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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Up is down without Vitti to JPEF and the Civic Council

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

From last year’s poll:

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

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

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

From this year’s survey:

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

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

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

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

Wow pretty grim right?

Except, the article also says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

School recognition money will be released...

Some people asked me when school recognition funds, extra money given to the staff at schools with high grades or show great improvement, was going to be distributed. The money was released to the district last October.

I didn't know so I asked the district and this is what they told me.

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

Hope this helps!

So there you go, after February 1st and maybe in March, April or May.

Now I hope you will excuse me while I go cry. 

Private schools may no longer be able to falsify fire and health inspection reports... wait what????



Face palm

After a decade and billions of dollars, a few Florida legislators are proposing some over site to schools that take vouchers, including clamping down on their ability to falsify heath and fire inspection reports. 



Face palm

Real quick, Florida has a voucher program. Business can donate to several voucher providers in lieu of paying taxes. The students who receive the vouchers don't have to take state tests, be taught by certified teachers (or teachers with degrees) and can take classes like intelligent design and as bad as all that is, it gets worse because most of the schools don't even have to report how the money is spent. That's right most of the schools just promise to spend the money on kids and for the state of Florida, that is good enough.

Some of that may be changing.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Florida private schools that take state vouchers would face new rules — but remain free to hire teachers without college degrees — under draft legislation discussed briefly Thursday by the Florida House education committee.

Bileca’s panel would require state officials to visit all private schools before they are deemed eligible to participate in one of the scholarship programs and would require schools to give parents a list of teachers and their credentials. The proposals also would make it tougher for schools to falsify required fire and health inspection forms.

Take a minute and read the article but I warn you don't have liquid in your mouth when you do so, because the chances of spitting it up all over your computer are great.

Over the years Florida has done great damage to public schools and the teaching profession, while diverting millions to schools with practically no accountability even if you are for school choice you have to admit the system is messed up.

If these schools are going to continue to receive public money it is past time they received some over site as well. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is the teacher depot in danger?

I used to live on a street with a Duncan Doughnuts at the end of it. Now I didn't go often but I always felt comforted knowing it was there. that is sort of how I feel about the teacher depot. In my seventeen years in the classroom, I have only gone a handful of times but I always felt comforted knowing it was there, though I have know other teachers who attend religiously.

Now it seems as if the teacher depot will be closing up shop.

Talking several to several people in the know, they report that with the impending retirement of the manager of the Teacher Depot, the district seems content to let it die.

If the teacher depot is important to you now is the time to start letting the district know.

Monday, January 15, 2018

DTU and DCPS reach a tentative contract agreement

Most people don’t know but Jacksonville’s public-school teachers have been working without a contract since the last one expired in July of last year. A huge sticking point had been the amount of raises for teachers and this is going to get a little wonky for a moment.

Seven years ago, after the passage of Senate Bill 736, districts were forced to change how they evaluate and pay teachers. Now student test scores would factor heavily how school districts would do both. During the last contract Duval teachers United and the district negotiated in 2014, two pay scales were created. One for teachers who were hired after 2010 when another bill stripped teachers of work protections, which were commonly and inaccurately referred to as tenure, which put new teachers on one-year contracts where they could be let go for any or no reason at the end of the school year and the other pay scale was for veteran teachers who still had their work protections. They were put on what was called the grandfather pay scale. 

Teachers without work protections could expect a thousand dollar raise for an effective evaluation and two thousand dollars for a highly effective one, while teachers on the grandfather pay scale received more modest wage increases, though they could give up their job protections and join the new pay scale should they choose. I and most veteran teachers I know chose to remain on the grandfather scale.

That brings us to the current negotiation where the sticking point was the 1000 and 2000 dollar raises. The district feeling the pinch from the previous superintendent’s financial mismanagement, started this year 12 million dollars in the hole. Couple this with the state continuously in my opinion criminally underfund education and the district was caught between a rock and a hard place.

So, teachers started the year without a contract and without the raises, either 1000, 2000, or the more modest raises that were negotiated. Likewise, stipends for hard to fill positions or for teachers that worked at special schools were held back and as you can imagine as the year dragged on this has caused a lot of frustration with a lot of teachers.

That frustration however may be coming to an end as the district and union have reached a tentative agreement the week of January 8th where the 1000, and 2000-dollar raises were kept intact. So that should be the end of the story, after all the pitch was about how teachers were working without contracts and soon they will have them ending an ongoing problem.

Except it’s not, not even close because as long as we have a government in Tallahassee and education leaders here at home that continue to underfund and kneecap public education then we will continue to have problems.

Florida is chronically near the bottom when it comes to education funding and when you factor in inflation our schools get less than they did in 2007 the year before the great recession. Furthermore, now thanks to last year’s House Bill 7069 the district is required to share what meager funds it has with charter schools many of which are for profit.  

Locally board member Scott Shine supported the measure because he said he expected Tallahassee to dramatically increase education funding, which it did not, he also supported the bill because he said he believed union teachers would lose their job but that would be a whole different post.  

Last fall at a board meeting when discussing suing the state over House Bill 7069, Mister Shine went onto say that the republican members of the Duval delegation voted for the bill because they didn’t know what was in it and because the bill was speaker of the house Richard Corcoran’s priority, and those members were afraid to cross the speaker.

Then there is local businessman Gary Chartrand whose name you have probably heard a lot. He is responsible for bringing Teach for America, which takes non-education members puts then through a six-week access course and then into our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve a two-year commitment ensuring our most vulnerable students have a revolving door of teachers, or the exact opposite of what they need.

He also brought the KIPP charter school to town and if you didn’t know it, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, after Chartrand made large donations to Mayor Lenny Curry, changed their rules so that they now fund part of the KIPP school day, before this they had only funded after school programs.  Now the mayor, Chartrand and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, might argue that correlation is not causation, but the relationship is clear.

Chartrand also banded together with a group of philanthropists and pledged nearly fifty million dollars over three years to Duval County public schools, with the only caveats being that the district must spend the money on what they told the district to and the district had to continue funding the programs when the money ran out. Last summer when the district balked, Chartrand threatened to withhold the money that the QEA promised the district but had not yet delivered.

Perhaps worst of all however is Chartrand is currently finishing his second term on the state board of education despite the fact he has no education experience, he was never a teacher and he sent his children to expensive private schools. While on the board he advocated for teachers to lose work protections, but he has never advocated for Tallahassee to adequately fund education.

Duval County is at the epicenter for what ails education in Florida. A school board member who roots for schools to fail so union teachers can be fired and for-profit charter schools can make even more money. A mayor who has rules changed to fund his donors pet project.  A delegation that is ignorant about what they are voting on and only did so to satiate a powerful legislator, and an influential businessman out of his depth who wields money like a club and gives campaign donations to get what he wants and threatens when he doesn’t.

Despite my spending much of the last decade criticizing DCPS I believe we have such promise, but it is promise we will never meet as long as the city reflexively votes for and supports people like Shine, Chartrand and the republican members of the Duval delegation who seek to harm our schools.

So, Duval Teachers United and Duval Public Schools have finally negotiated a new contract and I sincerely believe they have both done the best they can. Unfortunately, it is a contract where most teachers don’t have work protections, and which pays teachers far below the national average and what professionals with the same level of education receive, because sadly, that is all the state of Florida allows.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wonder why teachers are afraid to speak up?

This teacher dared question why the superintendent in their district revived a large raise while the teachers had received none. She didn't break any rules or laws and likewise was civil while doing so, despite this she was handcuffed and humiliated. Dragged out.

Teachers in Florida since 2010 or if they want to be eligible for decent raises are all on one year contracts which has a chilling effect on teachers speaking up, asking questions, or even hoping to have reasonable work weeks as the pressure on them to like it or leave it has intensified. Many teachers are already fearful for their jobs, so why would they speak up when they could be so poorly treated or let go for doing so?
Since I started the blog a current siting school board has threatened my job repeatedly, harassing me. They have also called me a liar, a parasite, and maladaptive and said that I shouldn't be a teacher for doing nothing but exercising my rights on my time. Furthermore the district has threatened to sue me and another school board member who has never seen me teach nor talked to my parents or peers, questioned my teaching ability. Maybe I should be glad I haven't been placed in handcuffs.

The district the teacher above came from announced they wouldn't press charges. No apology, no, hey sorry about that things just got a little carried away, just a, we're not going to have you thrown in jail and your job is safe... for now. Teachers all over the nation received their message loud and clear.

The thing is we will never reach our potential as long as the powers that be ignore teachers. As long as the system treats teachers like adversaries rather than collaborators. We will never reach our potential as long as teachers are considered easily replaceable cogs, to be disrespected, insulted or fired for speaking out or dragged out in handcuffs, never.

This should give us all a long pause, when we think about where education has come. Do we want a system that disregards and disrespects teachers or do we want a system that embraces and appreciates them because I will tell you its the second one that we currently have. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

As contract negotiations drag on Duval teachers are getting frustrated.

Let me start by saying, Tallahassee has done our district no favors, something board member Scott Shine said they were going to do last summer when he spoke of huge increases to per pupil spending.

Instead of allocating money like they should, Tallahassee has continued to kneecap public education siphoning resources to charters and vouchers. Well friends, elections are coming and we need to replace all the anti-public education, i.e. republicans, representatives in Tallahassee with people who will support our schools. 

All that being said, come on DCPS, Broward County, pretty much in the same boat as us, found enough money in the couch cushions to give their teachers between 2.5 and 3.6 percent raises.

They year is half over on Tuesday and there seems to be no end in sight to the negotiations and it's frustrating.

Now in years past when there were negotiations the district has always retroactively paid teachers which is great but another teacher pointed out, I hope that comes with interest.

Let this sink in too. I teach at a center school as do hundreds of others, and last year I had to agree to stay for three years to get the center school stipend. Well it's not just step raises which are being held back but the stipends are being held back as well. I am making less this year than I did last and now that my student loans have come due I am making less than I made six years ago. I get it I chose this job and chose to stay but at the same time we are losing teachers hand over fist and nobody seems to care.

Teachers are already way underpaid and this prolonged contract negotiation I have to think is doing harm to the profession. 

More and more teachers in more and more districts are working just to the contract, well friends we don't have a contract right now, what should we work to? 

Monday, January 1, 2018

How the Democratic party is letting Education in Northeast Florida down

I usually call out republicans but now it is time for Democrats to take their lumps too.

I am very frustrated with the Democratic party of northeast Florida and here is why. The elections are less than a year away and Jason Fischer the representative for district sixteen still does not have an opponent.

There is nobody more anti-public education in the Florida state house than Jason Fischer and that is saying a lot, yet for some reason the democratic party has not found somebody to run against him and this despite him being unpopular.

In 2016 he ran a scorched earth nasty campaign against republican Dick Kravitz and barely won but I know it had to create a lot of hard feeling with Kravitz's supporters, so much that had a democrat run in 2016 they may have won.

Then lets factor in how Fischer quit the school board, the best thing he did while on it by the way, while using the position and our children as a stepping stone to a state office. Lets not forget this guy ran for soil and water and lost before riding anti-Obama sentiment to a narrow school board election in 2012.

Yeah, he has a lot of money in he bank but more and more people are waking up to the type of politician he is and that is one who just seeks power and advancement even if our schools, children and teachers pay the price. He hasn't represented his constituents for a second, he only cares about his donors interests (and the money they send him) and they would privatize our public schools if given the chance.

If we want to see our schools improve, we have to start electing people who care about our schools, not the same cookie cutter republican who doesn't give a damn about them, except in an effort to make a buck.

Why democratic party have you not found somebody to run against this very beatable opponent?

Come on, do something and why you are at, find somebody to run against Cord Byrd as well! 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Times Union doubles down on excluding parents and teachers from the superintendent search

On Tuesday the Times Union's editorial board supported the Civic Council, aka Gary Chartrand and his friends at the country club's proposal that the current board does not hire the next superintendent. They supported the Civic Council's idea to,

The Civic Council recommends a working group of business, nonprofit, philanthropic and higher education volunteers to develop criteria for the new superintendent.

Not once in the editorial do they advocate for teachers and parents participating in the superintendent search though they do make several dubious claims.

It gets old writing the same thing over and over.

How many times can I sound the alarms about privatization, explain how ridiculous Teach for America is, point out Gary Chartrand's associations, or how often the Times Union's editorial board is wrong. I feel like I am stuck in Groundhog's Day.


Here I go again.

The editorial implies Vitti saved us, not true. It also implied he knew what he was doing, which is also not true, his leadership style was to throw spaghetti against a wall to see what stuck.

The editorial implies the philanthropic community has only been involved the last few years, not true, though recently they started telling the district how to use the money.

The editorial says TFA is a good thing, not true.

The editorial says we must listen to the civic council, only they can save us, both not true and dangerous.

If only we had an editorial board that was interested in what the district's teachers and the parent's of out students thought rather than the so called city's elites, maybe then we would see some real progress.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Darryl Willie's wife donates one dollar to his campaign

Talk about standing by her man right?

I can't imagine things being that tough for the Willie family what with the six figure salary he takes in from Teach for America, and the QEA has given TFA Jax millions of dollars too though I have no ideas to do what other than pay huge salaries.

I kid the Willie family some after she gave him what she found in the couch cushions, because it exemplifies how ridiculous the Willie campaign really is. You see Erica Willie joined 31 other people who gave ten dollars or less. Now Willie can say, look at all our small donors, and most people won't know the vast majority gave a dollar or two and came from his wife and either current or former Teach for America members, in short it's a gimmick and those seems to be all that Willie has.

Darryl Willie made his bones working for Teach for America which takes non education college graduates and puts them through a six week access course and then in our neediest classrooms where they are supposed to serve for just two years. It's a gimmick too and a gimmick that DCPS has grown weary of as it has sought to separate itself from this expensive program which does the exact opposite of what we know our neediest students need most and that is an experienced teacher who is going to be around for more than a cup of coffee.

You see Willie thinks gimmicks like two dollar donations, putting hobbyists in our classrooms when they need professionals and last time around when he ran he used misleading flyers to denigrate his opponents Paula Wright, will work. He is not the type of person we need on our board and instead we need serious people with serious ideas.

Don't feel to bad for Willie as he raised a lot of money this reporting period and sadly I think he is just getting started.  Gary Chartrand, the anti teacher and pro privatization grocer, had quite a few of his friends donate to him and unlike Willie's wife they could afford more than a dollar. Here is a hint though, if you see people like the Clements, Halverson or Stein supporting somebody running for school board you should support their opponent. They just believe in gimmicks too.

The election is a long way off but Willie has already proved he is not worthy of being on the board.

To see who has given Willie money, click the link:


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gary Chartrand and The Civic Council don't think parents and teachers are worthy of the super search

Democracy will die with a whimper not a bang.

The Civic Council, a who's who of people who would control or schools told the school board today they wanted them to hold off hiring the next superintendent until next November, when arguably our two strongest board members, and the ones they also arguably like the least Paula Wright and Becki Couch will be termed out and I am sure they hope their hand picked replacements will be on the board. Note, last time around in their rush to hire Vitti, they didn't want the board to wait until new board members were sat but back then they had more influence over the board. 

From the Florida Times Union,

As Duval School Board members on Tuesday discussed how they are hiring a superintendent search firm, a prominent group of Jacksonville philanthropists and business owners sent a letter asking the Board to wait to hire a new education leader until November 2018.
The Jacksonville Civic Council said it wants the Board’s newly elected members to have a say in who is the next superintendent. At least two sitting Board members of the seven-member board face term limits, so there will at least be two new faces on the Board by then, the letter notes.
“We’re not asking you to sit idle during this time,” the letter states. “Rather we recommend that you partner with the community work group …. to develop a robust profile of the next superintendent.”
The civic group said this working group should include business, philanthropic, nonprofit, and higher education volunteers to advise the Board during the superintendent selection process.
Notice they didn't say teachers or parents and friends I can't make this stuff up.
The civic council doesn't seem to think parents and teachers are worthy of being part of the superintendent search, our incomes and minds to small. They seem to want to lord over us and why not, because under Vitti they practically were.
Why wait till November to pick the new super? Because if past is prologue I am sure they hope to replace Couch and Wright with new members who will bend to their will because they want the control to hasten their privatization agenda. 
The board should tell the civic council to stick their letter, well, I think you know where I am going.  
We need to be vigilant and support whoever they don't, our schools, children and teachers will depend on it.
To see who is part of the Civic Council and if you guess Gary Chartrand was front and center, you are correct, click the link.