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Attacking me is okay, attacking teachers of disabled children at the same time is despicable.

I became the story when the Times Union printed a piece about a quickly fixed error I made on my my blog and I will talk about that sooner than later.

A comment on the piece in the Times Union however upset me, and not because of what the writer said about me as I have definitely heard worse from better, but what they said about teachers of special needs children

From the Times Union,

Alexander Roberts

Chris is a self described troll, which means that he uses his blog to be a provocateur, not to be whistle blower or to educate. Everyone in the system knows he is a bad teacher. He transferred to an ese center not because of a love of students but to avoid accountability. Meaning, low functioning ese students do not take state assessments so students scores are not included in their evaluations. Chris is a troubled man who still has not grown up. He has been arrested over a dozen times and hides in an ese center as a wanna be journalist. At times, he has decent points and criticism but those are lost based on his arrogance, rudeness and exaggeration. Most teachers do not agree with most of his opinions. Those that do tend to also be bad teachers who should have left the classroom years ago. These are the few teachers who ruin the profession, hide behind the union, and collect paychecks. Overall, if anything, his blog demonstrates that the 1st amendment has been protected. He has beat up leaders for years with exaggeration on his blog with no consequences. When playing with fire, you will be burnt. Chris misstepped once again with his facts and got caught. Period. In ANY corporate organization this man would have been fired years ago. Despite his own declaration that he advocates for teachers and public schools he has done more to hurt both than help. Hatefulness toward leaders and systems, coupled with exaggerated and manipulated facts for the sake of sarcasm will not improve anything. Keep that work for sophisticated political cartoons. His blog demonstrates how low media has fell since the raise of the internet. 


I found a lot wrong there but I wanted to concentrate on one part.

He transferred to an ese center not because of a love of students but to avoid accountability. Meaning, low functioning ese students do not take state assessments so students scores are not included in their evaluations.

First of all I didn't transfer to the ESE school I was surplussed from my last school and assigned there. Then students at ESE schools take what is called the alternate assessment it's a state assessment by the way and I "and the 18 other teachers "hiding there to avoid accountability" receive VAM scores based on those performances. 

We are required to teach access points, modified regular standards to children who are profoundly mentally disabled and have little chance of learning them. You can not like me, make up stuff about me, attack me, all you want, but to attack and belittle the dozens and dozens of hard working dedicated teachers who work with our most fragile and challenged children at center schools, saying they do so just so they can avoid accountability and to dismiss those children as inconsequential, that those schools are dumping grounds for reprobate teachers and not deserving of a quality teacher is despicable.

I get it, don't like me or the blog, but why belittle teachers of special needs children, why write or comment about things you know nothing about?

I imagine Alexander Roberts is the made up name of a coward but the ignorance there is real. ESE teachers are real teachers and they work incredibly hard and they deserve better to be lumped in with criticism of me. 
Chris is a self described troll, which means that he uses his blog to be a provocateur, not to be whistle blower or to educate. Everyone in the system knows he is a bad teacher. He transferred to an ese center not because of a love of students but to avoid accountability. Meaning, low functioning ese students do not take state assessments so students scores are not included in their evaluations. Chris is a troubled man who still has not grown up. He has been arrested over a dozen times and hides in an ese center as a wanna be journalist. At times, he has decent points and criticism but those are lost based on his arrogance, rudeness and exaggeration. Most teachers do not agree with most of his opinions. Those that do tend to also be bad teachers who should have left the classroom years ago. These are the few teachers who ruin the profession, hide behind the union, and collect paychecks. Overall, if anything, his blog demonstrates that the 1st amendment has been protected. He has beat up leaders for years with exaggeration on his blog with no consequences. When playing with fire, you will be burnt. Chris misstepped once again with his facts and got caught. Period. In ANY corporate organization this man would have been fired years ago. Despite his own declaration that he advocates for teachers and public schools he has done more to hurt both than help. Hatefulness toward leaders and systems, coupled with exaggerated and manipulated facts for the sake of sarcasm will not improve anything. Keep that work for sophisticated political cartoons. His blog demonstrates how low media has fell since the raise of the internet.
Chris is a self described troll, which means that he uses his blog to be a provocateur, not to be whistle blower or to educate. Everyone in the system knows he is a bad teacher. He transferred to an ese center not because of a love of students but to avoid accountability. Meaning, low functioning ese students do not take state assessments so students scores are not included in their evaluations. Chris is a troubled man who still has not grown up. He has been arrested over a dozen times and hides in an ese center as a wanna be journalist. At times, he has decent points and criticism but those are lost based on his arrogance, rudeness and exaggeration. Most teachers do not agree with most of his opinions. Those that do tend to also be bad teachers who should have left the classroom years ago. These are the few teachers who ruin the profession, hide behind the union, and collect paychecks. Overall, if anything, his blog demonstrates that the 1st amendment has been protected. He has beat up leaders for years with exaggeration on his blog with no consequences. When playing with fire, you will be burnt. Chris misstepped once again with his facts and got caught. Period. In ANY corporate organization this man would have been fired years ago. Despite his own declaration that he advocates for teachers and public schools he has done more to hurt both than help. Hatefulness toward leaders and systems, coupled with exaggerated and manipulated facts for the sake of sarcasm will not improve anything. Keep that work for sophisticated political cartoons. His blog demonstrates how low media has fell since the raise of the internet. 
Chris is a self described troll, which means that he uses his blog to be a provocateur, not to be whistle blower or to educate. Everyone in the system knows he is a bad teacher. He transferred to an ese center not because of a love of students but to avoid accountability. Meaning, low functioning ese students do not take state assessments so students scores are not included in their evaluations. Chris is a troubled man who still has not grown up. He has been arrested over a dozen times and hides in an ese center as a wanna be journalist. At times, he has decent points and criticism but those are lost based on his arrogance, rudeness and exaggeration. Most teachers do not agree with most of his opinions. Those that do tend to also be bad teachers who should have left the classroom years ago. These are the few teachers who ruin the profession, hide behind the union, and collect paychecks. Overall, if anything, his blog demonstrates that the 1st amendment has been protected. He has beat up leaders for years with exaggeration on his blog with no consequences. When playing with fire, you will be burnt. Chris misstepped once again with his facts and got caught. Period. In ANY corporate organization this man would have been fired years ago. Despite his own declaration that he advocates for teachers and public schools he has done more to hurt both than help. Hatefulness toward leaders and systems, coupled with exaggerated and manipulated facts for the sake of sarcasm will not improve anything. Keep that work for sophisticated political cartoons. His blog demonstrates how low media has fell since the raise of the internet. 
hris is a self described troll, which means that he uses his blog to be a provocateur, not to be whistle blower or to educate. Everyone in the system knows he is a bad teacher. He transferred to an ese center not because of a love of students but to avoid accountability. Meaning, low functioning ese students do not take state assessments so students scores are not included in their evaluations. Chris is a troubled man who still has not grown up. He has been arrested over a dozen times and hides in an ese center as a wanna be journalist. At times, he has decent points and criticism but those are lost based on his arrogance, rudeness and exaggeration. Most teachers do not agree with most of his opinions. Those that do tend to also be bad teachers who should have left the classroom years ago. These are the few teachers who ruin the profession, hide behind the union, and collect paychecks. Overall, if anything, his blog demonstrates that the 1st amendment has been protected. He has beat up leaders for years with exaggeration on his blog with no consequences. When playing with fire, you will be burnt. Chris misstepped once again with his facts and got caught. Period. In ANY corporate organization this man would have been fired years ago. Despite his own declaration that he advocates for teachers and public schools he has done more to hurt both than help. Hatefulness toward leaders and systems, coupled with exaggerated and manipulated facts for the sake of sarcasm will not improve anything. Keep that work for sophisticated political cartoons. His blog demonstrates how low media has fell since the raise of the internet. 

School board member Scott Shine called me a parasite. I wonder how he really feels?

From the Times Union

Board member Shine said Guerrieri shouldn’t be a teacher, saying he has a long record of “maladaptive behavior.”
“He has a history of reporting false information; he’s done that with me,” Shine said. “He’s not a hero; he’s a parasite on this district.”
If the board sets the bar for behavior than I can't imagine anything I have written reaching the  low bar that Shine has set.
He is often unprepared, something other board members have pointed out and he has no respect for board policies, something other board members have also mentioned.
Then he has no respect for his constituents, having voted for charter schools the superintendent said he would not let open in less affluent parts of town.
Scott Shine should have never been on the board in the first place as he is woefully unqualified.
Then lets talk about his temperament, he is an elected official who leaves nasty comments on the blog rather than engaging in discourse, and he calls me names in the press. I have criticized him for sure, but I have never approached anything like calling him a liar or a parasite and if I were to complain you can bet he would hide behind the first amendment and I know because he has already done it once when Ashley Smith Juarez asked him to refrain from criticizing fellow board members in the press.
Shine only ran for the board after two attempts to run for city council failed. helping kids by being on the board is not a calling for him, being elected is a line on his bucket list.
Shine is entitled to his opinion but so are the people of Jacksonville and more and more of them are coming to the conclusion he is in over his head, unprepared and not knowledgeable, does not have the temperament for public service and we will be better off when he is gone.
I will say this too, it's my opinion that Shine nothing more than a bully, when I comment, whether you agree with me or not it has now become apparent I am putting my livelihood on the line, when he comments which he only does in the form of name calling he doesn't have any fear of retribution, sure i can write about his terrible performance on the blog, and point out how bad he is as a school board member, but at the end of the day school board salary is chump change to him and he can go hang ten. 
He was right though when he said I am no hero, i am not, I am just a guy who is fed up with how things are run, somebody who doesn't like bullies, a sentiment many people share with me.

Veteran teacher looking for other options

From a teacher and reader

I am looking at other options outside Duval after nine years of working as a teacher. Every bit of the curriculum in ELA is "canned" and although I like the curriculum and find it useful. It lacks depth and does not teach all CORE, which I READY is supposed to do.

 Even centers are micro managed (something we were told we could save our "creativity for" , last year. 

Duval Math works, it works well, but has holes , where again, I am supposed to have small group , use a canned program. 

There is no time for Science, Writing and to read LITERATURE. 

I have the opportunity to teach elsewhere where my growth scores are appreciated, time is given for teachers to "plan" , not just attend an extended meeting on Early Dismissal Days. 

No longer will I work under a District which has determined that my planning days should be spent either tearing out homework pages from a Duval Program book or sorting papers. 

I went for a week three weeks in a row with 45 mins of planning FOR THE WEEK due to poor scheduling. With only 90 mins allowed to plan and refine . 

A 100% canned program only requires a warm body that can read and has arms, perhaps walk children to the bathroom. Intelligent teachers who love literature, the excitement of the discoveries of math and are critical thinkers do not mix with 100% scripted and directed curriculum . 

It is not the spirit of Core Curriculum, or NEA . Every child is being left behind in Duval and the assumption is clear that the kids are not being respected or taught as individuals as it is a one size fits all curriculum. 

The boxed up, regimented, we call going to the bathroom- directed play on the master calendar is just another sad indicator of how low Duval has stooped to insult every child and every teacher and para's intelligence. I am focusing on happier places to be. I'm hoping other teachers are too . 

It is -So very sad for the children. So many very good teachers are leaving this year from the District- it was just the straw that broke the camels back , with the new mandates that are so contrary to best practice. . It's the kids who lose the most, everywhere. I have a masters, good gains good work history and I know I can find a better job elsewhere--if I decide to stay in the teaching field. 

I do like those I work for and with in my immediate school but I shall teach and reach or I won't do it at all.

The district makes Paxon HS get rid of one of the district's last media specialists.

For a district with a reading problem we really hate libraries and librarians.

From Stone Eggs, by Greg Sampson

Another One Bites the Dust
I work at Paxon High School, a dedicated magnet school for accelerated academics. Students are in one of two programs: International Baccalaureate (IB), in which they take the prescribed curriculum and undergo IB tests in order to earn an IB diploma recognized around the world as prestigious and as an entry ticket into any college/university; AP Honors, in which students take numerous AP courses and undergo AP tests to earn college credits during their high school years.

It is a high school that routinely is ranked in the Top 25 High Schools in America.

Now for the theme of this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz_DNrKVrQ8

We lost our Media Specialist this week. The District insisted that the position be eliminated despite the alternate suggestions put forth by the school.

Another one bites the dust.

You would think that a dedicated magnet would be allowed to devise its program in order to attract students: that is the point of a magnet school.

You would think that a dedicated magnet would be allowed discretion to make the decisions necessary to maintain its program.

You would think that a dedicated magnet such as Paxon would need an effective, operating Media Center to maintain its program.

Apparently, you would be wrong.

Another bites the dust.

And if a school like Paxon is not allowed to maintain and operate its Media Center, what hope do you have for our neighborhood schools, where the need for literacy is even greater?

Oh yeah, we have Achieve 3000 for that. No need for a library.

If you believe that, then you believe that the purpose of school is to prepare students to pass tests, specifically one test given once a year in April.

If you believe that, then you believe that children are not human beings with lives of their own, developing according to their age-driven agenda, and worthy of our best efforts. You believe they are test-taking widgets with a job to do and they had better get on with it—like the old Victorians, who believed and treated children as if they were tiny adults.

But know this: Google will never replace a media specialist.

Another one bites the dust.

If we have to have the budget people make the academic decisions, then my District needs to stop half-going about it. Our Media Centers are closed. Sell the books, remove the shelves, and what a big space you have. Large enough to move in a hundred chairs and deliver instruction like the big colleges: large lecture halls with TAs (minimum wage paraprofessionals or even better, upper classmen who don’t need to be paid but can fulfill graduation-required community service hours) to support.

You could still claim to be meeting Constitutionally-required class size requirements.

Don’t stop with Media Specialists; think of all the high-wage teachers you could dump.

Another bites the dust.


Becki Couch calls out Shine and Grymes for their exscuses

I admit I was kind of tough on Mrs. Couch when she first got on the board. As an educator I expected a lot from her and it seemed to me she sat on her hands. Maybe she just had a lot of faith in a super that I believe bamboozled her and the city with promises of a quick turnaround. However something happened and she has evolved int one of the best board members we have had in recent memory, she is always prepared and passionate.

It's got to be frustrating for her to watch Grymes and Shine bop in from whatever republican party affair they are coming from and mail it in and that frustration boiled over the other day in a discussion about the poor results of our IB program.

From the Times Union

Grymes said she could tell by Couch’s face that she had a problem with their discussion, but Couch accused Grymes of attacking her and staring at her during the meeting.
“Are you in love with me? You spent your time staring at me this entire meeting,” Couch said. “Gosh. Focus on the work. Quit staring at me the whole time. I’m allowed to have facial expressions. I don’t understand what this constant attack is on me.”
Couch said she does have a problem with such a steep decline in IB participation and performance.
“It bothers me that you guys can look at numbers for IB make excuses and think that it’s acceptable,” Couch told Grymes.
What were the excuses they made? Again from the Times Union.

“You can work harder and you can work smarter,” said Board member Scott Shine. “Some of that difference [in performance] is because they’re not in a dedicated magnet” like Paxon or Stanton.
Board member Cheryl Grymes said there are students whose parents want them in IB but the students don’t want to be there and do the work.

Um what?!? You can work both harder and smarter? I am not sure if that is how the saying goes. I wonder what that motivational poster looks like.

I think it is safe to say that they were both saying only kids and parents that attend dedicated magnets really care about their academics. which is crazy because for a while we were having great success at the non-dedicated magnets.

I can't speak for all the schools but at Ed White, I believe the constant turnover of principals led to a constant churn of staff. Also I know a former IB director there during the time it was having great success and they feel like they were ran off by one of the revolving door of principals a sentiment felt by numerous.veteran and proven staff members.

Did you see what happened there? Couch wanted answers and Shine and Grymes just yawned and made excuses. Work smarter and harder, what the beep? Shine how about you take your own advice?

We have issues but one of the biggest is several board members who treat their position as a ticket to social status or as a line on a resume.

Keep calling them out Becki, the people of Jax won't be snoozing much longer.

Duval shortens Christmas Break to make up weather days, other districts decide not to make them up.

Duval has decided to cut Christmas break short by two days, um who is going to come in those days, and take a day away in April while Clay and St. Johns elected not to make the days up. Come on man.

Now some people might point out that they have a slightly different schedule and the time is built into their days to which I say, why the beep haven't we done that?

I think its because the district is in love with A/B block scheduling which I think is so dreadful.

I wrote this a few years ago and my opinion hasn't changed one bit.

 The first thing they should do is get rid of A/B block scheduling and go to a six period day. If you didn’t know, in high schools we have several different schedules revolving around the A/B block. The A/B block used to be kids would have four ninety minutes classes one day and four different classes the next. Budget cuts changed that and many schools have seven classes, six that meet every other day (three one day and three other the next) and one shorter class that meets ever day. Then the intervene schools have six 90 minute classes (again three one day and three other the next) that meet every other day and two 45 minute classes that meet everyday. That’s seven or eight classes!! A full time load in college is four classes yet for some reason we expect kids to be able to take twice that many and be successful and it doesn’t matter if they go to Stanton considered one of the best schools in the country or our intervene schools which are considered some of the worse. It doesn’t matter if the student loves school or is like many of our kids, apathetic.

Ninety minutes is also way to long. Kids attention spans can’t maintain, heck I am an adult and I start squirming in movie theaters as films pass the ninety-minute mark. That is a lot of time to fill and it’s hard and that’s why many teachers have taken to giving bell work and exit slips or what I like to call busy work to their students. Think about it, if just ten minutes a day is wasted over the course of a year that’s a month of instructional time lost. I know so many teachers that say they go strong from minute one to minute sixty but by about minute 75 and beyond they are just winging it. If classes were shorter kids couldn’t get bored as quick and since boredom often leads to bad behavior this would be lessened too.

Then if a kid misses an A day on a Thursday then they will have gone from that Tuesday to the following Monday six days between classes. If they had the same class every day then there would be just one day between meetings. Breaks can be even longer if there are holidays. At one point this past year during testing I went eleven days between seeing one of my classes. If the kids were there everyday the material would be reinforced everyday.

If there were six periods in a day it would increase the chance that children would have an elective or class they liked on their schedule. We make school such drudgery for children and then wonder why they do poorly. If a kid had a break in their schedule or something they looked forward to this would undoubtedly lessen kids apathy towards school. 

There are two reasons we went to an A/B block schedule. The first is money; you need fewer teachers with it. The second is for advanced placement tests. Joey Wise our previous superintendent was worried that kids that finished first semester AP classes wouldn’t do as well on the tests because they are all given at the end of the second semester. Last I heard Joey works for College Board the maker of AP tests. Kids that take AP tests make up just a small percentage of the student body at the intervene schools. We didn’t go to an A/B block for the benefit of most of our students.

Six periods a day between fifty minutes and an hour is what we should be doing. Where there are lots of things we need to do to assure these school's success this would be a good and doable first step.


At the very least shouldn't we in the future emulate our high performing neighbors going forward?


Some random hypocrisy from Cheryl Grymes

In a puff piece about Ashley Smith Juarez in the Times Union Mrs. Grymes said:

Board members Shine and Cheryl Grymes criticized her handling of Vitti, saying she has been less than transparent with the Board.

http://jacksonville.com/news/2016-10-17/school-board-chair-who-sought-vitti%E2%80%99s-resignation-millionaire-trying-help

I have a pretty big problem with Grymes talking about transparency. You see she had city attorneys send me a letter threatening to sue me for libel, something she shouldn't have been able to do without a board vote or chair approval.

Board policy 2.13 section VI states, 

Requests for legal opinions from the General Counsel's Office by individual School Board members shall be initiated through the School Board Chairperson or shall have majority approval of the School Board.

One board member told me they never had a vote and the chair told me she didn't give Grymes permission, yet here I am with not only a threatening letter but currently facing a five days suspension as Grymes puppets at the Equity office said I knowingly lied on a piece about her back in July.  

Yes this is the same woman who just challenged board member couch to a fight.

Does she think transparency is just for other people and she can do whatever she wants because it certainly seems that way.

The unraveling of Cheryl Grymes

Oy vey and I thought Donald Trump had a bad week.

This first part is from a puff piece about Ashley Smith Juarez in the Times Union.  You know one of those pieces that is supposed to be all puppies and rainbows but in an article filled with glowing platitudes Cheryl Grymes couldn't help herself and through a few jabs.

She presides over a School Board divided about many things, including her leadership.
Board members Shine and Cheryl Grymes criticized her handling of Vitti, saying she has been less than transparent with the Board.
Hard to change her mind
Grymes said Smith Juarez talks too much at meetings, listens too little, and she doesn’t keep discussion focused. She can be stubborn. “I think she prefers to be in control. I think some of it is personal,” she said. “When she gets her mind made up, it’s pretty hard to change it.”
WOW!!! She talks to much at meetings and this from the board member who talks about as often as supreme court justice Clarence Thomas. None of the other board members including Scott Shine were so critical of the chair.

Friends these two ladies were just reelected and have four more years together, but ASJ isn't the only board member that Grymes has attacked recently.

Also from the Times Union

In a board discussion about falling IB scores:

“The community I serve expects excellence for all students,” said Wright, of her district, which includes northwest Jacksonville.

Grymes began defending herself but touched off an angry reaction from board member Becki Couch, who earlier had suggested the district better support teachers and students in IB programs, perhaps with tutoring.
Grymes said she could tell by Couch’s face that she had a problem with their discussion, but Couch accused Grymes of attacking her and staring at her during the meeting.
“Are you in love with me? You spent your time staring at me this entire meeting,” Couch said. “Gosh. Focus on the work. Quit staring at me the whole time. I’m allowed to have facial expressions. I don’t understand what this constant attack is on me.”
Couch said she does have a problem with such a steep decline in IB participation and performance.
“It bothers me that you guys can look at numbers for IB make excuses and think that it’s acceptable,” Couch told Grymes.
As the two continued talking over each other, board Chairwoman Ashley Smith Juarez called a recess, which lasted about 20 minutes.
http://jacksonville.com/education/2016-10-18/duval-school-board-members-quarrel-over-ib-program-testing

A follow up article if possible made the conflict sound even worse.

At one point board member Cheryl Grymes commented on fellow member Rebecca Couch’s facial expression, saying Couch “had issues” with what Grymes said.
Couch loudly objected, first saying she didn’t want to be drawn into the conversation, that everyone should have issues with poor IB performance, and that Grymes should stop staring at her.
Both Grymes and Couch talked over each other in raised voices and at one point Grymes asked if Couch wanted to “go one on one” with her.
Did she challenge Couch to a fight there? What the #$@$? She's an elected member of the board and she's challenging other board members to go one on one.
District 1 can we talk here? Grymes is so bad at her job she makes me wish fondly for the halcyon days of Martha Barrett and you allowed her to run unopposed. She doesn't seem prepared or particularly knowledgeable and the only time she told the super no was when he asked if she wanted extra fries with her lunch.
Your kids and teachers deserved better.
Ugh!


Former Mayor Delaney slams the super's communication skills

I will just let the former Mayor speak for himself.

From the Times Union:

John Delaney, University of North Florida’s president, texted her: “For what it’s worth I’ve been warning Gary (Chartrand) and others for years that Vitti’s weaknesses need to be managed.”
Delaney said was referring to Gary Chartrand, a prominent Jacksonville businessman and education reform advocate.
Delaney said Vitti’s communications challenges are his weakness, because sometimes Board members feel broadsided by issues or feel they don’t have enough information about potential decisions. “There’s no question he’s a high-achieving superintendent; there’s no question he moves things along,”Delaney said. “But Ashley is wrestling with this set of (communication) weaknesses and do they outweigh his strengths.”
Notice Delaney said weaknesses there, plural. Also isn't it nice that he and Gary have routine education conversations. 
The superintendent himself has also complained about his communication skills though not so directly. He has bemoaned teachers ability to take children out for recess, to alter the curriculum to suit the needs of their children and keeping up with the pacing guide saying what he tells his staff often doesn't get to the teachers or when it does the message goes from teachers are the experts to they are nothing but cogs who must follow in lockstep district directives.
After years of thinking he might be sincere I have recently changed my opinion to he is trying to eat his cake and have it too. On one hand he goes its not me but then nothing changes for the better.
Throw in the school boards ideas to hire him a coach and a mediator and we have what the former mayor describes and that's a super who struggles with communication.
Think about that one. 

A teacher laments about the problems in DCPS

From a teacher and reader:

Teachers are lambasted for not being on pace, for deviating from the curriculum, for trying to make the lessons more meaningful. 

Called out for trying to reteach. 

It's happening and it's happening at all levels despite what upper management would have you believe. 

Teacher morale is at an all time low and it's the kids who suffer the most. 

Three years ago, on the Wednesday of preplanning, high school government teachers were told that we were going to implement an online component in our classes. We were not involved in the process and we received about 4 hours of "training". Then, the district decided to change the rules on how this program would be utilized. It was and still is a cluster. 

The program changes and we don't find out about it until the school year starts. 

We make suggestions that fall on deaf ears. 

The kids are bullied into completing this program that is not a state requirement for graduation but a district requirement to boost numbers. 

Do I have the autonomy to modify this program? Absolutely not. I could go on but it's late, my fingers hurt, and a hurricane is bearing down. Be safe.

Vitti's magic litteracy wand

From a reader about the superintendents modest goals for literacy growth.

Although I am by no means a Vitti fan, I agree with at least the idea that literacy growth takes time. People who think an 8th grader who reads at a 2nd grade level can be brought to an 8th grade level within a year or two simply don't understand how vocabulary acquisition works. 

Learning how to read and write takes time, loads of time, and some students come to school (kindergarten) reading above level (sometimes 1st-3rd grade) because of their parents/community while others struggle with writing their names; studies have shown that more educated parents (doesn't have to be formally educated), usually produce more literate kids. 

Other kids don't have that benefit and although they can grow, the gap is almost impossible to completely close as the kids from professional families learn at an exponential rate, whereas kids from more disadvantaged backgrounds grow at a steady rate. 

Every kid can learn, but not every kid will learn at the same rate. 

What Vitti suffers from is the belief that a program like Achieve 3000 is all that is needed to produce growth, so he doesn't invest in libraries (ours doesn't have books any longer) nor does he invest in books for students to take home and read. Instead, we have class sets, and when I teach seniors who tell me that they have never been asked to read a part or whole book at home, how is that preparing kids to be successful in college???? 

Vitti doesn't want to invest the time or money into students. He is hoping that some program will work magic. It just won't, and we will be sitting here years from now lamenting the same issues, primarily because people don't understand how to promote literacy, and no district wants to teach parents how to read with their kids so they come semi-prepared to learn. 

When it comes to it, schools simply cannot do everything. They were never meant to. I learned how to read because my parents read with me, so in pre-kindergarten, I was already reading small books. There exists the disparity, and it will always exist, unfortunately, to some degree. Once again, every kid can learn and grow, but the pace cannot necessarily be dictated by a test that constantly changes. The school board needs to get it together and listen.

The districts unsound budgeting practices

Here is what I know about the budget. The state legislature passed a one percent increase to education funding, yes, just one percent. Duval however dropped the millage rate and our overall budget fell by 40 million dollars and yes why does the QEA get such accolades (fifty million over three years) if we can just cut our budget by that amount and not bat an eye.

However some people are batting an eye such as school board member Becki Couch and as she mentions, it has gone largely unnoticed.

The community wouldn’t know, during this media frenzy that was created by my colleague there was something else taking place that drew little attention, the budget was deferred.  This was the first time ever the budget was deferred due to concerns from the board. Recently, the board discovered the budget had $20 million in unfunded cabinet add on positions. A matter of concern I have brought forward over the last three years. In years past there were a large number of cabinet add ons but the budget had an unrestricted funding source, this year there was nothing. This is a dangerous budget practice and the board was once again backed into a corner to make a decision that they were uncomfortable making because as we were told by our attorney, we would be penalized by the state withholding FTE if we did not approve the budget on Monday. Thus, we were required to use 2% of the 5% fund balance we set aside and “borrow” $8.3 million from the maintenance budget. This money will have to be paid back through lapse salary which the board has given direction before that they wanted to avoid this practice. It is not good budget practice to approve positions at the beginning of the year based on what you hope to get back in lapse salary. This can lead to the appearance of not filling school based positions in order to pay for the cabinet add on positions approved at the beginning of the year (after the board approved the tentative budget). The board requested a one page document during the budget process which included cabinet add on positions. While we received a document, it did not reflect this exorbitant amount.

Maybe getting rid of Vitti for not wanting to put forth ambitious improvement recommendations
wasn't the most feasible plan, but maybe doing so because he repeatedly jeopardizes  the  financial health of the district to expand his cabinet is?

Scott and Cheryl maybe it is the two of you?

There is no doubt that the Duval County School Board has problems. The acrimony is palpable. I believe it comes from two competing visions for the future of our schools, one group made up of educators wants to set high goals and provide resources while the other made up of non educators wants to privatize our schools. The first group asks the super tough questions and attempts to hold him accountable while the latter group allows him to do whatever he wants and in their eyes he can do no wrong.

I feel like that is a pretty fair assessment which brings me to, Scott and Cheryl maybe it's you, that you are the reason the board is having all these problems and lets have an intervention to discuss it.

Scott you know Becki Couch and Ashley Smith Juarez in very polite fashion have both called you out for being unprepared and where that has to sting, why not heed their observations and stop treating the job like all it is to you is a check on your bucket list. For goodness sake man you voted for a charter school in your district the super said he wouldn't have approved if it was working with poor kids. I have been to the beach, there are poor kids there too.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2016/09/several-school-board-members-call-out.html
http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2016/02/becki-couch-points-out-that-scott-shine.html
http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2015/07/ashley-smith-juarez-makes-scott-shine.html
http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2015/11/superintendent-vitti-is-not-doing-his.html

Then twice now you have gone behind the boards back and complained to the media because you felt like you knew what was best. Did you consider how that would affect your relationship with the rest of the board or did you just not care?

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2016/09/scott-shine-loves-first-amendment-for.html

Hubris and ignorance is a terrible combination.

Then Cheryl, well I will just let the Times Union's Ron Littlepage cover this one.

The speaker’s assessment was straightforward:
“The body language, the facial expressions and all the rest — we’re not respecting each other.”
Sound familiar?
Yes, it was a Duval County school superintendent talking about relationships among School Board members and him.
But the year was 1995, and the speaker was Superintendent Larry Zenke.
Current School Board member Cheryl Grymes was also a board member at that time.
“I think we are a horribly dysfunctional group,” she said.
That same description, minus the modifier horribly, is coming up again in conversations about the current School Board.
Sure it may be just a coincidence that every time Grymes has been on the board dysfunction creeps in, or it may be a pattern. two times on the board and two times it has been split into factions. Say what you will about Betty Burney and I said a lot but when she was on the board it was unified.

On the board we need prepared and informed people who will to do the hard work not people that just like to show up and abdicate their responsibility to the superintendent. Unfortunately we currently have both groups on the board.

Can we stop giving Vitti credit for the graduation rate already?

When the super's job seemed like it was in jeopardy, non educators came out of the wood work in support and their biggest piece of evidence was the graduation rates.

Now our graduation rates have gone up but you know where else they have gone up? Every where!!! It's inexplicable to me that Vitti gets such credit for the rise in our graduation rates.

I may but be the only one left scratching his head as school board member Becki Couch had a few remarks about them at a recent school board meeting.

While I will acknowledge we have had some successes, I am expecting true transformation. The graduation rate has been in a steady incline since 2012 but of the 8.9 % increase in the graduation rate over the last 4 years, over half of the increase occurred during the year of transition between the previous superintendent’s leadership.

If you supported the superintendent retaining his job because of the graduation rate, sadly you have been misinformed though who can blame you as the district takes every opportunity to tout it and the media and his supporters parrot it.

Sadly the spin and the reality of the situation don't match up.

Becki Couch raises grave concerns about the direction of the district.

The following I a transcript of what she said on the 23rd at the meeting to discuss the future of the district. She brings up very important issues especially about the hap hazard way the district has done budgeting under Vitti. As his cabinet expands school needs are going unmet.


Recently there has been much discussion regarding the board and superintendent and the future of this district. Allegations have been made that were based off of an emotionally charged, knee jerk reaction from my fellow board member, fueled an interpretation of a private meeting between the superintendent and Board Member Smith-Juarez. Several members of the community who have been avid supporters of the superintendent have portrayed the action of female board members as “emotional” or “personality conflicts”. I have to ask, would this be said to my male counterpart who very unprofessionally made public, unfounded allegations about board members to the media? My fellow board member said comments like, “I heard the rumors”, “ASJ has been using coercive tactics to intimidate Dr. Vitti into resigning his position”, “personal issues... unrelated to his actual work performance. He said Monday he doesn’t know what those issues are”, the list goes on and on. Is this not a glaring example of acting out of emotion and not facts?

Nevertheless, if the leadership in this community has to result to feeding the public a narrative about my actions of reviewing data and setting goals to improve the lives of children as “emotional”, if caring about the children of this district is deemed as “emotional”, then I guess I can wear the label with pride.   

I can assure you in my six years on this board I have always tried to exhibit a level of professionalism that the children of this district deserve from their elected officials. This could be why the public claims any criticism of the progress or lack thereof is simply out of “emotion”. Unlike Mr. Shine and the Superintendent, I have not gone to the media with my concerns. I have tried to handle them privately and during noticed workshops. I understand the public may not know all of the issues because they unfortunately get the story from the latest headline or TV blurb. The public wouldn’t know that I have grave concerns about the seemingly lack of concern by some of the leadership team that children of color are significantly behind their peers. That we have made significant changes to the curriculum, staffing of schools, resources allocated to schools and professional development and have yielded very mixed results. We have had three conversations as a board and superintendent on targets two of which some board members did not attend. While I will acknowledge we have had some successes, I am expecting true transformation. The graduation rate has been in a steady incline since 2012 but of the 8.9 % increase in the graduation rate over the last 4 years, over half of the increase occurred during the year of transition between the previous superintendent’s leadership. Recently, a constituent said we have always been plagued with an achievement gap and it is not all of the blame of this superintendent for the gap. I can agree that the achievement gap is nothing new but, we hired Mr. Vitti to make significant progress in a short amount of time to challenge the status quo. We made a bold move to hire someone who said in his interview, “In one and a half years we will see dynamic improvement in student achievement”. Well, it has been twice as long and we have seen the same incremental growth as years past, particularly in literacy.  How much longer do these children have to wait for someone to believe in them? We have the responsibility today to make these decisions. It is always…wait. These communities have been waiting too long, these families have been waiting too long, these children have been waiting too long and deserve someone who believes in them, today.

The community wouldn’t know, during this media frenzy that was created by my colleague there was something else taking place that drew little attention, the budget was deferred.  This was the first time ever the budget was deferred due to concerns from the board. Recently, the board discovered the budget had $20 million in unfunded cabinet add on positions. A matter of concern I have brought forward over the last three years. In years past there were a large number of cabinet add ons but the budget had an unrestricted funding source, this year there was nothing. This is a dangerous budget practice and the board was once again backed into a corner to make a decision that they were uncomfortable making because as we were told by our attorney, we would be penalized by the state withholding FTE if we did not approve the budget on Monday. Thus, we were required to use 2% of the 5% fund balance we set aside and “borrow” $8.3 million from the maintenance budget. This money will have to be paid back through lapse salary which the board has given direction before that they wanted to avoid this practice. It is not good budget practice to approve positions at the beginning of the year based on what you hope to get back in lapse salary. This can lead to the appearance of not filling school based positions in order to pay for the cabinet add on positions approved at the beginning of the year (after the board approved the tentative budget). The board requested a one page document during the budget process which included cabinet add on positions. While we received a document, it did not reflect this exorbitant amount.

Finally, the community wouldn’t know that with the current narrative the public may have also missed the concern that has been addressed in workshops about the instability of personnel in the district. In the last three years we have had nine Executive Staff leave the district. Most of these employees were people the superintendent brought with him. Several other key staff have also left the district. The argument that was recently made as to why losing the superintendent would be “tragic” was the need for stability, yet this amount of instability has created a significant gap in long range planning and succession planning to the extent that the superintendent has had to dole out two contracts to previous executive staff just to keep the flow of work from falling behind. This has also been discussed in the last three evaluations of the superintendent.

All that I have shared with you this morning is evidence that my concerns are not based on “personality conflicts” and they have been communicated for three years. It is easier to go to the media and cry foul in order to divert attention from the key issues and instead make it about the relationships of the board. Make no mistake, it is the avoidance of these key issues that have caused the strained relationships.


For the last three years every time I have left meetings with the superintendent I left with hope that things will get better.  I am starting to lose faith when the focus continually gets placed on relationships and not on factual information that needs to be addressed. The superintendent and board have made significant changes to the district in the name of reform. We have had some success but in my opinion we have to acknowledge both success and failure and work diligently to resolve the failure. I desire a board and superintendent team that functions out of respect and honors all of the communities that elected each member. I welcome the opportunity to work together on behalf of children but I will not compromise my beliefs that we have to move our most vulnerable students forward in a transformational way nor will I stop questioning budget practices on behalf of the tax payer. We must do better for the children of Jacksonville.

At some point we have to look at the direction the district is going in. They approved another charter school this past week, while at the same time issuing 7 improvement plans for other charter schools and fewer and fewer neighborhoods have their own schools. It to me is disheartening. Teacher moral and attrition, discipline, Engage NY, add in the budgeting issues and the superintendents massaging of data and in my mind we have a district heading in the wrong direction. 

Scott Shine the bully that keeps on giving.

These are your tax dollars at work.

Mister Shine apparently thinks threats and intimidation will work on me. He is also a stunning hypocrite as just a few months ago he complained in the media that Chair woman Ashley Smith Juarez was taking away his first amendment rights, spoiler she wasn't, she was just reminding him of the board policy that board members shouldn't publicly criticize one another.

Mr. Shine however apparently thinks he can do and say whatever he wants but nobody else can as I received this note today from his school board email.

You indicated you would be seeking legal council in your last correspondence.  Please forward the contact information for your council.  Thanks.



Oy vey


You know he sends me so many threatening letters it really is hard to remember what I said back to him though I believe it was along the lines of "grow up".

I wrote him back this time saying:

Just have your people contact me. CG

To which he responded

Just for clarity it is not appropriate to contact a party directly when represented by council.  Why I asked,  FYI.



Now I am not going to ding Scott for some in-artful language there, have you read my stuff, but if he thought I was already represented, why write me in the first place and also I didn't ask for an explanation. 

So I wrote him back again,

Mr. Shine we both know why you asked and we both know that wasn't the reason, your attempts at bullying and intimidation are not working. I am still waiting for that agenda item and if you can't get it to me I will have to ask the other board members for it. 


Board policy 2.13 section VI states, 

Requests for legal opinions from the General Counsel's Office by individual School Board members shall be initiated through the School Board Chairperson or shall have majority approval of the School Board.

If this is a personal matter you should not be contacting me through your board email, if this is a board matter, it is a secret one as far as I can tell.

We can continue this back and forth or we can be adults.

Now some of you might be thinking I get what I get for daring to write the blog and here is the thing you might be right if he was writing me from his private email or was seeking to hire a private attorney but that's not what he is doing, he is writing me as a representative of the board, threatening me with a city attorney and there are steps that he is required to take to do so and as far as I can tell he hasn't followed them.

There has been no agenda item to be voted on and I have asked the district several times over the last three weeks if the chair gave him permission and they have yet to get back to me. 

This is an elected representative, his skin is so thin it must bee translucent. I don't think he would last a day in one of our schools if this is how he reacts to criticism.

This is your tax dollars at work.