Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bigot starts ground zero church: Where's the outrage?

UPDATE: Sep 3, 2010
Mosque foe hits extremist pastor's 9/11 Christian Center
By Justin Elliott

We're finally seeing one of the opponents of the so-called "ground zero mosque" speak out against the "9/11 Christian Center" that an extremist evangelical pastor is launching this weekend...

But the Daily News today has a story quoting mosque opponent Andy Sullivan speaking out against Keller. The twist is that Sullivan seems to object to the 9/11 Christian Center on primarily tactical grounds. Here's the passage:

Andy Sullivan, a leader in the movement to move Park51, said Keller's 9/11 Christian Center is "just what we do not need" near Ground Zero.

"This guy is going to justify all the people who call us bigots and racists for opposing the mosque," he said.

Still no word on Keller's project from the Anti-Defamation League...

Aug 30, 2010
Bigot starts ground zero church: Where's the outrage?
By Justin Elliott

A bigoted pastor who has assailed gays and Muslims is launching the "9-11 Christian Center at Ground Zero" a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site this Sunday, but so far the project hasn't drawn a peep of protest from those who are outraged by the "ground zero mosque."...And in 2008, he targeted presidential contender Mitt Romney for being Mormon with a campaign called "voting for Satan."...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Is teacher culture harming education rather than helping it?

In my experience, politically powerful teachers, even those who are close to clueless when it comes to teaching, have a tendency to sabotage good teaching by their peers rather than promoting it. Emily Alpert writes:

"I recently talked to an elementary school teacher who said he regularly gets stellar test scores out of students who came into his classes woefully behind. Why, he wondered, wasn't San Diego Unified calling him to ask what he was doing?"

Teachers: Give Us Your Best Idea
August 25, 2010
Voice of San Diego
Emily Alpert

Yesterday I wrote about how San Diego Unified is seeking to reform schools by letting them come up with their own ideas and share their successes. My trusty editor Andrew Donohue asked me a great question: Don't schools do this already?

The answer is yes, but probably not enough. I've heard school district officials talk about bringing principals to see other schools or sharing strategies they saw elsewhere in the school district.

But sometimes, ideas just don't travel very far. I recently talked to an elementary school teacher who said he regularly gets stellar test scores out of students who came into his classes woefully behind. Why, he wondered, wasn't San Diego Unified calling him to ask what he was doing?

So let's start that conversation.

Teachers, parents, principals and everyone else: What are you doing that other schools could learn from? What is the best idea or strategy you have that no one has ever asked you about? ...

More would-be interns paying thousands to land a coveted spot

Is America becoming less and less a meritocracy?

More would-be interns paying thousands to land a coveted spot
By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 30, 2010

Each year, thousands of college students descend on Washington for unpaid internships. It can be a nerve-racking process: sending out résumés, trying to make contacts, interviewing again and again.

Increasingly, many of them are finding an alternative: paying thousands of dollars to a placement company for a guaranteed spot...

Estimates of the annual number of interns locally range from 20,000 to 40,000. The placement programs provide about 2,500 of these interns, with the number growing each year.

For their money -- often funded with taxpayer-subsidized loans -- students get an internship, housing, night classes, tours of Washington and college credit...Washington Center is the city's largest program, and for the past three years it has placed about 1,500 interns annually, up from about 1,300 in 2007. It charges nearly $9,000 for a summer, including housing.

Others include:

-- The Washington Internship Institute. It will place about 200 interns this year, up from 120 in 2007, and charges about $7,000 for a summer.

-- The Fund for American Studies. It has grown from about 370 students in 2005 to 525 this year and charges as much as $7,800 during the summer.

-- The National Internship Program, formerly the Washington Internship Program. It charges an enrollment fee of $3,400 without housing and has seen its numbers increase from 166 students last year to an expected 250 to 300 this year. The for-profit company has doubled its staff in that time and is beginning to expand into other major cities.

"There has never been a harder time to get hired," said chief executive Lev Bayer, whose mother started the company nearly 30 years ago...

The tuition payments add up to millions of dollars of revenue for the internship programs, many of which operate as nonprofit groups, pay their top employees six-figure salaries and set up shop in prime D.C. real estate.

The nonprofit Washington Center has its headquarters in a former embassy blocks from the White House. The center had about $18 million in revenue last fiscal year and has a staff of 75, with at least eight employees making six-figure salaries. The president, Michael B. Smith, was paid more than $300,000 last year...

Los Angeles Times list of top teachers and schools in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Teacher Ratings
Los Angeles Times
August 2010

About 6,000 Los Angeles elementary school teachers and 470 elementary schools are included in The Times' database of "value-added" ratings.

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers who taught at least 60 students from the 2002-03 through 2008-09 academic years were evaluated in the Times analysis...

A teacher's value-added rating is based on his or her students' progress on the California Standards Tests for English and math. The difference between a student's expected growth and actual performance is the "value" a teacher added or subtracted during the year. A school's value-added rating is based on the performance of all students tested there during that period.

Although value-added measures do not capture everything that goes into making a good teacher or school, The Times decided to make the ratings available because they bear on the performance of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to the information.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Christian extremism: where are the Christian voices against "burn a Koran" day?

Do Christians in America believe in the first amendment? If they do, they're being mighty discreet about it.

The Washington Post notes: "Muslims are expected to speak out against their faith's extremists. Where are the Christian voices against 'Burn a Quran Day'?"

See Education and the Culture War.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A clerical error--and the teachers union-- might have cost N.J. an education grant

Clerical error might have cost N.J. an education grant
Gov. Chris Christie's office is under fire for using the wrong data to fill out "Race to the Top" application
Associated Press
Aug 25, 2010

For anyone who's ever entered the wrong number on a tax return and been denied a refund, or accidentally overtipped, here's some consolation: A silly error on New Jersey's application for the highly competitive Race to the Top education grants might have cost the state $400 million.

The federal government announced that nine states and the District of Columbia had won the coveted grants. New Jersey was the top runner-up...

But New Jersey lost all five points on one section in which officials were asked to show that the state gives a consistent percentage of its revenue to education. The application called for using data from 2008 and 2009 to make the case. New Jersey used figures from the 2010 and 2011 state budgets...

The governor also blamed the New Jersey Education Association, the state's main teachers union, for not supporting the application -- costing points that were given for having others in the state's education community on board...

Your school's best bet for higher scores? Get Emily Alpert to profile you!

Remember That School Where … ?
Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
August 17, 2010

... * You might remember Montgomery High, a seemingly ordinary school south of the Otay Valley Park that had become a battleground for Sweetwater Union High School District because of its lackluster scores. It brought in a peppy new principal, changed its schedule, and tried to implement a slew of changes to how teachers teach, sometimes rankling teachers and their union.

So what happened? Well, Montgomery saw some big gains on the state test.

The percentage of students who met state goals in math, for instance, more than doubled. The share of students meeting state goals grew nearly 13 percent in English, nearly 15 percent in history and 12 percent in science. I haven't heard the official word yet, but the scores likely mean that Montgomery will avoid state takeover.

* Scores also surged at another school under siege: King-Chavez Arts Academy.

This charter school in Barrio Logan has had a roller coaster of a year. After the controversial firing of most of its teachers two years ago, the school landed on a state list of persistently low-achieving schools that are supposed to create dramatic plans to turn themselves around. But at the same time that it was being labeled as a failure, the Arts Academy saw English scores rise 14 percent and math by nearly 23 percent.

* We also profiled another school that landed on that state list of low achieving schools: Burbank Elementary. Scores jumped there, too, giving some credence to its plans to keep on with reforms it has already started rolling out, instead of reversing course.

* Finally, we stopped into San Ysidro High to see how teachers like Jessica Vargas were trying to toughen up classes to help English learners pass the high school exit exam.
In every grade, more English learners reached state goals, though it is still quite rare -- 8 percent instead of 2 percent among high school juniors, for instance...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Joaquin Hernandez is the new CEO of The Accelerated School (TAS)

See all posts re Accelerated School.

The secretive board of The Accelerated School has chosen Joaquin Hernandez as its new CEO. He was presented at a board meeting on August 24, 2010.

Hawthorne Math and Science Academy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
4467 West Broadway
Hawthorne, CA 90250
Type Public
Established 2003
Enrollment 600 (2008–2009)

As of the 2007-2008 school year, the Hawthorne Mathematics & Science Academy, also known as HMSA, was ranked in the highest decile in California in terms of Academic Performance Index scores.[1] Furthermore, it is nationally recognized by Newsweek as a top-tier public high school.

The current Principal is Joaquin Hernandez and the Assistant Principal is Esau Berumen (Former Biology Dept. Head). It is located at 4467 West Broadway in Hawthorne, California.

Most Americans want schools to stay the same; unions seem to succeed in anti-reform message

Fewer Americans Back Obama’s Education Programs
By Dakarai I. Aarons
Education Week
August 25, 2010

Support for President Barack Obama’s education agenda is slipping among Americans, according to a poll released today of the public’s attitude toward public schooling.

The survey, conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International and the Gallup Organization, reports that just 34 percent of those polled would give the president an A or B when grading his performance on education during his first 17 months in office, compared with 45 percent in last year’s poll, which covered the president’s first six months in office. ("Obama School Ideas Getting Good Grades," Sept. 2, 2009.) The president’s grades fell not just among Republicans surveyed, but also among Democrats and Independents, who increasingly gave Mr. Obama grades of C or lower.

Poll respondents, for example, took a decidedly different tack than the president and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when it comes to turning around low-performing schools. When asked what was the best solution, 54 percent said the school should remain open with the existing teachers and principal and receive outside support...

Silvia Peters Uniform Complaint against Vista Unified School District

Why is Vista Unified School District (VUSD) paying lawyers to appeal a $6,000 judgment?

See full document of complaint.

Uniform Complaint against Vista Unified School District
by Silvia Peters
August 24, 2010

...re Policy No. 3530

...In the policy VUSD states, "the Board of Trustees strongly supports a risk management program that protects District resources and promotes safety of students, staff and public."

VUSD further pledges that they are going to, "keep its liability at a minimum and its insurance premiums as low as possible while maintaining adequate protection.

...VUSD has the highest premiums in San Diego County and Riverside along with Poway Unified School District. While other school districts pay .19 cents per student DA in premiums. Both VUSD and PUSD pay over .29 cents DA per student in premiums per Joint Power of Authority "JPA."

The more lawsuits and violations the higher the insurance premiums.

What this means is that VUSD spends almost the entire budget in employee salaries and insurance companies [JPA's]! A perfect example of legal advice which VUSD has had for decades is Thursday August 19, 2010 closed session item 37-2009-00057592. VUSD voted to appeal this case.

The case is a simple $ 6, 412.07 dollars which Superior Court Judge Nugent entered judgment against VUSD in favor of California School Employees Association and its Vista Chapter 389. Instead of paying the $6,412.07 Court Judgment.

[Maura Larkins note: The case concerns a bus driver who was injured in a minor accident. Why not just pay the victim? The judge did not even order the district to pay attorney fees.]

VUSD on advice from attorney of record ...advised VUSD to appeal the judgment to the California Fourth Appellate.[10] Churning and churning the billable hours and higher insurance premiums in the Southern Golden State.[11]...

And we thought we had problems! How not to design a city

Here is the purported plan for Juba, using the well known rhinoceros solution to gridlock

Misadventures in Urban Planning
by Chris Blattman
August 23, 2010

[Quote from Alan Boswell blog:]

South Sudan is planning to literally re-build its city centers from scratch…into the shape of some of the safari animals the rest of the world comes to these parts to chase around in open-roofed vehicles.

The multi-decade project is estimated to cost over $10 billion (the government’s annual budget this year was less than $2 billion).

These new urban centers will be owned initially by the private companies who finance the construction, under a public-private partnership model currently all the rage here in the wider region.

SDCOE's Diane Crosier and Lora Duzyk get themselves dismissed simply by declaring that Rodger Hartnett had a management position

Here's the latest in Rodger Hartnett's suit against SDCOE and its top brass. The court has found that Hartnett was a management employee because his bosses, the people he is suing, said so.

"As PERB has not yet taken action, this court must defer to SDCOE's designation and any evidence offered by plaintiff must be disregarded.

Therefore, plaintiff is a management level employee such that section 4114 does not apply and summary judgment is granted on this basis."

Diane Crosier and Lora Duzyk, executives at San Diego County Office of Education, have been dismissed from Rodger Hartnett's lawsuit because they say that Rodger Hartnett was a management employee, and the court must take their word for it.

See tentative decision.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Low level of teacher union buy-in dooms Colorado in Race to the Top

An Early Read on the Race to Top Winners
Education Week
August 24, 2010
Posted by guest blogger Sean Cavanagh, with contributions from Sarah D. Sparks and Stephen Sawchuk.

The results are in, and the list of Race to the Top winners in Round Two includes an eclectic mix of 10 states that had put together very different kinds of applications in their funding bids for the $3.4 billion in remaining federal funds.

The winners in this second and final round announced by the U.S. Department of Education today: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island. They join first-round winners Delaware and Tennessee.

A few common threads among the 10 victorious Round Two applicants include their promises to take bold approaches to turning around low-performing schools, and in evaluating teachers.

...Rhode Island's bid, for up to $75 million... will not allow districts to assign a student to a teacher deemed ineffective two years in a row.

Several notable finalists were left off the winner's list: California and Colorado, as well as Arizona, which had greatly improved its score from the first go-around. Colorado lawmakers had revamped their state's laws on teacher evaluation since Round One, ensuring that half of an educator's rating will be based on student performance and that ineffective teachers could be dismissed more easily.

But my colleague Stephen Sawchuk notes that Colorado's level of union buy-in dropped significantly from the first round—the reviewers didn't look favorably on that disconnect in Round One.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Emerging adulthood: the only people who got this right were the car-rental companies

What Is It About 20-Somethings?
New York Times
August 18, 2010

...Neuroscientists once thought the brain stops growing shortly after puberty, but now they know it keeps maturing well into the 20s. This new understanding comes largely from a longitudinal study of brain development sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, which started following nearly 5,000 children at ages 3 to 16 (the average age at enrollment was about 10). The scientists found the children’s brains were not fully mature until at least 25. “In retrospect I wouldn’t call it shocking, but it was at the time,” Jay Giedd, the director of the study, told me. “The only people who got this right were the car-rental companies.” When the N.I.M.H. study began in 1991, Giedd said he and his colleagues expected to stop when the subjects turned 16. “We figured that by 16 their bodies were pretty big physically,” he said. But every time the children returned, their brains were found still to be changing. The scientists extended the end date of the study to age 18, then 20, then 22. The subjects’ brains were still changing even then. Tellingly, the most significant changes took place in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, the regions involved in emotional control and higher-order cognitive function.

As the brain matures, one thing that happens is the pruning of the synapses. Synaptic pruning does not occur willy-nilly; it depends largely on how any one brain pathway is used. By cutting off unused pathways, the brain eventually settles into a structure that’s most efficient for the owner of that brain, creating well-worn grooves for the pathways that person uses most. Synaptic pruning intensifies after rapid brain-cell proliferation during childhood and again in the period that encompasses adolescence and the 20s. It is the mechanism of “use it or lose it”: the brains we have are shaped largely in response to the demands made of them. ...

My Teacher, the Number One Draft Pick

My Teacher, the Number One Draft Pick
Voice of San Diego
August 19, 2010
by John H Borja

Arne Duncan wants to publicize the individual performance records of teachers. He says he wants to highlight the work of "super performers." The problem with that is he would have to revamp No Child Left Behind to read the performance of individual teachers. That's fine, but he can't count on the cooperation or collaboration of the rest of the staff.

He would also need to find a way to accommodate all those parents who would demand placing their kids with that teacher. They certainly would not want to place their kids with just a "good teacher."...

Maura Larkins comment:

This problem can be solved. Individual teachers could decide whether they want their performance published. In exchange for big bucks, teachers could publicly demonstrate that they deserve the increased pay. I don't think that the worst teachers should be given the same responsibilities as the best teachers. The strongest instructors should have responsibility for several weak teachers (and their classrooms). These master teachers would give instructions to the regular teachers, as well as giving some lessons to students. All schools would get equal proportions of master teachers and regular teachers.

District loaned laptops to students, then used spyware to take pictures of them.

See update on this story.

Feds: No crime spying on kids via webcams
Prosecutors: No "criminal intent"
By Dan Gillmor

Federal prosecutors are showing uncommon sympathy for some Pennsylvania school officials who spied on students via webcams in their school-owned laptop computers: They've decided not to prosecute.

The reason? "For the government to prosecute a criminal case, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged acted with criminal intent," the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement. "We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent."

Let's leave aside the fact that people are charged all the time for criminal offenses despite having no idea they're committing crimes. And since when did ignorance of the law confer immunity?

Let's focus instead on the fundamental creepiness in what happened at the Lower Merion School District in suburban Philadelphia...

Roger Clemens indicted on charges of making false statements

Roger Clemens indicted on charges of making false statements

By Cindy Boren
Washington Post
August 19, 2010

Roger Clemens has been indicted on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

In February 2008, Clemens and Brian McNamee, his former trainer, contradicted one another in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about whether Clemens had used banned substances.

The hearing came after McNamee had linked Clemens to banned substances in George Mitchell's report on baseball players' use of performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens alleged that McNamee was lying; McNamee reached a deal with federal authorities to avoid prosecution for steroid distribution.

"Whether it's a Member of the Cabinet, a CEO or a professional athlete, if there is evidence that someone has intentionally misled a Congressional investigative Committee, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible," Kurt Bardella, spokesperson for Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking membr of the House committee, said in a statement. "There is no mechanism to justify lying to Congress."

Study: School Reforms Under Bersin Worked in Early Grades

Study: School Reforms Under Bersin Worked in Early Grades
Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
August 19, 2010

A new study has found that a controversial batch of school reforms under former San Diego Unified Superintendent Alan Bersin worked well in elementary and middle schools, but did little in high schools.

The findings echo an earlier study by the same researchers that only delved into two years of the hotly debated reforms. They are likely to reignite the debate over Bersin and his impact years later, as the school district embarks on a very different, decentralized model of school reform.

The Public Policy Institute of California studied the Blueprint for Student Success, a set of reading reforms championed by Bersin from 2000 to 2005. It found that adding more reading time for struggling students helped boost student achievement, especially in middle school. Lengthening the year at ailing schools also helped -- a finding that could spell trouble as California districts shorten the school year.

"Additional time on reading really can make a difference," said Julian Betts, head of the economics department at the University of California San Diego and one of the authors of the study. "Intervening late just does not seem to work."

Betts believes the gains could be linked to widespread, consistent teacher training as well, but is unsure because all teachers got the training, making it impossible to untangle its impact.

Some of the most common criticisms of the Blueprint: that it would cause students to burn out or make it harder for them to rack up the classes needed to apply to California public universities. Those were not borne out by the study...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Even the San Diego Union-Tribune can't get SDCOE to spill its secrets about Stutz law firm

I was successful a few years ago in getting some invoices from San Diego County Office of Education. I obtained records of payments to Dan Shinoff and Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz law firm, but there were some strange gaps in the record. Perhaps the San Diego Union Tribune will succeed in obtaining the missing 17 months worth of invoices that SDCOE wouldn't give to me in 2008.

Education office won't release records until October

By Jeff McDonald
August 17, 2010

The San Diego County Office of Education says it will need nearly two months to disclose how much it spends on lawyers.

The schools office, which represents dozens of districts and manages pensions for thousands of teachers and administrators, said in a letter to The Watchdog received Tuesday that it would not be able to comply with a California Public Records Act request until October.

“We will contact you as soon as the records are available for your inspection and/or purchase of a copy,” states the correspondence, signed by Pam Gilles, the senior director of internal business services.

Over the five years ending in 2008, the county schools office spent more than $7 million on outside legal services, much of it to a single law firm, Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz.

The schools office continues to litigate at least two high-profile cases, one involving a long-running dispute with former brokers with the office’s deferred-compensation plan and the other with a former employee alleging wrongful termination.

On Aug. 4, The Watchdog requested records reflecting the past five years’ worth of legal fees paid by the office. But according to Gilles, those documents “will be available on or about Oct. 1, 2010.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Union leader calls for boycott of LATimes; A.J. Duffy objects to the paper's analysis of the effectiveness of more than 6,000 teachers

The California Teachers Association (CTA) continues to pretend that all teachers are equally skilled at teaching. CTA is fiddling while Rome burns.

See all posts on evaluating teachers.

Union leader calls on L.A. teachers to boycott Times
A.J. Duffy objects to the paper's analysis of the effectiveness of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers.
By Jason Song and Jason Felch
Los Angeles Times
August 15, 2010

The Los Angeles teachers union president said Sunday he was organizing a "massive boycott" of The Times after the newspaper began publishing a series of articles that uses student test scores to estimate the effectiveness of district teachers.

"You're leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by … a test," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which has more than 40,000 members.

Duffy said he would urge other labor groups to ask their members to cancel their subscriptions.

» Don't miss a thing. Get breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox.

Based on test score data covering seven years, The Times analyzed the effects of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers on their students' learning. Among other things, it found huge disparities among teachers, some of whom work just down the hall from one another.

After a single year with teachers who ranked in the top 10% in effectiveness, students scored an average of 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math than students whose teachers ranked in the bottom 10%. Students often backslid significantly in the classrooms of ineffective teachers, and thousands of students in the study had two or more ineffective teachers in a row.

The district has had the ability to analyze the differences among teachers for years but opted not to do so, in large part because of anticipated union resistance, The Times found.

The newspaper plans to publish an online database with ratings for the more than 6,000 elementary school instructors later this month.

An LA Times analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back

I don't think it helps much to simply fire the very worst teachers--it changes only a few classrooms, and causes expensive lawsuits, largely financed by the teachers union. I would rather see the vast majority of weak and mediocre teachers working with the guidance and control of a master teacher. The very top teachers can do their magic in a short time each week. One highly effective teacher could take responsibility for several classrooms; the kids would get good educations even if their full time teachers is only mediocre.

I also think there should be testing of teachers. It would be fine if they took classes to prepare for these tests, and it would be fine if their teachers "taught to the test."

Thank you to the Los Angeles Times for doing the job that taxpayers expect schools to do.

See all posts on evaluating teachers.
Shame on the teachers union for this: Union leader calls on L.A. teachers to boycott Times

"Most districts act as though one teacher is about as good as another. As a result, the most effective teachers often go unrecognized, the keys to their success rarely studied," the paper says. "Ineffective teachers often face no consequences and get no extra help."

Who's teaching L.A.'s kids?
A Times analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.

By Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith
Los Angeles Times
August 14, 2010

The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world — the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs...

The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same chapter of the same book.

Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.

It's their teachers.

With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis. John Smith's pupils next door have started out slightly ahead of Aguilar's but by the end of the year have been far behind.

In Los Angeles and across the country, education officials have long known of the often huge disparities among teachers. They've seen the indelible effects, for good and ill, on children. But rather than analyze and address these disparities, they have opted mostly to ignore them.

Most districts act as though one teacher is about as good as another. As a result, the most effective teachers often go unrecognized, the keys to their success rarely studied. Ineffective teachers often face no consequences and get no extra help.

Which teacher a child gets is usually an accident of fate, in which the progress of some students is hindered while others just steps away thrive.

Though the government spends billions of dollars every year on education, relatively little of the money has gone to figuring out which teachers are effective and why...

No one suggests using value-added analysis as the sole measure of a teacher. Many experts recommend that it count for half or less of a teacher's overall evaluation.

And in Los Angeles, the method can be used for only a portion of the district's roughly 14,000 elementary school instructors: California students don't take the test until second grade and teachers must have had enough students for the results to be reliable.

Nevertheless, value-added analysis offers the closest thing available to an objective assessment of teachers. And it might help in resolving the greater mystery of what makes for effective teaching, and whether such skills can be taught.

On visits to the classrooms of more than 50 elementary school teachers in Los Angeles, Times reporters found that the most effective instructors differed widely in style and personality. Perhaps not surprisingly, they shared a tendency to be strict, maintain high standards and encourage critical thinking.

But the surest sign of a teacher's effectiveness was the engagement of his or her students — something that often was obvious from the expressions on their faces...

Public school students are graded and tested all the time. Schools are scored too — California rates them in an annual index.

Not so with teachers...

Value-added analysis offers a rigorous approach. In essence, a student's past performance on tests is used to project his or her future results. The difference between the prediction and the student's actual performance after a year is the "value" that the teacher added or subtracted.

For example, if a third-grade student ranked in the 60th percentile among all district third-graders, he would be expected to rank similarly in fourth grade. If he fell to the 40th percentile, it would suggest that his teacher had not been very effective, at least for him. If he sprang into the 80th percentile, his teacher would appear to have been highly effective.

Any single student's performance in a given year could be due to other factors — a child's attention could suffer during a divorce, for example. But when the performance of dozens of a teacher's students is averaged — often over several years — the value-added score becomes more reliable, statisticians say...

A small number of states and districts already use value-added scores to determine which teachers should be rewarded and which need help. This summer, one district took a harder line: Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 26 teachers based in significant part on their poor value-added scores.

Prompted by federal education grants, California and several other states are now proposing to make value-added a significant component of teacher evaluations. If the money comes through, Los Angeles schools will have to rely on the data for at least 30% of a teacher's evaluation by 2013.

The Times found that the district could have acted far earlier. In the last decade, district researchers have sporadically used value-added analysis to evaluate charter schools and study after-school programs. Administrators balked at using the data to study individual teachers, however, despite encouragement from the district's own experts.

In a 2006 report, for instance, L.A. Unified researchers concluded that the approach was "feasible and valid" and held "great promise" for improving instruction. But district officials did not take action, fearful of picking a fight with the teachers union in the midst of contract negotiations, according to former district officials...

[Maura Larkins comment: In my experience, some of the most respected are actually weak teachers.:]

Even at Third Street Elementary in Hancock Park, one of the most well-regarded schools in the district, Karen Caruso stands out for her dedication and professional accomplishments.

A teacher since 1984, she was one of the first in the district to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In her spare time, she attends professional development workshops and teaches future teachers at UCLA.

She leads her school's teacher reading circle. In her purse last spring, she carried a book called "Strategies for Effective Teaching."

Third Street Principal Suzie Oh described Caruso as one of her most effective teachers.

But seven years of student test scores suggest otherwise.

In the Times analysis, Caruso, who teaches third grade, ranked among the bottom 10% of elementary school teachers in boosting students' test scores. On average, her students started the year at a high level — above the 80th percentile — but by the end had sunk 11 percentile points in math and 5 points in English.

Caruso said she was surprised and disappointed by her results, adding that her students did well on periodic assessments and that parents seemed well-satisfied.

"Ms. Caruso was an amazing teacher," said Rita Gasparetti, whose daughter was in Caruso's class a few years ago. "She really worked with Clara, socially and academically."...

Polacheck is another teacher whom Oh identified as one of her top performers. And the Times analysis suggests that the principal is right: Polacheck's students gained 5 percentile points in math after a year in her class, and 4 points in English. That put her in the top 5% of elementary school teachers.

An animated woman with a blond ponytail flowing from the top of her head into her bespectacled eyes, Polacheck has been teaching for 38 years. The desks in her classroom are often set up like seats around a stage, with Polacheck, a self-described "drama queen," in the center.

Her teaching style is a rat-a-tat-tat of questions, the most common of which is "why?"

Polacheck said her colleagues at Third Street think her expectations are too high. She was reluctant to be singled out in any way, repeatedly asking a reporter why she was being interviewed.

"In the past, if I were recognized, I would become an outcast," said Polacheck, who eats her lunch alone in her classroom. "They'd say, 'She's trying to show off.' "...

Broadous Principal Stannis Steinbeck refused even to discuss the differences among her instructors, hinting at the tensions that might arise on staff.

"Our teachers think they're all effective," she said.

Defamation on Facebook: Why a New York Court Dismissed a Recent Suit

Defamation on Facebook: Why a New York Court Dismissed a Recent Suit, Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On July 22, a New York state-court judge dismissed a defamation case based on comments that were posted by a group of teenagers to their private Facebook group. (The Citizen Media Law Project has collected together the documents relating to the case.)

...The group's prior, jokey practice and the way it labeled itself are both relevant here, because past comments can influence the way in which group members interpret later comments, and thus can affect whether later comments are taken seriously. And a comment that is not taken seriously by anyone who reads it cannot inflict reputational damage, and thus cannot support a defamation claim.

To put the point another way, defamation precedent insists that statements be read in context, and here, the group's practice of posting comments that were meant to be jokes seems to have been part of the context in which everything that was posted was read.

Thus, invoking the First-Amendment-driven defamation exceptions for "rhetorical hyperbole" and "vigorous epithets," the court dismissed the case -- essentially on the ground that no one in the group could have believed that the statements at issue were true statements of fact...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Are Michelle Obama's well-toned arms a problem for some Americans?

Michelle Obama works out, and it bothers us. Never before in history have we had a first lady with toned upper arms. Why can't she just sit on the couch and smile pretty--when she's finished baking cookies?

We won't get into the question of whether the skin color of those toned arms is what really bothers Americans.

The tricky path forward for Michelle Obama

By John Blake, CNN
August 16, 2010

Now she's been called a modern-day Marie Antoinette...

The nation's first lady was recently criticized for being insensitive when she took a luxury trip to Spain with the economy still recovering from a brutal recession...

Some of the criticism may be driven by partisan politics. But others say the attacks are rooted in white resentment of the "uppity Negro." They say there is no precedent for a Michelle Obama: a wealthy, independent black woman representing America who is not an entertainer.

"There are so many white people who are not used to seeing a black woman in this position," says Aminah Hanan, a Chicago blogger and managing editor of MichelleObamawatch.com. "She's the face of America, and they can't process it."

Others, though, say recent complaints about her behavior have nothing to do with race. Sue Thompson, a corporate consultant and blogger at EtiquetteDog.com, says Obama's vacation choice makes her come off "as defiant and to-hell-with-you".

...Obama's challenge, some scholars suggest, is preventing her opponents from turning her strengths into weaknesses. One of Obama's strengths is her vitality.

Since she hit the national stage, much of the press has focused on her toned, athletic arms. Other widely distributed photos highlight her physicality as well: her height, her ease at skipping rope and running with kids.

Obama may be the most athletic first lady the country has seen. This is jarring to some people who are accustomed to older and more demure first ladies, says Laura Hertzog, director of diversity and inclusion programs at Cornell University in New York...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Judge says former MiraCosta president must repay $1.3 million

Judge says former MiraCosta president must repay $1.3 million
By Pat Flynn
August 13, 2010

A judge has ordered the former president of MiraCosta College to repay about $1.3 million in compensation she has received from the college district under a 2007 settlement in which she agreed to step down and waive her right to sue over employment issues.

Victoria Muñoz Richart and the district agreed to a $1.6 million settlement after the faculty cast a no-confidence vote against her over her investigation into the illegal sale of palm trees that belonged to the college.

Leon Page, an attorney who lives in Carlsbad, quickly sued, contending that state law prohibits public agencies from granting more than 18 months’ worth of salary and benefits in terminating contracts.

He lost at the trial level, but in November the 4th District Court of Appeal agreed that the deal was an unconstitutional gift of public funds and declared the settlement contract void. The appellate court sent the case back to Superior Court to sort out what to do next.

In his ruling, Judge William S. Dato said the solution is to return the parties to the status they had before the agreement was reached, ordering Richart to repay the money within 90 days and reinstating her right to pursue legal claims against the district.

“Technically, she is also relieved of her obligation to step down as president of the district, but the significance of that fact is far from clear,” Dato wrote, noting that the college has a new president (since March 2009) and that “it is unlikely Richart would want to resume the position even if the district board was willing to permit it.”

The ruling also ordered the district to withhold the approximately $300,000 remaining to be paid under the settlement.

Neither Richart nor her attorneys could be reached for comment Friday.

“This was an abusive, corrupt bargain,” Page said of the deal he torpedoed, saying his role was to stand up for the college and taxpayers “since nobody else did.”

Although he has no role in any future dealings between Richart and the Oceanside-based district, Page said, “I think now this can very easily be settled.”

He said he envisions a scenario in which Richart is able to “hold back” some of what she has been paid.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to squeeze every last penny out of Victoria,” Page said.

Michael Gibbs, an attorney for the college district, said that while there have been no discussions since Dato released his ruling Thursday, a settlement is possible.

“I am sure there will be a good-faith effort to reach a resolution,” he said.

And if that doesn’t happen, there “may well be” more litigation in the case, he said.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Arizona Subpoena Seeks Researchers' ELL Data

This story about Arizona subpoenaing the names of teachers who participated in an English-learner study is particularly interesting in the light of the SB1070 controversy.

Arizona Subpoena Seeks Researchers' ELL Data
By Mary Ann Zehr
August 12, 2010

A subpoena seeking research data related to the education of English-language learners in Arizona is drawing fire from civil rights advocates and researchers....

Arizona’s schools are mandated to provide ELLs with a four-hour block of English until they pass the state’s English-language-proficiency test. The findings of the three studies suggest the program will have negative consequences for ELLs. One study, for example, found that 85 percent of 880 teachers surveyed throughout the state were very concerned about the “segregation” of students in the classes, and that most said a majority of students were not meeting grade-level standards through them.

For the study based on that teacher survey, Mr. Horne’s lawyers asked the University of Arizona to turn over “[a]ny and all documents, records, memoranda, recordings showing or reflecting the name, school, and grade of each teacher who participated in the surveys described in the report.” They made similar requests for a second study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and an additional study carried out by researchers at Arizona State University...

Candidate Lutz announces hunger strike until Hunter agrees to debate

Candidate Lutz announces hunger strike until Hunter agrees to debate
August 11, 2010
San Diego County, Calif.

"Representative Hunter either has no respect for the voters of his district, or else is so terrified of engaging in an honest debate on the issues that he refuses to face his challengers," said Ray Lutz, the Democratic candidate challenging Rep. Duncan D. Hunter for California's 52nd congressional seat.

In two separate, hand-delivered letters, the Lutz campaign requested a series of eight debates, taking place in each community throughout the 52nd district. Delivery of the second letter was recorded on video, and was greeted with malice, verbal abuse and expulsion of the camera from the Hunter's office. Libertarian candidate Michael Benoit agreed to the series of debates without condition.
For the time being, all debates have been canceled.

"Until Hunter steps up to the plate, I'll be stepping away from the dinner plate," Lutz said. "Starting at sundown this Thursday, August 12, I will refuse to eat until he agrees to debate. I hope my sacrifice will make him realize the community expects him to take their issues seriously.

"Hunter obviously has no respect for the democratic process," Lutz said. "But, to be fair, his votes prove he has no respect for seniors, the unemployed, small business owners, tribal rape victims or anyone who has been stomped on by our healthcare system."...

GOP plan to extend tax cuts for rich adds $36 billion to deficit, panel finds

GOP plan to extend tax cuts for rich adds $36 billion to deficit, panel finds
By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post
August 12, 2010

A Republican plan to extend tax cuts for the rich would add more than $36 billion to the federal deficit next year -- and transfer the bulk of that cash into the pockets of the nation's millionaires, according to a congressional analysis released Wednesday...

Slaying the Mythical Tax-Fattened Hog

"...[S]tate and local government employees earn less total compensation than their private sector counterparts with similar education, training, and work experience."

Slaying the Mythical Tax-Fattened Hog
August 12, 2010
by Stephanie Rozsa
Cities Speak.org
National League of Cities

Big headlines come across my desk each morning, but none more sensational than this one from Wednesday: “Bloated public sector needs a crash diet” (The Examiner). As I skimmed the article, I read: “While much of the private sector has laid off workers, frozen pay and cut capital investment, public sector employees have lived high on the tax-fattened hog.” This editorial is just one of many causing a stir about public compensation as the recession tightens its grip. The most infamous story came from Bell, California, where the city of 37,000 paid several top employees egregious salaries, including $800,000 to the chief administrative officer. While this kind of abuse is out of the ordinary, it does raise a fair question about public compensation.

In a series of articles, USA Today (most recently on August 10, 2010) similarly asserts that public sector employees are overcompensated compared with their private sector counterparts. Their analysis compares the salaries of similar occupations in each sector, accountants to accountants, for example. While this approach may seem logical, a new report, commissioned by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (CSLGE) and the National Institute on Retirement Security, declares that the reality is that 80 percent of private positions do not have direct public sector equivalents.

For the 20 percent of occupations that allow comparison, then, USA Today relays only the raw salary differences that suggest higher earnings for state and local workers. This means that their analysis fails to factor in other qualifying factors of comparison between employees, like education level, years of experience, training, and skill sets. So while both USA Today and the new CSLGE report confirm that public employees do, in fact, earn more on average than private sector workers, the public sector workforce earns this higher average salary because the average employee is better educated and has more experience. Once these factors are included in compensation calculations, the latter explains that state and local government employees earn less total compensation than their private sector counterparts with similar education, training, and work experience.

In fact, the CSLGE report discovered that state and local sector employees are twice as likely as their private sector counterparts to have a college or advanced degree. The major driver in this pattern is that government workers have jobs that demand more education, like teachers, university professors, nurses, and social workers. In other words, state and local government employees earn less than they would if they took their skills to the private sector.

How much less?...With benefits factored in, state and local employees still earned an average of nearly 7 percent and 7.4 percent less, respectively...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Serra High School principal wants to arrest Sally Smith for talking to students about school policies

Stories Neighborhood News
The Breakfast Club
By Dorian Hargrove
Aug. 8, 2010

[Parent activist Sally] Smith received a letter from the principal of Serra High School, Michael Jimenez, dated May 19. A letter that she refers to as "the arrest letter."

"Please be forewarned," reads the letter from Jimenez, "in the event you should enter school property in the future and should cause any disturbance or disruption, the district will have no choice but to place you under arrest and refer your case to the authorities."

The letter, which is also addressed to San Diego's chief of police, was sent after principal Jimenez learned that Smith was in the Serra High parking lot in early May, talking to students as they were leaving from a four-hour-long Saturday school session...

Serra High School students marked truant when 5 seconds late, reports Sally Smith

Stories Neighborhood News
The Breakfast Club
By Dorian Hargrove
Aug. 8, 2010

...According to Smith, schools throughout the district are raising extra money by redefining the State of California's definition of truancy. Section 48260 of California's Education Code defines a truant as any student who misses more than 30 minutes of class without an excuse. But students and parents who Smith has interviewed tell her that teachers are marking students truant if they are five seconds late.

If the student has three or more "truancies" they are placed on the Loss of Privilege list and banned from attending school dances, graduation ceremonies, and supporting their school's sports teams. The only way for a student to get lopped off this list is by attending Saturday school.

"Some students have attended as many as five Saturday school sessions," says Smith. "Somehow these policies always seem to lead to money."

Smith says teachers and staff earn overtime for administering Saturday school and, schools, not the district, generate extra revenue from the state as part of the state's Saturday School Reimbursement Program, which covers costs incurred by schools to allow students to make up unexcused absences.

"This is happening throughout the district," says Smith, who has spent months collecting financial documents from San Diego Unified.

One Saturday School Reimbursement slip submitted to SDUSD's Budget Management and Cost Controls Department from Serra High School for Saturday School on October 31, 2009, totals $2,915.50. The following week, expenses for Saturday school were $1,999.20.

"Teenagers deserve the protection of the law. They deserve fair and equitable treatment. This tardy policy bears serious scrutiny."

Smith requested in May that the San Diego County Office of Education conduct an investigation. She is waiting for a response.

Americans hate taxes--we'd rather turn out the lights and fire the teachers

America Goes Dark
New York Times
August 8, 2010

The lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno.

Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.

And a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened. And all signs point to even more cuts ahead.

We’re told that we have no choice, that basic government functions — essential services that have been provided for generations — are no longer affordable. And it’s true that state and local governments, hit hard by the recession, are cash-strapped. But they wouldn’t be quite as cash-strapped if their politicians were willing to consider at least some tax increases...

Los Angeles Superior Court judge ignores the rules; Why did Judge Revel select an off-list rehab facility?

Judge Marsha Revel Removes Herself From Lindsay Lohan Case: Report
August 11, 2010

Superior Court Judge Marsha Revel sentenced Lindsay Lohan to 90 days in prison and 90 days in rehab. She has since stepped down from the case, TMZ reports.

Judge Marsha Revel has removed herself from the Lindsay Lohan case after allegations the judge improperly contacted people involved in the case, TMZ has learned.

Sources tell TMZ lawyers in the case met with Judge Revel last Friday at 3:30 p.m. PST. Lawyers complained that Judge Revel had contacted "participants and experts" in the case without notifying the lawyers in advance.

One of the issues was that Judge Revel took it upon herself to make contact with people from the Morningside Recovery rehab facility and then selected Morningside, even though it was not on the list of recommended facilities by her own court-appointed experts. Ultimately, Lindsay's lawyer convinced Judge Revel to send LiLo to UCLA. But the issue was raised on Friday...

Monday, August 09, 2010

The SDUT Watchdog needs to do a few minutes research about Lowell Billings and Patrick Judd

See all posts about Patrick Judd.
See all posts about Lowell Billings.
See all posts about Francisco Escobedo.
See also: Who will be the new executive director of The Accelerated School?

I sent the following email to San Diego Union-Tribune reporters in an effort to get them to report the truth about Chula Vista Elementary School District officials' past practices regarding hiring school superintendents:

Dear Mr. Jeff McDonald and Ms. Ashly McGlone:

...The Watchdog is pretending that CVESD's recent superintendent search was more, not less, politically contrived than previous superintendent searches. Good heavens, the Watchdog didn't even report that there was NO search when Lowell Billings was chosen. I remember that the SDUT covered the story when Libia Gil supposedly voluntarily resigned as CVESD superintendent in 2002 to take a job in Virginia (but never moved to Virginia). What kind of reporter fails to mention past practice in a given situation that the reporter is presenting as if it were less proper than usual? Any reader who didn't know the truth would assume that superintendent searches had been conducted in an impartial manner in the past.

And the Watchdog quotes Lowell Billings without mentioning that he hired his boss, Pat Judd, as CEO of the Accelerated School. You need to give readers the very important truth about Lowell Billings own history on the very subject he's talking about in your quotes.

When CVESD trustee Patrick Judd retired as superintendent of Mountain Empire Unified School District (after several months on leave, without ever saying why he was on leave except that it was not sick leave), he looked for a job for quite a while. School districts all over the state did searches for him for a long time. I know this because I saw the visits to my site on my web logs. I imagine they did this because he applied for jobs. Apparently he couldn’t find a job, so his pal Lowell Billings got him a job at the Accelerated School, where Billings is a board member.

Here is a link to the TAS board of trustees web page. You see Lowell Billings is clearly listed:


You will perhaps want to look at the TAS board minutes Here are my quotes from and links to the board minutes:


What's more important than whether a person was personally known to a board member before he was hired as superintendent is whether the candidate is actually qualified for the job. It appears that Patrick Judd may not have been. If you read the agenda items at TAS
(see this link: http://www.accelerated.org/board-of-trustees/agendas-and-minutes/)
you will see that they got rid of Judd without even having a new CEO.

You also might want to read regarding this issue:


Here is a legal document about how and why one superintendent candidate at CVESD was ruled out:


After refusing my political ad in 2004, even when the ad was limited to the same type of phrases used in a Steve Francis ad, SDUT's credibility regarding CVESD and Patrick Judd and Lowell Billings is tenuous. As I said, I have the emails refusing my ad. The women in the ad department were clearly surprised that the ad wasn't approved. And, of course, Don Sevrens' extensive coverage of and enthusiastic opposition to the transfer of the out-of-control "Castle Park Five" teachers--while failing to mention the $100,000s the district had spent to defend them in court or to follow up regarding their connection to the $20,000 PTA embezzlement--is another chink in the SDUT's credibility.

If you lead your readers to believe that the process for choosing superintendents at CVESD was previously more open and honest than the current process, you are misleading them. You're not a real Watchdog, at least not one that operates on behalf of truth and openness about government. You are, instead, working against truth and openness in government.

Maura Larkins

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Google, Verizon net pact has 'many problems' says FCC commish

UPDATE: Google/Verizon plan falls short on network neutrality.

FCC needs to get tough on network neutrality
San Francisco Chronicle
August 8, 2010

There's no way to put a positive spin on the latest news about network neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission has given up its attempt to broker a deal between telephone, cable and Internet companies that would preserve the freedom of the Internet...

The goal is to keep dominant carriers from overcharging for online access. Google and Verizon insist that what they're working on is not a backroom deal for their own benefit but instead a legislative proposal about how Internet content should be managed. All of this may be true - but it still doesn't look right.

Public interest and consumer groups didn't feel like they had much of a say in the commission's discussions, and they surely won't feel like they had much of a say in whatever proposal Google and Verizon bring to the table. This is a huge problem - the future of the Internet belongs to the public, not just a few companies.

The ideal solution would be for Congress to step in and provide a framework for net neutrality - preferably one that keeps the public interest at heart, not the demands of dominant Internet companies and carriers.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Why the $82,0000 pay overlap at CVESD? And why is the SDUT suddenly interested in conflicts of interest at CVESD?

See all Francisco Escobedo posts.

I have two questions:

1. Who is the mystery person that the San Diego Union Tribune editor Don Sevrens seems to want as superintendent of Chula Vista Elementary School District? My guess: Dennis Doyle, who was ousted as superintendent of National School District.

2. Why did the CVESD board design the bizarre $82,000 overlap between the administrations of current CVESD superintendent Lowell Billings and his replacement Francisco Escobedo? Why on earth would public officials want to waste all this money?

I suspect the board wants the new superintendent to continue business as usual in the backrooms of the district, just as Lowell Billings did when he replaced Liba Gil. The board doesn't want the new guy to find out about past wrongdoing and suddenly say, "We're not going to squander money on covering-up wrongdoing anymore."

So how do you get a clean guy to agree to a culture of secrecy? You taint him by giving him a title for a few months without giving him real authority. That way, he's partially responsible for actions taken by Lowell Billings does during the four-month overlap period. Also, it will give Lowell Billings plenty of time to indoctrinate Escobedo into the CVESD culture.

UPDATE AUGUST 7, 2010: I've thought of another reason for the overlap. Maybe Lowell Billings wanted time to look for another job before the end of his tenure. Perhaps he is the anonymous person who interviewed for the CEO job a few days ago at the Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles. Lowell Billings is a board member at TAS. Billings hired his boss, CVESD board member Pat Judd, for the CEO job at TAS about a year or two ago, but that didn't work out and the school is now without a top administrator. Now that would be something: a board member hiring himself as top administrator!

Why didn't Joanne Marugg complain when Lowell Billings was promoted without a search? Why hasn't she complained about the use of public resources for political purposes at CVESD?

Perhaps Joanne Marugg has a conflict of interest in this matter. Who is the "highly qualified" person she feels was left out in the cold? Why doesn't the San Diego Union Tribune provide this information? Is SDUT editor Don Sevrens, who published a long line of misleading stories about the "Castle Park Five," once again trying to use the San Diego Union-Tribune (and Marugg) to manipulate Chula Vista Elementary School District? Who is the person you want as CVESD superintendent, Mr. Sevrens?

Since Joanne Marugg has brought up the issue of a "web of connections," it's interesting to note that Ms. Marugg is listed in Mayor Cheryl Cox's list of endorsements. Cheryl Cox was a trustee of CVESD before she became major, and she most certainly wants the cover-ups to continue at CVESD. Would the mystery candidate do a better job of covering up wrongdoing?

Martin & Joanne Marugg

[Note to Ashly McGlone: If you want to develop a reputation for journalistic ethics, you need to do an addendum to this story regarding the hiring of former CVESD board member Patrick Judd as executive director at The Accelerated School by his employee Lowell Billings. You need to ask why Patrick Judd did not then recuse himself from decisions about Lowell Billings' employment at CVESD.]


Link to San Diego Union-Tribune story (with all the nasty comments)

Search committee had Escobedo subordinates
Two members of superintendent selection group are employees of the sole finalist
San Diego Union-Tribune
By Ashly McGlone
August 4, 2010

...Joanne Marugg, 70, of Alpine, is concerned about the web of connections, given that the public was not informed about them until The Watchdog report. Marugg taught in the district for 40 years, most recently at Mueller Charter School 10 years ago. She said she and her retired colleagues were outraged to learn about the relationships between Escobedo and the search committee members.

Marugg said she knows one of the candidates who was left out in the cold and says he was highly qualified.

“You’d like to see the district knowing that another person that was a qualified candidate was considered,” she said. “It just seems like this got punched through. This isn’t right.”

According to a timeline posted on the district website, the new superintendent will start work in September, but Billings won’t actually depart until the end of December.

The pay for the new superintendent has not been set, but Billings is paid $247,000 a year. At that rate, he would be paid $82,000 to serve concurrently with his replacement...

[Maura Larkins' comment: Funny, the SDUT never breathed a word about Lowell Billings and CVESD board member Patrick Judd when they were each other's boss at different school districts. Judd was hired as Executive Director of The Accelerated School in Los Angeles, where Lowell Billings was a board member. Will the SDUT at long last make up for this lapse in news coverage now that this issue has been deemed newsworthy?]

When CVESD trustee Patrick Judd retired as superintendent of Mountain Empire Unified School District (after several months on leave, without ever saying why he was on leave except that it was not sick leave), he looked for a job for quite a while. School districts all over the state did searches for him for a long time. I know this because I saw the visits to my site on my web logs. I imagine they did this because he applied for jobs. Apparently he couldn’t find a job, so his pal Lowell Billings got him a job at the Accelerated School, where Billings is a board member.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Proposition 8 overturned; same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

California's Proposition 8 has been overturned. It was ruled unconstitutional.

San Jose Mercury News
By Howard Mintz

A San Francisco federal judge today struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, concluding that it tramples on the equal rights of gay and lesbian couples and that they are entitled to be married throughout the state.

Within minutes of his historic decision, however, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker agreed to put his ruling on hold for at least a few days to consider arguments on whether California should be barred immediately from enforcing Proposition 8, a move that would allow county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

CVESD's Francisco Escobedo and Russell Coronado were fellow employees, but Lowell Billings and Patrick Judd personally hired each other

New CVESD superintendent Francisco Escobedo

See all posts re Francisco Escobedo.

Once again, the SDUT fails to give the full story about Chula Vista Elementary School District. Until he was voted out of office in 2008 (and replaced by Russell Coronado), CVESD board member Patrick Judd was an employee of CVESD Superintendent Lowell Billings in another school district, The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles. At TAS, Lowell Billings was on the board that chose Patrick Judd as executive director of the school.

But here's the big difference between the two situations: Escobedo didn't personally hire Coronado. Lowell Billings, on the other hand, was personally involved in the hiring of Patrick Judd, and Judd was personally involved in hiring Lowell Billings.

The board minutes for CVESD do not indicate that Patrick Judd recused himself from voting for Lowell Billings' employment, nor does it appear that Billings recused himself from voting for Judd's employment.

See blog posts about The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles.

Shame on the San Diego Union Tribune for cherry-picking the facts it gives to readers. This story reminds me of the "Castle Park Five" story, in which the SDUT was outraged that five teachers were transferred, but never told readers that several of those teachers were deeply involved in illegal actions. The district had paid $100,000s to defend them. The teachers weren't grateful for the district's assistance in covering up their wrongdoing, however. When they were transferred, they filed a complaint against the district!

Chula Vista superintendent candidate had inside track
The president of the school board works for him at another district
San Diego Union Tribune
August 2, 2010

One candidate for superintendent of Chula Vista’s elementary school district had an inside track — one of his employees is the president of the school board.

Francisco Escobedo last week was named the sole finalist for the job, which paid its last occupant $247,000...

It wasn’t mentioned in the news release, but The Watchdog has learned that Escobedo is Coronado’s boss at the South Bay Union School District. Escobedo is assistant superintendent of educational leadership there, a post he has held since 2007. Coronado is the director of student services.

Coronado was one of two board members on a selection committee, which also included a parent, a principal, a labor representative and a taxpayer. That committee passed along three finalists to the board, which narrowed the field to one by a unanimous vote that included Coronado.

Coronado on Monday said his relationship with Escobedo at the South Bay district was not a conflict-of-interest and had no bearing on the recruitment at the Chula Vista Elementary district...

Still, Coronado said, he has decided to recuse himself from the final vote to hire a superintendent, possibly on Aug. 17, “so that there wouldn’t be any misinterpretation.”

Escobedo said he sees no conflict with applying for a job controlled in part by a subordinate.

“I wouldn’t say that is the case,” Escobedo said. “[Coronado] has two roles to play: one as the school board president when he works for Chula Vista. He does an exceptional job at differentiating what his roles are in those two positions.”

Larry Cunningham, the other board member who served on the selection committee, said the relationship between Coronado and Escobedo was “not a discussion item” but that he was aware that they worked together. Asked whether he knew that Escobedo was Coronado’s boss, he said, “I don’t know what the structure is.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: Come on, Larry. Don't be so afraid to admit the truth. If Escobedo is the superintendent, then he's the boss of every employee in the district. I wish you would start giving straight answers to questions. This evasiveness is getting to be a very bad habit.]

Jim Groth, former president of the teacher’s union for the district, said he was unaware of the connection.

“As far as my reaction to it, it’s not uncommon, but it would be proper for a board member not to vote on the process,” said Groth, now a member of the California Teachers Association board. “Everybody in leadership kind of knows everybody else in leadership. To directly supervise them though, in the state of California, I am sure it happens, but as an elected official, you need to be very careful.”

[Maura Larkins comment: But you didn't want Lowell Billings to be careful, did you, Jim? At least not regarding issues that you and he were hiding from teachers and voters, right?]

The successful candidate will replace Lowell Billings, who will retire midway through his ninth year as district superintendent in December. His salary is $247,000, although a replacement with less experience might be paid less.

At South Bay Union, Escobedo’s salary stands at $144,000, and Coronado’s is $124,000.

Escobedo, who has a doctorate in education and has worked in education for 22 years, should not be excluded from the Chula Vista job because a board member happens to work for him, Billings said.

“Do you exclude someone that you really really like because you have a history with them? He is a really good educator,” Billings said. “You have to look at the track record of the candidate that has been selected, and it is immaculate.”

Billings said there was no problem with the news release quoting Coronado praising Escobedo, without disclosing their outside relationship.

“I think you have to put it in the context of how pleased the other board members are,” Billings said. “One board member is not the board. He is not giving his sole opinion. He is voicing the consolidated opinion of the board. He doesn’t speak for himself.”...