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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.

http://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2017/08/08/in-texts-scotts-education-chief-mocks-charter-school-leaders-creative-test-score-claim-113834

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.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-state-lets-chartrands-kipp-school.html

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.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2013/07/did-gary-chartrand-have-grades-changed.html  

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.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2015/08/no-oversight-for-duvals-charter-school.html

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

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2015/05/who-is-lying-kipp-or-superintendent.html

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

http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/

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.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2017/05/did-gary-chartrand-pay-politicians-to.html

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2017/07/chartrands-bought-and-paid-for.html

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2017/07/becki-couch-calls-out-gary-chartrand.html

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/11/how-gary-chartrand-bought-school.html

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.

http://www.duvalelections.com/Candidates-And-Committees/Candidate-Committee-Treasurer-Reports-Bios/Campaign-Treasurer-Reports-Bios

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?)

https://dcps.duvalschools.org/Page/9344

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.

Sigh,

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.

http://jacksonville.com/opinion/ron-littlepage/2017-08-08/ron-littlepage-questions-arise-curry-s-new-approach-children-s

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,
Superintendent 
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. 

From WJCT

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.
Sigh
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.”

http://jacksonville.com/news/education/2017-08-08/duval-school-board-puts-independent-audit-seeks-spending-analysis-first

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

Surplussed teacher gives update, HR has yet to contact them.

This is an update from the teacher released at 4:42 p.m. 

I went to two job interviews but was not offered a position. Now I report to my school temporarily, as they have no openings. 

Tomorrow, Wednesday I'll report to do what I don't know. The principal is very nice and open with me, which I appreciate. They've told me I'll have a small class of elementary students til the 10 day count. Then, after Labor Day, I'll be assigned a school somewhere. 

As veteran teachers know, this is NOT desirable. By then students in that class will be totally out of control, probably having run off a number of substitute teachers, and generally having the run of the class. This is a fact, not cynicism and applies to elementary students and older students. 

I'll obviously work late just to get the room set up; and probably the professional development classes I went to this summer were for naught...Oh well! Like they told me, AT LEAST I HAVE A JOB. 

And why hasn't HR contacted any of us? It would be nice to think they're collaborating with me! After all, I collaborate- who can teach effectively without collaboration? They could make me feel like a person again- not a loser or worthless. Whoops, didn't mean to let that slip out.

A parent sticks up for teachers at schools that had surprise surpluses. The district should have too.

Teaching is not an easy gig, and each school faces unique problems and challenges, that being said, teachers at our poorest schools go through a lot and that isn't including the potential of being unceremoniously dumped days before they are supposed to report.   

From a parent

These are the things that the teachers at a school that lost 7 teachers has told me about the kids at her school: 

Their classroom roll call changes monthly, generally around the 1st or the 15th, when rent's are due and families relocate quickly. 

Many keep a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread in their desk because of the kids who are sent to school without having had breakfast. 

They have kids who don't get a good night sleep because they get woken up when their parent picks them up from the friend or relative who watches them while the parent is working. 

They have to run to lost and found to find a coat for a child who was sent to school on a freezing cold day wearing shorts and a tank shirt! 

Parents rarely show up for conferences. Yet, somehow, when these kids perform poorly on tests, it is the fault of the teacher????

Now it's going to the fault of the state who demanded their removal days before they were supposed to report and the district who didn't fight for them and let it happen. We have a lot of problems in education, not even on the list is the teachers who were unceremoniously surplussed days before they were supposed to report. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dominoes start to fall at the schools that had last minute surpluses

Those teachers that remained behind at the schools most hard hit by the unexpected state mandated surpluses are also facing major problems.

Some teachers at these schools have been uprooted and given new teaching assignments to help fill the voids of their missing colleagues. Imagine thinking you were going to teach second grade all summer and putting in the effort to get ready and then on the first day of planning, just a week before kids are to arrive you learn you are suddenly going to be switched to a higher grade? I know I would feel like I was being set up to fail.

Furthermore these kids are going to have to go somewhere and as the state has gutted the class size amendment over the years, I think it is safe to say classes are going to be a little bigger.

What about morale? It's important. teachers that feel valued and supported are going to do a better job than those that don't. It's apparent we have been reduced to little more than replaceable, or not, who cares, cogs.

Then who is going to want to work at these schools after seeing how shoddily the staffs have been treated. These schools were already having a difficult time filing vacancies and in some cases keeping staff, these last second surpluses exacerbate their problems.

Two last things, still nothing from the district, no explanation, no defense, nothing, at this point it feels like they are hoping to just ignore what happened and hope it fades from the next news cycle, which is disappointing. They need to shine a light on how the state works and then redouble their efforts at repairing teacher moral.

Then the media, these teachers may have had bad VAM scores, but nobody knows because nobody has seen them, but that doesn't make them bad teachers by any stretch of the imagination and I don't think the media has done a very good job of explaining it.

I will say it again, the state dealt the district a bad hand, but for some reason the district made it worse and I don't believe we will ever reach our potential if our leadership thinks it is okay to treat teachers this way.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Why is there radio silence over the surpluses from the district?

I sent the following letter to the superintendent and the school board, well the ones that don't threaten to sue me and call me a parasite that is.

Hello,

Numerous teachers reached out to me over the weekend to say they were unexpectedly surplused late Friday afternoon.

I have no doubt that the state did the district no favors but it also seems like the district took a bad and uncomfortable situation and made it much worse.

One teacher told me they were given just a two-minute phone call and another told me the person said, well a least you have a job. Another teacher went to visit the principal at the school they were just assigned to and they initially said, they had no idea what they were talking about but then later said, we will find something for you to do. I don’t believe this is how we should treat teachers.

As terrible as this is, I think it is also an opportunity to let people know just how the state operates and how quite often it hurts children. I have no doubt they could have given you any directive weeks ago when solutions could more readily be found. Them waiting till now is unacceptable.

The people of Jacksonville need to know what the state is forcing you to do. I believe people will be outraged at the harm this is going to do to some of our most vulnerable schools and it should be asked if his is political payback for talking about joining the HB 7060 lawsuit, something I and many believe you should join. I would encourage you to meet with as much as the media as you can and explain to them how bad this is for the teachers and schools effected.

The mayor, the governor and the Duval delegation should also be contacted and where I imagine some may have no sympathy at least you can get their responses on the record and if they support these terrible last-minute changes then let people know and hopefully during their next elections there will be a consequence.   

Finally, if you can’t rescind the surpluses/stand up to the state, or you get no relief from our elected state officials, I sincerely hope you have a do over with these teachers who had their lives throw into chaos and reach out to them and make their transitions as smooth and painless as possible, they deserve it.

As critical as I have been over the years, I think we have amazing potential, but I believe we will never meet it, if we think it is okay to treat teachers the way these teachers were treated.

Thank you

Chris Guerrieri


For nearly a decades worth of service, one teacher was given a two minute phone call.

Arlington Middle was hit incredibly hard by the surprise teacher surpluses Friday afternoon losing 12 teachers. I spoke to one veteran who was give a two minute phone call.

When they took the initiative to go meet the principal at the school they were reassigned to, the principal initially had no idea what they were talking about. 

The following is an excerpt from our conversation. Note I edited some to protect the identity of the teacher.

First I asked about their conversation with the district.

The person said that "as you know Arlington is a state monitored school (which I did not know) and per the state list, your VAM scores indicate you need reassignment."

Then I tried to ask if they knew what my VAM scores and they said they did not know. The person also said, "if I had items at Arlington Middle, the school, the school would be open Saturday from 9-11 to retrieve my items. I would also be able to go after inservice and retrieve what was left."

It was a two minute phone call.

They told me to report to this new location effective immediately Monday at 8 am for inservice.

The person did not tell me if my assignment was permanent or temporary. I went to the orientation for the freshmen as I wanted to meet the principal and he had no idea until I met up with him that same night. He was able to find out and tell me that this is a temporary position and that I was just to report on Monday and they will find something for me to do.

They are going to find something for them to do... sigh... I have no doubt the state of Florida did the district no favors. I believe they want us and these schools to fail so they can push their pro charter agenda. That being said, the district took a bad situation and made it much worse.

We have to do better as a district if we want to reach our potential, we have to.



Teacher resigns before they can be surplussed, says "teachers are more than VAM scores"

At the behest of the state the Duval County school district surplussed several dozen teachers on Friday based on their VAM scores a measurement which has been widely discredited and is even being phased out. This happened just two days before they were supposed to report.

I don't want to excuse the district however as their response to the state saying, Jump, was to ask, how high? Furthermore they treated this major upheaval in people's life in a ho hum fashion.  One teacher however had already resigned before she should be surplussed. She has a powerful message not just for her co-workers who were surplussed but for all of us. Note: I did some minor formatting changes and a few light edits but the message was not changed one bit.

By Kimberly Coral

Yesterday (Saturday August 5th) I heard the most heartbreaking news about some of my fellow coworkers. I heard that seven teachers from my school were just reassigned to other schools. 

I started asking questions to figure out what was going on. Come to find out, these teachers were sent an email and/or received a phone call from the district Friday afternoon. We start school on Monday. 

The district indicated that based on their VAM scores (a complicated mathematical formula which doesn't take into account poverty and is used to predict how students performed on the state test), they were being administratively reassigned to another school. 

I couldn't believe it.

Is this even allowed to happen? 

Do they know how hard it is for a Title 1 school to get teachers? 

Now you are getting rid of seven of them and there is no discussion about them being replaced. 

I was told six names and I just sat their heartbroken for them. Then the 7th name was released. It was my own. 

I have worked for this county for 14 years, at the same school for 13. I have blood, sweat, and tears all over that building. I was the 7th teacher. I felt this rush of embarrassment, hoping no one would find out. How long could I keep this a secret? Is this how the rest of them felt as well? Was I such a horrible teacher that they classified me as the low of the low in the county? Did they see me as a failure? Did they think I just sat around all day doing nothing? Did they think I didn't stay up until two in the morning several nights a week to get lessons finished? Did they think that I didn't volunteer for countless school activities after my work hours were complete? Did I not take my planning time to allow children extra time in the classroom? Did I not take time to mentor other new teachers? What about the highly effective comments on my evaluations? Did they not see the hours that I poured into someone else's child, but sometimes couldn't give to my own? No, they don't know any of that. 

I was only judged based on student scores from a state test. Now it was time to be judged again. 

I can just imagine myself walking into my new school with all of the things that I have accumulated over the last 14 years, feeling like I had a scarlet letter imprinted somewhere for the whole school to see. They would all know why I was transferred there. I would have to prove myself again to a new principal, new teachers, new parents. I would be known as the teacher who was reassigned because I couldn't cut it at a D school--no, I was the teacher that made it a D school. Then, I came back to reality and realized that my name was on this list, but I didn't have to face this situation. 

I resigned just 4 days before I was going to get this email or phone call, before my life was about to change without me having any say in the matter. I was able to do something else that I love, be with my daughter while she goes to preschool, and watch another little boy for a friend. I got out in time. I chose my next move. Me, not my VAM score! But, for those other 6 teachers, and all of the others in this county that just had a life altering phone call.I am so very sorry you are having to go through this and I truly feel heartbroken that you were pushed out of your home because of a test score. 

Those VAM scores aren't your identity! Don't let the scores make you feel defeated! Don't let those same feelings that rushed into me overcome you! 

If you are one of those schools getting a teacher who is reassigned, please be kind, accept them with open arms and help them through this process. You know it takes more than a VAM score to make a teacher. The teachers I know are some of the hardest workers you will ever meet. They are not losers, they do not wear a scarlet "L" on their chest. They did not bring the school grade down. It takes a village to do that (the district, principals, teachers, students, and parents). We are all in this together! You don't know the situation in their classrooms, the students that were not any where near grade level, the first year teacher who was assigned multiple grades and had to keep adapting to new situations, starting new grade levels each year and not getting acclimated in time, and the countless other reasons that a VAM score can't determine a teacher's value. 

I am beyond heartbroken for this change that just does not feel fair. I feel so grateful that my path has led me in a new direction. Sometimes you want a clear sign that lets you know that you made the right decision. I can only thank God for the clear message He sent yesterday when I heard I was number 7.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Teacher, I was surplussed at 4:42 on Friday

And the district had the nerve to tell him, hey at least you have a job.

I have lightly edited and changed the format below, but I haven't changed the message at all.

From a teacher:

Mr. Guerrieri, I can contribute from a primary source, facts to this breaking story. I am one of the affected teachers, having now been surplussed for the first time in my 10 years of teaching. 

I received a "complimentary" phone call from the District on Friday, August at 4:42 p.m. that, due to my data (failures - yes, derived from VAM) on the recent student test I was being surplussed. When I pointed out "why did you wait until NOW, when I have spent time and money getting my room ready, why wait til 1 day before we report?" I wasn't given much of a reason. The answer was "but you have a job". I have drilled deeper into this breaking news story and have discovered that at my state-monitored school, at least 7 other teachers were similarly surplussed. Teachers surplussed had awesome gains this year, but not last year. We already had 4 vacancies. My former school is now short one quarter of its faculty. 

My sources tell me this happened to at least 8 other "state monitored" schools. If, as we are constantly reminded, that our placement (at year's end) is "in the best interest of the children", then how is surplussing potentially dozens of teachers- 24 hours before we report for duty- "in the best interest of our children"? 

The school I am to report to has no vacancies. Ergo, I wait until I am placed, somewhere I am certified to teach. This may take who knows, maybe two weeks or more. Meanwhile, at least 109 teachers were unable to obtain proper certification credentials and were released on Tuesday, August 1st. What effect this has remains to be seen. Compare this decision "process" with last year. Surplussing occurred on Monday and Tuesday, June 6 and 7, 2016. This was done in a much more timely manner, for both "the students" as well as teachers. 

I believe the difference between last year and 2017 is a void in leadership. A strong superintendent probably had a well-thought out process in place to protect our District from the State. When I asked the district spokesperson why I was being surplussed, I was told the reason was the "state" was mandating my change, which leads me to believe the same pressure was occurring everywhere- and the District gave in. 

Not that it matters much to anyone, but there is the very real and chilling effect this has on teachers and administrators. Because of the district's procrastination in implementing a change in our status, I'm sure many teachers didn't appreciate being told literally at the last minute they must pack up their rooms. I pointed out to the person who contacted "Why did you wait so late? I've wasted an entire week getting my room ready- and NOW you call?!" Not to mention spent my own personal dollars on bulletin board and classroom materials to get my classroom ready for the new year, which took 5 days--my last 5 days of summer vacation!! I took 5 days of PD classes this summer relative to the new grade I was told I would be teaching...probably wasted. Total at least 2 weeks wasted this summer- which naturally makes me very angry. 

So to close, if there are dozens of teachers surplussed from many state-monitored schools just days before schools starts, how are state-monitored schools to fill their vacancies created by last minute surplussing? In theory, these are the top priority schools, in terms of raising their school grade- or they could potentially close or become a charter (recently passed bill 7069). My school, a "D" last year (16) and this (17), is a case in point. The surplussing- which occurred via a review of teachers' last two years of VAM scores- now leaves a school short at least 11 teachers. Where are the highly skilled, truly effective teachers going to come from? School is starting very soon, orientation for this school is this Friday, August 11th! Teachers must be in the room greeting parents and children. How is this going to happen? Is this really "in the best interest of our students"?

Duval County's Friday Night Massacre

Sigh

Just when I was feeling optimistic with the district it's old way of doing things rears its ugly head.

Late Friday afternoon teachers throughout the district received calls telling them they were being surplussed just 48 hours before they were to report for duty.

The reason, the universally discredited and about to be phased out V.A.M. Scores.

Can you imagine getting this email just 48 hours before you were to report, how demoralizing and defeating this would be? This didn't happen weeks ago. This happened yesterday.

We will never be successful as a district if we think this is an okay way to treat people.

Check back as this story will be updated as I receive more information. 

Jason Fischer is a hypocrites hypocrite

Seriously folks his hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Despite the fact Fischer had to help craft the 16-17 school year budget and despite the fact that his superintendent, Nikolai Vitti was in day to day control of the budget and despite the fact that DCSB has called for an independent audit already and despite the fact the district had the money to cover the money and didn't dip below the statutory reserves limit, Fischer continues to attempt to bully the board.

Jason Fischer is an embarrassment and I am just going to say it, if you voted for him you are embarrassment too. Why would you vote for somebody who doesn't care about you or doing whats right for you? Is it because he had a little r next to his name.

He quit on the school board which he only ran for after his attempt at the soil and water board failed.

He is nothing but a self promoter, who cares only about himself and advancing his career which a few thousand of you have given him.

Enough is enough guys, how about at the very least voting for your self interests, strong schools, and a representative who is responsive to your needs, rather than this guy.

To read more, click the link:

http://floridapolitics.com/archives/242427-jason-fischer-deep-concern-lack-duval-schools-audit 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rep. Joe Gruters calls for audit of DCPS then tries to rip off old people

This is what passes for a republican politician in Florida. This reprobate is also the co-char of the Florida Republican party and was Trump'e election chair.

He inexplicably since he is from Sarasota joined Representative Jason Fischer of Jacksonville and called for an audit of the Duval County school board, widely considered payback for their tacit thus far support of a lawsuit against HB 7069, the public school kneecapping bill crafted in secrecy and passed on the last day of the legislative session.

Perhaps Gruters should be worrying about his own ethical challenges. From the Sarasota Herald: 

Gruters wants Strand’s clients to stay with the Gruters firm and, for most, the only thing they know about Gruters’ CPA abilities is that Strand said they share the same values, etc. So, mentioning the jail thing? Not a helpful topic.
Gruters also stressed one point with me: He does not really know Strand. They met only twice, to work out the sale of his business. Gruters has no plans to work with him when he gets out of prison. Gruters basically just bought his client list and a few other things.
“It isn’t really a merger,” Gruters said.
That really, really irks Fishbein. For one thing, Gruters’ letter to him and other clients uses the word “merger” twice.
“I felt poked in the gut,” Fishbein said. What makes Gruters’ euphemisms and dodging worse, he said, is that now he is as afraid to trust Gruters as Strand.
After all, Gruters hasn’t been able to find Fishbein’s sensitive documents. When Fishbein asked for the return of a safety deposit box key that Strand had, Gruters’ staff did send him some keys. They looked like keys to a padlock, Fishbein says, and “do not even vaguely resemble safety deposit keys.”
Fishbein, as I said, is disabled and alone. He feels extra vulnerable and worried. He wants the firm Gruters said is now his to pay the legal fees to transfer Fishbein’s trust responsibilities and documents — those they happen to find — to another firm.
“There’s a file of mine out there with these details of my private life unaccounted for,” Fishbein said.

Gruters says he will try to help, but that he is not responsible for Strand’s errors, or whatever. It is hard to ask Strand questions just now. The state prison system has him but hasn’t even decided where he will be housed.
This expansion deal hasn’t worked as easily as Gruters had hoped, he admits. Strand must have gotten distracted when he realized his criminal case was not going well, Gruters said. Some tax clients’ files need work.
Basically, Gruters buys a client list for another CPA who's been jailed, calls the transaction a "merger" when it's not, and perpetuates a lie about the other CPA's crime by omitting information and not taking clients' calls, then is his spare time he calls for an audit of DCPS a school district hundreds of miles away that he doesn't represent, in an attempt to bully them. Liars and bullies are what makes up a large swath of Tallahassee which is dominated by republicans. Isn't it past time we got ethical people who care about public education to represent us?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Did Superintendent Vitti set up the DCSB up so the Mayor can take it over.

I think Superintendent Vitti ran up the budget so eventually the mayor will take over the school board. There I said it.

I know what some of you are thinking after reading that, you probably think my tin foil hat is on to tight and fair enough, but please read to the end and then see if you feel the same way.

DCPS went over budget by 21 million dollars during the 16-17 school year and despite the fact they had enough in reserves to cover in and did not dip below the statutory three percent in reserves Jason Fischer and Lenny Curry have been very critical of the board.

Read that again, they have been very critical of the board, not former superintendent Vitti who was in day to day control of the budget but the board including Becki Couch who sounded the alarm bells last year that this was going to happen and despite the fact that even though Jason Fischer quit the board last July, he had to be involved in crafting the budget, their ire is pointed directly at the board and no one else.

What do Vitti, Curry and Fischer have in common? A close relationship with local business man and donor Gary Chartrand. Chartrand played a huge roll in Vitti coming to Jacksonville and was one of his biggest supporters and he and his friends have given thousands and thousands to Fischer and Curry or pacs’ that support him, and these donations and support have paid off as well.

Vitti, despite a dubious record recommended the KIPP charter school receive an unprecedented expansion. Fischer introduced legislation to give KIPP a half million dollars and where that bill was ultimately vetoed (though they received lots of extra money from the state over the years) he also championed HB 7069 which will greatly benefit charter schools which Chartrand is an advocate for, including KIPP, which Chartrand brought to town.  Furthermore, the Curry administration recently changed the rules at the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and they gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the, you guess it, KIPP charter school.

So, what does this have to do with giving the mayor the power to appoint the board? Well read on.
It’s no secret that Gary Chartrand is a huge proponent of charter schools and would like to see many of the city’s schools replaced with them. Since 2010 despite a poor track record here the amount of charter schools has increased 300 percent and this doesn’t count all the times they have been allowed to expand.

So, Chartrand has made real progress seeing his goal fulfilled but since as a group charters have done so poorly here and there have been several recent high-profile closures, charter school growth in Jacksonville has stunted.

Now let me ask you a question, when you want to achieve something but aren’t completely successful do you give up or do you tackle it from another direction? Chartrand first tried buying himself a school board, Fischer, Grymes, Jones, Shine and others all took money from him and his friends, but why buy a school board, 7 people with different motivations and ideas, when all you have to do is buy one mayor.  

The city’s Charter Revision Commission, the once a decade group that meets to discuss how the city is run will be here before we know it. In 2010, just as Chartrand was beginning his collection of school board members and politicians, doing away with the school board and replacing them with a mayoral appointed board was a big discussion.

From the Times Union in 2010:  Dramatic changes to the Duval County school system, including how board members are selected, are needed to improve student performance, members of the Charter Revision Commission said today.

A majority indicated they do not support keeping the entire School Board elected, paving the way for proposals that could allow Jacksonville's mayor to appoint one or more members of the board.
Nothing came of those recommendations back in 2010 but that’s not to say nothing would come this go around, especially if certain politicians, the representative from Mandarin and the Mayor for instance started to push for mayoral appointment of board members, to quietly appease a powerful donor.

Right now, the state constitution revision commission is meeting, with only one-member hailing from Northeast Florida, attorney Hank Coxe. I expect sooner or later recommendation taking power away from school boards and pushing school choice, which is just another word for privatization to be coming fast and furious.  

Maybe I haven’t convinced you, you have forgotten all about the USS Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin but would anybody be willing to be there isn’t a proposal floated to give mayoral control of our schools when the charter revision commission starts to meet and that they don’t point to the district being over budget as a reason why? Anybody want to bet?


I don’t think there has been anyone more critical of the board over the last few years but even I don’t want to see who picks the board taken out of the hands of the voters.