Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MiraCosta College trustees and lawyers lose while taxpayers win in California Supreme Court

Gloria Carranza is the only MiraCosta trustee who smells good right now. She alone objected to giving taxpayer dollars to prolong the saga of the $1.6 million late-night settlement that MiraCosta trustees were pressured into signing. The California Supreme Court has made clear that the money was a waste: it refused to hear the case.

Why did the majority trustees want Victoria Richart to receive all that money? Will we ever know? Perhaps we will. If Richart sues, we might find out what happened behind closed doors as Richart plotted the Palmgate scandal.

I'm also wondering if perhaps Judge Moon isn't such a terrific mediator; he didn't do his clients a favor when he mediated an illegal deal for MiraCosta College.

See all MiraCosta College posts.

State Supreme Court won't hear MiraCosta appeal

Page says Richart must return most of payout
March 24, 2010

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to take on MiraCosta College's challenge of an appeals court decision that invalidated its $1.6 million settlement with former college president Victoria Munoz Richart.

By declining to review the case, the court handed a victory to Carlsbad activist Leon Page, who sued MiraCosta in 2007, arguing the massive payout to Richart was an illegal gift of public funds.

MiraCosta attorney Jack Sleeth and Richart attorney Randy Winet declined to comment on the court's action Wednesday, saying they hadn't had time to review the decision and talk with their clients.

[Maura Larkins comment: Did the North County Times ask Daniel Shinoff for a comment? Apparently not. The NCT is helping Daniel Shinoff keep a low profile by erasing at least one story completely, and keeping his name out of many new stories.]

Page could not immediately be reached for comment, but said in an e-mail announcing the decision that the Supreme Court's denial is affirmation that the settlement must be undone by the Superior Court.

He said he will ask the court to order Richart to "pay back to the college everything she received in excess of 18 months of salary and health insurance --- everything in excess of the legal limit.

"We'll also ask the judge to order her to reimburse the district for the value of the legal representation provided to her at the district's expense," Page said in the email.

MiraCosta has been defending the controversial deal since it was announced in June 2007. Weeks later, Page filed his lawsuit.

A trial court sided with Richart, but Page appealed. In November, the state's Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed with him and ordered the lower court to reverse its ruling.

MiraCosta then appealed the matter to the state Supreme Court.

Richart departed in 2007 after a tumultuous two-year saga that started with her investigation of illegal sales from the college's horticulture department. Along the way, she ran afoul of MiraCosta's faculty senate, which vocally objected to her investigative methods...

OCEANSIDE: Questions linger over MiraCosta's 1.6M Richart buyout
By PAUL SISSON March 28, 2010

MiraCosta College's attorney said last week that the college must now dissolve the $1.6 million settlement it granted its former president and superintendent in 2007, but a Carlsbad activist who fought the deal said parts of the agreement should stand ---- just not the roughly $1.3 million the college overpaid in the buyout.

Leon Page, the activist who sued MiraCosta over the deal, said Friday that the college fulfilled it's agreement with its former president Victoria Munoz Richart, even if an appeals court decided later that parts of the settlement were illegal. The college appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court, which this week declined to review the matter.

"The college did everything it said it would," Page said, adding that the settlement only called for the college to pay Richart the agreed-upon sum ---- it didn't say she had the right to keep the money.

The point is important because in December, a Richart attorney named Robert Ottilie said he believed the college would have to take back Richart's resignation if she were forced to give up her settlement.

"That would return everyone to where they were," Ottilie said at the time. He said he believed that Richart's four-year contract would run at least through 2011, and perhaps even longer, meaning the college could owe Richart hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay.

Richart attorney Randy Winet could not be reached for comment Friday...

[Maura Larkins comment; Winet was busy in court on Friday helping Diane Crosier with her bizarre lawsuit involving Dan Puplava and the Fringe Benefits Consortium.]

Sorting Out Prop 13’s Impact On Education

Sorting Out Prop 13’s Impact On Education

By Maureen Cavanaugh, Natalie Walsh
These Days (Mon.-Thurs. 9-11 a.m. on 89.5 FM)
March 29, 2010

Prop 13 has had a profound impact on California. We'll examine the huge savings to property owners and the negative impacts on education.

...[MAUREEN] CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you, Joanne, what you found out about how Prop 13 has, indeed, impacted, affected the – our education spending in California.

FARYON: Right, and education, again, before Prop 13, more than half of school budgets came from local property taxes. Today, that’s down to 20% so, again, a dramatic shift that before Prop 13, I believe the state had a $10 billion education budget, after Prop 13 they lost, overnight, a third of that, more than $3 billion. So education seemed to be the biggest loser in all of this. So what happened? Well, the state had to take over, that you couldn’t just say, okay, we’ve passed this proposition now, schools, we don’t have any money for teachers. So through a series of laws and ballot measures, a different form of funding for education came into play. And I have to tell you, I’ve been exchanging e-mails with somebody who studies this and he – it’s so complicated, his joke was that only five people in the state of California understand education funding and they can never be on the same plane together. So it’s a very complicated formula. But the bottom line is, the state is now on the hook for more than half of school budgets. What’s happening? What do we see today? Well, more cuts to education. Why is that? Well, if the state is relying so much on income tax and sales tax and corporate tax for its money—and we’re in a recession—all of those taxes get decreased. So you really have this ballooning affect, lower property taxes, lower income taxes, less money for the state, less money for the county, and education really ends up suffering because of it.

CAVANAUGH: And I believe that you found out some statistics about the spending per pupil, how California’s amount has gone down over the last 30 years.

FARYON: Yes, and so, again, we got really great comments throughout this project, people asking questions and it was, again, an e-mail that kind of prompted this research. And somebody wrote to me and said, look, I really want to know per pupil are we really spending less? Have we been spending more every year? What’s the deal? So what we can tell you is every year California does spend more per pupil than the year before. I think I might’ve seen one or two years where you saw that number either decrease or stay about the same but overall every year we spend more. But relatively speaking, in terms of the rest of the country, what are they spending? We’re not. We are increasingly spending less than other states and so we looked for the past more than 40 years. 1965 was the last time California actually was at the top of the heap and we were number five in terms of the rest of the country in what we spent per pupil. At the time, in 1978, when Prop 13 passed, I think we were 14th. Immediately after, after the proposition went through, we fell to 22. In the eighties, we dipped below the national average, and we’ve never recovered. We’re now at number 43.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bill Freeman is the new president for San Diego Education Association

Bill Freeman spent a few years helping children, and now he is rising in a remarkably undemocratic and secretive organization. It remains to be seen whether this move will be beneficial to children--or to Mr. Freeman himself. Mr. Freeman was elected by a very small number of people to head the San Diego local affiliate of California Teachers Association (CTA), which elects its president and vice president by a group voice vote behind closed doors. It’s a top-down organization in which getting ahead means doing what you’re told and not asking questions. Perhaps this will go well for Mr. Freeman since he has military experience and is therefore accustomed to taking and giving orders without explanations. Mr. Freeman will be working with (and under) local CTA director Jim Groth, who believes all teachers should stay "on message."

Sadly, school administrators are just as adamant as the teachers union that teachers not think for themselves, or, if they do think for themselves, that they not talk to anyone about their thoughts. No wonder students don't learn to think critically, and don't learn to participate fully in our democracy.

New President for Teachers Union

March 26, 2010
Voice of San Diego
Emily Alpert

The San Diego Unified teachers union has a new president-to-be: Bill Freeman, who teaches third grade at Porter Elementary in Lincoln Park and now serves as union treasurer.

Freeman has taught for 12 years in San Diego Unified; he chose to teach in elementary school because he mentored middle and high schoolers while serving in the military and decided that he needed to intervene earlier. He was Elementary School Teacher of the Year in San Diego Unified last year.

Freeman will replace provocative teachers union leader Camille Zombro, who is termed out this August; Zombro will become vice president of the union and return to teaching full time. Both were elected through an online vote that Zombro said was unfortunately low in turnout, though she didn't have exact numbers available this morning.

Like Zombro, Freeman isn't a fan of No Child Left Behind, which he said "will totally eradicate public schools" unless it is seriously revised. But he said he would differ from Zombro by making the teachers union more visible in the community, to improve the public perception of teachers...

Monday, March 29, 2010

San Diego Schools Zig on Reforms While Obama Zags

"The mindset is back in the Paleolithic ages in some ways," said Arun Ramanathan, a former San Diego Unified official who now leads the nonprofit Education Trust West. "They all claim to be Democrats on the school board. Is there one aspect of the Obama education agenda they've aligned with?"

San Diego Schools Zig on Reforms While Obama Zags
March 28, 2010

As President Barack Obama has unveiled many planned school reforms, San Diego Unified has steadily steered in the opposite direction from many of the controversial changes the feds seek.

San Diego Unified didn't join in when California competed against other states for more school stimulus money -- partly because the federal contest required reforms. Obama wants to beef up teacher evaluations and include student test scores in how teachers are judged; San Diego has made evaluations less frequent for senior teachers and wants to deemphasize tests. Obama has praised experiments that pay teachers more for boosting scores or working in disadvantaged schools; San Diego has avoided them.

The school district wants to put tremendous trust in teachers and principals -- the same people the Obama Administration wants to oust when test scores drag. The district prizes gradual change; Obama wants big shakeups for failing schools.

School board President Richard Barrera called San Diego's example a competing "community model" of school reform that stems from small classes and cooperation between school staff. Barrera rejected some Obama reforms as a "corporate model" stressing standardized tests and change from the top....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are some angry parents-- and teachers--actually motivated by other problems?

What's up with the nasty anti-Obama emails I've been receiving? I think sometimes people are actually angry about something different from what they're talking about, whether it's health care or the local elementary school.


A lot of kids have been given less-than-stellar educations by our local school districts, and many of their parents are angry. I agree entirely with these parents' demands for better treatment for students. I also agree that many parents who complain have been bullied shamefully by school lawyers. Some of these lawyers have violated professional codes of conduct and state law to the extent that they deserve severe reprimands, even disbarment or jail time. Of course, these lawyers are unlikely to be called to account for their unethical and illegal actions.

But some of these parents are too angry, in my opinion.

I suspect that some parents are angry about situations that have nothing to do with schools, but they unleash this anger on a handy, accessible target: their kids' school. Sometimes it's really hard to keep track of exactly what these people are furious about.

Recently one of these parents sent me, for no apparent reason, an email claiming that President Obama was "first born"* in Kenya. Apparently the theory is that he was first born in Kenya, then born for a second time in Honolulu. (Sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly what these "Birthers" are trying to say.) The email I received included a photo of Obama's elementary school application to an Indonesian Catholic school. Very clearly on the application, right after his name, Obama's place of birth was listed as Honolulu. The person who filled out the form, Obama's Indonesian stepfather, was in no way trying to make his stepson sound more American. Obama's birthplace was a matter of record, and no one had yet cooked up a plan to pretend otherwise. Yet this email was sent to me, as the sender indicated in the subject line, "to fuel the debate over Obama's qualifications." How does the human brain malfunction so spectacularly?

If anything, this San Diego parent should be angry at her own teachers for not training her adequately as a critical thinker.

But I must say that many teachers and administrators were not taught how to be critical thinkers, either. During my years of teaching I saw plenty of teachers and adminstrators spewing anger (at kids, parents and each other). Many of them made no more sense than the confused parent who emailed me. To top it off, I heard teachers make disparaging remarks about high intelligence itself. Smart people were not considered cool by the most popular and powerful teachers at my schools.

My suggestion? Critical thinking classes for school professionals.

Everyone involved would benefit from better decision-making by school personnel, and students would benefit from the improved thinking skills of their teachers.

* Full quote from email:
"This document provides the smoking gun that many of Obama's detractors have been seeking - that he is NOT a natural-born citizen of the United States - necessary to be President of these United States . Along with the evidence that he was first born in Kenya , here we see that there is no record of him ever applying for US citizenship...Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has released the results of their investigation..."

It's disturbing that there are so many people who have so little respect for democracy that they believe they have the right to use any means, including dishonesty or violence, to bring down the elected leader of the United States, just because they're feeling angry. See Tea Party and Christian Militia posts.

Next installment: Muslims versus Mormons: whom do Americans trust less?


Here's another story about a nasty email. The woman who first sent this racially offensive email was angry that a recipient forwarded it to the NAACP, and caused that recipient to be fired. This is just the sort of thing that happens in schools, in my experience. School officials want bad behavior covered up, and they take action NOT against the bad actors, but against those they fear might reveal the truth about the bad actions to the public. That's what Chula Vista Elementary School District and its lawyers did to cover up the crimes of Robin Donlan and Linda Watson. In the end, the district committed felonies like perjury and alteration of documents to cover misdemeanors. Things really get out of control once the cover-up starts. What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

The angriest administrator? The Jenny Mo case at WCCSD.

NAACP: SunTrust Mortgage worker fired over e-mail
March 18, 2010

The NAACP says a 14-year employee was fired from SunTrust Mortgage Inc. in Richmond after she was accused of sending a chain e-mail she received at work that ultimately was forwarded to the NAACP.

The fired African-American employee said she found the e-mail offensive.

The e-mail contains pictures of 40 bumper stickers such as, "Clinton ruined a dress, Obama ruined a nation," "So I guess we're even on that slavery thing eh?" and, "Diversity -- It killed 13 at Fort Hood."...

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released a copy of what it said was the e-mail sent by a SunTrust official to 13 office employees and one outside recipient under the subject line "FW: Bumper Stickers that Make Sense."...

Russ, an accountant, said SunTrust conducted an internal investigation and then brought her into a meeting. There, she was told she was being terminated because her supervisor had "trust issues" with her and because of the e-mail, she said in a telephone interview.

She said SunTrust accused her of trying to go public with the e-mail by forwarding it to someone who would give it to the NAACP.

The official who sent the e-mail collected Russ' belongings and escorted Russ out of the building immediately after the Feb. 18 meeting, Russ said. She said she was paid through March 4...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Schools fire some of their best teachers while keeping less effective teachers

California's quality-blind layoffs law harms teachers and students
LA Times
March 24, 2010
By Timothy Daly and Arun Ramanathan

Over the last several weeks, in what has become a dismal rite of spring, nearly 30,000 teachers throughout California received layoff notices. Knowing how crucial teachers are to student success, you might wonder how schools make the difficult decision of which teachers to cut. After all, if layoffs are unavoidable, you would think that it would be in the interest of everyone to keep the best teachers and cut those who are least effective.

Unfortunately, the only tool that California schools can use to make these decisions is a calendar. That's because of an outdated state law that prevents schools from considering anything other than how long a teacher has worked in the school system to decide who stays and who goes. Schools have no choice but to ignore teacher quality. Newer teachers are always laid off first, regardless of how well they do their jobs.

The result? Even top-performing teachers may be cut. Last year, "teacher of the year" award winners in Santa Barbara, San Diego and Los Angeles were among those who received layoff notices.

Forcing schools to fire some of their best teachers while keeping less effective teachers is just one of many perverse side effects of California's quality-blind layoffs law. Most notably, this approach also disproportionately harms schools that serve the poorest students, English-language learners and students of color, who are more likely to have newer teachers.

What's worse, evidence from other parts of the country suggests that teachers themselves do not support these rules. ..

Feds reduce charges against ACORN pimp James O'Keefe

Booking photo provided by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Mar 26, 2010 13:40 EDT
Feds reduce charges against ACORN pimp James O'Keefe
Four who were arrested after entering office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., now facing misdemeanor charges
By Alex Koppelman

James O'Keefe and the three other men arrested with him after they tried one of the video stunts O'Keefe has become famous for at the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., were hit with federal felony charges after their arrest. Now, the charges have been reduced, down to a single misdemeanor each.

The four men initially faced penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Now, the maximum punishment they can receive is six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

As the Associated Press notes, the way these charges were reduced seems to indicate that a plea deal is on its way, and a lawyer for one of the men essentially confirmed that to the AP.

Eric Cantor's phony victim story: His false claim of office gunshots functioned as the Ashley Todd tale of 2010, distracting from right-wing violence

Left: Ashley Todd on Oct. 22, 2008. Right: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Mar 26, 2010
Eric Cantor's phony victim story
His false claim of office gunshots functioned as the Ashley Todd tale of 2010, distracting from right-wing violence
By Joan Walsh

Did House GOP Whip Eric Cantor just become 2010's answer to Ashley Todd, the white McCain supporter who claimed she was assaulted by a black Obama backer in October 2008?

You remember the story: A 20-year-old McCain-Palin volunteer told Pittsburgh police that a black man robbed her, and then, when he saw a McCain bumper sticker on her car, he beat her and carved a B – for "Barack" -- into her cheek, and told her she better support the black Democrat. Days later, the clearly disturbed Todd confessed that she made up the attack, and apparently mutilated herself to provide "evidence." But for a few days, the right wing insisted Todd's attacker was the Democratic equivalent of the menacing crowds at Sarah Palin rallies shouting "Kill him!" and "Terrorist!" about Obama. Drudge and Fox News hyped the story, with Fox news V.P. John Moody even claiming the attack might lead some voters to "revisit their support for Senator Obama."

No one's accusing Cantor of shooting up his own office, but from the minute he made his claim -- also implying he was targeted because he was Jewish -- it was almost certain to be untrue. [Maura Larkins' note: Cantor isn't the only one who plays games like this. See declaration of Daniel Shinoff for his lawsuit for defamation against this blogger.]

In the very first AP report on the incident, the Richmond police said the bullet had been fired into the air, not through Cantor's window. Two photos in Salon show that the nondescript office building is unmarked, with no signs indicating Cantor or his staff have one of the suites inside. Friday Richmond police confirmed the bullet was a stray: Neither Cantor nor his office was targeted, and in fact the bullet didn't even land in his office. A spokesman for Cantor told reporters he was "very happy" his story turned out not to be true...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Was conforming the secret to raising scores at Euclid Elementary?

Sam Hodgson

Carol Manivone teaches her fourth grade class about bibliographies at Euclid Elementary.

Was conforming the secret to raising scores at Euclid Elementary? Of course not. It was the collaboration. But apparently conforming is a good way to get the collaboration. It seems that weak teachers benefit from being told exactly what to do.

Small Changes Made a Big Difference at One School
March 18, 2010
Voice of San Diego

...Teachers lost some freedom to decide when and what they'd teach; not everyone was pleased. But the change fit into a bigger push from Jacobson and the state monitors to get teachers on the same page, teaching the same thing at the same time. Teachers decided to keep it even after the state stopped eyeballing their scores. Bounce from one fourth grade classroom to another at Euclid on the same day and you'll see both sets of kids penning biographies of Marie Curie and Martin Luther King Jr.

"If one person is off in left field," asked second grade teacher Starla Ortiz, "how can we discuss what was successful and what wasn't?"

Conforming allowed teachers to work together: They could talk about their strategies on similar lessons instead of talking past each other. Teachers from each grade gather to look at regular, shared tests throughout the year, meeting for a whole day every six weeks and for shorter sessions more often. They analyze what kids understand and what they don't. They learn from coworkers whose kids ace the tests.

And they decide together how to re-teach the things students missed, then give students a quick, common quiz to make sure it worked. The philosophy is that two heads -- or many more -- are better than one. It also prevents gaps in learning, because everyone knows what is being taught and when. It might sound simple, but many schools lack organization -- or trust -- and fail to coordinate...

Johnson said that trust is one of the key ingredients in surprisingly successful schools: Teachers focus on getting kids to master their classes, not just finish them. They work together and share problems and successes. They back each other up -- but they don't let each other slack off. While reformers often talk about school accountability, Johnson said, they often fail to understand how school culture can be a powerful form of social accountability. Teachers don't want to let fellow teachers down.

That pressure is even more potent when they all have the same students, which now happens at Euclid. Teaching the same things at the same time also freed teachers to send children from class to class. Euclid teachers call it "deploying." Teachers temporarily divide up the students in their grade based on their abilities. Each teacher coaches a group with similar skills, allowing them to focus on their needs.

"You don't close your door. It's not like that anymore," said Carol Manivone, a fourth grade teacher. "Now they're all our kids."

And that altered how teachers teach. Euclid educators are constantly checking whether kids get it. When Ellen Leuthard poses questions to her second graders about grammar, they hold up whiteboard slates, allowing her to instantly see who understood and who didn't. Euclid may not look very different from the outside, but it actually changed what happens inside classrooms. Many schools don't...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Obama Donates $1.4 Million Nobel Prize

Obama Donates $1.4 Million Nobel Prize
posted: 12 DAYS 9 HOURS AGO

WASHINGTON (March 11) — President Barack Obama plans to donate the $1.4 milllion from his Nobel Peace Prize to helping students, veterans' families and survivors of Haiti's earthquake, among others, drawing attention to organizations he said "do extraordinary work."
Obama is giving a total of $750,000 to six groups that help kids go to college. Fisher's House, which provides housing for families with loved ones at Veterans Affairs hospitals, will receive $250,000, the White House said Thursday. And the Bush-Clinton Haiti Fund, for which two former presidents are raising money to rebuild earthquake-ravaged Haiti, will receive $200,000..

Judge: Lesbian student's rights violated


Judge: Lesbian student's rights violated
By Chris Joyner, USA TODAY
March 23, 2010
ABERDEEN, Miss. — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Itawamba County, Miss., school board violated the rights of a lesbian student by canceling the prom when the student challenged a ban on same-sex dates, but the judge stopped short of ordering the district to reinstate the April 2 prom.

U.S. District Court Judge Glen Davidson said he denied the injunction request because a private prom parents are planning will serve the same purpose as the school prom and because "requiring defendants to step back into a sponsorship role at this late date would only confuse and confound the community on the issue."

NIXED PROM: Lesbian gets day in court

Constance McMillen, 18, and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Itawamba County school district when she was denied her request to bring her girlfriend, a sophomore, to the dance and to wear a tuxedo.

McMillen said she was saddened that the judge did not reinstate the school-sponsored prom, but she understood his reasoning since the private prom is scheduled for the same day in Tupelo.

"It would be hard for him to move it," she said. "A lot of people would be inconvenienced."

Davidson ruled the school board violated McMillen's rights. "The Court finds this expression and communication of her viewpoint is the type of speech that falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment," Davidson wrote in his opinion...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

That health mandate GOP is suing to stop? It was their idea

Health bill included big Republican idea: the individual mandate
By John Dorschner
Miami Herald

The lawsuit against the health care overhaul filed Tuesday by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is focused on a provision that has long been advocated by conservatives, big business and the insurance industry.

The lawsuit by McCollum, a candidate for governor, and 12 other attorneys general, focuses on the provision that virtually all Americans will need to have health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

The lawsuit calls this an "unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals." It states the Constitution doesn't authorize such a mandate, the proposed tax penalty is unlawful and is an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states."

"The truth is this is a Republican idea," said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. She said she first heard the concept of the "individual mandate" in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain, a conservative Republican from Arizona, to counter the "Hillarycare" the Clintons were proposing...

Poll show health care plan gains favor
March 23, 2010
By Susan Page

Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,005 adults Monday. Margin of error: +/-4 percentage points.

More Americans now favor than oppose the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against the legislation.

By 49%-40%, those polled say it was "a good thing" rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms — as "enthusiastic" or "pleased" — while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as "disappointed" or "angry."

The largest single group, 48%, calls the legislation "a good first step" that needs to be followed by more action...

The Reader offers a review of the Sally Smith story

School Fees Are Illegal
By Dorian Hargrove
March 17, 2010
The San Diego Reader

On January 11, 43 students, parents, and school staff gathered inside the media center at Junipero Serra High School in Tierrasanta for the monthly meeting of the School Site Council. The council sat in the middle of the room at four conjoined tables. Comprising three students, three parents, four teachers, a school counselor, and Principal Mike Jimenez, the council is charged with overseeing a plan to improve the school in accordance with state- and federally funded programs. All schools in San Diego Unified School District are required to have a school site council (SSC)...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Terry Grier brings Martin Haberman to Houston--but the teachers union seems to be involved in the discipline policy, too

Terry Grier learned in San Diego that a superintendent can't do much without bowing to teachers union pressure to make sure no policy involves accurately evaluating teachers. So he does the best he can.

See bottom of this post for Terry Grier biographical information.

Key concepts links:
The Pedagogy of Poverty, Two Views
Must read Part 2

The man behind Houston ISD's new discipline policy?
by Jesse Alred
March 17, 2010
"Teacher behaviors," argues Dr. Martin Haberman, "obstruct learning."

"Misguided teachers," the professor writes, "make the naive assumption that problems [in the classroom] should not exist, or if problems do arise they should be dealt with..."

Haberman's theories, especially one he calls “the pedagogy of poverty,” have strongly influenced Houston's new Superintendent, Dr. Terry Grier. The Superintendent has served on the Advisory Board of The Haberman Foundation, and prefers using interview questions created by Haberman designed to identify and hire teachers amenable to disruptive behaviors.

Dr. Haberman believes the way to deal with persistently disruptive students is to tolerate those behaviors, to treat these students as if they were a family member with a chronic illness. Dr. Grier agrees. He is closing Community Education Partners, a program that separates disruptive students from their cooperative classmates.

Dr. Grier is choosing instead to emulate New Orleans by sending kids who disrupt their classes to other schools on the belief that the school environment, and not the student mind-set, is the problem.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Wait a minute. This isn't making sense. If the teacher is the problem, shouldn't the teacher be sent away rather than the student? Perhaps the teacher should be sent to a training program.]

Haberman believes the problem in schools serving low-income students are the adults not the students. The problem starts with “authoritarianism” of teachers. The “pedagogy of poverty” arises from teacher attempts “to ensure youngsters are compelled to learn their basic skills.” “Students are not necessarily interested in basic skills,” so “directive teaching must be used.”

Haberman's alternative is to sidestep basic skills education and have students develop the curriculum. He also wants a shift in subject matter to issues such as “Differences in race, culture, ethnicity and gender,” “Why are there rich and poor people,” or perhaps, “a racial flare-up.” “War”, “environment”, and “health care” are other “persistent basics of life” Huberman wants at the center of public school pedagogy.

As an experienced high school teacher, one who grew up in a low-income environment, I agree with Dr. Haberman on two counts: that low-income kids often resist formal education, and that teaching the basics are not enough. He is right that teachers with large numbers of disruptive students turn to more authoritative measures.

I am not sure the solution, though, is to pander to their class or racial and class prejudices, to indoctrinate them, or to ignore the absence of basic skills. Why did these students not learn the basic skills in their elementary and middle schools? Surely he is not proposing in-depth dialogues about the racist nature of our society in third grade, or allowing fifth graders to create their own curriculum.

Dr. Haberman also paints all poor kids with the same brush. While a significant minority of kids from poverty do resist formal learning passively or actively, many students do cooperate, learn the basics and more, and go onto success in higher education.

The reality is that formal education in a classroom is an awkward, unnatural process that requires discipline on the part of the student based on an understanding that by controlling himself now there will be a payoff later. This is true of every young person: rich, middle-class and poor. Very few people of any race or class embrace academic learning enthusiastically at a young age.

The successful charter schools, KIPP and YES PREP, adopt approaches just the opposite of Dr. Haberman. They work to make sure kids from low-income families understand “the deal:” that discipline, hard work and self-control in the classroom leads to college and financial and professional success as adults.

Underlying Dr. Haberman's “pedagogy of poverty” is not only an attempt to blame teachers for situations that victimize us as well as the student, but the assumption that poverty in an affluent society is a normal condition leaving no scars on the minority of people who go through this experience.

Like many scholars influenced by the sixties, Haberman, a New York City native, believes educational problems would be conquered if the authorities got out of the way and unleashed the people at the bottom.

“The bureaucratic functionaries,” he writes, “are well aware of the road to success and use various blocking strategies to prevent creating a critical mass of STAR teachers who are needed to turn a failing school around.”...

Keeping disruptive students in an environment they do not trust prevents teachers and students from building the cooperative culture...

[Maura Larkins note: Terry Grier is the opposite of Lowell Billings, the superintendent of Chula Vista Elementary School District, where I worked. Billings supported a highly authoritarian culture at my school--until his own henchmen, who included current CVE President Peg Myers, got carried away with their power and thumbed their noses at Mr. Billings. But instead of changing the authoritarian culture, Billings just tried to be the biggest authoritarian, making a big mess in the process. See all posts about Terry Grier; all posts about Lowell Billings.]

April 28, 2010 biographical update
Terry Greir, who was then superintendent of Guilford County Schools in North Carolina, was hired as Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District and then moved to Houston.

Trustees appear to be focusing on N.C. leader
By Helen Gao
January 11, 2008

...Under his leadership, Guilford has garnered recognition for its efforts to cut dropout rates, improve graduation rates and increase the number of students taking advanced courses. Grier was named North Carolina Superintendent of the Year in November.

Guilford is also known in North Carolina for being the first school system to pilot a pay structure that includes financial incentives to attract and retain teachers and principals and reward them for student performance...

Grier also has a good working relationship with the 11-member Guilford school board, said board member Anita Sharpe, who describes Grier as being “generally well-respected.”

If Grier lands San Diego's job, it would be his eighth superintendency. He has held top jobs in six states, including California, Tennessee, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas.

He started his education career as a teacher. His first superintendent's job was heading McDowell County Schools in North Carolina at age 34. In the mid-1990s, he led the Sacramento Unified School District, but was fired in a 4-3 vote without explanation.

He told the Charlotte Observer that after an election, the balance on the school board tipped against him.

Too much tea party racism

Mar 20, 2010
Too much tea party racism
As protesters call Dem leaders "nigger" and "faggot," it's time for Republicans to denounce them.
By Joan Walsh

When the tea party movement began last year I saw it as right-wing reaction, but given the economic turmoil across the country, I tried to understand it. Maybe there was populism within the movement that the left needed to recognize. I attended a local tea party last April 15, tax day, and while I didn't find folks whose minds seemed mutable by liberal populism, at least it seemed possible to have a conversation. I wrote about a former banker and a Democrat who made common cause with some of the protesters around the bank bailout and Goldman Sachs's overall influence on government. She had some good conversations. I saw closed minds, but I didn't see violence or overt racism. Of course I was in San Francisco, so it probably wasn't representative of the tea party movement, but I still think the effort to understand the economic anxiety that's part of what's motivating the tea partiers was worth my time.

A year later, though, it's worth more of my time to say what many resist: The tea party movement is disturbingly racist and reactionary, from its roots to its highest branches. On Saturday, as a small group of protesters jammed the Capitol and the streets around it, the movement's origins in white resistance to the Civil Rights Movement was impossible to ignore. Here's only what the mainstream media is reporting, ignoring what I'm seeing on Twitter and left wing blogs:

* Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis was taunted by tea partiers who chanted "nigger" at least 15 times, according to the Associated Press (we are not cleaning up language and using "the N-word" here because it's really important to understand what was said.) First reported on The Hill blog (no hotbed of left-wing fervor), the stories of Lewis being called "nigger" were confirmed by Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones and Democratic Rep. Andre Carson, who was walking with Lewis. "It was like going into the time machine with John Lewis," said Carson, a former police officer. "He said it reminded him of another time."
* Another Congressional Black Caucus leader, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, was spat upon by protesters. The culprit was arrested, but Cleaver declined to press charges.
* House Majority Whip James Clybourn told reporters: "I heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus."
* There were many reports that Rep. Barney Frank was called a "faggot" by protesters, but the one I saw personally was by CNN's Dana Bash, who seemed rattled by the tea party fury. Frank told AP: "It's a mob mentality that doesn't work politically."
* Meanwhile, a brick came through the window at Rep. Louise Slaughter's Niagara Falls office on Saturday (the day she argued for her "Slaughter solution" to pass health care reform, though it was rejected by other Democrats on the House Rules Committee).

On Thursday MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews grilled tea party Astroturf leader Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity about supporters who taunted a man with Parkinson's disease at a tea party gathering in Ohio last week. Phillips insisted the bullies just didn't represent the tea party movement. But such demurrals don't cut it any more. At the Nashville tea party gathering last month, a proponent of the kinder, gentler tea party movement, Judson Phillips, tried to distance himself from crazed and racist elements – but later endorsed racist speaker Tom Tancredo even after he told the convention: "People who could not even spell the word 'vote', or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama." Tancredo blamed Obama's election on the fact that "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country." He got some of the loudest cheers of the weekend.

So I'm having a hard time tonight trying to believe almost uniformly white tea partiers are anything other than a racist, right-wing reaction to the election of an African American president who brings with him feminists and gays (even if he doesn't do as much for them as they would ideally like)...

It's the Classroom, Stupid: School Reform Where It Counts the Most

March 19, 2010
Education Week
It's the Classroom, Stupid
School Reform Where It Counts the Most
By Kalman R. Hettleman

The mismanagement of classroom instruction is the ugly secret and fatal flaw of school reform. Everyone knows that school systems are horrendously mismanaged. The media keep us fully informed and outraged at foul-ups like overspent budgets, computer glitches, bungled paperwork, defective maintenance, and unresponsive bureaucrats. But these failings, as serious as they are, tell only a small part of the story.

They only recite the noninstructional mismanagement. There is fallout on teaching and learning, of course, from this type of mismanagement. But the damage pales in comparison to the harm caused when teachers aren’t given strong support in their daily classroom activities: when core curricula are not carefully selected; when training for teachers in implementation of the curricula, including sequence and pacing of lesson plans, is neglected; when tools for gathering and analyzing student data are not provided; when there is not a proper alignment between what is to be taught and the capacity of teachers (for example, the instructional time allotted and the class size) to address the continuum of fast to slow and struggling students; and when there is insufficient supervision, monitoring, and feedback loops.

Without these instructional supports, expectations for teachers and students are unrealistic, and the system is set up for failure.

Of course, no one would expect public school systems to be better managed than other large bureaucracies. And they aren’t. Education administrators resist change, protect their turf and colleagues, and tend to be unaware of their own managerial shortcomings. But if school systems are no better than other bureaucracies, are they, generally speaking, worse?
“Too often, job promotions reflect collegial relationships more than merit, and middle-management positions are often repositories for unsatisfactory principals and others who are recycled in an infamous ‘dance of the lemons.’”

The answer seems to be yes—for three main reasons. First, predisposition. The personal temperament of educators and their professional culture of insularity predispose them to be weak managers. Most educators, bless them, are drawn to the profession by the opportunity it offers to nurture the growth of children. They are more at ease with informal and collegial, rather than formal and hierarchical, relationships, and they resist being squeezed into a corporate-management mold. Most experienced teachers (and principals, too) want to close their classroom doors and do their own thing, in their own way.

At the same time, a “we vs. they” mind-set prevails. Educators perceive outsiders in general—from parents to politicians to management experts—as grandstanding quarterbacks who constantly second-guess their own expertise. This feeling of being “dissed” is understandable. Micromanagement of K-12 education resembles a national pastime.

Multitudes of people who wouldn’t dare challenge their doctors, lawyers, electricians, or plumbers have little hesitation in criticizing and offering unsolicited advice to superintendents, principals, and teachers. But educators’ circle-the-wagons culture goes too far. One teacher spoke for many when she blurted out: “We get sick and tired of these [outside] bozos trying to come into the schools and tell us our jobs. We’re the experts. We know what works. I wish all these noneducators would just shut up, take care of their own jobs, and let us take care of ours.”

Yet, this attitude is self-defeating when it repels management norms from business, science, and other fields that could help teachers do a better job.

The second basic reason educators mismanage classroom instruction is their lack of management skills. They don’t learn management in education courses in college or graduate school. Leadership programs in schools of education are notoriously out of touch with the real challenges of instructional leadership. Nor do teachers receive on-the-job management training as they work their way up the instructional chain of command, typically from assistant principal, to principal, to a post in the regional and central administrative offices. Too often, job promotions reflect collegial relationships more than merit, and middle-management positions are often repositories for unsatisfactory principals and others who are recycled in an infamous “dance of the lemons.”

A third reason such mismanagement persists is that most reformers, across the ideological spectrum, don’t pay much attention to it. Consider, for example, school choice (charters, vouchers, and privatization), accountability (stiffer standards, tests, and sanctions on failing schools), more money, curtailing teachers’ unions, and decentralization of decisionmaking from central bureaucracies to individual schools. Some of these reform strategies make more sense than others. But all have inherent limits that are evident not just in their limited success so far, but also in their structure. They do not focus directly on how to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.

Student testing, for example, is necessary to identify which schools are failing. But it doesn’t tell policymakers how to improve them...

Emily Alpert explains how San Diego Unified places teachers

View more news videos at:

San Diego Explained: Teacher Shuffle
Voice of San Diego

The Lincoln Club gets federal Judge Irma Gonzalez to suspend San Diego's campaign finance laws

The Lincoln Club Gets a New Stick
by Scott Lewis
March 22, 2010

I'm not sure many people realized just how influential the Lincoln Club of San Diego just became. Well, wait. I should rephrase. How potentially influential the club became.

Last month, federal Judge Irma Gonzalez suspended many of the city's complicated campaign finance laws and I don't think the magnitude of what has changed has set in....Check out what's happened to the Lincoln Club.

Up until last month, if you wanted to support a candidate you could simply put up a billboard for them yourself. Spend as much as you want. It's free speech, have a blast. If you wanted to get together with some friends and each, say, give $20,000 to the effort, no problem. Again, go nuts. But you had to disclose, on the billboard, who paid for it.

If you didn't want it to say your name and wanted to communicate that your cause was more of a general popular one, you might want to put a committee's name on it. For instance, you might want it to say something like "Paid for by the Committee that Loves San Diego" instead of your actual names. If so, the city limited you and your friends to donations of $500 each.

At $500 each, you need a lot -- a lot -- of friends to make something significant happen. Let's say you would want to, like the firefighters in 2004, dump $100,000 into an ad campaign. You'd need 200 people to give $500 each. That might be possible but raising that much money would require a campaign of its own. On the other hand, the Lincoln Club has access to many who could give well more than $1,000 to an advertising blitz if they were motivated enough and the rules allowed.

This is what the Lincoln Club faced. It has an active membership of Republican supporters, many of whom have the means to spend a lot more than $500 each on a billboard. But they were limited to that and with a low limit like that, they couldn't get together behind the Lincoln Club banner and do as much as their money might normally seem to allow.

That's why they sued. A federal judge decided their suit had merit in light of this decision -- enough merit to at least suspend the city's rules for a bit.

And now, the members of the Lincoln Club of San Diego -- and any other group of people -- have the power to raise and spend as much as they'd like. And they can do it behind their organization's banner.

Though it has been active for years in school board and City Council races the club now can deploy far more resources. Instead of just mailers, the group's small membership can now raise more money and put out billboard and television campaigns. It can produce videos and mount websites...

Free speech showdown continues: Google v. China

Google Stops Censoring Results, Making Block by China Likely
March 22, 2010
Busniess Week
By Brian Womack

Google Inc., following through on a pledge to stop censoring search results in China, began serving mainland Chinese users via its unfiltered Hong Kong site, a move that could prompt the government to block the service...

Google moves China search service to Hong Kong
Alexei Oreskovic
Mar 22, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc moved its China Internet search service to Hong Kong in a bid to resolve its dispute with Beijing over censored search results while keeping a foot in the world's largest Internet market.

But comments on Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, suggested that Google's attempt to strike a balance may not go over well with Beijing. Xinhua quoted a government official as saying Google has "violated its written promise" and is "totally wrong" by stopping censorship of its Chinese language search results.

Google said on Monday it intends to continue research and development work in China, as well as maintain a sales staff, even as it effectively stopped serving search results from its mainland Chinese site and redirected traffic to an unfiltered search site in Hong Kong.

New movie Ghostwriter seeks to answer my question: why did Bill Clinton's pal Tony Blair suddenly become joined at the hip with George W. Bush?

I remember feeling shocked in 2001 when Bill Clinton's pal Tony Blair, prime minister of the United Kingdom, suddenly became such good friends with George W. Bush. If Tony Blair was a liberal like Clinton, how come he was so bizarrely compatible with a right-wing extremist like Bush?

And then Tony Blair proceeded to support all of Bush's worst ideas, such as the Iraq war. Why?

Apparently the citizens of Britain had similar questions. Wikipedia reports:

Along with enjoying a close relationship with Bill Clinton during the latter's time in office, Blair formed a strong political alliance with George W. Bush, particularly in the area of foreign policy. At one point, Nelson Mandela described Blair as "the U.S. foreign minister".[96] Blair has also often openly been referred to as "Bush's poodle".[97] Kendall Myers, a senior analyst at the State Department, reportedly said that he felt "a little ashamed" of Bush's treatment of the Prime Minister and that his attempts to influence U.S. policy were typically ignored: "It was a done deal from the beginning, it was a one-sided relationship that was entered into with open eyes... There was nothing, no payback, no sense of reciprocity".[98]

For his part, Bush lauded Blair and the UK. In his post-11 September speech, for example, he stated that "America has no truer friend than Great Britain".[99]

The alliance between Bush and Blair seriously damaged Blair's standing in the eyes of many British people.[100] Blair argued it is in Britain's interest to "protect and strengthen the bond" with the United States regardless of who is in the White House.[101] However, a perception of one-sided compromising personal and political closeness led to serious discussion of the term "Poodle-ism" in the UK media, to describe the "Special Relationship" of the UK government and Prime Minister with the US White House and President.[102] A revealing conversation between Bush and Blair, with the former addressing the latter as "Yo, Blair" was recorded when they did not know a microphone was live at the G8 conference in Russia in 2006.

The new movie Ghostwriter seeks to answer my question.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Houses passes historic health care bill

Charles Dharapak / AP

Houses passes historic health care bill
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, March 21, 2010

After a year of political upheaval that swung from a triumphant Democratic sweep in Washington to the rise of the Tea Party movement, Congress on Sunday night sent to President Obama the most sweeping social program since Medicare was enacted in 1965.

The vote on the health care overhaul was 219-212, with not a single Republican supporting the measure.

Before the final debate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco locked arms with her Democratic lieutenants, including civil rights veteran John Lewis, D-Ga., to enter the Capitol through a phalanx of angry protesters. It was an emphatic show of solidarity after several ugly incidents on Saturday when demonstrators hurled racial slurs at several African American members of Congress and anti-gay insults at Rep. Barney Frank, the openly gay Massachusetts Democrat.

"We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans," Pelosi told House members as she brought the debate to a close at 10:30 p.m. She invoked the memory of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose death so complicated passage of reform, saying health care "is the unfinished business of our society, that is, until today."

The health deal was sealed by early afternoon Sunday when anti-abortion Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., secured an executive order by the White House that would reaffirm the long-standing Hyde Amendment banning taxpayer funding of abortions...

Obama secures landmark healthcare victory

John Whitesides and Donna Smith
Mar 22, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama secured a landmark victory with the House of Representatives giving final approval to a sweeping healthcare overhaul, expanding insurance coverage to nearly all Americans.

...The health insurance industry vigorously opposed the overhaul. Insurance stocks rallied late last week as investors began to realize their worst fears had not materialized.

The overhaul will extend health coverage to 32 million Americans, expand the government health plan for the poor, impose new taxes on the wealthy and bar insurance practices such as refusing to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions...

Mar 22, 2010
Mitt Romney's healthcare hypocrisy and the GOP base
Just four years ago, conservatives saluted him for signing a healthcare law that's very similar to ObamaCare
By Steve Kornacki
AP/Cliff Owen
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in February.

It’s not news when man bites dog, so why should it be any different when Mitt Romney makes a brash and insincere pronouncement?

And yet there was the one-time Massachusetts governor forcing his way into Monday morning’s headlines with what may have been the most over-the-top of all of the over-the-top Republican reactions to the House’s passage of Barack Obama’s healthcare plan.

“An unconscionable abuse of power,” Romney declared while asserting that the president “has betrayed his oath to the nation.”

When Mitt starts talking like this, it’s usually because he knows his own past record makes him vulnerable on the issue at hand.

And when it comes to healthcare, his hypocrisy is particularly galling. Romney is actually the only governor in American history ever to impose an individual health insurance mandate on his citizens. And an individual mandate, of course, is at the heart of Obama’s reform package.

Nor is the mandate the only common ground between RomneyCare and ObamaCare; the Massachusetts plan that Romney signed into law in 2006 is essentially the blueprint for Obama’s plan. Both rely on the same basic formula: a requirement that everyone purchase insurance and government assistance for those who can’t afford it.

But Romney can never admit this...

Chief justice unsettled by Obama's criticism of Supreme Court

See also Justice Roberts rules that $3 million campaign contribution is no reason to require a judge to recuse himself.

Chief justice unsettled by Obama's criticism of Supreme Court
LA Times
By David G. Savage
March 10, 2010

...Obama's speech in January came a week after the high court ruled 5 to 4 that corporations had a free-speech right to spend unlimited sums to elect or defeat candidates for office.

The president, looking down at the six justices in attendance, sharply criticized the Supreme Court for having "opened the floodgates for special interests" to sway elections.

Senate Democrats rose to their feet, applauding and cheering the president's comments...

When Obama voiced his criticism, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. shook his head slightly and appeared to say, "Not true."

Responding to Roberts' comments Tuesday night, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement, "What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections, drowning out the voices of average Americans."

Insurance company to me: Drop dead

Healthcare Reform
Mar 19, 2010
Insurance company to me: Drop dead
Blue Shield won't pay for radiation therapy that could save my life. But I'm fighting back, and you can help Video
By Cary Tennis

I've been recovering from cancer surgery and waiting for the insurance company to approve the next course of treatment, which is eight weeks of proton beam radiation therapy at Loma Linda Hospital in Southern California.

This treatment is what my surgeon, Dr. Christopher Ames of UCSF, calls the standard of care for sacral chordoma.

Today I learned that the insurance company has denied the request for this treatment...

Acorn on Brink of Bankruptcy, Officials Say

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Bertha Lewis, Acorn's chief executive, blamed “relentless, well-funded right-wing attacks” reminiscent of the McCarthy era.

Acorn on Brink of Bankruptcy, Officials Say
March 19, 2010

BALTIMORE — The community organizing group Acorn, battered politically from the right and suffering from mismanagement along with a severe loss of government and other funds, is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy, officials of the group said Friday.

Acorn is holding a teleconference this weekend to discuss plans for a bankruptcy filing, two officials of the group said. They asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.

Over the last six months, at least 15 of the group’s 30 state chapters have disbanded and have no plans of re-forming, Acorn officials said. The California and New York chapters, two of the largest, have severed their ties to the national group and have independently reconstituted themselves with new names.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI's former diocese in Munich says it is facing new allegations of physical and sexual abuse

"...[O}nly through airing the events of the past and increasing transparency future abuse can be prevented."

Mar 19, 2010 05:41 EDT
Munich diocese faces "tsunami" of abuse claims
German task force uncovers shocking amount of sexual abuse

Pope Benedict XVI's former diocese in Munich says it is facing new allegations of physical and sexual abuse on a daily basis.

"It is like a tsunami," Elke Huemmeler, head of the diocese's newly founded sexual abuse prevention task force, told The Associated Press.

Huemmeler estimates there are about 120 cases on the record to date, around 100 of them at the nearby Ettal monastery boarding school, run by Benedictine monks. She stresses, however, her role is not to deal with the old cases, but help set up the prevention program.

On Friday, her new Task Force on Sexual Abuse Prevention, now officially commissioned and backed by Archbishop Reinhard Marx, began its work...

When the first abuse cases broke at Ettal about three weeks ago, Huemmeler immediately sat down with four or five colleagues to brainstorm and find a way out of the "disaster", as she calls it...

Huemmeler's group reflects a belief that only through airing the events of the past and increasing transparency future abuse can be prevented.

Marx has said he wants to bring out everything into the open and also named a commission to comb through old records to find out who knew what and when.

The diocese now has three specialists to listen to and investigate victims' allegations of abuse, Huemmeler says. The third was named just this week because the workload has grown immensely in such a short time.

The first step is to take stock of what has happened, to analyze patterns and then find ways to prevent sexual abuse by making people look more closely...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lehman Insider's Letter Warned About Violating Code of Ethics

It seems that most people will guard their bosses dirty secrets until their boss starts to turn against them.

MARCH 19, 2010
Lehman Insider's Letter Warned About Violating Code of Ethics
Top Executives Told Firm Misled Investors on Assets; Problems in Mumbai
Wall Street Journal

Matthew Lee, a Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. senior vice president, warned in a May 2008 letter that he believed "senior management" may have violated Lehman's internal code of ethics by misleading investors and regulators about the true value of the firm's assets.

Mr. Lee addressed his letter to then-Chief Financial Officer Erin Callan and Chief Risk Officer Chris O'Meara, among others, only days before he was ousted from the firm. Portions of the letter were excerpted in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court examiner's report on Lehman released last week. A full version of the letter was reviewed Friday by The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Callan didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

Mr. Lee's complaints echo those of many investors and analysts at the time, who questioned whether Lehman was delaying write-downs to avoid potentially crippling losses. Mr. Lee, a 14-year veteran who headed the firm's global balance-sheet and legal-entity accounting, said Lehman had "tens of billions of dollars of unsubstantiated balances, which may or may not be 'bad,' or non-performing assets."

"I believe the manner in which the Firm is reporting [certain] assets is potentially misleading to the public and various governmental agencies," Mr. Lee wrote.

On Friday, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) asked the Justice Department to investigate alleged accounting manipulations that took place at Lehman and that were detailed in the 2,200-page examiner's report.

In the May 18, 2008, letter, Mr. Lee specifically criticized the accounting controls in Lehman's Mumbai office. "There is a very real possibility of a potential misstatement of material facts being efficiently distributed by that office," Mr. Lee wrote.

At the time, one India investment was drawing scrutiny from Lehman critics, including David Einhorn of hedge fund Greenlight Capital Inc. Mr. Einhorn questioned why the Wall Street firm had written up the value of a power plant there, known as KSK Energy Ventures, during the first quarter of 2008. In a speech to investors on May 21, Mr. Einhorn, who was betting that Lehman's stock would decline, said the firm had booked a $400 million to $600 million gain in the first quarter by writing up the value of KSK Energy...

Mr. Lee's lawyer, Erwin Shustak, of San Diego, said his client had complained orally for several months to his boss, Martin Kelly, Lehman's former global financial controller, about many of the same issues he raised "formally" in his letter. Mr. Kelly declined to comment, through a Barclays PLC spokesman, where he now works. According to the examiner's report, Mr. Kelly had raised concerns to top executives about the firm's accounting tactic, known as "Repo 105," which temporarily moved billions of dollars off its balance sheet, according to the examiner's report. The Lehman bankruptcy estate declined to comment...

Judge Judith Hayes made a mistake regarding the law on Feb. 19, 2010

See all Judge Judith Hayes posts.

Judge Judith Hayes made a mistake of law on February 18, 2010. I learned this from this article, which notes, "California law prohibits the recording–without consent of all parties–of a “confidential communication.” (CA Penal Code Sec. 632(a)(emphasis supplied)).

The judge was concerned that I remembered what her clerk had said to me, and asked if I had recorded the conversation. I hadn't. But I did grab a scrap of paper and started taking notes when the clerk began to say repeatedly, "There is no injunction." I have received no apology from the clerk for misleading me, but I have received a $3000 contempt sanction for violating the injunction that supposedly didn't exist.

The judge expressed no concern about the clerk's misleading statements, although Judge Hayes acknowledged the accuracy of my quotes by saying that it seemed like I had recorded the conversation.

Then the judge made her mistake of law. She told me it would be illegal for me to record my conversation with her clerk when I called and asked for a hearing date. It seems Judge Hayes needs some law school refresher courses. There's nothing confidential about a request to a court for a hearing date.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Insurer targeted HIV patients to drop coverage

Insurer targeted HIV patients to drop coverage
By Murray Waas Murray Waas
Mar 17, 2919

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In May, 2002, Jerome Mitchell, a 17-year old college freshman from rural South Carolina, learned he had contracted HIV. The news, of course, was devastating, but Mitchell believed that he had one thing going for him: On his own initiative, in anticipation of his first year in college, he had purchased his own health insurance.

Shortly after his diagnosis, however, his insurance company, Fortis, revoked his policy. Mitchell was told that without further treatment his HIV would become full-blown AIDS within a year or two and he would most likely die within two years after that.

So he hired an attorney -- not because he wanted to sue anyone; on the contrary, the shy African-American teenager expected his insurance was canceled by mistake and would be reinstated once he set the company straight.

But Fortis, now known as Assurant Health, ignored his attorney's letters, as they had earlier inquiries from a case worker at a local clinic who was helping him. So Mitchell sued.

In 2004, a jury in Florence County, South Carolina, ordered Assurant Health, part of Assurant Inc, to pay Mitchell $15 million for wrongly revoking his heath insurance policy.

In September 2009, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the lower court's verdict, although the court reduced the amount to be paid him to $10 million.

By winning the verdict against Fortis, Mitchell not only obtained a measure of justice for himself; he also helped expose wrongdoing on the part of Fortis that could have repercussions for the entire health insurance industry.

Previously undisclosed records from Mitchell's case reveal that Fortis had a company policy of targeting policyholders with HIV. A computer program and algorithm targeted every policyholder recently diagnosed with HIV for an automatic fraud investigation, as the company searched for any pretext to revoke their policy. As was the case with Mitchell, their insurance policies often were canceled on erroneous information, the flimsiest of evidence, or for no good reason at all, according to the court documents and interviews with state and federal investigators...

Irish Blessing: May those that love us, love us.

Irish Blessing

May those that love us, love us.
And those that don't love us, may God turn their hearts.
But, if He can't turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we will know them by their limping.

Elisa Betancourt asks Chula Vista Elementary parents to speak out regarding teacher losses

Elisa Betancourt writes:

Budget Cuts Hurt Kids and Every Teacher is an Individual of Great Worth

The Superintendent has failed to point out some very important facts:

The $21,004,830 reserve from the general fund is $1,962,284 more than the adopted budget of September 15th.

The approximately 100 teachers that would lose their jobs because of an increase of 4 students to each K-3 class, have already been notified that their contracts end this year.

The Superintendent has not taken into account the federal education jobs packages or the other proposed legislation that would assist in hiring these teachers back and restoring class sizes.

The Superintendent can show he respects teachers by:

Not using this crisis to pit teacher against teacher, threatening job losses and accusing the Union of playing favorites.

Encouraging parents to contact legislators, both state and federal, to try and push through helpful legislation to protect funding and save jobs.

Not asking teachers, to shoulder the burden of a broken system of funding for public education.

Looking at all options, just as other school districts all across the state are doing.

Please call School Board Members and the Superintendent
You can make the difference for our students!

Russell Y. Coronado, President

Larry Cunningham, Vice President

Douglas E. Luffborough III

David Bejarano

Pamela B. Smith

Lowell J. Billings Ed.D, Superintendent
619.425.9600 ext. 1300

It has been my personal experience that once this man makes up his mind, it's done - and yet, I have seen parents form and unite and speak as one big voice against him... the results were astonishing.

He was actually worried that we the parents might get our say in the end - I know we can do this, but we must each make the call and send the email. It really will make a difference.
March 17, 2010 3:45 PM

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis outside the law regarding public records requests on prosecutions?

DA Watch: Update 1
March 17, 2010
Voice of San Diego

I called district attorney spokesman Paul Levikow this morning to see whether the office would hand over a copy of public records without charging us $1,354 after we published this post yesterday. I left a message. No response yet.

So then I sent an e-mail to Levikow and other staffers requesting an interview with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. I want to know whether she supports the office's fees, which open government advocates call outside the law. No response so far...

In December, I requested all data related to DA cases involving the state's gang enhancement charge in the last decade. The office said providing the data would take "a very substantial expenditure of agency resources for little public benefit," so it proposed a smaller set of data that includes basic case information. That smaller set would still cost $1,354, though.

We are seeking information about when prosecutors accuse people with committing crimes for the benefit of street gangs. Prosecutors have used the charge in controversial cases recently, so we want to examine its use in the last decade.

Since we published our story Tuesday, other San Diego journalists have also contacted me about being stonewalled by the District Attorney's Office in the past.

These comments have been posted online by readers:

Good luck Keegan. This DA's office is impossibly out of control. I have never seen such arrogance from a public office even when they must know they are wrong. Heck ... they even argue against the attorney general. -- Bill Paul

Keep after Princess Dumanis. Take it to the Grand Jury. Expose the autocratic management that despises openness and access. -- David Cohen

Can you post the details of your data request? I'm a computer engineer that works with large SQL databases on a daily basis. Even ignoring 5.5 hours of "programming time," 16 hours of running time on a SQL database is utterly absurd. -- David Martin...

Workers paying more toward insurance premiums

Workers paying more toward insurance premiums
San Francisco Chronicle
Victoria Colliver, Chronicle Staff Writer
March 17, 2010

The amount California workers contributed to their employer-backed health coverage increased 83 percent between 2000 and 2008 while their income stayed the same, according to a report released today.

The study, commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, looked at the impact of rising health costs and found middle-class Americans were particularly hard hit. Three million workers nationwide lost the coverage they had obtained through their employers and many of them earn too much to qualify for government insurance programs...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scripps Howard Foundation last week named Emily Alpert a finalist in Community Journalism

VOSD Reporter Honored With National Recognition

Emily Alpert works really hard. That seems to be getting noticed.

The Scripps Howard Foundation last week named Alpert a finalist in the Community Journalism category for her work on the education beat throughout 2009.

Alpert's work included her Insert Teacher Here series examining the classroom impacts of the district's rigid teacher placement system, her watchdog work on the County Office of Education and stories analyzing the departure of Superintendent Terry Grier and the battle for a South County school.

The winner was Daniel Gilbert of the Bristol Herald Courier in Virginia. (Who turns out to be Alpert's former classmate and neighbor.)

Scripps Howard doesn't always name finalists in each category but does when it finds exemplary work. So it's kind of like Alpert won the silver medal in an event they don't always award a silver medal in.

She was also recognized recently with a special citation in the National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association for beat reporting in publications with a circulation of less than 100,000. Last year, she won EWA's first place award for investigative reporting.

Congrats, Emily. You deserve all the recognition that you receive (and more).


Glenn Beck Finally Gets Around To Denouncing Bruce Springsteen

Glenn Beck Finally Gets Around To Denouncing Bruce Springsteen
Jason Linkins
Huffington Post

You wouldn't think this was possible, but Glenn Beck had apparently never actually sat down and listened to Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA," never heard the lyrics, never formed a familiarity with the song's storied history in American politics, until this week, I guess? Anyway, now that he's heard that the song isn't some glorious tongue-bath to American exceptionalism, he's denouncing it on the radio. Per Lindsay Beyerstein:

Twenty-six years after the release of Bruce Springsteen's hit song, "Born in The USA," conservative talk show host/performance artist Glenn Beck finally got around to listening to the lyrics.

Beck was shocked, shocked to discover that for all these years he'd been rocking out to a song about a bitter down-and-out Vietnam vet who has been kicked to the curb by the aforementioned USA.

Via Spencer Ackerman, here's what Beck had to say about it:

BECK: You get filled with patriotic pride, and then you find out that Bruce Springsteen's 'Born In The U.S.A.' is anti-American. 'Born down in a dead man's town/ the first kick I took is when I hit the ground/ you end up like a dog that's been beat too much/ so you spend half your life just covering up...' [He reads the entire lyrics in an incredulous tone of voice; manages to mispronounce 'Khe Sanh'] Hmm. Yeah! [crosstalk] ... It's time for us to wake up out of our dream state. Out of the propaganda... This is the thing that people who come from the Soviet bloc or Cuba, they're all saying, 'How do you guys not hear this? How are you not seeing this?' Well, because we don't ever expect it.

All of this gives me the opportunity to bring up one thing that's always puzzled me about Beck: his love of the band Muse. Beck follows Muse on Twitter, and he took the stage at CPAC to the tune of their recent hit, "Uprising." Here's the video, you can hear the song pretty clearly:

Don't get me wrong, Muse is awesome. But what's weird about Beck's embrace of Muse is that their lead singer, Matthew Bellamy, is a 9/11 "Truther."

From Spin, Magazine: August, 2009:

...On 9/11: "There is evidence that suggests the powers that be knew of the attacks beforehand and let them happen. There's a video on YouTube called Loose Change that explains it."

I hate to take Bellamy's "curiosity as evidence of belief," but he's been talking up 9/11 as an "inside job" for a long time.

Music is just music. But Beck very recently torched Texas gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina for espousing these same "Truther" beliefs, so it's sort of funny to see him making allowances for Muse, while assailing The Boss for being un-American for that time he thought we should take better care of our veterans.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Peg Myers speaks for a good cause

Chula Vista Educators President Peg Myers

I'm glad Peg Myers is putting some effort into a good cause.

I couldn't help noticing that it looks like she's standing in front of the Hall of Justice in San Diego in the above picture. That's where her lawyers went to file an opposition to her being deposed in a case involving a cover up of teacher crimes at Castle Park Elementary. CTA was apparently very pleased with her efforts to cover up crimes at the school, but the school district eventually became concerned about what was going on at the school, and Peg was administratively transferred out of the school in 2004. Eventually a pal of Peg's was arrested for embezzling $20,000 from the Castle Park PTA, but for some reason Bonnie Dumanis (far right in photo above) declined to prosecute. Peg became Chula Vista Educators president without running for the office with a little help from Jim Groth. Peg herself finally submitted to a deposition (text of deposition is here).

San Diego leaders ask for budget reform now
CTA Action
By Len Feldman

Chula Vista Educators President Peg Myers at a Budget Reform Now rally joined by (left to right) Carlsbad Firefighters Association President Rick Fisher, San Diego Sheriff Bill Kolender, City of San diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman, and San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Prominent San Diego leaders, including Carlsbad Firefighters Association President Rick Fisher, San Diego Sheriff Bill Kolender, City of San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman, and San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, joined Chula Vista Educators President Peg Myers at a Budget Reform Now rally in April.

"We ask all Californians to join us in support of these propositions as a long-term investment toward a brighter future for our children," said Myers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is slated to release an updated state budget around May 25, and what kind of news that proposal holds for vital services — including public education — depends on whether voters approve CTA-backed Propositions 1A-1F on May 19.

CTA's State Council of Education at its March meeting voted to support each of those pending ballot measures.

CTA fiscal experts note that the national recession has continued to wreak havoc on state revenues, with at least one projection from the state Department of Finance suggesting the weakening economy could open a new budget deficit of up to $15 billion for California.

If voters reject the ballot measures — including Proposition 1B, the repayment of $9.3 billion to public education — the governor's budget plan could include another significant round of budget cuts. Cuts necessary to close a new $15 billion or more budget gap would do untold devastation to public schools, which are already reeling from the impact of cuts suffered earlier this year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mr. Adelstein represented a former substitute teacher who was peacefully picketing

Krell v. Gray

On appeal, Mr. Adelstein represented a former substitute teacher who was peacefully picketing in front of a LAUSD middle school. His sign and leaflets stated that the school promoted racism, sexism, and low student performance, and he specifically named the assistant principal. The assistant principal was upset with this. First, he and LAUSD sued the former teacher on the theory that the teacher's picketing was promoting workplace violence, and sought an injunction under Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.8. The trial court noted that the teacher was not encouraging violence and in any case his picketing was protected by the First Amendment.

Undeterred, the assistant principal then sued under Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.6, arguing that the teacher's picketing was a form of harassment. The case was assigned to a different judge who concluded that the picketing was harassment, rejected the teacher's res judicata and collateral estoppel defenses, rejected the First Amendment defense, and entered the injunction.

The appeal had a convoluted history. Mr. Adelstein's brief argued that the injunction should be reversed under res judicata, collateral estoppel, and the First Amendment, among other things. He also requested attorney's fees under Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.6, subdivision (i). LAUSD represented the assistant principal and argued to the contrary.

The Court of Appeal initially issued a published opinion affirming most of the injunction but remanding for a relatively minor correction. Mr. Adelstein filed a petition for rehearing, arguing that this opinion had incorrectly analyzed both the collateral estoppel and First Amendment issues. The Court of Appeal then asked for two sets of supplemental letter briefs, granted rehearing, and issued a second opinion reversing the trial court's injunction in full. The Court of Appeal also awarded attorney's fees under Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.6, subdivision (i).

Case Comment

I need to commend the justices in this case for granting rehearing. Petitions for rehearing are rarely granted, especially if a case has been designated for publication. But the Court of Appeal's analysis in its initial opinion, especially of the First Amendment, was simply incorrect. Many justices would be tempted to simply deny the rehearing petition and be done with the case. But the court here not only granted rehearing, but spent a considerable amount of time ordering and considering two sets of supplemental letter briefs. The justices not only worked hard to get the right result, but changed their mind in the process, and this should not pass without note.

Court: California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Five (Los Angeles)
Case No. B169593
Authors: Justice Richard Mosk; Presiding Justice Paul Turner
Opinion Date: February 16, 2005; April 27, 2005
Trial Counsel: The client was in pro per.

Billionaire Among Us: How Mexicans See Carlos Slim

Billionaire Among Us: How Mexicans See Carlos Slim
Emily Schmall
AOL News
March 13, 2010

How does a country battered by a lethal drug war and the worst recession since the 1930s react when one of its own, Carlos Slim Helu, is deemed by Forbes magazine to be the world's richest person?

In a word, mixed.

"There's no way for a country with so many poor to have the world's richest man without something being awry," said Pedro Dominguez, a mechanic from Puebla. "The problem is, most Mexican people have no way to attain this kind of wealth."

"He has my respect," countered Rafael Contreras Martinez, a housepainter from Izucar de Matamoros, on his way to a job. "I'm not going to speak ill of a man who has worked and struggled."
Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim walks before a meeting in Cozumel, Mexico in 2009.
Luis Acosta, AFP / Getty Images
Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim uses public transportation and lives in the same Mexico City house he purchased with his wife Soumaya 40 years ago. Here, he heads to a meeting in Cozumel, Mexico, last summer.

Slim, a 70-year-old son of a Lebanese immigrant, built a fortune Forbes pegs at $53.5 billion on the privatization of Mexico's telecommunications. The bulk of that wealth consists of holdings in his companies, which carry an enormous weight in the economic life of Mexico...