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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How WJCT got it so wrong about Education

Have you met WJCT CEO Micheal Boylan? I have a couple times and he seems like an earnest and solid individual.

I also love NPR, I listen to it everyday. I think Melissa Ross is a city treasure and Lindsey Kilbride does a good job with her education coverage even though recently she seems to be pulled in a lot of different directions.

With all that being said, how did WJCT get it so wrong with their recent education event? Two words and they rhyme with merry carcans.

WJCT wanted to get a conversion about education going and I agree we should be talking about education as there are few local subjects that are more important or play more of a role in our lives. However to start the conversation they showed the first part of a documentary series called School Inc. A self serving, far right, blame the unions and public schools film, to do so. Unfortunately they chose this as their starting point.

Why would our local public station choose such an awful film, one that never mentions poverty by the way and strings together a bunch of self serving and out of context anecdotes?

That takes us back to our rhyme and if you figured out I was talking about Gary Chartrand you hit it right on the nose.

You see its not us citizens who are in charge of education it is the ultra rich who drive education policy with their payouts donations.

I looked at the panel they assembled. Micheal Boylan was the moderator and his stations education coverage is financed by the Chartrand foundation, the station also routinely plays commercials about how the Chartrand foundation supports the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and Trey Csar the president of JPEF was on the panel as well but they weren't the only ones. With them was the executive director of KIPP Jacksonville (and folks KIPP is as shady as they come) Jennifer Brown and then there was school board member Becki Couch, though I would hazard to guess he thinks that was a poor investment now. 

At least three members of the panel had deep ties to Gary Chartrand who has some disturbing views, I would call it a loathing of public education.

Now do I think he called up Boylan and said Mike, this is what I want you to do. No, Chartrand doesn't operator that way, but I do think his close relationship to the station made this kind of show and these panel members acceptable. He is using his influence to mainstream the abhorrent.

We need to be having community conversations about education, we do, but WJCT shouldn't be lauded for trying to have one, and instead they should be chided for the direction they took, there was nothing fair nor balanced about the film they chose.

There are lots of problems in public education, I believe solvable ones but as long as people like Chartrand buy influence, things will get way worse before they get better.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

All that is wrong with Teach for America as told by a Teach for America alumnus

The Times Union printed an op ed from a former Teach for America alumnus where he went on and on making some dubious and self serving point while completely ignoring many legitimate concerns about the program. Here is a snippet.

From the Times Union:
For clarity, Teach For America is an organization that places mostly recent, high achieving college graduates in a low-income school district under a two-year contract to teach.
I read that TFA takes teaching positions from more experienced teachers.
I read about the high turnover rate of the TFA teachers.
I read articles questioning the effectiveness of TFA teachers.
While I understand these criticisms and thought long and hard about whether I should accept the position in Jacksonville, I would contend now after my two-year experience that TFA is massively undervalued and has an unwarranted negative public image.
teach for america has an impact
The first criticism mentioned was that TFA takes teaching positions away from more experienced teachers.
In Duval County alone, the school district had over 200 vacancies as of February 2017. Those vacant rooms will likely be filled by a cast of rotating substitute teachers where learning is certain to be challenging, often through no fault of the specific substitute.
Every TFA teacher who enters a city for their first year undoubtedly gets hired because of the vast amount of shortages, particularly in the math and science departments.
At my placement school, Jefferson Davis Middle School, over 40 percent of the newly hired staff in the past five years have been TFA corps members.
Another criticism leveled at TFA is the high turnover rate for corps members. They may leave after their two-year commitment to attend graduate school or pursue other interests.
This criticism is not only unfair, but it is also wrong. Over 60 percent of TFA teachers continue as public school teachers beyond their two-year commitment, which is a lower turnover rate than for non-TFA teachers at the same schools.
The Duval County School Board has cut the Teach For America budget. The board cited the turnover rate as a contributing factor that led to the decision to cut TFA and focus on marketing to attract new teachers.
I came to Jacksonville in 2015 as one of 120 corps members. Sixty percent or about 72 of us are still teaching in these high poverty schools in Duval County. Of the remaining 48, many are still supporting education through policy, law, in administration or as Teach For America staff.
Regarding TFA teacher performance, a Columbia University study in Duval County shows that students with TFA teachers demonstrated additional growth in mathematics learning compared to the students of other novice teachers.
I could debate each and every one of those points and I have many times but what I think seals the deal is the following, also part of the op ed from the Times Union.
• Ben Kerns is a former Teach for America instructor in Duval County.
• He lives in Atlanta.
WTF!!!! This guy did his two years and left. If its such a great program and it does so much good, then why is this guy living in Atlanta now?
The chutzpah of this guy! And the ridiculousness of the Times Union printing a piece from a guy who quit and moved away after just two years. Both are mind boggling. 
Here is the bottom line, TFA is an expensive program that does the exact opposite of what we know our most vulnerable children need and any district that is serious about educating children should be striving to put professional educators or people that will spend more than two years while waiting for grad school to start, in our schools and classrooms. Thank goodness the district finally came to its senses and is finally phasing it out. 
One last thing, when anybody steps into the classroom I think they deserve respect. I like TFA members am not an education major, though unlike them I didn't get 10,000 dollars in loan forgiveness and have been in the classroom 17 years, it's this terrible and expensive program I am against.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

WJCT hosting anti-public school event, for shame

Why don't you reserve a seat and go.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Have you ever taught a murderer? (rough draft)

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

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

Duval County has two pay scales for its teachers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

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

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

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

From Action News Jax: 

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

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

This guy represents people by the way.

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

From the Times Union:

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

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

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

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

From the Times Union:

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

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

Oy vey

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

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

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