Friday, April 30, 2010

Survey finds growing worry over Calif. school cuts

Survey finds growing worry over Calif. school cuts
By TERENCE CHEA Associated Press Writer
Posted: 04/28/2010

SAN FRANCISCO—Californians are increasingly worried about how state budget cuts are affecting public schools, and they are unhappy with how their political leaders are handling education, according to a survey released late Wednesday.

The Public Policy Institute of California's sixth annual K-12 education survey found that 62 percent of residents believe there isn't enough state funding going to their public schools, a 12 percent increase over last year.

The survey found that 43 percent of public school parents say spending cuts have affected their children's schools a lot—a 15 percent jump—and another 38 percent said their kids' schools have been affected somewhat.

"The poll really indicates the degree of anxiety that the public has about the impact of budget cuts on public education," said Mark Baldassare, the institute's president and CEO. "More Californians are seeing the direct effect of the state's budget problems on children, teachers and the resources in their local schools."

Californians are worried about teacher layoffs, growing class sizes, shortened school years and the elimination of electives such as art and music, according to the survey. And 63 percent want K-12 education protected from further spending cuts.

Despite growing concern about schools, residents are divided over whether to raise taxes to prevent further cuts to K-12 education, with 49 percent in favor and 47 percent against. About 57 percent said they would support a local parcel tax to fund their schools.

The institute reported that only 16 percent approved of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's handling of education, while the Legislature received only a 15 percent approval rating on K-12 schools. About 46 percent support President Obama's handling of K-12 education, a 12 point drop from last year...

Is Teacher Tenure Still Necessary?

Is Teacher Tenure Still Necessary?
by Alan Greenblatt
April 29, 2010

Tenure is under attack. The century-old system of protecting experienced teachers from arbitrary dismissal — long viewed as sacred — has triggered hot political debates in several states.

"Teacher effectiveness" has emerged as the biggest buzz phrase in education policy circles. Because teachers have such potential for affecting the quality of children's education, some people are starting to argue that it must become easier to get bad teachers out of the classroom.

"There seems to be a lot of drive to do away with tenure," says Sandy Kress, who helped write federal and state education laws as an adviser to George W. Bush and other policymakers. "Tenure has proved to be just a horrible barrier to getting rid of that small percentage of teachers who are just not effective."

Action All Over

This is not merely an academic debate. A bill in Colorado that would change tenure rules and tie them to student performance passed out of a Senate committee last week and has the support of Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter. A Florida bill to abolish tenure was vetoed this month by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, but a similar bill is pending in Louisiana...

Less than 1% fired

Firing teachers is hard. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have each fired fewer than 1 out of 1,000 of their tenured teachers in recent years. Those numbers are not unusual.

Administrators complain that the process is too draining. Reviews of dismissal cases can take years to make their way through the system, costing tens of thousands of dollars each.

Teachers say that administrators are themselves at fault for performing perfunctory, "drive-by" evaluations. One study of selected districts in four states found that 99 percent of teachers receive "satisfactory" ratings.

Sometimes, bad publicity can curb the worst abuses on either side. The Los Angeles Times found last December that L.A. schools deny tenure to fewer than 2 percent of probationary hires, with evaluations often amounting to nothing more than a single, pre-announced classroom visit lasting 30 minutes or less.

Following the report, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines pledged greater scrutiny. In February, the district announced it would fire more than 110 nontenured teachers for performance -— three times the annual rate in recent years...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Attorney fires back at Dan Shinoff over McClain case

See Dan Shinoff interview that triggered complaints by Sharon McClain's attorney.

Attorney fires back over McClain case
April 29, 2010
By Marsha Sutton
Del Mar Times

A letter from Dale Gronemeier, attorney for former Del Mar Union School District Superintendent Sharon McClain, to DMUSD Board of Trustees attorney Daniel Shinoff offered responses to a number of Shinoff's comments made in an interview published on

The letter, dated April 26, was "a demand on behalf of Dr. Sharon McClain" that Shinoff retract four "false and defamatory statements" made in that interview.

The first issue concerns the $16,000 payment the district was to make to California's State Teachers' Retirement System on behalf of McClain, and the ensuing dispute over a change in the language of this section of her contract.

Gronemeier objected to Shinoff's statement in the interview that "there is no paperwork to support a change in her contract."

"As you well know because [you] have received the document on multiple occasions, the Board of Education agreed on June 17, 2009 to the change proposed by Dr. McClain - but then after it hired you, the board's majority and you refused to acknowledge the board's action," Gronemeier wrote.

Gronemeier attached to his letter a copy of the minutes of the DMUSD's June 17, 2009, special board meeting that included item #5 which read: "Motion to approve revisions to contract between the Board of Trustees of the Del Mar Union School District and Sharon McClain, Ed.D." The motion was made by Katherine White, seconded by Comischell Rodriguez and passed unanimously. The contents and exact wording of the revision were not revealed in the minutes.

Related to the STRS issue, Gronemeier said Shinoff, by innuendo, blamed McClain "for the breakdown in settlement negotiations."

"As you well know," Gronemeier wrote, "settlement negotiations were sabotaged by the board majority because Dr. McClain made a settlement proposal and proposed a mediator to try to get the matter settled, but the board declined to even respond or further negotiate in response to her last settlement offer."

Gronemeier said these statements "have a defamatory sting because they attribute to Dr. McClain the conduct of demanding that the board do something it had not agreed to do."

Holding an open meeting

Gronemeier's second concern was Shinoff's statement that McClain "chose not to have those [charges against her] heard in open session despite the fact that she asked for an open session." This referred to the school board meeting on March 31 when she was fired.

But Gronemeier said McClain did ask for an open session in order to hear the charges against her. "The interactions which you attempt to mischaracterize as Dr. McClain choosing not to have the cause(s) heard in public arose from sneaky conduct on your part to which Dr. McClain objected," he wrote.

Gronemeier said Shinoff told McClain just before the meeting began that each party should be allowed to speak for 20 minutes. "A fair-minded person would have communicated this expectation in advance rather than trying to disadvantage his adversary by communicated [sic] it at the 11th hour," Gronemeier wrote.

Gronemeier said McClain had expected to speak for five minutes, a time limit to which Shinoff agreed just before the meeting began, at McClain's urging. But McClain's attorney said McClain still expected the charges to be delivered against her, in those five minutes, and was prepared "to respond to whatever you or the board majority had dreamed up. But Dr. McClain is not long-winded, and she knows that there is no valid cause to terminate her contract. So she would have had a short message if you had articulated the purported cause(s)."

He said this "has a defamatory sting" because it suggests "that Dr. McClain has something to hide and did not want the purported cause(s) part of the public record." It also relieves "the board majority and you of the responsibility of articulating them."

Cause for termination

Thirdly, Gronemeier said Shinoff implied that McClain "is lying about knowing the cause(s) for termination of her contract." McClain has responded "to every potential 'cause' to terminate her contract that you have drafted for the board majority ... by rebutting what was false in such documents and by remediating where there was even arguably anything to remediate," he wrote.

Gronemeier said she "was and is mystified as to what purported cause(s)" exist for terminating her. He said this "has a defamatory sting because it asserts that Dr. McClain is lying to the community" as to what her knowledge of the cause(s) may be.

Releasing invoices

Gronemeier's fourth point challenges Shinoff's statement that McClain's action to release Shinoff's invoices last December was a violation of the law.

In the April 15 interview, Shinoff said, "How could she who had retained a lawyer go through attorney-client communications and decide what she was going to release? She couldn't do that. She's not a lawyer."

Gronemeier said this comment was objectionable because McClain did not release the invoices on her own but had an attorney redact the invoice descriptions.

"Your invoices are a public record; the public is entitled to know the fees that are being paid to you," he wrote. "The invoices have no legend indicating that they are protected by the attorney-client privilege (nor are they nor would that insulate them from public disclosure)."

He said the invoices were available to Dr. McClain "in the ordinary course of her duties" and that "it is simply untrue that Dr. McClain violated any law by disclosing those invoices."

This too "has a defamatory sting because it asserts that Dr. McClain is breaking the law," Gronemeier wrote.


In conclusion, Gronemeier demanded retractions of Shinoff's statements. "They create liability for slander and conspiracy to libel for your client, for you and for your law firm," he wrote, adding that a retraction would not necessarily eliminate legal harm to McClain but that McClain "would prefer to avoid litigating these issues and would forego suing for the defamations if they are appropriately retracted."

The letter was sent to Shinoff, with copies to the five DMUSD board members, McClain and Marsha Sutton, who conducted the April 15 interview.

The complete letter, all eight pages, was posted on Facebook and a Del Mar blogspot site on April 27. McClain acknowledged she released the letter to a parent in the district.

Shinoff response

In response to Gronemeier's letter, Shinoff replied within one hour with the following terse message: "I have reviewed your letter of April 26, 2010, demanding that I retract statements that I made to the reporter for the Del Mar Times. The reporter correctly reported what I said and I am confident that I can prove the truth of every statement that I made to her.

"I do not believe that you can show falsity in any statement, even by innuendo or implication. Further, I believe that a court would determine that Dr. McClain is a public figure and the discussion is of interest to the public, so you would have a very difficult time with a defamation action, even if there had been a factual misstatement. Finally, you would be subject to dismissal under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute if you did proceed with litigation over the alleged defamation.

"I will not agree to retract anything that I said to the press. I stand by both the words I said, and the gist of the words."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Book says we need to get rid of the bottom 5% of teachers

April 27, 2010
Book Argues for How to Improve the Teaching Corps
One of the bolder ideas is to 'deselect' the field's bottom 5 to 10 percent.
By Debra Viadero
Education Week

A new book stitches together ideas—some of which may be controversial—for building an improved corps of teachers from the time they start their professional training until they retire.

“Research clearly shows that teacher quality is the most important schooling factor influencing student achievement,” write Dan Goldhaber and Jane Hannaway, the editors of Creating a New Teaching Profession, which is being published this month by the Urban Institute, a research organization based in Washington.

Yet, they add, “the myriad systems that govern the quality of teachers today are too often disconnected, incoherent, and out of step with the market mechanisms that govern the broader labor market.”

Among the bolder of the book’s suggestions is a call from Stanford University economist Eric A. Hanushek for systematically “deselecting” the least-effective teachers. He calculates that shedding the bottom 5 percent to 10 percent of teachers could, over 20 years, boost American students’ scores on international math tests to the level of their Canadian counterparts and raise the United States’ economic output by $200 billion.

“Relatively modest changes in the bottom end of the distribution have enormous implications for the nation,” Mr. Hanushek concludes...

One reason the teaching profession may be ailing in the United States, experts argue, is that it’s attracting less academically able students than it once did.

In his chapter, for instance, New York University researcher Sean P. Corcoran notes that the percentage of new female teachers drawn from the top tenth of their high school graduating classes shrank from 20 percent in 1964 to slightly more than 11 percent in 2000 as women began to follow other career paths that were once dominated by men. More than a third of new female teachers, on the other hand, came out of the bottom third of their high school classes in 2000—and that proportion hasn’t changed much since the 1960s.

In comparison, some countries that typically score high on international assessments draw teachers from the upper end of the academic-achievement spectrum, according to Mr. Goldhaber. He says that’s in part because, under the more centralized teacher-preparation systems in those countries, the number of entrants is often tightly regulated and there are fewer teacher-training institutions...

The FBI is interested in the SDUSD whiteboard saga

What if all this money had been spent on evaluating and training teachers? You don't need whiteboards to teach. Simply walking around the classroom to look at what kids are doing, or skillfully asking for oral responses, will let teachers know if students are learning the lesson. One of my favorite tricks is NOT to let the smartest kids answer right away. Instead, the teacher waits until quite a few hands are raising before calling on someone. Another technique: ask another student if the first student has answered correctly. Do this even when the first student HAS answered correctly.

Legal Questions on How Schools Chose Their Whiteboard Brand
Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
February 25, 2010

...In a recent interview, Grier said he might have said that Promethean boards should be installed in classrooms, but that was a meaningless verbal slip, like the Southern habit of calling every soda a Coke...

Schools' Technology Choice Draws FBI Interest

April 28, 2010

The way in which the San Diego Unified School District chose a specific brand of technological tools has drawn the interest of the FBI, according to a local businessman who sued the school district over it.

Pete Spencer, president of a La Mesa company that installs computerized whiteboards, filed a lawsuit against the school district last year alleging it had inappropriately picked a specific brand of boards for its classrooms. Spencer says he was visited this month by the FBI, which is already investigating whiteboard purchases in Florida and Iowa...

San Diego Unified is undertaking a sweeping technological makeover for schools that include classroom sound systems, laptops for each child and computerized whiteboards that can pull up web pages and interactive lessons. Two Promethean resellers, Vector Resources and Logical Choice Technologies, won a $50 million contract to install Promethean whiteboards in San Diego Unified schools last summer under a $2.1 billion bond to renovate and build schools...

After Promethean was chosen, Spencer argued he was unfairly shut out of competing to install the new technology because he didn't have an existing contract to obtain and install Promethean boards. He settled with the school district and the two winning installation companies for $42,000 earlier this year.

Spencer said he was contacted earlier this month by an FBI agent who then visited his office and asked for copies of his legal documents, including the settlement agreement, letters between his attorney and San Diego Unified and the notification the school district published seeking whiteboard installers.

"She said, 'I can't tell you whether we're doing an investigation or not. But I'll take everything you've got,'" Spencer said. FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth verified that the agent that Spencer named exists, but he could not confirm whether an investigation is taking place.

Former Superintendent Terry Grier, now leading the Houston school system, said he had not received any subpoenas or requests for information about the Promethean boards, which were selected during his tenure in San Diego. Neither has San Diego Unified, said its attorney, Mark Bresee.

Government agencies can only specify a particular brand of products in limited cases that are specified under state law, such as matching other products or coping with an emergency. Doing so can be a quicker alternative to seeking bids for pencils, flooring or other products. But the rules are specific, meant to avoid at least the appearance of favoritism for a chosen company.

The school district argued that it needed to match Promethean to other whiteboards that had already been installed in new schools. Technology chief Darryl LaGace said his staff had earlier evaluated the boards for a smaller installation and found advantages to Promethean over another brand.

But critics say that if all government agencies followed the same reasoning as San Diego Unified, they could simply block companies from competing for business. For instance, the city could equip a few libraries with a chosen product, then insist on matching all other libraries to it...

A reader sent a link to this page:

Montgomery County Councilmember Michael (Mike) Knapp on the Promethean Board purchase made by MCPS COO Larry Bowers: "At a time when we have limited resources, the school system had locked us into certain expenditures we couldn't afford..."

Gazette; Wednesday, September 9, 2009: "3,300 Promethean Boards in Montgomery County Public School buildings. Where did they come from?..."

Ira Glass takes on Steve Poizner and his (apparently untrue) book about Mount Pleasant High School

This American Life Episode Transcript
“What’s That Smell?”
Broadcast April 23, 2010
Acts One of Episode #406, “True Urban Legends”

...At the age of 45, after starting one Silicon Valley company that he sold for 30 million dollars and a second one that sold for a billion dollars, Poizner didn't need to work any more...

He's allowed to teach one U.S. government class for one semester, under another teacher's supervision.

...there's a full chapter and Poizner links to it from his campaign website, you can read it yourself. And the chapter raised more questions than it answered. It is a very odd chapter, all about Poizner's first days teaching a class at Mt. Pleasant. There's scene after scene where he's floundering, standing in front of the class asking big, abstract questions – "would you want to live in a country where the leader didn't want to lead? If the money issued by the government wasn't any good, or people were treated unfairly?" None of the students respond. He's a rookie teacher; he doesn't know how to engage them yet. Nothing unusual there.

But here was the strange thing: the conclusion Poizner comes to - again and again during these scenes - isn't that he's doing anything wrong or has anything to learn as a teacher. Instead, he blames the kids. They're tough, they're unmotivated, they lack ambition, they're wired differently. The students, meanwhile, in every scene in the book (I read the whole book), seem utterly lovely. Polite, they don't interrupt, they don’t talk back, they just seem a little bored. His very worst student is a graduating senior who's hoping to go into the Marines.

Checking school records I learned that Poizner's unmotivated, unambitious class included one of the school valedictorians, Charles Rudy, who graduated and went to college.

Could he be getting this so completely wrong? I wondered. Could he have written an entire book misperceiving so thoroughly what was happening right in front of his eyes, and now is trying to use that book to run for governor? It seemed too incredible. And, that's what brought me to San Jose last week, to visit the school and its neighborhood...

Sudhir Karandikar: The whole ducking bullets, and the kid’s going to hit him and his Lexus is going to get stolen, it was either a gross exaggerations for the sake of making a dramatic book or he just misread it. Let’s move on. We know he got the safety issue wrong. As far as academic performance of the school, he was dead on. Academically, I don’t find anything wrong in his conclusions or assessments of our school. Academically.

Mark Holston: Half the state of California who he’s trying to represent looks like our neighborhood. Our neighborhood looks more like California than the neighborhood he comes from. So I think he’s completely out of touch. I hate to think that somebody even getting this far could be that naïve and be that clueless. That’s even scarier, because I’m sure he’s going to run for something else, and he can’t be that way off. It’s terrifying if he’s that way off again. This is an average high school, and if he was the governor, he’d be the chief educator for the state of California. And if he can misinterpret what he sees in this school, and portray a school as one of the toughest when it’s an average high school in California, it’s scary for our future in California if he ever got elected.

Ira Glass: One week after Poizner's book made it to #5 on the bestseller list, it dropped to #33. The campaign declined to give sales figures for the book, and declined to say whether it bought enough copies itself in that first week to put the book on the bestseller list.

The principal at Mt. Pleasant told me she now finds herself now with an awkward dilemma. Poizner has donated the profits from the book sales to the school, and she's not sure they should take it. He got so many things wrong about Mt. Pleasant and offended so many people. But at the same time, with budgets being slashed, it's hard to turn her back on any money that might help her students.

Race, discrimination at center of heated CIF report response

CIF commissioner Dennis Ackerman was cleared of any wrongdoing on Tuesday, prompting accusations of intimidation and stacking the deck through his staff amid high school recruiting controversy.

Race, discrimination at center of heated CIF report response
By Jason Owens, SDNN
April 28, 2010

The ongoing controversy surrounding allegations of racism and favoritism on the board that supervises San Diego high school athletics reached a boil on Tuesday with the release of a report that cleared its commissioner of any wrongdoing.

California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) San Diego Section revealed the report Tuesday to a skeptical public audience led by Stewart Payne, the father of a former Eastlake High girls basketball player whose Citizens Against CIF organization filed the complaints that led to a five-month investigation of the practices of commissioner Dennis Ackerman and his colleagues.

He, along with other parents, a reverend and a referee, spoke out on behalf of Citizens Against CIF, calling for further scrutiny despite the investigation’s conclusion that states that “Investigators were not able to substantiate the allegations made by Citizens Against CIF.”

About 20 members sat in the audience, many of them vocal and clearly displeased during the nearly two-hour session surrounding the report’s findings.

“These two gentlemen — your commissioner (Ackerman) and assistant commissioner (William McLaughlin) — are not fit to serve in the capacity they are serving,” Payne said in a speech to the CIF board, urging them to take further action. “They do not have the best interest of children, students and athletes at heart.”

The basis of the investigation stems from a March 2009 incident when the Eastlake High School girl’s basketball team was disqualified from the playoffs for using a player who was found to use a false address to obtain eligibility. Payne’s daughter played for that team. Coach Janet Eleazar was later fired in the wake of recruiting allegations.

Meanwhile, Poway High School, where Ackerman’s two sons have played baseball, received a pass amid seven instances of recruiting violations involving the baseball team....

San Diego Office of Administrative Hearings Judge James Ahler makes another indefensible decision

Note to Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH): I'd be more upset about Judge Ahler's behavior if I thought it was significantly different from the other administrative judges. In fact, I think that most of the judges are chosen because they are willing to protect public entities and other powerful interests from the inconvenience of unimportant citizens who demand their rights. In this case, we have an erratic judge who isn't far enough out of the normal range to get rid of him. Even when Judge Ahler drove drunk and killed a man, all he got was a demotion and cut in pay.

Note to anti-abortion activists: please leave good doctors alone, so we don't have bad doctors doing abortions.

I believe that harassment of good doctors by anti-abortion activists, which has even included killing some of those doctors, has caused exactly the situation that supporters of choice have warned about: too many abortions are being conducted by unqualified people.

Sadly, we also have unqualified people sitting in judge's robes at the Office of Administrative hearings. Here is the latest on the notorious Judge H. James Ahler:

Judge refuses to pull license from abortion doctor
State medical board pushes for action after death of 30-year-old patient
Christian Examiner
Published, March 2010

A Caliifornia doctor who was ordered in January not to perform abortions is being allowed to keep his restricted medical license even after an undercover investigator with the state medical board caught him scheduling a surgery for the procedure.

In an emergency hearing sought by the California Medical Board on Feb. 18, Judge James Ahler ruled that the doctor, Andrew Rutland, could not only keep his license, but could also perform non-surgical abortions.

“How many patients have to die before a doctor is shut down?” Kathleen Nicholls of the medical board said after the hearing. “It’s unfortunate someone else is going to have to die to change this order.”

Rutland’s license was partially revoked on Jan. 8 after a patient died in what was described as a “dirty, ill-equipped acupuncture clinic” in San Gabriel.

At that original hearing the judge declined to pull Rutland’s license but did prohibit him from performing abortions. A subsequent undercover sting conducted by board investigators caught him doing first trimester chemical abortions even though he has been banned from the procedure. The doctor also scheduled a surgical abortion for a later day, although Rutland’s attorney told one newspaper that the procedure was going to be done by the doctor’s daughter.

Officials with the medical board, who thought the judicial order also included medical abortions, sought the emergency hearing from the judge. The judge, however, disagreed, saying he did not believe medical abortions carry the same risk as surgical abortions.

“Folks, this is not a referendum on abortion,” the judge is quoted as saying.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Exactly, Judge Ahler. But that's what it is to you, right? You're supposed to shut down incompetent doctors. Clearly, you don't care about women's health. You only care about protecting abortion doctors. I'm pro-choice, and I believe women have a right to a SAFE, COMPETENT doctor when they get an abortion. You seem to agree with Operation Rescue that women don't have such a right. Your decision-making is so sub-standard that you have put me in the awkward position of agreeing with the leader of Operation Rescue in this case. Isn't it about time you retired?]

Rutland was being monitored after a second-trimester abortion on 30-year-old Ying Chen in July was botched. She later died of injuries related to the surgery. The medical board then filed a nine-count complaint against the doctor in December.

“This is one of those times when one has to shake his head and ask what the judge was thinking,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “Rutland has a record of human destruction a mile long and he continues to flout the law and the restrictions put on him. He is a danger to the public. When Rutland injures or kills another person, and with his track record, that could be any day now, Judge Alher will have that on his conscience.”

Despite the latest ruling, officials with the California Medical Board said they will pursue the protracted process of getting a full board hearing to revoke Rutland’s license “as expeditiously as possible.”

Rutland’s license had been previously revoked in 2003, after his negligence caused the death of a wanted baby during childbirth. Rutland lied to the parents about the child’s cause of death. At that time he was on probation for the deaths of two other infants. In 2007, Rutland’s license was reinstated.

He took over an abortion clinic in Chula Vista, Calif. from abortionist Nolan Jones, who had his license revoked in March 2009, for violations ranging from botched abortions to fraud. Jones had replaced unlicensed abortionist Bertha Bugarin, who is serving nearly seven years in state prison for illegal abortions. Bugarin had stepped in after abortionist Phillip Rand surrendered his medical license due to his part in killing a woman during a botched abortion in Santa Ana in 2004.

“We pray that Rutland is the last abortionist in this cycle of abuse of women through illegal and unsafe abortions, and that this clinic will never be allowed to reopen,” Newman said.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A link to all posts about Lora Duzyk, Assistant Superintendent of SDCOE

Click HERE to see all Lora Duzyk posts.

Malcolm X killer freed after 44 years

Malcolm X killer freed after 44 years
By Wayne Drash, CNN
April 27, 2010

Thomas Hagan, the only man who admitted his role in the 1965 assassination of iconic black leader Malcolm X, was paroled Tuesday.

Hagan was freed a day earlier than planned because his paperwork was processed more quickly than anticipated, according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services.

Hagan, 69, walked out of the minimum-security Lincoln Correctional Facility at 11 a.m. The facility is located at the intersection of West 110th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard.

Hagan had been in a full-time work-release program since March 1992 that allowed him to live at home with his family in Brooklyn five days a week while reporting to the prison just two days.

Last month, Hagan pleaded his case for freedom: To return to his family, to become a substance abuse counselor and to make his mark on what time he has left in this world...

Hagan was no ordinary prisoner. He is the only man to have confessed in the killing of Malcolm X, who was gunned down while giving a speech in New York's Audubon Ballroom in 1965.

"I have deep regrets about my participation in that," he told the parole board on March 3, according to a transcript. "I don't think it should ever have happened."

Hagan had been sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment after being found guilty at trial with two others in 1966. The other two men were released in the 1980s and have long denied involvement in the killing...

Should businessmen who covered up defect in defibrillator face criminal charges?

Two doctors urge U.S. court to reject Guidant plea
Apr 21, 2010

Two cardiologists who cared for a 21-year-old college student who died when his implantable defibrillator made by Guidant failed to deliver a life-saving shock are urging a federal judge to reject a plea agreement with the company.

Guidant LLC, which was acquired by Boston Scientific Corp in 2006, agreed to pay $296 million -- the largest criminal penalty against a medical device company -- for withholding information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding catastrophic failures in some of the devices.

Judge Donovan Frank of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota is reviewing the settlement agreement and will likely accept or reject it by the end of the month.

In a letter to the court, Drs. Robert Hauser and Barry Maron, wrote: "We are extremely dismayed by the U.S. Attorney General's decision to enter into a plea agreement with Guidant LLC, rather than prosecute the company and the individuals responsible for this egregious act...

Why health care law is needed: WellPoint: dropping breast cancer patients

U.S. to WellPoint: Stop dropping breast cancer patients
Fri Apr 23, 2010

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has called on health insurer WellPoint to stop dropping coverage for patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer, calling the practice "deplorable."

In a letter dated April 22 to Angela Braly, WellPoint's chief executive, Sebelius said she was "surprised and disappointed" to learn from a Reuters report that the company had targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with intent to cancel their policies.

"As you know, the practice described in this article will soon be illegal," Sebelius wrote. "The Affordable Care Act specifically prohibits insurance companies from rescinding policies, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact."

Reuters reported on Thursday that WellPoint, the largest U.S. health insurer by enrollment, was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer, among other conditions.

The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation by the company as it searched for excuses to drop coverage, according to government regulators and investigators...

Rally in San Diego regarding Arizona law requiring police to arrest undocumented migrants

Photos by Pedro Rios, American Friends Service Committee

KUSI has a video of the April 26, 2010 rally at the San Diego federal building. After the video was recorded, the crowd at the rally grew larger, to about 200 people.

My guess is that Arizona police won't arrest many migrants, but that there will be enough havoc created to cause costly lawsuits. It seems to me to be a foolhardy law that won't really change anything. Congress needs to create immigration reform.

Here's a video of another recent rally about immigration:
Stand on the Side of Love
On February 28th 2010, interfaith leaders and community members gathered in front of the San Diego Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building to call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Diario San Diego covered the April 26, 2010 rally:
"Arizona no está sola", exclaman manifestantes
Por Alexandra Mendoza
Abr 26 2010

Fox News has a nicely-edited video of the April 26, 2010 rally:
San Diegans protest Arizona immigration bill
Opponents call for boycott of neighboring state
By Jennifer Musa FOX 5 San Diego Reporter
April 27, 2010
About 150 loud but peaceful demonstrators gathered in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown San Diego to protest an Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants.
The new law, Senate Bill 1070, makes it a crime not to carry immigration documents or proof of citizenship in the state and requires police to question people about their immigration status if they suspect they are there illegally.
Opponents of the law chanted, "Shame on Arizona," during the 90 minute rally...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tourre emails show agony, ecstasy of being a banker

Tourre emails show agony, ecstasy of being a banker

By Alistair Barr, MarketWatch
April 26, 2010

Fabrice Tourre comes across as an arrogant investment banker in the Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit against him and his employer Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

But personal emails released by Goldman /quotes/comstock/13*!gs/quotes/nls/gs (GS 151.93, -5.47, -3.48%) this weekend show Tourre struggling with "ethical questions" as he sold complex mortgage-related securities that he worried were suspect.

The SEC charged Goldman with securities fraud on April 16, alleging the investment bank didn't tell investors in a collateralized debt obligation that hedge fund firm Paulson & Co. helped structure the deal and was betting against it. Goldman and Paulson have denied wrongdoing. Read about the charges.

The SEC also charged Tourre, an executive director in Structured Products Group Trading, with securities fraud, alleging he was mainly responsible for the CDO, known as ABACUS 2007-AC1. Pamela Chepiga, an attorney for Tourre, declined to comment.

In the suit, the SEC quoted a January 2007 email that Tourre sent to a friend.

"More and more leverage in the system, The whole building is about to collapse anytime now...Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab[rice Tourre]...

CVESD Superintendent Lowell Billings to retire; Billings' pal Joyce Abrams reappointed to Teacher Credentialing Commission

Photo (left to right): Russell Coronado(new), Superintendent Lowell Billings, Larry Cunningham, Pamela Smith, David Bejarano (new), Doug Luffborough (new)

Chula Vista Elementary School District superintendent Lowell Billings will retire in December of this year. Here is his letter announcing his retirement.

It remains to be seen whether there will be any real changes at the district, or if this is merely a matter of personalities. Billings and the long time board members developed a lot of personal loyalty to each other during years when the district was involved in some expensive wrongdoing. But will the new board look for new lawyers and start obeying the law and the contract? That is what reformers hope for, of course, but political office changes people. Officials often start with the best of intentions, but end up protecting their incumbency instead of their principles.

Billings notes that Peter Barron Stark will help in the search for a replacement.

Peter Barron Stark knows CVESD pretty well. He actually was called in to help when teachers at Castle Park Elementary started going out of control in the mid 1990's (before I myself became a teacher at the school).

Mr. Stark failed to bring about any meaningful understanding or system for communication at the school. Within a few years, the district was paying $100,000s in legal bills to defend teachers who decided to destroy the school rather than give up the power their clique had achieved. The clique pretty much wagged the dog. Assistant superintendents Richard Werlin and Lowell Billings agreed to the demands of these teachers even when they demanded that the district violate the contract and the law. Then Billings tried to establish control over the school in 2004, but it was too late. The Castle Park Five got the local media to portray Billings as a power-hungry egomaniac.

Billings will be remembered for his mishandling of the Ana Stover case and the Danielle Cozaihr case, as well as my case, the Maura Larkins case. See web page.

My sympathies to Pamela Smith and Larry Cunningham, board members who worked so closely with Mr. Billings for so long.


A teacher who sat on the Chula Vista Educators' board of directors as the teachers union helped the district cover up wrongdoing has been appointed to a new term on the California

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gil Cabrera and Marty Emerald: which one is sneakier?

See all Gil Cabrera posts.

From where I sit, Gil Cabrera and Marty Emerald look like twins. They are politicians careful not to rile the wrong people. But lately I've been feeling that Gil Cabrera is the twin who's hiding more. It's pretty clear what Marty's agenda is. She's a mainstream Democrat, defending the little guy to the extent acceptable to the powers that be. But what's up with Cabrera? What exactly is his agenda?

Why does he just go after small, technical violations of ethics laws, and steer clear of addressing true, deep corruption in our government and legal system?

Fighting for Two Languages or More

Fighting for Two Languages or More
April 23, 2010
Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego

The debate over how to teach English to children who speak another language at home is a complicated one for academics -- but it's anything but academic for Susana Garcia.

Garcia came to San Diego when she was 8 years old and learned English and Spanish in bilingual classes. Her two older daughters had bilingual classes too, but the program disappeared from their school, Cesar Chavez Elementary, before her youngest son started class.

Her son can still speak both languages -- but as Garcia puts it, "he didn't have the chance to be as bilingual as my girls did." He can read only a little Spanish and can't write it.

Garcia started fighting for bilingual education and now leads a parent group at Chavez. We sat down to talk with her about why she believes in learning two languages...

Chula Vista Elementary School District website password protected, apparently to hide news of Lowell Billings' retirement

Russell Coronado (new)*, Superintendent Lowell Billings, Larry Cunningham, Pamela Smith, David Bejarano (new)*, Doug Luffborough (new)*


On the same evening I published the post below, the CVESD website came back online, with no password required. The reason was not necessarily that this blog is a powerful influence over public opinion. The whole episode might have been simply an effort to keep Lowell Billings' retirement a secret until someone gave the go-ahead to publish the news.


Yesterday [April 24, 2010] the CVESD website was down. Today, it's back up, but all the information is missing. You have to have a password to see it.

This is a bizarre step for a public entity to take.

CVESD has apparently thinks that it's affairs must be kept secret. This is not a new development; the only thing that's new is that CVESD is letting the voters know how intent it is on keeping them in the dark.

Just keep paying your taxes, but don't expect accountability for those tax dollars.

Friday, April 23, 2010

SEC staff surfed porn sites during crisis buildup: inspector

April 23, 2010
SEC staff surfed porn sites during crisis buildup: inspector
By Ronald D. Orol

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- As the 2008 financial crisis was developing, top Securities and Exchange Commission employees and contractors were using government computers on official time to view pornography, according to an SEC inspector general.

The SEC's inspector general found that 33 employees or contractors violated commission rules and policies by viewing porn, according to a memo obtained Friday by MarketWatch. The investigation was requested by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

The memo reported incidents by year:


2010: 3 so far

2009: 10

2008: 16

2007: 2

2006: 1

2005: 1

The 33 employees cited in the memo represent less than 1% of the SEC's approximately 4,000 employees. Of those employees, 17 were senior officials whose salaries ranged from $100,000 to $222,000, according to the memo. It isn't clear if the employees discussed in the memo were involved in oversight matters related to the financial crisis.

According to the memo, a regional office supervisory staff accountant admitted he frequently viewed pornography at work on his SEC computer for about a year and accessed pornography on his SEC-issued laptop computer while on official government travel.

Another regional office supervisory staff accountant admitted that he used an SEC assigned computer to access Websites containing pornography and other sexually explicit material during work hours fairly frequently, sometimes twice a day, according to the memo.

Another regional office staff accountant received 16,000 access denials for Internet websites classified by the SEC's Internet filter as "Sex" or "porn" in a one-month period. "In addition, the hard drive of this employee's SEC laptop contained numerous sexually suggestive and inappropriate images," the memo said.

A senior attorney at the SEC's headquarters in Washington admitted accessing Internet port so frequently that, according to the memo, on some days, he spent eight hours accessing Internet porn.

"In fact, this attorney downloaded so much pornography to his government computer that he exhausted the available space on the computer hard drive and downloaded pornography to CDs or DVDs that he accumulated in boxes in his office," the memo said.

Rep. Darrell Issa , R-Calif., the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said he was disturbed by the findings.

"It is nothing short of disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at pornography than taking action to help stave off the events that brought our nation's economy to the brink of collapse," he said in a statement. "This stunning report should make everyone question the wisdom of moving forward with plans to give regulators like the SEC even more widespread authority. Inexplicably, rather than exercise its existing regulatory enforcement authority, SEC officials were preoccupied with other distractions."

Ronald D. Orol is a MarketWatch reporter, based in Washington.

Arizonans are willing to bankrupt themselves to put undocumented migrants in jail

We created a system that encourages and relies on illegal immigration. Why not just give documents to enough workers to fill the jobs we need filled?

U.S.’s Toughest Immigration Law Is Signed in Arizona
The New York Times
April 23, 2010

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country on Friday, aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants. The governor’s move unleashed immediate protests and reignited the divisive battle over immigration reform nationally.

President Obama at the naturalization ceremony for 24 active duty service members at the White House on Friday.

Even before Governor Brewer signed the law at a 4:30 p.m. news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it.

Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, Mr. Obama called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws — an overhaul that Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon...

Spar & Bernstein's Law Link
IPC: How Much Will Arizona’s Immigration Bill (SB1070) Cost?
by mgeffner
April 21, 2010

Source: Immigration Policy Center

Washington, D.C.- Frustrated by Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, states across the country continue considering legislation that relies heavily on punitive, enforcement-only measures which not only fail to end unauthorized immigration but also have the potential to dig their state’s finances deeper into a hole.

The latest example of this kind of policy nose dive is in Arizona...

Implementation Costs of SB 1070 to One Arizona County
April 23, 2010
Immigration Policy Center

Today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer may sign into law a bill that has the potential to sink her state much deeper into the red than it already is...

In Arizona, when a bill is introduced in the state legislature, a "fiscal note" is attached which lays out the cost of implementation. In the case of SB 1070, the accompanying fiscal note is shockingly lacking in detail, concluding that "the fiscal impact of this bill cannot be determined with certainty...

In the absence of any current fiscal data on the cost of SB 1070's implementation, some Arizonans are pointing to a fact sheet produced by Yuma County Sheriff Ralph E. Ogden in response to similar legislation proposed in 2006. Yuma County is one of Arizona's 15 counties, with a population of about 200,000.

The 2006 fact sheet estimates the costs of a bill which would have authorized the police to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges if they were simply present in the state (the bill was eventually vetoed by then Governor Janet Napolitano). The Yuma County Sherriff's fact sheet shows a staggering potential cost to Yuma County law-enforcement agencies. The Sherriff estimated:

* Law-enforcement agencies would spend between $775,880 and $1,163,820 in processing expenses;
* Jail costs would be between $21,195,600 and $96,086,720;
* Attorney and staff fees would be $810,067-$1,620,134;
* Additional detention facilities would have to be built at unknown costs.

Furthermore, in an email between Yuma County Attorney Jon Smith ... noted that his county was already struggling with a budget deficit by furloughing employees and forcing days off without pay. He wrote:

"It was also noted that the Superior Court, Justice Courts and Municipal Courts would also realize increased costs if that legislation passed..."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ten years later, Water Station work continues

Sometimes siblings can be very different. The Hunter brothers remind me of the Negroponte brothers, Nicholas and John (see below).

Ten years later, Water Station work continues
April 7, 2010

OCOTILLO ---- For 10 years, John Hunter of Escondido and a small group of volunteers have spent most of their spring and summer weekends in the hot, dry desert east of San Diego trying to save lives.

Volunteers, with federal government permission, place jugs of drinking water in the remote desert in an effort to reduce the number of people who die attempting to cross the border illegally each year.

Admittedly, it's not much, but it could be enough to keep a person from dying of thirst in an area where the temperature regularly exceeds 110 degrees in summer, members of the group said.

Despite the dangers, thousands of illegal immigrants choose to cross the border in the desert to avoid intense patrols to the east around the town of Calexico and to the west in San Diego.

The group, founded by Hunter in 2000, is called the Water Station project. Its name springs from water stations the group builds a few miles north of the U.S. border with Mexico.

John Hunter, a physicist who has helped design and build war-fighting hardware, is the brother of former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, and the uncle of U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon...

As many as 5,607 illegal immigrants have died along the border over the last 15 years...

In the stretches of remote desert that surround the Ocotillo area in Imperial County, about 100 miles east of San Diego, nearly two dozen illegal immigrants die each year, Hunter's group says. Many get lost, disoriented and die of dehydration in the unforgiving heat.

"What we do is really simple," said Ben Cassel, a high school teacher and president of the organization. "We know that there are thirsty people there, and we take water to them."

When the group started, it operated on a shoestring budget of about $5,000, including money out of Hunter's pocket and some donations...

John Negroponte
Negroponte Tries to Cloud Intelligence Analysis on the War on Terror
September 25, 2006
Ivan Eland
The Independent Institute

John D. Negroponte, President Bush’s Director of National Intelligence, is now busy undermining a National Intelligence Estimate which concluded that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has worsened radical Islamic terrorism around the world. He previously had approved the document. According to the New York Times, the highly classified estimate, a consensus view of the 16 spy agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, finds that the U.S. invasion of a Muslim land has motivated the radical Islamic jihadist movement to metastasize and spread around the world. Yet, Negroponte, the president’s political appointee who is in charge, nominally at least, of the 16 agencies, came up with the usual twisted Bush administration phraseology to undercut his own estimate.

Negroponte, in what can only be termed Washington gobbledygook, said of the estimate, “The conclusions of the intelligence community are designed to be comprehensive, and viewing them through the narrow prism of a fraction of judgments distorts the broad framework they create.” That fraction of judgments appears to be 100 percent of the 16 intelligence agencies, because the National Intelligence Estimate represents the consensus view of that community. If instead Negroponte means that leaks of the report by intelligence officials misrepresent the actual classified report, such distortion is unlikely, because the New York Times interviewed more than a dozen officials from various government agencies and outside experts, a sampling of both supporters and critics of the Bush administration.

In reality, Negroponte, without much of a defense for the colossally horrendous ill–effects of the Iraq invasion, is attempting the age–old Washington trick of throwing out arguments, no matter how lame or twisted, to muddy the waters when really bad news has hit the media. A good intelligence professional would stand by and defend the best judgment of his trained intelligence analysts and himself, but alas, Negroponte is also one of the president’s political appointees...

Programs Train Teachers Using Medical School Model

Programs Train Teachers Using Medical School Model
by Claudio Sanchez
April 22, 2010

What if we prepared teachers the same way we prepare doctors?

As school reformers lurch toward more innovative ways for training classroom teachers, this idea is getting a lot of attention. A handful of teacher "residency programs" based on the medical residency model already exist. Boston was one of the first to create one in 2003.

Tom Payzant had been Boston Public Schools superintendent when he founded the Boston Teacher Residency program. Payzant, who now teaches at Harvard University, says the city desperately needed to attract more talented teachers, especially for hard-to-fill positions like math, science and special education. But it wasn't just about the numbers, Payzant says. It was about the quality of teachers coming out of colleges of education.

"Most teacher training institutions focus more on content and less on practice and how people teach," Payzant says...

Environmental firm accused of 'egregious' overcharging of L.A. Unified School; Two school officials involved

It looks like the issues examined in "The Cartel" go well beyond New Jersey. (The movie is currently playing in Los Angeles at this theater.) I'm not the least bit surprised to discover corruption among school officials.

Environmental firm accused of 'egregious' overcharging of L.A. Unified School District
April 21, 2010

Officials have abruptly halted work with the firm that managed environmental work in the $19.5-billion school construction program of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The move arises from a critical district audit alleging that Palm Desert-based Questa Environmental Consulting repeatedly overcharged and that L.A. Unified managers looked the other way, resulting in more than $2.5 million in questionable billing.

The negative report comes in the wake of an unrelated indictment of a regional construction director on conflict-of-interest charges, tarring the nation’s largest school construction and modernization effort. Officials continue to characterize the overall construction program as clean and successful. To date, 87 of 131 new schools have been completed as well as thousands of modernization projects.

The audit from the office of the inspector general, quietly posted online earlier this month, accused Questa of billing for time unrelated to its district contract, charging higher hourly rates than justified and exceeding maximum annual billings, among other things.

The conduct was “so egregious,” said district Inspector General Jerry Thornton, that his office took the unusual step of recommending Questa’s termination as well as the discipline of two supervising district employees...

Auditors singled out two district managers for particular criticism. L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines suspended them with pay March 1 for more than a month, district officials said. A district spokesman confirmed the substance of the action, though not the specific details. Both employees have since returned to work pending further possible disciplinary action. ...

Will Facebook win the war against Google and control the Internet?

See also Comcast opposes Internet freedom.

How Facebook Could Organize The Internet
Niraj Chokshi
The Atlantic
Apr 22 2010

Given its scale, Facebook could end up completely transforming the web and may have even won the war against Google. If enough sites buy in, Facebook would have helped set a standard that would usher in a long-awaited, new era, writes Newsweek's Barrett Sheridan:

Computer scientists have long envisioned a Web 3.0, a smarter Internet that understands the difference between objects, people, places, animals, etc. In other words, computers and servers should know that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an object, and in particular it's a film, and in particular a film by Michel Gondry, who is a person. Right now computers see words like "Michel Gondry" only as dumb, meaningless text. Facebook wants to change that--which is great. But it also plans to own that information--which is scary.

Privacy concerns abound and could block Facebook's march to control the web. So could other companies if they refuse to participate. But Facebook's plans are ambitious and, if it succeeds, it could become more than just a social network...

Sunshine is good: Lawsuit demands Vatican name priests accused of sex abuse

Lawsuit demands Vatican name priests accused of sex abuse
By Alan Duke
April 22, 2010

An Illinois man is suing the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by a priest at a Catholic school in Wisconsin.

The lawsuit demands the Vatican release the names of thousands of Catholic priests that the suit says have "credible allegations of sexual misconduct" against them...

Bilingual Education, Immersion Found to Work Equally Well

April 20, 2010
Education, Immersion Found to Work Equally Well
Students Were Assigned Randomly to Programs, With Some Followed Five Years
By Mary Ann Zehr
Education Week

In the first randomized-assignment study in which English-language learners were followed for as long as five years, researchers have found that Spanish-speaking children learn to read English equally well regardless of whether they are taught primarily in English or in both English and their native language.

The finding from the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University may take some fuel out of the fire in the national debate over which is best for teaching children from immigrant families to read: English immersion or bilingual education.

“People have been fighting for years and years about the language of instruction, thinking that it was either terribly important to teach in English the whole time or terribly important to teach in Spanish and then English. Both groups were wrong,” said Robert E. Slavin, the director of the center, in Baltimore, and one of the researchers...

Obama to Wall Street: ‘Join Us, Instead of Fighting Us’; Steve Schwartzman doesn't get it

This related story seems an apt introduction to Obama's words:

Wall Street's know-it-alls can't tell right from wrong
By Steven Pearlstein
Washington Post
April 23, 2010

I know you'll all be comforted, as I was Wednesday, by the public vote of confidence from Steve Schwartzman, chief executive of private equity giant Blackstone Group, when he said that his firm would continue to do business with Goldman Sachs and that he's never had a shred of doubt about the investment bank's ethical character.

So let me get this straight. Goldman Sachs is now relying on the character reference of a Wall Street sharpie who notoriously snookered investors into buying non-controlling shares of a private equity firm at the very moment when a credit-induced takeover bubble was about to burst...

Obama to Wall Street: ‘Join Us, Instead of Fighting Us’
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
April 22, 2010

President Obama challenged some of the nation’s most influential bankers on Thursday to call off their “battalions of financial industry lobbyists” and embrace a new regulatory structure meant to avert another economic crisis.

Speaking in the bankers’ backyard, at the Cooper Union in Manhattan, Mr. Obama castigated a “failure of responsibility” by Wall Street for having led to the financial crisis of 2008, and he pressed his case for what he called “a common-sense, reasonable, non-ideological” system of tighter regulation to prevent any recurrence. He took issue with the claim that his proposal would institutionalize the idea of future bailouts of huge banks.

“That may make for a good sound bite, but it’s not factually accurate,” Mr. Obama said. “It is not true. In fact, the system as it stands is what led to a series of massive, costly taxpayer bailouts...

The teachers union in SDUSD, called SDEA, throws its support to--a former Lincoln Club spokesman!?

My theory is that San Diego has some of the least-principled union leaders in the country. First the Metropolitan Employees Association (MEA) and other unions worked to save the secret pension deal that San Diego still hasn't recovered from (bankruptcy still looms as a possibility); now it's the SDEA.

San Diego Education Association (SDEA) is a local affiliate of the California Teachers Association, an organization that seems to be controlled not by members, but by Beverly Tucker, the head counsel. It makes sense that Tucker, the lawyer for CTA who has been in power as union elected officials have come and gone, would be the real power in the union. I used to think that executive director Carolyn Doggett had some real power, but I've found that she defers to Ms. Tucker regarding both cover-ups of internal matters and the union's public stance regarding improving teacher quality.

The Race to Unseat a Veteran -- And Very Loud -- Voice
Scott Barnett, a budget analyst who once led the county Taxpayers Association, says he'd keep a closer eye on the business workings of the school district if elected.
Voice of San Diego
April 21, 2010

...Barnett is one of two candidates who are taking on de Beck this spring, but the other one is actually a de Beck fan. School psychologist Michelle Crisci said she originally thought that de Beck wasn't going to run. Now she hopes that by sticking in the race, she can knock Barnett out of the running. Only two candidates will move on from the June primary.

"My hat is in the ring to make sure on the November ballot that it's John and myself," Crisci said.

...Seven years ago, Barnett was quoted in San Diego CityBeat saying that labor unions are "basically about enriching one class of society at the expense of the citizens in general."

Yet Barnett has won the teachers union support.

Barnett says he wouldn't say that about labor unions now, but was speaking for the conservative Lincoln Club at the time. His push to cut waste in the massive school district, he says, can only help employees by redirecting money back to classrooms.

Camille Zombro, president of the teachers union, said they may not always agree with Barnett, but he's someone they can work with.

"He's not going to run out and say nasty, untruthful things about us on talk radio," Zombro said...

[Maura Larkins' comment: Barnett might not care about educating children, but Camille Zombro isn't focused on that. She is focused on power and prestige for the union, and, particularly, the officials in the union.]

De Beck was long known as a labor ally on the school board, but in recent years, the former union leader has become one of its most bitter foes.

While cuts have strained relationships between the union and the whole school board, de Beck has clashed with them most publicly and most often. He argued that the school district should throw in the towel on bargaining with teachers and impose cuts. He argued that the union had sacrificed the youngest teachers when they agreed to furloughs. And he lobbed the toxic charge that they didn't care about kids.

His rocky relationship with the teachers union only adds to his appeal for some voters, including some of his former opponents. Local Democrats have thrown him their support anyway. And de Beck has earned loyalty from other observers simply by showing up, asking questions and being a stickler for details...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We need more regulation of financial industry: Lehman Examiner to Testify That S.E.C. Sat on Its Hands

Lehman Examiner to Testify That S.E.C. Sat on Its Hands
Stephen Crowley
The New York Times
April 19, 2010

The court-appointed examiner who dissected the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy is expected to criticize the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday for its decision to “stand by idly” as the investment bank veered toward collapse.

The S.E.C. knew that Lehman did not have adequate liquidity and had exceeded its own limits on risk-taking but in essence did nothing, the examiner, Anton R. Valukas, will say in testimony released in advance by the House Financial Services Committee.

One of the most damning findings in Mr. Valukas’s 2,209-page report last month — that Lehman used accounting gimmicks to hide the extent of its indebtedness — was not known to the S.E.C. He wrote: “I saw nothing in my investigation to suggest that the S.E.C. asked even the most fundamental questions that might have uncovered this practice early on, before Lehman escalated it to a $50 billion issue.” ...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We're learning when we're idling (as long as we studied hard before we took a rest)

When I was a college freshman I couldn't stay up all night, so I thought I was at a disadvantage to my fellow students who engaged in all-night cram sessions before an exam. I was puzzled as to why I scored higher than they did on the test. Now I know:

Studies: An Idle Brain May Be Ripe for Learning
By Anita Hamilton
Jan. 29, 2010

Why is it so hard to remember even things we don't want to forget? The problem, suggests a growing body of research, may be that we're thinking about them too much in the first place.

Popular wisdom once held that a mind at rest was like an engine idling — not much going on under the hood. To glean insights into how the brain worked, scientists would study only volunteers in action, measuring their physiological or biochemical responses as they completed specific mental tasks. But more recently, thanks in large part to the proliferation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which precisely maps brain activity based on changes in blood-oxygen levels, neuroscientists have found that important activity in the brain — related in particular to memory and learning — may occur when it is at rest.

Many studies over the past decade have suggested that sleep is crucial to the consolidation of memories and learning; people who take a nap after learning a new task, for instance, remember it better than those who don't snooze. And now a small but compelling new study from the lab of New York University (NYU) cognitive neuroscientist Lila Davachi finds similar evidence that the brain at rest, even while remaining awake, is conducting meaningful activity. "Your brain is doing work for you even when you're resting," says Davachi, who just published a study in Neuron showing that certain kinds of brain activity actually increase during waking rest and are correlated with better memory consolidation. "Taking a rest may actually contribute to your success at work or school," she adds...

The purpose of the scans was to compare the relative levels of spontaneous neural activity in two key brain regions involved in memory — the hippocampus and visual cortex — during rest, both before and after the visual tasks... That suggests that the visual-learning tasks had affected the brain's seemingly random firings during rest, and perhaps that the brain was conducting memory-consolidating activity during that time...

The brain activity in those who were best at finding the hidden pattern onscreen was most strongly related...

While the NYU, Washington University and Harvard studies all used different approaches, their overall findings were remarkably similar. "The brain is trying to weave ideas together even when you don't think you are thinking of anything," notes Johns Hopkins behavioral neurologist and memory expert Dr. Barry Gordon. That's something to keep in mind the next time you catch yourself daydreaming in a meeting or idly surfing Facebook when you should be studying.

Tentative Rulings in SDCOE Fringe Benefits Consortium, Dan Puplava, Diane Crosier lawsuit

All tentative rulings heard on April 9, 2010 were finalized.

The judge didn't give any litigant everything he wanted without a trial. Judge Styn made the following Tentative Rulings:

1. Dan Puplava will have to answer for unfair competition, but not
conversion or interference. LINK

2. Puplava motion for summary judgment denied: "Puplava fails to cite authority providing for summary adjudication of whether a duty was breached. Absent such authority, there is no basis to summarily adjudicate the claims for breach of duty as requested by Puplava. Even if there was such authority, Puplava's separate statement fails to identify the specific breach of duty and the undisputed facts as to each breach of duty for which summary adjudication is sought.

3. Triable issues of fact remain re Puplava's damages. LINK

4. Judge Styn kept alive the Breach of Written Contract charge against the Consortium as well as Breach of Contract, Interference and Unfair Competition against Crosier. He threw out Breach of Oral/Implied Contract against the Consortium. LINK

5. Click HERE for Tentative Ruling concerning the following:
1. Breach of Contract--Defendants' motion for summary
adjudication is granted.
2. Furtahdo wins: Breach of Implied Contract--Defendants' motion for summary adjudication is granted.
3. Misappropriation of Trade Secret--Defendants' motion
for summary adjudication is denied.
4. Statutory Libel--Defendants' motion for summary
adjudication is denied.
5. Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic
Defendants' motion for summary adjudication is denied.
6. Misappropriation of Name--Defendants' motion for
summary adjudication is denied.

The judge did not favor the big dogs as blatantly as he did in Maura Larkins' malpractice lawsuit against attorney Elizabeth Schulman. In a better world, Judge Styn would have forwarded the evidence in the Schulman case to the Bar Association. Instead, he ignored it (helping Elizabeth Schulman avoid all responsibility for her wrongful acts), and then punished Maura Larkins financially for bringing the lawsuit.

The decisions of the court in the Schulman case illustrate why Elizabeth Schulman felt confident that she could get away with violating the legal requirements for an
attorney who agrees to represent a client. Schulman possessed sworn testimony that
contradicted the testimony of the witnesses appearing for Chula Vista
Elementary School District. Why did she not present it? Judge Styn’s prejudices against in pro per litigants not only protected Schulman from any legal consequences for her wrongdoing, but caused him to dismiss with prejudice a case in which the
complaint itself contained enough evidence to prove Schulman guilty of the
causes of action against her.

See all Dan Puplava posts.
See all Diane Crosier posts.
See all Lora Duzyk posts.
See all SDCOE posts.

Bravo for the ACLU and Arnold Schwarzeneger for working to keep the best teachers

Wow--at last we have bipartisanship in California to get rid of the worst teachers. My respect for the ACLU has skyrocketed. They're not afraid to challenge the California Teachers Association!

Lawsuit: Layoffs hurt minority kids
John Fensterwald
The Educated Guess
Feb. 25, 2010

Regulations for teacher layoffs are a prime example of how interests of adults are put ahead of those of children, especially minority children. Now, that system, along with state budget cuts that set it in motion, will face a court challenge.

In a case with statewide implications, the ACLU of Southern California and other public interest and pro bono attorneys are suing the state and Los Angeles Unified, charging that teacher layoffs have savaged three low-performing, low-income middle schools. All three have been thrown into turmoil since between half and nearly three quarters of their teachers got layoff notices last year. Most eventually did lose their jobs because of rules that dictate that less experienced teachers must be the first to go, regardless of how good they are with students and how well they fit in the school.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Superior Court in Los Angeles, comes less than three weeks before school districts must formally notify teachers that they may be laid off next year. With Los Angeles Unified facing a $640 million deficit, thousands of teachers are expected to get layoff notices, including yet again, many remaining teachers at the three schools named in the lawsuit. The ACLU’s next likely step is to seek an injunction preventing disproportionate numbers of teachers from those schools from being let go...

Will we finally get effective and transparent teacher evaluations? I could forgive Arnold for a lot of his budget screw-ups if he accomplished this.

Bill would end layoffs by seniority
John Fensterwald
The Educated Guess

Proposals that Gov. Schwarzenegger made during his budget speech in January to weaken teacher tenure and seniority rights have finally taken bill form.

Republican Sen. Bob Huff introduced SB 955 on the governor’s behalf last week. Its chief provisions would be to give local school boards, instead of the Commission on Professional Competence, final say over firing teachers, and to enable districts to lay off teachers based on a district’s subject needs and teacher effectiveness, instead of by seniority.

The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers will likely fight every piece of the bill. But a civil rights lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other public-interest attorneys against the state and Los Angeles Unified, challenging seniority-based layoffs, may improve chances of at least the seniority piece becoming law. That would be a major step forward.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this year on behalf of students at three low-performing middle schools, noted the constant churn of new teachers at these schools, where seniority rules make it next to impossible for principals to hire and keep teachers they want.

SB 955 would apply not only to layoffs; it would give principals more latitude in reassigning and transferring teachers. Passage of the bill would make it imperative that districts come up with more comprehensive and transparent teacher evaluations.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sometimes just telling your story is the best thing you can do to change the world.

Sometimes just telling your story is the best thing you can do to change the world.

Kathryn Stockett, Author of The Help

By Claire Suddath
Nov. 11, 2009

Kathryn Stockett never intended to write a best-selling novel. In fact, when she started writing her debut novel, The Help, she didn't think anyone would ever read it. But since coming out in February, her story about the complicated relationships between African-American domestic servants and the white women who employed them in pre-civil rights Mississippi has spent over 30 weeks on the New York Times' best-seller list. Stockett talked to TIME about growing up in Mississippi and what it's like being a white woman from the South writing from the perspective of African-American maids...

Party Down: screwed-up rich people and the ordinary Joes who want to be like them

I watched the first season of Party Down on Netflix instant viewing. I think Netflix is awesome.

Adam Scott and Megan Mullally in "Party Down."

Apr 17, 2010
"Party Down": The best comedy you haven't heard of
Waiters follow their creative dreams to a life of drudgery, while Megan Mullally channels Sarah Palin, brilliantly
By Heather Havrilesky

Is it shameful to have dreams that might not come true? Most of us keep our dreams hidden, safe from the public's contempt. Why expose yourself and risk being called a dreamer, just another writer who boldly sends his manuscript to a publisher only to get a reject slip back in the mail, or a singer who shows up to the "American Idol" audition, only to have Simon Cowell tell her she's pathetic and untalented and she should go back to flipping burgers? (Easy enough to instruct others to stick to hard labor when you get paid to smirk and roll your eyes all day.)

But then you have the Susan Boyles and the Justin Biebers of the world, tipping the scales in the other direction, giving you hope that your dream might just come true one day. You just have to believe in it with all of your heart!

But are you just deluded?...

This is the driving question at the heart of Starz's "Party Down" (premieres 10 p.m. Friday, April 23), a brilliant half-hour comedy inhabited by creative types — actors and writers — working for a catering company in Los Angeles. The dilemma of the day job — do I keep myself afloat with this meaningless toil, or do I follow my dreams to bankruptcy and beyond? — looms ever present here.

..."Party Down" looks beyond the black-and-white messages our culture sends us about dreams and the creative life and success and failure, to show us the gray area in between. Even though we assume that the acclaimed novelist is automatically happy while the unknown, unpublished novelist is a depressed loser who's wasting his time, success brings far less of a guarantee of happiness than does an enjoyment of the work itself.

The dream may be beside the point entirely. If you enjoy the process and improve and learn every day, then success or failure is a footnote in your story. Likewise, if you're distracted by the spoils, if you're transfixed by a notion of "arriving" or being "done" with work — if you desire the ends more than the means, in other words — you may be dooming yourself to failure...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Duncan Wants 40 Percent Graduation Rate or NCAA Schools Cannot Play in Postseason

"If you can't graduate two out of five of your players, I just think your priorities are out of whack...What it tells me is there is a lack of institutional commitment...I just don't know why we tolerate those handful of places whose values are not proper," [Arne] Duncan told ABC News.

“The overall majority of these players will never go on to make a dime playing basketball, they’re making money for their universities and they’re going to have nothing to show for it.”

The interview was part of Ron Claiborne’s report tonight on “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

Education Secretary Asks NCAA Basketball Teams to Improve Academics

Duncan Wants 40 Percent Graduation Rate or Schools Cannot Play in Postseason
March 19, 2010

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has a game-changing idea to improve academics in college basketball. Some of the nation's top-seeded teams would be knocked out of March Madness next year if his rule goes into effect.

Duncan has proposed that the NCAA bar any team from participating in the post-season tournament if they fail to graduate at least 40 percent of their players. Duncan called 40 percent "a low bar" that should be easy for athletic programs to achieve, and he thinks such a rule would immediately improve academic results.

If the rules were in place for this year, 12 teams including top-ranked Kentucky, which graduated only 31 percent of its players, would not be eligible.

The other teams are Arkansas Pine Bluff, Baylor, California, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico State, Tennessee and Washington.

Today, Duncan made clear his belief that colleges can do better.

"If you can't graduate two out of five of your players, I just think your priorities are out of whack," Duncan told ABC News. "What it tells me is there is a lack of institutional committment."

Duncan himself was a star on the basketball team at Harvard, and he knows that sport is about a lot more than national championships.

"My father taught me a long time ago that a university has a dual mission, to educate its students and to prepare them for life," he said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. "If a college fails to educate all of its students, then that university has failed its mission. It's time to start holding coaches and institutions more accountable for the academic outcomes of their athletes."

Study Shows Room for Improvement for College Teams

Duncan based his request on a study of graduation rates for NCAA tournament teams, conducted annually by The Institute for Diversity and Ethnics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. The study, based on data from the NCAA, found that 69 percent of this year's teams graduated at least 50 percent of their student-athletes in recent years, but 12 teams did not meet the 40 percent threshold Duncan is proposing.

"I just don't know why we tolerate those handful of places whos values are not proper," Duncan told ABC News.

An NCAA spokesman told The Associated Press today that a ban based on graduation rates unfairly penalizes current players for graduation rates of students from previous years. The NCAA already imposes academic sanctions on schools that fail to maintain education standards under a formula they call the Academic Progress Rate.

Part of the problem, study author Richard Lapchick believes, is rooted in unrealistic expectations among players for professional success.

"I think a lot of this has to do with the phenomenon of young African-American men, in particular, dreaming the dream that they're going to be able to play professional basketball," Lapchick said.

NCAA Tournament and Graduation Rates: Maryland Coach Defends Record

The dream of success in the pros comes true for some players, according to Maryland coach Gary Williams. In a radio interview this week, he defended his program's graduation rate, which at 8 percent was the lowest of all the schools in the study.

"First of all, 1999-2003, in that period we had four players leave early to go to the pros. They are all still playing professionally," Williams said on the "Dan Patrick Show." "They haven't come back and gotten their degrees yet. Hopefully, they will. But they've made millions and millions of dollars during that time that they left. In other words, they didn't have their degree, but it all depends on how you measure success in your life."

It is a sentiment Duncan disagrees with. "The overall majority of these players will never go on to make a dime playing basketball. They're making money for their universities and they're gonna have nothing to show for it," said Duncan to ABC News.

Williams said that he's proud of his school's graduation rate and added that the University of Maryland spends more than $1 million every year to support student-athletes' academics.

Solutions From a Supportive Nun

Another school in the NCAA tournament has found academic success for its players with a much smaller budget and the help of one hard-nosed nun. At Xavier University in Ohio, 77-year-old academic adviser Sister Rose Ann Fleming has supported the school's men's basketball players since 1985. Under her guidance, all 77 players who have competed as seniors have graduated from the university.

"Every team, every program around the country has an academic adviser. That's their job," said Xavier coach Chris Mack. "It's not Sister's job, it's her passion."

To Fleming, it all boils down to a team's priorities.

"My job is to make sure we don't waste the opportunity to also get a degree," she said.

Fleming makes all players attend 10 hours of study hall every week, two hours per day on top of their regular practice. She gets support from the team's coaches, and student-athletes who come to Xavier know they're expected to perform both on the court and in the classroom.

Google Searches (for Tiananmen, Hu’s Son) Still Blocked in China

See also this story of Hong Kong blogger who removed a post from her site and a San Diego blogger who didn't.

Google Searches for Tiananmen, Hu’s Son Still Blocked in China
March 23, 2010
Businessweek (Bloomberg)

Google Inc.’s decision to redirect Chinese readers to its Hong Kong-based Internet site hasn’t given China’s nearly 390 million Web surfers more access. Instead, searches that were once censored are no longer available at all.

Queries on the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on the main and the Web sites aren’t executable in China, where readers using Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer are told “cannot display the webpage” or “network error.” Searches for a son of President Hu Jintao in connection with a graft case in Namibia are blocked as well.

The company yesterday said it is redirecting users from, set up in 2006 to offer a better experience for Chinese readers. The government will likely block access through its Internet censorship system dubbed “The Great Firewall,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, a visiting scholar at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University...

Washington D.C. a bright spot in U.S. reading test data

Michelle Rhee, controversial superintendent of DC schools, will be happy to see this.

Reading scores stalled under 'No Child' law, report finds D.C. fourth-graders a bright spot in disappointing 2009 data
By Nick Anderson and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reading achievement in D.C. public schools has climbed in the fourth grade in recent years, the federal government reported Wednesday, while progress nationwide has stalled despite huge instructional efforts launched under the No Child Left Behind law.

A report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that fourth-grade scores for the nation's public schools stagnated after the law took effect in 2002, rose modestly in 2007 and remained unchanged last year. By contrast, the long-troubled D.C. schools have made steady advances since 2003, although their scores remain far below the national average.

The national picture for eighth-grade reading was largely the same: a slight uptick in performance since 2007, but no gain in the seven years when President George W. Bush's program for school reform was in high gear. The District's eighth-grade reading scores showed meager growth in that time.

When Bush signed the law, hopes were high for a revolution in reading. Billions of dollars were spent, especially in early grades, to build fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and a love of books that would propel students in all subjects. The goal was to eliminate racial and ethnic achievement gaps. But Wednesday's report shows no great leaps for the nation and stubborn disparities in performance between white and black students, among others...