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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Superintendent Willis says SR funds to be distributed March 16th

First I am appreciative the superintendent took the time to get back to me. I think she has been a steady and calm influence on the district which is what we needed after the last super ping ponged us into one self inflicted wound and crisis after another.

That being said I have mixed feelings about the announcement. School recognition funds were released to the district last October. Many districts distributed the money before Christmas and the excuse that some schools just haven't made their plans so every school has to wait feels weak. Is that an excuse teachers would take from students or principals from teachers? I don't think so.

This is what the super told me via email:

Mr. Guerrieri -

Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to respond to your email.  The email from the Communications Department is accurate in that statute provides the timeline by which schools (including School Advisory Councils) must submit their plans to the district.  Payments cannot be processed until the plans are received and reviewed for compliance.  We do encourage earlier submissions, however some schools elect to use the timeframe provided by statute for their submissions.  In this case, FSRP plans are being review as they are submitted (with corrective actions as needed), and processing is occurring to meet a March 16th payment.   It should be noted that other compensatory payments are being processed during the same timeframe (i.e. salary increases, performance pay, supplements, Best and Brightest, etc.). 

It is always the goal of my office to distribute all funds to eligible employees in a timely manner and in a way that allows us to remain complaint with requirements for distribution.

Thank you.

Dr. Patricia S. Willis,
Superintendent, DCPS

So it looks like a lot of teachers are going to have a great spring break, and now teachers have some certainty, plus this is certainly better than previous years when the money was released in April and May, though I think we all know, it is what it is.

I don't blame superintendent Willis, as I wrote in another post I think the last administration did not prioritize teachers needs, plus there has been a lot going on what with the negotiation of the contract. I just think we can and should be doing a lot better here.   

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The "Florida hates teacher's unions" bill passed the house today

Warning don't read with milk in your mouth, danger of spitting is high.

Somehow my little blog got on a press release list. I swear to you, I get them all the time. Well today I received five from the Florida House of representatives and three of them had to do with their Transparency and Accountability bill, which is code speak for we're going to hurt teacher's unions in every way possible.

Before you continue I just want to remind you that Florida is a right to work state and nobody is required to join or support a union. 

Basically the bill makes it harder to create and keep unions which puts a knife in the heart of collective bargaining which will undoubtedly lead to lower wages and worse benefits. 

Also why do I say teacher's unions and not unions in general? Well if you read to the bottom you will see unions like the police union and firefighters unions, unions that typically support republicans are exempt.

For a state having a hard time attracting and keeping teachers, Tallahassee is doing all they can to kneecap the profession. 

Here is the press release, just swallow that milk first.

January 25, 2018

Tallahassee, FL—Today, Speaker Richard Corcoran and Representative Scott Plakon released the following statements on passage of HB 25, requiring labor organizations to be more transparent and accountable. 

Speaker Corcoran said, “It’s an automatic red flag when any group advocates a position that encourages less transparency and accountability. The answers to our problems are never solved with less transparency. Every organization has a duty to be upfront, transparent, and accountable to its members in all aspects of its operations. It’s no secret that the Florida House is committed to strengthening transparency and accountability wherever and whenever possible. Employees shouldn't be forced to be represented by an organization they disagree with or no longer support. The House will always fight to empower individuals over bureaucrats.

Representative Plakon said, “This bill makes organizations more transparent and accountable to those they represent. It’s important that we provide dissatisfied workers with an effective and fair process to redress their grievances to bring about greater accountability. This will help ensure these organizations are meeting the needs of the hard-working people they have the honor and privilege to represent.”

HB 25:

Passed the House floor with a vote of 75-41 in 2017
Passed today by a vote of 65-41

Collective bargaining is a constitutional right afforded to public employees in Florida. Through collective bargaining, public employees collectively negotiate with their public employer in the determination of the terms and conditions of their employment. The Public Employees Relations Commission (commission) is responsible for assisting in resolving disputes between public employees and public employers.

Current law specifies that public employees have the right to be represented in collective bargaining by any employee organization of their own choosing or to refrain from being represented. An employee organization that is authorized to represent public employees is known as a certified bargaining agent. An employee organization seeking to become a certified bargaining agent for a unit of public employees must register with and be certified by the commission. A registration granted to an employee organization is valid for one year and must be renewed annually. The renewal application must include a current annual financial report that contains specific information.

The bill requires an employee organization to include the following information in its annual financial report for each certified bargaining unit that the organization represents:

  • The number of employees in the bargaining unit who are eligible for representation by the employee organization; and
  • The number of employees who are represented by the organization, specifying the number of members who pay dues and the number of members who do not pay dues.

If a registered employee organization does not submit this information for a certified bargaining unit it represents, the organization’s certification for that unit is revoked. This provision does not apply to an employee organization that represents, or seeks to represent, employees who are law enforcement officers, correctional officers, or firefighters.

The bill also requires an employee organization that has been certified as the bargaining agent for a unit whose dues-paying membership is less than 50 percent of the employees eligible for representation in that unit to petition the commission for recertification as the exclusive representative of all employees in the unit within one month after the date on which the organization applies for registration renewal. The petition must be accompanied by dated statements signed by at least 30 percent of the employees in the unit, indicating that such employees desire to be represented by the employee organization. If the commission determines the petition to be sufficient, it must order an election to determine whether the employee organization will be certified. The certification of an employee organization that does not comply with this recertification requirement is revoked. This requirement does not apply to an employee organization that represents, or seeks to represent, employees who are law enforcement officers, correctional officers, or firefighters.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lots of districts have released School Recognition funds, why hasn't Duval?

The word on the street is some schools haven't turned in their plans for the money, you know at  schools where teachers make lots of money. The Union put out an email in December that said 23 schools haven't turned in their plans yet, then today the district told me 23 schools haven't turned in their plans. I get it we had a holiday break, but there has been no change?

Here is the thing, the district should light a fire under these principals who haven't turned in a plan yet. I can't imagine any teachers at those schools going, nah you keep it, just get it to me when ya can. But worse it shouldn't matter for the schools who have turned their plans in. I asked the Florida Bats Facebook page the status of the money in other districts and was told among other things that some schools in Sarasota have received it while others haven't. It is inexplicable to me that schools haven't turned in their plans but why not pay the teachers at the schools that have.

I am happier with the district than I have been in a long time but it's time they released teacher's money. If the district wants teachers to be leaders and show commitment to the system, then instead of doing the minimum and releasing the money as late they can, they should lead by example and bend over backwards to get teachers their money. If they have high expectations for teachers, they should have high expectations for themselves. 

Here is what I was told on the FB page, note I have taken out names and icons,

Alachua and Union receives it before Christmas.

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Suwannee has received theirs.

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Why do some counties receive their money early or do they all receive the monies at the same time and then the county decides to disburse?

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They want to hang on to it while it builds interest in their account.

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Sarasota has the funds and some schools have received it, others have not.

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Duval County won’t release until every school submits their plan for distribution. 23 schools failed to submit plans before winter break. 

Personally I think it’s BS. Give the money to the schools who submitted the paperwork before the deadline. The other schools will have to wait until they submit their plans.


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Jackson got the recognition funds in November . . .

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 Bay got it in November as well

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dear District, it is time to give teachers thier money

Here is the long as short as I can give it. Florida gives schools with high grades and that improve on the state tests extra money. The money was released to the district in October and the district told me they will release the money to teachers sometime between Groundhog's day and May. I asked them if they could do better in a letter I sent to most of the board, you can probably guess which ones I left out, and the superintendent.


I am writing to you about school recognition funds, that money given to schools that receive good grades or show great improvement.

This was actually a non-issue to me as my school is ineligible for the funds but after a few teachers reached out to me, I said I would look into it.

I discovered that the funds had been released to the district in October and then I asked the district’s communication department when the money would be distributed to teachers.

This was their response.

Hi Chris,
Thank you for your patience! Per Florida Statute 1008.36, schools have until Feb. 1 to submit their plan for distribution of funds. Distribution of funds will occur after this statutory deadline.  Please note that over the past three years, funds have been distributed in March, April or May.  I’ve included a link to the statute for your reference:

Hope this helps!


Basically Mrs. Ricks said anytime between Groundhogs Day (2/2) and May. Now I am not being critical of Mrs. Ricks, on the contrary I believe she and the communication office do a great job. It can’t always be easy to answer my questions knowing I have often been critical, but they are always professional and generally prompt. They are without a doubt a credit to the district.

That being said, I hope you can imagine this response is very frustrating to a great number of teachers, and many of those I spoke with said they thought this was a scam to collect interests and were very disappointed upon hearing it. I however had a different notion, and that is to the previous administration, teachers were not a priority, so they felt they would just get to it when they got to it and if that took till May so be it. Paying teachers for their hard work and the money they had earned was not important to them.

I also believe this current administration is different. I believe you care about the staff so that’s why I have reached out to you and would urge you to distribute the funds as soon as possible and announce to the staff when the money was going to be released so they could have some certainty and make plans. I think we all believe that teachers, who work so hard and who sacrifice so much, deserve it

I would also like to suggest, that you require every school this school year to create their plan for next year, so if they receive the funds they can get it when it is released as soon as possible. 

I can’t tell you how much good will this would create with the staff, but I believe it would create a lot. Likewise letting the public know you have released the funds ahead of previous years couldn’t hurt.

Thank You for your time, keep up the good work.

Chris Guerrieri 

Okay I have done what I can do and now it is time for the district to decide what kind they want to be, one that appreciates and supports its teachers and one that holds onto their money and leaves them hanging.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Educators versus Editors, the KIPP school

The Times Union does an annual puff piece about the KIPP charter school, I kid you not google it. Once a year they do an editorial that says KIPP Jacksonville is the best thing since sliced bread, thier last one was on January 17th.

With all their accolades there was a few things they didn't mention. Most notably the KIPP school grades go more up and down than a yo yo. they were a B this year but the school's history is littered with Ds and Fs as well/ They also didn't mention that they spend about a third more per child, their school day and school year is longer, and they are allowed to require involvement from parents. I submit that is any public non charter school had these benefits they would blow KIPP out of the water, but I am not even done describing the KIPP schools deficits.     

They have experienced massive teacher turnover, both because they employ a lot of Teach for America teachers, and because most teachers won't put up for long with the requirements KIPP puts on them. Finally most people don't know it but the Jacksonville Children's Commission which up to this year had just funded after school programs, now funds part of their actual school day. How they can justify this is beyond me.   

Now please don't take my word for all this, instead take into account what educators in Miami have said recently as they are in the early stages of opening up a KIPP there. This is from LRN Miami, the NPR station down there.

A national charter school chain that focuses on preparing disadvantaged kids for college is poised to open a new location in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood this fall.

But before plans for the new school could move forward, the San Francisco-based KIPP Foundation first had to overcome local leaders’ concerns about the network’s lackluster performance in Jacksonville,  the only other place in Florida where it has established a presence.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and members of the school board needed convincing that a KIPP location in Miami would mirror the network’s success in other places, not its struggles in Jacksonville.
“My expectation for KIPP Miami is one that needs to be wildly different from what we have seen in Jacksonville,” Carvalho said.
That's pretty damning if you ask me. What does the superintendent of Miami's schools know what the editors of the Times Union don't. Well for one they don't have rose colored glasses on for whatever local businessman Gary Chartrand, who brought KIPP to town, supports. A few months back during their annual Teach for America editorial is the greatest thing since sliced bed editorial, they heaped praise on TFA including saying: 
Teach for America has another big advantage for the district. It has the support of some of the city’s major philanthropists like Gary Chartrand.
Through their foundation, Chartrand and his family have spent large amounts of time and funds to help public schools.
That some criticize these efforts proves the adage that “no good deed shall go unpunished.”
In my opinion, because TFA takes non education majors puts them through a six week access course and then puts into our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve just two years, assuring our most vulnerable students have an ever revolving door of novice teachers, or the exact opposite of what we know they need, this is not a good deed, but since I am not a millionaire, the Times Union is usually uninterested in what I have to say.

During the editorial about TFA they also didn’t mention how expensive the program is as the Quality Education for All initiative has sent millions to the local branch that will never see a classroom, but that’s what the Times Union often does when it talks about education.

They cherry pick facts and dismiss uncomfortable points.

I could also talk about their love affair with our past superintendent, something most teachers find inexplicable and their pushing the business community to butt into the search for a replacement, but I fear this has already gotten wrong.

Are there good things going on at the KIPP school? Well where its not where I would send my kids if I had them nor is it the type of school that the city's elites would want for their children. I acknowledge that many of the families that send children their like appreciate it. That being said, it' is a long way from being the best thing since sliced bread.

The bottom line is the Times Union’s editorial page is often on the wrong side of education issues which does a disservice to our, teachers, families and schools and is a shame because public education can use all the help it can get.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Up is down without Vitti to JPEF and the Civic Council

For the last few years the Jacksonville Public Education has commissioned the University of North Florida to do a poll and up till this year, things have been awesome.

From last year’s poll:

Nearly a quarter of Duval County adults rated the school district’s performance as poor, an increase of 5.6 percentage points from last year, according to a just-released poll from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

But most of the people who responded to the survey are not Duval County school parents, according to JPEF, which is a think tank and manager of philanthropic education dollars.
Trey Csar, president of JPEF, said it is not unusual for parents to have higher opinions about the school they select or their children’s teachers than others who are outside of the relationship are likely to rate them. And state grades for schools are largely derived from all children’s test scores compared to state standards for proficiency and academic growth.

So last year, people just didn’t know what they were talking about. Only parents had a clue.
This year more people than ever, including parents as the survey included a higher percentage of them like what is going on, but the way Csar talks things are worse than ever.

From this year’s survey:

More than 90 percent can’t name even one board member. Large numbers of Duval residents appear to be disengaged in the leadership changes of its school district, a new survey shows. 

Eight months after Superintendent Nikolai Vitti left Jacksonville for Detroit public schools, four in 10 Jacksonville adult residents are unaware that the school district is searching for his replacement, the data show. 

It’s the School Board’s job to hire a new superintendent. Yet more than 93 percent of Jacksonville adults couldn’t even name a board member, much less their own, when asked who represents them on the board. 

“The community really needs to own its public schools and the public schools system, ” said Trey Csar, JPEF president. “We have got to know how we feel about what’s going on. 

Wow pretty grim right?

Except, the article also says:

Duval Schools last May appointed a former assistant superintendent, Patricia Willis, to run the district while it searches for a new leader. When asked whether they think Willis is effective, 44.6 percent said they don’t know, another sign people are less engaged in Duval’s leadership than in the past, Csar said. 

About 43 percent of people said Willis is very effective or somewhat effective as the district’s leader. Willis will not be considered a candidate for the permanent job, based on a prior board decision. 

Even though most people couldn’t name their board member, they had opinions about the effectiveness of the full, seven-member School Board: 53.5 percent said they are somewhat effective, 8.7 percent said very effective, an improvement of 6.3 percentage points from last year. 

However, 27.8 percent said the board is somewhat or very ineffective, a 3.2 percentage point decline from last year. 

This year Trey Csar said,  Overall, the district is perceived as performing moderately well, Csar said, but not improving significantly. 

So last year when the business community, and the millionaires club had their superintendent running the show, everything was fine. 

This year despite a marked improvement in confidence, the sky is falling. 

Csar is right, we do have to many people who are sleepwalking through education issues. Apathy is a huge problem, but the thing is, it was a huge problem, when the business community and the millionaires club had their superintendent running the show. They only care about apathy now that the have been frozen out. Csar says, people were ignorant last year, and things were great, and then this year despite greater confidence we aren’t improving significantly. Why? 

I will tell you why, its about control, and JPEF and his backers don’t want parents and teachers to have any because only they and their handpicked superintendent can save us. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

JPEF charges 75 bucks a ticket to the teacher of the year ceremonies , um have they met a teacher?

Um what the what? Teachers can't afford that!

I wasn't planning to go as JPEF was founded by Gary Chartrand an anti teacher and anti public education millionaire and now it sounds like he may be the only one who can afford to go.

My only thought is maybe they don't want people, especially teachers to come celebrate teachers as that cost is prohibitive for most.

If you want to celebrate great teachers, apparently it will run ya.

Seventy-five bucks folks and you have to dress up, on a Friday? Sheesh.