Saturday, April 30, 2011

San Diego teachers union: we won't improve education if you consider teacher layoffs

The SDEA thinks it can win by stopping efforts at improving teaching. I honestly don't know who's worse, the administration or the union. They both care more about the personal careers of the people in power in their various organizations than they do about kids.

School Reform Rooted in Working Together Grows Apart
April 27, 2011
by Emily Alpert

Last summer after San Diego Unified was criticized for turning away from federal school reforms, accused of being too close to its teachers union to seek change, the school board touted a new reform plan, rooted in collaboration with its teachers.

The school district dubbed it "community-based school reform," a very different way to fix schools than the national reform zeitgeist of evaluating or paying teachers based on test scores. Teachers would work together and share data on how kids were doing. Parents would get more involved. Everybody tied to schools would band together to come up with reform ideas of their own.

The teachers union chimed in, saying it would go to work for the reform push. The school board struck an agreement with the union and a nonprofit to test the plans at a scattering of pilot schools starting in March. The idea: model the simple process of getting people together to improve their schools, while putting the muscle of trained organizers behind it.

Now, with the district warning of teacher layoffs, the teachers union has cut off its every-other-week talks on reform with Superintendent Bill Kowba and other leaders. The budget crunch has pitted board members who have long been seen as labor allies — even derided as union puppets — against the same union that once championed them.

While many reforms are still going, the breakup between San Diego Unified and the teachers union has slowed their plans and stopped them from actually joining forces to improve schools, one of the most intriguing parts of the plan. The split has only exacerbated confusion over what, exactly, community reform means.

Some schools tapped as possible pilots are now unsure what will happen. Pacific Beach Middle School is one of them. Teachers there met earlier this year to talk about their vision for the school. Labor leaders met with Principal Julie Martel. More meetings were planned. Then came the pink slips last month.

"It came to a halt," Martel said. "It seems like it's been put on hold."

The question now is what reform will look like if the school district and the union each go it alone. Many of the efforts are still chugging along: The Equality Alliance, the nonprofit that is helping to bring parents together as part of the reform push, just wrapped up a parent survey.

San Diego Unified has tried to foster more community involvement through getting parents involved in "clusters," the schools that lead into each high school. And union leaders just met with parents and employees at Mira Mesa High School this week to talk about whether it could become a pilot school.

At Mira Mesa High, Principal Scott Giusti is excited about dreaming up new ideas with teachers, parents and anyone else with a stake in the school. But he worries about rallying teachers and parents behind a plan while the teachers union isn't talking to San Diego Unified about it. What happens, Giusti asked, if they come up with a plan and the school district doesn't like it? Or what if the union balks?

"I'm a little cautious because everybody isn't at the table," Giusti said.

Leaders on both sides say they won't let the freeze stop them from working on school reform, each in their own way. "The work can still be done without the district stepping up to the plate," said Craig Leedham, executive director of the union. "I think we'll actually accomplish more."

School board member Scott Barnett echoed their words on the other side. "The teachers union reform plan is in addition to what the San Diego Unified board is doing," he said. "Ours is going ahead."

The teachers union argues the district broke its trust by opting to warn more than 1,300 teachers of [possible] layoffs. San Diego Unified, with an estimated deficit of $114 million or more, says it had no choice. Labor leaders argue it could have used other money to spare teachers...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tri-City Hospital board chief says judge may have been bribed

Many of the lawyers involved in the Tri-City Healthcare brouhaha are also involved in local schools. One of them, Greg Moser, seems to be saying in the story below that the law allows elected officials to make false statements about a judge having been bribed. No, Greg, there is a line, and this statement crosses it. You really should know that.

Ironically, in addition to trying to get a restraining order against board member Kathleen Sterling, the Tri-City board recently developed a policy calling for members of the public to be arrested if they speak out too vociferously at board meetings. Apparently, the board majority thinks no one can sound off except them.

Also ironic is the fact that Kathleen Sterling has struggled to pay an attorney; how could she bribe a judge? It seems that RoseMarie Reno may have let her power go to her head--and she might not be getting the best advice. Who's been encouraging her to hound Kathleen Sterling?

See all posts re Tri-City Healthcare.

OCEANSIDE: Hospital board chief says judge may have been bribed
North County Times - The Californian
April 29, 2011

In a public meeting Thursday night, the board president of the Tri-City Healthcare District said fellow board member Kathleen Sterling may have "paid ... off" a Superior Court judge who recently refused the district's request for multiple restraining orders against her.

During board comments at the meeting, Sterling read lengthy excerpts from an April 4 ruling by Judge Richard E. Mills that found Sterling posed no threat to board members or employees at the Oceanside-based hospital, contrary to the health care district's claims.

Board President RoseMarie Reno cut Sterling off after a three-minute limit for board-member comments, then said about the ruling "It's unfortunate that you may have paid Judge Mills off beforehand."

Several people in the crowd gasped at the remark.

"I'm sorry," Reno said hastily, adding that she felt the outcome of the case should have been different. On Friday, she declined to elaborate on her statement.

Sterling referred any questions to her attorney, Kerry Eskenas, who denied that her client had any kind of inappropriate exchange with Mills. Eskenas said she thought the outlandish remark was also directed at Sterling's attorneys.

"Such an outrageous false accusation will have legal consequences," Eskenas said.

Reno's statement could have legal implications.

On one hand, bribing a judge is a felony in California. On the other hand, knowingly making an untrue and damaging statement against another person could be defamation.

Mills, through his law clerk, said that he could not respond to Reno's statement. The clerk said Mills asked her to release the following statement:

"The case is not over. Motions for attorney's fees and other matters will be heard in the future. The code of judicial ethics prohibits a judge from commenting on any matter relating to an open case."

Though Reno's remark raised eyebrows, Tri-City board attorney Greg Moser said the law grants elected officials considerable latitude in their discussions at public meetings.

"There is generally pretty broad immunity for comments made by board members at board meetings," Moser said.

Thursday's exchange is the latest in a public battle between Sterling and other board members ---- Reno, in particular. Sterling has been censured by the board seven times during the last year amid allegations that she intimidated hospital employees and offered to trade her vote, among other things.

Sterling still faces a felony charge of vote trading and a $100,000 civil lawsuit brought by the hospital and one security guard regarding events that occurred during a Feb. 24 hospital board meeting.

The requests for restraining orders ---- made by three Tri-City directors and three employees ---- centered on two allegations of violence that some witnesses said took place before and after that meeting.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Joe Nocera won't admit that there are too many bad or mediocre teachers

Joe Nocera doesn't want to find out how much good teaching can do to overcome poverty. Of course he's right that good teaching can't solve all the problems of students. Joe Nocera is disingenuous to pretend that reformers believe such a thing. I see no humility in Joe Nocera's essay about the limits of the current education system, although Nocera recommends humility to school reformers. Let's face it, Joe: bad teaching is a problem. And improving education might be the best way to bring about improvement in our unequal society: smarter voters might bring smarter policies. But they would also notice that Joe's essay is an attempt to get readers to take their eye off the ball and to convince them that any criticism of teachers amounts to demonizing them "for the failures of poor students."

The Limits of School Reform

April 25, 2011

...Yet the reformers act as if a student’s home life is irrelevant. [Maura Larkins' comment: Note that Mr. Nocera contradicts this statement in the very next sentence.] “There is no question that family engagement can matter,” said Klein when I spoke to him. “But they seem to be saying that poverty is destiny, so let’s go home. We don’t yet know how much education can overcome poverty,” he insisted — notwithstanding the voluminous studies that have been done on the subject. “To let us off the hook prematurely seems, to me, to play into the hands of the other side.”

That last sentence strikes me as the key to the reformers’ resistance: To admit the importance of a student’s background, they fear, is to give ammo to the enemy — which to them are their social-scientist critics and the teachers’ unions. But that shouldn’t be the case. Making schools better is always a goal worth striving for, whether it means improving pedagogy itself or being able to fire bad teachers more easily. Without question, school reform has already achieved some real, though moderate, progress.

What needs to be acknowledged, however, is that school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.

Over the long term, fixing our schools is going to involve a lot more than, well, just fixing our schools. In the short term, however, the reform movement could use something else: a dose of humility about what it can accomplish — and what it can’t. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

ACORN hoax victim files lawsuit against O'Keefe and Giles

ACORN hoax victim files lawsuit against O'Keefe and Giles
Falsely portrayed as promoting teenage prostitution in the ACORN videotapes, Juan Carlos Vera is seeking damages
By Joe Conason
Jul 14, 2010

One of the many victims of Andrew Breitbart’s ACORN video hoax is finally striking back in court, against pseudo-pimp James O’Keefe and pseudo-ho Hannah Giles if not Breitbart himself. Former San Diego ACORN office employee Juan Carlos Vera, who was falsely portrayed in a heavily edited videotape as conspiring with O’Keefe and Giles to traffic underage girls across the Mexican border, is suing both of the right-wing filmmakers, seeking $75,000 in damages under California’s privacy statutes.

Filed last week in the U.S. District Court in San Diego, Vera’s brief complaint claims that O’Keefe, Giles and up to 20 unnamed parties violated his "reasonable expectation of privacy" by conspiring to secretly videotape him and then posting the tapes on the Internet without his consent, causing him to lose his job and other damages. Indeed, as the complaint notes, the "pimp and prostitute" explicitly asked Vera whether their conversation would be confidential.

The notorious tape featuring Vera -- with his friendly smile and hesitant English -- was aired repeatedly on Fox News and cited as proof of the most incendiary charge against ACORN by conservative Web impresario Breitbart: namely, that the anti-poverty organization was in fact a criminal conspiracy to promote teenage prostitution.

But as California Attorney General Jerry Brown discovered when he investigated the ACORN matter last spring, the actual meaning of the Vera tape was severely distorted by dishonest editing to suggest that he had agreed to help smuggle young girls for O’Keefe’s mythical brothel. To obtain unedited versions of the tapes from O’Keefe, Brown gave him and Giles immunity from any criminal prosecution under the state privacy statutes.

What really happened in the San Diego ACORN office, as Fox News and many other outlets neglected to report, was that immediately after O’Keefe and Giles departed, Vera called a cousin who is a detective in the National City Police Department to report the planned crime. Police detectives later confirmed Vera’s effort to local news outlets and to the California attorney general’s office. When Vera learned that O'Keefe and Giles were hoaxing him, he again called the police, who terminated their investigation.

"The evidence illustrates," said Brown when he released his report last April, "that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting-room floor." And soon that fuller truth may be weighed in the halls of justice.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

San Marcos Unifed rejects wrestler's claim; Rick Rinear at SDCOE-JPA instructed them to do so

The San Diego County Office of Education instructs all school districts who buy its Joint Powers Authority insurance coverage to reject all claims.

See Logan Jenkins on why this type of case needs to go before a jury.
See all San Marcos Unified posts.

Prep wrestler sues opponent over body slams
By Brent Schrotenboer
April 22, 2011

A Fallbrook High School wrestler has sued an opposing wrestler at Mission Hills High, claiming he was badly injured by body slams and other illegal moves during a wrestling match in January.

Shane Perine, a sophomore at Fallbrook, filed suit this month in San Diego Superior Court. He seeks unspecified damages against Mission Hills wrestler Devin Coley and the San Marcos Unified School District, which includes Mission Hills High.

Perine’s suit says that Coley’s illegal moves were “repeated by him over and over throughout the match" at Mission Hills on Jan. 27. It says that the referees and district employees who oversaw the match did nothing to stop it except award a point to Perine. What they should have done instead was stop the match, the suit says.

Coley “went off the chart, doing body slams and moves that are not only illegal but dangerous,” said Perine’s attorney, Paul Rolf Jensen. “We think this is important because it was called to the coach’s attention, and he ignored it. That’s a pretty significant problem.”

Jensen also said the incident was recorded on video.

Coley, Mission Hills coach David LaVine and San Marcos Superintendent Kevin Holt didn’t return messages seeking comment. The school district rejected the claim at its regular board meeting in March.

Jensen said his client has a spinal injury because of the incident and has undergone several MRI exams because of it. Jensen also said Perine can’t play sports anymore.

“It’s not crippling but painful,” Jensen said.

Perine also names the San Diego Section of the California Interscholastic Federation as a defendant in the suit. The section supervises the referees.

“If the jury found liability, which we expect, I think there would be general agreement the value of the case would be somewhere in the range of a quarter of a million dollars,” Jensen said.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oakland Schools are being charged $25 million in fines for Randy Ward's mismanagement

When Randolph Ward first came to San Diego to be superintendent of SDCOE, the County Office of Education, I couldn't figure out why he didn't insist that Lora Duzyk and Diane Crosier clean up the corruption in the business office. Now I understand.

See all posts about SDCOE.

Oakland schools paying for administrator's errors
Chip Johnson
San Francisco Chronicle
April 15, 2011

It's one thing for Oakland school administrators to miscalculate district finances and be penalized with the loss of authority, which is exactly what happened in 2003 when the district received a $100 million state bailout and was put in the hands of a state-appointed administrator.

It's quite another matter for that administrator to amass more than $25 million in fines and other charges from the state Controller's Office for fiscal mismanagement - and then expect the district to foot the bill.

Yet that is exactly what the state is trying to do.

Those fines and charges were racked up by Randy Ward, the state administrator who led the school district from 2003 to 2006 as part of the state takeover.

Local officials regained control over their beleaguered district in 2009, and say they shouldn't have to pay for Ward's fiscal mistakes. Those mistakes include underestimating payroll liability and failing to reconcile cash accounts.

East Bay Assemblyman Sandré Swanson has intervened in hopes of getting the district off the hook for the $25.25 million in total fines and other costs.

But the situation suggests that on some financial matters, Ward ran the district in much the same cavalier fashion as before the takeover.

Annual audits for the district's cash expenditures were never conducted between 2003 and 2006. Ward led the district during that period. An accounting of cash expenditures conducted in 2010 overstated the district's cash assets by $7 million, said district spokesman Troy Flint.

For a school district that slashed $122 million from last year's budget and faces a projected $30 million deficit in the coming school year, expecting that it can come up with millions of dollars in fines is an unreasonable demand...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Barry Bonds found guilty of obstruction of justice

Bonds found guilty of obstruction of justice
Mistrial declared in three other charges against home run king
NBC Sports
April 13, 2011

A federal jury convicted Barry Bonds of a single charge of obstruction of justice Wednesday but failed to reach a verdict on the three counts at the heart of allegations that he knowingly used steroids and human growth hormone and lied to a grand jury about it.

Following a 12-day trial and almost four full days of deliberation, the jury of eight women and four men could reach a unanimous verdict only on one of the four counts against Bonds. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial on the others, a messy end to a case that put the slugger — and baseball itself — under a cloud of suspicion for more than three years.

Bonds sat stone-faced through the verdict, displaying no emotion. His legal team immediately asked that the guilty verdict be thrown out and Illston did not rule on the request. She set May 20 for a hearing in the case.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Does the Office of Administrative Hearings provide biographical info about its judges?

I happened across the new biographical information about administrative law judges in California.

If you have the patience to scroll down this bizarrely tiny window, you can find out about the judges:

See information offered by OAH about judges. (Click on the city you're interested in, then click on "ALJ Biographical Information" (small blue lettering) near the bottom of the page. You can choose the judge you're interested in from the pull-down list.)

See all blog posts re Judge Ahler.

More information about Judge Ahler.

Sketchy School Inspectors Still on Job

See builders and board members.

Sketchy School Inspectors Still on Job

Voice of San Diego
April 11, 2011

...A couple years ago, the school district in Rancho Santa Fe hired an inspector to watch over a $37 million reconstruction project of two schools. And why not hire this guy? The Division of the State Architect had cleared him to be a school inspector to watch out for things like possible earthquake hazards.

But the oversight agency hadn't looked into his background, California Watch reports. The inspector "had been convicted of a felony in a construction safety case and fired from the inspector program in Los Angeles."

There's more: "Nearly 300 inspectors have been cited by the state for work-related deficiencies. But at least two thirds were allowed to keep monitoring school construction jobs, a review of state performance ratings shows... Internal e-mails, project records and other documents show that multiple inspectors working on school construction jobs have been accused of filing false reports with state regulators and failing to show up during key moments of construction."...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Should these people be teaching? One tells the world she sees her students as "future criminals"

I actually think it's a good thing that parents and the community are beginning to learn what sort of conversations take place day in and day out in the teachers lounge. I heard this sort of thing frequently during my years as a teacher. The problems with this attitude are that the teacher...
1) isn't taking responsibility for improving kids' behavior;
2) is making a self-fulfilling prophecy;
3) is being unprofessional;
4) is stereotyping and making harmful generalizations about the people whom she is paid to help;
5) should consider a career in law enforcement.

I'm wondering exactly how these teachers' attitudes translate into action in the classroom. Obviously, these teachers are very negative. I'm guessing they are abusive toward the children they are talking about.

Teacher Suspended Over Facebook Post (Round Two)
By Francesca Duffy
April 6, 2011
Education Week

Another teacher has garnered national attention as well as a suspension for posting a comment about her students on her Facebook page, according to the New York Times. In this case, the first-grade teacher from Paterson, N.J., wrote that she "felt like a warden overseeing future criminals."

The post spurred negative reactions from parents, students, and the community. "It's horrible," said Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund, a nonprofit group that supports the local school community. "And unfortunately, I don't think she's the only teacher in Paterson who thinks that way."

Meanwhile, the teacher's lawyer, Nancy Oxfeld, argued that the teacher, whose name has not been released, wrote the posts on her personal time:

"My feeling is that if you're concerned about children, you're concerned about what goes on in the classroom, not about policing your employee's private comments to others," said Oxfeld, as quoted in the Times.

Just this past February, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania also was suspended for maligning students on her blog.

Teacher Suspended for Blogging About Students
By Caroline Cournoyer
February 10, 2011
Education Week

Attention all teachers with blogs: Be careful with your words. A high school English teacher in Pennsylvania has been suspended for writing what she really thinks about her students on a personal blog, according to CBSPHILLY.

More than a year ago, Natalie Munroe of the Central Bucks School District in Pennsylvania expressed her frustrations with her students on her blog, using phrases like "seems smarter than she actually is," "I hate your kid," and "am concerned your kid is going to open fire on the school." It's unclear whether Munroe specified which students she was referring to, and the blog has since been shut down, reports CBSPHILLY.

It was a parent who discovered the blog and brought it to the district's attention, and parents—and students—are condemning the teacher's actions.

"Why would you be with children if you are feeling that negative about everything they do?" parent Kelly Woloshyn asked.

Apparently, a lot of teachers do more than just verbally abuse their students.

Is it Time to End Corporal Punishment in Schools?
By Caroline Cournoyer
February 14, 2011
Education Week

After an elementary school teacher in Maryland was recently charged with several counts of assault for choking, punching, kicking, and/or scratching eight of her first graders, Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss recalls the failure of Congress to pass a bill to end corporal punishment in schools.

In June, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) introduced the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act—which would do just what it says—but the bill never made it out of its assigned committee, reports the Post.

Although almost half of school corporal punishment cases occur in Texas and Mississippi, it's still legal in 20 states and was responsible for 10,000-20,000 children seeking medical treatment in the 2006-2007 school year. Studies show that it most commonly occurs in rural schools and is directed toward male and nonwhite students, according to Strauss.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Barry Bonds' defense rests without calling a single witness in perjury trial

See all posts re Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds' defense rests without calling a single witness in perjury trial
By Maura Dolan
Los Angeles Times
April 7, 2011

Reporting from San Francisco -- Attorneys for former Giants slugger Barry Bonds rested Wednesday without calling a single witness, clearing the way for jurors to start deliberating whether baseball's all-time home run king lied under oath when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, with the support of the prosecution, dropped one of five felony counts against Bonds because of lack of evidence. Bonds, 46, now faces a charge of obstruction of justice and three counts of lying under oath in his testimony before a grand jury in December 2003.

Illston, in another ruling, changed course Wednesday and decided against throwing out evidence that steroids cause testicles to shrink. Bonds' former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, testified that his testicles shriveled after he began using the drugs.

Bonds' lawyers had summoned a key prosecution witness to return to the stand Wednesday but rested without calling him. The defense decision means jurors will not hear Bonds testify.

Defense lawyers managed to eviscerate two of three main witnesses called by the prosecution. The third, Kathy Hoskins, testified that she saw Bonds' personal trainer inject him with an unknown substance in the navel in 2002.

Bonds told the grand jury the next year that Anderson had never injected him.

The jury of eight women and four men also heard that a urine sample from Bonds taken several months before his grand jury testimony tested positive for a steroid and a fertility drug that is sometimes used in conjunction with steroids.

Bonds admitted to the grand jury that he used two substances identified as steroids but insisted that he thought they were flaxseed oil and arthritis cream. He also testified that he took various pills that Greg Anderson, his personal trainer, gave him and never asked what the pills contained.

Anderson was sent to jail at the start of the trial for refusing to testify, but jurors heard a recording in which Anderson discussed how he injected banned drugs in response to questions about Bonds.

A conviction could lead to a lengthy prison sentence or even home confinement and affect whether Bonds is elected to the Hall of Fame.

In 2007, Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron's record for career home runs, considered the most hallowed record in Major League Baseball.

Former SDCOE board member Ernie Dronenburg becomes County Assessor

Former San Diego County Office of Education board member Ernie Dronenburg has been in the news.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Restraining order nixed against hospital trustee

Judge says of three Tri-City Hospital board members who asked for a permanent restraining order against Kathleen Sterling, "...none of the petitioners presented their case with clear and convincing proof."

See all posts re Tri-City Hospital.

Restraining order nixed against hospital trustee
By Carl Ciaramella
April 5, 2011

Vista — A Superior Court judge on Monday rejected a request for a permanent restraining order filed by the Tri-City Healthcare District against board member Kathleen Sterling.

Six petitioners — three other board members and three hospital employees — accused Sterling of an escalating pattern of harassment, verbal threats and violence, including pushing and injuring security guards at a Feb. 24 meeting. Hospital lawyer Wendy Tucker said board members feared for their safety.

Sterling denied all of the allegations. She said she is the victim of political persecution for her outspoken criticism of hospital administration.

Judge Richard E. Mills dismissed all six requests, saying none of the evidence presented met the burden of proof required for a restraining order.

“Neither side in this case is without fault,” he said. “Ms. Sterling could modify her conduct and make more of an attempt to get along with the petitioners. … But in the end, none of the petitioners presented their case with clear and convincing proof.”

Sterling must be allowed into the main hospital building, although she must participate in board meetings from an adjacent room via telecom because of a previous censure. Sterling, who has been on the publicly elected board since 1998, has been censured seven times in the past year by her colleagues for disruptive behavior. The hospital has also filed a $100,000 lawsuit against Sterling for damages to its reputation, and she is facing felony charges of soliciting a bribe.

Sterling’s attorney, Scott McMillan, said he plans to challenge the censures that prevent her from attending board meetings in person, as well as seek attorney fees from the hospital. He will also request the lawsuit against Sterling be dismissed.

Tri-City Healthcare District operates Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside.