Sunday, July 17, 2016

Why should Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen operate charter schools on U.S. Military bases?

 Who would have thought that an attempted coup in Turkey would be a wake-up call about private charter schools in the US? Fethullah Gulen's religious movement, also known as Hizmet, may have taken time out from building charter schools to help foment the attempted coup in Turkey.

When moderation masks a radical agenda
By Abraham R. Wagner
Washington Times
 January 21, 2016

 No one everwants a Cosby moment, a moment when all of one’s suspected bad deeds are exposed to the world. Fettulah Gulen, the undisputable leader of the Gulen Movement was recently provided such a Cosby Moment, compliments of the FBI. Mr. Gulen, a Muslim cleric from Turkey, with an elementary education only, is a mysterious fellow.

In cables divulged by WikiLeaks, the U.S. Department of State described Mr. Gulen as “a ‘radical Islamist’ whose moderate message cloaks a more sinister and radical agenda.” He is reputed to be worth roughly $25 billion, although no one seems to know from where he earned this tidy sum. Most notably and despite the Department of State’s perspective, he espouses principles of tolerance and multiculturalism.

Yet upon deeper investigation, he is a true, dyed-in-the-wool Islamist who wishes to transform the United States and Turkey into Shariah states. Mr. Gulen lives in the United States in self-imposed exile, a seat from which he runs a vast and questionable network of charter schools and overlapping nonprofit organizations and businesses, and, as evidence presented in U.S. and Turkish courts shows, actively agitates and plots the overthrow of the democratically-elected government in Turkey, one of the few stable allies the United States possesses in the Middle East, a NATO-member and the lynchpin to defeating ISIS and to bringing peace to Iraq and Syria.

 As the proprietor of the largest network of charter schools in the United States, Mr. Gulen receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Active investigations into the financial malfeasance of the Gulen schools are ongoing in Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Ohio and other states, this, in addition to an active investigation by the FBI. According to state and local law enforcement reports, the Gulen Movement, in collusion with various nonprofit organizations and companies directly linked to the Gulen Movement, are playing a sort of shell game with taxpayer funds. Gulen schools pay high rental fees on properties owned by Mr. Gulen, construction and renovations of Gulen facilities are performed by Gulen businesses and vast sums are spent on facilitating the entry of young Turkish men to the United States...

Why should Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen operate charter schools on U.S. Military bases?
March 31, 2016
The Hill

A secretive Islamic movement is trying to infiltrate the U.S. military by establishing and operating publicly-funded charter schools targeted toward children of American service personnel.

That charge may sound like a conspiracy theory from the lunatic fringe, but it is real and it is happening right now.  The most immediate threat is in Nevada, where Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas (CASLV) is currently negotiating with the United States Air Force to locate a charter school at Nellis Air Force Base, with classes starting this fall.  What is not widely known is that CASLV is part of a nationwide organization of charter schools and other businesses headed by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, a reclusive but influential Imam living under self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania to avoid criminal prosecution in his native Turkey.

Our law firm has been engaged by the Republic of Turkey – a key NATO ally in a hotbed region – to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the operations and geopolitical influence of the Gülen organization, which is behind the Coral Academy of Science and over 140 other public charter schools scattered across 26 American states.  Our investigation, still in its early stages, reveals that the Gülen organization uses charter schools and affiliated businesses in the U.S. to misappropriate and launder state and federal education dollars, which the organization then uses for its own benefit to develop political power in this country and globally...

Robert R. Amsterdam is founder of Amsterdam and Partners LLP, an international law firm based in Washington, DC and London.

What We Don't Know About Gulen-Linked Charter Schools, And Why That's a Problem
 Jersey Jazzman
 July 16, 2016

This week's attempted coup in Turkey will inevitably turn the spotlight on Fethullah Gulen -- the primary political rival of Turkish President Erdogan -- who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania. Gulen is linked to a network of over 160 charter schools operating across the country, including several in New Jersey that Governor Chris Christie has recently praised...
- A USA Today investigation found that Gulen-linked organizations paid for Congressional members and staff to travel to Turkey at least 214 times. Expenses total at least $800,000, but that figure is likely understated because it does not include in-country expenses.

Given what's just happened, this lack of transparency is a real problem for our country's national security. If, in fact, Hizmet was one of the driving forces behind the attempted coup, the United States may well be complicit in allowing a charter network to grow in this country that provided de facto support for the attempted overthrow of one of our NATO allies' governments.

I don't have any expertise in Turkish politics. By most accounts, Erdogan is not a friend of democracy and freedom of the press, and that's very troubling. And Gulen denies any involvement with the coup attempt, even though Erdogan is now saying the US risks its continuing alliance with Turkey if it continues to harbor him.

At this point, we must ask: Has it been in America's best geopolitical interest to prop up Erdogan's primary political foe by allowing an aligned network of charter schools to grow across the country? Has the risk been worth what are, at best, marginal gains in test scores for student populations that, at least here in New Jersey, look nothing like the populations of their hosting public school districts?...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why Poway Unified Fired Its Superintendent

Superintendent John Collins and the Poway Unified Board got along very well with Poway Federations of Teachers and its president Candace Smiley, even when the district notoriously took on $1 billion dollars of debt in CAB bonds.

Why Poway Unified Fired Its Superintendent

The Poway Unified School District board believes former Superintendent John Collins, who was fired Sunday, took hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorized pay, according to dismissal charges obtained by Voice of San Diego and an audit report released by the district Monday.

According to the documents, Collins was also censured for filing litigation without the school board’s approval, and for interfering with the district’s investigation into his financial dealings.

The board could ask a court to force Collins to pay back as much as $345,000 – the amount forensic auditors flagged as unauthorized pay...

See more

Friday, July 08, 2016

Lawsuit Claims SDCOE Supt. Randy Ward Took Thousands in Illegal Pay

Lawsuit Claims County Superintendent Took Thousands in Illegal Pay
A taxpayer group is suing county superintendent of schools Randy Ward, claiming he illegally paid himself as much as $100,000 in recent years, and doled out improper pay to his top staffers.

The lawsuit – filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court by the California Taxpayers Action Network, represented by San Diego attorney Cory Briggs – takes aim at several aspects of Ward’s compensation, including so-called “me-too” raises they say violate strict state conflict-of-interest laws.

Ward has served as the top executive of the San Diego County Office of Education since June 2006, and his pay has put him among the highest compensated K-12 public school employees in the state.

In June 2013, the elected five-member board added language to Ward’s contract that let him collect the same raises teachers get as long as he earned a satisfactory performance evaluation.

In June 2014, the board did away with the evaluation requirement and gave him the same raises as teachers automatically, without consideration of his performance. As a result, that year, Ward received a 5.1 percent raise worth $14,535, and has continued to receive guaranteed raises matching teachers ever since.

Me-too clauses can be legal, but California laws generally prohibit self-dealing to ensure that government officials’ responsibility to negotiate salaries in the best interest of taxpayers isn’t compromised by a personal financial incentive.

Since Ward negotiates with the teacher’s union and helps decide what raises teachers get, his actions could be considered self-dealing. If deemed illegal in court, at least $70,000 in payments could be voided and ordered repaid to the agency.

Another bone of contention raised in the lawsuit deals with an earlier raise granted to Ward before the “me-too” raises were put in place.

In 2008, the board gave Ward a 3.8 percent raise, but he postponed taking it. Then, two years later, he retroactively authorized it via an interoffice memorandum to the business department causing a windfall of up to $31,400.

Staff did not respond to questions asking whether the move could have spiked his pension – or improperly boosted his retirement benefits in violation of state rules. The impact on Ward’s pension is not discussed in the lawsuit.

The California Constitution generally prohibits non-union employees like Ward from getting paid long after work was performed, so the belated me-too pay bumps are also unconstitutional, the nonprofit taxpayer group says.

The lawsuit also names the County Office of Education’s longtime chief business officer, Lora Duzyk, claiming she too acted illegally and abused her office.

“Defendant Ward has no legal right to accept retroactive pay increases, and none of the Defendants has the legal authority to increase their compensation without first obtaining the BoE’s (board) approval,” the lawsuit says.

The group contends the board’s action adding me-too raises to Ward’s contract doesn’t mean the payments were legal.

A recent salary bump for Ward of 4 percent that took effect July 1 brought his base salary to $331,736 and is also being questioned by the group. Voice of San Diego also asked the County Office of Education for an explanation of the recent raise and has not yet heard back.

Ward just began the final year of a three-year superintendent employment contract that expires July 1, 2017.

Ward and Duzyk did not immediately respond to requests for comment...

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Who tells the truth? Disgruntled ex-employees like Gretchen Carlson of Fox News

Lawyers will tell you to ignore the blatherings of "disgruntled ex-employees". But who else will tell the truth? People trying to keep their jobs and their social standing in the workplace almost never expose dirty linen voluntarily, and often won't do it even when they are under oath.
Even retired people, who no longer need to fear the loss of their jobs, usually don't want to tell the truth if it reflects badly on their former employer.

I remember in the Danielle Coziahr v. CVESD case, the judge had to forcefully demand that a retired teacher show up as a witness. The testimony the teacher was afraid to give was hugely supportive of Cozaihr, who won a $1 million judgment. The witness was retired, but still reluctant to step out of line.

Gretchen Carlson of Fox News Files Suit Against Roger Ailes, Alleging Harassment
Gretchen Carlson, the longtime Fox anchor, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday saying that Roger Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News, fired her from the network last month after she refused his sexual advances and complained to him about discriminatory treatment in the newsroom.
The startling accusations immediately transfixed the world of television news, where Mr. Ailes is a hugely influential figure known for demanding absolute loyalty from his employees.

The lawsuit — filed in Superior Court in New Jersey, where Mr. Ailes maintains a residence — portrays the Fox chairman as a loutish and serial sexual harasser, accusing him of ogling Ms. Carlson in his office, calling her “sexy” and making sexually charged comments about her physical appearance.

Ms. Carlson, who joined Fox in 2005, contends that during a meeting last fall to discuss her concerns that she was not being treated fairly, Mr. Ailes told her: “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.”

When she rebuffed him, the lawsuit claims, Mr. Ailes retaliated by reducing Ms. Carlson’s salary, curtailing her on-air appearances and, to her surprise, declining to renew her contract last month.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening through Fox News, Mr. Ailes rebuffed Ms. Carlson’s accusations. “Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false,’’ he said, calling it “a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract.’’

“Ironically, FOX News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book,’’ he wrote. “This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.”...

Thursday, June 02, 2016

San Diego ACLU's David Loy says UCSD cut student newspaper funding to curtail speech

Koala vs. Khosla: We need more speech, not less, to address the undercurrents of hate in our schools. See the federal complaint here.

Offensive UC Newspaper Demands Funding
Courthouse News
June 02, 2016

SAN DIEGO (CN) — The Koala, a satirical student newspaper whose motto is "The Worst in Collegiate Journalism Since 1982!" claims the University of California San Diego cut its funding to punish it for its speech.

Koala, primarily distributed on the UC San Diego campus, is one of several publications supported by the Associated Students of UCSD. It regularly satirizes issues involving ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and even people with disabilities.

     Its content has drawn complaints for years, but it's managed to survive. But administrators' decision last year cut all funding to student publications may have killed it, unless The Koala can win what it has proclaimed "the trial of the fucking century."

     Its Monday complaint in Federal Court seeks an injunction against UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Associated Students of UCSD President Dominick Suvonnasupa, the Associated Students of UCSD Financial Controller Tristan Britt.

     "There are two core issues: freedom of the press and freedom of speech," The Koala's attorney David Loy said. "The university violated both by discriminating against the student press and discriminating against the viewpoint of one student newspaper."

     Attorney Loy, with the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said the ACLU took the Koala's case because of the speech and free press issues, and that the case is clearly laid out in emails and online reports.

     The college has tried to shut down The Koala before. In 2002, it tried to revoke its registration as a student organization after a member took photos of another student organization's meeting and made fun of it.

     In 2010, all student print media were suspended after The Koala broadcast an invitation for an event called "The Compton Cookout," and asked participants to wear chains, cheap clothes and be loud. Women were told to dress up like "ghetto chicks." That stirred outrage among the African-American community on campus.

     E-mail threads cited in the complaint reveal a discussion between administrators on how to quash the paper, dating back to the 2010 incident.

     The Koala's Nov. 15, 2016 story, "UCSD Unveils New Dangerous Space on Campus" uncorked a new flood of complaints and a renewed effort to stop it.

     The story mocked UCSD's new "safe spaces" where students allegedly are excused from restrictions on insensitivity.

     The predictably offensive story reported: "Located in the center of Library Walk, the new Dangerous Space is the ideal place for students to do whatever the hell they want," then quoted a fictitious "Asian nerd," F. Yu, who enjoyed necrophilia.

     In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, perhaps, the complaint cites 15 student complaints against the Koala, including: "Knowing that my school is funding such a heinous magazine is not okay and I stand by my fellow students to get it off this campus. Please cease funding for this awful publication."

     And: "I would like to see UCSD dismantle The Koala immediately."

     And: "Pull the funds, and make them turn to personal donations if they way to continue this nonsense. They have the UC stamp/icon on the paper. UCSD already has a bad racial climate and this is an obvious contributor that can be eradicated."
     And: "I would like the University to shut down the koala newspaper and the creators of the newspaper should be punished by their college deans."
     Two days after the "Dangerous Space" story was published, Chancellor Khosla and other top administrators denounced The Koala "profoundly repugnant, repulsive, attacking and cruel." The UC San Diego Associated Student Council quickly decided to cut funding to all student-run publications.
     Another UCSD student newspaper, The Guardian, reported that Associated Student Council President Dominick Suvonnasuna said the administrators' attack had no bearing on the Student Council's quick decision to cut funding, that it was a coincidence.
     The Koala doubts that.
     "However offensive or outrageous it may have been, the article remains protected free speech on topical issues of public concern," the complaint states.
     The Koala wants the university enjoined from refusing to provide funding for campus publications or "otherwise interfering" with the First Amendment, plus attorneys' fees and costs. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

San Diego Unified stonewalls Sally Smith

Citizen on a mission sues district for violating state public records act
By Dorian Hargrove
San Diego Reader
May 27, 2016

San Diego Unified School District is discriminating against a student advocate in her quest to obtain public records, says a newly filed lawsuit filed on behalf of San Diego resident Sally Smith.

Over the past six years, Smith has been dogged in her quest to end illegal school fees and raise awareness of poor investigations into sexual assaults and other abuses within the country's eighth-largest school district. To help in her quest, Smith regularly submits public records requests to the district.

Oftentimes, those requests are met with resistance from school officials. In November 2014, Smith sued the San Diego Unified School District after she was denied access to log on to district computers to view public documents that are only offered on those certain computers.

While that case continues to make its way through court, Smith has filed a new lawsuit. On May 24, attorney Paul Boylan, who specializes in public records law, filed a lawsuit on Smith's behalf after the district refused to hand over legal bills that the district paid to outside counsel who were advising school-board members on the controversy surrounding former trustee Marne Foster.

...In response, the district hired legal firm DLA Piper to look into the alleged abuses of power. But a short time later, trustees voted to suspend the legal contract after the San Diego County district attorney announced that a criminal investigation had been launched. On March 8, trustees approved paying DLA Piper $34,000 for work leading up to the D.A.’s investigation.

Smith wanted to see the invoices for legal work, documents that are typically available under California's public records law. Nine days after filing her request, the district responded by stating there were "no non-privileged documents responsive to your request."

Days later, Smith responded, "This is not a legal document. It is a standard request for payment detailing what taxpayers paid for. I made the request...just a few days after the San Diego Unified School Board approved paying the bill." Again, the district refused: "...[T]here are no non-privileged documents responsive to your request. More specifically Government Code 6276.04 protects attorney client communications, in addition to Section 6068 of the Business and Professions Code and Sections 952 and 954 of the Evidence Code." Smith once again contacted attorney Boylan to file a lawsuit...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Castle Park Promise Neighborhood continues to conceal results of $60,000,000.00 grant

Voice of San Diego published a story about SDUSD board member Kevin Beiser urging parents to opt out of standardized testing (see below). But I don't think the real story is Kevin Beiser. I think it's Promise Neighborhood.

Promise Neighborhood Institute gave a $60 million grant to Castle Park neighborhood and schools in December 2012. So what do you get for $60,000.000.00? It's anyone's guess. Promise Neighborhoods conceals Castle Park results.

What improvements in student performance have been seen since the money started being spent in early 2013?  Strangely, Promise Neighborhoods took credit for improvements in the spring 2013 test scores at Castle Park Middle School though some think that the new principal, not Promise Neighborhood, deserved credit for the student progress.

But I'd be willing to give Promise Neighborhoods some of the credit if test scores had gone up again in spring 2014.  But strangely, Promise Neighborhoods is silent about those scores.

In fact, Promise Neighborhoods doesn't seem to want people to see its own June 2013 article by Samuel Sinyangwe announcing the spring 2013 scores.

Promise Institute took down its original website, but the article was concealed even before the website went dark, and it is also missing from the new website. Here's all the information that the new website is giving about Castle Park: vista_070615_b.pdf

If a $60 million grant isn't working, shouldn't Promise Neighborhoods be honest about it?  Who is gaining from their secrecy? Are they afraid that competent people might be brought in to replace the folks who are spending large sums of money?

Why are some schools so afraid of test results? Because they don't know how to improve them. For many, of not most, teachers, test preparation is just a bunch of boring worksheets, not fun lessons on logic and concepts.

Beiser Encouraged Castle Park Students Not to Take State Tests
By Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego
May 16, 2016

Kevin Beiser, who serves on the San Diego Unified School Board, sent a note to students and parents in his Castle Park Middle School class days before the class was set to take mandated state tests. In it, he encouraged students to opt out of the tests — something that’s forbidden by the state’s Education Code.

...Parents and educators oppose testing for a number of reasons, ranging from resistance to the possibility of sanctions imposed on teachers and schools to skepticism of profiteering by testing companies.

Yet, groups that want to preserve testing – including the NAACP, National Council of La Raza and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund – argue that standardized testing reveals disparities that exist between students.

Last year, civil rights groups wrote in a joint statement: “There are some legitimate concerns about testing in schools that must be addressed … But we cannot fix what we cannot measure. And abolishing the tests or sabotaging the validity of their results only makes it harder to identify and fix the deep-seated problems in our schools.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Man who oversaw Flint lead poisoning switched to manager of Detroit Public Schools

Darnell Earley was appointed as emergency manager of Flint, Michigan, by Gov. Rick Snyder. As emergency manager he had expansive powers including control over the city’s public works, and while it was yet another Synder-appointed emergency manager who signed the contract to start pumping water out of the Flint River, Earley was the man in charge when the switch over actually happened and lead started leaching into the water delivered to homes.

Earley is, with some justification, under criminal investigation as part of the ongoing Flint crisis. So it’s not surprising that he’s hired a lawyer. What is surprising is what he did with his legal bills.
Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley tried to bill the cash-strapped city $750 an hour for an attorney to sit with him while he was questioned last month in Washington by a congressional committee and to represent him in ongoing criminal investigations related to the Flint drinking water crisis, records obtained by the Free Press show.
Earley, whose office was searched by state investigators on Feb. 29, and who told the City of Flint on March 11 that he is under criminal investigation in connection with the lead contamination of Flint's drinking water, wants the city to pay legal fees that already have topped $75,000 and continue to grow, records obtained under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act show.
Nothing shows that you have nothing but the best interests of a city caught in a budget crunch firmly in mind like billing them $75,000 because you—whoops!—slipped a lead mickey to its kids.

Those worried about Earley (a select group) might want to know what he’s been up to in the last year.
The state moved Earley from the Flint job — where he served from September 2013 to January 2015 — to a new post as emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools. Earley served with DPS until Feb. 29, stepping down from the $225,000-a-year job amid controversy and with the school district in worse financial shape than when he took office.
Has anyone seen former FEMA director Michael Brown lately? Seems like these two might have a lot to talk about.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Can it make a big difference if we pay top teachers a top salary?

A recent Mario Koran story at Voice of San Diego leads with the results of some new research:

 "...[R]esearch shows teachers don’t react to financial incentives the way you might expect."

This is true as far as it goes, but this research applies to people who are already teachers.

We need to pay lots more to some teachers to draw a higher number of exceptionally-gifted individuals into the profession.

A few years ago I was happy to hear a school board member say that we needed more highly-intelligent teachers.

But I seemed to be the only person present who agreed with the board member.

"Oh, no!" another attendee protested. "We've already got very talented teachers! Just the other day I was talking to  a woman who is a paramedic who is very excited about becoming a teacher. She seemed so enthusiastic and dedicated."

Well, that's great. I agree that quite a few paramedics could make a successful transition to teaching, but the woman completely missed the point. We're talking about people who function at an even higher level than a good paramedic. We're talking about luring doctors and other similarly high-functioning people.

We need to pay the top 25-35% of teachers enough, and give them enough responsibility, so that people will choose teaching instead of medicine or science or journalism, etc.

Research shows that teachers today are drawn from lower-achieving college graduates than was the case decades ago. When I was a child many women who could have been doctors actually did become teachers. These days we'll need to pay high achievers much more money to get them in the schoolroom door.

Once they're in the classroom, I believe that the research on incentives cited by VOSD will prove true: financial incentives won't make a difference in how those new teachers teach.

Here's the VOSD story:

Why Paying Teachers More Won’t Fix Education

By |

A California appeals court last week reversed a 2014 decision that declared state laws governing teacher hiring and firing violated students’ equal rights to a quality education.
Plaintiffs in the Vergara v. California case –nine students represented by high-profile attorneys – argued state laws made it too easy to hire and too difficult to dismiss a small but significant number of ineffective teachers who disproportionately ended up in impoverished schools.
Last week’s decision vindicated teachers unions who saw the lawsuit as an attack on the tenure, layoff and dismissal policies they support.
In the reversal, a three-judge panel determined plaintiffs failed to show the statutes necessarily harmed students:

“Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers; instead, administrators—not the statutes—ultimately determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach. Critically, plaintiffs failed to show that the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students.
With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes. The court’s job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional, not if they are “a good idea.”
“I’m not going to mince words — we lost,” David Welch, founder of the group driving the lawsuit, said in response to the decision. “This is a sad day for every child struggling to get the quality education he or she deserves — and is guaranteed by our state constitution.”
Welch pledged to take the case to the California Supreme Court.
State superintendent of public instruction Tom Torlakson and the California Teachers Association applauded the ruling.
“Stripping teachers of their ability to stand up for their students and robbing school districts of the tools they need to make sound employment decisions was a wrong-headed scheme developed by people with no education expertise and the appellate court justices saw that,” CTA President Eric Heins said in a statement.
Vergara has become symbolic of public skepticism that teacher protections like tenure are good for kids. Groups in both Minnesota and New York have initiated similar efforts to challenge teacher protections.
Last year, a poll conducted by USC and the Los Angeles Times found the overwhelming majority of  respondents thought teachers receive tenure too quickly (after 18 months on the job) and that performance should matter more than seniority when teachers are laid off.
“The judges are saying things are not right in California, that there are drawbacks to the current system, but this is not something for the courts to decide,” Katharine Strunk, an associate professor of education at USC,  told the New York Times regarding the Vergara decision.
“I don’t think anyone believes that these laws are the best we can do.”
In other words, regardless of Vergara’s outcome, there’s broad consensus the system could be better.
But if making it easier to fire ineffective teachers wouldn’t necessarily improve teacher quality, what would?
One reader wonders if there’s a way to incentivize better teaching with better pay.
Question: Why are teachers’ unions unwilling to allow for a more pay-for-performance model of teacher evaluations, compensation, promotions, terminations, etc?  We should want to reward the best teachers with better compensation and benefits so as to attract top talent and motivate great results; and we should rid ourselves of underperforming and/or burnt out teachers.  — Jon Bellmonte, interested reader
In 2014, then-Congressional Candidate Carl Demaio announced he’d lead a series of education town hall meetings in San Diego.
The Vergara decision had created a vacuum for teacher evaluation, Demaio said, and he wanted to fill it with measurable performance standards developed by local school boards, teachers and parents. Based on those standards, school districts would reward exceptional teachers:
“I want parental involvement in how we evaluate our teachers. But the most important thing is that we need to make sure that the dollars go to our best teachers. Our best teachers that are actually making progress with our kids should receive whatever available monies we have for pay increases or bonuses,” Demaio told KUSI.
Teachers unions typically reject merit pay. They say teachers aren’t motivated by money.
Lindsay Burningham, president of the local teachers union, told me in 2014 that teachers are motivated not by money and corporate values – but by working in collegial environments where teachers collaborate with colleagues and principals:
If pay was tied to student performance, or test scores, I don’t think teachers would risk it. Because so many factors impact learning that have nothing to do with what happens in the classroom – things like poverty and home life.
Don’t get me wrong, competitive pay helps, especially when you consider that San Diego Unified teachers are among the lowest paid in the county. If you look at the our Fight for 5 campaign, and see the things we’re pushing for, pay and benefit increases is one component – but it’s not the only one.
If salary is what attracts people to the teaching profession, those are the ones who leave after a few years and contribute to the high turnover rate. There’s so much more to it when it comes to retaining teachers, things like low class sizes.”
This was the same argument school board trustee Richard Barrera used when he testified during the Vergara trial.
Barrera pointed to inner city schools like Central Elementary – the school once led by current Superintendent Cindy Marten – as evidence San Diego Unified had raised performance at high-poverty schools by creating collaborative environments in which teachers wanted to work.
Things like merit pay, or even evaluating teachers based on the improvement shown by students in their class, would divide teachers and make them less likely to share information with their colleagues, Barrera said.
This might sound like a cynical attempt to preserve the status quo, but there’s evidence to support Barrera and Burningham’s points.
After the Vergara ruling in 2014, education writer Dana Goldstein highlighted some of the reasons merit pay has had trouble gaining traction:
“From 2009 to 2011, the federal government offered 1,500 effective teachers in 10 major cities—including Los Angeles—a $20,000 bonus to transfer to an open job at a higher poverty school with lower test scores. In the world of public education, $20,000 is a major financial incentive. All these teachers were already employed by urban districts with diverse student populations; they weren’t scared of working with poor, non-white children. Yet less than a quarter of the eligible teachers chose to apply for the bonuses. Most did not want to teach in the schools that were the most deeply segregated by race and class and faced major pressure to raise test scores.”
Firing bad teachers, Goldstein writes, doesn’t address the larger problem: getting good teachers to take jobs in high-poverty, racially isolated schools.
To do that, Goldstein writes elsewhere, we need to reimagine the problem, such as by focusing more on principals, instead of only looking to teachers.
That’s not to say school districts should stop looking for better ways to recruit, train and evaluate teachers. But reforms focused exclusively on teachers overlook the larger systems in which high-poverty schools operate.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Kids reacting to Trump bring fear and loathing to our schools

‘The Trump Effect’: Hatred, Fear And Bullying On The Rise In Schools

A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center shines a light on a disturbing trend.


WASHINGTON - It was only a matter of time before kids started picking up the aggressive, divisive language that’s become a hallmark of the 2016 presidential campaign.

According to a new report by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center titled “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation’s Schools,” the race is stoking fears and racial tensions in America’s classrooms.

...The report identified two troubling trends: more openly racist and vicious bullying of minorities, and more fear and anxiety among immigrants and minorities about what would happen to them if certain candidates for president are elected.
The survey did not name specific candidates, but teachers named Trump, the Republican front-runner, in more than 1,000 comments — five times more often than they mentioned any of the other candidates.
And for good reason: Trump’s xenophobic, populist rhetoric has brought the nation’s political discourse to new lows. When he’s not indirectly bragging about his genitalia or mocking disabled people, Trump has proposed banning Muslims from entering the country, embraced the use of war crimes to deal with terrorism suspects, and has accused Mexico of sending “rapists” to the United States.
The SPLC report also illustrates how American schoolchildren are adopting Trump’s overall tone — which so often includes name-calling and scapegoating. More than any specific policy proposal, teachers said, kids were expressing more hatred for more people.
“So many of my students have begun to show hatred towards refugees, low-income and poverty citizens, and there has been an increase in religious bias,” one teacher wrote. Scores of educators shared similar sentiments in the survey comments.
“There’s a sense that if someone doesn’t agree with you, it’s acceptable (even encouraged) to have hatred and anger towards them,” wrote another.
I can be neutral about Democrats and Republicans, but not about racists. Teacher’s comment to the Southern Poverty Law Center survey
Best known for tracking and combating hate groups and extremists, the SPLC has also expressed alarm about the support that Trump’s campaign is receiving from white nationalist groups.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke endorsed the real estate mogul earlier this year. Rather than denounce Duke outright on national TV, Trump hemmed and hawed, saying he would have to research Duke’s beliefs before commenting. Many viewed this as a dog-whistle appeal to conservative Southern voters, some of whom are still skeptical of racial integration.
Against the backdrop of such a venomous presidential campaign, teachers told the SPLC that they’re struggling with how to teach children what it means to debate respectfully, especially as the GOP race devolves into name-calling and trading insults about the rival candidate’s spouse.
The report also revealed how teachers feel torn between wanting to use the presidential election to teach civics and worrying about expressing personal political opinions to their students.
More than 40 percent of the teachers who filled out the survey said they were “hesitant to teach about the election.”...

Monday, April 11, 2016

School officer fired after video showed him body-slamming a 12-year-old girl

Link: School officer fired after video showed him body-slamming a 12-year-old girl
On March 29, Janissa Valdez, 12, was thrown to the ground by a school police officer named Joshua Kehm. Valdez and her mother spoke to KSAT-TV about what happened. 
A Texas school police officer who became enmeshed in controversy after he was captured on video seemingly body-slamming a sixth-grade girl has been fired from the San Antonio Independent School District.

District officials said officer Joshua Kehm was terminated Monday amid an investigation into an incident last month at Rhodes Middle School, in which he appeared to restrain and then throw down 12-year-old student Janissa Valdez.

“We understand that situations can sometimes escalate to the point of requiring a physical response; however, in this situation we believe that the extent of the response was absolutely unwarranted,” school district Superintendent Pedro Martinez said in a statement. “Additionally, the officer’s report was inconsistent with the video and it was also delayed, which is not in accordance with the general operating procedures of the police department...

Saturday, April 09, 2016

North County Report includes intesting comments about CAB bonds and secretive lawyers


Someone complained to Google about the following post, and Google decided to play around with my blog. They moved the post from my home page. So I'm republishing it.

Note to Google:

By the way, Google, who is it exactly that you're doing favors for? I think this is a pretty tame opinion piece. What exactly is it that you don't want the public to see?

Your move, Google. Remember your own motto: don't be evil.


"...Beatty voiced concerns with Shinoff’s work for San Ysidro schools and a recent unsuccessful attempt to get a restraining order against an outspoken Poway Unified resident WITHOUT THE BOARD'S KNOWLEDGE" (emphasis added).
-- from North County Report by , Voice of San Diego April 6, 2016

Maura Larkins' comment:

I applaud Kimberly Beatty's efforts to have the Poway Unified School Board take more responsibility for the district's actions in court.
But Ms. Beatty has her work cut out for her if she thinks she's going to be able to get the board to deal with issues that it has traditionally let lawyers deal with.

There's a reason that school lawyers take action without consulting the board. It's the way things are done in most districts. It helps incumbent board members avoid controversial issues. And Beatty might have the courage to deal with hot-button issues, but I think she'll find that most of her fellows on the board will want to leave things as they are.

Sure, the board might decide to discontinue its relationship with Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm. But will the board want to change the way legal business is normally handled?
School board members regularly set up firewalls so they can claim they know nothing about what the lawyers are doing. If Beatty is talking about the Chris Garnier case, then the board can hardly claim ignorance of what was going on. Perhaps Dan Shinoff didn't consult with them ahead of time, and ask for an official decision about how to proceed, but the board must have heard about the case since it was covered in the San Diego Union-Tribune and on Channel 10 News.

If the board had a policy of having school lawyers consult with them before filing any request for a TRO, we would have heard board members howling about the breach of protocol at the very next board meeting. Instead, the board maintained silence through months of news stories. During that time, the board must have been approving payments to Stutz law firm.

Many people know that I've had my problems with school attorneys, but it has become clear to me that legal problems are not entirely the fault of the attorneys.

Attorneys are hired first and foremost to protect school officials, not to protect the public interest. Attorneys are expected to do what needs to be done so the district can present a calm, happy face to the world, and the incumbents can be reelected when it comes time to vote.

We seem to have unique ethics rules for lawyers.

For example, most people would agree that an elected official is supposed to act in the interest of the public that elected him and pays his salary. But this apparently does not apply to the elected City Attorney of San Diego. Remember when San Diego went into paroxysms of outrage when City Attorney Mike Aguirre claimed that his job was to act in the public's interest in regard to the big pension scandal? Even the California Bar Association said that public entity attorneys represent the officials, not the public. Of course, the Bar Association's goal is to advance the careers of attorneys. I do not believe that any court has actually ruled on this question.)

The system is set up to protect board members from responsibility for their lawyers' actions. This set-up ensures that board members have plausible deniability if the district ends up in court. Board members can plead ignorance. In addition, school attorneys fight tooth and nail to keep board members off the witness stand. So when you go to the voting booth in school board elections, you're going to have to choose between incombents who have absolutely nothing to say about the district's legal problems and challengers who are also ignorant of what goes on behind the scenes.

So how does a school district communicate with lawyers on a day-to-day basis? You might think that the superintendent steps in and takes responsibility for communications with the district's legal counsel. Nope, not the superintendent, at least not in my experience at Chula Vista Elementary School District or in many districts I've read about.

Who is the district's contact person for the lawyers? Usually, it's the Human Resources Director. And does the HR director tell the attorneys what to do? Heavens no. The attorneys instruct the HR director.

(I did see an exception to this rule in Grossmont Union High School District in around 2008 when board members Priscilla Schreiber and Larry Urdahl challenged the status quo and asked questions openly in board meetings about what was going on with the lawyers. At that time Superintendent Terry Ryan revealed that Shinoff had a verbal agreement with SDCOE rather than a written one.)

It is clear to me that many elected officials and superintendents intentionally abdicate responsibility.

Why? I think they like not having to think about pesky problems like lawsuits. I guess you'd call that laziness. And they don't want the voters to hold them responsible for what goes on in schools. They think that if they keep problems covered up, they will be reelected.

And they are almost always right about that.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Drug firm charges UCSD with fraud

Drug firm charges UCSD with fraud
Nippon Zoki Pharmaceutical, a Japanese drug company, on April 1 charged the Regents of the University of California with fraud, claiming that UCSD defrauded the company and then engaged in "a whitewash campaign to sweep the embarrassing episode of academic fraud under the rug."

The complaint, filed in federal court in San Diego, said the company paid over $1 million to UCSD to determine whether a pain medicine developed by the company is effective in treating lower-back pains. The work was allegedly done by Dr. Koichi Masuda of UCSD's Orthopaedic Surgery department. The company charges the research was "not only objectively flawed, but likely outright fabricated."

When Nippon Zoki demanded the underlying data, "Dr. Masuda claimed that he did not have them," according to the suit. An internal investigation by the university found that the research was incorrect, but the university concealed its results to "protect its own reputation," according to the suit.

UCSD did not respond to a request for comment within the allotted time frame. However, if the university has a response of reasonable length, the Reader will print it.