Monday, December 19, 2016

Photos of Ivanka Trump and Evita Peron: does a chilling foreboding cause shivers in your spine?

Does Ivanka do a more eerily accurate impersonation  of Evita than Madonna did in the 1996 movie? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8qauSHc0UU



Ivanka Trump                                                                Evita Peron

Here are the descamisados, then and now:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Improving children's executive functions

Why Executive Function Is A Vital Stepping-Stone For Kids’ Ability to Learn
brain
iStock/manopjk

...STRATEGIES
  • Breathing buddies: Students lie down on the floor with a favorite stuffed animal on their chests. They slowly breathe in and out, watching the animal rise and fall. This helps students calm down when they are upset and gives them a strategy to implement when they feel themselves getting worked up.
  • Teachers keep “meta boxes” in their classrooms full of fidget toys students can use to help them pay attention when they feel like they need to move.
  • When transitioning between subjects or recess, teachers often play calming music and let only five kids in at a time to limit the chaos.
  • Many elementary school teachers have had the experience of asking a question, seeing many hands in the air, but then calling on a student who says he forgot. That could be a working memory problem. Some Carlisle teachers are proactively addressing this by letting those kids record their thoughts on paper or a device so they can contribute when they’re called on.
  • Carlisle was an early adopter of Wexler’s Activate program, too. The iPad lessons focus on typical working memory games that require students to remember the order of things, progressively getting harder as the game develops. The physical games reinforce the online learning with social interactions that help embed the memories in movement. Mass ball is one game that requires students to throw a ball in a specific sequence. Students have to juggle paying attention to the order and catching the ball.
  • Carlisle teachers also have students do a lot of balancing games, which help with executive functioning. Teachers might ask students to walk on a line balancing bean bags on their heads or to do the same walk on tiptoe. Teachers also use relay races to get kids moving, since exercise alone helps with executive functioning.
Adults have an attention span of about 12 minutes with a fully developed executive functioning system, so it’s no wonder kids can’t focus without a break. “It cannot be overemphasized that all of us need to be thinking about taking information in smaller chunks,” said Malinda Mikesell, the reading supervisor for the Carlisle Area School District. She said kids need an opportunity to do something with the information on their own before having the chance to reset for the next chunk of information...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Discipline in schools: are the adults worse than the children at Horton and Castle Park Elementary Schools?

Here are two stories of misbehavior at schools. In the first, students became noisy in the cafeteria and grabbed a bathroom pass from an employee's pocket. In the second, teachers celebrated the last day of school by saturating curtains, walls, upholstered furniture and carpet in the teachers lounge with soda and desserts that were left over from parties in their classrooms.

Too many adults in schools confuse authority with power. They think whoever has power gets to do whatever they want. Quite a few teachers and administrators are as desperately in need of lessons in respect as the worst-behaved students.

Story One

ACLU criticizes S.D. elementary school for forcing students to plank

San Diego Union-Tribune
Dec. 5, 2016
Horton Elementary School in southeastern San Diego has come under fire for disciplining students for misbehavior by forcing them to hold a plank position on a hot blacktop surface, which the ACLU said amounts to corporal punishment.

An incident occurred in October when a ruckus erupted in the cafeteria after a student reportedly took a bathroom pass from an employee’s pocket. The school replaced open recess for fourth- and fifth-graders with structured exercising, including the plank or push-up position.

Some of the students’ parents were banned from campus for 14 days under threat of prosecution after they complained to the principal...

San Diego Unified disagrees that corporal punishment was used, rather Horton “modified open recess” for the students for three days “as a result of unruly behavior displayed by students during the lunch period on Oct. 14,” district spokeswoman Shari Winet said in a written statement...

The rowdy lunchtime incident prompted staff to summon the principal, Staci Dent, who arrived at the cafeteria to find some students pounding on their desks or tables...

According to the ACLU and parent complaints filed with the district, students were “forced to get into a push-up or ‘plank’ position, and hold the pose for a significant period of time, potentially as long as several minutes.” Some developed blisters on their hands after they “were forced to hold their hands against the scalding hot blacktop” or face time in juvenile hall, according to the principal’s threats, the ACLU said in its letter to Marten.

...The principal sent “stay away” letters to at least four parents informing them they were banned from campus for 14 days under a provision in the Penal Code. The letters threatened the parents with arrest and prosecution should they “enter onto district property in the future and should they cause disturbance or disruption....Read more here.



Story Two--Food Fight at Castle Park Elementary
by Maura Larkins
Dec. 11, 2016

There was a huge food fight at Castle Park Elementary School when I was a teacher there.

The walls, furniture and carpet of the teachers lounge were saturated with sodas and cake on the last day of classes. It took the custodians over a week to clean it, and another week for it to dry. There were absolutely no consequences for any of the immature, negligent teachers who made the mess. (No students were involved.)

The next year one of the teachers returned to the lounge on the last day of school wearing a raincoat. She was planning to do a repeat performance, but no one else was interested.

The teacher in the raincoat (I'll call her "R" for raincoat) had a habit of becoming enraged when students weren't suspended when she demanded it. She and her "family" (I kid you not; that's what her clique of teachers called themselves) controlled the principal and the district administration.

"R" also caused huge legal bills for the district and was finally transferred out as part of the "Castle Park Five" when the district tried to retake control of the school from the rogue teachers.

Ironically, David Loy, chief counsel for the San Diego ACLU, went out of his way to cover-up everything that happened at Castle Park Elementary. He went out of his way to undermine my First Amendment rights in this law suit. I suspect that some wealthy ACLU donor (someone like Irwin Jacobs) gives large donations to the ACLU and in return asks the San Diego ACLU to foster his pet projects, one of which is to increase the arbitrary power of school administrators. Irwin Jacobs is my top suspect because he has spent huge amounts of money trying to mold schools to fit his vision, which even included packing the SDUSD board with unelected board members.

I think the adults at Horton Elementary would have been more successful at encouraging kids to value self-control if they involved the kids in some highly organized but fun physical activities.


Friday, December 09, 2016

Who wants to help rich parents pay for preschool? Trump and San Diego Unified

Also see "Trump’s plan intended to reduce high cost of childcare through tax breaks" at EdSource.

The Learning Curve
By Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego
December 8, 2016

Tax deductions and rebates are at the heart of President-elect Donald Trump’s child care policy proposal, writes EdSource, a plan that would offer the most help to high-income families, some help to middle-income taxpayers and not much help at all to low-income parents.

“The plan very much tilts towards high-income families who need the least help,” said Elaine Maag, senior research associate at the Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

There’s widespread agreement among education experts that access to quality, early education programs can pay dividends for students in school later in life. There’s also widespread agreement among parents that costs can prohibit families from taking advantage. In August, San Diego Unified announced – to much fanfare – that it was launching a “game changing” Preschool for All initiative. Despite its catchy title, however, that initiative amounted to letting parents pay up to $1,060 for a full day preschool spot. In other words, San Diego Unified’s initiative gave high-income parents an affordable preschool option, but did little for middle- and low-income parents who couldn’t afford what San Diego Unified is charging. In that way, San Diego Unified’s Preschool for All initiative isn’t so different than Trump’s proposal.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

A new computer program that morphs faces reverses racial bias in children

Researchers developed a facial photo-matching game that reverses racial bias in children
Lila MacLellan
Flipboard.com
Nov 3, 2016

In a recent study from Yale University, preschool teachers were found to spend more time watching African-American children, and especially boys, for signs of misbehavior, than they did children of other races. 

Sadly, this didn’t surprise anyone who knew it to be true from experience.
"Yale study suggests racial bias among preschool teachers" https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/09/27/yale-study-suggests-racial-bias-among-preschool-teachers/ …
More science to prove what black people already knew

These findings, which were published in Child Development, led the scientists to believe that the children were likely extending a negative perception about an unknown race to all people of that category. This is a symptom of the so-called “other-race effect,” which makes it challenging for a person to make distinctions between the individual faces of another race. (It’s at play when you hear someone make the cringe-inducing comment that people of one group “all look alike to me,” but it doesn’t always suggest underlying racism.)

Because learning to individuate faces has been shown to reduce race-based implicit bias in adults, the researchers decided to test the method with children...

Is the dumbest person on the staff in charge of the school?

In my experience there are many school administrators who aren't the brightest bulbs on the porch. In addition there is a problem of arrogance and egotism and lack of empathy in some principals' offices. But if dressing as Donald Trump was a dumb thing to do, voluntarily posing with a woman dressed as Hillary in prison garb was much worse. One wonders if this principal and his secretary planned this display.

Virginia principal dresses as Trump, secretary as Clinton in prison garb
by Vernon Freeman Jr.
Daily Kos
November 2, 2016

R.E. Lee High School website/Emberly Lynn Martin Facebook
Principal Mark Rowicki dressed as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump 
and School secretary Stephanie Corbett dressed as Hillary Clinton. (R.E. Lee High 
School website/Emberly Lynn Martin Facebook)

STAUNTON, Va. – Some Virginia parents are outraged after the Principal at Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton dressed up as Donald Trump and a school secretary dressed as Hillary Clinton, in prison garb, for Halloween.

A photo of pair was posted on the school’s website in a Halloween photo album of costumes worn by students and staff...

The photo has since been removed.

Since the photos went public, parents in Staunton have criticized the administration for the “politically charged costumes” on school grounds.

One of those parents was Emberly Lynn Martin, who graduated from the high school and has two daughters.

“I don’t care who you are or are not voting for. You are professionals, who work with children. Some more impressionable then others. The fact that any school official would think it’s okay to dress like this leaves me appalled and floored,” Martin wrote on a Facebook post with the controversial image. “What message are you sending to any of them when their high school principal dresses up like a man who wants to deport them, says things like “she’s a nasty woman”, or “grab em by the p—–?”...

Sunday, September 04, 2016

A typical American school? This school doesn't want this parent to talk about what's going on in classrooms

 This sounds just like my school: those in charge don't want to talk; they have spies and a gossip mill to keep everyone in line; power depends on politics, not professionalism; the goal is to present a facade of a smooth-running machine to the public.

I believe there should be a whole lot more open, honest communication at schools.

I like the idea of parents creating their own groups outside the control of the PTA, and inviting teachers and principals to come and talk to them. I do think that more time should be set aside for teachers to communicate with parents and with each other. I think the school should make sample iPads available for parents to peruse, but I think I might feel uncomfortable if another parent were photographing my child's written or digital work.

I also think teachers need to be paid a lot more, and be more accountable.


Is this volunteer parent an enemy spy? A school district treats her like one.
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post
September 4, 2016

March 18 was a typical day for Melissa Dana, a parent and physician who volunteers as a classroom aide in Falls Church City schools. Her local elementary school was having an Ancient Civilizations Festival. She played a 15-minute video for each class and helped students use an app on their iPads to write Chinese calligraphy.


As instructed by the school’s teachers, she checked to see if the children were working just on calligraphy and not other parts of the app. Curious about what her child was learning, she looked at some of the apps. She took screen shots so she could view them later at home. She noted what students were doing with the technology and took some photos of what was on their iPads without identifying any student.

She also asked her child’s teacher about the activity, chatted with another teacher who was a friend and, on her way out, stopped to talk to the librarian.

That’s when it gets weird. All of her movements were reported to Falls Church City Schools Superintendent Toni Jones.

Photo:  Supt. Tori Jones

Jones called Dana in five days later and gave her a letter saying she better watch her step. “Please accept this as a formal notification that making interview or meeting requests and impromptu questioning which causes staff to feel uncomfortable is not appropriate during the course of the school day and/or on school grounds,” said the letter, which ended with “Regards, Toni.”

Despite 14 years of unpaid effort on behalf of the city’s schools, Dana was told by Jones she would no longer be allowed to volunteer if she did not mend her ways.

Dana has been a critic of Jones. Such tension between school leaders and active parents is common but rarely reported. School districts say they welcome outsider involvement. The Falls Church City school board’s mission statement says “our schools must be responsive and accountable to the community.” But parents like Dana often feel a chill if they ask too many questions.

In a statement, the school district said Jones warned Dana in part because “we are careful to protect student privacy and data.” It also bothered staff that Dana had asked to meet with staff members “on more than 20 occasions” during the school year and “wrote over 2,100 emails to 145 separate FCCPS email accounts,” according to the statement.
The best teachers I know like dealing with parents. A teacher who worked last year at an elementary school told me a majority of her colleagues “were thrilled that Melissa was asking questions.” Jamie Scharff, an International Baccalaureate teacher at George Mason High School, said he has “never met a parent as sincerely dedicated to helping the schools” as Dana.

Jones’s letter accused Dana of “attempting to log on inappropriately to at least one technology device, and taking random pictures not associated with tasks assigned to you in your role as a parent volunteer.” Dana said the charge of logging on inappropriately was “absolutely false” and “I was taking very specific pictures of the activity to which I was assigned.”
What bothers me most is the school district presenting her large number of emails as a sign of misbehavior. Dana told me she was concerned by teacher complaints of mismanagement and made hundreds of contacts with parents and teachers, plus school board members. What’s wrong with that? She said 234 people emailed her their support for a satisfaction survey she was advocating.

In May, several people, including Dana and her husband, formed a group called The Falls Church Way, seeking more input on school policy for parents, teachers and community members. The group wants the board to include staff, parents and community members in its evaluation of Jones this month. Jones has agreed to meet with the group every month.
School officials often consider such groups a nuisance. But asking questions can lead to meaningful change. Smart administrators know that and listen carefully to parents before threatening to ban them from volunteering.

Jay Mathews is an education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, his employer for 40 years.

Neil Hamburger
"The best teachers I know like dealing with parents."

You must not know many teachers. The best teachers resist dealing with parents because parents want their snowflake to be given less work, or easier work, or to have their C bumped up to an A for no good reason. The sheer amount of nonsense parents ask for is outrageous. Bad teachers just succumb to it because they don't care.
Gator1151
I see the school district superintendent came from Oklahoma. You could ask those parents if they were sad or glad to see her go. But who tattled on the volunteer to start this mess? Looks to me like those elementary school teachers need adult supervision themselves.
Sean Derry Teachers are in the business of managing the education of children, not managing adults. I don't think the average person in the public realizes how little time teachers have to belabor the minutiae of school policy with parents. Your child's teacher is usually dealing with 20-25 children and their parents. That is one person serving as the contact point for 60-75 people, plus the demands of paperwork, planning and dealing with whatever management throws at them.

Volunteers should volunteer. No teacher trying to assist 20 plus little children needs an adult volunteer who needs monitoring and attention. Would you walk into an ER and follow the staff around taking pictures and asking questions after a major car crash? By the way, a child's identity and image is private and schools are legally obliged to be discreet. Do you want a volunteer in your child's classroom to be wandering around and snapping pictures for unknown reasons? Think about it.

Most schools have steering committees that involve parents. This volunteer should join or start such a committee and stick to actually volunteering in the classroom.
taverngeek
The risk for school administration is that involved parents and volunteers can decide to run for the school board and become the administrator's boss. It is far better for administration to answer questions than risking inspiring a questioning person to run for the local school board. 
Kary Bear
Sounds like typical office politics to me. 'Office politics' means 'bullying and pressure to fit in' really just worded in a more adult way for grown ups who don't want to admit they act just like kids. But it's normal, sadly, and what goes on in any work place or any place where many people work together, unfortunately. It's just a part of life, and when someone feels on edge because they worry you might threaten their security, their job, or even their unaccounted for corruption, they will retaliate most of the time. That's when you need to cross all your t's and dot all your i's and sorry, but, snapping photos in a classroom setting without permission is wrong. So of course they're going to use it against someone when they're just looking for something to use against you. They can't know for sure what she took a picture of, and taking pictures of other children's phones and such, IS inappropriate.
MatthewWP
What's Jones hiding?
MontereyTwilly
3:20 PM PST [Edited]
She sounds like a great employee to me. This is so common in schools and in business, an employee does great work and their superiors get threatened. Jones should be investigated.
pcwag
Guilty of impersonating a real teacher, which today borders a crime.

A typical American school? This school doesn't want this parent to talk about what's going on in classrooms





March 18 was a typical day for Melissa Dana, a parent and physician who volunteers as a classroom aide in Falls Church City schools. Her local elementary school was having an Ancient Civilizations Festival. She played a 15-minute video for each class and helped students use an app on their iPads to write Chinese calligraphy.
As instructed by the school’s teachers, she checked to see if the children were working just on calligraphy and not other parts of the app. Curious about what her child was learning, she looked at some of the apps. She took screen shots so she could view them later at home. She noted what students were doing with the technology and took some photos of what was on their iPads without identifying any student.
She also asked her child’s teacher about the activity, chatted with another teacher who was a friend and, on her way out, stopped to talk to the librarian.


That’s when it gets weird. All of her movements were reported to Falls Church City Schools Superintendent Toni Jones. Jones called Dana in five days later and gave her a letter saying she better watch her step. “Please accept this as a formal notification that making interview or meeting requests and impromptu questioning which causes staff to feel uncomfortable is not appropriate during the course of the school day and/or on school grounds,” said the letter, which ended with “Regards, Toni.”

Despite 14 years of unpaid effort on behalf of the city’s schools, Dana was told by Jones she would no longer be allowed to volunteer if she did not mend her ways.

Dana has been a critic of Jones. Such tension between school leaders and active parents is common but rarely reported. School districts say they welcome outsider involvement. The Falls Church City school board’s mission statement says “our schools must be responsive and accountable to the community.” But parents like Dana often feel a chill if they ask too many questions.

In a statement, the school district said Jones warned Dana in part because “we are careful to protect student privacy and data.” It also bothered staff that Dana had asked to meet with staff members “on more than 20 occasions” during the school year and “wrote over 2,100 emails to 145 separate FCCPS email accounts,” according to the statement.
The best teachers I know like dealing with parents. A teacher who worked last year at an elementary school told me a majority of her colleagues “were thrilled that Melissa was asking questions.” Jamie Scharff, an International Baccalaureate teacher at George Mason High School, said he has “never met a parent as sincerely dedicated to helping the schools” as Dana.

Jones’s letter accused Dana of “attempting to log on inappropriately to at least one technology device, and taking random pictures not associated with tasks assigned to you in your role as a parent volunteer.” Dana said the charge of logging on inappropriately was “absolutely false” and “I was taking very specific pictures of the activity to which I was assigned.”
What bothers me most is the school district presenting her large number of emails as a sign of misbehavior. Dana told me she was concerned by teacher complaints of mismanagement and made hundreds of contacts with parents and teachers, plus school board members. What’s wrong with that? She said 234 people emailed her their support for a satisfaction survey she was advocating.

In May, several people, including Dana and her husband, formed a group called The Falls Church Way, seeking more input on school policy for parents, teachers and community members. The group wants the board to include staff, parents and community members in its evaluation of Jones this month. Jones has agreed to meet with the group every month.
School officials often consider such groups a nuisance. But asking questions can lead to meaningful change. Smart administrators know that and listen carefully to parents before threatening to ban them from volunteering.
8

Jay Mathews is an education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, his employer for 40 years.
Neil Hamburger
"The best teachers I know like dealing with parents."

You must not know many teachers. The best teachers resist dealing with parents because parents want their snowflake to be given less work, or easier work, or to have their C bumped up to an A for no good reason. The sheer amount of nonsense parents ask for is outrageous. Bad teachers just succumb to it because they don't care.
Gator1151
I see the school district superintendent came from Oklahoma. You could ask those parents if they were sad or glad to see her go. But who tattled on the volunteer to start this mess? Looks to me like those elementary school teachers need adult supervision themselves.
Sean Derry
Teachers are in the business of managing the education of children, not managing adults. I don't think the average person in the public realizes how little time teachers have to belabor the minutiae of school policy with parents. Your child's teacher is usually dealing with 20-25 children and their parents. That is one person serving as the contact point for 60-75 people, plus the demands of paperwork, planning and dealing with whatever management throws at them.

Volunteers should volunteer. No teacher trying to assist 20 plus little children needs an adult volunteer who needs monitoring and attention. Would you walk into an ER and follow the staff around taking pictures and asking questions after a major car crash? By the way, a child's identity and image is private and schools are legally obliged to be discreet. Do you want a volunteer in your child's classroom to be wandering around and snapping pictures for unknown reasons? Think about it.

Most schools have steering committees that involve parents. This volunteer should join or start such a committee and stick to actually volunteering in the classroom.
taverngeek
The risk for school administration is that involved parents and volunteers can decide to run for the school board and become the administrator's boss. It is far better for administration to answer questions than risking inspiring a questioning person to run for the local school board. 
Kary Bear
Sounds like typical office politics to me. 'Office politics' means 'bullying and pressure to fit in' really just worded in a more adult way for grown ups who don't want to admit they act just like kids. But it's normal, sadly, and what goes on in any work place or any place where many people work together, unfortunately. It's just a part of life, and when someone feels on edge because they worry you might threaten their security, their job, or even their unaccounted for corruption, they will retaliate most of the time. That's when you need to cross all your t's and dot all your i's and sorry, but, snapping photos in a classroom setting without permission is wrong. So of course they're going to use it against someone when they're just looking for something to use against you. They can't know for sure what she took a picture of, and taking pictures of other children's phones and such, IS inappropriate.
MatthewWP
What's Jones hiding?
MontereyTwilly
3:20 PM PST [Edited]
She sounds like a great employee to me. This is so common in schools and in business, an employee does great work and their superiors get threatened. Jones should be investigated.
pcwag
Guilty of impersonating a real teacher, which today borders a crime.

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
 By

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
By JON CHOWN
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.