Monday, December 26, 2011

Reasons unclear for fatal CPS decision to return a child to her parents

Reasons unclear for fatal CPS decision to return a child to her parents
By Brad Branan
The Sacramento Bee
Dec. 26, 2011

Giovanni Melchor was just a year old when he drowned in the stagnant water of his family's backyard swimming pool in late 2006. The family's single-story, purple-trimmed home in south Sacramento seemed well maintained on the outside. But inside, a neighbor said, the house was infested with roaches and city inspectors later cited Giovanni's father for an unsecured pool fence, the lack of a door closing off the garage from the pool, and a host of other health and safety code violations.Not even three years later, Giovanni's sister, Yeinira, who had been removed from the home and then returned, was also dead, a victim of medical neglect by her parents. Case files from Sacramento County Child Protective Services, recently obtained by The Bee, show how the 2-year-old girl died. Court records show that her parents, Jose Jaime Melchor, 35, and Elizabeth Melchor, 29, pleaded no contest to child endangerment charges in July and were deported this year.What the records don't explain is how the agency made the decision to return the child to care that led to her death.County officials say they cannot discuss the case or the records because of confidentiality laws.But without documentation, evaluating the agency's actions is difficult, said Ed Howard, senior counsel at the Children's Advocacy Institute in San Diego, who reviewed Yeinira's file at the request of The Bee."If we take them at face value – that there is no documentation for reuniting this child with a very troubled family – then this is a fiasco," Howard said. "You can't do this job without documenting your reasons for making such a decision."Specifically, CPS records for Yeinira do not show whether the agency conducted an assessment about the risk of returning her to the home – using what's called the Structured Decision Making tool – in violation of its own policies."In all of its reports, the (CPS) Oversight Committee has recommended comprehensive and consistent use of the tool," said Gina Roberson, co-chair of the committee. "It means social workers are using the best practices in trying to prevent child abuse."The CPS Oversight Committee, echoing the complaints of experts and child welfare advocates, has repeatedly found the agency's social workers have made questionable decisions and serious errors in high-risk cases such as the Melchor's. That assessment was repeated in other reports this year, including one by the California State Auditor.CPS released two sets of files on the Yeinira case. The first contained 12 pages and no information about the family's extensive record with CPS. The second, released after The Bee requested it under the California Public Records Act, had 124 pages.County Health and Human Services Director Ann Edwards said the release of the incomplete file was unintentional. But neither set answers the questions about the fatal decision to return her to her parents. A troubled historyThe year Giovanni died, the Melchors were living in a working-class neighborhood on Center Parkway. They had five children.Neighbors, attorneys and a social worker who had contact over the years with the Melchors, an immigrant family from Mexico, said the family needed help. They said Elizabeth Melchor seemed incapable of caring for her children and, according to court records, Jose Jaime Melchor physically abused his wife.Five reports of alleged abuse or neglect involving the family were made to CPS prior to Yeinira's birth in July 2006, court records show.Some of the reports involved the father, who allegedly had a drinking problem and abused his wife, according to court and CPS files. Other reports involved the mother, accused of hitting the children. Two of the reports were upheld by CPS.Yeinira had a heart defect and a cleft palate that made feeding her difficult. Less than a month after she was born, CPS received another complaint, noting the mother wasn't learning how to take care of her fragile daughter. The child was still in the hospital and at risk of dehydration if not properly nourished.Melchor "admits she is depressed and overwhelmed," according to an unidentified reporter quoted in the CPS case file. The mother and the father were refusing the training needed to feed Yeinira, according to the report. The source recommended placing Yeinira in a special foster home for her medical needs.The complaint was upheld. CPS started monitoring the child, but allowed her to go home with her mother. Yvette Washington, a home visitation worker with the county's Birth and Beyond program, was assigned to counsel the family."She seemed withdrawn," Washington said of Elizabeth Melchor in an interview with The Bee.Washington said she brought a public health nurse to the family's home to explain the risks of having a pool with stagnant water and a small and unsecured fence.The mother didn't seem to take the matter seriously, Washington said, adding that she stopped providing service to the family in 2006 because Melchor was unreceptive.Giovanni drowned in October that year. Melchor told police she was taking care of Yeinira, and left her other children unattended in the garage for about an hour, records show. Giovanni apparently wandered from the garage and into the pool.Police found the missing garage door and the unsecured pool fence. Neither parent was charged. CPS also initially declined to take protective action, determining that an allegation of neglect was unfounded, court records show.That reluctance befuddled some of the Melchors' neighbors.Andrea Garcia, who lived next door to the family, said the Melchors were troubled. Her interactions with the family usually came when something went wrong, she said, such as when the children were left outside in diapers in cold weather.The Garcias watched the other Melchor children while the parents dealt with the emergency of finding Giovanni in the pool.Andrea Garcia said the children were filthy. She said she entered the Melchor home for clean clothes and saw cockroaches everywhere.Her father, Jesus Garcia, said he had worried about the safety of the Melchor children under their mother's care."We never understood why CPS let her keep the kids," he said.Taken away, brought backTen months after the drowning, the four Melchor children became dependents of the county as a result of abuse and neglect, court records show.In Yeinira's case, her parents repeatedly failed to bring her to doctor's appointments, CPS records show. She missed eight appointments in seven months. Doctor's notes indicated a growing concern about her well-being.In foster care, she had surgery for her ailments and had recovered well. But in May 2008, less than two months after her surgery, Yeinira returned to her parents' home, joining her siblings who had been reunited with them several months earlier.To place a foster child back in a parent's home, CPS must convince a dependency court judge that the conditions that originally made the home unsafe had been fixed. For Yeinira, CPS needed to ensure the issues at home had been addressed, said Bill Grimm, senior counsel at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, who reviewed the child's file at The Bee's request."Given all that was going on before, there was a pretty high threshold for them to resume care," Grimm said.The lack of documentation calls the agency's decisions into question, said Grimm, adding that returning Yeinira home without doing a risk assessment would have been a serious error, if that's what happened.Without careAfter Yeinira returned, she did not see a doctor for about a year because the family didn't have insurance, her father told Sacramento police investigators in 2009.During that time, Yeinira had a seizure, her mother told police. She said she put rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and placed it under Yeinira's nose to revive her.A couple of months later, Yeinira had another seizure. Yeinira "fell back, arched her back, and her feet twisted" as she fell onto concrete, her mother said, according to the investigative report. She again used rubbing alcohol and an onion to revive Yeinira.The problem returned the next day, as Yeinira "fell forward, and her head hit the wall and her eyes went up," her mother said.Again, Melchor turned to an onion and rubbing alcohol to revive her daughter. Her father was holding Yeinira in his lap when the mother noticed Yeinira wasn't breathing, she told investigators.The father brought her to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, south Sacramento, minutes away from their home. Two days later, April 20, 2009, Yeinira died at Kaiser's Roseville hospital because of a lack of oxygen in the brain, an autopsy found.The Coroner's Office said physical abuse also may have contributed to her death, noting that she'd had a broken arm and other recent injuries.In court documents, Dr. Michael Myette of Kaiser said he could say with "95 percent to 99 percent certainty that if the parents had accessed care when she began seizing, she would still be alive."One of the Melchors' attorneys, Lori Calvert, said the couple grew up without doctors and that Elizabeth Melchor had been taught to revive her mother, who also suffered from seizures, as she had revived Yeinira.The Melchors faced a number of obstacles, their attorneys said. They were illiterate in their native Spanish, couldn't speak English and were poor.The prosecutor handling their neglect case agreed and cited those factors when explaining to a judge why she sought approval for a plea agreement resulting in a two-year jail sentence for the Melchors, the lowest under sentencing guidelines.The judge agreed to the sentencing recommendation. The Melchors had served about a year in jail awaiting trial and, with various credits, were released in July after pleading no contest to the charges. They were deported to Mexico shortly afterward, without any of their children. Their attorneys said the children were put up for adoption by the county.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Failure to Report Student-Teacher Sexual Relations Costs SD Unified $1.25 Millio

There is a lot of secrecy in schools about things that should be discussed and, in some circumstances, reported to authorities. Schools should make a habit of having adults tell the truth. They do the exact opposite.

Failure to Report Student-Teacher Sexual Relations Costs SD Unified $1.25 Million
By Dave Rice
December 21, 2011

The California Court of Appeals has confirmed a $1.25 million judgment against the San Diego Unified School District, a decision filed Tuesday reports. The case stems from the District’s failure to report suspected sexual abuse while plaintiff Wieder was a student at the District’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA).

In 2007, Wieder filed a complaint naming the District, John Lee, and Elizabeth Laughlin as defendants, alleging negligence and failure in their statutory duty to report suspected child abuse. In 2008 the complaint was amended to name sexual abuse, sexual battery, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

At trial, various school employees testified concerning their knowledge about a sexual and romantic relationship between Wieder and defendant Lee, that began while Wieder was in the 10th grade and continued through her high school years. Lee had been Wieder’s ninth grade physics teacher.

In the plaintiff’s sophomore year, she was a member of an after-school martial arts club that Lee instructed, and he often gave her a ride home after class in his pickup truck equipped with a camper shell. Wieder had developed a crush on Lee, who was 36 years old at the time. Shortly after Wieder’s 16th birthday, Lee initiated a sexual relationship.

The pair had intercourse one to three times per week throughout Wieder’s junior and senior years, according to testimony. Most of the time, Lee would drive her to a Mission Bay parking lot, where they would have sex in the back of his truck. The two were also close at school, with Wieder frequently eating lunch in Lee’s classroom and exhibiting displays of affection several testifying believe to be excessive.

Andrew Hinds, a teacher at SCPA, said he saw Lee and Wieder “hugging, grappling, stroking, and petting.” Wieder often spoke about Lee in class while she was a student of Hinds. In November 2005, Hinds began to suspect her relationship with Lee was sexual in nature.

Matt Stoever, another SPCA teacher, concurred. He told Hinds that a substitute teacher told him Wieder had confessed the nature of her relationship with Lee to a friend of the substitute. Hinds then wrote a letter to Laughlin, the school’s principal, informing her of what he had seen and heard. Stoever prepared a memorandum regarding what he’d seen, and made it available to police in a subsequent investigation.

Andrew Barbolla, yet another teacher at SPCA, testified that he heard from students that they believed Lee and Wieder were “maybe a little too close.” He also observed Wieder riding in the middle seat of Lee’s truck next to Lee, saw the couple hug multiple times, and witnessed Wieder run up to and jump on Lee, straddling him with her legs around his waist. Barbolla says he confronted Lee about the inappropriate relationship, and also conferred with Stoever and Laughlin about it, telling Stoever “it’s only a matter of time until [Lee] gets popped.” While Laughlin agreed she “needed to do something” about Lee, neither of them reported suspicions to Child Protective Services or police.

Hortencia Garcia-Rubio, another teacher, testified that she confronted Lee after having concerns expressed to her by another student. She says she also informed Laughlin about the report. The student testified that Susan Strasser, another SPCA teacher, was within five feet of Lee and Wieder while they engaged in some of the inappropriate behavior he’d witnessed.

Priscilla Pearson, an SPCA security guard, said she saw Lee and Wieder leave the campus together in Lee’s truck. She also saw them alone in Lee’s classroom, with Lee seated and Wieder standing behind him, running her fingers through his hair. Pearson immediately reported what she saw to vice-principal Emma Martinez, who went to the classroom and saw Wieder’s arm around Lee’s neck and her head on his chest, while other students milled about nearby.

Martinez pulled Lee aside and told him she thought the behavior was inappropriate, then reported what she’d seen to Laughlin. Martinez later wrote Lee, stating she was “shocked” with what she’d witnessed.

When it was principal Laughlin’s turn to testify, she denied Barbolla had reported any concerns to her. She likewise denied expressing concern about Lee to Hinds, and said Garcia-Rubio never reported student concerns either.

None of the witnesses reported what they’d seen to any higher authority than Laughlin. Child Protective Services and police did not become involved. The truth came out only after Wieder graduated SPCA and entered college, at which point Lee confessed to her mother that he and Wieder had shared a romantic and sexual relationship since her sophomore year. The relationship ended shortly after this conversation.

Before trial, Lee entered into a settlement agreement with Wieder for $40,000. After the trial, a jury awarded Wieder $250,000 in economic damages and $1,000,000 in noneconomic damages. It assigned 40 percent of the fault for harm caused to Wieder to the District, and 60 percent to Lee himself. The trial court then entered judgment against the District for $650,000.

On appeal, the District argued that Penal Code 11166, which requires “mandated reporters” including teachers, classified employees of any public school and others to report suspected child abuse, does not create a civil cause of action for its failure to follow the law. The district also argued that it “does not have any direct, mandatory duty under section 11166 to report reasonable suspicions of child abuse.” The appellate court struck down the appeal and upheld the judgment in total.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model

From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model
New York Times
December 12, 2011

Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator and author, had a simple question for the high school seniors he was speaking to one morning last week in Manhattan: “Who here wants to be a teacher?”

Out of a class of 15, two hands went up — one a little reluctantly.

“In my country, that would be 25 percent of people,” Dr. Sahlberg said. “And,” he added, thrusting his hand in the air with enthusiasm, “it would be more like this.”

In his country, Dr. Sahlberg said later in an interview, teachers typically spend about four hours a day in the classroom, and are paid to spend two hours a week on professional development. At the University of Helsinki, where he teaches, 2,400 people competed last year for 120 slots in the (fully subsidized) master’s program for schoolteachers. “It’s more difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine,” he said.

Dr. Sahlberg puts high-quality teachers at the heart of Finland’s education success story — which, as it happens, has become a personal success story of sorts, part of an American obsession with all things Finnish when it comes to schools.

Take last week. On Monday, Dr. Sahlberg was the keynote speaker at an education conference in Chicago. On Tuesday, he had to return to Helsinki for an Independence Day party held by Finland’s president — a coveted invitation to an event that much of the country watches on television.

On Wednesday, it was Washington, for a party for the release of his latest book, “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn From Educational Change in Finland?,” that drew staff members from the White House and Congress.

And Thursday brought him to the Upper West Side, for a daylong visit to the Dwight School, a for-profit school that prides itself on internationalism, where he talked to those seniors.

Ever since Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million that does not start formal education until age 7 and scorns homework and testing until well into the teenage years, scored at the top of a well-respected international test in 2001 in math, science and reading, it has been an object of fascination among American educators and policy makers...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dedicated teacher sentenced for murdering wife

It can be quite shocking hidden aspects of the personalities of "dedicated" teachers are revealed. You can't always judge a person by the personality he or she presents to the world. And you sure can't have any confidence at all in the hit-or-miss evaluations teachers receive in public schools.

Cruise ship killer gets life sentence
Greg Moran
Dec. 8, 2011

...On Thursday, Robert McGill was sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez, who acknowledged that McGill had led a life dedicated to helping at-risk teens but had to be punished for the murder for which precise motives remain unknown.

Shirley McGill’s children from a previous marriage and her elderly parents gasped in relief when the judge announced the sentence. They had pleaded with Gonzalez to impose the maximum sentence.

Robert McGill, 57, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July, and his lawyers were seeking a sentence of slightly more than 11 years in prison. They cited his lifelong work as a dedicated teacher and that he was extremely intoxicated when he beat his wife, so much so that he has no clear memory of what provoked him or what happened...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Police chief's many hats raise questions

Police chief's many hats raise questions
San Diego Union-Tribune letters
Chula Vista chief’s jobs raise questions
Susan and Peter Watry
Dec. 9, 2011

Recently on KUSI, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano said that he spends 14 hours a day on Chula Vista police business (“Bejarano cuts ties to security firm,” Dec. 9). By that statement, it would seem that he certainly earns the $187,000 a year that Chula Vista pays him.

But then, when does he find time to earn $100,000 to $1 million as a board member of Vibra Bank? And when does he find time to earn $9,000 as a board member of the Chula Vista Elementary School District? And when did he find time to earn the $100,000 to $1 million that he earned, until recently, as an owner in Presidential Securities? And when does he find time to earn $1,000 to $10,000 serving as a consultant to Tatro & Zamoyski, LLP?

Whew, some guy!

And now he seems somehow mixed in with some private security firm, which in turns seems somehow mixed in with trying to smuggle Gadhafi’s son into Mexico. Wow. Wait until Vanity Fair writes its next story about Chula Vista!

Chula Vista
Stock options and security companies
J.F. Smith
Dec. 9, 2011

For the past two days, after reading about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that David Bejarano has made via stock options from a bank in which he serves on the board, at least two questionable security companies that he has “lent his name to,” and to consulting for an attorney firm that specializes in security legal services, all while serving as the sitting chief of police in Chula Vista, I have to ask the question — does “conflict of interest” mean anything anymore?

San Diego

General counsel at UCSD gets $15K raise

General counsel at UCSD gets $15K raise
His is smallest of dozen UC pay hikes approved this week
Ashly McGlone
Nov. 30, 2011

The general counsel for the University of California San Diego will see a $15,000 boost in pay thanks to a 6.5 percent raise approved by the UC Board of Regents this week.

Daniel Park, chief campus counsel and associate general counsel for UCSD, received the smallest pay raise among the 12 raises approved by the board Monday, including increases for six lead attorneys, four vice chancellors, a dean, and a chief operating officer.

Park, whose annual salary will rise to $250,000, did not respond to requests for comment via phone and email Wednesday.

The highest raise totaled $103,500 — a 23 percent increase — for the chief operating officer of the UC Davis Health System.

Raises among attorneys reached as high as 21.9 percent.

The raises follow recent budget cuts and tuition increases.

Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the UC system, said the raises, many postponed for years, are necessary to maintain skilled employees.

“Financially, it’s a bad time. We recognize that,” Klein said. “We believe that granting these petitions could not be put off any more without sacrificing the quality of the university as a whole.”

How For-Profit College Lobbyists Bought Congress

How For-Profit College Lobbyists Bought Congress
By Don Bauder
San Diego Reader
December 10, 2011

The New York Times today (Dec. 10) has a story on how the for-profit college industry spent $16 million to soften government plans to rein in industry corruption. The lobbyists won, as usual. This means another debt crisis is coming. This year, student loans will total $1 trillion -- more than the total of credit card debt outstanding. For-profit colleges have 10% of students but account for 44% of loan defaults. Ashford University, which accounts for almost all the students at San Diego's Bridgepoint Education, has a dropout rate of 84% in its two-year program and 63% at its four-year programs. When the Department of Education proposed tougher rules to thwart boiler room-type abuses at the for-profit colleges, the lobbyists, such as former House majority leader Richard Gephardt, assaulted the White House, Department of Education, and the White House, reports the Times.

The Times didn't touch on one of the most interesting angles: how much money was accumulated by investors in for-profit college stocks. Throughout this year, I was saying that while Bridgepoint was a disgusting boiler room draining money from the federal government, its stock would go up. First, more than half its stock was short -- that is, the majority of investment money was hoping the stock would go down. This meant that if there was any good news -- such as the softening of proposed reforms -- the shorts would rush to cover, or buy Bridgepoint stock. That happened. The stock zoomed. How many Washington insiders raked in fat profits, knowing the rules would be emasculated and the stocks would soar? Plenty, I would bet. The manna is probably tucked away in an offshore, tax and privacy haven.

Nonprofit news website lays off three reporters, including education writer Emily Alpert

If I had known this, I would have thought much longer and harder before I made my donation five days ago. I can't help thinking that this should have been revealed sooner. All three of these people did work that was particularly meaningful to me. Is it possible that Emily was not enthusiastic enough regarding San Diegans 4 Great Schools to suit Buzz Woolley?

MEDIA: Nonprofit news website lays off three reporters
December 9, 2011, a nonprofit news website in San Diego, laid off three reporters and another staffer Friday because of a fundraising shortfall, according to a letter to readers on the site.

The three reporters are Sam Hodgson, photo editor; Emily Alpert, schools reporter; and Adrian Florido, neighborhoods reporter. Hodgson was the site's only staff photographer, according to its staff page. The letter did not identify the fourth person laid off.

The lay-offs amount to a 30-percent reduction in staff. The "about us" page lists 13 employees, including the now-departed workers.

In a letter on Voice's website, CEO Scott Lewis and Editor Andrew Donohue said they had raised $1.1 million this year, but had budgeted for $1.2 million. The pair budgeted $1 million for next year, a 17 percent reduction. The reduction did not come from the loss of a major donor, but out of concern that grants from national foundations might not be available, Lewis and Donohue wrote.

"Further budget reductions will not be considered for 2012," Lewis and Donohue wrote.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Local Student Exchange Programs Under Fire

Local Student Exchange Programs Under Fire
Homestay Services International, Pacific Intercultural Exchange Under Fire
December 6, 2011

Last week, allegations against a San Marcos man came to light. A Japanese exchange student said her host father, Fernando Paucar, molested her. Paucar denies the allegations.

Administrators at Palomar College – where the Japanese student is studying – have asked to meet with the owner of the agency who sponsored her, Homestay Services International.

According to an Oregon newspaper article, another San Diego-based exchange program, Pacific Intercultural Exchange, is facing a $2 million lawsuit after a boy said his host father molested him.

But American students studying abroad are also vulnerable. Danielle Grijalva of Oceanside founded the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students after hearing one horror story after another. She showed 10News reporter Itica Milanes a horrific picture of an emaciated American teen after he went to Egypt to study and explore the culture.

"When I see the photo, I have to rule out the word 'allegedly,'" said Grijalva...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Call to cut Education Department gets mixed reaction from educators

Call to cut Education Department gets mixed reaction from educators
December 3, 2011

When presidential candidate Rick Perry called for the elimination of the federal Department of Education in a debate last month, teacher Jim Groth did not bat an eye.

"I think it comes up every four years during presidential elections," said Groth, a Chula Vista math teacher who is one of two San Diego County representatives on the California Teachers Association board.

Perry's call to eliminate the department was overshadowed by a now-famous mental slip in which he forgot the third of three departments he said he would cut. He later said he would cut the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy.

The Department of Education was created by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. According to the department's website, the agency's official task is to establish policies on financial aid for education and distribute and monitor the funds. It also collects data on schools and disseminates the research, focuses national attention on key educational issues, prohibits discrimination and ensures equal access to education.

"As in any bureaucracy, they do some good things, and yes, they do some silly things," Groth said about the department. "It's good in that they do collect a lot of information for us. But at the same time, they are a bureaucracy and it gets frustrating to deal with them."

Asked what they thought of eliminating the department, some local educators and trustees acknowledged that while a federal commitment to education is a good thing, they wouldn't necessarily miss the department if it went away.

"If you go back to our Constitution, education is a federal interest but a local or state responsibility," said Linda Solis, principal of Ramona Unified's Olive Peirce Middle School, which last week was recognized by the state as a model middle school.

Repeating a criticism often heard about the department, Solis also is critical that the federal government mandates programs without providing money to support them.

But the federal department does fund some programs, including Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program, or GEAR UP, which helps prepare underprivileged students for higher education.

Calvin One Deer Gavin, who runs GEAR UP at Palomar College, said he is highly concerned about the prospect of cutting the Department of Education, but understands arguments made by its critics.

"I know there's a debate ongoing that education should be local," he said. "Well, education is local. We have school boards, college governing boards. But the federal government's role is to guide the direction, to complement, supplement and attack some of the issues that the localities can't...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Great idea: teachers could ask to be evaluated!

I like Paul Bowers idea of allowing teachers to ask for evaluations. The current system is close to useless. Many, if not most, principals write evaluations without doing adequate observations, and their opinions are often based on school politics. Many principals are afraid of their own bosses--and of their own teachers! Superintendents think no news is good news, so if a principal can keep a school quiet, that principal is considered a success.

Evaluations should be done by outsiders: ideally, the evaluators would come from another school district. I'd like to see both experienced and inexperienced teachers doing evaluations; it would be a great learning experience for the newer teachers.

What if someone started a business or non-profit dedicated to evaluating teachers?

VOSD Radio: No Way to Avoid Schools Insolvency?
November 21, 2011
by Dagny Salas

Listen to the Nov. 19 episode of our radio show on KOGO AM 600, which airs Saturdays at 7:30 a.m.

Editor Andrew Donohue and special guest Paul M. Bowers, a concerned parent and frequent VOSD commenter, spend the show talking about San Diego Unified School District's problems and potential solutions...

"Teachers are the second-most important part of the education equation."

Friday, December 02, 2011

District Investigating if Schools Use Poor Kids for Cash

I don't know anything about principals recruiting students, but I have experience of teachers trying to keep kids out of their classrooms, or forcing kids out of their classrooms after they were placed. Usually the teachers tried to get the kids placed in another classroom in the same school rather than in another school. I can say this for certain: some educators do not feel an obligation to help the students in their care; instead, they just try to make their jobs as easy as possible by getting rid of students who require extra effort. Many teachers are lazy when it comes to helping kids who are behind. They just don't want to do it.

I also agree with those who think that sometimes a neighborhood school with less than spectacular scores is better for some children than a school with very high scores. The child is more likely to be taught an an appropriate level.

District Investigating if Schools Use Poor Kids for Cash

by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
Dec. 1, 2011

Imagine this: Principals recruit poor children to come to their schools. The poor children are counted so that the schools get federal money for disadvantaged kids. Then after the money is secure, principals nudge the poor children to leave. They keep the money but drop the kid.

It's a nefarious scenario — schools using children to get money. School board member Shelia Jackson alleges that it happens in San Diego Unified. Now the school district is going to investigate.

Jackson raised her allegations Tuesday night in the middle of a school board debate about how to divide up federal money for poor children. The school board voted unanimously to start an investigation into the allegations, seeing if principals are indeed using kids to bring in cash.

Schools get a share of roughly $21 million in federal money based on their poverty rate. San Diego Unified calculates that rate from the number of families who apply for free or reduced price lunch at each school. It also uses census data to add in local families who are poor enough to apply but didn't...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

How unhealthy is teacher culture? Suggestions to create a culture of collaboration

In my experience, far too many teachers spend their energy trying to sabotage other teachers rather than improving their own teaching. The phrases "teamwork" and "collaboration" are often just a cover for team dysfunction. The reality is that teacher cliques tend to operate with the tactics of high school girl culture.

Response: Several Ways Teachers Can Create A Supportive Environment For Each Other
By Larry Ferlazzo
Education Week
November 29, 2011

S.H. asked:

Our school culture has a growing sense of [unhealthy] competitiveness. I believe a lot of this stems from the fact that our administration does not recognize (or maybe they do and simply don't voice) teacher expertise using specific, positive praise. We do receive thanks yous - but they tend to be blanket statements and pretty general. (For example, "Thank you Ms. _____ for helping your team out.")

This appears to have led to some teachers to measure themselves against others. Rather than feeling grateful that the students in our school are being taught by many talented teachers, it has become a zero-sum game and fed rivalries and pettiness.

It's sad for me to admit this, but I don't think there's a ton of hope in my administration changing their ways. I guess my question is, how can teachers create a sincere, supportive environment for each other?

I've asked Bill Ferriter and Parry Graham, co-authors of Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year, to provide guest responses to this tricky question, and also include some excellent reader responses later in this post.

I think they offer excellent specific suggestions. The one thought I'd like to contribute is that a challenge to many of us -- whether it is how we operate as teachers with our colleagues or with our students, or if we are administrators or policymakers -- is that it's easy to get caught up in the belief that power (or potential advancement, or success -- whatever you want to call it) is a finite pie -- that if you get some that means I will have less. The reality in the vast majority of instances is that the more I share with you, the bigger the whole pie gets and greater possibilities are created for everyone.

If I share my lesson plan with you, that really means that you might be able to make it better for both of us. If I tell you about the challenges that I faced in the classroom today, instead of making me appear weak, it instead demonstrates that I have the self-confidence to share and hear ideas from others who have probably experienced similar problems (or will in the future).

This perspective of the "pie getting bigger" is a core belief of community organizers (which I was for nineteen years prior to becoming a teacher). The first step towards making this happen in any institution or neighborhood is to build relationships -- an exchange of personal and professional stories -- so that people can learn the hopes, dreams and challenges of each other. The trust that develops during these conversations is the key building block towards countless possibilities...

Response From Bill Ferriter:

Bill Ferriter teaches 6th grade language arts in North Carolina, where he was named a Regional Teacher of the Year for 2005-2006. He is a member of The Teacher Leaders Network.

Another factor that feeds rivalries and pettiness in PLCs is the unhealthy push in many districts and states to use standardized test scores to rate and sort teachers.
Anytime that we try to assign numbers to individual teachers--rather than recognize that improvements in student performance come from collective reflection around practice AND the collective contributions of all of the practitioners that work with a group of children--competition is inevitable.

One way to address this is to establish a team norm that collaborative efforts AREN'T about studying successful people. Instead, they are about studying successful PRACTICES. While that may seem like a subtle bit of semantic gymnastics, it is an essential shift made by every healthy learning team. Conversations focused on the practices--instead of the people--that produce the best results are safer for everyone.

More importantly, they send the message that by working together to enhance and amplify effective instructional practices, a learning team can make tangible improvements in student achievement.

You'll have to be militant about language in order to cement this norm into your collaborative work, though.

Because teachers are (1). surrounded by efforts to tie performance to individuals instead of collaborative groups and (2). used to working in isolation, it is only natural to see competitive teacher-centered language slip into our conversations.

"Wow," we'll say, "Mary is a master! Look at her student's scores on the last assessment."

Instead, we should be saying, "Wow. Mary has discovered a practice that works! Look at her student's scores on the last assessment. How did you teach those skills, Mary?"
When your team stops talking about teachers and starts talking about teaching--or more accurately, student learning--you'll begin to erase the competition and defensiveness that is destroying your collaborative work.

Response From Dr. Parry Graham:

Dr. Parry Graham is the current principal of Luftkin Road Middle School in the Wake County Public School System. He is also an adjunct professor in the education department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

From what I can tell, there are two levels to this complex question. The first level is, what can an individual teacher do to impact the culture of her individual professional learning team? The second level is, what can teachers do to impact the culture of their schools?

At the team level (or department level or grade level), I think there are a couple steps a teacher can take. First, model what you think is positive behavior: don't gossip about other teachers, keep comments about others positive, praise others when you see something worth praising. Second, bring up your observations in team meetings. Mention your perceptions of negativity during a team meeting, ask if others have similar perceptions, and identify specific behaviors at the team level that can help to build a positive team culture.

At the school level, things get more complicated. First, I am somewhat dubious that a relatively simple behavior on the part of the administrative team--i.e., not recognizing teacher expertise using specific praise--could be the primary factor underlying a competitive culture throughout a school. School cultures are complex creatures that typically result from years of behaviors, actions, attitudes, and beliefs. Yes, administrators have some control over culture, but my guess is that the factors underlying this school's culture go much deeper.

So get involved in the kinds of groups that can influence school culture. If they exist, volunteer to serve on the school's improvement or leadership team, on curriculum committees, or on a hospitality group. If your backyard will handle it, host a schoolwide barbeque to bring teachers together outside of school. Set up a Friday afternoon club that meets after school to decompress over beverages of choice. In short, work to improve the relationships between the adults in the building, one interaction at a time.

Reader Responses

Kristen Hewett:

Building a sense of family and community spirit has been something that my school has struggled with for the past few years. As a mentor to our beginning teachers, one thing that I have started this year has been to ask them to select a staff member who exemplifies a certain trait that they admire and would like to emulate and have them let this teacher know this through a short note or a card. My hope is that this will allow my beginning teachers to make connections with other staff members and that it will help to build morale. My ultimate goal is to take this idea and slowly branch it out into other areas and begin a "pay it forward" type of movement. I know that this is just one small step, but my hope is that our small steps will eventually spark bigger changes.

Tyrion Lannister shares a way not to create a supportive environment:

My old school ordered teachers to collaborate, and then graded our collaboration according to a rubric.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are the wrong people chosen as "experts" in education?

The World Conspires to Make Expertise Unreliable
By Rick Hess
Education Week
November 23, 2011

Note: This week, I'm giving RHSU readers a look at my essay in Richard Elmore's recent Harvard Education Press volume I Used to Think...And Now I Think. If you find this stuff at all interesting, I'd definitely encourage you to check the book out. For days one and two, see here and here.

Say something smart once and there are huge rewards for spending a career saying it, in increasingly elaborate forms. Academics who own an idea get hired by prestigious universities, deliver keynotes, and get all kinds of attendant perks. Consultants who own an idea become must-haves for districts, foundations, and contractors. The result is a familiar kabuki of hyperspecialists airing their prebaked views.

The world is composed of niches. In each, a thinker may be iconic so long as she stays in her little crevice. Thus, an expert in pharmacology may speak to a cheering conference hall of awe-struck attendees only to walk across the campus or the hotel and quickly become just an anonymous face in the crowd. An expert on school violence or science instruction might be feted as legendary by those in her field but sacrifice that respect and deference should she wander outside that circle. The result discourages individuals from spending much time wrestling with thorny questions or complexities that reach beyond their core expertise. Hence, enormously respected thinkers will offer prescriptions for educational policy or practice that are woefully naïve in terms of political dynamics, organizational realities, institutional pressure, incentives, or practical constraints. Why? Because many of these experts have never spent much time thinking about how their expertise intersects with all the stuff in which they're not expert.

Meanwhile, within niches, the interest in weighing competing arguments or determining how one's expertise translates to the larger world is massively undervalued. Expertise promotes deep knowledge, which can too readily lead to inflexibility and self-assuredness (along with the expectation that one's biases and assumptions will be afforded deference). There are always exceptions, but most thinkers become expert by struggling to the top of their niche on the back of their big idea, and then do all they can to extend the reach of that idea and of the acolytes who aid in that quest--incidentally, or quite purposefully, stymieing heterodox perspectives. In fact, the very nature of expertise is that it stifles dissent and reifies the orthodoxy of the moment.

Moreover, since established figures typically find themselves addressing friendly audiences and gatherings where it is deemed impolite to contest their assumptions and evidence too ardently, it is frighteningly easy for experts to settle into a comfortable bubble where they are surrounded by like-minded peers and adoring disciples, their word is gospel and they are buffered from anything more than occasional interaction with those who might disagree.

Finally, our criteria for expertise are, almost inevitably, relational (e.g. my colleague tells me Trang is terrific) or formulaic (e.g. Wylie was executive director of X for a number of years, launched Y program, or has published eleven articles on this). Why? Our ability to form independent judgments of the hundreds or thousands of individuals most directly engaged in our field of endeavor, much less the thousands more peripherally engaged, is limited by our own inexpert grasp of the world. Only the arrogant or the deluded imagine they perfectly understand the strengths and skills of hundreds of friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Thus, we turn to proxies that are themselves deeply imperfect--but that can lead to our investing great authority in this or that expert for a season.

Done with sufficient skepticism and care, this manner of finding experts is natural and normal. But there's a decided temptation to lodge excessive influence in our choice of the moment. I can't tell you how many times I've been talking with a superintendent who has become a guru for a foundation and found myself wondering why this unremarkable man was deemed any more deserving of that status than any of a dozen other superintendents. The difference, in many cases, is nothing more than a personal relationship, experience in a few big districts, or the fact that a superintendent was an early adopter of a reform--all of which, perhaps bizarrely, results in an individual being invested with presumed expertise across a broad range of issues.

So why does any of this matter? Does it make any practical difference when it comes to schools or schooling? I think it does. In education, for instance, despite decades of research, experts have no systematic way to tell who will be a good teacher or how to design practices that lead to predictable improvement at scale. This state of affairs means at least four things.

First, we ought to be hesitant in casually suggesting that we can name, based on our experience, a list of the nation's best school districts, superintendents, or reading programs. Short of some protocol that helps us identify excellence in a transparent and consistent fashion (for better or worse), we ought to be much humbler about such exercises. They frequently amount to nothing more than an echo chamber, with participants passing on names that they themselves have received second- or third-hand.

Second, we should be wary of prescriptive advice, especially when it's based on the assumption that expertise easily and immutably travels across contexts. In fact, given its narrowness, expertise can exert a gravitational pull that distorts how one thinks about the larger world. Expertise can come at the cost of perspective when an expert starts contemplating efforts to change policy, organizations, or human behavior. After all, expert advice tends to reflect what experts know, which may not reflect what is most useful for solving the larger problem in the real world. For instance, grand assertions about merit pay, school choice, differentiated instruction, or class size reduction that overlook the practical impact of contracts, policies, existing incentives, and embedded routines can yield results quite different from those the experts are touting.

Third--all that said--expertise has a terrifically useful place, as long as we understand what the experts actually know, which is how to do specific, concrete tasks right. I'm always eager to turn to an expert when the question is how to build a bridge, estimate how many people will visit Vegas next month, design an assessment, erect a new school, or conduct a complicated statistical analysis. I'm less inclined to do so when the questions are bigger, messier, and more dependent on judgment and values.

Finally, we need to recognize that individual experts ought not be invested with too much prescience, but the right mix of experts can help identify tensions, incentives, and the contours of possible solutions. If one assembles the right mix of experts, their competing views can prove enormously helpful in crafting smart policies. The key, however, is not to empower any one expert to play guru but to allow competing expertise to illuminate and inform complex decisions.

One last thought. For what it's worth, my approach nowadays is not to casually reject educational expertise but to regard its acclaimed ministers with the same attentive skepticism I reserve for financial advisers and real estate agents. They know stuff that's useful, but that doesn't entitle them to blind deference or even trusting obeisance. At least not in my book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We're still in Kansas, Toto: teen Emma Sullivan at center of free speech debate after criticism of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

In my experience, many California educators also fail to understand and support the US Constitution. And they also like to maintain secrecy in schools.

Kansas teen won't apologize for her tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback
Associated Press
November 28, 2011

An American teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Sunday that she is rejecting her high school principal's demand for a written apology.

Emma Sullivan, 18, said she isn't sorry and doesn't think such a letter would be sincere.

The Shawnee Mission East senior was taking part in a Youth in Government program last week when she sent out a tweet from the back of a crowd of students listening to Brownback's greeting. From her cellphone, she thumbed: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot."

How much do you know about the US Constitution? A quiz.

She actually made no such comment and said she was "just joking with friends." But Brownback's office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor's name, saw Sullivan's post and contacted the Youth in Government program.

Sullivan received a scolding at school and was ordered to send Brownback an apology letter. She said Prinicipal Karl R. Krawitz even suggested talking points for the letter she was supposed to turn in Monday.

The situation exploded after Sullivan's older sister contacted the media. Since then, Sullivan's following on Twitter has grown to about 3,000 people, up from about 65 before the tweet. She said she thinks the tweet has helped "open up dialogue" about free speech in social media..

"I would do it again," she said.

Sullivan has received emails from attorneys but is waiting to see what happens when she refuses to hand in a letter. Krawitz, her principal, told The Kansas City Star previously that the situation is a "private issue, not a public matter" but didn't return a phone message from The Associated Press at his home Sunday...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Romney Likes Obama's Merit Pay, School Choice Policies

Romney Likes Obama's Merit Pay, School Choice Policies
By Alyson Klein
Education Week
November 22, 2011 2:06 PM

Gov. Mitt Romney's comments about beer and Mormonism in a forthcoming interview with People magazine are snagging lots of attention around the web, after Politico's Playbook published a snippet of the interview today.

But we at Politics K-12 are perplexed by Romney's comments on education policy, an area on which he says he has some common ground with President Barack Obama.

Here's the relevant exchange:

PEOPLE: In the holiday spirit of comity, can you say one thing President Obama has done right?

Romney: "He's a good example of a husband and father. Some of his education initiatives—merit pay for the best teachers and school choice—have been positive. The surge in Afghanistan was the right choice. But the pluses are far exceeded by the places where I'd give him a minus."

The merit pay for teacher thing we get. Obama has pushed for an expansion of the Teacher Incentive Fund, which doles out grants to districts to create pay-for-performance programs. And he made performance pay a component of both Race to the Top and the School Improvement Grant programs.

But school choice? Okay, Obama has pushed for an expansion of charter schools, again under Race to the Top and SIG. But he also scrapped the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (though the money was ultimately put back at the behest of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the speaker of the House.) And his waiver package doesn't require districts to offer mandatory school choice or tutoring services.

So we're wondering what exactly Romney was talking about here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

FAMU band director fired in wake of drum major's death

FAMU band director fired in wake of drum major's death
13 News
November 23, 2011

Florida A&M's band director has been fired, and Gov. Scott wants the state law enforcement officers to get involved.

They are the latest developments in the mysterious death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion following last weekend's Florida Classic.

As a task force begins investigating hazing at the school, a school spokesperson said the FAMU Department of Public Safety has three on-going investigations into hazing, and in two of those cases, 30 students were suspended.

Julian White, the school's band director, was placed on administrative leave with pay, with an official termination date of December 22. This is in line with the school's collective bargaining agreement.

In a letter from FAMU President James Ammons, White is accused of "alleged misconduct and/or incompetence involving confirmed reports of allegations of hazing within the department of music and the 'Marching 100'."

White has been with FAMU's faculty since 1972, and is a graduate of the school.

Gov. Rick Scott also asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement to get involved in the investigation. In a statement Wednesday he said:

The recent death of Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100” band drum major Robert Champion has generated great concern throughout the state and indeed the nation. While I recognize that the investigation into the death of Mr. Champion is being handled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the reality is that the death investigation significantly impacts the University, the Tallahassee community, and the State of Florida as a whole.

Ammons suspended all practices and performances for the Marching 100 band Tuesday.

Champion died Saturday night in the parking lot of the Rosen Plaza Hotel on International Drive.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said hazing may have been a factor and it is an active criminal investigation.

Ammons announced the school will form an independent task force to look into the death and determine if there were ongoing inappropriate band customs or traditions.

"I am asking all that if anyone has any information to fully cooperate with the Orange County Sheriff's office. There will be no consequences or retaliation for helping. There will however be consequences for anyone who tries to impede it," said Ammons.

Champion's fellow bandmates likewise had no idea how he died.

Deputies said Champion threw up and complained about not being able to breathe beforehand.

The school has had problems with hazing in the past. Ammons said the school will cooperate with Orange County deputies who are investigating.

Wednesday, the Florida Civil Rights Association called for further action by asking the governor and FAMU Board of Trustees to fire Ammons, assistants to Dr. White and the entire leadership of the Marching 100 program.

The organization said in a statement:

The current administration within the University and in the Florida A&M Marching 100 has created a culture of corruption that tacitly approves of the persistent and deadly hazing that occures within the Marching 100 and Florida A&M University.

FCRA likened the situation to the scandal with the coaching staff and administrators at Penn State University. Read the full statement here.

Under Florida Statute, any death that happens as a result of hazing is a third-degree felony.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

20 Students Now Accused in L.I. Case: cheating on SAT test

I always wondered how George W. Bush got such a high SAT score. Listening to him talk, I just wasn't seeing the level of brain power required to achieve the scores. Suddenly I have a suspicion as to how he might have done it.

"The arrests on Tuesday included three people accused of accepting payment to take tests and eight who the authorities say paid impersonators to take tests for them." I also notice that one student is from Roslyn High School, where administrators were found to have embezzled funds a few years ago.

20 Students Now Accused in L.I. Case on Cheating
New York Times
November 22, 2011

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Schools do not write the SAT or administer it. But when school officials at Great Neck North High School suspected that students were cheating on the exam, their investigation led prosecutors down a trail that has resulted in criminal charges against 20 students and calls for widespread test reform.

Bernard Kaplan, the principal of Great Neck North, said he believed cheating was pervasive. “I think it’s widespread across the country,” he said Tuesday. “We were the school that stood up to it.”

On Tuesday, Nassau County prosecutors accused 13 students from five schools of accepting payment or paying others to take the SAT and ACT between 2008 and 2011. Eleven students turned themselves in; two are expected to do so next week, prosecutors said.

The arrests, coming two months after seven other Nassau students were accused of cheating on the tests, seemed to underscore the district attorney’s assertion that security measures for the tests, administered by ACT Inc. and the Educational Testing Service, are inadequate, leading to widespread cheating.

“When this cheating scandal was first reported, E.T.S. said that this was an isolated incident, and that the SAT was secure,” Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, said in a news conference. “I’m glad to know, now, that E.T.S. appreciates that this is a larger problem.”

The investigation began when administrators at Great Neck North looked into student rumors. Their focus soon fell on students who had registered to take the tests outside the district, and those whose scores and grades showed a disparity. They turned over the details to prosecutors, who opened a broad examination.

In September, prosecutors accused Sam Eshaghoff, 19, of impersonating six students, including a girl, to take tests for them. Officials allege that students paid Mr. Eshaghoff up to $3,500 per test for scores ranking as high as the 97th percentile. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The arrests on Tuesday included three people accused of accepting payment to take tests and eight who the authorities say paid impersonators to take tests for them. One student has declined to surrender.

Those accused of fraudulently taking tests face felony charges of scheming to defraud, as well as misdemeanor charges of falsifying business records and criminal impersonation.

Among those charged with taking the tests for others on Tuesday were Joshua Chefec, 20, now a senior at Tulane, and Michael Pomerantz, 18, both of whom attended Great Neck North; Adam Justin, 19, a graduate of North Shore Hebrew Academy and a student at Indiana University; and George Trane, 19, a graduate of Great Neck South who now attends SUNY Stony Brook. Officials said Mr. Pomerantz, citing a medical condition, told them he would surrender Monday; the others turned themselves in Tuesday morning.

Of the students charged with paying to have the test taken for them, five were from Great Neck North, two from North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and one from Roslyn High School.

Because those accused of paying test takers were 19 or under and face only misdemeanor charges, their identities will be not be made public, a spokesman for Ms. Rice said.

Matin Emanou, Mr. Eshaghoff’s lawyer, as well as the lawyers representing the latest students arrested, have argued that their clients are not guilty, and that the situation should be handled by the schools, not in the courts.

“While no one condones cheating, we have a school system that is separate and apart from the criminal justice system, and we have that for good reason,” said Brian Griffin, a Nassau County lawyer representing Mr. Chefec, who was accused of taking the test for others. Mr. Griffin said his client was not part of a “ring,” but was rather accused of having taken two tests for one student.

“It’s not a systematic scheme to defraud when you’re alleged to have acted with one person,” he said.

Gerard McCloskey, a Nassau lawyer who represents a student charged with paying someone to take the test and is still in high school, said, “My feeling is that it should be handled administratively by the College Board and the school board, not criminally, especially when the county is experiencing budget issues and resources are limited to begin with.” The College Board owns the SAT...

Friday, November 18, 2011

When doctors rely on attorneys who lie: Tri-City Healthcare attorney contradicts her own witness

Bonnie Dumanis' Public Integrity Unit seems to be confused about who the perpetrators are when it comes to bribery at Tri-City Hospital:

...On April 25, Elsner said, she received a call from the former intern, again asking for information. Elsner said she told her that it was not a good time to contact her because she was going through personal and financial issues, including a car that needed the engine replaced, which would cost $3,000.

“She said, ‘Charlie could help you out, right?’” Elsner said. “And then Charles said, ‘Of course. All we need you to do is talk to these people and tell them what you know about Sterling.’”

Elsner said she did not accept any money. She said she told her story to District Attorney’s investigators, who took no action on a Tri-City complaint against Sterling regarding the incident. The DA’s office declined to comment...

Paralegal says Tri-City report is wrong
She balks at hospital's version of events involving board member Kathleen Sterling
Aaron Burgin
Nov. 17, 2011

Oceanside — In making their case that elected Tri-City Healthcare District board member Kathleen Sterling should remain excluded from closed session meetings for the rest of her term, administrators cited what they considered traitorous activity.

At a meeting last month, Tri-City attorney Allison Borkenheim offered a sworn affidavit saying that paralegal Linda Elsner informed district officials that Sterling in 2003 or 2004 divulged confidential information to her law office, which was suing the district.

In response to the report, the public hospital board voted 5-1 to keep excluding Sterling from closed session, where issues such as CEO Larry Anderson’s performance and the strategic direction of the hospital are discussed.

The Watchdog contacted Elsner to verify Tri-City’s statements. Elsner said Tri-City officials misrepresented what she said — that she specifically told them Sterling shared only public information.

“How can they get away with this?” Elsner said. “How can they say I said these things and put them out as fact when I didn’t say them?”

Tri-City officials declined to be interviewed and issued a statement that they stand by Borkenheim’s affidavit and the belief that Sterling divulged confidential information to Elsner...


Heather Sterling
The integrity unit fails in integrity... My guess, they forgot they are supposed to protect the innocent and go after the perpetrators. Diverted tactic's, out-right lies, and evaded truths have made for a very frustrating year and a half! Who is the DA working for, Tri-City?

Leon J. Page
I hope that the San Diego District Attorney investigates Allison Borkenheim for perjury.

Randy Horton · San Diego State University
Tri-City heavily relies on lies as one aspect of its overall strategy to divert and distract from the truth of what is really going on. It believes that if lies are repeated often enough, soon the public will swallow them, hook, line and sinker. Tri-City may be world-class at maintaining superficial appearances, but it sorely lacks anything substantive. Tri-City routinely buries its dirty laundry in closed sessions, even though dirty laundry is public information!

Heather Sterling
Charlene, Your arrogance is enormous! At the board meetings, you act like a 3rd grader on a play ground... teasing, insulting, poking fun at your fellow board members because your daddy is the school principle and he rewards your behavior with goodies.

Charlene, What happened with the investigation by the Attorney General against you? You know the one... the one you thought Larry Anderson initiated against you because of his connection at the board of registered nursing? The investigation regarding multiple missing narcotics which were for the many patients you cared for during your grave yard shifts? Who was paying for your legal representation?...$LCEV2.QueryView?P_LICENSE_NUMBER=461728&P_LTE_ID=828

John Greenman
Heather, let's not lower ourselves to their level. Keep a cool and level head about this. I understand your frustration and salute your passion, but remember that this will come out in the wash.
It appears that Anderson's revocation may have been stayed and her license is now probationary.
The smartest thing to do at this point would be to publish the PUBLIC information regarding the license status from the state's PUBLIC website to as many outlets as possible. Consumers will then be able to make an informed choice when deciding whether to visit a location where she may be employed.

Charlene Anderson
My license is not revoked Heather.

Maura Larkins
Charlene Anderson, I am curious. What was the action taken today by the Board of Registered Nursing? The only thing on the public website is this:
Disciplinary Actions
Public documents relating to this action are available here:
...November 18, 2011 Revoked/Stayed/Probation

Why don't you make the decision public? I can see how someone would read the above and think that your license had been revoked. You say it was not revoked, so I guess that leaves "Stayed/Probation." What does that mean? Please be forthcoming. And please take your own words to heart: "So what is it? Give us the evidence"!

Okay, I think I understand now. Your license was revoked, but the revocation was stayed. And you were placed on probation. Do I have it right?
Add a Reply...

Brett Peterson · University of San Diego School of Law
Tri-City is ridiculous. This board member was elected. She was voted in by the public and she works for the public, not Tri-City. Only the public can "fire" her (through recall or voting her out of office). This is akin to all of the Democrats or Republicans in Congress trying to fire each other or exclude each other from working because they believe the other side is wrong. Tri-City, just let the democratic process work.

...Charlene Anderson · Oceanside, California
Tri City is not hiding dirty laundry as Mr. Horton states. Sterling is responsible for her behavior, unbelievable as it is, her behavior comes from her. We are simply trying to do business around it. Mr. Horton keeps insinuating that there is some hidden agenda by Administration or the Board. So what is it? Give us the evidence of what you say we are hiding behind the diversion of Sterling's behavior. These conspiracy theories you two have cooked up either independently or together don't hold water. I'm sure you both think they began in...Orange County perhaps? Randy why don't you speak at meetings? Why don't you participate? Why do you share closed session information illegally?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Allen School in Chula Vista loses score on teacher cheating concerns

School loses score on teacher cheating concerns
Karen Kucher
Nov. 15, 2011

CHULA VISTA — The state didn’t issue a key academic performance score for a Chula Vista elementary school this year after several fifth-grade students told their homeroom teacher they had seen passages of the English language arts test material prior to taking the state exam.

Allen School, a 300-student school in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, reported the irregularity to the state Department of Education in May.

As a result, the school was not issued an Academic Performance Index or API score for 2011. The district did receive score information for individual students, classes and grade levels.

“It was brought to the attention of the principal there,” said district spokesman Anthony Millican. “It was dealt with swiftly and decisively.”

Millican said the teacher is no longer employed in the district. He said he couldn’t say anything more because it was a personnel matter.

“It is very unfortunate this was done. This is a very high achieving school and we are certain that they are continuing to make outstanding progress,” Millican said. “During this year’s (testing) we expect them to do extremely well.”

In 2010, the school scored 881 on its API. A score of 800 is a state goal.

News of the school’s testing irregularities were included in a Los Angeles Times story Sunday that found about three dozens teachers in the state were accused this year of cheating, making mistakes or engaging in other misconduct involving standardized achievement tests.

According to a report Chula Vista submitted to the state, the teacher said she used poor judgment by downloading test passages from the Internet to use for test preparation.

Millican said the school principal sent a letter to parents in late August telling them about the incident.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Status inequality is unacceptable for high school teachers

The Inequality Map
New York Times
November 10, 2011

Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?”

This is an excellent question. I will provide you with a guide to the American inequality map to help you avoid embarrassment.

Academic inequality is socially acceptable. It is perfectly fine to demonstrate that you are in the academic top 1 percent by wearing a Princeton, Harvard or Stanford sweatshirt.

Ancestor inequality is not socially acceptable. It is not permissible to go around bragging that your family came over on the Mayflower and that you are descended from generations of Throgmorton-Winthrops who bequeathed a legacy of good breeding and fine manners.

Fitness inequality is acceptable. It is perfectly fine to wear tight workout sweats to show the world that pilates have given you buns of steel. These sorts of displays are welcomed as evidence of your commendable self-discipline and reproductive merit.

Moral fitness inequality is unacceptable. It is out of bounds to boast of your superior chastity, integrity, honor or honesty. Instead, one must respect the fact that we are all morally equal, though our behavior and ethical tastes may differ...

Status inequality is acceptable for college teachers. Universities exist within a finely gradated status structure, with certain schools like Brown clearly more elite than other schools. University departments are carefully ranked and compete for superiority.

Status inequality is unacceptable for high school teachers. Teachers at this level strongly resist being ranked. It would be loathsome to have one’s department competing with other departments in nearby schools...

Why we must put an end to secrecy in our local schools

In my personal experience in Chula Vista Elementary School District, I have found that teachers will cover up wrongdoing rather readily in order to support the group. School lawyers and administrators pressure them to keep silent so as not to embarrass the school. We need transparency in our schools to protect our children; if it embarrasses some adults, so be it.

Bystander Psychology: Why Some Witnesses to Crime Do Nothing

By Maia Szalavitz
November 11, 2011

The grand jury investigation that resulted in 40 counts of child abuse against Penn State's former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, has raised profoundly unsettling psychological and moral questions about the actions — or lack thereof — of others involved in the case.

Head football coach Joe Paterno was fired by the university on Wednesday for his failure to intervene upon learning about the alleged long-running abuse. But many more questions center on Mike McQueary, who is still employed by Penn State; he witnessed child rape firsthand in 2002, when he was a graduate assistant coach, but did not alert the police.

How is it that a powerfully built ex-quarterback could watch the rape of a 10-year-old boy and do nothing to stop it? Why did he neglect to report what he saw to legal authorities for nearly a decade, even knowing that the perpetrator spent much of his time with at-risk youth? And why did the team and the university fail to act at every possible step?...

When the actions of a group are public and visible, insiders who behave in an unacceptable way — doing things that "contravene the norms of the group," Levine says — may actually be punished by the group more harshly than an outsider would be for the same behavior. "It's seen as a threat to the reputation of the group," says Levine.

In contrast, when the workings of a group are secretive and hidden — like those of a major college football team, for instance, or a political party or the Catholic priesthood — the tendency is toward protecting the group's reputation by covering up. Levine suggests that greater transparency in organizations promotes better behavior in these situations.

"It's the norms and the values of the group that are important," Levine says, noting that this fact doesn't reflect very well on Penn State. Indeed, the riot that broke out after the firing of revered coach Paterno — who appears to have covered up for his former colleague, Sandusky, or at least looked the other way, rather than reporting him to the police — suggests that group solidarity with the football team still takes priority over support for abused children at the school.

Another factor that may have prevented action by McQueary and others is denial. Social psychologist Stanley Cohen identified several forms of denial that may cause people to ignore atrocities. There's the denial that commonly occurs in response to difficult situations like receiving a cancer diagnosis or becoming addicted to drugs: the simple repressing of information and refusal to admit that the problem exists or has occurred.

In McQueary's case, however, there seems to have been another type of denial at play, which Cohen labeled "interpretative." "You don't deny that something happened, but try to transform the meaning of it," says Levine, explaining that a witness might minimize the significance of a crime or try to see it as something other than it was.

McQueary may well have been psychologically unable to accept that a man like Sandusky, someone he admired, had actually committed the abhorrent crime he witnessed. Research suggests that when people are faced with situations that threaten their view of the world as relatively fair and decent, rather than revising their own perspective, they often create accounts that deny reality, blame the victim or otherwise rationalize the situation.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Two Penn State officials charged in connection with sex-abuse investigation

Two Penn State officials charged in connection with sex-abuse investigation
November 05, 2011
By Joe Juliano

In a development that strikes very close to Joe Paterno's storied football program, Pennsylvania State University athletic director Tim Curley and another university official were charged Saturday with perjury related to a child sexual abuse investigation of longtime Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office said Curley, 57, and Gary Schultz, 62, Penn State's senior vice president for finance and business, also were charged with failure to report, a summary offense. The perjury count is a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

The charges against Curley and Schultz, both of Boalsburg, Pa., stem from a three-year investigation of Sandusky, 67, who spent 32 years on Paterno's staff, 23 as defensive coordinator, before retiring after the 1999 season. Sandusky was arraigned Saturday in State College on 40 counts related to the sexual abuse case against him, and released on $100,000 bail.
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Paterno, in his 46th season as Penn State's head coach, will not be charged, authorities said.

In a four-page release, the Attorney General's Office said Paterno was informed by a graduate-assistant football coach in March 2002 that he had witnessed Sandusky allegedly involved in sexual activity with a boy in the showers of the Lasch Football Complex, where Sandusky maintained an office after his retirement.

"Paterno testified that he then called [Curley] and met with Curley the following day," the release said, "explaining that a graduate assistant had reported seeing Sandusky" involved in the activity.

Sources told the Harrisburg Patriot-News that prosecutors believe Paterno did the right thing. The newspaper also reported that Paterno will testify for the prosecution at Sandusky's trial.

Paterno, 84, the all-time winningest coach in Division I football, had no comment Saturday, athletic department spokesman Jeff Nelson said.

However, Paterno may not be completely in the clear. Twenty of the 40 counts filed against Sandusky, allegedly took place during the time he worked for Paterno, including three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, a first-degree felony.

One accuser, now 27, testified that Sandusky initiated contact with a "soap battle" in the shower that led to multiple instances of involuntary sexual intercourse and indecent assault at Sandusky's hands, a grand jury report said.

Moral responsibility: Would a woman have handled the
Penn State child abuse allegations differently?

by Theresa Walsh Giarrusso
November 9, 2011

I keep trying to find the right words to write about the alleged child abuse by the former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. I have just been sick about it for days and keep writing draft and draft not expressing exactly what I want to say. But I feel like we should discuss it.

Michael and I lived in the Happy Valley for two years after we first were married. I worked for the local newspaper there as a reporter and an editor. Michael covered central Pennsylvania, including Penn State football, for the AP. We met Joe Paterno on many occasions. I personally talked with him multiple times at university dinners and cocktail parties. He was sweet and very much like a grandfather. I think because I have met many of the people involved in this case, it is even more shocking to me that they didn’t do more to stop this alleged abuse.

A lot is being written about the moral responsibility of Paterno and the other leaders of Penn State. I think the Pennsylvania state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said it best on Monday. While he agrees that Joe Paterno fulfilled his legal requirement when he relayed to university administrators that graduate assistant Mike McQueary had seen Sandusky attacking a young boy in the team’s locker room shower in 2002, the commissioner also questioned whether Paterno had a moral responsibility to do more.

“Somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child,” Noonan said.

“I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you’re a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us.”

I think we all have a moral responsibility to watch out for the children around us – in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our churches. We can’t turn our heads and hope the system handles it.

We need to use our intuition. (One administrator at a school had a bad feeling about
Sandusky and told him he couldn’t come back to his school.) We need to be observant. We need to ask questions. We need to step in if we see something, and we need to shout loudly if we think something even seems wrong.

I am struck by the similarities between the Penn State case and the Catholic
Church child abuse scandals. These are well-respected men. They are men reporting
to other men. You don’t hear any women’s names mentioned in the chain of command.

Would a woman have made different decisions? Would a woman have called the
police? Would a woman have immediately broken up what McQueary reportedly
testified he saw happening in the locker room shower – the alleged rape of a 10-
year-old boy?

I believe almost any woman would have immediately marched into that shower and
stopped it – even if it was her boss, her father, or someone she respected or
someone she feared.

I’m not trying to slam all men, and I think many men would have also handled things
differently. However, many men were involved and none called the police.

Assemblyman Block to Grossmont-Cuyamaca: ‘Brian Jones Has Failed You’

"...[M]ore than 23,000 students were denied admission and put on a waiting list because of a $6.3 million reduction in state funds."

Assemblyman Block: ‘Brian Jones Has Failed You’
Democrat spoke to Grossmont College students and faculty on the GOP role in the state budget crisis.
By Eric Yates
La Mesa Patch
September 28, 2011

Democratic Assemblyman Marty Block rapped his Santee-based Republican colleague Tuesday while speaking at Grossmont College on the state budget crisis.

“Brian Jones—your representative, your assemblyman from this area—has failed you,” Block said. “And we need to elect people—Democrat or Republican—who are willing to tax millionaires, tax oil companies, tax tobacco companies, so that you guys have more money in the schools.”

Block represents the 78th District, which includes Spring Valley, Paradise Hills, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, Bonita and parts of San Diego. Jones represents the 77th District, including La Mesa and Ramona.

With redistricting, The 78th Assembly District will be renamed the 79th, which includes La Mesa. If Block wins re-election in 2012, he will represent La Mesa.

Block noted the nuances of budget decision-making, but said the crisis boils down to a simple issue.

“By and large, the system needs more revenue,” Block told an audience of about 60 Grossmont students, faculty and staff members. “It’s tragic. We’ve cut billions, even over the last three years since I’ve been in office. We’ve gone from $120 billion to $85 billion.

“There are unemployed at record rates, so there’s less income tax, people losing houses, so there’s less property taxes. Because of this, people are not buying things so there’s less sales tax coming into the state. The only way to fight this is to raise revenues.”

Because of state cuts, Grossmont College of El Cajon had to cut more than 200 courses for this semester, and more than 1,000 courses have been eliminated over the past two years.

Block then lobbed a shot across the Assembly aisle, saying, “When it comes to budget, Republicans in the Assembly and in the Senate have refused to budge. They have refused to tax millionaires, have refused to tax billion-dollar oil companies in order to give you guys more classes by hiring more professors. I think it’s unconscionable.”

Block thinks that one way revenues can increase it to establish a tax on oil severance, which is oil taken out of the ground.

He said a tax would be successful because of three factors: 1) the tax would be taken from oil corporations, some of which profited more than $19 billion last year; 2) any tax that was “passed on to the pump” and absorbed by consumers would be spread out across the world, as California distributes its oil to all parts of the globe; and 3) Since “you can’t pick up an oil well and move it out of the state,” corporations would choose to pay the tax over shutting down their oil wells and losing out on massive profits.

Block answered questions from a panel of three—Sue Gonda, president of the Grossmont College Academic Senate; Russ Lindquist, editor of the Grossmont College Summit, the student newspaper; and Marc Arizmendez, news director for Griffin Radio, the campus radio station.

Arizmendez asked about the issue of violence on college campuses. Block referenced AB 620, a bill that would require four-year colleges and community colleges to establish and publish policies and penalties for harrassment, intimidation and bullying of individuals based on sexual orientation. These would become part of rules of student conduct.

An issue raised by Lundquist was that of so many students being denied admission and having no appeals process.

The Grossmont-Cuyamacca Community College District announced before the start of classes in August that more than 23,000 students were denied admission and put on a waiting list because of a $6.3 million reduction in state funds...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Teachers Earn Too Much, Study Argues

Teachers Earn Too Much, Study Argues
November 2, 2011
By John O'Connor
State Impact

Teachers are paid 52 percent more than their market value, according to a new study.

Teachers, did you know you are overpaid by 52%?

That’s the conclusion of a new study by conservative-leaning think tanks The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Taxpayers, they conclude, are “overcharged” $120 billion each year from the difference in teacher salaries and compensation compared to similarly credentialed private sector workers. Teacher benefits are often far more generous than the private sector, the study notes.

Other conclusions from the study:

The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private-school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.

The study reveals a divide among those pushing for changes in public schools.

Raising teacher salaries is a foundation of school reformers, which includes Republicans, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Democratic President Barack Obama. Better pay is more likely to attract better teaching candidates, they argue, and better teachers mean students will learn more.

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee disagreed with the study, in a statement printed by Politico:

We can accomplish the goal of attracting and retaining the best teachers and be fiscally responsible at the same time by moving money out of bloated bureaucracies that doesn’t improve student learning and into the classroom where it can.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Listening to Mozart seems to trigger neurons that make the brain function better--and saves lives!

This story is about making the brain work better--much better, in the case of one doctor who tripled his polyp detection rate when listening to Mozart.

Could Mozart Decrease Your Risk of Colon Cancer?
By Katie Moisse
ABC News
Oct 31, 2011

Doctors were more likely to detect precancerous polyps during colonoscopies if they had Mozart playing in the background, a small study found.

It only included two doctors, but for one, listening to Mozart more than tripled the polyp detection rate from 21.25 percent to 66.7 percent, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston reported today at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting. Undetected, the polyps — called adenomas — can become cancerous.

“Anything we can do get those rates up has the potential to save lives,” study author Dr. Catherine Noelle O’Shea said in a statement. “While this is a small study, the results highlight how thinking outside the box — in this case using Mozart — to improve adenoma detection rates can potentially prove valuable to physicians and patients.”

The polyp detection rate for the other doctor studies rose from 27.16 percent to 36.7 percent.

The study adds weight to the “Mozart effect” — the long-standing observation that listening to music can lead to a short-term improvement on some mental tasks. Some experts attribute the performance boost to a more positive mood or increased arousal. Others say complex music triggers a response in the brain that makes it better equipped to tackle an additional task...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There are high schools with as low as 5 percent of the students proficient in math

Fact Check: High Schools Struggling with Math
October 10, 2011
by Keegan Kyle
Voice of San Diego

Statement: "There are high schools with as low as 5 percent of the students proficient in math," San Diego Unified school board member John Lee Evans said Sept. 27 at a board meeting.

Determination: True

Analysis: Students at San Diego Unified schools have been scoring better and better on state tests in recent years. Scores have steadily risen across most grades, ranking the district above California's other major urban districts.

It's a positive trend, but school officials say there's still plenty of room for improvement. While discussing test scores at a recent school board meeting, Evans highlighted one such area.

"At the same time that we have those high (district-wide) figures," he said, "I've heard in the last day or two that there are high schools with as low as 5 percent of the students proficient in math."

Evans asked district staff at the meeting whether that number was accurate. Ron Rode, who oversees an office that monitors test scores, stepped up to microphone.

"We do have some in the single digits and this has been a long-standing issue where we see higher performance at the elementary schools and then it drops as grade level increases, precipitously at high school unfortunately," Rode said.
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We checked the numbers, too, and they back up Evans' description.

Arroyo Paseo Charter High School in City Heights finished dead last with 1.8 percent of students demonstrating proficiency in math — able to complete basic geometric and algebraic tasks like calculating surface area and solving linear equations. The highest scoring school, Scripps Ranch High, had 57 percent of students meeting state standards.

Overall, about one in four San Diego Unified high schools came close to Evans' mark, with the percent of students meeting state standards falling in single digits. Here's the score for each school:

Though scores were dismal in some cases, they used to be much worse overall. The percentage of high school students meeting state standards in math nearly doubled in the last five years. Less than one out of every three students met or exceeded state standards in math last year.

At the school board meeting, Rode also pointed to a statewide trend that extends to San Diego. As students get older, they tend to score worse and worse on state test scores. And those low marks from high schools bring down the district's overall average.

The reasons for the precipitous decline aren't clear, but researchers suggest that school instruction gradually grows further apart from the concepts examined in state tests. By high school, the gap is wide enough that few students meet state standards.

Test results show a social difference as well, Rode said in an interview. At younger ages, students seem more eager to do well on tests. As they grow older, students become wiser of the lack of accountability tied to state tests, which don't affect grades, and then don't take testing as seriously. High school juniors may also focus on preparing for college placement exams rather than state tests, Rode said.

Because some high schools in San Diego Unified came close to Evans' description of math scores last year, we've rated his statement True...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Should Your Company Go After Anonymous Bloggers?

I'm not anonymous. My name is Maura Larkins. But sometimes people will only reveal the truth if they can remain anonymous.

Should Your Company Go After Anonymous Bloggers?
By Cynthia Hsu
October 24, 2011

If your business has ever received criticism by an anonymous blogger, you may be irritated. You might also start to wonder if defamation law might be on your side.
Suing someone who has caused harm to your businesses' reputation and cost you money can be an option.

But it's more difficult now that there are various online platforms like Facebook, online message boards, Twitter, or forums where bloggers can keep their identity under wraps. Businesses may wonder if it's ever an option to go after someone who is nameless. It is - but whether or not it's a good idea is up for you to decide.
If you have the blogger's IP address, there are methods that you can employ to track down where the offending posts came from.

On the other hand, if all you have is their username you may have a more difficult time getting a handle on their identity. An Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Google isn't required to give you their personal identifying information. In fact, they'll likely fight to withhold this information to protect their customer. You'll probably have to win a court order to reveal their identity.

And courts can be hesitant. If the defamatory post is considered political speech, it can receive a high level of First Amendment protection. This can hinder your chances in court.

Courts, however, seem to be more inclined to grant orders in cases where anonymous bloggers have posted confidential insider information on the web.

You should also be aware that the blogger themselves can assert certain privileges to shroud their identity. In some circumstances, they can claim a reporter's privilege, which can protect them under their state's shield laws.

Companies that go after anonymous bloggers will likely face hurdles even though remedies are available under defamation law. Therefore, it might be necessary to go through several court proceedings in order to prevail.