Sunday, December 27, 2009

Infragard allows San Diego lawyers like Andy Serwin to interact secretly with the FBI


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

InfraGard is a program run by the United States Federal government, which partners Federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies with private corporations, so that they can share intelligence information with each other.

As of December 2009, there were over 34,000 corporations and government agencies who were members.

Infragard began in the Cleveland, Ohio, Field Office in 1996, and has since expanded to become a national-level program, with Infraguard coordinators in every FBI field office...

Claims of The Progressive magazine

In early 2008, Matthew Rothschild reported in the journal The Progressive that there were 86 chapters and 23,000 InfraGard members in various businesses involved in critical infrastructure in the United States, and that several InfraGard members had stated that they had been told in private that in the event of martial law being declared in the United States, the InfraGard members would have the right to "shoot to kill" and would not be prosecuted for this. The FBI has denied this...

The Progressive also reported the concerns of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that there "is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations — some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers — into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI".

Infragard allows San Diego lawyers like Foley & Lardner's Andy Serwin to interact secretly with the FBI

From Foley & Lardner website:
...He is also a member of the San Diego Chapter of the San Diego FBI Infragard Group, an organization dedicated to promoting ongoing dialogue and timely communication between information technology companies and the FBI. As a member, he receives daily, non-public briefings on information security and other threats, including early warnings about new attacks on financial services companies or healthcare providers...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Most learned ayatollah in Iran, Hossein Ali Montazeri, mourned by protesters

Mourners Of Iranian Cleric Protest During Funeral
by The Associated Press
December 21, 2009

Tens of thousands of Iranian mourners turned the funeral procession of the country's most senior dissident cleric into an anti-government protest Monday, chanting "death to the dictator" and slogans in support of the opposition amid heavy security.

Witnesses said security forces clamped down in Iran's holy city of Qom where massive crowds streamed in for the funeral rites for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died Sunday at age 87.

One opposition Web site reported clashes outside Montazeri's home between security forces and mourners, who threw stones. Iranian authorities have barred foreign media from covering the rites, and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of arrest.

Montazeri's death pushed Iranian authorities into a difficult spot. They were obliged to pay respects to one of the patriarchs of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the one-time heir apparent to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But officials also worried that Montazeri's memorials could become new rallying points for opposition demonstrations. The ayatollah broke with Iran's clerical leadership and became a vehement critic, denouncing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling the postelection crackdown the work of a dictatorship.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn prays that God will stop a Democrat from voting for health care reform

Coburn Did Not Wish 'Misfortune' on Colleagues With Prayer Remark, Aide Says
December 21, 2009

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn did not wish "misfortune" on anyone when he asked people to pray that lawmakers miss a key vote on health care reform, a spokesman said Monday, rejecting suggestions from Democrats that the Oklahoma doctor was wishing ill on his colleagues.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn did not wish "misfortune" on anyone when he asked people to pray that lawmakers miss a key vote on health care reform, a spokesman said Monday, rejecting suggestions from Democrats that the Oklahoma doctor was wishing ill on his colleagues.

Rather, Coburn was hoping -- praying, even -- that sleep-deprived Democrats would hit the snooze button one too many times and miss the vote scheduled for 1 a.m. ET Monday morning...

The call to prayer didn't work. The vote to end health care debate and move to final passage was successful. But the Coburn comment touched off the latest war of words between Republicans and Democrats over health care.

"What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight," Coburn said Sunday ahead of the vote. "That's what they ought to pray, so that we can actually get ... the middle of America and the middle of the Senate a bill that can run through this country and actually do what we say we all want to do."

Democrats interpreted that as a threat.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., took to the floor shortly afterward to rebuke Coburn and call for a clarification.

"I don't think it's appropriate to be invoking prayer to wish misfortune on a colleague. I want him to clarify that," he said. "This statement goes too far. The simple reality is this -- we are becoming more coarse and more divided here." ...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

LA Times: School district doesn't effectively evaluate teachers

At Chula Vista Elemetnary School District, principals seldom observed me or other teachers, but they did fill out evaluations. If I were a principal, I'd want to hear teachers' thoughts and ideas about teaching. In almost 3 decades of teaching, I never had such a conversation with an administrator. If the district had some idea of what was really going on at Castle Park Elementary, it could have saved $100,000s in legal costs. It had no idea how confused and disturbed certain teachers were when it allowed those teachers to dictate decisions at the district office.

Bar set low for lifetime job in L.A. schools
Los Angeles Unified often hands out tenure with little or no review of novice instructors' ability or their students' performance.
By Jason Felch, Jessica Garrison and Jason Song
December 20, 2009

Altair Maine said he was so little supervised in his first few years of teaching at North Hollywood High School that he could "easily have shown a movie in class every day and earned tenure nonetheless."

Before second-grade teacher Kimberly Patterson received tenure and the ironclad job protections it provides, she said, "my principal never set foot in my classroom while I was teaching."

And when Virgil Middle School teacher Roberto Gonzalez came up for tenure, he discovered there was no evaluation for him on file. When he inquired about it, his school hastily faxed one to district headquarters.

"I'm pretty sure it was just made up on the spot," Gonzalez said.

There is nothing to suggest these teachers didn't deserve tenure, but the district did little to ensure they were worthy.

A Times investigation found that the Los Angeles Unified School District routinely grants tenure to new teachers after cursory reviews -- and sometimes none at all.

Evaluating new teachers for tenure is one of a principal's most important responsibilities...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The octopus uses tools, solves mazes

Tool Use Found in Octopuses
Wired Science
Brandon Keim
December 14, 2009

After years of surprising scientists with their cleverness and smarts, some octopuses appear to also use tools.

Veined octopuses observed off the coast of Indonesia carried coconut shell halves under their bodies, and assembled them as necessary into shelters — something that wasn’t supposed to be possible in their corner of the animal kingdom.

“To date, invertebrates have generally been regarded as lacking the cognitive abilities to engage in such sophisticated behaviors,” wrote Museum Victoria biologists who described the octopuses in a paper published Monday in Current Biology. “The discovery of this octopus tiptoeing across the sea floor with its prized coconut shells suggests that even marine invertebrates engage in behaviors that we once thought the preserve of humans.”

In captivity, some species of octopuses have solved mazes, remembered cues and passed other cognitive tests typically associated with advanced vertebrates. More anecdotally, they’re known for popping aquarium hoods, raiding other tanks and demonstrating what might be called mischief.

All this has come as a bit of a surprise to scientists. After all, octopuses are descended from mollusks. They’re more closely related to clams than to people...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

John Pruitt describes Chino Valley Unified (CVUSD) fiascos: $609,164.72 to Dan Shinoff; A Superintendent closed schools for personal reasons

It appears that a former superintendent closed schools just to lower the number of schools in Program Improvement

'Another fine mess' for CVUSD
John Pruitt
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
December 12, 2009

The state action of placing Chino Valley Unified School District in PI (Program Improvement) status is a sad commentary on education for the CVUSD community. Basically, CVUSD failed to educate English-learner students based on AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) scores.

Wayne Joseph, the new CVUSD superintendent, must be repeating the words of Oliver Hardy from the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy - "Here's another fine mess you have gotten me into" - when thinking of former former superintendent Edmond Heatley's administrative management skills.

When the school board approved the closure of Gird, El Rancho and Los Serranos, the board was oblivious to the true reason behind the superintendent's recommendation. It was not savings vs. cost but to improve Heatley's chances to leave CVUSD. Heatley wanted three fewer PI schools on his resume. Three PI schools were eliminated but the English-learner students are our children, and they remained.

CVUSD had six PI schools and five were in danger of a state takeover. Each school was in the latter stage of a five-year improvement plan, and little progress had been made. After five years, the state of California has the option to take over a school. It was professionally unhealthy for a superintendent to be relieved of his responsibility of management; and there lies the reason for the unwise closures.

Although state mandates for student performance for categories such as English-learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, African-American students, Asian students, Latino students and special needs students are challenging, CVUSD should not be in PI status. If Upland USD, Walnut USD and Claremont USD are not in PI, then Chino Valley certainly should not be in PI status.

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and state mandates are rising to irrational levels. There is a possibility other school districts will fall into PI status. But, CVUSD did not implement existing resources to avoid being placed in PI.

CVUSD's API (Academic Performance Index) scores are excellent. The school board gave Heatley raises based on API scores. That was a major mistake. A raise based on performance is a good idea, but performance should be assessed on a scale that is measurable and has balance (incentive).

Chino Valley USD is located in an area where high API scores occur due to factors of economics, education level of parents and parental involvement. All school districts have dedicated teachers giving their best effort to promote student achievement; that is the common thread among all school districts. The home environment of a student is the single most motivating factor regarding student achievement; of course there are rare exceptions. That is why some districts struggle with low scores and a school district like Chino Valley has high scores. Heatley was given raises based on factors he had absolutely nothing to do with in raising scores. The board missed that point in assessing Heatley on measurable factors.

The balance (incentive) factor is when a benefit is given for good performance, and a benefit is withheld when performance does not meet expectations. Heatley was given a raise based on an imbalanced assessment. A raise to a superintendent can never be taken back due to state law. The school board should have set another criterion to hold the superintendent accountable for performance.

When we review CVUSD catastrophes - the loss of $7.5 million in state funding due to two school sites not meeting state minimum minutes (CVUSD became a laughingstock in local and national news media); the loss of $947,404.62 in legal fees to Lewis Operating Corp. on the Preserve fiasco; the loss in legal fees to Dan Shinoff and law firm of $609,164.72 to represent CVUSD on the Preserve fiasco; placing legal counsel under the authority of the superintendent; the decision of moving Briggs to the Preserve school and the reversal; the decision of moving the agriculture program at Chino High to Don Lugo and the reversal; the loss of 60 percent of highly specialized speech and language pathologists (12 of 20); the needless elimination of three schools with devastating results to the community; the uncalled for disruption of student life from the three closed schools; flip-flop decisions on transportation fees and other fee services; the misinformation of the budget with a questionable $44 million deficit; weekend overtime pay to staff due to the closed schools; the layoff of 171 teachers and 47 CSEA employees (all layoffs could have been avoided); CVUSD in PI status by the state, and failure to hold Heatley accountable - one wonders: Where was the board? ...

John Pruitt is a former board member of Chino Valley Unified School District. He lives in Chino.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Secrecy in schools--and in the media

The authors below seems to agree with the things I said in "Free the Union-Tribune 5!"

The Educated Reporter

Commentary on education coverage, writing and a few other things
Linda Perlstein
December 7, 2009

Everything that’s wrong with us, Part Two. The biggest barrier to excellent education journalism has nothing to do with the institutional weaknesses of that clunky old mainstream media. Rather, it lies within the schoolhouse doors. And the boardroom doors. And the superintendent’s office doors.

Educators operate in a culture of fear.

Schools bar access to reporters, and that is a problem. Always has been. Worse, though, is the paranoia that prevents anyone, from the top on down, from speaking honestly about what works and doesn’t in education, what policy might look like (or does look like) in action. If I were a principal and politicians were visiting my school, I would show them the worst things in the building, so they could see our challenges. I would allow my teachers to speak with the press, without prepackaged messages to deliver. I would be starkly frank with my own bosses. But these days, there is no incentive for such honesty...

So teachers only tell their principals what they want to hear, principals tell their superintendents what they want to hear, superintendents tell their boards what they want to hear, all the way up to the national policy makers. Given that calculus, of course, the truth that makes its way to the vast majority of journalists is varnished to a glow.

Education is a secretive world. (Not convinced? Think about the fact that we have built an entire system around the results of tests that in most states nobody outside the classroom is allowed to see.) But with access and honesty comes greater understanding. For ages, the Washington Post had so little access to D.C. schools that they only covered the district as the inept bureaucracy it largely was...There was blame enough for everyone: central office, school administrators, parents, Jonathan himself.

... Superintendents tell me that because they can control their own message through electronic media, they don’t “need” journalists anymore. That scares the crap out of me, and it should scare you too.

To Write About Curriculum, Reporters Need Classroom Access

By Mary Ann Zehr
December 7, 2009

A former reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer remarked to my colleague Lesli Maxwell that for journalists to better cover classroom issues in schools, they need to have better access to classrooms. Lesli included the views of Dale Mezzacappa in a story about a report by the Brookings Institution that documents a lack of education stories on the front pages of mainstream newspapers nationwide. The report also concludes that education gets scant attention in the top news stories produced by radio and television reporters.

Mezacappa's remarks resonated with me because I've found that the ability I have to provide examples of how a school's curriculum plays out in the classroom depends on whether I'm permitted to spend a lot of time observing in classrooms.

I sometimes find it difficult to convince school administrators that when I visit a school, I want to spend at least a whole day observing students and teachers, rather than taking a tour of the school and mostly interviewing administrators. With observation, I can identify examples to show how a curriculum is implemented. See this story I wrote about summer philosophy classes to get a sense of examples I gleaned from a day of observation. And even in this policy story about Striving Readers, a federal adolescent-literacy program, I was able to provide a classroom example at the end of the story because Chicago public schools gave me good access to classrooms during a site visit.

The Brookings Institution report decries the lack of news coverage of curriculum.

One way that school officials might be able to urge reporters to take a greater interest in curriculum is to invite them to observe in classrooms.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

How can teachers and administrators stop bullying when so many of them model it? Suicide of Ryan Halligan in Provo, Utah

Bullying a cause of suicide, not a rite of passage
By Donald W. Meyers
The Salt Lake Tribune

When John Halligan's son Ryan committed suicide six years ago at the age of 13, he and his wife tore the house apart looking for the suicide note that would explain why he did it.

They didn't find one. But when Halligan, then an engineer with IBM in Vermont, logged onto his son's instant messaging account, he found the answer he was looking for: Ryan Halligan was a victim of cyberbullying.

Halligan was the keynote speaker at the 10th Annual Suicide Prevention Conference at Brigham Young University on Friday. The conference was conducted by the Utah County HOPE Task Force, a coalition of community groups focused on preventing suicide, and attracted educators, social workers and students.

Greg Hudnall, HOPE's executive director, said the group this year is attempting to get at the root causes of teen suicide, including bullying in its many forms.

"People don't realize the impact of bullying," he said.

Barbara Blotter, student services director at Nebo School District, said students who know a friend is being bullied can let counselors or parents know, especially if the friend threatens suicide. Because some signs of suicidal behavior -- depression, drastic changes in behavior, falling grades, feelings of loneliness, extreme sensitivity, impulsive behavior or drug and alcohol abuse -- can be mistaken for teen angst, Blotter said the key is erring on the side of caution.

"One of the things we do as counselors, if we have a question [about whether a student is suicidal], we don't let them leave until we notify their parents and let them know," Blotter said in an interview.

Cyberbullying makes school administrators' jobs more difficult, Blotter said. The problem: The bullying takes place on home computers outside school -- and outside a principal's jurisdiction. But Blotter said the school can intervene if the online bullying disrupts school life.

Halligan said bullying was a major factor in his son's suicide.

A bully and his friends targeted Ryan, who had problems with learning and physical coordination, in fifth grade. The taunting became so bad that in seventh grade, Ryan asked his parents to take him out of school. He said talking to the principal would only make matters worse, since he would be labeled a "tattletale."

Instead, Halligan and his son turned to one of their favorite movies, "The Karate Kid," about a bullied teen who develops self-confidence and defeats his tormentor through the discipline of martial arts. But Ryan chose kick-boxing instead of karate, and he and his father practiced in the basement.

Ryan had a showdown with his oppressor, and he thought the bullying was over. Near the end of the school year, he said he had befriended the bully, which Halligan now believes was a mistake.

That summer, he said Ryan spent most of his time on the computer. After Ryan's suicide, Halligan learned from Ryan's friends online and through chat logs that Ryan was the target of a rumor that he was gay, a rumor spread by the bully who was supposedly now his friend...

Chino Valley Unified School District contracts for legal services

See John Pruitt on Chino Valley Unified problems.

Chino Valley Unified School District
Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
October 16, 2008
Approved payment for legal services to the law offices of Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP and a law firm that prefers to be anonymous in these pages.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Are the people in charge of your school corrupt? New movie about New Jersey schools: The Cartel.

New Movie Unveils Corrupt New Jersey Public Schools
From Joseph E. Moser on Friday, October 9, 2009

“Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. Teens who can't read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn.” This is New Jersey and its monopolistic public school system – a system that can spend nearly “$400,000 per classroom, and yet only 39 percent of the state’s eighth-graders are proficient or advanced readers, and only 40 percent of its eighth-graders are proficient or advanced in math.”

These are just some of the people and issues introduced to us in a new movie The Cartel.

Faith-based pardons: Huckabee pardoned Clemmons and others who got Baptist ministers to intercede

Nov 30, 2009
Mike Huckabee's fatally bad judgment
Brutality by another Huck-pardoned criminal suggests the 2012 GOP hopeful listened more to pastors than prosecutors
By Joe Conason
Reuters and AP

Maurice Clemmons, a person of interest in the killing of four Lakewood Police officers in Parkland, Wash., Sunday.

If clemency for Maurice Clemmons were the only fatal error committed by Mike Huckabee as governor of Arkansas, he might be able to shift blame to the state's law enforcement system and even run for president again in 2012. Yet the Clemmons commutation that he granted nine years ago is only one among several cases that raise serious questions about Huckabee's judgment.

[When] Clemmons, the fugitive suspect in the shooting deaths of four police officers, was hit in the torso by return fire from one of the cops who later died, he escaped...

The damage to his political future will hinge on how deeply news organizations now delve into those cases -- and the bizarre faith-based rationale behind his use of the clemency and pardon powers of the governor.

Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state's draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.

No doubt word spread among the prison population that the affable governor was vulnerable to appeals from convicts who claimed to be born again. Clemmons too was among those who benefited from Huckabee's tendency to believe such pious testimonials...

Surely the most notorious instance of misplaced mercy involved Wayne Dumond, a rapist and murderer now deceased, who was originally sent to prison in Arkansas for raping a distant cousin of Bill Clinton. During Clinton's presidency the Dumond case became an obsession among certain right-wing pundits and politicians, who insisted that Dumond had been framed and brutalized by the "Clinton machine." When Huckabee became governor, he supported a parole for Dumond, winning applause from the Republican right -- until the former prisoner raped and killed a young woman in Missouri. Dumond later died in prison, under suspicion that he had murdered at least one other woman after his Arkansas release -- a tragic outcome for which Huckabee has repeatedly tried to blame others, including his two Democratic predecessors in the statehouse.

The real engine behind Dumond's release, however, was a Baptist minister and ultra-conservative ideologue named Jay Cole, who also happened to be a friend of Huckabee...

Republican states get bigger handouts than Democratic-leaning states

December 1, 2009
Republicans Benefit More from Fiscal Redistribution than Democrats
The New York Times

Republicans may “market themselves as the party of fiscal restraint,” but states that vote Republican benefit from federal government redistribution far more than those that lean Democratic. This has been true since about 1992, the tail end of George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

So argues Gary Richardson of the University of California, Irvine, in the most recent issue of The Economist’s Voice. An excerpt:

In 2004, the average Alaskan received $1.84 in federal benefits for each $1.00 he or she paid in federal taxes. The Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, received 62 percent of the vote.

Now consider the state of Massachusetts. In 2004, the average resident received only $0.82 in federal benefits for each $1 paid in federal taxes. Yet less than 38 percent of all voters pulled the lever marked George W. Bush. And this was not an effect of John Kerry’s candidacy in particular. Four years before, when his opponent was Al Gore, Bush received only 33 percent of the vote.

The pattern holds true across all fifty states: In 2004, the 28 states in which George W. Bush received more than 50 percent of the vote received an average of $1.32 in federal benefits for each $1 their citizens paid in federal taxes. In contrast, the 19 states in which George W. Bush received less than 50 percent of the vote received an average of $0.93 on the dollar.

A rare victory for the rule of law at SDCOE: Superintendent Randy Ward FINALLY obeys court order to reinstate Rodger Hartnett

See all Rodger Hartnett posts.
See Randy Ward posts.
See San Diego County Office of Education posts.

Back to Work
Voice of San Diego
by Emily Alpert

A former employee who is suing the San Diego County Office of Education alleging wrongful termination has been sent back to work, only to immediately go on paid leave.

Rodger Hartnett was fired two years ago from the office for negligence, insubordination and dishonesty. He alleges that he was actually fired for blowing the whistle on conflicts of interest in the agency.

In March, a Superior Court judge ordered that Hartnett be put back to work and given back pay as the larger case proceeded. The office appealed. Last week, another court turned down the appeal.

Hartnett said he tried to return to work today, but was given a letter putting him on paid administrative leave. He estimated his last salary at $110,000 annually, but said it was possible that it had increased in his absence. It is unclear how much back pay Hartnett will receive, another part of the court order. The letter stated:

"The County Superintendent is aware of the court order regarding back wages. He is in discussion with his legal counsel regarding the amount of back wages, if any, due you."

I'm waiting to hear back from the County Office spokesman for his comments. Look for updates here.