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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Greene basically says keeping kids safe is not a priority

 If you thought masks kept children safe, that it helped prevent them from getting sick and potentially saved lives, wouldn't you be morally obligated to make sure they wore them? Wouldn't you be morally obligated to do everything you could to protect children's health? Well, nope, not if you are superintendent Greene, to her all that gets is a shrug of her shoulders. 

This is what Greene wrote to district staff:

The governor announced today that he will be issuing an Executive Over to prevent school districts from mandating mask requirements for students.  Had it not been for this announcement, this 30-day mandate would be applied to all PreK-12 students as well and would extend for elementary students when indoors until such time as vaccinations are readily available and families can elect to have their student vaccinated.

Right there, she says she thinks masks would keep kids safe, but because the governor, who I remind everyone, often spreads misinformation about the virus, he has had videos taken down from youtube, doesn't believe in them, she's willing to give them a pass. 

Two things, why would anyone listen to a science denier when making decisions about the health of children, and second, I have to call bull shit on her for writing that. I don't think for a second, even if the governor had done nothing she was going to make kids wear masks, her overall lack of concern about the pandemic, in my opinion, has been manifestly negligent. That, however, shouldn't diminish the fact she basically said, masks save lives, but we are going to pass on them anyways. 

Think about that, she basically wrote, I want kids to have masks, they help save lives, but you know, whatever. That's disturbing, that neglectful, and that's just plain wrong.

Then I want to point out several times in the past, DCPS has sued the state when they thought they were wrong, something they could do again if these emergency orders come out. That's part of doing everything possible to save lives, which to Greene is obviously a bridge too far. 

Her letter overall was her attempting to appear as if she was doing something while practically doing nothing. That isn't leadership; that is a recipe for disaster.

Finally, I want to add, I don't want to wear a mask, and I definitely don't want to fight with that be kid, all day every day about doing so, but if it will keep them, me, and my family safe, I am more than willing to do so. Greene, on the other hand, isn't willing to do anything. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Greene and the school board risked lives and for what?

It was unbelievable to me and many others that the district spent the latter part of the winter and early spring cajoling families who had decided virtual school was the safer and better option to come in to take at first practice test and then the FSA. Anyone with a pulse could tell that scores were going to drop, well anyone but Greene and the school board, that is.

It's my thought that Greene could taste that barely missed A district grade from two years prior that she was willing to step over the bodies of staff and students to get it. If not, why risk their health for what was most likely going to be meaningless grades?

So as the except from the article will show, scores dropped. That's okay, it didn't mean people didn't work hard, and kids didn't learn. I know I worked harder than I ever had last year, and I know the lion's share of my colleagues did as well. 

From the Times Union,

Overall, the test scores show achievement dips statewide, and Duval County is no exception...

...From the start, school officials say they expected some achievement gaps compared to a pre-pandemic school year. 

Last month when third-grade reading scores were released, Superintendent Diana Greene said learning loss was expected due to the pandemic.

"COVID-19 was disruptive," Greene said at the time. "What matters now is how we respond."

Greene certainly did respond, and she did so by making the staff miserable and ratcheting up the pressure on staff and students alike. The district's actions were so inexplicable I often wondered if they knew a pandemic was happening or not. 

It's a pandemic and one that, because of the actions of the willfully ignorant who have refused to get vaccinated, we are in for the foreseeable future. Instead of worrying about test scores, the district should worry about the health and well-being of its staff and students, you know, do the human thing. 

One, two, three however many years from now, nobody is going to remember how they did on this test or that or how their students did either, they are going to remember if the district took their security and safety in mind, they are going to remember if the district was decent or not. They were not last year, but sadly because of the unvaccinated, they have another chance to get it right. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

On masks, DCPS pivots from whatever to yeah, whatever

 To say I was disappointed in District leadership is an understatement. I get it to with the pandemic, and just Florida in general DCPS starts in a pretty deep hole; the problem is their only inclination seems to be, keep digging. 

Did you ever see Animal House when Dean Wormer tells the members of Delta Tau Chi that they have gone from probation to double secret probation? Wel the district basically did the same thing when it went from masks are suggested to really, really, really suggested. 

From the Times Union,

 Less than three weeks out from the first day of school in Jacksonville, Duval County Public Schools is revising its face mask policy for the 2021-22 school year. 

On Wednesday, the district announced it would upgrade its mask policy from "optional" to "strongly recommended" for unvaccinated students. The change comes as the City of Jacksonville continues to push back Florida's latest COVID-19 surge. Still, the masks aren't mandatory.  

Sorry, not suggested to really, really, really suggested but from optional to recommended, though I would argue that is a distinction without a difference.

Here is the thing, I don't plan to wear a mask when school starts though I would shrug and do so if required. I hated teaching with a mask, almost as much as I hated fighting with a couple kids to keep their masks on.

The thing is, this is all mute. 

From the AP,

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to suspend all remaining COVID-19 restrictions imposed by communities across his state, signing into law on Monday freshly passed legislation giving him sweeping powers to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the pandemic — including mask mandates, limitations on business operations and the shuttering of schools.

In addition to signing the law, which goes into effect July 1, the Republican governor also signed a pair of executive orders to move more quickly, meaning that existing coronavirus measures enacted by local governments — such as requiring masks — would be abolished immediately.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” DeSantis said, “but I think this creates a structure that’s going to be a little bit more respectful, I think, of people’s businesses, jobs, schools and personal freedom.”

First, I thought Republicans believed in local control? Though I guess, like most things they preach about, it's just a lie.

That was from May, though the fact that Florida leads the nation, by far as the fourth wave hits haven't moved are wannabe dictator. 

From News4Jax,

Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down Thursday on his opposition to mask mandates for public-school students during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he would call for a special legislative session if the federal government moves toward requiring masks in schools.

“There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids,” DeSantis said. “We’re not doing that in Florida, OK? We need our kids to breathe.”

This guy really doesn't give a $@#& about COVID, or sadly if people live or die. 

I guess this must mean DCPS is off the hook, and it all falls on the governor, right? Um, no, if you think that you are wrong. 

The State Constitution gives DCPS control of all schools in the district, not the governor. Every time the governor or commissioner of education does something like this, it erodes their power and makes it easier for them to do it next time easier.  It's a lack of leadership that lets the governor come in and bully local districts, and that's what we have. 

The superintendent and school board pass the buck like that, and not educating our children is their job, and they do so to the detriment of present and future students and staff.  

COVID and the state put us in a hole, but it was the super and school board's choice to keep digging.  

I don't want to wear a mask and given the choice I won't but whether I have that choice or not should be a decision made locally and based on science, not a mandate from a science-denying fascist playing to a willfully uneducated base. Leaders, good leaders would recognize that.

Monday, July 19, 2021

My thoughts on masks in the new school year

 First, let me say my opinion isn't set in stone, and if you disagree with me, I get it. That being said, the thought of another year teaching and wearing a mask sends chills down my spine.  

Teaching and wearing a mask was not easy, and it definitely wasn't fun. Unless you did it, it's hard to explain, but I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. 

I just read that one in five new covid cases are in Florida as the Delta Variant, and a lack of leadership has gripped our state. Then to make it worse, my hometown of Jacksonville has been the epicenter of the resurgence. That's scary as are the plans my district has announced. Masks will be optional for everyone vaccinated though as far as I can tell, there is no mechanism in place to see who is vaccinated or not. Basically, we are on the honor system. 

In my opinion, keeping staff and students safe has never been a priority for my district, but I have covered that ad nauseum.

So I have been vaccinated since March, had COVID in December, and where I came to hate them was a big proponent of wearing masks, but unless something new and more dreadful rears its ugly head, I believe that ship has sailed, though that's not to say I don't have concerns.

Contact tracing was bad last year, so I can only imagine it will be worse this year. Social distancing didn't happen last year, so that's a non-starter, my desks have already been stripped of the plexiglass shields, and that deep cleaning they promised and continue to do so never really materialized. Despite all of this, I have no plans to voluntarily wear a mask.       

What I would like is to be held harmless if I get sick from school contact. I don't want to spend all my days trying to not die. Then I want my wife took care of if something happens to me, and my x2 salary life insurance probably isn't going to cut it. Then finally, once the vaccine loses its emergency label, I want to see it become mandatory in our schools. 

We already require a handful of vaccines, and COVID should be added to the list and done so for two reasons. First, it just makes sense to protect our staff and students. If you don't want to get vaccinated, the state has created plenty of crappy education options for families to go to, and then not to do so doesn't make any sense at all.      

Florida already does so many education things that don't make sense, that are designed to hurt its citizens under this pretense, or that but not requiring the vaccine is a bridge too far. If we say no to the vaccine, then if we are honest, what can we say yes to? Dress code, other vaccines, testing, discipline? If we don't care if staff and students live or die, why are those or anything important?

They are not.

Just my thoughts; feel free to respectfully disagree.  

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Diana Greene the Teflon superintendent, part 2, Scandals in Duval are barely acknowledged by the local media but they are there

Scandals didn't stop when Greene arrived in Duval, but the attention they got was minimal.

Who remembers that a grand jury lambasted the DCPS police department and said they committed outright fraud? Well, it happened in December.

From the Florida Times-Union,

A new statewide grand jury report studying school safety issues lambasted the Duval County School Police Department for "outright fraud" and underreporting incident and crime numbers to make a better impression. Now in response, the school district is launching its own review.

Late Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court website published the third interim report issued by the grand jury — a 27-page document meant to implement and review how well recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission were being realized. The grand jury was brought to fruition last February following a request from Gov. Ron DeSantis following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting. 

While the interim report largely focused on Florida's mental-health systems and deficiencies in funding, separately, the report pointed out issues with schools' abilities to differentiate criminal behavior from simple misbehavior. Duval School was used as the key example.

Outright fraud. Not could have done a better job. Not their systems need to be tweaked either, but outright fraud.  

Seen any follow-ups in the media?

Also, this is partly why Robert Runcie lost his job in Broward County. He was accused of lying to the Grand Jury investigating school safety issues, not that his county was accused of outright fraud.

How is it possible that DCPS is accused of this and nothing happens? Well, not nothing; around the same time, Greene won the superintendent of the year award from the state superintendent association, but what's a little fraud among friends.

Then what about charter school expansion? I get it the state does not make things easy, but DCPS has approved charters created by homophobes and arguably white supremacists...

directly across the street from an A-rated school...

and three from a charter chain that just fired its founder for financial irregularities.

Then to counter all these and the other charter schools, DCPS is going to spend 1.2 million dollars.


A contract worth as much as $1.2 million has been drawn up with Tennessee-based firm Caissa Public Strategy, which says it specializes in targeted ad campaigns to recruiting students to public schools, including from charter schools and private schools. 

According to DCPS, as many as 30,000 of the district’s children don’t attend their neighborhood school. About half of them go to one of 35 charters, according to an analysis by WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union

The matter of recruiting and retaining students appeared in DCPS’ most recent financial report, which said, “Full-time equivalent (FTE) dollars flow to the charter schools based on the number of FTE students. Over the last five years, charter school FTE has grown from 10,834 in fiscal year 2014-15 to 17,445 in fiscal year 2019-20. The District is marketing public schools and programs to attract students back to District schools.”

I guess just saying no to unnecessary or corrupt charter schools is out of the question, but more on that in part 4.

Two more scandals, or what should be scandals, are how Greene handled the pandemic and how the district handles race relations. 

First, the pandemic, contact tracing was between abysmal and non-existent, and social distancing was just non-existant. Rather than take responsibility for the contact tracing, the district continuously passed the buck to the state department of health, which media reports said was compromised, and the district itself said for weeks would not return its calls. Yes, the department of health is responsible for keeping our citizens safe, but so is the district. This is also just another example of how rather than taking ownership for education decisions, like charter schools, the district repeatedly prefers to pass the buck.  

That's a big issue, but another is how instead of doing everything they could do to lighten the load on teachers, they doubled down on district micromanaging and testing. The street of the pandemic wasn't enough, but now staff and students had to worry even more about the district. 

They either couldn't or wouldn't read the room, that testing would not be so important this year, and even cajoled DHR families into returning to campus to take practice tests. Practice tests! They also failed to read the room, with their shoddy treatment of veteran teachers but that's for another piece.

The district mishandled the pandemic from the moment Greene, ignoring staff concerns, declared she wanted schools open regardless. 

 There were better options, but and this is just my opinion, Greene wanted that district A grade that DCPS missed out on two years ago so badly, she was willing to step over the bodies, mostly metaphorically speaking, of staff and students to get it.

Then there is how poorly the district handles race relations, which started last June with the push to change the names of schools named after confederate generals and culminated with removing a teacher for flying a black lives matter flag. 

I have a theory as to why this administration is so bad with race relations, and that is our superintendent doesn't see children as black, brown, or white, she sees them as test scores, and she probably thinks everyone else should as well. 

In February, the district had a disastrous mental health rollout, which sought to co-op black history month and led to several school walkouts; the district soon 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. 

Any one of those is bad enough, but it displays a complete district failure when so many are taken back to back.   

More on this in part 3.

Outright fraud, passing the buck, risking the health of students and staff, an inability to read the room, and poor race relations aren't bugs of the Greene administration; they are features. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Diana Greene the Teflon superintendent, part 1, Scandals follow Greene to Duval

Diana Greene seems immune to scandal, a performance that would have arguably gotten her fired elsewhere has garnered nothing but accolades from the gentrified class in Jacksonville.  It may be her chameleon-like ability to speak public education to one group and corporate reforms to another or it is her don't make waves demeanor but regardless of the reason her leadership has been anything but good. First, let's take a look at the scandals that should have prevented her from being hired in the first place.  

Holy lack of due diligence Batman.

Superintendent Greene came from Manatee County, which was plagued by one scandal after another during her tenure or that raised shortly thereafter, which had their roots in her leadership.

DCPS has not met a software program they didn't like and it was similar in Manatee County.

From the Bradenton Herald, 

The School Board of Manatee County has agreed to pay $525,000 and resolve a lawsuit with Ciber Global LLC, a key player in the district’s troubled ERP project. 

The ERP software, or enterprise resource planning system, was prepared under then-Superintendent Diana Greene between 2015 and 2018. School board members — including Karen Carpenter, John Colon, Robert Gause, Charlie Kennedy and Dave Miner — were told in 2016 that new software would modernize the district for less than $10 million.

According to a document later obtained by the Bradenton Herald, the true project cost was more than $27 million when labor, travel and other expenses were taken into account. That analysis included both paid and unpaid invoices. 

Somebody should be looking at the cost of our ESS system

Then there was a grading scandal

From the Bradenton Herald,

Cynthia Saunders, interim superintendent for the School District of Manatee County, is accused of abusing her power and inflating graduation rates, according to a notice from the Florida Department of Education.
In a letter dated Dec. 6, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said she found probable cause to justify sanctions against Saunders’ educator certificate, citing alleged misconduct between 2014 and 2016.

The state accused Saunders of:

Personal conduct which seriously reduces effectiveness as an employee of the school board, in violation of Florida Statutes.

An offense against the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession, in violation of Florida Statutes.

Intentionally distorting or misrepresenting facts concerning an educational matter in direct or indirect public expression, in violation of Florida Administrative Code.

Using institutional privileges for personal gain or advantage, in violation of Florida Administrative Code.

Failing to maintain honesty in all professional dealings, in violation of Florida Administrative Code.

Using coercive means or promised special treatment to influence professional judgments of colleagues, in violation of Florida Administrative Code.

Submitting fraudulent information on a document in connection with professional activities, in violation of Florida Administrative Code.  

But perhaps however the most damning accusation was that she manipulated the district’s graduation rate.

Saunders was named interim superintendent after Diana Greene left to become superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in late June…

Earlier in the day, Scott Hopes (Manatee County school board member) said any allegations should be directed at the former superintendent. 

Then let's talk about cost overruns with the Manatee County referendum 

From the Times Union,

Construction costs in the Manatee County School District have clocked in at 84 percent over budget over the last three years.

The original approved budget for 20 major construction projects completed in the district from 2015 to 2018 was roughly $27 million. The final price tag for those projects came in at more than $49.9 million, according to project summary sheets obtained via a public records request. 

I supported our referendum here, after some assurances from the district that staff would be taken care of, but if the past is prologue with Greene's leadership we should all be very wary.

Part 2, will look at her scandals and missteps in DCPS. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Florida treats its public school teachers like second class citizens, it's past time we said enough?

Anybody know a lawyer willing to take on the state of Florida on behalf of its public school teachers? I have to recertify this year (see the letter below), and one of my colleagues just lost their job because they didn't pass the math portion of the general knowledge test in time.  Nothing too unusual until you consider that teachers in the state's voucher schools don't have to have certifications, recertify or take any of the tests that public school teachers annually spend millions on. Both systems are paid for with public money, but only in public schools are their requirements and penalties. 

If I don't recertify, I will be out of a job. If public school teachers don't fulfill this ESE requirement, that ESOL requirement, or for some a reading requirement by an arbitrary deadline, they will be out of a job. Not in our voucher schools, though; they don't have to pay for or take any tests. 

Public school teachers have to use their time and money to get and keep their jobs, while teachers at voucher schools don't. Both are paid for by the public, but both have different rules. Not only is that not fair, but as I read it, it violates the state constitution, which says. 

The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education...

How is having two systems efficient, let alone uniform? The answer is it's not, and it is unfair, especially to public school teachers. 

There are obvious solutions, every teacher paid for with public money either has to get certified or doesn't, but one group shouldn't have to spend what little money they have to while the other doesn't.  

It's time to go to court. Anyone know a lawyer? 

No voucher school teacher will get the letter I got below.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Florida's separate and unequal education system

The GOP has been in power in Florida for over two decades, and practically since day one, public education has been in their crosshairs. The reasons are many and varied, education has a disproportionate amount of women, many zealots in office would prefer a religious education, teachers' unions genuinely support democrats, or politicians are simply doing the bidding of their big donors, to mention a few. Whatever the reason, what the GOP has created is an unfair and unequal system that benefits few.      

The state constitution says The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.

Let's see if the system that outs billions into voucher schools is both uniform and efficient.

Public school teachers have to have degrees, get certified, and every five years get recertified. Many also have to take continuing education classes in reading ESOL and ESE. Teachers in voucher schools don't have to have certifications let alone degrees. 

Public school children have to take an annual assessment that measures their progress and is used to measure teachers' performance as well. The assessments are also used to grade schools. Children in voucher schools do not have to take any assessment. There is no mechanism to grade voucher schools.

Public schools must educate any child that shows up, where private schools often discriminate against ESE and LGBTQ children and pick who they both take and keep.      

Finally, public schools must report how they spend every penny, where most private schools that take vouchers don't have to report what they do with the taxpayer money they receive. 

None of that is uniform or efficient, and as bad as that is, the lack of high quality is even worse.  

A recent study by the FEA reported that 1,233 of the 1,654 (75%) private schools in Florida that offer education through grade 12 are unaccredited.

Then there is this from the Department of educations website.

Not accredited? Can't guaranty if colleges and universities will accept degrees from these private voucher schools? 

It's no wonder either, as the Orlando Sentinel reported that hundreds of private schools teach junk science and history classes that say things like dinosaurs and humans lived together, and slaves were free as long as they had Jesus in their hearts.  Voucher schools don't have to have a recognized curriculum or, sadly, any curriculum at all. They are allowed to do whatever they want and the GOP reasons well if a parent somewhere is okay with it, let's fork over thousands of dollars to get it done. The taxpayers of Florida are paying for that. High quality, not a chance. 

Having two systems is not efficient, it is not uniform, and it definitely isn't high quality. Still, the GOP would have taxpayers and citizens believe they are doing the people of Florida a favor by creating it.  

Even if you think public education is failing, a false notion, or indoctrinating children to hate their country, which is both false and ridiculous, or you love the concept of school choice, you have to be disgusted by what the GOP has created. Hundreds of millions are sent annually to barely regulated unaccredited schools that can discriminate and teach whatever they want, no matter how crazy. It's unfair, illegal, and bad business.