essential. Then two early releases ago we had an hour presentation from an outside entity attempt to sell us legal services, um, what? yeah.

I submit for about the millionth time that as long as we continue to ignore teachers, you know the people in the classroom doing the actual work, then we as a district will never meet our potential.

Brady asked that they at least stop pretending and wasting our time. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Scott Shine shows some humility, Warren Jones shows his true colors

Two new members joined the school board yesterday, Lori Hershey and Warren Jones but that wasn't the only news as the board picked its new leadership team as well.

As expected and probably overdue Paula Wright ascended to the board chair position. Historical the vice chair usually fills that spot and then another board member becomes vice chair while the former chair rejoins the board just as a member. Yesterday however things took a weird turn and it all started when Scott Shine was nominated to become vice chair. Thankfully for the district he could only get three votes, his Cheryl Grymes and Warren Jones, or as they should be known as "The Gary Chartrand Coalition" of non educators.

If Connie Hall had been reelected it is highly unlikely she would have sided with Grymes and Shine, but Jones doing so gives us a clear indication of where he will likely fall in upcoming decisions about charter schools, the nearly unfettered power of the super and the continued destruction of neighborhood schools.  

In what had to be an incredibly embarrassing moment for Shine, he seemed to take it in stride.

From the Times Union:

   But the vote on vice chair reflects some persistent divisions on the board.
Shine won three votes: himself and board members Jones and Cheryl Grymes. On other matters this year, Grymes and Shine have voted with each other and in support of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
Smith Juarez won five votes, including herself and board members Wright, Rebecca Couch, Hershey and Jones while Grymes and Shine voted no. Wright, Smith Juarez and Couch have at times voted together and challenged Vitti on some issues.
By board rules, board members could vote more than once if the first person nominated didn’t get a majority, which is why Jones voted twice.

 Shine said Monday before the vote that he might have made some board problems worse, but he is ready now to work and speak more collaboratively.

“What’s that expression about being a lone wolf? You might get bit,” he said.
I am not sure if that wolf thing is an expression but he is right he has made things worse and not just on the board but in the district as well.

He has voted for the proliferation of charter schools in sections of towns that don't need them and despite their dubious credentials.

He has supported the destruction of neighborhood schools, which really just kicks the can of academic woes down the road and he is often unprepared and also almost single handily destroyed decorum on the board and those aren't my words.

Also from the Times Union:

 Smith Juarez said this week she doubted whether Shine would restrain himself enough to be an effective board vice chairman.

In recent weeks, Shine has been criticized for his sometimes vitriolic written communications with Chris Guerrieri, a teacher, blogger and frequent district critic. He also was criticized by some board members for telling the news media when he suspected Smith Juarez of plotting to hold a surprise board vote to oust Vitti.
The fact Shine has acknowledged his shortcomings is encouraging but quite frankly he has a long way to go if he ever wants to be a quality school board member.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How Duval County made me hate my job this week

From a reader

I am an ESE teacher at a center school all my kids have IEPs and between 5 and 8 goals that I am supposed to work on over the course of the year. Now I am being told I must create a caseload in Desk Top and keep progress daily on each of the goals which I conservatively estimate will add about an hour’s worth of work a day.  Twenty-two children sixty-five or so goals to daily update.

I asked why we’re being made to do this and the facilitator (just a messenger for the district) said, well some people weren’t keeping data. I replied, well when one of my students makes a mistake, I explain to them what they did wrong and the expectations going forward, I don’t make the whole class do an hour’s worth of busy work from here to eternity.  I received a shrug for a response.

Next we were being given yet another lesson plan template, you know because the last few didn’t cause us to do enough busy work. I said, you know, I write lesson plans for me and was told, no I should write them so anybody who comes in could pick up with little effort what I was doing.
I thought about saying, well nobody could pick up with little effort what I was doing, because nobody knows my kids or have built relationships with them like me. But you know, teaching has become less and less about relationships and more and more about paper work admins can look at.

Remember that I earlier said I was an ESE teacher at a center school. Center schools used to be difficult to get placed into because they were a last resort. Well not anymore as I have received three new students in the last week, one after just three works at their school and the other after five days. One of the students legitimately should be put in my room, the other two not so much. They lean more towards emotionally disabled than intellectually disabled. Their problems lean more towards physical and emotional outbursts than not being able to do academics.

According to the information given they are a danger not just to me but the babies I have in my classroom who can’t defend themselves against aggressive attacks. The district is dumping kids who have no business being at my school let alone my classroom because they don’t want to do the work and put plans in place and it’s both a shame and unethical.

To give you some scale, I have a completely xxxxx child who I thought could benefit from a student focused para. I collected data for six weeks where we attempted multiple interventions and then I filled out the paperwork to get them a para.

I should have just said, they go on rampages I guess, because if a kid does that they can now be staffed out quick. I plan to write a letter to my principal and the ESE department outlining my concerns and then like every day roll up my sleeves and do the best I can despite the deck being increasingly stacked against me and my students but if they hurt one of my babies, I hope their parents sue the *&$% out of the district and they use the letter as exhibit one. It’s reckless on the part of the district and it has a good chance of getting someone hurt.

Things should be better than this in Duval County.

Note: I did some minor edits that did not affect the points made because I didn't want the district to come after the teacher, likwise I share many of their concerns. -CG

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Duval, not how good districts are run

Duval has some issues and I think we would all agree on that. I believe one of the issues that stops us from addressing other issues is how we are run, below I am going to give you five examples of things that have occurred recently, and they don't happen in districts that are run correctly.

Many paras were paid two weeks early after they had already been paid. Was it a bonus many asked only to be told nope, and now you are going to have to budget better because we're going to skip your next check. Did paras get less money than they would have? No, but for many this early check isn't going to be a favor.  

The district is under investigation. Children that attended F or D schools had to be offered slots at higher performing schools. The district decided to instead change some of those schools so families could no longer send their kids to them, into magnets, or k-2 schools. Some people might remember that the day before school began, the district sent out a letter which undoubtedly was going to confuse parents, the districts response was, hey first days are always confusing.

Well now the state is investigating if we actually fulfilled our obligations or not.

Then teachers are required to review their accountability lists, to make sure they aren't responsible for kids they never see. The union was on this quick and told its members to make sure they were reviewing their lists. A lot of the schools not so much as they didn't tell their teachers to get this done and ultimately the district had to extend the deadline.

All of above didn't really affect children but the next two did.

Late surpluses, we are well into the second nine weeks and staffs should be set, but some schools are still surplussing teachers, which causes other teachers to pick up their class loads and students to have to switch classes and not always into just a different section but sometimes into an entirely different class too.

Then there are students who are just being told they have to switch classes, we expect a level of confusion the first couple weeks but not well into the second nine weeks when schedules should be set. Maybe the district could chalk this up to individual problems at individual schools but shouldn't the district be making sure those problems aren't happening?

I am reminded of the old saying, the devil is in the details, meaning the details of a matter are its most problematic aspect. Well friends Duval certainly has problems and a big one is not taking care of the details. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Two more Duval Charter schools on the brink of collapse

Earlier in the week Superintendent Vitti said he doesn't want charter school grades to count against the district as two more that he recommended teeter on the brink of collapse.

This isn't all on the superintendent's back though as Cleve Warren a former board member of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund is behind bringing these two charter schools to town.

And Gary Chartrand also of JPEF encouraged families to put kids in these schools when he spoke at the Urban Education Symposium.

These three men, Vitti, Warren and Chartrand have at best set back the education and future of dozens of vulnerable and mostly minority Jacksonville children.

From the Times Union:

Duval district officials are considering whether to start the process to close two single-gender charter schools in North and West Jacksonville for lack of financial documents, a move which could affect up to 350 students.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Tuesday the district sent letters of default four times since last September to the people who run the Valor and Virtue single-gender charter schools. The letters request annual audited financial statements for the latest fiscal year.
The last default letter, dated Nov. 8, gives the schools 10 days to respond, or the district will start a 90-day process that could result in closures, Vitti said.

I want to remind you once again that Vitti recommended these two charter schools despite the fact their inevitable failure was all but assured.

Also from the Times Union:

Both middle schools received D’s and high schools received F’s in the last state report cards.

Looking to open a charter school then Jacksonville is your town.

The superintendent cannot continue to recommend charter schools and then go, who me, when they fail.

Friday, November 11, 2016

DCPS is trying to pull the wool over our eyes with accountability

Our accountability system is noting more than an intricate shell game that will eventually unravel.

How does it seem like we have success when we're at best just spinning our wheels, well lets start with creating a lot of magnet and specialty schools and approving a bunch of charters. At the K-2 schools there will be practically zero accountability, don't have to take a test how will we know how the student there are doing but now we know longer have to worry about those schools bringing the district grades down.

Turn another school into a center school for autistic children and its now become another low performing school the super can check off his list.

Then there are the new magnets which were formerly low performing schools will force half of their student bodies to different schools where if they now struggle it will be years before anything has to be done or what's a letter grade drop here and there.

Then there is his charter scheme, approve a lot of charter schools and when they ultimately struggle say, you know what the district shouldn't be responsible for their performance.

We're not fixing what ills our schools were shifting the problems around.

That's the super's one trick.

Now some of you might be thinking what a hypocrite I must be for railing against the accountability system for years and then criticizing the super's way of dealing with it.

The thing is he's not dealing with it, he's shifting problems at one school to another and I think there are plenty of ways to improve things. Smaller classes and a longer school year for some would go a long long way to fixing our educational crisis, Then block scheduling is a terrible idea that should be done away with.

The super would prefer to use smoke and mirrors and kick the can down the road. Don't be fooled by these tricks.

Welcome to Duval County.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Superintendent Vitti cannot have his cake and eat it too.

Oy vey I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

I will just get to it.


An early draft of the Duval School District’s platform shows board members want increased funding for technology. With the shift from paper- to computer-based assessments, the board says there’s a need for upgrades.
The district also wants charter school grades to be kept separate from traditional public schools’.
Charters use district dollars but are operated independently. Currently charter grades are included when calculating Duval’s performance.Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has argued including charters in the calculation brings the district down because many of Duval’s charters have D and F grades.
This is a man who has approved new charter schools or the expansion of current ones like it and not overseeing our schools was his job. He has recommended  charter schools he said he would not let teach poor children. Under his watch the amount of charter school have increased 300 percent and now he is saying, look they as a group suck and the rest of the district shouldn't be weighed down by them. That my friends is him having his cake and eating it too.

Some of you might be saying, well the super had no choice but to approve them, to which I would respond more and more districts are making the choice to push back against charter schools, and that is a choice he could have made as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Barbara Toscono in the district 7 school board race takes thousands in last minute money from Charters Schools USA

I had written much about the school board race in district 7 because I thought we had two solid candidates. I am sad to say that Barbara Toscano has reported taking thousands of dollars from Charter Schools USA on her last filing.

District 7 doesn't need charters siphoning more money away from our schools there. Taking money from these mercenaries is very troubling.

611/2/2016Red Apple Development
800 Corporate Dr #124
Ft. Lauderdale, Fl 33334
711/2/2016Veronica Lisicki
800 Corporate Dr
Ft. Lauderdale, Fl 33334

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cheryl Grymes can't help but insult teachers.

This on the heels of her asking another school board member if she wanted to go one on one.

At the past school board meeting when discussing academic targets, she said, "nothing prevents the targets from happening except what is happening in the classroom" 

You know if only teachers were doing a better job then we could hit those old targets. Teachers I tell you if we had better ones then those targets would be hit.

Is there any other thing she could have meant there? I will tell you what might help is if we had some supportive and prepared leadership, not board members who bounce in and out who blame teachers.

You can check it out at the 2:57 mark.

Teachers deserve better than that, the city and its children do too.

For shame