Friday, July 31, 2009

Foreign exchange student programs are trying to shut Danielle Grijalva up

See all Danielle Grijalva posts.

Calif. mom exposes abuses of exchange students
July 31, 2009

In a few weeks, thousands of foreign exchange students will arrive in the United States for what they hope will be a rewarding time of study and cultural enrichment. Shortly after that, Danielle Grijalva's phone will start ringing, and her e-mail inbox will begin filling up. It happens every year.

While most of the 30,000 exchange students who come to the U.S. each year have positive experiences, some find themselves stuck in bad homes with little prospect of getting out — especially if the agency that placed them doesn't take their concerns seriously or even blames them for the problems.

...From her base in Oceanside, Calif., the 43-year-old stay-at-home mom has almost single-handedly taken on the foreign exchange industry, intervening in abuse cases, questioning placement agencies' marketing practices, and bashing the U.S. State Department for what she says is lax regulation.

The industry says she exaggerates problems and makes reckless allegations. Two defamation lawsuits have been filed against her.

But the watchdog's complaints about the dozens of programs that import foreigners were recently borne out in northeastern Pennsylvania, where a Scranton woman was charged last week with child endangerment for allegedly placing exchange students in filthy homes with ex-convicts and not enough food. Grijalva helped one of the teens file a complaint with the State Department and offered advice to local child welfare investigators on how to proceed.

Her involvement was to be expected. Since launching her tiny nonprofit five years ago — the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students — Grijalva (gree-HAHL'-vah) has answered thousands of e-mails and phone calls from aggrieved students and their worried parents back home.

"By the time they reach CFCES, they are so exhausted and so emotional, but so elated to find someone who will say, 'We will help you as much as we can,'" Grijalva said.

She has racked up some notable successes. Besides getting students out of bad situations, her organization successfully pushed for regulatory reform in 2006 and investigated an Allentown-based placement agency that Pennsylvania authorities shut down earlier this year.

She's also made enemies. On a recent Sunday morning, Grijalva was served with a state lawsuit that claims she defamed one of the largest exchange programs, California-based Council for Educational Travel, USA, by making "false statements" about it while intervening in the case of a Norwegian student in Minnesota.

A French agency, Programmes Internationaux d'Echanges, and two of its U.S. affiliates [AFS is one] sued her for defamation in North Carolina two years ago, and won a preliminary injunction against her while the case proceeds.

[Maura Larkins' comment: A North Carolina judge ordered a California woman to shut down her website? He's not the boss of her! How did AFS find that judge?]

Grijalva, who has countersued P.I.E., says the lawsuits are intended to shut her up.

But critics complain that she paints with an overly broad brush, resulting in a distorted picture of the U.S. exchange program. Since the majority of students go home happy, they say it's unfair and inaccurate to malign an entire industry based on scattered cases of abuse and neglect.

[Maura Larkins' comment: It's fair to talk about how the industry handles those scattered cases of abuse and neglect. Exchange programs seem to look away and ignore complaints far too frequently.]

..Danish student Emily Larsen says her host family in Denver belonged to a fundamentalist church that denounced Jews, Muslims, homosexuals and others. Larsen, who was raised secular, says she was made to go to the church 10 hours a week, and that it "brainwashed" her and pressured her to join. When her placement counselor ignored her pleas for help, she turned to CSFES.

"I felt like my whole life was totally falling apart," said Larsen, of Copenhagen, whose experience left her so traumatized that she has been seeing a psychologist. "In two days, Danielle got me out."

...Grijalva says exchange agencies often bring students to the U.S. without first securing host families for them, leading to hasty, ill-advised placements like the ones in northeastern Pennsylvania. And many agencies require students to first approach their local coordinators with problems, threatening them with repatriation if they seek outside help...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tri-City fired administrators "obsessive" about seeking information

Soon both the public and the Tri-City Seven should know the results of the investigation by Tri-City Healthcare.

See all posts on this subject HERE.

Fired hospital executives file suit against Tri-City district, officials
By Keith Darcé
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
July 21, 2009

OCEANSIDE — A group of former Tri-City Medical Center executives has sued the public health district that operates the hospital and four of its board members for more than $7 million, claiming the administrators were wrongly fired and defamed.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Vista Superior Court, is the latest salvo in a battle that started Dec. 18 when a newly elected majority of the Tri-City Healthcare District placed nine administrators on leave and launched an investigation into hospital finances and operations...

The other executives received no severance pay; board members said those executives were fired for reasons allowed under their employment contracts.

The lawsuit names seven plaintiffs: Allen Coleman, former vice president of business and development; Robert Wardwell, former vice president and chief financial officer; Doreen Sanderson, vice president of human relations; Suellyn Ellerbe, vice president, chief operating officer and chief nurse executive; Terry Howell, vice president of performance improvement; Ondrea Labella, director of patient accounting; and Daniel Groszkruger, director of legal services.

The suit targets the district and the four board members who made up the new voting majority that orchestrated the dismissals: Kathleen Sterling, RoseMarie Reno, Charlene Anderson and George Coulter. Larry Anderson, the district's current administrator, also is listed as a defendant...

San Diego attorney Tom Tosdal, who represents Sterling, said his client and the other board members are being targeted because critics perceive them as being more friendly to unions representing hospital workers.

All four of the board members received campaign contributions from the unions during their election campaigns last fall.

“I think this is more of a continuation of the labor union battles,” Tosdal said...

OCEANSIDE: Three months pass with no word on Tri-City probe
North County Times
March 21, 2009

The Tri-City Medical Center board has spent several hours in a series of closed-session meetings over the last three weeks, but has released no new information on the fate of eight hospital administrators who have spent the past three months on paid administrative leave.

...Devaney said her clients have been "obsessive" about gleaning whatever information they can, either through reports in the press or by keeping their ears to the ground, about the investigation.

She said few have spent much time relaxing during their three-month involuntary hiatus.

"They've been making their own public records requests," Devaney said. "They've all been in the hospital in twos and threes looking at records."...

California threatened with loss of funds if it doesn't use test scores in evaluating teachers

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has singled out as “ridiculous” California’s law dealing with the use of test scores in the evaluation of teachers.
California threatened with loss of funds if it doesn't use test scores in evaluating teachers
By Jason Felch and Jason Song
Education Week
July 24, 2009

California could lose out on millions of federal education dollars unless legislators change a law that prevents it from using student test scores to measure teachers' performance, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is expected to announce in a speech today.

California has among the worst records of any state in collecting and using data to evaluate teachers and schools.

Moreover, a 2006 law that created a teacher database explicitly prohibited the use of student test scores to hold teachers accountable on a statewide basis, although it did not mention local districts.

Only a few of the state's nearly 1,000 districts evaluate teachers by using their students' scores, though a dozen more are considering such moves, according to state officials. Los Angeles Unified, the state's largest, does not grade teachers based on student performance.

Data-driven school reform is a major focus of the Obama administration's education policies.

Duncan, who has repeatedly chastised states with similar laws, plans to withhold some economic stimulus money from those states, according to an advance text of his speech to be given today at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington.

Money from the administration's Race to the Top fund, about $4.35 billion, is intended to help states boost reform efforts at a time when most are facing severe budget cutbacks...

Even if Henry Louis Gates' Arresting Officer Is Right, He Was Wrong

The wisdom in this story also applies to teachers who get a little too hot under the collar when children get cranky.

Even if Henry Louis Gates' Arresting Officer Is Right, He Was Wrong
July 24, 2009
By Robert Schlesinger
US News and World Report

Assume for a moment that Cambridge Police Officer James Crowley is telling the absolute truth in his incident report and subsequent press appearances and that Henry Louis Gates is lying about the events that led to the Harvard professor's arrest. Assume for a moment that when Crowley showed up at Gates' home, Gates was belligerent, angry, immediately started in on race and racism and made a "your mama" comment. Assume that he spouted inanities to the effect that Crowley didn't know who he was "messing" with. Assume that when Crowley, satisfied that Gates did in fact live in the home and so was in fact not burglarizing it, started to leave Gates kept yelling at him.

Even if all of that is true ... Crowley was still wrong arresting Gates. "The professor at any time could have resolved the issue by quieting down and/or going back inside the house," Crowley said in a radio interview. Maybe so. But Crowley could also have resolved by rolling his eyes at the cranky--but not criminal--professor, getting back in his car and driving away...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blackwater Biography: Erik Prince, Master of War

After reading the first chapter of Master of War by CNN producer Suzanne Simons, I'm already an admirer of Erik Prince, a man who designed his own life from an early age. It seems that he incorporated his parents' conservative values into his life plan, rather than being drawn into any plan of his parents. I am also terrified of Mr. Prince. His personality seems to consist almost entirely of driving ambition, with little room left for contemplation.

The first sentence of Suzanne Simons book is, "Erik Prince's body bounced off the hood of the North Carolina Parks Development pickup truck before vanishing over a steep embankment next to a mountain road." The story goes on to prove that nothing gives this man pause.

Master of War
By Suzanne Simons
Introduction by publisher:

The name Blackwater, the world's largest private military contractor, became infamous early in the Iraq War, when four of its men were seized by a mob in Fallujah, murdered, and hung from a bridge for the world to see. Since then, Blackwater has expanded dramatically; its men have been involved in major scandals, including a shooting spree in Iraq that has now caused the Iraqi government to blacklist the company...

He publicly reassures everyone that Blackwater only works for the U.S., and would never become a mercenary organization for other governments, yet he has another entire company dedicated to doing just that...

In addition, he has a private spying company, run by former top CIA men, employing extraordinarily sensitive methods and technical sophistication, for rent by any interested party...

He has given Suzanne Simons hours of interviews; access to his staff; invitations to join him on trips to Afghanistan; and more. He is a fascinating figure, part deeply conservative, evangelical patriot; part rebellious, go-it-alone kingpin. He is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and his companies are worth billions. His empire dwarfs all of its competitors, to such a degree that even if the military wanted to wash its hands of him, they wouldn't be able to replace him.

Getting a masters degree does not help a teacher be a better teacher

Teacher Compensation for Master’s Degrees
Center on Reinventing Public Education
July 2009
Marguerite Roza, Raegen Miller

...the practice of paying a teacher with a master’s degree more than an otherwise identical teacher with only a bachelor’s degree. The long-cherished “master’s bump” makes little sense from a strategic point of view.

On average, master’s degrees in education bear no relation to student achievement...

Friday, July 17, 2009

New defamation lawsuit: COUNCIL FOR EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL, USA v. Danielle Grijalva

Oceanside student advocate Danielle Grijalva has been sued by an Orange County exchange-student organization that doesn't like Grijalva's website because it reveals mistreatment of foreign students. Here's a copy of an email Grijalva sent to Jim Gelbmann, who is also interested in student safety.


Jim Gelbmann
Minnesota Deputy Secretary of State

With great interest we listened to your interview yesterday with Mr. Don Shelby of WCCO Radio:

Attached you will find a Summons served Sunday, July 12; COUNCIL FOR EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL, USA, a non-profit corporation v. Danielle Grijalva; Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students; and DOES 1-20, Inclusive.

The Complaint for Damages; Slander Per Se; Libel; Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary and Permanent; Injunction; Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage.

Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052

See all posts re Danielle Grijalva.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

US and Pennsylvania embarrassed by hosts who mistreated exchange students

Danielle Grijalva of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CFES) sent me this story.

Exchange students live American nightmare
July 15, 2009
By Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston
CNN Special Investigations Unit

They came from around the world hoping to spend a high school year immersed in the culture and joys of America.

Instead, five young foreign exchange students found themselves caught in a nightmare of neglect, malnourishment and abandonment by those supposed to protect them.

Now those five -- natives of countries stretching from Norway to Tanzania to Colombia -- are back home telling friends of a different America than they expected. And their brief visit reverberates in America as a United States senator demands accountability and reform, a Pennsylvania district attorney seeks criminal charges and the U.S. State Department concedes it failed to protect kids coming to America...

Meanwhile, Tanzanian student Musa Mpulki has since returned home. Before he left, he told CNN he did not want to upset his mother, so he never told her that he had little to eat during his nine-month stay in the home of a 72-year-old man who had signs on his refrigerator that some food was only for family.

Although his housing situation was a nightmare, Mpulki said the students at the school made him appreciate America, and he said he appreciated the State Department grant that brought him to the United States.

"I guess I like to say, 'Thank you very much the government of the United States for to bring me here to get a good experience at the school and a good education.' "

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Parks and Recreation worker Nguyen settles for $450,000 with City of San Diego

Parks worker OKs settling sex, bias suit
By Craig Gustafson
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
July 11, 2009

A Park and Recreation Department employee who accused a supervisor of sexual harassment and sexual assault over a three-year period has agreed to settle her lawsuit against San Diego for $450,000...

Hoa Nguyen, 52, a grounds maintenance supervisor from Mira Mesa, filed the lawsuit last year, accusing her boss of sexual harassment, ethnic discrimination and repeated sexual assaults from February 2004 to March 2007.

Her boss, Angel Prado, 53, of Logan Heights resigned shortly after Nguyen leveled the allegations, said Deputy City Attorney Kristin Zlotnik, who handled the case. Prado said the two had a consensual sexual relationship but denied any wrongdoing, Zlotnik said.

Both Prado and Nguyen were married to other people at the time.

Nguyen, who has worked for the city since 1994, also sought criminal charges against Prado. The District Attorney's Office investigated but did not file any charges, Zlotnik said...

Zlotnik also said the city filed a cross-complaint against Prado, and he agreed to pay $5,000 toward any settlement...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lawyer Marc Dreier sentenced to 20 years for $700 million fraud

Lawyer Gets 20 Years in $700 Million Fraud
July 13, 2009

Marc S. Dreier, once a high-flying New York lawyer who orchestrated an elaborate fraud scheme that bilked hedge funds and other investors of $700 million, was sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison by a judge who rejected the government’s request for a much longer sentence.

...the judge, Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court... ...ordered that Mr. Dreier pay $388 million in restitution and forfeit $746 million in criminal proceeds.

In carrying out his scheme, Mr. Dreier ...created phony financial statements and accounting documents, and paid people to impersonate others to trick prospective investors into believing the notes were genuine.

Mr. Dreier’s case exploded into public view in December, when he was arrested in Toronto after trying to impersonate an employee of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in an attempt to sell a fake note for millions of dollars.

Prosecutors have also said that Mr. Dreier, 59, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, stole more than $46 million from his clients...

Mesa College fires award-winning coach and partner for being lesbians

National Center for Lesbian Rights Files Title IX Retaliation Lawsuit on Behalf of Former Basketball Coaches
Lawsuit alleges gender and sexual orientation discrimination at San Diego Mesa College

San Diego, CA,
July 24, 2008

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Boxer & Gerson, LLP and Stock Stephens, LLP filed a lawsuit today in state court in San Diego, California on behalf of Lorri Sulpizio, the former Head Coach of the women’s basketball team at San Diego Mesa College (Mesa), and Cathy Bass, the former Director of Basketball Operations at Mesa. The complaint alleges that, despite Sulpizio’s and Bass’s dedication and demonstrated track record of success leading the women’s basketball program at the community college, Mesa officials unlawfully fired both coaches at the end of the 2007 academic year after they spoke out about the unequal treatment of female athletes and women coaches and following publication in a local paper of an article identifying them as domestic partners...

The complaint alleges that Mesa officials retaliated against Sulpizio and Bass for repeatedly raising concerns about unequal treatment of female athletes and faculty, as well as discriminating against them and ultimately firing them based on their gender and sexual orientation. The complaint names Mesa Athletic Director Dave Evans, San Diego Mesa College, and the San Diego Community College District as defendants...

Lorri Sulpizio served as Head Coach of the Mesa women’s basketball team for five years, from 2002-2007, after spending three years as an Assistant Coach and then a year as Interim Head Coach. She regularly led the team to championship play at tournaments, and secured high-level finishes in Pacific Coast Conference Championship tournaments in several seasons. The Mesa women’s basketball team won first place in the 2001-2002 season and third place in both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. Under Sulpizio’s leadership, 50 percent of student-athletes from the women’s basketball team went on to four-year schools, which was higher than the average from Mesa’s other athletic teams. Also, more of Mesa women’s basketball student-athletes advanced to play ball at four-year colleges and more completed Bachelor’s degrees than the average from other San Diego community colleges.

Cathy Bass began working at Mesa as Assistant Coach to the women’s basketball team in 1999, and was appointed as an adjunct faculty member and made Director of Basketball Operations for the team in 2006. In that capacity, she was an integral part of the successful women’s basketball program at Mesa.

Lorri Sulpizio and Cathy Bass are registered domestic partners in the State of California, and together they have three children.

See full complaint.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Clyde Spencer was not the Vancouver father of the year, but not a child molester either

Kids Recant Abuse After Dad Serves Time
July 12, 2009

Former Vancouver police officer Clyde Ray Spencer spent nearly 20 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually molesting his son and daughter. Now, the children say it never happened.

Matthew Spencer and Kathryn Tetz, who live in Sacramento, Calif., each took the stand Friday in Clark County Superior Court to clear their father's name, The Columbian newspaper reported.

Matthew, now 33, was 9 years old at the time. He told a judge he made the allegation after months of insistent questioning by now-retired Clark County sheriff's detective Sharon Krause just so she would leave him alone.

Tetz, 30, said she doesn't remember what she told Krause back in 1985, but she remembers Krause buying her ice cream. She said that when she finally read the police reports she was "absolutely sure" the abuse never happened.

"I would have remembered something that graphic, that violent," Tetz said.
Spencer's sentence was commuted by then-Gov. Gary Locke in 2004 after questions arose about his conviction. Among other problems, prosecutors withheld medical exams that showed no evidence of abuse, even though Krause claimed the abuse was repeated and violent....

Krause declined an interview request from The Columbian in 2005 and could not be reached Friday, the newspaper reported.

Both children said that while growing up in California they were told by their mother, who divorced Spencer before he was charged, that they were blocking out the memory of the abuse.

They said they realized as adults the abuse never happened, and they came forward because it was the right thing to do.

Prosecutors aren't yet conceding that Spencer was wrongly convicted. Senior deputy prosecutor Kim Farr grilled the children about why they are so certain they weren't abused, and chief criminal deputy prosecutor Dennis Hunter said that if the convictions are tossed, his office might appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Matthew Spencer said his father had ruined the relationship with his mother and he had faults, "but none of them were molesting children."...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Teacher Charged With Attempted Murder for Beating Student

Teacher Charged With Attempted Murder
AOL News
July 10, 2009

A popular science teacher at an English Catholic school has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly beating a 14-year-old student on the head with a metal weight, British media said Friday.

Peter Harvey, 49, allegedly "snapped" and attacked Jack Waterhouse before a packed classroom at the All Saints Roman Catholic Comprehensive School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, The Telegraph reported.

Peter Harvey, a popular science teacher at a Catholic school in Nottinghamshire, England, was charged with attempted murder Friday for allegedly beating a student on the head with a metal object. Media reports said Harvey, 49, allegedly snapped and attacked 14-year-old Jack Waterhouse, right, after another student swore in class.

Harvey apparently lost control Wednesday after a student swore during a physics lesson. According to some accounts, Jack tried to intervene. Harvey allegedly picked up a metal measuring weight and began beating Jack on the head.

Two other pupils, a boy and girl, tried to come to Jack's aid and suffered minor injuries, the reports said.

Police and paramedics called to the scene found Jack lying in a pool of blood. The teenager was hospitalized in serious but stable condition Friday, the BBC said.

"Obviously, the whole class is traumatized. People send their children here from great distances because of its academic record and what happened is very much out of character for the school," Nottinghamshire Police Detective Superintendent Adrian Pearson told The Times of London newspaper.

Harvey, who is married and has two daughters at the school, had recently returned to work after being on sick leave for a stress-related condition, the Daily Mail said.
Former students described Harvey as an excellent teacher who was very popular with his pupils.

"I was never a fan of science, so it was a miracle I had Mr. Harvey. He's absolutely hilarious and inspires confidence in even the least scientifically minded," one wrote on the Rate My Teacher Web site.

Others wrote that Harvey made class fun and that "no other science teacher could compare."

"He was the best," one grad wrote.

Friday, July 10, 2009

SDCOE, Lora Duzyk complaint against this blogger dismissed

Photo: Lora Duzyk, San Diego County Office of Education Assistant Superintendent. Duzyk retaliated against this blogger for trying to serve a deposition subpoena on Dianne Crosier.

SDCOE didn't like it when I attempted to serve SDCOE Risk Management director Diane Crosier with a deposition subpoena. So they tried to get a restraining order against me.

I was never served with any papers, but a friend of mine noticed the filing when it appeared on the Internet. Today I went down to the court records office to see the complaint that San Diego County Office of Education filed against me on February 24, 2009.

SDCOE's request for restraining order was dismissed immediately by the court.

The court is generally quite accommodating to public agencies, but couldn't stomach such a blatant attempt to harass me and deprive me of access to the justice system. SDCOE claimed to be afraid I would harm them physically. The truth is that Randolph Ward, Lora Duzyk and Dianne Crosier are furious that I have exposed their wrongdoing on my website, and are terrified of the prospect that I might be allowed to depose them.

Diane Crosier is a lawyer who knows it's unethical to intimidate litigants, but she apparently figured she had to do something. My website includes details of the close relationship between Diane Crosier and a defamation lawsuit against me. Public entities are not allowed to sue for defamation, but Crosier went ahead and gave tax money to support the lawsuit. She arranged to pay tax dollars to the firm that is suing me for defamation to prepare a restraining order against me!

The SDCOE complaint has a wealth of entertaining information.

In the request, Lora Duzyk estimates that I am 5'5". That sounds more like Duzyk's height. I am several inches taller.

Ms. Duzyk estimates my weight at 280 pounds! For the record, I am several inches taller than Ms. Duzyk, and about 30 pounds heavier. I guess that makes Lora about 250 pounds. Quite a tubby lady, aren't you, Lora? We've really got to do something about our weight problems. How about we start an exercise program? We could do some heavy lifting of all the public records that SDCOE refuses to release.

A lot of things could be explained by simply saying that SDCOE committed perjury in its restraining order request. But let's assume that they didn't.

Why did they wait so long to file the request after my server and I tried to serve Dianne Crosier with a deposition subpoena?

They claimed to be afraid of me, but apparently the fear only began on February 20, 2009, the date of a summary judgment decision. It sounds like strategy, not fear. It looks like very aggressive litigation tactics by SDCOE and its lawyers.

Note: Lora Duzyk is on the board of Mission Federal Credit Union (MFCU).

Rating adults on integrity, creativity will supplement GRE scores

New Index Will Score Graduate Students' Personality Traits
By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 10, 2009

The Educational Testing Service wanted to help graduate school applicants prove they are more than a set of test scores. So it developed a tool to rate students across a broad sweep of traits -- creativity, teamwork, integrity -- that admission tests don't measure.

The Personal Potential Index, unveiled this week, looks suspiciously like another set of scores. An applicant's personality is distilled into six traits, and the applicant is rated on each of them by various professors and former supervisors on a scale of 1 to 5...

The index asks professors to log onto a Web site and rate a student on such skills as "Works well in group settings" and "Accepts feedback without getting defensive." The scale is tailored to force tough choices: Is the student in the top 1 percent of "truly exceptional" human beings, in the top 5 percent of outstanding scholars or merely above average?

Responses are converted into numerical scores, then averaged into ratings in knowledge and creativity, communication skills, teamwork, resilience, planning and organization, and ethics and integrity. Each applicant also gets an overall rating.

Paul Karrer, who graduated from American University in May with a master's degree in public policy, said the index sounds like an improvement over the tradition of collecting letters from professors...

Judge stands his ground: SDCOE, Randolph Ward and Diane Crosier will not get new trial in Rodger Hartnett case

Judge Denies New Trial in County Schools Case
Voice of San Diego
July 10, 2009

After delaying his decision in May, a Superior Court judge has decided that the San Diego County Office of Education cannot get a new trial in the case of Rodger Hartnett, a former employee who alleges that he was fired for blowing the whistle on conflicts of interest in the agency.

The same judge ruled in March that Hartnett was entitled to be reinstated at his job with back pay because an Office of Education commission failed to properly investigate Hartnett's claims. County Office of Education attorney Steven Cologne had not seen the ruling, but said the office would plan to appeal it, which would prevent Hartnett from returning to work or getting his backpay while the case continues.

Cologne said that Denton also ruled that Hartnett was not entitled to have his attorneys' fees repaid by the County Office of Education. I haven't seen that ruling yet.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ain't democracy great? Leslie Devaney circumvents need for majority at Murrietta city council

"By creating her own motion, City Attorney Leslie Devaney said, Bennett created a path to approve the project with a majority of the quorum, rather than a majority of the entire body."

T-Mobile tower approved; Two of three council members vote for enhanced cell coverage

MURRIETA ---- Ten months after the project was proposed, the Murrieta City Council approved plans to construct a 50-foot T-Mobile cellular tower at the Date Street Plaza.

Councilwoman Kelly Bennett and Councilman Rick Gibbs voted to approve the tower, and Mayor Gary Thomasian voted against it at Tuesday night's council meeting.

The approval paves the way for the cell company to build the tower, which will be designed to look like a clock tower, over a trash enclosure in the shopping center at Date Street and Margarita Road. The tower will have room to include Verizon antennas, and possibly a third cell carrier, and is expected to improve the cell reception of thousands of customers in the area.

Only three members of the council were eligible to vote on the project because the other two are or had been employed by Verizon.

City staff members recommended the project be approved and drafted a resolution for the council to pass. Had the council members voted on that resolution, state law requires that all three would have had to vote yes for the project to be approved.

At a meeting last month, however, it became apparent that T-Mobile had an uphill climb to gain approval from all three when Thomasian made it clear that he was not inclined to support the project.

After the time reserved for members of the public to comment on the issue, Thomasian called for a five-minute break.

When the meeting resumed, Councilwoman Kelly Bennett read into the record her own seven-part motion to approve the project. By creating her own motion, City Attorney Leslie Devaney said, Bennett created a path to approve the project with a majority of the quorum, rather than a majority of the entire body.

"It was a motion not based on a resolution," Devaney said. "By her doing it that way and formulating on the spot her findings and facts, our interpretation of state law is that it requires only two (out of the three) votes."

Mayor Gary Thomasian, who cast the no vote, said Wednesday that he was not expecting Bennett's move, but was not upset over how the hearing transpired...

Thomasian's issues with the project paralleled the concerns of some 50 residents who signed a petition opposing the tower, and the position of an association governing the plaza's tenants. Those opposed said the tower would block the mountain views of people who live in the area and that it would stand well above the tallest homes, which are 36 feet tall.

Their points were countered by some 100 people, who signed a petition in favor of the project, and a representative of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said strong cell reception is paramount to public safety and that the tower would give the neighborhood its own identity...

"The city did what the city did and we'll see what happens when the next election comes up," [David] Castiglioni said. "Hopefully, that (plaza governing) association states that no cell tower is allowed."

White country club folks renege on agreement to allow black and brown kids to use their pool in Pennsylvania

UPDATE July 13, 2009: The swim club in the story below now wants to make amends. They realized it would be classier to go ahead and honor their contract to allow 90 black and Hispanic kids to use their pool for an hour and a half a week for a few weeks than to abruptly cancel the agreement upon seeing the kids. Member Amy Goldman apparently explained this to the directors. But will the kids want to come back? Silvia Carvalho says no. Her nine-year-old daughter Araceli "has already said so. She doesn't want people to look at her the same way." --from Huffington Post

Also see NBC News

Here's a thoughtful analysis of what happened:
By Ronnie Polaneczky
Philadelphia Daily News

Obviously, there might be less here than meets the eye. Having seen The Valley Club, I can say that its pool is a good size, but not huge. Perhaps 65 children entering the pool, en masse, does indeed overwhelm its quiet feel.

So, maybe race, for some members, has nothing to do with why Creative Steps was kicked out.

Maybe they're just greedy.

Maybe they're just too greedy to give up 90 minutes per week - just 90 lousy minutes - to make 65 children happy for the summer.

Maybe they're too greedy to say, "This camp thing isn't working the way we'd hoped. But let's ride it out, just for this year."

Y'know, for the kids.

Private Pool Bans Minority Campers

July 9, 2009

Members and officials of a private swimming pool in a predominantly white Philadelphia suburb reacted to a visiting group of minority children by asking them not to return and pulling other kids out of the water, a day camp director said, and the state is investigating.

The Creative Steps camp in northeast Philadelphia had contracted for the 65 children at the day camp to go each Monday afternoon to The Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley, camp director Alethea Wright said Thursday. But shortly after they arrived June 29, she said, some black and Hispanic children reported hearing racial comments.

View more news videos at:

"A couple of the children ran down saying, 'Miss Wright, Miss Wright, they're up there saying, "What are those black kids doing here?'''" she said.

The gated club is on a leafy hillside in a village that straddles two townships with overwhelmingly white populations. It says it has a diverse, multiethnic membership.
Wright said she went to talk to a group of members at the top of the hill and heard one woman say she would see to it that the group, made of up of children in kindergarten through seventh grade, did not return.

"Some of the members began pulling their children out of the pool and were standing around with their arms folded," Wright said. "Only three members left their children in the pool with us."

Several days later, the club refunded the camp's $1,950 without explanation, said Wright, who added that some parents are "weighing their options" on legal action...

Club president John Duesler told Philadelphia television station WTXF that several club members complained because the children "fundamentally changed the atmosphere" at the pool but that the complaints didn't involve race.

In a statement released on its Web site Thursday afternoon, the club called the allegations of racial discrimination "completely untrue" and claimed overcrowding from more than one outside camp was the problem.

The club said it "deplores discrimination."

[Maura Larkins comment: That's easy to say, and obviously false. If the club deplored discrimination, it would not have done what it did.]

...Amy Goldman said she's been a member of the club for two years. She said the pool wasn't particularly crowded and the children from Creative Steps were "well behaved and respectful."...

Motion hearing at San Diego Superior Court this Friday in Jade Ray v. Heather Hargett and Grossmont GUHSD

UPDATE: The tentative decision in this matter has been released on the evening of July 9, 2009. Heather Hargett, Ben Smith and Steve Cooper have been ordered to answer on or before July 24, 2009 deposition questions that they refused to answer on May 26, 27 and 28, 2009.

Photo: Mount Miguel student Jade Ray

Here's a photo
of Heather Hargett.

Note to the Grossmont Union High School District board and Heather Hargett:
You need to do some thinking about three things: respect for all students, race, and how these two things affect student achievement. Take responsibility. Don't just leave the decision-making up to SDCOE-JPA's lawyers.

If think this case is a distraction to the work of education, they are wrong. The GUHSD boarde should read about how the testing gap between white and black students was all but eliminated when Obama at peak. How students feels about themselves directly affects their performance.

It's uncouth and unprofessional for a teacher to lead the class in ridiculing a fourteen-year-old girl for being "ugly". But this case wasn't just any teacher and any student. If a black woman had said the same words to Jade, it would not have had the same impact. I notice that Heather Hargett is very blond. Here's a photo of Heather Hargett. If her hair color has been chemically enhanced, I have to wonder if Hargett thinks blond is pretty and dark is not so pretty. I have to wonder if she revealed more of herself than she intended. I can understand why Jade never went back to Mount Miguel High School. She felt like Aracely Carvalho who was ejected from a Pennsylvania swim club, which later reversed its decision. She "doesn't want people to look at her" with the same contempt ever again in her life.

I have learned one thing as I have studied court cases in California schools. An award-winning music teacher can get away with just about anything. One such teacher got away with physically assaulting a student for being out of uniform at the Rose Parade. Schools seem to care about appearances more than they care about what students are learning.

A recent San Diego Union Tribune article about a high school girl who is suing a teacher for kicking her and telling her to leave the room because she was too ugly to deliver singing telegrams on Valentine's Day brought on an onslaught of comments from people defending the teacher.

I believe that many teachers need a more positive attitude toward children in general. Just because a teacher has a few teacher's pets isn't good enough. Every child should be treated with respect.

Here are some snippets of the pro-teacher comments that were posted regarding Leonel Sanchez' story about teacher Heather Hargett and student Jade Ray of Grossmont Union High School District. The consensus of these people seems to be that there are no abusive teachers, because if there were the school would have done something about it:

"With 50 witnesses and 5 months passed, I have to suspect this would have come out a long time ago if the story was as outrageous as the student is claiming..."

"The story seems pretty un-believable really. It will be interesting for sure when the facts really come out. With so many eye witnesses, I can hardly believe that the child would dare make something up but who knows in this day and age..."

"...So she was embarrassed, so what- who is high school wasnt?"

"...The girl suing should be counter sued and if she is givin money, it should only go to fix her "ugly" attribute..."

"Freddieboy, if that were my WIFE on the receiving end of a false complaint that could ruin her career, that kid AND her parent(s) would be getting a lot more than a lawsuit."

[Note from Blogger: Don't worry. If schools fired teachers for being hostile and disrespectful, there would be a teacher-shortage of huge proportions. That won't happen.]

On the other hand, two people supported the student:

"I had a high school physics teacher who always singled me out to embarrass me in front of the class... I finally walked out when one time he said, "gosh, your parents must be really ashamed."... I hope the kid wins."

"The teacher should have been Fired and the School Board should've addressed the situation with her parents promptly to ensure she went back to that school. This is a story of just a poor educational system."

[Blogger's note: I think ALL teachers need to be supported more--and challenged more--to help them behave maturely in the classroom. I know there are lots of teachers who are more abusive than this one. This situation sounds familiar to me; a lot of teachers get socialized into girl-clique attitudes. The cliques form on teaching staffs and even in classrooms. This sounds like a typical "mean girls" moment. I'll bet there were sycophant students who laughed with glee when the girl was (literally) kicked out.

Maura's advice to Heather Hargett: We've come a long way in race relations, but there's plenty of sensitivity and actual racism today, so it might be a good idea not to call your black students "ugly". You're in a particularly bad position, being blond and attractive. It's not a big stretch for us to imagine that you really do believe that you're prettier than Jade. Just for the record, you're not.]

Here's the court calendar information for this case:
07/10/09 10:00AM C-63 CV Vargas, Luis R. Motion Hearing 37-2008-00087380-CU-NP-CTL D)Heather Hargett Daniel R. Shinoff

Why is school reform happening so slowly?

Why is school reform happening so slowly? Because those is control aren't thinkers and explorers; they have a clerk mentality. Every day, everyone and everything should be in the same place it was in the day before. That's the philosophy of most teachers and administrators.

This is not true of all teachers and educators, but it's the pervasive ethos of the profession.

The problem with most educators is that they are not in a learning mode. They like to have their system controlled, wrapped-up, routine, smooth, always the same. They don't like uncertainty, experimentation, open discussion, exploration. They like hierarchy and top-down decision-making, and uniformity. This is true of most union leaders as well as most administrators. They don't believe in democracy. They think students and parents should be required to jump through their idiosyncratic hoops before the kids are considered worthy of educating.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Lori Richards, Director of SEC Inspections Office, Resigns after Failing to Uncover Madoff Fraud

Director of SEC Inspections Office Resigns
By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009

A senior Securities and Exchange Commission official who oversaw an office that conducted key probes of Bernard L. Madoff's business is resigning, following a period when the agency reevaluated how it conducts oversight of brokers and investment advisers.

Lori A. Richards is stepping down after 14 years as director of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, which has come under scrutiny for its role in the SEC's monitoring of Madoff's business. Her office reviewed his firm at least three times, in 1999, 2004 and 2005, without finding the multibillion-dollar fraud he was conducting.

With Richards' departure, SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro will soon have installed her own people in nearly all the top positions at the embattled agency. Early in her tenure, she asked enforcement director Linda Thomsen to leave and hired Robert Khuzami, a former federal prosecutor focused on white-collar crimes in New York, as a replacement...

Lack of funds may cut disabled services after non-profit Central Valley Regional Center divvies up half a million dollars in bonuses among staff

Who are the beneficiaries of non-profits supposed to be? I'll bet the donors thought they were helping the disabled.

Disabled community questions pay bonuses during crisis
By GARANCE BURKE - Associated Press
July 7, 2009

FRESNO ---- Advocates for the developmentally disabled railed Tuesday against a California nonprofit's decision to pay its staff half a million dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses even as the state's fiscal crisis threatens the services they manage.

The Fresno-based Central Valley Regional Center
coordinates training and support for 230,000 people with mental disabilities through a contract with the state Department of Developmental Services.

Last week, center officials sent out $500,000 in state funds to its 350 employees. Executive Director Robert Riddick said giving an extra $1,400 to each staffer will help retain social workers as the recession worsens.

But Democratic Sen. Dean Florez and others said that money should have been spent to protect services essential to people with autism and cerebral palsy, or be returned to the state.

"We're not saying that their staff don't deserve raises ---- our staffers would love a raise, too," said Ron Killingsworth, who represents the Central Valley Caucus of the California Disability Services Association. "But to spend half a million dollars on employee bonuses when we're facing huge cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled? We just don't understand."

California contracts with 21 regional centers across the state that provide everything from job training to physical therapy to specialized education for developmentally disabled people.

But in February, when the Legislature failed to pass a plan to fix California's budget deficit, all regional centers were forced to trim 3 percent from their own budgets.

The governor's latest budget proposal forecasts an additional $234 million in cuts for the fiscal year that began Wednesday.

Because the Fresno nonprofit managed to lower its costs without affecting client care, board members voted in June to use the $500,000 left over in last year's operations budget to give staffers a one-time salary adjustment, Riddick said.

"The board knew full well that our clients were taken care of, so they turned to the future of our 350 employees and the increased health care costs they'll be facing," Riddick said. "Also, we don't have a severance package for people, and we know there are tough times ahead."

[Maura Larkins' comment: Then why didn't you come up with a severance package? Don't use that as an excuse to give money to employees who will be kept on.]

Still, company officials at Visalia-based Able Industries, which trains developmentally disabled people to work, said they feared the next wave of budget cuts could force them to scale back their direct services.

If that happens, relatives of people with developmental disabilities said the impact could be devastating.

"They're giving their employees bonuses at a time when the disability community doesn't know if they're going to have a safety net at the end of the week," said Chuck Genseal of Madera, whose 9-year-old granddaughter has autism, and learned to communicate through pictures because of behavioral services coordinated through the nonprofit. "They should have turned that money back to the state of California."

Report: States aren't using stimulus funds as intended

Report: States aren't using stimulus funds as intended
July 8, 2009
By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY

Under pressure to spend stimulus money quickly, many states are using the federal funds for short-term projects and to fill budget gaps rather than spending on long-term improvements, according to a report by congressional investigators.

The report, scheduled to be released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) at a House oversight hearing... Some states, for example, are not sending transportation funding to the most economically distressed areas, and they are using education funds to prevent layoffs rather than fund innovative new programs, the report says.

As required by the $787 billion stimulus law, the GAO is monitoring stimulus spending in 16 states and the District of Columbia that will receive two-thirds of the federal funds...

The report says that as of mid-June, states had received about $29 billion of the estimated $49 billion in stimulus funding...

Some Democrats, such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, have raised the prospect of a second stimulus package. In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, President Obama said improving the economy is "something we wrestle with constantly" but did not say whether he would support a second spending package.

The stimulus law requires states to give priority to transportation projects in economically distressed areas...

Nearly half of the $15.9 billion worth of transportation projects underway nationwide are for resurfacing or other pavement improvements, and an additional 17% are for widening existing roads, the report says. That's because paving projects can start quickly and don't usually require time-consuming environmental studies, the report says.

The report says local school officials told the GAO they did not plan to use stimulus funding for educational reform because they have to spend the money quickly and have more pressing needs. Stimulus money has saved teachers' jobs, including nearly 2,000 in the Miami-Dade school system in Florida, the report says. Education officials in Flint, Mich., said they were using stimulus money to preserve current programs although no new school buildings have been built there in more than 30 years.

[This sounds a lot like what banks did when given stimulus money to create more loans.]

NEA delegate says merit pay is union busting. That's silly. It just makes the union a bigger tent that will include more top-notch teachers

July 7, 2009
NEA, Obama Administration May Not Be in Sync

Education Week
By Stephen Sawchuk

...The day before official business began at the Representative Assembly, nearly 7,000 of the union’s delegates packed into the city’s convention center to listen to Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education.

Beginning a few hours later—after Mr. Duncan had departed for Washington—and throughout the holiday weekend, union delegates proposed and debated resolution after policy resolution on elements of the Obama administration’s emerging education policy agenda.

In other words, this year’s convention, which ended yesterday, was marked by the NEA’s first major attempts at getting a handle on what the administration’s push into sensitive policy areas will mean for the union’s 3.2-million members. Issues on the table for the union, which represents mostly teachers and education-support personnel, include the expansion of charter schools, the “turning around” of low-performing schools, and now with Mr. Duncan’s latest address, structural changes to the way teachers are compensated and evaluated.

In his July 2 speech, the fourth he has given on the “assurances” states must meet in exchange for receiving funding through the economic-stimulus measure, the secretary called on teachers’ unions “to become full partners and leaders in education reform” and to be willing to collaborate with districts to create fair ways of incorporating student-achievement growth into evaluation and pay systems.

“Test scores alone should never drive evaluation, compensation, or tenure decisions. That would never make sense,” Mr. Duncan said. “But to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible.”

In addition, he said that teachers’ unions must be willing to reconsider seniority provisions and rework tenure processes, two hard-won rights that unions have long defended.

“When inflexible seniority and rigid tenure rules that we designed put adults ahead of children, then we are not only putting kids at risk, we’re putting the entire education system at risk. We’re inviting the attack of parents and the public, and that is not good for any of us,” Mr. Duncan said. “I believe that teacher unions are at a crossroads. These policies were created over the past century to protect the rights of teachers, but they have produced an industrial, factory model of education that treats all teachers like interchangeable widgets.”
Performance-Pay Worries

Delegates applauded Secretary Duncan’s calls for continued federal funding for education, better training for administrators, and improved teacher-mentoring experiences. But they booed and hissed when he mentioned tying pay and evaluation to test scores.

Echoing President Barack Obama’s November education speech, Mr. Duncan sought to reassure teachers that he would seek reforms to the teaching profession in collaboration with them. But he also appeared to acknowledge teachers’ hesitancy to engage on some of those issues, especially given the union’s poor relations with the Bush administration.

“You can boo; [but] just don’t throw any shoes, please,” he quipped partway through his speech, to laughter and applause.

During a town hall-style meeting with Mr. Duncan following his remarks, delegates raised concerns about the use of test scores.

“In too many cases, our state boards of education, our local boards of education are not getting that message” that pay programs should be based on multiple measures of teacher performance beyond test scores, one delegate said.

Others were more frank about their dislike for performance-based pay. “Quite frankly, merit pay is union-busting,” said another delegate, to applause from her peers...

School bullying, once a silent battle, now a crime

School bullying, once a silent battle, now a crime

Associated Press
July 6, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. ---- In a Tampa middle school locker room, prosecutors say four flag football players held down a younger teammate and committed a horrifying assault: Raping him with a hockey stick and a broom handle.

"Don't do it again or this is going to happen to you again," a witness says he heard one of the boys say in the April attack.

Two decades ago, the attack may have stayed a secret. Victims of hazing, bullying and sexual assault are still often too terrified to report their attackers ---- though officials say that's starting to change.

Police are called to investigate everything from cyber-bullying and schoolyard fights to brutal hazing rituals, and tormenters can be prosecuted under anti-bullying laws in dozens of states. Proactive parents aren't afraid to confront school officials or take the matter to court, and schools are training students and teachers alike to spot and report bullying...

Thirty-two percent of students ages 12 to 18 nationwide had experienced bullying within the past school year in 2007, according to a report by the U.S. Education Department and the U.S. Justice Department. That number was slightly higher than the year before ---- though officials say it's not because bullying is more frequent, but because it's more often reported.

Parents are taking more action as well, including filing more lawsuits.

"The reason it's picking up momentum is not necessarily the frequency of the bullying, but the manner in which people are engaging in bullying," said Joe Braun, a Cincinnati attorney who sued on behalf of the family of a high school basketball player attacked by three teammates while waiting for a bus to take them to practice in Milford, Ohio. "It's starting to become more physical, more sexual, and it's not just emotional bullying like we've seen in the past."

According to the lawsuit, the teens held the boy on the ground and punched him in the stomach. One of them exposed himself and rubbed his genitals on the boy's face.

Other accusations of particularly cruel incidents have led to lawsuits and criminal charges. In South Florida, two high school students have been charged with stalking and battery for allegedly restraining a freshman in the school locker room. One of the teens admitted he did "pretend to rape him," according to a police affidavit.

And a school district in Bakersfield along with several students and their parents, paid $260,000 to settle a lawsuit after debate team members encased a younger student in plastic wrap and tape in a hotel room before a competition.

The Tampa case has stunned the region for its brutality, the young age of the four students accused and the fact it happened on school grounds. Equally surprising were the characteristics of the accused: One is the son of a police officer, and several are promising athletes and students who took honors classes....

[Maura Larkins comment: Football players are often involved in bullying. In San Diego, an almost identical incident happened in Poway. Santana High School experienced a shooting that killed two students. Friends of the shooter said he had been bullied by athletes. The parents of the victims asked the district to have a conference about school violence, but the school refused. Not surprisingly, athletes continued their bullying, as in the Clark-Schirmer case. At Columbine a bullying culture among athletes continued after bullied boys killed thirteen people.]

The bullying had gone on for months, officials said, unbeknownst to the boys' coach, school administrators and the victim's parents, until the teen finally snapped.

Assistant State Attorney Kimberly Hindman said at a June hearing that the boys were fighting after a botched play during a flag football game. A school official intervened when the feud spilled into the locker room, and the teen later said he was "tired of them getting on me."

...[T]here are witnesses, independent eyewitnesses, who saw the acts taking place. Some of those witnesses will describe the victim screaming when it was happening. Fighting them and he told them to stop."

The suspects' families have expressed a combination of shock, denial and support.

"I just don't think that he deserved this," one defendant's mother said in court.

"Deserved what?" Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman replied.

"Whatever the accusations that was made
," she said. "I just want him to live a normal life."

The 13-year-old victim, who is not being identified because he was the victim of an alleged sexual assault, said a few words himself before the judge set bond.

Comments from North County Times

...Roxy July 7, 2009 11:23PM PST [Edited by this blogger]

There are many bully stories and lawsuits in SAN DIEGO COUNTY and hardly any if any ever get any press coverage...California school districts are protected by JPA Pools like SELF in which Marsh and McLennan is the Broker, or Keenan and Associates. This schoolhouse lawyer makes millions of dollars from various JPAs. The JPAs’ Pool has over TEN MILLION DOLLARS of PUBLIC FUNDS at their disposal to fight a SINGLE CLAIM against one their insured school districts...




Monday, July 06, 2009

Keeping the riff raff out of the library in Aliso Viejo

I like to drive, so I've taken advantage of all the opportunities that have come my way to drive the length of California and Oregon. (I plan to set out eastward as soon as possible.) I've stopped in libraries in small and large towns in both states, and always was given an opportunity to use a computer.

Until today. I came to Aliso Viejo library, and asked to use a computer.

"Sure," the librarian said. "Right over there."

That was easy, I thought. Usually you have sign something. So I sat down and was faced with a computer screen that asked for my library card number. I looked for the "guest" option, but there wasn't any.

"Do you have to have a library card to use the computer?" I asked the librarian.

She was a real sweet-looking young woman, pretty, with a neat brown pageboy haircut. She smiled at me. "Yes," she said, but all you need is photo ID and proof of address to get one."

I don't have proof of address because I live in San Diego. "You don't allow people without library cards to use the computers?" I asked.

"No," she said.

I was appalled. What's going on in this place?

I had already begun to suspect that Aliso Viejo is hostile to people who don't live here. I learned, when I was staying at an acquaintance's home, that they tow cars at night even though the cars are parked in perfectly legal places. I guess they figure that most people who pay to get their cars out of impound will then go home and never come back. I, however, came back, and filed a petition to get a refund for my impound fees. I took photos of my parking space, proving that it was legal, and asked that the Sheriff of Orange County provide the video taken by the deputy who towed my car. I got a refund a few days later.

I'll bet Aliso Viejo gets some services and perhaps funds from Orange County and California and the federal government--so why do they think they can act like the whole town is private property?

I asked the librarian, "May I speak to the manager of the library?"

The librarian paused. Finally she said, "You can go over to the information desk and get a temporary computer pass."

The lady at the information desk got me set up at a computer in no time flat. I asked her, "Why did the librarian lie to me? I had to ask to see the manager before I found out that guests can use the computers."

She said, "We do try to discourage people who don't have library cards."

"You sure do," I said.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Libia Gil and Lowell Billings need to take the advice given by David Frost to Richard Nixon

I just watched the movie Frost v. Nixon, which suggests that Richard Nixon owed an apology to the American people.

Many Americans were outraged that Nixon was pardoned by President Gerald Ford and was never prosecuted for any crime. But isn't that how our justice system works? Isn't it true that powerful insiders in government, schools, corporations and non-profits can commit illegal acts and it just isn't considered illegal because, as Nixon said, "if the president does it, it's not illegal"?

David Frost told Richard Nixon that the American people needed to hear him say that he did more than make mistakes, that his actions were wrong, perhaps criminal, and that he did abuse power.

I believe that many other people in power ought to admit the same thing. Chula Vista Elementary School District administrators Libia Gil, Lowell Billings and Richard Werlin as well as CTA leaders Beverly Tucker, Tim O'Neill, Gina Boyd, Jim Groth and Peg Myers ought to say, "We put Castle Park Elementary through needless agony, a spiral of self destructive obstruction of justice that harmed hundreds of students, and forced the taxpayers to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover up our mistakes."

Also, these individuals should make amends by helping to change the attitude of teachers toward the law. Our children learn from many of their teachers that the rule of law is something that is to be applied by the strong to the weak, but it is grossly inappropriate for the weak to demand that the law be applied to their superiors.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Schools make a mess when they try to fire teachers

The big problem with the efforts of schools to fire teachers is that schools have no unbiased, comprehensive system for evaluating teachers. The principal alone is responsible, and usually bases evaluations on very little classroom observation. Few incompetent teachers are targeted; the targets are mostly people who made the mistake of going against the grain. (And we wonder why education reform is so difficult.)

Click HERE to see all posts on evaluating teachers.

The Crime of Teaching Too Long
By Susan Brinchman, San Diego
Letter to Voice of San Diego
July 02, 2009

What is little understood is that the accusations against these teachers are often entirely false - it is a way to get rid of union members, union reps, and older teachers who pull larger salaries. There was an all out war on those groups in the past ten years in SDUSD. The teachers languish at home, waiting for a hearing in a kangaroo court, with charges that range from criminal to those that would cause loss of a credential, completely setup by the district's attorneys and administration. The principals and admins learned how to do this - as a cost-saving measure and way to break the union. It was legal and with the help of the broken legal system, which could cost innocent teachers a hundred or two hundred thousand easily, only to lose, it was a despicable and discriminatory act repeated over and over. The teachers who were taken off the job waited, often, quite upset, when all they wanted was to be back at work and be treated with respect for the good job they were previously doing.

To read about this in depth, buy Janice Howes' The Black Hole in the Blueprint, available on She is a local, highly successful, talented teacher who was set up to lose her job and credentials. Her crime? Teaching into her 60's.


Suggesting that School Principals falsely accuse, lie, or otherwise commit felonies against older teachers "as a cost-saving measure " is a bit theatrical. Mean-spirited hatchet jobs like this do nothing to gain support for teachers. Does the teacher's union support this position?

Posted by Ontheoutsidelookingin


Have you ever heard of the Milgram experiments? Milgram proved that roughly 50% of ordinary, nice people will do just about anything that an authority figure tells them to do. Schools have authority figures (superintendents) who sometimes tell ordinary, nice principals to get rid of some teachers. The idea is to get rid of the incompetent teachers, but how does the principal decide which teachers deserve a pink slip? The principals know they will be rewarded even if they don't bother to carefully evaluate the teachers they choose.

This was made clear in testimony in the Danielle Cozaihr case in San Diego. The principal had walked through Ms. Cozaihr's classroom on a handful of occasions, not stopping to observe, and if he did make any notes about Cozaihr, he threw them away. He did not sign up Ms. Cozaihr for available training for new teachers. Why didn't superintendent Lowell Billings impress upon principals that they had to do these things as part of district policy? Billings apparently wanted principals to fire teachers rather than improve the teachers' performance. Principal Alex Cortes fired another teacher at the same time as Cozaihr. Click HERE for all Cozaihr posts.

In the infrequent situation in which a teacher demands a hearing, a new authority figure gets involved--the lawyer. Insurance company lawyers are generally paid to do what it takes to win. Sadly, that sometimes requires that principals give false testimony.

Amazingly, one principal in Virginia was actually indicted for perjury, but the court decided that he had not been required by law to take an oath, so he couldn't be prosecuted. The problem in school hearings is that it's often impossible to tell the difference between a true accusation and a false accusation. Witnesses, in fear of losing their jobs, tend to either not show up for hearings or to say what the district wants them to say. We need a system that gets rid of bad teachers without requiring lawyer involvement, and evaluations should be done by outsiders who are not under political pressure.

Judge tosses out mom's convictions in MySpace hoax

Photo: Megan Meir, who committed suicide after being cyber-

Judge tosses out mom's convictions in MySpace hoax
Girl killed herself; ruling tentative
By Linda Deutsch
July 3, 2009

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge yesterday tentatively threw out the convictions of a Missouri mother for her role in a MySpace hoax directed at a 13-year-old neighbor girl who ended up committing suicide.

U.S. District Judge George Wu said he was acquitting Lori Drew of misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization, but he emphasized that the ruling was tentative until he issues it in writing. He noted the case of a judge who changed his mind after ruling.

Drew showed no reaction to the decision.

She was convicted in November, but the judge said that if she is to be found guilty of illegally accessing computers, anyone who has ever violated the social networking site's terms of service would be guilty of a misdemeanor. That would be unconstitutional, he said.

“You could prosecute pretty much anyone who violated terms of service,” he said.

Prosecutors had sought the maximum three-year prison sentence and a $300,000 fine, but it had been uncertain going into yesterday's hearing whether Drew would be sentenced.

Wu had given a lengthy review to a defense request for dismissal, delaying sentencing from May to go over testimony from two prosecution witnesses.

Wu said he allowed the case to proceed to trial when Drew was charged with a felony, but she was convicted only of the misdemeanor, and that presented constitutional problems.

Drew, whose bond was released by the judge, didn't appear with her attorney when he later spoke to reporters.

Defense attorney Dean Steward said outside court that the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles shouldn't have brought the charges in a case that originated in Missouri and was rejected by prosecutors there.

“Shame on the U.S. attorney for bringing this case. The St. Louis prosecutors had it right,” Steward said. “The cynic in me says that (U.S. Attorney) Tom O'Brien wanted to make a name for himself or to keep his job.”

O'Brien told a news conference that after prosecutors see the written ruling, they will consider options, including an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The parents of Megan Meier, the teenager who killed herself, were in court for the ruling. Later, her mother, Tina Meier, said that in spite of the disappointment, she felt justice was done because “we got the word out.”

Much attention has been paid to Drew's case, primarily because it was the nation's first cyberbullying trial. The trial was held in Los Angeles because the servers of the social networking site are in the area.

Prosecutors said Drew sought to humiliate Megan by helping create a fictitious teen boy on the social networking site and sending flirtatious messages to the girl in his name. The fake boy then dumped Megan in a message saying the world would be better without her.

She hanged herself a short time later in October 2006 in the St. Louis suburb of Dardenne Prairie, Mo.

Drew was not directly charged with causing Megan's death. Instead, prosecutors indicted her under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which in the past has been used in hacking and trademark-theft case.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dianna Carberry in the news again; this time she claims to be the victim of Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara

Photo: Dianna and Ed Carberry. Dianna fired a coach for reporting that her husband Ed told a student to use a substance. The student developed kidney failure.

It seems that the same people keep popping up in story after story about problems in schools. Dianna Carberry is one of the familiar names. She is the principal who fired coach James "Ted" Carter in Escondido because he had reported to his superiors that coach Ed Carberry, Dianna's husband, advised a student to take a substance. The student was later hospitalized with kidney failure. Carberry should have been fired by Escondido, instead, she left without being fired.

It is not surprising to me that she was hired in Sweetwater; the district has never shown much fondness for ethics, but it is amazing to me that employees would be protesting her demotion. What is surprising is that Carberry is now claiming to be a victim, and that employees of Sweetwater are rallying around her. It does seem, however, that employees are not terribly enthusiastic about Carberry; it's really Karen Janney that they like. Apparently they decided that it made their argument stronger to have two demotions to protest, but I think it's unwise to use Carberry as their poster child.

Another of the familiar names is Jaime Mercado. Perhaps this story should be called Jaime Mercado gets the last laugh.

Sweetwater's Miracle Worker Turned Lightning Rod
Voice of San Diego
June 21, 2009

Jesus Gandara was described as a miracle worker when Sweetwater Union High School District, the largest high school district in the state, hired him as its leader nearly three years ago...

But now, as he nears the end of his third year overseeing a district that encompasses the middle and high schools from National City to San Ysidro, Gandara is in the crosshairs of a campaign to unseat him. Four labor unions from teachers to custodians have joined forces, gathering signatures for a petition that argues that he "neither welcomes nor respects input" and "relies on intimidation to gain consent."

...And unions are not the only ones angry: Many principals and middle managers were stunned by his decision to demote two of his highest ranking employees in March.

The school board has largely stayed out of the fray after a member highly critical of Gandara, Jaime Mercado, lost his re-election bid last fall.

[Maura Larkins' comment: It appears that things have not improved at Sweetwater since Bertha Lopez replaced Jaime Mercado.]

...School district leaders are hopeful that the recent election of a new teachers' union president, Alex Anguiano, will cool the furor: Spokeswoman Lillian Leopold said that Anguiano has a better relationship with Gandara, who said that when the old President Sam Lucero was voted out, "he got his vote of no confidence -- and his was louder than mine."

But several sources within the union said that the vote indicated a push for "a wartime president" who will continue their fight, not call it off. Employees charge that the uproar is not about proposed salary cuts or layoffs, which have been canceled as Sweetwater found other ways to cut $11.6 million from its $348 million budget, but about Gandara himself.

One union leader remembered Gandara visiting her after she complained to the school board about a computer system.

"He yelled at me. Just chewed me out. '...You have an issue, you bring it to me.' He was yelling and waving his finger in front of my nose," said Julie Hitchcock, president of the Sweetwater Counseling and Guidance Association...

[Maura Larkins' comment: I'll bet he didn't yell as loud or as long as CVESD Assistant Superintendent Richard Werlin used to yell. But a very close colleague of SEA President Alex Anguiano from Chula Vista Educators (Jim Groth) and current SUHSD trustee Bertha Lopezsupported Rick Werlin in his destructive goals. Rick Werlin yelled so viciously at one principal that the man had a heart attack. Sometimes I wonder if the teachers union really cares about all employees, or only acts when union leaders get offended. My recommendation to SUHSD trustees: next time, promote someone from within the district.]

...But a chorus of complaints focuses on Gandara's attitude toward employees. They are not confined to unions: Numerous employees in management positions declined to be quoted for this story, saying they feared for their jobs. A retiree has become their spokeswoman.

The demotions "were the tipping point," said Mary Anne Stro, who retired as a principal eight years ago. "If they can do this to Karen and Dianna, they can do anything to anybody."

[Maura Larkins comment: Why are all these people acting as if this is something new? What about Superintendent Ed Brand firing Mary Anne Weegar? Making an issue out of the demotion of Dianna Carberry is an odd thing for pro-employee groups to do.]

Stro was referring to the demotions of Karen Janney and Dianna Carberry, two assistant superintendents who lost their jobs after declining lesser positions in the school district. Demoting Janney, in particular, has inspired outrage from longtime employees who praised her as a competent and caring leader, citing the lofty awards she received and local projects she helped to complete...

Reasons for the demotions are unclear. While Sweetwater schools learned they had much room to improve in a critical report from the County Office of Education, the report was not shared with Gandara and other staff until weeks after Janney and Carberry were demoted. Janney's department was ranked highly in an internal survey last year of how managers felt about Sweetwater departments and their timeliness, communication and quality; Carberry was in the middle of the pack.

Board President Jim Cartmill said that decisions about the top personnel must be left to Gandara.

"We can't keep a superintendent accountable for results unless he or she is allowed to hire who they want," he said...

Business became [Gandara's] focus in Sweetwater, where he names the dysfunctional computer system that Hitchcock complained about as one challenge, along with dropping enrollment, budget woes and its $644 million facilities bond. Though most of the bond projects are in their infancy, Gandara prides himself on roughly $10 million in savings from three large projects where bids came in below estimates...

Critics and supporters of Gandara alike say he has largely left the educational side of schools, curriculum and instruction, to his subordinates. He now says that was a mistake and he will get involved. A County Office of Education study of Sweetwater schools that recently found that strategies to help lagging students were inconsistent, though annual test scores show improvement in Sweetwater over time...

Should CTA be able to veto any and all changes to a teacher's work routine?

Union-Tribune Editorial
Power play
Will school board put adults ahead of children?
July 2, 2009

In a bid to tighten its grip on the San Diego Unified School District, the teachers union is quietly seeking a contentious contract provision that would give it a virtual veto over any changes in the classroom. If the school board yields to the union's demand, operational control of the school district would effectively shift to organized labor, and Superintendent Terry Grier's ambitious reform plans would be blunted.

The school board's union-friendly majority — Shelia Jackson, John Lee Evans, Richard Barrera — have never said no to the teachers union on a major issue...

At issue is a controversial concept called “maintenance of standards.”...

The provision essentially means that the school board and the superintendent may introduce no changes in a teacher's work routine without the union's approval. In practice, “maintenance of standards” perpetuates the status quo — the antithesis of reform — which suits the calcified teachers union just fine.

For instance, the San Diego school district currently has plans to introduce Smart Boards in all elementary classrooms. A Smart Board is an interactive audio-visual tool which is widely praised for engaging students in learning. But in order to employ Smart Boards effectively, teachers must undergo several hours of training. Under a rigid “maintenance of standards” contract clause, the school district would not be able to introduce Smart Boards unless the teachers union agreed to the training.

The San Diego teachers union's sweeping proposal stipulates that “all terms and conditions of employment” that were in effect on June 30, 2008, “shall be “maintained.” Even trustee Barrera, himself a former union organizer, says the teachers union's demand is “too broad.”

How much do David Sanchez and Reg Weaver (CTA, NEA officials ) make?

Unfortunately, the story below does not tell us how much CTA lawyers (such as Beverly Tucker) make.

No recession for teachers unions

By Larry Sand
July 2, 2009

...While CTA will not divulge the amount it pays its employees, its income tax form lets us know what its officers make. David Sanchez, CTA's president, makes close to $200,000 a year, or about three times what the average teacher in California makes — yes, his salary is based on another union formula. And the other union officers make very close to that amount; these salaries are ascertained by yet another formula...

Neither is the NEA a shining example of fairness in action. Its former president, Reg Weaver, made well over $500,000 in 2008 and Vice President Dennis Van Roekel made more than $300,000. And then there is a staff of thousands, including an army of lobbyists who make hefty six-figure salaries...

Missouri Republican Cynthia Davis says don't give food to hungry kids

Is it bad for kids to get summer lunches? Cynthia Davis thinks it is, because hunger keeps kids motivated. The Colbert Report salutes Cynthia Davis.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

No diplomas in LAUSD for students who protested; isn't this a violation of free student speech?

15 LA students denied diplomas after protest

The Los Angeles Unified School District says 15 students were denied diplomas at their eighth-grade graduation because they protested impending teacher layoffs.

The students at Liechty Middle School in East Los Angeles turned their backs on school board President Monica Garcia during Thursday's ceremonies.

A district statement says students are expected to act respectfully and the youngsters won't get diplomas until they and their parents meet with school officials to discuss appropriate behavior.

The district says an apology isn't required - just a meeting.

But Carlos Montes, an activist working with the parents, says some children got diplomas Monday after signing apologies the school provided.

Parents plan to protest to the school board.

Millions spent to pay teachers not to teach; why not spend the money on evaluation so bad teachers can be fired and good teachers protected?

When Schools Pay Teachers Not to Teach
Voice of San Diego
June 30, 2009

Lynne Holyoke knew her principal wanted to fire her. The retired art teacher said the two had often sparred over her teaching style. But instead, Holyoke said the school district made her an offer: Take a year off with pay and resign at the end of it. Holyoke agreed and spent the year on paid administrative leave, doing art therapy, volunteering and mulling her future...

Holyoke is not the only educator who has been pulled from her classroom but paid nonetheless. Fifty-six educators have been put on paid administrative leave in San Diego Unified over the last six years, taken out of their ordinary jobs but kept on the payroll for anywhere from a few days to more than four years.

Some teachers have been accused of crimes or inappropriate behavior and are removed from their classes until the charges are proven or disproven. Some are awaiting hearings that decide whether they will be fired. A small number are suffering medical problems.

And others such as Holyoke are paid as part of a settlement to avoid the expensive process of firing them, especially when the cases against them are difficult to prove in court.

School district attorney Mark Bresee said that teachers sometimes make formal pacts -- agreeing to resign in exchange for staying on paid leave for a fixed time -- and sometimes simply agree informally to resign after time...

While still uncommon in the sprawling school district, the frequency of paid administrative leave has increased significantly in the past two years, along with its costs. Estimates done by based on data provided by the school district found that the practice cost more than $2.1 million over the past six years. Costs have risen from an eventual payout of an estimated $262,000 for three teachers put on leave in the 2003-2004 school year to more than $716,000 -- and counting -- for 26 educators in 2008-2009.

Staffers call the uptick a fluke and say that school district practices haven't changed. Pulling educators from their jobs but keeping them paid has many purposes: It removes teachers, counselors and administrators who are suspected of foul play from the classroom, separates employees when harassment is alleged, and ensures that workers are not penalized for allegations that go nowhere. Human resources and legal staffers, not principals, must approve the decision for leave.

"If we have people that we fear are not good for kids, we want to make sure that they're not working with kids," said Tim Asfazadour, a human resources officer.

It is sometimes mandated by California law, which limits the circumstances when teachers are pulled without pay. Attorneys said it can also be cheaper than firing educators, an extensive process during which teachers are typically still on the payroll...

"This is just wrong," said William Wright, vice chairman of San Diego Unified's audit and finance committee, when told about the practice of buyouts. "It's just happening because it's so hard to fire somebody. They're buying them off with the taxpayers' money."..

"If a principal has an issue with a teacher, they can accomplish their goal of getting rid of them," Holyoke said. "If they really mean to get you out, it's just too tortuous (for teachers) to go through."

Unlike the notorious "rubber rooms" in New York City, where hundreds of teachers under investigation sit idle, Asfazadour said that San Diego Unified educators on paid leave are usually still working, if not in their usual jobs. Some evaluate books or file supplies in a lending library for teachers, others work in the cafeteria or do data entry...

Asfazadour said the recent increase consisted of cases involving accusations that needed to be investigated, not settlements...

Teachers are often put on paid leave when someone accuses them of a crime or inappropriate behavior...Investigations are done by city or school police detectives and can be lengthy: One teacher accused of choking a student has been out on leave for more than nine months. Others end quickly.

"A child said something happened and they called in a police officer and investigated," said Donna Chateau, a retired teacher who was put on leave for less than two weeks before returning to the classroom...

Other employees are put on paid leave not because of alleged crimes, but because they are in the pipeline to be fired... actual firings are extraordinarily rare in San Diego Unified... A teacher would not lose pay until that commission ruled against them...

Petersen said cases where a teacher is seen doing something egregious, such as hitting a child, tend to be easier to wrap up and end without a buyout. The most expensive cases tend to be when principals argue that teachers are just not very good at their jobs. Holyoke, for example, said her teaching was criticized. Her story was echoed by several other teachers and counselors who said they were being paid to resign after clashing with principals, but declined to give their names.

Holyoke's former principal, Susan Levy, said she couldn't talk about what happened with the teacher because of employee confidentiality. Nor was Levy aware of what occurred after the human resources department stepped in to handle things after Holyoke had left; the teacher said she took a stress leave.

"They always say, 'We'll take care of it,'" Levy said.


Discouraged Temp Teachers
By Jeff Claybaugh, San Diego
June 22, 2009 |

I read your article about "The Disposable Teacher" and wanted to tell you that it is spot on.

I graduated from the University of the Pacific in 2002 with a degree in music (and a teaching credential). My dream was to be a successful band/choir director, engaging kids' minds using the arts. My first job was in Central California, and after learning lots (and signing kids up for next year's classes), I was pink-slipped in March. Being new to the education system, I did not quite understand how the administrative process worked, and so I went along with it. What bothered me most about this was that the administration led me to believe that I had nothing to worry about, because all temp teachers go through this every year, and would be rehired without issue. Well, long story short, I received a phone call during the summer break and was told that the budget didn't allow for a music teacher position and that the program was cut. It was completely demoralizing. Hard work did not pay off. And now that the school season was to start again soon, I had to scramble to find another teaching position.

This happened again at the next location where I found work. Same pink slip, same waiting to hear about the budget, same phone call. Again, I was completely heart-broken and decided that I could not work in that type of system, where your position is decided not on success or quality, but solely on available funding. I am now working in a software business where I am valued and have been working regularly for almost 4 years. Although I miss the teaching aspect of my dream, I have security and am valued for my contributions...


I agree that teaching ability, not seniority, should be the deciding factor in who gets laid off. Unfortunately, even if a decision were made to lay off the poorest-performing teachers, it would be impossible to do so because the current teacher evaluation system is a joke. If teachers were examined as exhaustively as kids, we wouldn't be having the problems we have.

Posted by Maura Larkins | reply to this comment
June 24, 2009 3:59 pm

And how is one to judge a teacher's merit? As it is now in SDUSD's evaluation process, it's up to ONE person -- a princpal (or sometimes vice-principal). Is a teacher to be laid off because the perception of one person (the principal) is that she is an ineffective teacher? At charter schools where most teachers are not union, I've often seen it happen that teachers who go against the grain and stand up for curriculum or for students against the wishes of a principal or CEO (yes, charters have CEOs), are fired. The state legislature passed laws that called for teacher layoffs to be based on seniority -- not "merit" -- perhaps to prevent this very thing from happening in our schools! Bad teachers can be disciplined and, with due process, fired. That's good enough. Let's not base layoffs on "merit."

Posted by MMT | reply to this comment
June 29, 2009 11:41 am

I agree completely. There is no system in place to accurately evaluate teachers. Certainly the current system in which principals evaluate teachers is a joke. A reliable evaluation would need to involve observers not involved in school or district politics--perhaps from outside the district. Regular observations, well-documented, would be needed. This would be a great learning experience for evaluators as well as those being evaluated. I also think teacher interviews, in which teachers could explain what they have learned and how their thinking has evolved, should be part of the process.

Posted by Maura Larkins | reply to this comment
June 30, 2009 3:28 pm

Actually, I disagree with MMT about one thing. MMT says, "Bad teachers can be disciplined and, with due process, fired. That's good enough." The current system is most certainly NOT good enough. Teachers are rarely fired for incompetence (it was the reason only about 20% of the time according to the Los Angeles Times series "Failure Gets a Pass"). Usually the reason is political. Another frequent cause of teacher firings is moral turpitude. As long as incompetent teachers make friends with the right people, they are usually safe. This is one of the reasons that schools are such hotbeds of personal politics, and it's a reason many incompetent teachers become administrators. In many occupations, seniority is a perfectly reasonable and sensible method to determine who gets laid off, but in teaching, competence should matter.

Posted by Maura Larkins | reply to this comment
June 30, 2009 3:28 pm

The inconvenient truth is the seniority system has yielded a state rank of 34th in student education and 1st in teacher salaries. Both the state legislature and school board except copious amounts of campaign funding from the CTA and teachers receive the highest pay in the country. The children of California give no money to the state legislature and the school boards and receive the 34th best education in the U.S.

Posted by RB | reply to this comment
July 1, 2009 7:48 am