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Sunday, May 9, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 8, 2021

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

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


She later apologized, sort of. 


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

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

 


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

How does nobody care?

Why a 20 year teacher got a 15 year pin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

DCPS's testing shenanigans

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

DCPS approves charter with racist and anti-LGBTQ ties

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

This is an Optima Foundation. 


https://optimaed.org/schools/


 

The Optima Foundation is led by Erika Donalds 

 

https://optimaed.org/leadership/  

 

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

 

Banning Books 

 

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

 

Removing LGBTQ protections 

 

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

 

Gay people are going to hell. 

 

 

 

Just some random troubling stuff, from the Tampa Times, 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sunday, May 2, 2021

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

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

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

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

From Tallahaseee.com,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 30, 2021

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

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

From the USA Today, 

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

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

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

Several board members cheered when the unanimous vote was announced.

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

Here is a little more from the Patch,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

  

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

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

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

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

From in the Public Interest,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Sunday, April 18, 2021

Republicans create solutions where there weren't any problems: go after trans children and teacher's unions.

 In this session, the Republicans in the Florida Legislature have found one solution after another for problems that don't exist. Still, in doing so, they have caused problems, hardships, and grief. Last week they went after Trans children, and this week they are going after teacher's unions.

Last week the Florida House passed HB 1475, dubbed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, and it passed 77-40, with all but one Democrat voting against it. This is a solution without a problem, as the Orlando Sentinel reported only a handful of trans children have played high school sports in Florida. Furthermore, when asked the bill's sponsor, Kaylee Tuck couldn't point to where this was a problem in Florida.

So what's the Florida Legislatures's solution? It is to ban transgender athletes from participating in girls' sports and to inspect children's genitalia should there be any doubt. Let me say that again. The Florida legislature has passed a bill that calls for the inspection of children's genitalia. Whether they play sports or not, our most vulnerable children have heard loud and clear that they are not worthy.

Then this week, a little closer to home Cord Byrd's anti-teacher union bill comes up for a vote. The bill would end automatic deductions for teacher's unions but not for police, fire, and prison guard unions. Florida is already a right-to-work state, and teachers have to request the withdraws, but that's not good enough for Byrd and his ilk and Tallahassee. This bill is nothing but yet another attack against the teaching profession, and as Byrd runs for state Senate in 2022, I hope people remember this.

In the last presidential election, Trump won 51 percent of the vote and Biden 48 percent (rounded), yet despite that, we have 65-35, Republican-Democratic representation in Tallahassee. When Republicans have such an overwhelming advantage due to gerrymandering, we don't get bills that move the state forward; we get bills that address imagined grievances and made-up problems to gin up the base. We get bills that hurt people and solutions for nonexistent problems.

DCPS's @#&$ teachers attitude continues daily

This is my 21st year in the district and the worst it has ever been for teachers. This administration and board give zero #@%&s about the staff, and it's time we all admitted it.

I am not going to rehash staff's shoddy treatment during the pandemic, but that is a huge factor. I think it just revealed how little they care about staff, but that sadly is just the tip of the iceberg.

Senate Bill 1014 comes up for a vote this week, and the district's silence is complicity. This bill would end automatic paycheck withdraws for the union. Proposed by local rep Qanon Byrd, it exempts police, fire, and prison unions who all have automatic payroll deductions too, you know, for reasons. If Greene or the board were to speak up, this bill might lose some of its steam but don't hold your breath.

Then many veteran teachers are going to get a pay cut this year. The district played a little lip service to this at a meeting in January and said they would address this. Fast forward to today, and the district flush with cash, probably in a better position than it has ever been in and nothing. Not a peep. I was told by the district 2 years ago when I first came out against the referendum because it didn't address staff salaries that when the referendum passed, they would be in a better position to address that. Well, friends, it passed six months ago and nothing. @&$3 em. 

More walkthroughs, learning arcs, increased testing, a tone-deaf mental health campaign, and the inability to address race, including sidelining a popular teacher at Lee High school for standing up to racists, and the hits keep coming.

Poor leadership and poor policies will lead to poor outcomes. I have been writing about education in the district since 2007, and this is worse than it has ever been. Heck, they make me miss the halcyon days of Vitti and Burney.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Southern Poverty Law Center says DCPS is on the wrong side of what is right

 The Southern Poverty Law Center is a premier social justice organization that has fought against white supremacists, anti-semites, Islamaphobes, and all manner of malcontents on the wrong side of decency. Well, friends, you can now add Duval County Public Schools to that list. 

They have even represented Florida's public schools in their fight for fair funding, a lawsuit I testified in. It is manifestly disappointing that DCPS is on the opposite side of them. Disappointing but sadly not unexpected.  

From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the private employment law firm Scott • Wagner and Associates filed suit in federal court today on behalf of a Florida high school teacher who was removed from her classroom and reassigned to administrative duties in retaliation for displaying a Black Lives Matter (BLM) flag over the objection of school administrators.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, claims that officials at Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) violated her First Amendment rights and other constitutional and statutory protections because of her advocacy on behalf of Black students.

Amy Donofrio is a white teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, a school where about 70% of students are Black.

“I hope this case will set a needed precedent,” Donofrio said. “Teachers should not be punished for supporting their students’ humanity. Our students matter, and as educators, we will no longer tolerate them being systemically damaged, silenced, and failed. To our Black students, we see you, we stand with you, and you matter.”

Late last year, Donofrio hung the BLM flag on her classroom door to communicate a safe and supportive space for Black students following several high-profile killings of unarmed Black people by police and racist vigilantes. Many students confided in her that seeing the emblem brought them comfort – especially in a school named after the commander of the Confederate army, an avowed racist and former owner of enslaved people, and because they had experienced racism in their own lives.  

The 13-year veteran teacher has also been outspoken about racist comments made by alumni during recent public meetings held to discuss renaming the school. Donofrio raised concerns about the emotional harm inflicted on students by the hate speech. She also complained to school board members about administrators requiring Black custodial staff to remain in the cafeteria, away from the meetings.

Afterward, the school ordered her to take down the BLM flag. When she refused, noting that she had violated no policy, the administration forcibly removed the flag, placed her on administrative leave and reassigned her to non-teaching duties, pending an investigation into “allegations of potential misconduct” that the district has not defined.

Assigned to work in a warehouse, she has not been allowed to teach or enter the school since March 25. 

“Educators who value and respect their students should be supported by their schools and communities not punished for it,” said Evian White De Leon, senior staff attorney for the SPLC. “The school district was wrong to remove Ms. Donofrio from the classroom after she displayed a Black Lives Matter flag on her classroom door to support her students. We are suing the district to get her back in the school where she belongs without further harassment by school administrators.”

Following the district’s discipline, Donofrio’s students started a petition demanding the school return their teacher to the classroom. “At my school we have this AMAZING teacher Ms. Amy Donofrio who has done nothing but support and push any child she came across for the best,” wrote the petition’s author, Jayla Caldwell, 17. “She has always advocated for racial equality.” 

This was not the first time Donofrio spoke up in support of her Black students.

When she started teaching a life skills course in 2016, she found that the majority of her Black male students had experienced trauma and racism. In response, she and her students designed a curriculum to help meet their social, emotional and academic needs. Because so many of the students had been wrongfully profiled by the police as gang members, they created T-shirts and hoodies that say: “I am not a gang member.” It was the beginning of the EVAC movement, a nonprofit social justice organization aimed at shifting false and racist stereotypes about Black boys. 

EVAC, initially a class offered for school credit, garnered national attention. In 2017, members traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in a U.S. Department of Justice roundtable about juveniles and the justice system – and then met President Barack Obama when he visited Jacksonville.

The program was removed from the school’s curriculum the following year.

https://www.splcenter.org/news/2021/04/16/black-lives-matter-teacher-disciplined-displaying-blm-flag-sues-florida-school-district

The district had to know just summarily suspending her was going to have consequences, as they should have know slandering her would.

Then please don't come at me about district policies, as the district asks its employees to get political when the process suits them.

This could have been handled so much better, but to paraphrase Hamilton, we have a district that is indecisive from crisis to crisis. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Florida GOP bullies its most vulnerable children

 The Florida House came up with a solution without a problem, which includes girls' genitals being inspected by a stranger. The GOP just said to children, want to play a sport? Then be ready to show your privates.

The Florida GOP, a gerrymandered bunch, isn't about solving problems or making things better; it's about exercising its power to gin up its base. The state is so gerrymandered to assure them victory that they don't need to, which just makes their latest effort to punch trans children, for checks notes, being trans children is based on sure meanness.  

From First Coast News,

 Florida lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would ban transgender girls from participating in women's sports.

HB 1475 passed the House by a 77-40 vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, is dubbed the “Fairness In Women’s Sports Act.” It would make participation in athletics contingent on determining a student’s “biological sex.” If a student-athlete were to be challenged, confirmation would have to be sought from a health care provider that they are female, which could include a doctor examining their genitals.


State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who similarly introduced SB 2012 in the Senate, would allow transgender girls to participate in girls' sports but would need to reach the same testosterone standard of the Olympics.

Neither she nor Tuck could cite an instance when interviewed by the Miami Herald where a transgender athlete unfairly impacted scholastic athletic competition in Florida.


https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/news/regional/florida/florida-house-lawmakers-passes-bill-banning-transgender-girls-from-school-sports/67-e5b716be-5a92-4395-b498-842ffa34c80a


Um, couldn't site an instance? This is such a problem; they couldn't find where it was happening. Sofa king lame.


Representative Latvala tweeted when the NCAA threatened to remove championships from states who participate in this bullying, said who gave them the moral authority to complain?




Way to go, Florida GOP; you somehow made the NCAA look good by comparison. Latvala is making a joke about people's lives. $@#&ing despicable.  


The GOP needs somebody for its base to hate. Trans kids are last week refugees and immigrants, Muslims, union members, or teachers. They are this weeks gay and queer and black and brown. If the GOP didn't push hate and fear on its base, they wouldn't have one. This solution, without a problem, attacks our most vulnerable children. It is just another example of how despicable they have become, and sadly since our state is so gerrymandered, it probably won't be the last. Elections have consequences, and in Florida, that means some children are discriminated against, and others, well, they will have to show their genitals to strangers if they want to play sports. 




Monday, April 12, 2021

Gary Chartrand spreads misinformation about charter schools, again.

 Gary Chartrand really supports charter schools; that is undeniable; however, the same can’t be said for public schools, which he has for decades sought to undermine. His tenure on the state board of education, a position he as a grocer was completely unqualified for saw, high stakes testing go up, and teacher salaries go down as well as the creation of one unfunded mandate after another that, for the most part, charter schools are exempt from. 

Gary Chartrand has his truth; unfortunately, his truth is filled with caveats that he leaves out. Let’s look at his claim about the IDEA charter schools, which are coming to Jacksonville paid for with Jacksonville tax dollars. 

He claimed that 100 percent of their graduates have been accepted to college. I am reminded of the old adage if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and this definitely seems too good to be true. I could not find anything to independently verify that statement. Still, I was able to find plenty of how they routinely counsel out poor performers, and only sixty-five percent of their ninth-graders made it to graduation. Then it gets worse.

This is from the IDEA student handbook: As required by the IPS charter, a student may graduate and receive a diploma only if the student successfully completes the curriculum requirements identified by the SBOE, has been accepted into a four-year college or university, has completed a minimum of 125 hours of community service, and has performed satisfactorily on required end of course assessment instrument.

They are required to be accepted, not attend or do well, but just be accepted. To give you some scale, if DCPS required all its seniors just to apply to Florida State College at Jacksonville, they too could say they have a 100 percent college acceptance because they are required to accept any high school graduate.  

     

You would think if the assertion of a 100 percent graduation rate was true, it would be a big headline. It has not been, but IDEA leasing a private plane and professional sports tickets for their executives have been. These scandals have become all too commonplace with charters as well

Yes, it is true charter schools do have the same "testing" accountability measures that public schools have. Still, it is equally true that charters can pick who they take and keep, and many councils out poor performers and don’t take ESOL and special needs students, to begin with. Imagine how well public schools would be doing if they had the same advantages, but then again, they wouldn’t be public schools, would they? Charters may be publicly funded, but after that, the similarities are far and few between. 

Though I will admit the concept of charter schools is an appealing one. Parent-teacher laboratories of experimentation and innovation where success would be then shared with and replicated in traditional public schools. The reality, however, is a nightmare, one partly created by Gary Chartrand where for-profit companies see children as price points as they cash their checks and friends believe me business is good and just look at the KIPP school that Chartrand founded. 

They have recently asked for a 23-million-dollar bond financed by Duval’s taxpayers for a new campus. They got a million-dollar PPE loan, even though the state covered them this year. Even Jacksonville’s own city Hall regularly sends them hundreds of thousands extra, throw in millions extra from the state over the year, too, and it is a pretty lucrative enterprise. Chartrand has turned tens of thousands in donations to Lenny Curry and Jason Fischer into millions for his school. 

Let me explain how another charter chain that operates a half dozen schools in Jacksonville works. Charter Schools USA. They have a nonprofit, renaissance, secure the charter, red Apple Construction, builds it, and Charter schools USA runs it. All operated by the same man, multi-millionaire Jon Hage. He made the news a while back, too, for attempting to sell one of his yachts named, Fishing for schools.   

Chartrand claims that it is undue regulation that has stymied the ultra-generous schools of hopes bill that, despite being four years old, has had few takers, is disingenuous at best. The truth is most of those schools don’t want to come here, and IDEA didn’t until the referendum became a reality. They saw all that free taxpayer money became available. The reason is they would have to set up in areas of town that are mired in poverty where dozens of charters have gone to die and speaking of charters dying, over 350 have opened taken public money and closed, leaving families and communities in a lurch, including one of Chartrand’s KIPP schools.   

If Chartrand really cared about public education, I would suggest he tried to help them improve and reach their potential rather than continuously bash and try and replace them.  

Do Chartres have a place? Yes. Do some Charters do it right? Absolutely. Then do public schools have problems? Without a doubt. Chartrand and his ilk aren't interested in solving; what they want is a replacement for public schools, not a partner, a replacement that will make more than a few of them rich. We have serious but solvable problems in education. Charters as Florida does them is not one of them.   


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Now that the testing EO has come out, the big question is what will DCPS do?

 If the past is prologue, the answer to that question is the opposite of what is right. They will still use the tests to bludgeon teachers and save money. Who wants to make a bet what they will do?

First, some random thoughts.

Executive orders from the state diminish the power of localities. They make Corcoran a de facto king of education. That wouldn't be a good thing even if we had a reasoned educator in charge instead of the jackbooted noneducator thug we currently have. 

We should all oppose high-stakes testing as it is currently done. Is there a need for an assessment? Sure, but what we have is punitive accountability on steroids that isn't meant to help. It's meant to harm. Greene and presumably the board's full-throated embrace of them is beyond troubling. 

Despite months of telegraphing waivers for the tests were coming, the district spent weeks cajoling families to return and watched up the stress level of students and staff alike, and for what? It's my thought Greene can taste that A grade and is willing to walk over the bodies of teachers and students to get it. Anybody paying attention could have told you this day was coming, but that didn't slow Greene's roll in the least.

Now that the executive order is here, the high stakes features for students and schools are waived, but the ones for teachers are not, sort of, kind of, it's a bit unclear. 

From WFLA.com

 The order also:

  • Allows local school districts to decide if and how they’ll use VAM data for student test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation.

So, where districts are basically required to not use the tests for promotion graduation etc., they still have the option of using them to evaluate teachers, which makes less sense than normal. Kids all over the set are sighing in relief and rightfully so, great for them, but this also means the tests will become less of a priority which will, in turn, affect test scores more than they already would have. Let's not forget there is a pandemic raging, though Greene and the Board seemingly have.  

This means the big question is, what will DCPS do? Though if the past is prologue, we already know.

DCPS should immediately announce they will not use VAM scores to evaluate teachers. Taking that off their plates and doing the right thing. 



To read the executive order, click the link: http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/19861/urlt/2021-EO-02.pdf

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Another failure in leadership

 The renaming of our schools is another failure of district leadership. 

For ten months, the process to change six of our schools named after confederate era figures has been going on. TEN MONTHS.  

Last June, after the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the nation had a reawakening of interests in civil rights, and protests erupted all over the nation, not just because of the deaths but because of generational and systematic racism too. Duval Couty Public schools decided to join in, just in their own slow, disorganized, and painfully awkward way. 

I spoke at the first meeting where the name changes were proposed by Board Member Warren Jones. The gist of my speech was we couldn’t have schools named after people who never did anything questionable because we could never find anyone, but we could have schools that weren’t named after slavers, racists, and traitors. That and sometimes we revere historical figures despite their flaws, see our founding fathers, but confederates were revered because of their flaws.  

This was the beginning of June, and I was optimistic that those schools would open in the fall with new names, but that has been far from the case. 

After months of little or no action, it became obvious that the district did not want to do anything until after the vote on the half-cent sales tax. I believe it is because the district didn’t want to risk offending or alienating anyone in what they expected to be a close vote. We can debate that matter, whether it is okay to send African American kids to schools named after people who thought they were subhuman in order to protect the referendum or not. Still, the thing is the referendum passed in November, 5 months ago. 

If the name changing wasn’t to be done by the end of the summer, then surely by the end of 2020. Sadly again, the district showed no real urgency to fixing this manifest wrong, and as we got farther away from the summer, the moment that America was having was losing steam.      

So a few more months pass, and Public meetings start up in earnest, something that could have just as easily happened last summer or fall, and the racists come out of the woodwork, saying things like if Robert. E. Lee high school wasn’t mostly black they wouldn’t be having these problems, and Jesus was pro-slavery. Maybe I should be thankful it only took ten months for the Jesus was pro-slavery people to come out, but I am not. I am angry, angry at this ridiculously wrong and long process. We had more meetings for this than we did the referendum and angry for our children attending the schools, 4 of which are majority-minority and at the repeated failure of leadership at the district level. 

Had the district wanted to, they could have voted on that hot summer day last June to change the schools' name, but they didn’t. Here we are ten months later, with black and brown children going to schools named after slavers and traitors, not to perversely honor those heinous men, but as a message to African Americans that they have better keep in their place.  

The school referendum was a great idea, but the district not fighting to get the issue on the 2019 ballot is ultimately going to cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars. Changing the schools' name is a great and long-overdue idea, but it should have been completed within months, not within a year. These are just two examples of recently failed leadership from the district though I could name several others, and I, for one, think we deserve better. 

As the name-changing controversy drags on for the next two months, just remember it didn’t have to be this way.   

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Parents opt your students out of Florida's high stakes tests

 I am finishing my 21st year teaching in Duval County Public schools. I have seen a lot, but without a doubt, the worst and what must go is the state's reliance on high-stakes testing, This is especially relevant as DCPS starts testing season. I call it a season because it will last for weeks. Students at private schools that accept vouchers paid for by the public already don't have to take these pernicious tests, and it's time public schools joined them. 

Testing and preparing for the tests take away weeks of instruction. They don't provide any value either because the results aren't made known for months until after the school year has ended, and they rob teachers of the ability to be flexible, reteach or do deep dives into subjects. On the other hand, these tests affect everything from teachers losing their jobs to housing values and to a city's ability to attract businesses. 

This is not to say we shouldn't have standards or accountability; we should, though, for some reason, the state spends billions on voucher schools without either. However, we must do so in a way that doesn't steal instructional time, assists instruction, and doesn't hurt housing values. 

Parents may also not know it, but they have the option of opting their children out. Only a handful of tests are for promotion, and most of those have workarounds. Now the district has been known to threaten families with placement into special programs or schools they choose if their children skip the tests, but that too is a problem we should address. For a century, grades were the barometer for success, not how a student did on a high-stakes test. Teachers have long known how hurtful these tests are, but the state never listens to educators, but they may listen to parents, and if enough parents opt their children out; this will send a loud message to the state. You can find out more about opting out at  https://theoptoutfloridanetwork.wordpress.com/ . Please consider it, the state, the school system and your children would be better off if you did.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Why does Greene struggle with race relations? (draft)

Why does our African American superintendent struggle so mightily with race relations? Well, the answer is simple, she doesn't see children as black, brown, or white, she sees them as test scores and she probably thinks everyone else should as well. 

On the heels of the districts disastrous mental health rollout, which sought to co-op black history month and led to several school walkouts, the district doubled down by allowing racists to spread their hate at meetings about changing the names of schools named after confederate era figures and then allowed a teacher to be targeted by them. Rather than stand up for the teacher, they inexplicably later suspended her. 

This change the name of schools named after slavers and traitors has just about reached the ten-month mark, which has done nobody any good. I believe it wasn't done last summer because the district didn't want to do anything to jeopardize the referendum. 

They reasoned it was okay with letting black and brown children continue to attend schools named after people who thought they were sub-human if ignoring it brought in extra revenue. But JC, the referendum vote was in November, 4 months ago; this should have been over before the end of last year. Yet it drags on and on, and still, there is no end in sight. 

When the district learned of the changes to CDC cutting the social distancing guidelines in half, their reaction was yay, it will be easier to test, and this was on the heels of cajoling families to come in to take practice tests. In my 20 years in the district, I have never seen an administration so obsessed. It's not a surprise that the district so singularly focused on testing doesn't know how to handle race problems.  

This should be easy. It is 2021; we shouldn't have schools named after slavers and traitors. 

This should be easy; it's a pandemic; there are many things we can stress about, testing should not be one of them.

These things should be easy, but they aren't because our district has things backward; to them, testing is important, and righting the wrongs of history isn't.  

DCPS has a total failure of leadership

 I have had many issues with district leaders over the years, but I never could have imagined one would be the distrct siding with a racist who said Jesus supported slavery over a teacher who fought for social justice.

From the Times Union,

Donofrio would live-stream the public comments at the school's community meetings. 

It showed mostly older white adults making questionable comments and shaking their heads as students spoke in support of the name change. In one segment, a white man was captured flipping the camera off during the meeting. 

Some of the footage went viral, including a portion from Joey Stevens — an alumnus who said Jesus supported slavery. 

As first reported by News4Jax, Stevens took to Facebook Monday night, attacking Donofrio with screenshots of Donofrio's classroom and her Black Lives Matter flag from her social media accounts and imploring his followers to contact Lee High School administrators about her. 

"This is the kind of teachers we have, pushing their political agenda on students," Stevens wrote on Facebook. "If this offends you, speak up." 

https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/education/2021/03/25/evac-movement-teacher-removed-jacksonvilles-lee-high-after-refusing-remove-black-lives-matters-flag/6999517002/

Um, but having a school named after a slaver and a racist doesn't offend you?

This process has been an utter failure of leadership by the superintendent and school board.

I spoke last June at a school board meeting, basically saying the standard for naming a school can't be somebody never did anything wrong, but it could be they aren't named after, slavers, racists, and traitors. How it is ten months later, and we are still fighting over this is an absolute failure of leadership.

Absolute versus utter, sigh.

The board could have made the decision on its own, or if they wanted to involve the community, they could have had several meetings last summer and cleaned it all up, but no, they decided to muddy the waters by adding Jackson High school and both Ribault schools to the conversation and to turn what should be a simple decision into a year-long ordeal.

 So fast forward to the last few weeks when the racists on parade have been willing to make their positions quite clear, and the district, instead of putting an end to the charade, doubles down on its ineptitude by suspending one of the most visual teachers for changing the names of the schools named after confederate era figures. 

Instead of sticking up for Ms. Donofrio against the parade of racists, it suspends her.

I have often written that when the district finds itself in a hole, its first instinct is to keep digging, and this isn't just more of the same, it's worse because it didn't have to be this way.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

CDC social distance rule change was not about keeping people safe, it was about a campaign promise

 The CDC changed its social distance guidelines, and I have no doubt the researchers found what they found. However, the reason they found it was more about keeping a campaign promise rather than keeping people safe.  

I like president Biden, but the only reason we are making this change is to keep his campaign promise to open more schools, and that with light finally at the end of the tunnel is inexcusable. 

The study sited has so many caveats you could drive a truck through it, and it is hardly representative of the country. They chose their set to study because they already had a conclusion they wanted to meet.  

This from the abstract,

Among 251 eligible school districts, 537,336 students and 99,390 staff attended in-person instruction during the 16-week study period, 

https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciab230/6167856

That might be impressive if it was from all across the country in districts big and small, rural and urban, but it wasn't. It was just from Massachusetts, and as you will see, it is only about half of this one state.

This is Massachuttes. 

954,773 students
The Massachusetts public school system (prekindergarten through grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards and superintendents. In 2013 Massachusetts had 954,773 students enrolled in a total of 1,854 schools in 404 school districts.
Another strange part is that it doesn't tell you if these students attend rural or urban schools, which makes a huge difference as urban locals because their population density was hit much harder by Covid than their rural counterparts. 
Then there are the caveats, it only applies to elementary schools, and it only applies if they wear their masks, all the time. Things that aren't always reported on or seen because many people don't read below the headline. 
In effect, they had a conclusion, and they did a study designed to find it.
This is so frustrating, not just because of its recklessness but also because we have light at the end of the tunnel with vaccinations. 90 percent of teachers said they would return if vaccinated, so why the %$@# don't we make that our priority instead of falling back on some dubious study? A study that will be used to bludgeon teachers back into schools.
The whole thing is dishonest and disingenuous and teachers who already give so much deserve better.
One last thing as far as I can tell, Biden's education policies have been basically the same as Trump's, and that is unacceptable.