Saturday, May 29, 2010

Toddler killed by San Bernardino family's pit bull

Toddler killed by San Bernardino family's pit bull
May 28, 2010
The Press-Enterprise

A family pet has killed a 2-year-old San Bernardino boy whose parents briefly left him alone as he rode his tricycle in their enclosed side yard...
Read full post here.

Glenn Beck attacks Obama's 11-year-old daughter

Glenn Beck Apologizes for Mocking Obama's Daughter
Lauren Frayer
AOL News
May 29, 2010

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck has apologized for a segment on his radio program in which he made fun of President Barack Obama's 11-year-old daughter, imitating her in a childish high-pitched voice and criticizing her intelligence...
Read full post here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

San Diego reading scores improve slightly

San Diego reading scores improve slightly
By Maureen Magee
May 21, 2010


Want your child to be a good reader? Here are a few tips:

• Before your children start school, read to them for 30 minutes every day. Ask them to find letters and words on the page, and talk with your children about the story.

• Have plenty of children’s books in your home, and visit the library regularly. Let your kids pick out their own books.

• Set a good example by reading newspapers, magazines and books.

• Set up a reading area in your home. Keep books that interest your children in places where they can easily reach them.

• Ask your children to describe their daily events. Talking about their experiences makes children think about them. Giving detailed descriptions and telling complete stories also helps children learn about how stories are written and what the stories they read mean.

• Limit television time.

SOURCE: Reading Is Fundamental (

San Diego’s fourth- and eighth-graders made modest gains on a federal reading assessment administered in the nation’s largest urban school districts, according to data released Thursday.

The “Nation’s Report Card” shows results of reading tests taken by fourth- and eighth-graders last academic year in 18 big-city districts.

Administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the tests gauge students on their ability to comprehend, interpret and evaluate various types of text — from poetry to nonfiction.

The average score for San Diego fourth-graders improved by 3 points to 213 from the 2007 assessment. That’s above the average score of 210 for other large-city districts in 2009, but the overall national average was 220.

Although the jump in scores was deemed statistically insignificant by NAEP, 29 percent of San Diego fourth-graders scored at or above the proficient level in 2009, compared with the 25 percent who scored proficient or higher in 2007.

Among San Diego eighth-graders, 25 percent of students scored at or above proficient in 2009, up from the 23 percent who ranked proficient or better in 2007.

For local eighth-graders, the average score was 254 last year, two points higher than the average score of 252 for large cities and below the national average of 262. In 2007, the average eighth-grader’s score was 250 on the same exam.

At least one expert believes the “relatively flat” performance may have something to do with the churn of superintendents in the San Diego Unified School District.

“San Diego has kind of been stuck. It hasn’t been moving very much lately compared to some of the other urban districts like Atlanta, New York and District of Columbia,” said David Gordon, a member of the governing board that steers the National Assessment of Educational Progress. “Improvements in reading have been made where there is consistent and stable leadership and focused professional development.”

San Diego is searching for its fourth schools chief in less than five years, and the district has earned a reputation for fostering difficult relationships between its superintendents and school board.

Consistency with leadership, curriculum and teaching is a trend among urban districts that have made the most gains in reading scores, said Gordon, who is also the Sacramento County superintendent of schools.

In 2009, San Diego Unified’s eighth-graders were in the national spotlight for their impressive gains in math scores administered by NAEP. But progress in math, Gordon said, does not always rely as heavily on administrative consistency.

Troubling to educators is evidence that the persistent achievement gap between white students and their minority counterparts continues, the scores show. For example, the average score of a Hispanic fourth-grader in San Diego was 43 points lower than the average score for white students, according to the 2009 data. That’s a deeper chasm than the 36-point difference reported in 2003. The gap also grew between students who qualify for government-subsidized meals compared with those who don’t. San Diego Unified officials saw the good and the bad in the latest statistics...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Corporate interests are balking at even modest changes from the permissiveness of the Bush era.

The Old Enemies
New York Times
May 23, 2010

...[C]orporate interests are balking at even modest changes from the permissiveness of the Bush era.

From the outside, this rage against regulation seems bizarre. I mean, what did they expect? The financial industry, in particular, ran wild under deregulation, eventually bringing on a crisis that has left 15 million Americans unemployed, and required large-scale taxpayer-financed bailouts to avoid an even worse outcome. Did Wall Street expect to emerge from all that without facing some new restrictions? Apparently it did.

So what President Obama and his party now face isn’t just, or even mainly, an opposition grounded in right-wing populism. For grass-roots anger is being channeled and exploited by corporate interests, which will be the big winners if the G.O.P. does well in November.

If this sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security. It comes as no surprise to learn that American Crossroads, a new organization whose goal is to deploy large amounts of corporate cash on behalf of Republican candidates, is the brainchild of none other than Karl Rove.

But won’t the grass-roots rebel at being used? Don’t count on it. Last week Rand Paul, the Tea Party darling who is now the Republican nominee for senator from Kentucky, declared that the president’s criticism of BP over the disastrous oil spill in the gulf is “un-American,” that “sometimes accidents happen.” The mood on the right may be populist, but it’s a kind of populism that’s remarkably sympathetic to big corporations...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Girls Plead Guilty To Witness Intimidation Charges

Witness intimidation is a heinous act whether it is done by gang members or school officials. Sometimes teachers are just as afraid as ghetto witnesses to tell the truth about what goes on in schools. School lawyers have been known to pressure teachers to change their testimony.

Girls Plead Guilty To Witness Intimidation Charges
by Ryan ZumMallen
Long Beach News

Two teenage Long Beach girls pleaded guilty to charges of witness intimidation after being removed from the courtroom weeks ago during the murder trial of two suspects believed to be responsible for the shooting of three people outside Wilson High School, including the death of 16-year old honor student Melody Ross.

The girls, 16 and 17, were accused of flashing gang signs as witnesses testified on the stand and were removed from the courtroom. Police arrested them on the campus of Wilson High School, which they attended, just a few days later.

As a result of their guilty plea, the girls were placed on 30 days house arrest and will be under probation until they turn 21 years old. The girls were charged as juveniles after speculation that they may be charged as adults and could face much stiffer penalties.

Witnesses in the case had been very hard to come by for investigators, as few people were willing to come forward with information even though hundreds of people were gathered outside the Wilson High School stadium following a football game against rival Poly High.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ethics Commission Fights Back Against New Campaign Rules

I am so impressed with the new San Diego City Ethics Commission. Ever since Gil Cabrera left, the commission has started to go after actual corruption and abuse instead of mistakes.

Ethics Commission Fights Back Against New Campaign Rules
Liam Dillon
May 24, 2010
Voice of San Diego

The city of San Diego's Ethics Commission released an opinion today that could curtail how political parties can donate to next month's City Council primaries.

Political parties can contribute unlimited amounts to council campaigns for the June 8 primary by taking advantage of a window in the city's campaign finance rules. The local Republican Party, whose lawsuit spurred changes to city campaign laws, has announced it would give $20,000 to Lorie Zapf, a candidate in District 6 running to replace termed-out Democrat Donna Frye.

But the Ethics Commission is requiring political parties to conform to the city's $500 individual contribution limits. In other words, if the Republican Party donates $20,000 to Zapf, then it would need to identify 40 people who gave $500 to the party.

These rules, Ethics Commission Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst said, are to prevent parties from acting as a "pass through" from donors to candidates.

Local Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric, who committed to making the Zapf donation, said he hadn't see the commission's opinion and needed to consult his attorneys before commenting on how it might affect the donation.

"At this point I'm unsure," Krvaric said. "But we're committed to our support for Lorie Zapf."

Whistle-Blower in 'Kafkaesque Nightmare' After Push for GI Safety

Whistle-Blower in 'Kafkaesque Nightmare' After Push for GI Safety
Sharon Weinberger
AOL News
May 24, 2010

Several years ago, Franz Gayl began began pushing the Marine Corps to field urgently needed protective equipment to troops in Iraq. He thought he was just doing his job.

Instead, Gayl, a civilian scientist employed by the Marine Corps, says he has been stripped of his professional responsibilities, denied educational opportunities typically available to federal workers and subjected to a criminal probe he says was instigated as part of the professional retaliation against him.

Franz Gayl / AP
Franz Gayl is pictured in 2006, when he was a civilian science adviser in Iraq.
Tom Devine, the legal director of the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based organization that represents federal whistle-blowers, including Gayl, says that despite legislation that is supposed to prevent retaliation, in reality, people like Gayl face a "Kafkaesque nightmare."

At the center of Gayl's original complaint was what he saw as the mishandling of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, a replacement for thin-skinned Humvees that proved dangerously vulnerable to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. In the early days of the Iraq war, those homemade bombers quickly became the leading killer of U.S. and coalition forces.

An urgent call for the MRAPs was signed off on in February 2005, around the time when deaths from the roadside bombs were spiking. But it took more than 16 months for the Marine Corps to actually begin the process of buying and fielding the new equipment.

When the Marine Corps officials in charge of buying equipment didn't seem to be acting fast enough, Gayl made his case for better equipment through reports.

Gayl's complaints reached Capitol Hill staffers, eventually leading to congressional inquiries and an inspector general investigation of the matter. In 2007, he filed for formal whistle-blower protection.

Since that time, Gayl said, he has faced reprisals. He said he has been removed from dealing with critical technology matters, like MRAPs, and that there was an investigation into information he provided to Congress. Gayl has held on to his job, but his work situation has gone from bad to worse, he says.

Most recently, the Marine Corps denied him what would normally be a routine request -- permission to attend a prestigious graduate studies program. He was also stripped of his formal responsibilities as the Marine Corps science and technology adviser, the job he was hired to do in 2002, after retiring from active duty with the service...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lazy or incompetent? As long as you're a teacher, it's okay

“Suppose you decide that Riley is lazy or incompetent,” I asked Mulgrew. “Should you be able to fire him?”

“He’s not a teacher,” Mulgrew responded.

The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand
May 17, 2010

MICHAEL MULGREW is an affable former Brooklyn vocational-high-school teacher who took over last year as head of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers when his predecessor, Randi Weingarten, moved to Washington to run the national American Federation of Teachers. Over breakfast in March, we talked about a movement spreading across the country to hold public-school teachers accountable by compensating, promoting or even removing them according to the results they produce in class, as measured in part by student test scores. Mulgrew’s 165-page union contract takes the opposite approach. It not only specifies everything that teachers will do and will not do during a six-hour-57 ½-minute workday but also requires that teachers be paid based on how long they have been on the job. Once they’ve been teaching for three years and judged satisfactory in a process that invariably judges all but a few of them satisfactory, they are ensured lifetime tenure.

Next to Mulgrew was his press aide, Richard Riley. “Suppose you decide that Riley is lazy or incompetent,” I asked Mulgrew. “Should you be able to fire him?”

“He’s not a teacher,” Mulgrew responded. “And I need to be able to pick my own person for a job like that.” Then he grinned, adding: “I know where you’re going, but you don’t understand. Teachers are just different.” ...

[This is a 9-page article about Race to the Top.]

Rand Paul wants to take us back to the days of sit-ins at lunch counters/No to health care

Refusing to allow entire groups of people to participate freely in our economy is bad for everyone, and it's a worse crime than punching someone in the face and taking their money.

Rand Paul and his Tea Bagger friends seem not to understand that a civilized society must rein in the most base human behavior. Or perhaps they just have an odd definition of what base behavior is. How about subjecting people to abusive treatment based on the color of their skin? That's a formula for degraded human interaction if there ever was one. I would rather be punched in the face (which is obviously a crime) than to be exposed every day of my life to the possibility that I might be locked out from ordinary experiences that people with a different color of skin take for granted. I think refusing to serve people of a given race is a serious offense to basic human decency, and should continue to be a crime.

Perhaps more to the point, it would be a burden on our economy--and protecting the economy is another obligation of government.

And then we have arbitrary laws which have nothing to do with baseness. For example, the President of the US must be native born. That seems like a reasonable law to me. The problem is that Tea Partiers believe that their own arbitrary beliefs should have the same power as law(such as their irrational idea that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii despite newspaper announcements at the time of his birth and his often-produced birth certificate). This belief is plain nuts and is based on simple racism.

Paul Remarks Have Deep Roots

Wall Street Journal
MAY 22, 2010

Republican candidate Rand Paul's controversial remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act unsettled GOP leaders this week, but they reflect deeply held iconoclastic beliefs held by some in his party, and many in the tea-party movement, that the U.S. government shook its constitutional moorings more than 70 years ago.

Mr. Paul and his supporters rushed to emphasize that his remarks did not reflect racism but a sincerely held, libertarian belief that the federal government, starting in the Roosevelt era, gained powers that set the stage for decades of improper intrusions on private businesses.

Mr. Paul, the newly elected GOP Senate nominee in Kentucky, again made headlines Friday when he told ABC's "Good Morning America" that President Barack Obama's criticism of energy giant BP and of its oil-spill response was "really un-American."

That followed a tussle over the landmark civil-rights law, which Mr. Paul embraced after suggesting Wednesday that the act may have gone too far in mandating the desegregation of private businesses...

Rand Paul's American Mistake: Taking 'New' for 'Unconstitutional'

Garrett Epps
The Atlantic
May 25 2010

..."[W]e've never done it before" by itself is never a good argument that something is unconstitutional.

Today, almost no one can imagine the United States without the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- not even "little" Dr. Paul, who has disowned his theoretical musings. The Civil Rights Act completed the creation of a continental economy, where any citizen can go anywhere. Without it, America would be a different country, one that is missed only by those who write for websites named "Stormfront" or ""

A generation hence, I suspect, we are likely to be bemused that people ever thought the Constitution would block a modern nation from creating a modern health-care system.

U.S. drops criminal probe of AIG executives: Too big to go to jail?

See all AIG posts.

U.S. drops criminal probe of AIG executives
Christian Plumb
Sat May 22, 2010

The U.S. Justice Department has dropped a probe of American International Group Inc executives involving the credit default swaps that sent the insurer to the brink of bankruptcy and forced a huge taxpayer bailout, lawyers for the executives said on Saturday.

The investigation had centered on AIG Financial Products, which nearly brought down the giant insurer after writing tens of billions of dollars on insurance-like contracts on complex securities backed by mortgages that turned out to be toxic.

The U.S. government stepped in with a $182 billion bailout to avert a bankruptcy filing by AIG.

The criminal probe had focused on whether Joseph Cassano, who ran the financial products unit, and Andrew Forster, his deputy, knowingly misled investors about the company's accounting losses on its credit default swaps portfolio...

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Friday that the two-year investigation, one of the highest profile of the various probes stemming from the 2008 financial meltdown, had been dropped.

The FBI and other government agencies had been looking into whether Cassano misled investors with overly optimistic forecasts about the extent of the firm's exposure to securities backed by risky subprime mortgages.

Investigators were said to have focused on a December 2007 investor presentation at which Cassano played down the market value of losses on the credit default swaps.

Over the course of the next year, AIG took writedowns of more than $40 billion on the swaps and had to put up billions more in collateral to counterparties like Goldman Sachs.

Cassano resigned under pressure in March 2008 as AIG's financial situation began to weaken...

Deceptive Mailer: Vote For Greener California

This warning is posted at Speak Out California:

Deceptive Mailer: Vote For Greener California
There is a mailer reaching California's voters titled Vote for a Greener California, with a label that says "Californians Vote Green."

This mailer is deceptive. It says to vote for Proposition 16, the "PGE Initiative." This is a paid endorsement, and is designed to trick people into thinking there is an environmental reason to vote for a proposition that actually keeps people from being able to buy green energy. The California Secretary of State's website shows that PGE paid $40,000 to be part of this mailer: (While you're there, look how much they paid for "Petition Circulating.")


Please do not be fooled by this mailer. Speak Out California recommends voting no on Proposition 16. It is a proposition that enforces PG&E's monopoly if it passes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm voting for Jerry Brown, but Douglas Hughes has one terrific idea

I think that a separate, flourishing community for pedophiles could attract people who have never committed a crime, but have come to realize that they are pedophiles. They might voluntarily enter the community to stop themselves from harming children. The only thing I disagree with is using Santa Rosa Island; I'm sure another location can be found.

Calif. Pol Touts 'Pedophile Island' for Sex Offenders
May 21, 2010
David Lohr Contributor
AOL News

California gubernatorial candidate Douglas Hughes has made quite a name for himself in recent weeks -- not so much by surging ahead in the polls, but rather by promising, if elected, to create a "Pedophile Island" for convicted sex offenders...

Hughes, a 73-year-old Republican and retired business owner, has been a resident of California since 1955. According to his political profile, he believes his biggest assets as a candidate are his relationship with God and his "practice of moral principles." His top priorities are children, jobs and border control.

If elected governor, Hughes says, he will give all convicted pedophiles a choice: remain in prison for life, leave California permanently or live on Pedophile Island -- a self-supporting, downright Utopian community he has envisioned.

California gubernatorial candidate Douglas Hughes believes Santa Rosa Island, in Channel Islands National Park off the coast of southern California, would be a good spot to maroon convicted sex offenders.

"On the island, they can live their life out there, farming and ranching," Hughes said. "They can be their own entity, and it won't cost the taxpayers a dime."...

With 5,000 lawyers in San Diego, why couldn't they provide a decent alternative in the contest for Judge DeAnn Salcido's seat?

I'm going to write in Sandra Berry's name on my ballot for DeAnn Salcido's seat. But it's pathetic that with roughly 5,000 lawyers in San Diego, we can't seem to fill all the judicial positions with qualified individuals:

Office 27:
Harold Coleman Jr: Unable to Evaluate
Judge DeAnn Salcido: Lacking Qualifications

Judge rated unqualified in local bar evaluation
By Greg Moran
May 14, 2010

Office 14:
Craig Candelore: Lacking Qualifications
Judge Lantz Lewis: Well Qualified.

Office 20:
Stephen Clark: Well Qualified
Jim Miller Jr: Lacking Qualifications
Richard Monroy: Well Qualified

Office 21:
Bill Trask: Lacking Qualifications
Judge Robert Longstreth: Well Qualified

Office 27:
Harold Coleman Jr: Unable to Evaluate
Judge DeAnn Salcido: Lacking Qualifications

Office 34:
Larry “Jake” Kincaid: Lacking Qualifications
Judge Joel Wohlfeil: Well Qualified.

Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido, facing an election challenge and under heavy criticism from her colleagues after she filed a legal action against the court a week ago, received the lowest possible rating in the local bar association’s evaluation of candidates.

Salcido was found to be “lacking qualifications” by the San Diego County Bar Association, which evaluates candidates for judicial seats each election. The bar says the evaluations are done as a public service to assist voters.

The process is supposed to be confidential and uses surveys distributed to judges and lawyers. A bar committee also interviews candidates and does other research before making its decision.

Salcido said that while she would have liked a higher rating, the low evaluation did not surprise her because she has ruffled feathers of lawyers and judges.

“I view it as the natural result of the county bar association asking only attorneys and judges of their view of me, and not the general public,” she said.

Last week Salcido took the unusual step of asking the 4th District Court of Appeal to issue an order commanding judges to impose certain probation conditions on misdemeanor domestic violence cases. She contended many judges were not following what she believes state law requires, and that when she stood up for that position, she was harassed by her supervising judge in El Cajon.

Salcido said thatshe was not willing to go along with plea bargains that were fashioned to avoid some probation conditions, and that this has angered her colleagues and defense lawyers.

The appeals court rejected the move on Tuesday, but Salcido said her stance long ago earned the enmity of her peers. Bar officials said Salcido was informed of her rating about a week before she requested the order from the appellate court.

The bar does not give specific reasons behind the ratings. But Salcido said she was told that lawyers thought her use of humor in court was inappropriate, and that she was considered “not professional enough.”

It is unusual but not unprecedented for the bar to rate as sitting judge an unqualified, said Patrick Hosey, the president of the bar association.

Salcido’s opponent, Harold Coleman Jr., was given a rating of unable to evaluate.

That is a neutral rating, and means the bar committee doing the analysis did not have sufficient information on the candidate to “fairly and adequately evaluate” a candidate’s ability to be a judge.

Coleman, an arbitrator and lawyer, is one of four candidates who is endorsed by Bettercourtsnow, an organization founded by a now-deceased religious leader that is supported by conservative legal and religious groups. All four are running against sitting judges.

The three other candidates who are endorsed by the group — William Trask, Craig Candelore and Larry “Jake” Kincaid — all received rating of “lacking qualifications.”...

Berry says she will not run
San Diego Union Tribune
Greg Moran
May 20, 2010

Former Superior Court Commissioner Sandra Berry said Thursday morning she will not be running as a write-in candidate for Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido's seat.

Berry was drafted by lawyers and others to run in the race, and earlier this week she took out nominating papers and collected the requisite number of signatures to qualify.

But she said that she decided time was too short to mount an effective campaign.

"It's just too late," she said. "I think it's just too hard to win without my name on the ballot."

Absentee voting has already begun, she noted, putting her even further behind the curve.

Her decision not to enter the race means that Salcido and challenger Harold Coleman Jr. will square off for the race.

Lawyers unhappy with those candidates had approached Berry, and there was already word spreading on social networks and e-mail chains throughout the legal community urging support for her.

Judge, husband accused of fraud
Injured woman sues, questions transactions
By Greg Moran
June 9, 2007

Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido and her husband are being sued for fraud for allegedly selling real estate assets to shield themselves from paying a woman who was badly injured while on a motorcycle ride with the judge's husband in 2004.

In a lawsuit filed May 24, lawyers for the injured woman, Stacy Hardesty, said the judge and her husband, Edward, have sold two properties – one for $1.2 million – taken on debt and transferred assets in an effort to avoid paying Hardesty.

DeAnn Salcido filed for divorce in January. That came after an incident in which she said her husband grabbed her roughly, leading her to obtain a restraining order.

The lawsuit contends that the divorce is an attempt to protect her share of their community property from any judgment against Edward Salcido.

DeAnn Salcido, who hears family law and other cases in El Cajon Superior Court, declined to comment on the lawsuit and referred all questions to her lawyer, Ken Medel...

Gloria Romero for California Superintdendent of Public Instruction

Romero's reform record makes her best pick for superintendent
The Press Democrat
May 20, 2010

If you want to assess the three leading candidates for state schools superintendent, check out their supporters.

Larry Aceves, a retired superintendent who served small school districts around the state, is endorsed by fellow administrators.

State Sen. Gloria Romero is aligned with charter school advocates and people who believe that student achievement should be a factor in evaluating the performance of teachers and principals.

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson is the favorite of the teachers unions.

All three candidates understand the value of education and care deeply about public schools, but only one has a record of challenging the status quo. That's why The Press Democrat recommends Gloria Romero for state superintendent of public instruction.

Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat, calls education “the civil rights issue of our time.” In her quest to reward classroom innovation and hold educators accountable, she overcame vigorous opposition to pass legislation this year affirming that student achievement data can be used in teacher evaluations. The same bill expands open-enrollment opportunities and allows parents to force their local school boards to revamp some of the state's poorest-performing schools.

Critics — including Torlakson and Aceves — contend that data-based evaluations are unfair, potentially penalizing teachers who take on difficult assignments. But we're not convinced that a system can't be devised that rewards those teachers for their students' progress over the course of a school year...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Voters' anger at Washington may overpower any fixes

This is why the world is such a mess. People just want to hurt the ones they're angry at, even though they hurt themselves in the process. What do people want after bankers blew up the economy? Tea Baggers don't want financial reform, they want the government to let the banks fail--and the whole economy go down in flames.

Voters' anger at Washington may overpower any fixes
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 19, 2010

Voters sent a clear message on Tuesday: They don't like the way Washington works. But they sent a mixed message on what would make it work better, which adds up to a virtual guarantee that it might be a long time before Washington actually does work better. ..

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

School Factors May Influence Teacher Effectiveness

A new study may be the beginning of the much-needed exposure of how some teachers actively sabotage some of their colleagues. I saw this happen again and again in my career.

School Factors May Influence Teacher Effectiveness
By Stephen Sawchuk
Education Week
May 17, 2010

I've heard a lot of people question the wisdom of teacher transfers based on the reasoning that a teacher who's effective in one school setting might not be as effective in another, due to differences in the student population, the culture of the school, or the pedagogy/curricula.

So far there's been precious little research literature on this topic, but a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that there are good reasons to investigate it in depth.

Analyzing a set of matched student-teacher data in North Carolina between 1995 and 2006, researcher C. Kirabo Jackson found that what he calls "match quality"—the factors that make a teacher more productive in one school setting than another—can account for up to a quarter of the observable "teacher effect," i.e., how effective a teacher appears to be at raising his or her students' academic achievement.

He also found that the teachers studied tended to be more effective in mathematics after they moved to a new school. That finding suggests that they are actively seeking out schools with a better match for their talent. Teachers were also less likely to leave their current school when the "match quality" was high.

"Part of what we typically interpret as a teacher quality effect is in fact a match quality effect that may not be portable across schooling environments," Jackson writes in the paper.

This is potentially an important thing to consider, especially in the context of the "equitable distribution" of teachers. Typically, that phrase refers to policies and incentives to encourage teachers who are the most effective to transfer to—and stay in—schools with high percentages of disadvantaged or minority students, or to keep highly effective teachers from transferring away from such schools.

After all, if a large part of teacher effectiveness is related to match quality, and if teachers themselves are responding to match quality in their choice of workplace, then equitable-distribution policies probably need to take into account which teacher-school pairings are the most successful.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sometimes getting arrested is a positive; For Rep. Luis Gutierrez, it was a photo opportunity

Why a congressman was arrested at the immigration protest
By Ambreen Ali
May 2010

When a Member of Congress is arrested, it's usually a scandal they try to cover up.

For Rep. Luis Gutierrez, it was a photo opportunity.

In the days leading up to a May 1 protest, the Illinois Democrat's staff carefully planned out his arrest for a misdemeanor trespassing charge, even notifying the police department of their intentions.

Along with other activists at the event, Gutierrez was trying to draw attention to a movement to overhaul federal immigration laws. But it was unusual for a sitting Member of Congress to be picked up.

"I think in order to win we have to give up our own comfort and challenge the system," Gutierrez said as he reflected on his arrest a week later.

Live web cam of eagles of Hornby Island

Click here for live video:

I didn't know what eagles sounded like until I watched this.

Prop. 16 would be sweet for utilities

Prop. 16 would be sweet for utilities
By Dean Calbreath
San Diego Union-Tribune
May 16, 2010

For three years during the late 1990s, Michael Meacham, director of Chula Vista’s conservation and environmental services department, worked to craft a law that would make it easier for California’s municipalities to form their own power companies.

Since then, nearly 20 cities from the trendy suburbs of Marin County to the farmlands of the Central Valley have banded together to generate their own energy, breaking away from their former energy supplier, Pacific Gas & Electric.

But Meacham worries that those efforts might be endangered thanks to Proposition 16, a ballot initiative funded with $35 million from PG&E that would require municipalities to gain the approval of two-thirds of the voters before they create their own power companies...

Judge to LAUSD: No Layoffs at Gompers, Liechty and Markam This Year

This is terrific news for those of us who are concerned that poor teachers remain ensconced in school while good teachers are laid off.

Judge to LAUSD: No Layoffs at Gompers, Liechty and Markam This Year
May 12, 2010

School Districts Have Flexibility in Making Layoffs in Order to Provide Equal Education to All, Ruling Says

Saying that the state’s education code allows school districts flexibility in laying off teachers in order to comply with constitutional requirements to provide equal education to all students, a Superior Court judge granted an injunction today that prevents the Los Angeles Unified School District from laying off teachers at Gompers, Liechty and Markham middle schools this year. The three schools, which primarily serve low-income students and students of color, saw their teaching corps disproportionately decimated by a round of budget-driven layoffs last year, causing their education efforts to fall below the state constitutional guarantee that all students will receive a basic education consistent with prevailing statewide standards.

“Today's landmark decision carries on the ideals of Brown v. Board of Education that no child may be deprived of the right to learn,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

North African bloggers get creative to evade censorship

North Africa isn't the only place where free speech is under fire. San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes was asked by Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm to arrest me for mentioning the name of their law firm on this blog. She refused. Why? She has been very partial to Ray Artiano in this case, brazenly violating the constitution by creating a permanent order that I may not mention the name of the law firm. (I'm violating that order right now.) But she's not a dummy. It appears she was hoping that I'd be so frightened of the possibility of being arrested for contempt of court that I would voluntarily give up my constitutional rights and erase my website. But since that didn't work, she didn't want to keep pushing her luck. The mainstream media might pick up the story if I were jailed. In this country, the media hasn't been silenced, but it does censor itself to some degree, which is why we need bloggers in America.

North African bloggers get creative to evade censorship
May 16,2010
by By Sarra Grira

When confronted with free speech as an act of self-expression, authoritarian powers throughout history have tried to assert their legitimacy and remove threats to their rule through censorship. To achieve this, the censor has had to be quicker than the pen.

This task was relatively easy in the days of the printed word. However, today’s Internet revolution – especially blogs and other online social media – has turned the job of censorship into a censor’s nightmare.

Gone are the days when newspaper dailies were seized before they hit the stalls and books were branded with the seal of interdiction in the printing shop. Due to email and blogs, words today are less expensive and, more importantly, circulate more easily and quickly to readers around the globe.

The blog is arguably a privileged means of expression: simple, accessible and personal, it serves as a notepad on which anyone can jot down their ideas for everyone to see. Bloggers’ concerns range from the color of their summer holiday bikinis to local social issues and the fate of the latest political opponent arrested in one’s country. It is here where censorship meets its match.

For example, in Tunisia in November 2009 the arrest of Fatma Al Rihani, who has a blog “Arabica”, stunned the blogosphere and unleashed a wave of solidarity amongst Tunisian Internet users. And in January in Morocco, following a series of arrests of bloggers that had been writing about student demonstrations, Moroccan bloggers expressed their disapproval with a ”week of mourning” for the loss of freedom of speech in Morocco.

But censoring blogs does not always suppress information. Censorship may work in the short term, but the result is the opposite in the long term – thanks in large part to the “magic” of the Internet. Despite the difficulties censorship creates, some blogs soar to untold heights of popularity and countless hits once they return online after having been censored...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good news for Helix Charter High School; Not-so-good news for Josh Stepner

See all posts re Helix High.
See all posts re Josh Stepner.
See all posts for Grossmont Union High School District


Helix High's charter has been extended for five years. Jim Kelly and Daniel Shinoff did not succeed in bringing down the the school. They did succeed at adding drama to the lives of several of their targets. I was (and still am!) one of Daniel Shinoff's favorite targets, and I must say that he does make life interesting.


"In another incident that did not involve sexual conduct Helix teacher Josh Stepner was charged with a misdemeanor for helping a student get a bus ticket to leave town."

Helix High Charter Extended
Reported by: Sharon Chen

Helix Charter High School in La Mesa will get another chance to keep its charter.

The Grossmont Union High School District and Helix Charter High School Boards reached an agreement Friday morning.

The agreement calls for extending the Helix Charter for five years. It was also agreed principal Douglas Smith will retire at the end of June after 21 years with the school district.

Students expressed displeasure with the resignation of Smith, some calling it unnecessary...

Helix has had four sex scandals involving teachers and students during Smith's time as the school's executive director.

The school board had threatened to revoke the school’s charter because of the number of incidents.

In another incident that did not involve sexual conduct Helix teacher Josh Stepner was charged with a misdemeanor for helping a student get a bus ticket to leave town...

The school board issued the following statement:

"The parties have achieved a global settlement of all issues and the district board will renew Helix's Charter effective July 1st 2010. And after 21 years of successful service to Helix High school Dr. Doug Smith has acknowledged his resignation as Executive Director effective June 30, 2010. And in the acknowledgement of the many benefits of a healthy and collaborative relationship between the Grossmont Union High school District and the Helix Charter High School the parties hereby and fully commit and agree to abide by the following compact for positive relations to ensure an exemplary and model relationship which will be of significant benefit to both parties and more importantly the students that we serve." -- Brian Kick, President Helix Charter High School Board.


VUSD Attorneys Dan Shinoff, Jeffrey Morris and Carreli gloat that district doesn't have to pay even though girl was abused. Come on, guys. You don't even have an apology to offer to this woman? [See Shirk v. Vista Unified.] And yet Dan Shinoff claims to be upset about a teacher helping a student get to her grandmother's house?

From the website of the Stutz law firm:

In California Supreme Court Victory, Shinoff,
Sleeth, Carelli, Morris and Pate Save the Tort Claim
Act from Revival Statutes

In a precedent setting decision, the California
Supreme Court upheld the stricter time limitations
for alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to file
suit against public entities. The reversal of the local
Court of Appeal, obtained by attorneys Dan
Shinoff, Jack Sleeth, Bill Pate, Jeff Morris and Paul
Carelli, all partners with the firm Stutz Artiano
Shinoff & Holtz, protects public entities from the so-
called “revival” statutes. As the name suggests, the
Legislature (under Gray Davis) passed the revival
statutes to revive really old claims, which normally
would have expired under statutes of limitation.
Revival statutes have been the vehicle for the
highly publicized clergy abuse claims against the
Catholic Diocese. This decision virtually eliminates
the ability to bring similar cases against
government entities. [Shirk v. Vista Unified Sch.
Dist. (2007) 42 Cal.4th 201, 164 P.3d 630]

Southwestern College named one of nation’s worst First Amendment violators

See all posts on Southwestern College.

College administration named one of nation’s worst First Amendment violators
The Southwestern Sun
By Anthony Dacong
May 4, 2010

One of America’s leading defenders of free speech has named Southwestern College one of the nation’s 10 worst violators of the First Amendment for 2010.

SWC Superintendent Dr. Raj K. Chopra and Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs Nicholas Alioto were singled out for criticism by the Virginia-based Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression “for promulgating and enforcing a policy limiting even peaceful and non-disruptive protests to a designated ‘free speech’ patio.” The Jefferson Center awarded its notorious “Jefferson Muzzle” to the college for events that arose from an October 22, 2009 student rally and a February 2010 effort by students to collect signatures for a petition to recall three SWC Governing Board members.

U.S. Department of State is proposing to amend regulations for hosting exchange students

Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students

Danielle Grijalva, Director
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
Phone: 760-583-9593

Nationwide Campaign to Stop Fingerprint, Criminal Background Checks

14 May 2010 -- The U.S. Department of State is proposing to amend the existing regulations to impose new program administration requirements within the secondary school student exchange program.

Link to proposed existing regulations

Director, Danielle Grijalva of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) said, "The State Department is to be commended for strengthening the federal regulations which were written to protect this vulnerable group, yet many among the exchange industry are vigorously opposing the very measures to protect these children and the reputation of our country."

In an email dated May 20, 2010, President of Youth For Understanding USA, Mike Finnell, announced, "YFU NEEDS YOUR VOICE IN WASHINGTON". Mr. Finnell's email began, "Earlier this week, the US Department of State (DOS) published proposed changes to the J-1 exchange visitor regulations which would greatly affect our international students, host families (like you), and volunteers (like you). While YFU remains vigilant as always to protect and ensure student safety and well-being, we view many of the proposed regulations as excessive, invasive and likely to be prohibitive for those wishing to become involved in YFU and other international exchange organizations."

On May 4, 2010, Judge Michael J. Barrasse of Pennsylvania sentenced ASPECT Foundation area representative, Edna Burgette, to three months in Lackawanna County Prison. According to the May 5, 2010, The Times Tribune, story by Joe McDonald, Burgette was sent to prison, "...for recklessly endangering foreign-exchange students she placed in squalid living conditions while collecting fees for setting up host families."

In July of last year, CNN Special Investigations Unit Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston, exposed in its investigation, "Exchange students live American nightmare," where U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., said, "It's inexcusable that our government didn't do a better job of oversight. And it's inexcusable that this foundation hasn't done the job to provide basic protection for children."

CNN's Reporter Drew Griffin said, "CNN has learned ASPECT knew about the problems in Scranton way back in October; when a student sent photos and an email pleading for help. And the State Department, which spends $34 million a year on exchange programs, well, it knew too."

CNN's Drew Griffin said, "Senator Casey says emails show the State Department knew about the problems here since last October and did nothing for months. And then the State Department allowed Aspect, the agency that placed the students in these homes, to investigate itself."

CNN's Drew Griffin said, "P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs says that was a mistake." Assistant Secretary Crowley said, "I think in large respect because we, we put too much emphasis on the program agents to police themselves; we recognize that that has not worked properly."

Students who have participated in foreign exchange student programs have become victims of crimes including abuse and sexual exploitation during their stays in the United States. Grijalva of CSFES stated, "Student placement agencies not interested in the complete health, safety and welfare of its students should not be allowed to place exchange students."

Public comment period is open until June 2, 2010.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Quality Child Care Leads to Smarter Teens

Quality Child Care Leads to Smarter Teens
Study Also Links High-Quality Child Care With Fewer Behavioral Problems in Teens
By Kathleen Doheny
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 14, 2010 -- The effects of early child care may be more long-lasting than commonly believed, according to a new study.

At age 15, teens who had high-quality child care in their early years performed better on academic and cognitive tests than did other teens, and they had fewer adolescent behavior problems, says study leader Deborah Lowe Vandell, PhD, professor and chair of education at the University of California, Irvine.

''We think a lot of people expect the effects of early child care would fade away by age 15," Vandell tells WebMD. "We found they didn't. Children who were in early high-quality child care did better academically and cognitively at age 15, compared to other children in the study."

Teens with a quality child care background also had fewer problem behaviors, such as breaking rules, hanging out with kids who get into trouble, and arguing, the researchers found...

Vista Unified School District violates Brown Act to conceal exit of Sandy Gecewicz

Updated May 16, 2010

Steve Lilly, president of VUSD board

Carol Weise Herrera
VUSD board

At its May 10, 2010 board meeting closed session, the Vista Unified School District discussed...well, we have no idea what they discussed, since two conflicting agendas were posted beforehand, and the board failed to announce afterward what, if any, actions it had taken.

Vista Unified School District has decided to pay $158,000 (plus health benefits, which I believe adds up to $167,000) to Sandra Gacewicz, the person who is perhaps most knowledgeable about what is going on in the district, in return for her resignation. The reason given is "a dispute." See separation agreement.

Why did the board see fit to spend tax dollars in this way? Hmmm. Perhaps they don't want Gacewicz to tell the truth when State investigators turn up this year to investigate VUSD (see list at bottom of this post). VUSD is getting an "On-Site CPM Review" this year.

First, the district posted a meeting agenda at the site where the board meeting was actually held that differed from the real agenda. The fact that the lengthier agenda was followed is supported by the presence of attorneys at the meeting. Public comment was allowed only on the one item mentioned in the abridged agenda.

Second, the board flippantly refused to properly announce its decision(s) made in closed session.

A citizen writes:

The board went into closed session immediately after the vote on the one item. After the board went into closed session, we were kicked out of the cafeteria. The closed session meeting was about an hour and then Gibson came out and said the closed session was over. The board was just in there chatting away. He talked to us for about 20 minutes and the board never came out. Gibson left; after Gibson left three of the board members came out to the parking lot chatting and got in their cars. We asked them where are you going you are suppose to go in open the meeting and announce what you discussed in closed session and then adjourn the meeting.

They said, "What are you talking about. The meeting is over."

We said, "Yes but per Brown Act you are suppose to open the meeting, announce and then adjourn." They giggled and got in their cars and left.

We saw the lady from the human resource the same one who signed the restraining order against Alejandro [a parent activist that VUSD is trying to eject from DELAC meetings and apparently from discussions with state investigators] coming out and told her the same thing. She went back and told President of the Board Lilly that they did not close the meeting. So Lilly comes out into the parking lot and says, "There were no announcements the meeting is adjourned.'

We said, "you cannot do this in the parking lot plus you don't have a quorum, your quorum left."

We again told him that per the Cal. Brown Act the board (quorum) was suppose to go out and officially open the meeting announce what they discussed in closed session and if any decisions were made. Then adjourn the meeting.

Lilly said, "That is not true. I can do this in the parking lot by myself and if you don't like it put it in writing."

Can you believe this? have you even been to a public meeting conducted in the parking lot? Unbelievable!

In the past, VUSD had a dispute with a psychologist, B J Freeman. The district actually sued the doctor because she said a child needed special education. Attorney Dan Shinoff handled that case.

The Gecewicz case is being handled by Fagen, Friedman and Fullfrost, a firm that was put together after Lozano Smith attorneys were ordered by a federal judge to take ethics classes. Howard Fulfrost was a shareholder at Lozano Smith when the firm billed Bret Harte Union High School District $500,000 for a case that could have been settled years earlier for $8,000. Mr. Fulfrost doesn't like to mention the name of his previous firm; here's what he says on his website:

"Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Fulfrost was an associate, and then
a shareholder, with another California education law
firm. While at that firm, he was co-chairperson of the Special
Education Practice Group – leading its growth to California’s
largest and most well-recognized special education practice."

Socioeconomic Integration and Achievement

Apr 6, 2008 by Jim Horn
... districts have high numbers of students with strong language skills and that can rub off on low-income students, who often start school a bit behind, said Sandy Gecewicz, chief academic officer for Vista Unified School District. ...

The following will be added in 2010-11:
County: San Diego
3773569 Oceanside Unified
3768296 Poway Unified
3768304 Ramona City Unified
3768312 Rancho Santa Fe Elementary
3710371 San Diego County Office of Education
3768338 San Diego Unified
3768346 San Dieguito Union High
3773791 San Marcos Unified
3768353 San Pasqual Union Elementary
3768379 San Ysidro Elementary
3768361 Santee Elementary
3768387 Solana Beach Elementary
3768395 South Bay Union Elementary
3768403 Spencer Valley Elementary
3768411 Sweetwater Union High
3768437 Vallecitos Elementary
3775614 Valley Center-Pauma Unified
3768452 Vista Unified
3775416 Warner Unified

Virginia panel finds a presumption that administrators would never willfully violate the law

I certainly agree with this finding by a panel of investigators in Virginia. It applies to schools all across the country:

"...[T]here is "an unreasonable presumption" by some central administrators that principals would never willfully violate law or policy, and 'they are hesitant to adequately investigate possible wrongdoing, even in the face of documentary evidence that negates the presumption."

Report: School faculty told to cheat, whistle-blower rebuked
By Amy Jeter, Harry Minium, Steven G. Vegh
The Virginian-Pilot
March 9, 2010

A middle school principal coerced teachers into fabricating students' work to help win state accreditation, then lied to get a teacher fired who refused to cheat and who reported testing problems to the division and the state, according to an investigatory report.

In addition, the school division's top administrators refused to demand that Lafayette-Winona Middle School Principal Cassandra Goodwyn comply with state testing standards and dismissed the whistle-blower's evidence that he refused to bend testing rules...

The panel

The members were Assistant City Attorney Derek Mungo; Leigh Butler, director of teacher education services at Old Dominion University; and Dennis Moore, senior coordinator of pupil personnel services for Norfolk schools.

Lafayette-Winona principal is faulted

A panel of investigators found Lafayette-Winona Middle School Principal Cassandra Goodwyn improperly selected students for alternative testing, removed students’ work if it appeared it would fail, ignored staff recommendations to correct policies and severely disciplined a whistle-blowing teacher.

Reached late Tuesday, Goodwyn denied any wrongdoing and said she has evidence to prove it.

Executive director is faulted

The report found that the division’s executive director for middle schools, Cathy Lassiter, stood by while the whistle-blower was unfairly disciplined. The report states: “She failed to fulfill the prescribed duties” of her position and and to uphold the division’s core values...

Understanding the Education Debacle
Karen Horwitz
May 14, 2010

In your article you said: "'According to the report, the panel found there is "an unreasonable presumption" by some central administrators that principals would never willfully violate law or policy, and 'they are hesitant to adequately investigate possible wrongdoing, even in the face of documentary evidence that negates the presumption.'" I can tell you why this unreasonable presumption takes place all over this nation. Organized crime is rampant in our schools and part of its organization is successfully keeping it away from the press so it can go on with no scrutiny. What they are labeling unreasonable is in effect a cover up I can document all over this nation and until the public gets what is being covered up, nothing does make sense. I wrote a book all about this organized crime in education called White Chalk Crime: The REAL Reason Schools Fail. All the answers are there. Check out and and you will learn just how teacher abuse, which you described in your article, underpins this organized crime. I have organized whistle blowing teachers so they can finally be heard above the propaganda. They are the people who have been disappeared by this system of White Chalk Crime, and they are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to testify or merely speak to reporters. However, somehow these truths are evaporated by the system that holds so much power and extends to the corporate controlled press.

With so many people mesmerized by the free market theory, those who want our schools to self destruct so they can privatize them are in the lead. However, had they done their homework on free market philosophy they would know better than to trust a system that abandons regulations. If people would just read Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine they would get it. But people talk about education rather than self educate and this is why those really trying to solve the problem of our schools are lost and subject to the power of those determined to privatize the schools. Granted government can be and is corrupt. But it is the only balance to corruption in business and anyone who thinks that greed does not take over has been asleep these past years.

What we need is good government, not less government, yet our people are being manipulated by free marketers totally unaware what that means. Ruining our schools killed two birds with one stone: made people too uneducated to figure out where they were being led and opened up the opportunity to privatize them. We cannot solve this problem without looking at the big picture or that the destruction of the public school system is a definite part of the free market agenda. So while we agonize about issues from bullying to cheating to drop outs, the free market people are laughing all the way to the bank, literally...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The San Diego Ethics Commission finally investigates real corruption: Nancy Graham's business partners and the CCDC

My wish has come true: the San Diego ethics commission is finally acting on real corruption.

Graham's Ethics Commission Case Advances

by Rob Davis
Voice of San Diego
May 12, 2010

Nancy Graham, the former Centre City Development Corp. president who resigned nearly two years ago, is due before the San Diego Ethics Commission this week and next.

The commission has alleged that Graham broke city laws by improperly making decisions in office that benefited her business associates. It has proposed a maximum $170,000 fine against Graham. While at CCDC, Graham sat in on negotiations about a downtown hotel with Lennar Corp., her former business partner. She hadn't disclosed the more than $3 million in income she received from a business deal with the company.

Graham, who has since pleaded no contest to a failure to disclose her economic interests while president, has a hearing on a narrow set of issues Thursday before the commission.

Her attorney, Paul Pfingst, is contesting the commission's jurisdiction in the case and arguing that the 34 counts filed against her should be condensed to one. He argues that her many meetings with Lennar -- each charged as separate counts -- constitute one event, not many.

The commission argues that Pfingst's questions about jurisdiction amount to a "hypertechnical distinction" in the law. In a legal brief, its attorney, Alison Adema, dismissed Pfingst's argument for condensing the charges as "absurd," and noted that Graham's involvement in the hotel project over a two-year period constituted multiple violations of city law. The law, she wrote, is designed to punish all efforts to improperly influence municipal decisions -- not just the first.

That will be heard at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Graham is also due before the commission for an administrative hearing next Thursday, May 20, at 9 a.m. That hearing will allow both sides to present and argue

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Innocent teacher Tonya Craft says false accusations can happen to anyone, anytime

The fact that these cases keep popping up around the country, with outrageous false accusations that no normal person would take seriously, is an indication of how dysfunctional our justice system is. How do police manage to ignore the warning signs of a child custody suit gone wrong, and witnesses who admit they're lying?

See all Tonya Craft posts.

“I want to make people aware that this can happen any time, anywhere, to anyone,” she said. “The children that are part of false accusations are just as devastated as those who are truly molested.”

Craft gives live interview on NBC, defense team to appear on 'Larry King'

Rome News Tribune
May 11, 2010

Former Ringgold teacher Tonya Craft appeared live on NBC’s “Today” show this morning, a day after being acquitted on charges she molested three young girls...

"Today" host Meredith Vieira interviewed Craft, her husband and her lawyer. Craft told Vieira that she had been worried about the verdict after researching other cases involving false accusations.

“I almost couldn’t let myself think there was going to be a not guilty,” she said. “I never thought I could be arrested for something I didn’t do, so I absolutely had to expect the worst.”

Craft also talked about her daughter — one of the alleged victims — testifying for the prosecution, and how the children truly believed something happened to them.

“That was the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “There was no anger towards her. It absolutely broke my heart.”

There have been death threats made against Craft since the verdict, the interview revealed.

But Craft’s focus now is on regaining custody of her children, and educating others on the effects of false accusations...

Former Donovan State Prison guard Art Moreno seems to take advantage of his partner's new job--or is David Bejarano asking too much for Security Firm?

Somebody's being unreasonable here, and it's hard to know who it is. Perhaps Art Moreno figured a huge windfall had ended up in his lap when Bejarano was chosen as Chula Vista's top cop. The new job means Bejarano must give up the company. Bejarano says either his partner pays for his half or the company should be dissolved. But maybe the problem is this: perhaps the company isn't really worth much without Bejarano in it.

Top Chula Vista cop, partner in dispute

Police chief co-owns security company
By Tanya Sierra
May 7, 2010

In addition to being Chula Vista’s police chief, where he earns an annual salary of $187,000, David Bejarano is involved in a number of other activities. Among them:

• Chula Vista Elementary School District trustee

• Co-owner of Presidential Security Services

• Vibra Bank board member

• South Bay Community Services board member

• Consultant for personal injury law firm Tatro & Zamoyski

CHULA VISTA — A business partner has accused Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano of writing fraudulent checks on the private security firm’s account, an allegation that the city forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office.

City policy prohibits police officers from owning or working for private security firms in Chula Vista, and Bejarano’s efforts to dissociate himself from Chula Vista-based Presidential Security are at the root of the business partners’ dispute.

Bejarano co-owns Presidential Security Services with former Donovan State Prison guard Art Moreno. Bejarano stepped down as president of the company in August when he became police chief. About that time, he also curtailed his duties at the firm and wanted his name removed from advertising, marketing and other public material...

Bejarano’s lawyer, Joseph Casas, said the chief is the victim of a smear campaign. He added that his client’s name was removed from bank records without proper authority...

The corporation’s board of directors is composed of Moreno and his wife, Colleen, and Bejarano and his wife, Esperanza.

Bejarano, a former San Diego police chief, has filed suit in San Diego Superior Court to disband the company. In the suit, Bejarano alleges that Moreno and his wife “repeatedly breached their fiduciary duties and wrongfully acted in their own self-interest.”...

Presidential continues to pay David Bejarano a salary. Last year, he earned $73,820 with the firm and charged about $15,000 on a company credit card, Moreno said.

City Attorney Bart Miesfeld said as long as Bejarano is trying to cut his ties with the company, and as long as his responsibilities there do not interfere with his duties as police chief, he is not violating city policy that prohibits a police officer from working for or having a financial interest in a private police agency in the city.

Simon Mayeski, a member of California Common Cause’s San Diego chapter, questioned that assessment.

“I wonder why the city attorney is trying to write around this regulation, which sounds like a reasonable and necessary restriction,” Mayeski said. “It opens up way too many questions and puts the chief in a less-than-perfect position going about his business.”

Common Cause is a nonprofit that says it strives for an “open, honest and accountable government.”

Presidential Security has a number of contracts to provide security guards for Chula Vista businesses, including two shelters run by South Bay Community Services, where Bejarano serves as a board member.

City Councilmen Rudy Ramirez and Steve Castaneda said Thursday that Bejarano should have left Presidential Security by now.

“There should have been a specific timeline in which he had to divest himself from that business,” Castaneda said.

Mayor Cheryl Cox said she backs Sandoval and Miesfeld.

“I’m confident that the city manager and city attorney have done their due diligence,” she said.

[Due diligence? Does Cheryl Cox have any idea what that means? When she was a CVESD trustee, she helped make sure that no investigation was ever done regarding a 2001 report by two teachers that they believed there might be a mass shooting at Castle Park Elementary. At the same time, the district specifically claimed it had done its due diligence.]

Meanwhile, the future of Presidential Security and its 40 employees remains unclear.

After Bejarano was hired as police chief, he suggested to Moreno that they divide the company, according to an September e-mail exchange provided by Moreno.

“It can be done quickly, with minimal costs and you and your family can operate your share any way you want and my wife will operate our share,” Bejarano wrote to Moreno in a Sept. 28 e-mail.

Moreno said Bejarano should sell his interest in the company.

“Our last offer to him was $50,000, and we never heard back from him,” Moreno said.

Casas, Bejarano’s attorney, said Moreno has not made a serious offer.

“Mr. Moreno can put an offer on the table to us, which he has yet to do in any meaningful way,” Casas said.

A court date on Bejarano’s suit to disband the company has not been set.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

San Diego Unified School Board Unanimously Condemns Arizona Law

School Board Unanimously Condemns Ariz. Law
Voice of San Diego
May 11, 2010

The San Diego Unified school board unanimously approved a resolution tonight condemning a controversial Arizona immigration law, saying it allows police to engage in racial profiling.

The resolution also states that San Diego Unified will develop a policy to restrict school district employees' travel and conference participation in Arizona. It calls the law "an irrational and irresponsible response to our broken immigration system."

Critics said it was inappropriate for the school board to offer its opinion on Arizona immigration law, which falls far outside its purview. That worry was shared by school board member Katherine Nakamura, who voted for the resolution anyway. She said she couldn't abstain or vote against the resolution now that it was before her. Some critics booed when the vote was taken.

But backers said it was a civil rights issue that demanded that the school board take a stand.

"We have to make it our business," said school board member Shelia Jackson. She added, "If no one speaks up, then this law will spread."

The resolution was originally proposed by board President Richard Barrera and later altered by school board member John Lee Evans, who eliminated an earlier warning to families not to travel to Arizona, saying that they could make that choice themselves, and added restrictions on travel and conferences. It echoes a similar resolution passed by the San Diego City Council last week.

Ex-Teacher's Trial a Sham, Supporters Say


Tonya Craft Verdict: Not Guilty - Tonya Craft Found Not Guilty of 22 Counts of Child Molestation

May 11, 2010

Ex-kindergarten teacher Tonya Craft was found not guilty today of 22 counts of child molestation. The Tonya Craft verdict was announced at about 5:30 today.

The jury read the not guilty verdict to all 22 accounts, including molestation, sexual battery, and aggravated molestation.

The Tonya Craft verdict may have gotten Craft out of going to prison, but Craft's life will never be the same. Since she was arrested for molestation, Craft has lost her job and her house...

This case sounds an awful lot like the Dale Akiki and Jim Wade cases here in San Diego. I must say this about our District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis: as much as I am appalled by the abuses of her Public Integrity Unit (now defunct), at least she never did anything this insane.

The timing of these accusations was extremely convenient for the ex-husband of the accused, who who waging a child-custody battle against the accused.

"As the trial continued, many conflicting details emerged. One of the alleged victims admitted to lying in a previously taped interview, and another said she was promised a toy for talking to police. Other times, witnesses said they could not remember pertinent details of the case."

Ex-Teacher's Trial a Sham, Supporters Say
May 11, 2010
AOL News

Supporters of Tonya Craft are speaking out as both sides anxiously await a verdict today in the five-week trial of the former northwest Georgia elementary school teacher accused of molesting three young girls. Craft's supporters called the entire ordeal a "sham" that should never have been allowed to occur.

"It's divided the community between those who are intelligent and can think for themselves and those who are blindly led," local resident Harmony Lefler told AOL News. "It's horrible to say that, but it is the truth."

Keri Mann, a resident of nearby Chattanooga, Tenn., and a member of the Facebook group Truth for Tonya, agrees.

Tonya Craft arrives at court on May 6, 2010, in Ringgold, Ga.
Billy Weeks, AP
Tonya Craft arrives at her trial in Ringgold, Ga., on Thursday. She was charged with child molestation in June 2008.
"I have not met one person who believes she is guilty," Mann said after closing arguments Monday in Ringgold, Ga. "There are several teachers and former teachers in my family who were all stunned by this case. ... As a future teacher, I am scared to even work in this community because of these allegations."

Craft, a mother of two, was arrested in June 2008, after she was accused of molesting three girls, age 5 and 6. Prosecutors say the incidents occurred at her former residence on Sycamore Drive.

The five-week trial began in Catoosa County Superior Court on April 12. Jurors heard tearful testimony from the three young accusers, who are now 8 and 9 years old, and their parents. One of the alleged victims said Craft molested her "in kindergarten and first grade."

As the trial continued, many conflicting details emerged. One of the alleged victims admitted to lying in a previously taped interview, and another said she was promised a toy for talking to police. Other times, witnesses said they could not remember pertinent details of the case.

A nurse and doctor testified that the three girls in question showed signs "suspicious of sexual abuse," but Dr. Nancy Fajman, a professor of pediatric medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, said she saw nothing suspicious in her review of the forensic photos of the exam.

"I find nothing suspicious about it, and I would report it as a normal examination," Fajman said.

The defense also presented several teachers from Chickamauga Elementary School who said they had no reason to believe Craft had acted inappropriately with any of her students and spoke highly of her as a teacher.

Craft's attorneys argued she was the victim of revenge, following an April 2008 investigation she had initiated when she began to suspect her own children were being abused after her divorce. That investigation, which was later closed, occurred one month before the allegations against Craft surfaced...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Two approaches to teaching:

Should the spreading branches be trimmed to keep them neat and manageable? Or should the trellis be expanded to let them grow?

Many teachers are disgusted with their colleagues who give their students the second option.

My personal view is that teachers need to teach kids some self-discipline, but that if students are encouraged to expand into the best possible version of themselves, which requires learning how the world works, they will do what is best for themselves and society as a whole. I don't believe that wise people get ahead by walking over other people. They get ahead by preserving and developing a fair society.

White House rules young adults to remain covered by their parents’ health insurance policies up to age 26

Rules Let Youths Stay on Parents’ Insurance
New York Times
May 10, 2010

The White House issued rules on Monday allowing young adults to remain covered by their parents’ health insurance policies up to age 26.

The promise of such coverage has attracted great interest. Employers and insurers say they have been flooded with inquiries.

Under the rules, an employer-sponsored health plan or a company selling individual insurance policies must offer coverage to subscribers’ children up to the age of 26, regardless of whether a child lives with his or her parents, attends college, is a dependent for income-tax purposes or receives financial support from the parents...

A secret panel is working to name Grossmont Union's new high school

I'm not concerned about the name of a school, but the political shenanigans engaged in by the board of Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) are a clear indicator of how little this board cares about education. The antics of Jim Kelly certainly throw the effort to destroy Helix High into a new light.

What’s in a name? East County school fight diverts attention from education
San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial
May 9, 2010

It’s a secret that East County’s high school district evidently would prefer you didn’t know – the names of politicians on an advisory panel to help the public name a school coming to Alpine in 2013.

The Grossmont Union High School District, pushed by trustee Jim Kelly, tried to name the unbuilt school he has consistently opposed after Ronald Reagan, though policy suggested the name should carry local geographic significance. The naming maneuver prompted a backlash and Grossmont Union opted to come up with a “public” panel.

The public doesn’t need to know who represents it, apparently. This editorial page was told to file a public records request.

[GUHSD lawyer Dan Shinoff seems to regularly advise his public entity clients not to release public records.]

Here are the 10 panelists – two chosen by each trustee – that we gleaned from other sources:

•Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party, who was appointed and served briefly on the Grossmont board. Famously, he and Kelly once held a news conference to announce that all district high schools would become charter schools.

•Duncan Hunter Sr. of Alpine, the Republican who retired after 14 terms in Congress. Hunter was swept into office in 1980 on the Ronald Reagan wave.

•Bob Watkins, an Alpine resident, businessman and a member of the county Board of Education from 2003-08 until he ran for the Republican nomination in the 52nd Congressional District.

•Jennifer Martinez, a business owner who won a seat on the Alpine Planning Group in 2008.

•Doug Deane, Alpine resident, president of DSD Business Systems, and a board member of the East County Chamber of Commerce.

•Leona Bennett, an Alpine resident who helped collect more than 300 signatures asking that the community be allowed to name its school.

•Mark Price, Alpine school board member and a driving force in winning support for a second school bond to make the Alpine school possible. It was a school bond that trustee Kelly actually campaigned against.

•Steve Hunyar, Alpine resident, president of a software company and a nonprofit drug education and awareness organization, and a former Alpine school board member.

•Louis Russo, a high schoolteacher, member of the Alpine planning group, and a Republican who also has run for school board and fire protection district.

•Sylvia Sullivan of La Mesa, who owns a bookkeeping business, is a former spokeswoman for Operation Rescue in San Diego and a member of the Republican Central Committee.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, it is clear these are politicians, former politicians or politically experienced people. When the exercise, or charade, is finished, some observers expect an 8-2 vote for Ronald Reagan High School.

The Grossmont Union board has been preoccupied the past 15 months in a Kelly-led feud with Helix Charter High School, each side losing its superintendent in the process...

Teresa Barth thinks if Jerome Stocks isn't doing what she wants, then he's harassing her

Teresa Barth sounds a lot like Robin Donlan and her pals at Chula Vista Elementary School District, although at least Barth didn't make an anonymous complaint. I believe that the public has a right to know when public servants go nuts. It seems that the harasser here is Barth, not Stocks.

Councilwoman's harassment complaint eyed
Findings could be released
May 10, 2010

Encinitas City Councilwoman Teresa Barth filed a harassment complaint with the city against Councilman Jerome Stocks late last year after he didn’t nominate her for deputy mayor and criticized her in remarks to newspaper reporters on why he didn’t choose her.

Legal counsel deemed the complaint invalid because Barth is not technically a city employee, but only after the city spent $15,249 in legal fees investigating it.

Stocks and Barth are accusing each other of political gamesmanship. Barth’s complaint also mentions Mayor Dan Dalager, saying he and Stocks are part of a “good old boy” culture at City Hall. Stocks has called for making the results of the investigation public, and the council will vote Wednesday on waiving the city’s confidentiality policy; Barth released the complaint itself last week.

“I tried to do this internally so that it would not be politicized, and it was Mr. Stocks who leaked the presence of the investigation to the media,” Barth said Friday.

She said Stocks and Dalager targeted her because of her “whistle-blowing in terms of open government.”

Stocks said, “These allegations demonstrate very clearly that Ms. Barth is vindictive, mean-spirited and is unhappy that she didn’t get her way.”...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Who is the mystery candidate for CEO of The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles?

See all blog posts re Accelerated School.
See all Patrick Judd posts.
See all Lowell Billings posts.

Update: Joaquin Hernandez is the new CEO of TAS.

The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles has parted ways with executive director Patrick Judd, and now has an interim CEO named Jonathan Williams.

Who will be the new executive director of The Accelerated School?

On July 28, 2010 the TAS board interviewed an anonymous "recommended CEO candidate." Who is the mystery candidate? If TAS continues to look to Chula Vista Elementary School District for its CEOs, the candidate might be Lowell Billings or Dennis Doyle. Doyle left CVESD only to be pushed out of National School District.

The new CEO at TAS will replace Patrick Judd, who was hired at TAS by his own employee, TAS board member and CVESD superintendent Lowell Billings. Patrick Judd was a board member at Chula Vista Elementary School District until 2008.

Lowell Billings doesn't seem to believe in openness in superintendent searches, does he?

But the San Diego Union Tribune is currently using quotes from him in a series about a different instance of an employee in one district hiring his boss in another district. The trouble is, the SDUT Watchdog blog has so far failed to mention that Lowell Billings is far more of an expert in the subject than he has bothered to mention.

Immigration Reform: the Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City v. Carlos Slim

We need immigration reform--and Mexico needs to stop oppressing its poor. The richest man in the world, Carlos Slim (left), achieved his wealth on the backs of the poor of Mexico.

We need immigration reform
By John C. Wester (at left in photo)
Catholic Bishop, Salt Lake City
Washington Post

...The federal government since 2002 has spent over $100 billion on immigration enforcement initiatives. This amounts to a doubling of Border Patrol agents to almost 20,000, nearly 700 miles of border fencing, a failed "virtual" fence costing billions, and a tripling of detention beds.

This is not to mention the manpower, weaponry, and other resources spent on immigration enforcement raids over the past several years, used to whisk away powerless mothers and fathers from their even more powerless children.

Yet, despite this strategy, along with its tragic human consequences, there has been no sustainable progress. In fact, the number of undocumented has risen over 50 percent in the past ten years, from 7 million in the 2000 Census to 11 million today.

The similarities between teacher culture and police culture

I was a teacher all my working life, so I'm not terribly knowledgeable about the workplace culture of other occupations.

People have compared teacher culture to high school "mean girls" culture.

But I've been amazed at how similar teacher culture is to police culture. Here is a story that made me think I'd feel at home in a station house:

The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct

I've known two main types of teachers, the nurturing type, and the policing type. But all types are asked to present a superficial appearance that is often not compatible with the truth, and to engage in actions that are not compatible with teaching children.

Facebook glitch a nightmare for users

Facebook glitch a nightmare for users
Tech Jackal
09 May 2010

...Over four hundred million people have Facebook accounts to socialize and share video clips and photos with friends. A Facebook glitch was discovered on Wednesday that yet again brought privacy issues to the forefront in users’ minds. The glitch had allowed private information such as friend lists, chat conversation and other information to be accessed by other people.

Facebook reassured users that they are working to fix the glitch that caused the breach but many people have become skeptical of Facebook’s privacy standards. Some people have found that their Facebook information has been available to anyone on the Internet, resulting in many users opting to delete their accounts and just use other social networking sites such as MySpace and Twitter to stay in touch with their friends and family members...

Judge Rules Post on Cop-Rating Site is Protected Speech

Judge Rules Post on Cop-Rating Site is Protected Speech
By David Kravets
May 5, 2010

A federal judge has struck down a Florida law prohibiting the publication of a police officer’s name, phone number or address, calling the statute an unconstitutional restraint on speech.

The decision leaves Arizona, Colorado and Washington state with similar laws on the books. Florida authorities said Wednesday they were mulling whether to appeal.

...Robert Brayshaw, a 35-year-old apartment manager, brought the challenge to Florida’s law after he was briefly jail in 2008 for posting personally identifying information of a Tallahassee police officer on — a 2-year-old website that lets users rate and comment on the uniformed police officers in their community.

RateMyCop uses public records requests to gather the names and, in some cases, badge numbers of thousands of uniformed cops at police departments around the country, and allows users to post comments about police they’ve interacted with. The site’s launch in 2008 drew cries of outrage from police, who complained that they’d be put at risk if their names were on the internet.

Brayshaw used the site to post anonymous comments about Tallahassee Police Officer Annette Garrett, as well as her name and home address — information not normally cataloged by the site. He wrote that Garrett was rude to him when investigating a trespass call at an apartment complex he was managing.

“He had been investigated for a possible trespass charge, which he was never arrested for,” Brayshaw’s attorney, Anne Swerlick, said in a telephone interview. “He was unsatisfied by the way he was treated.”

The authorities subpoenaed RateMyCop and Brayshaw’s internet service provider to learn his identity, then booked him under the Florida law — a misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail. The case was later dismissed against Brayshaw for procedural reasons, but he sued, claiming the statute chills his speech.

U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak in Tallahassee agreed, and awarded Brayshaw $25,000 in damages plus legal fees Friday.

The judge ruled the First Amendment does not protect “true threats, fighting words, incitements to imminent lawless action, and classes of lewd and obscene speech.” But publishing an officer’s phone number and address, he said, “is not in itself a threat or serious expression of an intent to commit an unlawful act of violence” (.pdf).

Smoak wrote that he appreciated the intent of the 38-year-old law, but noted that it went too far. “While the state interest of protecting police officers from harm or death may be compelling,” the judge said the law “was not narrowly tailored to serve this interest.”

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