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Thursday, October 14, 2021

$%#@ FAPE

 Or at least that is what the state and district did.

The state of Florida and Duval County Public schools have created a new precedent when they recently extended the age range of education for a student, extending FAPE. 

Where it would be inappropriate for me to talk about the particulars of one student, I think it is fair to say the reasons for this extension could apply to dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of students here in Duval and statewide.  

FAPE stands for the right of disabled students to receive a free and appropriate education, guaranteed by the Rehabilitation act of 1973 and then reaffirmed by the Persons with Disability Act. 

Where there are lots of different requirements, basically FAPE says a disabled student can stay in school until they are 22. Some school districts end a student's education the day they turn 22. DCPS however has allowed students to finish the school year in which they turn 22 and then they "age out." That was until this year when the state and the district allowed a student who should have aged out to return.

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/b/300.101

Whether I think that is appropriate or not is moot. What I can't remain silent about is this exception was made for one student whose family had the means to force it to happen. When as I said, so many other students who also aged out under COVID have not been offered the same opportunity. 

During COVID, schools did their best to service special needs students, but it would be disingenuous to say it was the same as an average year. If one family can use this to extend their students' education for a year, then every family should be able to as well.  

If any family whose student aged out during COVID feels their student would benefit from another year of education, I would urge them to contact the state and the district and demand the same special treatment. 


Friday, September 17, 2021

The district's lack of paras is a crisis.

 There are seventeen vacancies for paras at my school alone. Now my school is a center school, so we tend to have more, but I was told there were double-digit vacancies at all the center schools. Then if you look at the vacancies district-wide, the problem gets more and more severe. 

Any vacancy is troubling, but the consequences can be even more extreme when they happen at center schools. Classes lose coverage, behaviors become unmanageable, opportunities for violence soar, and an already overworked staff becomes more fragile and willing to quit. Part of the massive number of vacancies at my school results from people looking for other jobs elsewhere, and why wouldn’t they.  

The district says, if you have 60 credit hours or have passed the paraprofessional certification, you to can join our team where you can make 11 dollars and eighteen cents an hour where you can expect to change diapers, the chance of being assaulted is real, and help teach watered-down academics to students who don’t know their numbers or colors.  

At a recent training for learning arcs, a whole other story, the high school standard we picked to decode was an algebra one that included graphing and slopes. Um, any student capable of learning even a watered-down version of algebra and slopes shouldn’t be at a center school in the first place, but rather than teaching, life, personal and coping skills the powers that be, and I a not looking at my school administration but the politicians in Tallahassee, think somehow that is appropriate. 

Now there was a time when we didn’t do nearly enough with our disabled students, but the pendulum has gone way too far the other way, and I digress, and I guess all of this is a whole different story too. 

We will not solve the mystery of the missing para, sorry hundreds of unfilled positions, by doing what we are doing. 

Why would anyone want to work for 11.18 and have to wipe butts and potentially get hit when Walmart, Amazon, and so many other places are paying a fair amount more, and those things and unrealistic expectations don’t come up.  

Fifteen dollars should be the minimum, and where I usually am, all for more education and certification, we desperately need bodies. When we get them in the door, we need to give them a week of training, maybe two, before we put them in the classroom because one way to lose someone quickly is just to throw them in the deep end.   

Now I imagine some people might be asking where the district would get the money to pay for this increase. The answer is a couple places. Since the referendum kicked in, the district should have about 500k a month it isn’t spending on emergency maintenance. The state is sitting on billions in extra education funding that, for whatever specious reason, they aren’t sending to districts. Worse, there are billions more Florida could apply for but have chosen not to, and then it's past time we demanded Florida appropriately fund education. When you factor in inflation, we aren’t even at 2007 levels of funding.     

What’s happening is an unmitigated disaster. There is no way to sugarcoat this, and instead of pretending there isn’t a problem, the district's current strategy, they should do something.  

 To learn more, click the link.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

DCPS should step up and offer its staff COVID days.

 Duval County public schools should step up like the school boards in St. Johns and Clay County and take care of their staff members if they get COVID. Right now, the district is knowingly putting them in danger, and then if they get sick or are required to quarantine, forcing them to use their sick and personal days.   

Last year the Federal Government paid for COVID sick days something the district graciously extended till June, but now as the effects of COVID have become even worse and more prevalent unlike our neighbors and many other districts across Florida, DCPS has said there is nothing they can do. I find that both unacceptable and disingenuous. 

When the district was pushing the surtax referendum, they said they were spending 500k a month from the general fund to pay for maintenance. Well, friends since the referendum passed, they are no longer doing that which should leave more than enough money to take care of its staff. 

Furthermore, the state of Florida is sitting on billions of COVID relief money earmarked for schools and hasn’t even bothered to apply for billions more that the state is eligible for. The money to take care of staff and then some is available, but the state and the district have instead shrugged their shoulders.  

It should be obvious by now that schools are vectors for the spread of COVID and since closing them down and learning remotely is a non-starter the super and school board should be doing all they can to keep students and staff safe and insisting the state do so as well, but instead, all we have gotten is a top to bottom failure in leadership.   

Social distancing is nonexistent, contact tracing is between nonexistent and dreadful, and air filtration at many schools is the same and since all that is the case it's maddening and frustrating that the district won’t take care of its staff that is forced to miss time for COVID. It is past time for them to step up and do the right thing.  


Sunday, September 5, 2021

DCPS disproportionately punishes minority staff

At least once a year, you see a piece of how school districts, by and large, suspend and expel minority students at a disproportionate rate. I look at these pieces with a grain of salt because, quite frankly, I think students who break the rules need a consequence. If they don't get one or an appropriate one, all they have learned is they can break the rules again. Typically this escalates until it doesn't, and other students have their learning interrupted, and teachers have lost their ability to teach. 

I also think this is socio-economically based. Instead of doing these studies by race, I have thought if they did these studies by family income, the results would be the same.  There are many reasons, but one f the biggest is the sad fact that we often send our newest and most inexperienced teachers to schools wracked in poverty where they are overwhelmed and haven't had the time to develop class management techniques which often leads to poor behavior. Many of these teachers don't stand much of a chance, and that's both tragic and trickles down to their students. 

I am almost off my soapbox. All that being said, the one major change I would make is once a student got in trouble or even better before, they received services to help them avoid the trouble. Tutoring, after-school programs, smaller classrooms, counseling, etc. We have to give these kids the tools to be able to deal with their problems. A small but meaningful consequence at the onset of a problem, followed by support, may stop a lot of future problems.     

But what about teachers? We have a system that often doesn't care about teachers; see new teachers at poorer schools as example number one. Example number 2 is how the district disproportionality punished minority staff, and nobody seems to give a damn. 

After a tip that most of the people in Bulls Bay, teacher jail were African American, I asked the district, and quite frankly, the results were admittedly not definitive; they were shocking. 





















22 of the 37 teachers sent to teacher jail were minorities. That is nearly sixty percent. Compare that to the amount of minority staff in the district. 

 From NEWS for Jax,

The report, released by JPEF Tuesday, shows two-thirds of DCPS teachers are white, while white students make up only one-third of the district’s enrollment. It also shows 29% of teachers identify as Black -- compared to 45% of students in the district identifying as such. Less than 6% of DCPS teachers are Black men.












https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2021/02/24/report-dcps-teacher-workforce-is-less-diverse-than-its-student-body/

Now the percentages may change when district staff is factored in, but I couldn't see them changing dramatically.   

If a teacher needs to go to Bull's Bay, they have to go to Bull's Bay. I am all for punishing teachers that are reckless, inappropriate, or criminal. That being said, I am not sure how many of the teachers there fall into those categories and not into their principal or the district didn't like them, which is where I imagine most of them fall. 

I also wonder what kind of meaningful support and training these teachers have gotten. My guess is not much. 

I have asked the district for the last five years worth of numbers for people staffed to Bull's Bay and just investigations in general, but it's my bet the numbers won't change much at all.  


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A tale of two quarantines

 One didn’t happen, and one happened quick and on steroids 

The week before Winter break, I contracted COVID, and yes, I spent my Christmas break wrapped in blankets, very sick, watching 3 seasons of Handmaids Tale. Both were miserable, but I digress.  

When my wife tested positive on Sunday, I immediately let my school know. When I tested positive on Tuesday, I also let them know, and when the DOH contacted me, I explained that my class was immersive, and I was with everyone, and it was paramount they protect my two 65-year-old plus paras. The conversation lasted about a minute, and I kind of gt the vibe I was bothering them. 

I did, however, feel relieved my ladies and students would be taken care of until I realized they didn’t do anything. I had to be infectious around them, my students and staff had to be in danger, and nothing happened.  

Fast forward to this week. 

A staff member in the transition department tested for COVID on Friday, came back positive on Monday. The DOH contacted me within 6 hours to ask about my students and who the staff member worked with. The person I talked to had their names already and asked me lots of questions, which did not happen the first time around. 

That day he called all the families he could get in touch with, and I know because half of the students in my class were absent the next day, and furthermore, every student that came in that wasn’t vaccinated was sent home.  

They had taken the case seriously and worked quickly to make sure everyone was notified and safe. Unlike the first time around, I have zero complaints and was very appreciative, except. 

At the school board meeting, superintendent Green showed a slide that said 14 percent of contacts had been successfully resolved, but roughly 43 percent of cases had just timed out, nothing had been done, and another 43 percent of cases were pending. Both alarming and scary numbers. 

So what made the overwhelming success that happened at my school possible? 

I can’t help but think; maybe it's because I do a dumb little blog, and I am willing to put my opinions out there. It may be hubris on my part, but I wonder what made my case fall into the 13 percent of successful cases when so many others did not.  

Look, I hope I am wrong. I hope what happened Monday is a fresh start and indicative of how things are going to work from now on. I really do. I may be critical of the district, but I am also one of its biggest fans. I know the amazing things that go on and could go on with just a little help, but I also cannot help but think, if my last name wasn’t Guerrieri, we might have been in trouble.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Duval's mask mandate comes two weeks two late, sorry make that an entire month

 After a marathon emergency meeting that saw insane people rail against masks and doctors and experts implore their use, the DCPS school board decided to initiate a mask mandate two weeks after school started, which won't start for another two. Weird the district and I have a vastly different meaning of the word emergency.

Some random thoughts. The expert's opinions and medical evidence didn't change from a month ago when the district decided to have a mask mandate with an opt-out that they promptly shot in the foot.  

The opt-out may have actually worked if the district would not have decided there would be no consequences for students who just chose not to wear a mask. That doomed it before it even got started. 

Why does the district give so much deference to the crazy anti maskers? Last night they brought up BLM, Antifa, Rockefeller, A-Rabs, Heart worm medicine, repeatedly referenced the U.S. Constitution, which has absolutely nothing to do with this situation, and Joe Biden at least 4 times and said over and over there is no evidence that masks work when there is tons of it. These are the people that the district has deferred to. It's maddening.

They continue to accommodate them by not starting the mask mandate by this Monday, postponing it for weeks.

However, they probably had to do so because there were only, in my estimation, three mask or bust votes going into the meeting. Joyce and Hershey, who has turned heel, were always nos, Willie, Andersen though JC does she have to go one so much and Jones were yeses, leaving Coker and Pearson left needing some level of convincing.

So we have the mask mandate, though waiting a month is kind of like kissing your cousin, but that's just part of the battle.

A battle we are going to lose unless the school board gets its act together because there is a lot more that needs to be done.




Sunday, August 22, 2021

About those deep cleanings and PPE

 Right or wrong, I sometimes feel like the school board doesn't want to know what is happening. I also sometimes feel as if the super doesn't always want them to know, an assertion that current and former members of the administration have echoed to me. So I know, I asked on several Facebook pages dedicated to local public education about those deep cleanings and the PPE our classrooms are supposed to get and have.  

Note I am not being critical of our hardworking custodial staff, which at my school was down to two for the last few days last week. They are put in an untenable situation and I know are working as hard as they can. To me, it is the district at fault for putting them and our staff and students in no-win situations. 

This is the question I asked.

DCPS teacher friends have those deep cleanings they promised materialized, and has the district provided enough supplies, wipes hand sanitizer, etc. to make you feel comfortable? You can private message me if you want.

Each break represents a separate comment.

Friends and family just asked me about this. We have been given nothing. I dole out sanitizer before and after lunch, end of class, and we wipe down tables and counters between classes. It’s expensive. There are masks for students and adults in the office.

I've gotten nothing. I've seen no deep cleaning. They don't even clean the cafeteria tables.

I can barely get them to clean my bathroom much less deep cleaning. I wipe the student’s tables each morning.

I'm told a new custodian contractor was hired. At my school, we have half the custodial staff that we've had in previous years.

As a mother of a 6th grade science teacher at XXXXXX....I have invested in my daughter's class with a constant stock of wipes, hand sanitizer, hand soap and disinfectant spray. I'm also purchasing an air purifier...We are not relying on the district....it's an investment...but I have to support her as she pushes to educate our children during such a dangerous time!

Given nothing. Had some leftover from last year. No sanitizing I can see. Thrilled the week-dead cock roach was finally swept away.

I had one of those, too. Poor carcass lay there for a week. Proof that no one even swept, much less sanitized.

I am not a teacher but when I attended orientation, all the hand sanitizers were empty. The school was packed to the brim with people. No hand sanitizer to be found.

Nope

No, I find the same trash on the floor from the previous day.

Good morning I see everyone wants everyone to wear masks 😷 ( good ) but I see NO one talking about if the school is giving out hand sanitizer, soap and wipes cleaning supplies. I know just in my class I have gone through one bottle of Clorox to clean tables . The janitors are NOT cleaning the tables I don’t see hand sanitizer given out many friends say they bring there own in . I left one table dirty to see if it was there in the morning. YES . With coughing, sneezing and any other bodily fluids it needs cleaned . If germs are on the table and they touch it don’t wash there hands go home rub there mouth guess what they might of picked up Covid. This will help! Pls do NOT use my name just make a post make sure they bring in supplies to clean

No deep cleanings happening at my school. Barely see surface cleanings!! The kids and I do most of the cleaning. I am lucky if they mop my room after sweeping. And no, we are not provided with disinfecting wipes and last year they gave us hand sanitizer, but nothing yet this year. I asked parents to help provide these items, and I have also purchased some too to get me started.

In response to your post. No. I have not seen any deep cleaning. Just our normal custodians. And as for supplies, the only reason I have enough is because I teach elementary, and parents send things in

Hi Chris. No signs of any “deep cleaning” taking place in my room. We were given a bottle of hand sanitizer & a package of alcohol wipes. Our principal told us in one email to be sure to have the kids working in pairs or groups. She reminded us to keep all doors and windows closed at all times. Some of our students who test positive write to us to let us know why they’ll be out but we never hear a peep about it from admin. What was I talking about oh yeah deep cleaning… Nope, not happening.

Our custodials only take the garbage out... if they do.. there is no cleaning or disinfecting whatsoever. They have given me 1 big hand sanitizer and 2 wipe containers. No shields, I've been asking for my desk shield and still have nothing. XXXXX is in the XXXXX the lowest income area, a lot of our students don't come from clean homes. And the school is not helping either

Not only has the deep cleanings promised never showed, but we’re down to 5 custodians when we previously had 6. Last year they at least grabbed the trash daily. As of Friday, mine hadn’t been taken out since Tuesday. Admin is aware of the issues and told us to put in maintenance requests if there were concerns. Off record as I don’t want to be fired. Oh, and I have 250+ students assigned to me, so they’ve traveled through the room twice with no trash pickup.

My school XXXXX hasn’t supplied ANY ppe. No mask ( when I asked they said since it’s not required we don’t supply it) even for students who want to wear a mask but theirs have broken. No sanitizer no nothing! No desk shields (I asked). Not even any seating chart for the cafeteria kids can sit next to any class member any day as long as they sit at the tables designated for my class. Terrible.

lack of custodial staff and cleaning not getting done inside classrooms. Teachers having to do it.

It’s interesting that when it was Covid -19 we were masking, hand sanitizer, wiping desk, had up cubicle protector and supposedly it was not that contagious from hs student to teacher. It was 15 minutes or more around them. Now, with the Delta variation it only takes 8-9 seconds and we really aren’t doing any of that other stuff. Plus, they want us doing groups! I just don’t think groups are safe!

The answer to your question is NO very little soap most likely left over from last year same with hand sanitizer. That will be gone this week . I found half bottle of lysol cleaner 3rd day of school to clean tables . I clean as much as I can . Why , because I don’t want to get sick my self . It’s sad we are not given the stuff to clean with make sure the kids or ourselves get sick . Letters need to go to that parents To bring things in

And I could have gone on.

Now 2 teachers out of the dozens that responded said they were happy with what was happening in their schools. 2

Friends we should either do better or stop pretending we are.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

DCPS admits the DOH hasn't been up for the job. Um, they haven't been up for the job since the beginning of the pandemic.

 In the summer of 20, a school board member told me the DOH was not returning the district's calls when it asked for help and guidance. This same school board member would later say repeatedly that they depended on the DOH for its contact tracing. They passed the buck despite the fact from day one, the DOH was not up for the job, and everyone knew it. Infuriating and reckless.

Spoiler alert the DOH is still not up to the job, so finally, the district is making a change, a change I have urged them to make a half dozen times, a change which, if we think about it, is only slightly above insignificant.

From the Times Union,

 Duval County Public Schools officials say the Duval County health department hasn't been able to keep up with the pace of COVID-19 contact tracing since school started last week. Now, the district is launching new mitigation strategies at elementary schools to compensate. 

On Friday afternoon, the district released two new policies that will go into effect by Wednesday. 

First, the district said if a case impacts an elementary school, families of classmates will receive a letter informing them of the case. The letter will not be a "quarantine or 'stay-at-home' order" but will let families be aware of the increased possibility a student might have been in close contact with someone who presumably tested positive for COVID-19. 

https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/education/2021/08/20/duval-schools-says-health-department-hasnt-been-able-keep-pace-contact-tracing-announces-new-strateg/8218176002/?

Notifying families is a baby step in the right direction, and it is something they should have been doing since the beginning, but why only in elementary schools? Do middle school and high school families not deserve to know? Then none of this is a replacement for proper contact tracing.

DCPS by a country mile is behind every other district that has started the school year. I recently did a piece that showed Hillsborough is quarantining 5 people for every one case and Palm Beach 20, while DCPS in a criminally bad effort, less than one. 

We can and should be doing better, and if the people in charge can't or don't want to, they should be replaced.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

The absolute nonsense DCPS would have people belive.

 As always, check the math, but...

 With 220 cases reported in the first week, DCPS quarantined only 43 people. On average, the district said each infected person came in close contact with one-fifth of one person. The district is saying somehow the infected managed to stay away from just about everyone.

Let me give you some scale. Hillsborough is quarantining 5 people for every one case of covid.

From Action News 8:

The number of students in Hillsborough County quarantined or in isolation for COVID-19 exposure has risen to 8,400.

The district is now tracking 1,603 cases dating back to Aug. 2 as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday night.

https://www.wfla.com/news/hillsborough-county/8k-hillsborough-co-students-in-quarantine-isolation-due-to-covid-19/

Even with just five to one, they are quarantining people at a rate nearly 25 times what we are.

Now let's look at Palm Beach

From CBS News,

Just a few days into the academic year, hundreds of students in Palm Beach County, Florida, have been told to go into quarantine because of COVID-19 cases at their schools. Nearly 700 kids were sent home due to possible COVID exposure on Tuesday, the first day of school, followed by over 400 on Wednesday and more than 900 on Thursday. On Friday the number sent home was 1,020, the district reported.

As of Friday, there were 134 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 26 employees and 105 students, according to the district's COVID-19 dashboard. The cases have been confirmed in 60 of the district's facilities and K-12 schools. 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/students-palm-beach-county-quarantine-covid/

Palm Beach County quarantines over 3000 students and staff for 134 confirmed cases. That's over 20 to one.

DCPS had more cases and quarantined a minute fraction of that number.

Who wants to bet when comparing numbers DCPS isn't just quarantining the fewest, but they are doing so by a country mile.

Ugh

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

DCPS is risking lives, I said it but we are all thinking and know it

 The stories I have heard are both heartbreaking and infuriating, sick parents of exposed children kept in the dark, and a terminally ill child left to fend for herself as the department of health drags their heels. Then just throw in the run of the mill danger that the district seems quite content to put staff and students in and we have beyond a recipe for disaster.

I received this over the weekend.

Chris, I have loved reading your posts over this past year. I am an elementary school teacher in Duval. My para just tested positive for Covid yesterday, and I have been told I cannot tell my parents/ students. Meanwhile, one of their mothers is severely immunocompromised. I am flabbergasted because my assistant was everywhere in the classroom working with all the children. My gut tells me the whole class should quarantine, but no one will help or tell me anything. We just have to wait 3-4 days at least for DOH to tell us what to do.

This teacher is not allowed to reach out to her families and let them know. The Superintendent and school board think waiting for the DOH to contact them is the route to go when they have proved over the last year they are not up for the job.   

I just got off the phone with a teacher who told me one of the staff in their child classroom tested positive last Thursday and as of yet nobody has reached out to them, they just hoped and prayed they reached out to the child with cancer in the room. 

Why can't teachers tell their families and at very least let them decide what to do? That is the decent and right thing. 

I literally just had this conversation on Facebook. I am the blue.

Just wanted to share about your post on reporting Covid numbers. I personally have 2 confirmed positives in my class, but 6 others also out sick and they can come back at anytime because we are told we can no longer ask them to get tested. Our school is only reporting 5 on the dashboard but just from 2 others classrooms close to mine, there are 7 other confirmed cases. That’s a total of 9 just in our three classes.
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and your classes has anybody been quarantined?
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Jessica

It’s been hard to go into work everyday and be happy for the students with the “leadership.” No quarantining has taken place at all for my classroom and I had two more positives reported today.
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Jessica


I was told they can’t do anything or notify anyone until the Department of Health tells them to.
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The super and board are nothing but cowards for passion the buck to the DH who we all know are not up for the job and shame on them all.