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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Let's talk about hate

Sadly because of recent events it is all to topical.

We are doomed to repeat history if we don't know it. I wish our president would learn that lesson.
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Monday, August 14, 2017

It is past time to take a hard look at the KIPP school

Even Pam Stewart, the Education Commissioner knows they are full of well you know.

From Politico: State education Commissioner Pam Stewart, in a sardonic text exchange with a colleague, accused a prominent GOP donor who chairs a Jacksonville charter school chain of using misleading data to boast about students’ test scores, according to public records obtained by POLITICO 

Florida.Stewart said in a text message to a top saff member that the leaders of KIPP Jacksonville overstated the percentage of third graders who passed state reading exams. 

In the May 19 conversation, Stewart was critical of Gary Chartrand, a member and former chair of the state Board of Education who also heads the governing panel for KIPP's three Florida charter schools. Chartrand, executive chairman of Acosta Inc., a Jacksonville sales and marketing firm, is a reliable campaign donor to Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott. 

In the texts, Stewart suggested Chartrand and the network’s executive director, Tom Majdanics, had been bragging that 41 percent of third graders at KIPP VOICE Elementary School passed this year’s reading tests, when the figure was actually 35 percent.

If they are lying, err exaggerating about this, what else are they exaggerating about?

And if that was just it, I could move along, but its not, here are some of their greatest hits.

They combined there two schools in order to avoid a bad grade after taking money in grants to establish a second school.

While on the state board of education benefactor Gary Chartrand had the rules changed so school grades could only drop one letter grade protecting his KIPP school from dropping from a miraculous B, one year after being the worst performing school in Northeast Florida, to a D. What I call the Chartrand rule, a rule the state has since got rid of allowed KIPP to only drop to a C.  

Then there is KIPP's wait list which they point to like it was the crown jewels. Well how legit is it?

First Duval performs no over site to charter school lotteries, read that gain.

Then in 2015 despite a supposedly huge wait list, they still hadn't reached their max enrollment

Also do they back fill or don't they back fill?

Then google "KIPP wait list" and problems nation wide come up.

We are not done yet though.

How about the KIPP grades which are more up and down that a yoyo and remember the district just combined their two schools to protect their elementary school from a bad grade. The grades of the middle school have been, C,C,D,B,D,B, and F

Hardly great when you factor in, selection bias, they have a lower percentage of free and reduced lunch than their neighbors, have longer school days, spend more money per pupil and could put actual requirements on parents.

Finally, I am troubled by Gary Chartrand, KIPP's founder giving money to politicians who in turn send wheel barrels full of cash to KIPP, then do his political bidding and his recent attempt to blackmail the district.

At the absolute very least, KIPP is not the model school that the Times Union's editorial board and the city's elite makes it out to be.

Also at the very least I have posed some legitimate questions and concerns.

Reason number 8 the Jacksonville Public Education Fund can't be trusted

They try and buy school board members.

Gary Chartrand founded it and his gang of mostly all white friends who set their children to private schools and never taught a day in their life run it.

Poppy Clements the current chair and her husband gave Scott Shine two grand last reporting period and Wayne Weaver known for selling women's shoes as well as owning an underachieving pro football team threw in another grand.

An organization created to assist our schools is a good thing, instead we have one that seeks to dismantle them and because they are backed by millionaires, the district all to often lets these wolves in the doors.

Anti teacher and pro privatization they and JPEF should be kept as far away from public education as humanly possible.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

District staff should fill openings until teachers can be found

I went to a nearly worthless six hour training this week, administered by several district staff. I thought to myself, if you are going to read a power point to me, why not just send it to me and not waste my and several hundred other teacher's time.

I don't know if these district staff could make it in the classroom, but it's time we found out.

We have about 175 openings. (Know anybody with a bachelor's degree, that needs a job?)

Dozens of which could be filled by district staff. Instead of telling us what to do, they could show us.

Though I guess more than a few might be to busy making power points.

Look undoubtedly we have a lot of great people working for the district, and now should be the time to show it.


I don't really give Kudos to people but I wanted to give one to my principal Micheal Alexander. Not only did he feed us three times but he kept meetings short and gave us lots of time to work in our rooms. I heard from dozens of teachers across the district about how little time they had to do so. The district should look at cutting down on meetings during pre planning and increasing time teachers can spend in their rooms or it should offer teachers a few paid days to work on their rooms before pre planning. Teachers should not have to work for free to get their rooms ready. 

Florida ties the hands and seeks to cripple our most vulnerable schools

The state of Florida isn't really even pretending it cares about our most vulnerable schools anymore. First it slashes the way title one funds are allocated causing them to lose resources and staff, then the state demanded districts get rid of hundreds of teachers just before the start of the school year, exacerbating their vacancy issues, and now just as school is starting the state is seeking to limit who can work at the schools. It's absolutely shameful what the state is doing.

This is from the state and please note when it was sent.

I wish all the kids at these schools could have veteran teachers with proven track records, but at the very least d you know what they need? A teacher. These schools are already hard to staff and the state just continues to make it harder and harder. Basically this memo is saying no new teachers and no veteran teachers willing to teach out of field, though who wants to be there is a Teach for America loophole hiding somewhere.

The kids at these schools deserve a chance. The communities these schools are in deserve a chance too. The state however is doing everything they can to stack the deck against them.

A memo like this should not exist, a memo like this sent to schools the Friday before kids report is education malpractice.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Surplussed teacher explains how the district is stopping them from finding a job

Sadly the district has not supported or explained what happened to several dozen teachers surplussed at the last minute.  It is absolutely true that the state put the district in a terrible position, unfortunately, the district decided to make it worse.

Below is an update from one of the teachers.


Friday 8/11/17 8:00 p.m. This update is from Mark Felt, one of the 35 surplussed teachers last Friday, one week ago. I've had an interesting week at my new, assigned school. I thought my experiences might help some of my colleagues, surplussed or not. Plus, comments added in response may help myself and many more teachers. 

Earlier this week, I interviewed at several schools with vacancies- after being told by someone in HR this was permissible. I interviewed twice in one day at an "A" school, and actually was offered the position. Near my home, a great principal and staff (met team during the second interview), thought this was a dream...well! The next day, hearing nothing, I called this wonderful person only to be told by the principal, Mr. Felt, something's happened and HR won't let me hire you. I called the same office- the one in our reassignment letter- only to be told, very brusquely I thought, that no sir "you absolutely cannot interview at this time. We'll tell you where your assignment is" when it's decided upon. And no, it won't be in 10 days, that's not what the letter says (which is correct). 

The 10-day period is as veteran teachers know, when each school's yearly budget is derived, using each school's attendance on this one day. This is what's used to determine how many teachers, staff, etc. to hire at each school. 

So this was deflating, to say the least, especially after the week I had at my newly "assigned" school. I'm assigned to a school with no openings and this is something else I told personnel when I called them. The spokesperson denied they would ever do that, again brusquely I thought. I said but I'm told that by the principal and they simply didn't believe me. So what, now I'm a liar? I didn't argue with them- as they weren't going to change their minds! 

So upon reflection- I had plenty of time to reflect today, spending hours performing meaningless tasks- that I'm in a Virtual Jail. Especially after a colleague told me today how a teacher at their school, transferred to a turnaround school. (Why? Must like working in a dangerous environment, administratively!) How can veterans transfer now; how can schools hire brand new teachers this week; how can I not accept an open position? It's simple: I'm in Virtual Jail, similar to the Virtual School. I think this is where they got the concept. I'm being punished for doing all I could at my old school, including structuring my class exactly as I was told to! I followed their instructions loyally and faithfully, and look at the appreciation I get in return- not to mention results, not that I've seen anything or heard anything yet. 

And I thought later today, if I don't get a class til say late September or early October, and we still use some version of a VAM: my kids will not be prepared as they haven't had a teacher all that time. Substitutes are no substitute for a full-time teacher! (Disclaimer, I was a substitute and I've had some very good substitute teachers.) So, 2 or 3 weeks later, when the October FTE window opens, all of a sudden now I'm responsible for this class! What if they don't perform well? It'll be my responsibility entirely. 

So to close, some veterans can transfer (probably because they put in for a voluntary surplus last May); new teachers can be hired- even into my "assigned" school, and I can't even apply for a position. At any other job, you can apply for an open position anytime- but not DCPS, and perhaps other districts. Why does a 10 year veteran not have seniority over a newly hired teacher? Because we're held in a special list of 35 at the DCPS Virtual Jail. (My fellow surplussees don't know this, because as far as I know they were assigned to schools WITH openings). Hey, I found the bright side: they let me out (on time!) every night to see my wife!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Is Lenny Curry going to appoint Gary Chartrand to the Children's Commission? Ron Littlepage seems to think so.

Why buy a school board when you can buy a mayor?

Lenny Curry wants to reorganize the Jacksonville Children's Commission which recently gave an unprecedented amount of money to Chartrand's Kipp school, ahh heck, let me let Ron Littlepage say it.

From the Times Union:

Curry hasn’t said who the seven board members will be, but a hint can be found that they won’t have to be Duval County residents if “they have a substantial business interest in Duval County.” Hello, Ponte Vedra.

Hmm, from Ponte Vedra, why that is where Gary Chartrand lives.

We are watching our city be taken over by a millionaire ideologue who don't know what he is doing.

Chartrand is the villain of the story.

Duval County Public Schools says, "we were just following orders" with the last minute surpluses

Actually they haven't said anything despite the Times Union reporting they would address the matter, which is very disappointing.

I did receive this, a letter from the superintendent to the school board.

Board Members,

Per FAC 6A-1.099811, the district is required to submit Turnaround Option Plans (“TOP plans”) for eight schools:  Northwestern MS, Matthew Gilbert MS, Arlington MS, Lake Forest ES, Ramona ES, Arlington Heights ES, George Washington Carver ES, and Gregory Drive ES.  Wayne Greene, the Lead Regional Executive Director for Differentiated Accountability met with Mason Davis and Carolyn Davis yesterday as part of FDOE’s monitoring of schools required to submit TOP plans.  Also on yesterday, the FDOE released 2016-2017 raw VAM data to school districts which we are being required to use to review teacher performance at these schools.  The sole concern shared by Mr. Green at yesterday’s meeting is the district’s compliance with the mandatory reassignment of any teacher in these schools with 2016-17 raw VAM data in the unsatisfactory range.  This requirement affects 35 teachers at the following schools: 

Elementary Schools
Middle Schools
Arlington Heights (1)
Arlington (12)
George Washington Carver (2)
Matthew Gilbert (3)
Gregory Drive (6)
Northwestern (5)
Lake Forest (3)

Ramona Boulevard (3)

Human Resources staff are in the process of notifying teachers of their reassignments, having notified DTU of this requirement earlier today.  Unfortunately, due to the late notice of this requirement by FLDOE, we anticipate that these schools may open with higher than desirable vacancies.  At this late stage, open contract and surplus candidates have already been placed for the upcoming year.  Staffing supervisors will work with each school to assist with the identification and screening of candidates and are aware of the urgency to find and staff quality candidates in these schools.

We understand the department’s role in monitoring these schools and agree that teacher performance should be at least one factor for review.  Currently, no other evaluative factors are being considered as part of the reassignment.  Failure to comply with the reassignment requests immediately would likely jeopardize FLDOE’s approval of our required monitoring plans and potentially eliminate us from funding consideration.  We have made these changes as directed to ensure we do not compromise the much needed funding that is potentially available to further support these schools

Dr. Patricia S. Willis,
Duval County Public Schools

Schools will open with higher than usual vacancies, ya think?

They agree that teacher performance should be at least one factor for review, does this mean they support the use of VAM scores?

Where is the part where they fought for these teachers and told the state how losing them at this late date would hurt the schools? Did they put up a fight? Any resistance? You sure as heck can't tell from the email above and the district's silence on the issue has been deafening.

One of the reasons the state can make these harmful and ridiculous requests is because the district just shrugs its shoulders and goes, okay.

I figured the state in their zeal to harm public schools put Duval in this dreadful position, the state is reprehensible, but why does Duval take a bad situation and make it worse? Just following orders, is never the right answer.

Lenny Curry is just like Vitti, wants to cut libraries

Why buy a school board when you can just buy a mayor. Gary Chartrand probably thought to himself just before he started cutting checks to Lenny Curry.

Lenny Curry has not only steered unprecedented amounts of public money towards Chartrand's KIPP charter school but he also said he wants to be like the super that Chartrand brought to town, Nikolai Vitti and as Curry seeks to cut library funding he is off to a good start.  

I went to a training at Ed White on Wednesday and part of it was in the library, or what used to the library, now there is just a dusty corner with a few books that are of course out of order. This is Viti's legacy.

Vitti, despite being in charge of a district with a reading problem neither appreciated nor understood the importance of books, libraries and librarians and now Curry is following in his footsteps. 


Supporters of Jacksonville libraries are asking City Council to increase their budget against the recommendation of Mayor Lenny Curry.
Curry’s proposing a $500,000 cut from last year’s budget of $3.4 million. 
The library’s materials budget — money for books, e-books and online databases — has seen a precipitous decline since 2005, when funds from the Better Jacksonville Plan helped create the Main Library on Laura Street downtown.
That year, city libraries spent $5.3 million on materials. This year, Curry’s proposing just over half that — $2.9 million.
Ed Zoller, who sits on the Friends of the Jacksonville Library board, said they’ve never really recovered from shrinking federal and local funds after the recession.
“When you adjust for current costs and inflation, that $5.3 million in 2005 was actually the equivalent of nearly $6.4 million. So, when you look at that $2.9 million that’s in the mayor’s budget, that’s a 56 percent decrease,” he said.
I get it, libraries aren't important to Curry but the thing is they are important for our community, especially for those parts that may not have been as successful as Curry or Vitti. Curry is being shortsighted to say the least.
Like we deserved a superintendent who appreciated books, librarians and libraries, we deserve a mayor that does as well.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Lenny Curry's chilling words, he wants to be just like Vitti

From Florida Politics

On the matter of policy, Curry said priorities were education, public safety, and children’s issues.
“Education isn’t under our purview,” Curry said, but he is looking to influence the process going forward, and follow on the reform vision of Nikolai Vitti.
Oy vey I just spit out my milk there. What Curry said was very chilling.
First this is the same Vitti who left us in a budget mess that Curry has publicly complained about but hey whats 21 million missing dollars. 
Vitti is also the same guy that left teacher morale in ruins and while running a district with a reading problem got rid of most of our books and librarians, but hey Curry wants to emulate him  
Curry's other big education idols are Jason Fischer, the only candidate Curry endorsed last cycle who quit the school board and who has championed legislation that will hurt our schools, and Gary Chartrand who pulls both Curry and Fischer's strings.
Curry just directed at the expense of other schools the JCC to give Chartrand's KIPP school hundreds of thousands of dollars for an after school program which dwarfs all others.   
I said it before why should Chartrand buy a school board when he can just buy a mayor.
The last thing we need is Curry who is apparently a huge hypocrite as well as being bought off by Chartrand meddling in our schools.
Get ready for the mayor to try and take over the schools, which would be an unprecedented disaster.
These are troubling times.

The state of Florida is setting up our most vulnerable schools to be taken over by charters.

Have you heard the phrase, first, do no harm? It's part of the Hippocratic oath that doctors take.

I feel like the people at Florida Department of Education take an oath too. It is, screw the poor schools over so they can be turned into charter schools.

Exhibit one, in Duval County and also all over the state the FLDOE demanded our most vulnerable schools get rid of teachers just hours before they were supposed to report because they had low VAM scores, a measurement that is largely reviled and even being phased out.

The late date makes finding new and qualified hires extremely difficult. Districts were not given weeks or months to make the changes but hours.

How are schools that are already hard to staff going to be able to fill these unexpected losses in time? The answer is they aren't and the FLDOE has to know that and they just don't care.

Then because of changes to the way title I money is doled out and can be used our poorer schools have lost resources and flexibility. The money for extra positions like interventionists, who give our most vulnerable children extra one on one or small group instruction or have dried up.

Kids at these schools often arrive many grade levels behind and only so much can be done during class. They need that extra help and support and now the state is making sure they won't be able to get it.

But it's worse than that as these schools are also having their field trips limited and worse their access to resource teachers limited as well as the money for these small school just through FTE isn't there. These things help keep kids engaged and going on those long days, help with discipline and allow teachers to plan and meet. Their value is immeasurable and their loss is unrecoverable from and if you live on the poor side of town or attend a small school, you probably went from having a music teacher and an art teacher to having half of one.

It is not, the state seems to be setting schools up to fail, it is, the state is definitely setting schools up to fail.

It's shameful.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jason Fischer calls for an audit of a budget he helped craft and supported.

Represenative Jason Fischer has called for an audit of the Duval County School board finances after it was reported they spent 21 million more than they planned too. If this isn’t the height of hypocrisy I don’t know what is.

Fischer gave Superintendent Vitti who was in charge of the budget day to day  his highest marks on effective and efficient usage of district resources, including long term goals- 4/4 when they did his last evaluation. Couch rated Vitti 1.5, Hall rated 2, Smith-Juarez 2, Wright 2, Even Shine only gave him a 2! Then when developing the budget, Fischer attended the Budget workshops in February, March, April, and June before resigning on June 19th. This is the budget he is crying about. 

The real reason he is doing so is because the board is talking about joining the law suit that pushes back against House Bill 7069 which would benefit charter schools who along with their supporters have given Fischer tens of thousands of dollars. 

Fischer doesn’t care about our schools, he quit the board before his term was up, or our children because he backs a law that will siphon millions form their schools. Now he seeks to bully our elected representatives.  This can't be what the people who elected him to the house voted for. 

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher 

At this point it's hard to believe anything Jason Fischer says.

This guy is honestly terrible. I don't know if it is that his decisions are based on who gives him money or that he thinks his constituents are dumb or both.

Anyhoo, here goes.

As I pointed out while on the school board he had no problem how the money was spent and even said Superintendent Vitti was the best with managing money, fast forward to the district pushing back against legislation that benefits his donors and all of a sudden he calls for an audit.

From the Times Union:

  “They decided they’re not going to do an audit. They even rejected the use of the word audit,” Fischer said. “The chairman (Wright) told the public that they took a vote to do a forensic audit when that never happened. I’m having a hard time trusting what she says at this point.”

A hard time trusting anything she says, oh wow, oy vey.

This from the guy who quit the school board.

This from the guy who went around telling people he was in the Navy until he was called out on it.

This from the guy who takes money from charters and tries to hurt the public schools that the vast amount of his constituents with children send their kids to.

This from the guy who was all about the budget before he wasn't.

He is the one by far, that people should have a hard time believing