Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tri-City boardmember George Coulter, accuser of Kathleen Sterling, turns out to have a background of moral turpitude

George Coulter
Also see San Diego Education Report articles on this story.·

George William Coulter - Elected Board Member, Tri-City Healthcare District - Criminal & Civil Record & Testimony
by Kathleen Sterling
June 22, 2012

Tri-City Boardmember (elected 2008-2012) Mr. George Coulter (Phony Ph.D.) - Convicted of Moral Turpitude ~ Theft / Larceny ~ Burglary ~ Domestic Violence ~ Unlawful Detainer Judgment ·

On May 31 and June 1, 2010 before the Honorable Judge Michael Kirkman, Department 22 held Preliminary Hearing for People of State of California vs Kathleen Sterling where discussion about Tri-City Healthcare District Board Member George Coulter took place before Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr of the Public Integrity Unit under District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and as my representative, Public Defender Sherry Stone, placed on the record what was discussed with Judge Kirkman in his chambers. ·

The following excerpts are taken from the Reporter's Transcript taken on May 31, 2011 and June 1, 2011, Preliminary Hearing Transcript "PE Transcript, pps. 2-6, lines 5, 9, 14, 15, 16 " ·

Ms. Stone: Your Honor, the prosecution is calling George Coulter. He's one of the percipient witnesses to count one [Penal Code 86 - Felony] as well as count two [Government Code 87100 - Misdemeanor]. . . . Mr. Coulter has a prior Misdemeanor Conviction for Penal Code 272 . . . . It's a crime of Moral Turpitude. ·

The Court: It was a Penal Code 272 matter, and then there was another matter, a Penal Code 484? ·

Ms. Stone: Yes, Penal Code 484 and Penal Code 459. ·

The Court: [The relevancy]". . . could be utilized for impeachment purposes of the witness... I understand that there is a subsequent matter that occured ... related to domestic violence that counsel wished to address? " ·

Ms. Stone: Yes, your Honor. How much detail would the Court like me to go into? ·

The Court: You'd indicated that there was a Domestic Violence related matter and that there was actually some contact, some physical violence; is that right? ·

Ms. Stone: That is correct. . .

[Continued HERE]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Karen Klein bus monitor video: should she give back the money?

Wait a minute. What about all the children who were bullied on that bus? I bet they'd like a vacation. They can't simply decide to quit riding the bus. How about $600,000 for an effective bus monitor who can educate bullies? Both the bullies and the bullied need counseling.

I wonder where these obnoxious youngsters learned contempt for people who are poor or fat? It seems that these cruel kids are voicing attitudes that are widespread among adults. Charlies M. Blow agrees with me:

Bullies on the Bus
New York Times
June 22, 2012

...Those boys are us, or at least too many of us: America at its ugliest. It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.

This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society — our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.

Whether it is a Republican debate audience booing a gay soldier or Rush Limbaugh’s vicious attack on a female Georgetown law student or Newt Gingrich’s salvos at the poor, bullying has become boilerplate. Hiss and taunt. Tease and intimidate. Target your enemies and torture them mercilessly. Maintain primacy through predation.

Traditionally inferior identity roles are registered in a variety of ways. For Klein, she was elderly and female and not thin or rich. For others, it is skin color, country of origin, object of affection or some other accident of birth...

Click HERE for the original video of the bus incident.

Donations for bullied New York bus monitor surpass $600G
By Joshua Rhett Miller
June 23, 2012

Brutal bullying more common than you think?

An online feel-good fundraising effort for a bullied bus monitor has surpassed half a million dollars — and is growing.

As of early Saturday, more than $605,000 has been donated to Karen Klein, a 68-year-old grandmother of eight who appeared on a 10-minute video earlier this week being berated and bullied by four seventh-graders on a bus operated by the Greece Central School District, near Rochester, N.Y. Klein has also been offered a trip to Disney Land with nine guests by Southwest Airlines, has learned...

Karen Klein Should Give the Money Back
Chris Kelly
Huffington Post

Something's been bugging me about Karen Klein, the school bus monitor from Greece, New York, who was taunted by children in a video on YouTube, and now seems to have been given half a million dollars by nice strangers who feel bad:

What happened to her never should have happened.

Someone should have been monitoring the kids on that bus.

And clearly it wasn't Karen Klein.

I hope she gets the $500,000. I hope she gets more. I hope she goes to the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Park, Orlando, and has her picture taken with Woody and Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl.

But I can't shake the feeling that she should also take $15,506 and give it back to the people of Greece, New York, who paid her to monitor children on a school bus.

A job she -- while clearly a human being who didn't deserve to be treated like shit -- was also incapable of performing.

Again, not saying the children were right and she's wrong, or she was asking for it, or there's any excuse for making people cry just to see if you can. There's a special ring of hell for people who do that, and it's not Rochester, but you can see it from there.

They're bad and she's their victim.

But why was she there? What did she think her job was? What did the parents who put their children on the bus think?

Because, for $375 a week, to ride the bus twice, she doesn't appear to be preventing very much bullying.

Again: She's a nice lady, a grandmother apparently, and the things that were said to her were horrible, but that's okay, because she says her hearing aid doesn't work that well. Which circles us back to the question of what she saw as parameters of her assignment.

And what she, and the parents who hired her, consider "monitoring."

Here's how Mrs. Klein, a former school bus driver herself, described the ugly incident that never should have happened to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

"I was trying to just ignore them, hoping they would go away and it doesn't work."

No, it doesn't work. It also doesn't work when children are bullying other children. That's why we put monitors on the bus.

To protect the children.

Again. (And again, and again.) Karen Klein is a person, and no one should be cruel to her. A bad thing happened. She should have never been on that bus.

Karen Klein bus monitor abuse video: Youtube video of woman bullied by children goes viral
June 21, 2012
Faith Karimi

A profanity-laced video of middle school students in upstate New York verbally abusing a bus monitor is sparking an outpouring of support as strangers worldwide rally to her side.

In the video, the students taunt Karen Klein, 68, with a stream of profanity, insults, jeers and physical ridicule.

Some boys demand to know her address, saying they want to come to her house to perform sexual acts and steal from her.

The bullying continues unabated for about 10 minutes in the video, reducing Klein to tears as a giggling student jabs her arm with a book in one instance.

"Oh my God, you're so fat," one says.

Klein, a bus monitor for the Greece Central School District, said she tried her best to disregard the harassment. The students involved attend Greece Athena middle school. "I tried to ignore it ... I didn't hear some stuff and tried to shut them out," Klein told CNN affiliate WHAM.

She said one comment from a boy aboard the bus was especially painful. He tells her that she does not have family because "they all killed themselves because they didn't want to be near you."

Klein's oldest son took his own life 10 years ago, according to the affiliate.

...The video prompted an outpouring of support and a fundraiser by an international crowd funding site that had gathered more than $100,000 by early Thursday.

"Let's give Karen a vacation of a lifetime. Let's show her the power of the internets and how kind and generous people can be," the fundraiser's organizer said on the website. The organizer did not respond to CNN requests for comment on the website. The school district said its bullying team and the local police are conducting an investigation.

"We have discovered other similar videos on YouTube and are working to identify all of the students involved," the school district said in a statement.

It did not elaborate on whether the additional videos are related to Klein's case.

"While we cannot comment on specific student discipline, we can say that students found to be involved will face strong disciplinary action," the school district said.

The students involved are minors, according to the school district. CNN does not name minors involved in alleged crimes unless they are charged as adults.

Officials involved in the investigation will hold a news conference Thursday.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Prosecutors want unaired footage in which Jerry Sandusky seems to admit abusing some boys, while saying he didn't abuse others

Prosecutors want unaired footage
FOX News
JUN 18, 2012

Accused Penn State pedophile Jerry Sandusky came off a lot creepier in an exclusive sit-down with NBC last November than anyone knew, but the Peacock Network oddly chose not to air what sounds a lot like an admission of guilt — and now prosecutors want the whole transcript.

"I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I've helped," Sandusky told Costas in footage that never made the November airing.

The disturbing answer first came to light when NBC's "Today" show aired previously unseen transcripts last Tuesday. That prompted prosecutors from the Pennsylvania attorney general's office to contact NBC lawyers on Friday to request that the network turn over and authenticate the entire transcript from the interview that was used to tape the segment that aired on the news program "Rock Center with Brian Williams."

The unaired segment includes a back-and-forth between Costas and Sandusky about his work with young people through his charity for troubled kids, the Second Mile.

"I'm a very passionate person in terms of trying to make a difference in the lives of some young people," Sandusky said. "I worked very hard to try to connect with them. To make them feel good about themselves. To be something significant in their lives. Maybe this gets misinterpreted, has gotten depending on ... I know a lot of young people where it hasn't. I have worked with many, many young people where there has been no misinterpretation of my actions and I have made a very significant difference in their lives."

Costas then challenged Joe Paterno's one-time defensive coordinator, saying, "But isn't what you're just describing the classic MO of many pedophiles? And that is that they gain the trust of young people, they don't necessarily abuse every young person. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of young boys you came into contact with, but there are allegations that at least eight of them were victimized.

"So it's entirely possible that you could've helped young boy A in some way that was not objectionable while horribly taking advantage of young boy B, C, D and E. Isn't that possible?" Costas asked Sandusky during the interview.

Sandusky gave an unusual reply.

"Well — you might think that. I don't know. In terms of — my relationship with so many, many young people. I would — I would guess that there are many young people who would come forward. Many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods and — and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life.

"And I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I've helped. There are many that I didn't have — I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways," he added.

An executive at NBC News, who asked that her identity be withheld, told, "There were a lot of compelling comments in the original interview, but we did not have time to include them all."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch investigates Rani Goyal resignation, $56,000 severance deal

The La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch investigation of the Rani Goyal resignation can be found at the bottom of this post. The whole brouhaha got me to thinking about a previous Helix High principal who unfairly came under attack. Here is that story:

East County Magazine
February 6, 2009

Did administrators at Helix Charter High School respond appropriately to four incidents of sexual abuse and misconduct involving teachers and students and has enough been done to prevent similar problems in the future? The Helix response criticizes ESI's investigator Robert Price as unqualified and lacking impartiality. A prior ESI investigation was used to revoke the charter of another charter school, the response notes.

According to Helix, Price received over 80 names of former Helix employees provided by the district. Amazingly, when the investigation into 80 separated employees from Helix did not produce the results sought by Mr. Price, the Helix response said, Mr. Price thereafter ground its conclusions in the comments of a small unspecified (and unknown) group of separated Helix employees not reported by the district. The report adds, "Clearly Mr. Price has discounted and omitted any positive comments about the Principal or Helix from his Report despite receiving many such statements." Multiple witnesses contracted by Price called Smith and complained that questions asked appeared to be aimed at finding fault; 2 witnesses told the Helix principal that "The investigator was clearly out to get you", the Helix response states.

The ESI report also fails to list corrective actions taken by Helix after the first incident, including meetings at which staff was encouraged to be vigilant in reporting possible educator sexual abuse/misconduct and told that the school would investigate any such reports and terminate employees for such conduct. Other steps included involvement of social workers, counselors, contacts to parents and more. Why is all of this material information absent from Mr. Price's report? The Helix document asks.

As for allegations that state reporting requirements were not met, Helix maintains that police were notified the same day that the Principal was made aware of the first reported case of sexual abuse/misconduct. The school's response did not encourage future sexual misconduct, Helix argues, because the other case in question was an incident that occurred earlier, but was not brought to the school's attention until after the first incident and the teacher was no longer employed at Helix. The school's reporting of two other incidents was not in question in the District report. Shinoff stood behind the report. "I don't think that is accurate at all", he said when asked about allegations by Helix of bias and omission of facts favorable to Smith. "Quite frankly, Helix from the very inception of the investigation took exception to our investigator talking to their staff." He added, "Absolutely he was never told by us or by the Superintendent or by anybody to come to any specific conclusion. I did not conduct the investigation; these are his findings...I feel quite confident that he was doing his very best for it to be a fair and balanced investigation."

See all Helix Charter High School posts.

Helix Leader Rani Goyal Got $56,000 Severance in Settlement Deal
“General release of all claims,” which included a gag order, leaves reasons for resignation unclear.
By Ken Stone
La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch
June 14, 2012

Rani Goyal was promised a $56,000 severance check from Helix Charter High School when she suddenly resigned May 25 under still mysterious circumstances.

As executive director of the La Mesa school, she was almost two years into a four-year contract paying $130,000 a year plus expenses, according to documents obtained by Patch.

A 1,500-word settlement agreement signed by Goyal and Helix charter board chairman Brian Kick stipulated that “Goyal intends and expressly agrees that [the setlement] shall be effective as a bar to each and every claim, demand and cause of action Goyal has against [Helix].” See attached PDF.

But neither Goyal nor Helix officials have commented on what possible legal actions preceded the agreement, and the deal includes a “No admission of fault” clause for both parties.

The settlement also includes a gag order, saying Helix and Goyal “agree that the events leading to this agreement shall be maintained in privacy and confidence.”

The agreement itself was made available to Patch in response to a California Public Records Act request, and in a separate letter, Kick said the school “is not required to produce documents protected by the attorney client privilege. … To the extent your request includes the above information, or any other information exempted by the Public Records Act, Helix Charter High School denies your request.”

...Goyal signed the three-page agreement May 23, and Kick on May 25. It is described as a “complete, final and binding settlement of all claims and potential claims, if any.”

She quit less than two weeks before graduation.

On May 31, Goyal was to receive full pay for that month, and within 10 days was to be paid “a gross severance amount equivalent to five months of salary in the amount of $56,418.60,” the deal said.

Her original employment contract (attached as a PDF) had a clause on early termination that said:

The board may unilaterally and without cause or advance notice terminate this agreement. In consideration of the board’s right to terminate this agreement without cause, the board shall pay to the executive director the remainder of her salary (based upon any remaining calendared work days) for the term of this agreement or for a period of four months following the effective date of termination, whichever is less.

...At least one theory on her resignation was posted on a San Diego education blog.

On June 1, an anonymous commenter wrote:

Politically powerful teachers doesn’t even begin to describe the Good ol' Boys club of Helix. There’s a specific group of teachers who enjoyed the power and privilege of being the former principal’s cronies and fail to adapt to change. They are blinded by their own hurt egos to see that Ms. Goyal was the best thing that happened to Helix in a long time. The staff at Helix has gone and ignored the students and the parents, and showed that the charter board will forget democracy in order to please the Good ol’ Boys.

The commenter concluded: “I’ll always be a fan of Helix, having been a student there through recent tough times. But I sincerely hope that the teachers that I love and respect pull their act together in the interest of the students.”

The settlement also stipulated that “both HCHS and Goyal agree that they will do nothing to disparage the other in any communications after the date of this agreement.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

UCSD Professor Published After Two-Year Court Battle

I do not understand why UCSD felt it had the right to gag this professor. Was it motivated by politics? Did the administration calculate that the professor wouldn't be able to challenge the decision? How many people has this happened to? Were there others who didn't have the determination to go to court? As the professor said, "If you have to bankrupt yourself to protect your academic freedom, then academic freedom is dead.”

Professor Published After Two-Year Court Battle
Ayan Kusari
The Guardian
June 03, 2012

It’s been a long wait for sociology professor Richard Biernacki. After fighting in court for two years — and taking out a second mortgage to fund the attorney fees — Biernacki’s formerly banned manuscript has finally been published. The work, titled Reinventing Evidence in Social Inquiry, was released for sale by Paul Grave Macmillan publishes next month on July 3.

It has been almost three years since the UCSD Social Sciences department placed a gag order on Biernacki’s manuscript, which is about peer review in the social sciences. The order, written by Dean of Social Sciences Jeff Elman, asked Biernacki to stop “harassing” a colleague within the UCSD Sociology Department whose research methods Biernacki critiqued in his book.

The gag order also stated that Biernacki could be fired if he requested data from the National Science Foundation. In response, Biernacki hired an attorney and took the case to court. After two years of conflict, both in and out of court, the administration retracted its order last June.

Biernacki said that the university administration’s misinterpretation of his work as a personal attack on another faculty member was both a personal and professional setback.

“My salary was kept artificially low, because I wasn’t promoted,” he said. “The recognition that I would have received in my field two years ago did not come my way. I had to pay a steep attorney’s fee to fight the UC legal team in Oakland. Being on a level playing field is costly. If you have to bankrupt yourself to protect your academic freedom, then academic freedom is dead.”

Biernacki’s book states that peer review is frequently less thorough in the social sciences than in the natural sciences. Biernacki argues that this lack of peer review in his field has led to the widespread generation of data that is ambiguously valid and non-replicable. He said that his book was intended to be a methodological critique, not a personal attack.

“All the examples in the book are about problems that come along with trying to interpret the meaning of primary texts,” he said.

One of the book’s chapters appraises the reasoning used by sociologists to classify the statements made in the autobiographies of Nazis. Another chapter critiques sociologists’ attempts to classify book reviews as positive or negative.

“I can see why people feel uncomfortable, because I’m critiquing methods that are so widely used,” he said. “But I’m not exempt. I’m critiquing my own use of these methods as well, because I have used them myself. I think social scientists treat each other with kid gloves, because we’re so unsure of what we’re doing.”

Biernacki said that a written order from the administration was the wrong avenue to use in handling his case.

“If someone had a complaint about my critique, it’s the academic senate they should have gone through,” he said. “We have a faculty-run legal court on campus. We don’t need the administration to get involved.”

Diane Hamann, Director of the UCSD Academic Senate, could not be reached as of press time. Social Sciences Dean Jeff Elman is on sabbatical and could not be reached.

This story is an updated version that had been adjusted to address corrections.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

George Zimmerman’s wife charged with perjury

George Zimmerman’s wife charged with perjury
The Associated Press
June 12, 2012

The wife of Trayvon Martin’s shooter was charged with perjury Tuesday, accused of lying when she told a judge that the couple had limited funds during a hearing that resulted in her husband being released on $150,000 bond.

Shellie Zimmerman, 25, was released on $1,000 bond. George Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the teen’s slaying and had been out on the bond after the April 20 hearing. However, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester on June 1 revoked the bond and ordered Zimmerman returned to the Seminole County Jail. Lester in a strongly worded ruling said the Zimmermans lied about how much money they had.

George Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara has said the couple was confused and fearful when they misled court officials about how much money they had. A call and email to him on Tuesday weren’t immediately returned.

Records show Shellie Zimmerman in the days before the hearing transferred $74,000 in eight smaller amounts ranging from $7,500 to $9,990, from her husband’s credit union account to hers, according to an arrest affidavit. It also shows that $47,000 was transferred from George Zimmerman’s account to his sister’s in the days before the bond hearing.

Four days after he was released on bond, Shellie Zimmerman transferred more than $85,500 from her account into her husband’s account, the affidavit said. The affidavit also said that jail call records show that George Zimmerman instructed her to "pay off all the bills," including an American Express and Sam’s Club card.

A state attorney investigator met with credit union officials and learned that she had transfer control of her husband’s account.

Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said cash transactions in excess of $10,000 usually trigger a reporting requirement by the bank to multiple government agencies — including the IRS.

"If Mrs. Zimmerman intentionally structured the financial transactions in a manner to keep the offense under $10,000, not only may she have committed perjury in the state case, but she also may have run afoul of several federal statutes and could face serious federal criminal charges," Neiman wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bandwagon fads in teaching

Bandwagon fads in teaching
Washington Post
June 9, 2012

Personal opinion by Joan Reinthaler, Washington:

Educational theories go in and out of style with some regularity. Open classrooms were all the rage for a time, and some years later schools found themselves repartitioning those noisy spaces.

Diane Ravitch, a respected educational policy advocate, reversed her own thinking about the No Child Left Behind law. We’ve been through the wars of phonics vs. whole word in teaching reading and constructivism vs. direct instruction in teaching math.

I read about Fairfax County’s effort to fire teacher Violet Nichols [“Determining if teachers make the grade,” front page, June 4] for not jumping on a particular bandwagon, while that same day’s Education page in the Metro section [“The flip side of classroom learning”] featured a teacher who has decided to “flip” her calculus class (a current vogue in which students learn lessons at home and do homework in class) — the impression being that if everyone did this, they might teach better.

I have no idea whether Ms. Nichols is a good teacher or not, and I assume that flipping is working for the Bullis School, covered in the Metro story. But for an administrator or a school system (or the press) to judge a teacher on whether she latches onto some favored bandwagon is to ignore the most important aspects of effective teaching: the individual and her art. Using such a sledgehammer approach may make judgments easier to defend, but it is inimical to good education.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Florida High School Student, Barred From School Bus After Reporting Bullying Of Special Needs Student

Stormy Rich, Florida High School Student, Barred From School Bus After Reporting Bullying Of Special Needs Student

Stormy Rich, an 18-year-old Florida student, says she was punished after reporting bullying of a special needs student on a school bus, and standing up to those bullies when the school didn't take action.

Rich, an Umatilla High School student, was riding on a middle school bus because she had earned enough credits to avoid a first-period class, getting to school later by taking the bus for the neighboring middle school, the Daily Commercial reports.

But one girl on the bus -- a special needs student -- was regularly being picked on by her peers, but couldn't comprehend what was being done to her.

"Just because she doesn't understand doesn't mean that should be happening to her," Rich told WOFL-TV.

She adds that the peer bullies would tell the girl that she couldn't sit in certain seats on the bus and would force food in her mouth.

"I actually had to tell her to spit it out because she didn't understand," Rich said.

The teen, fed up with their behavior, complained to the bus driver -- but nothing changed. She then complained to a high school official, who told her he would contact the middle school, but like before, the bullying continued.

So Rich decided to take the matter into her own hands by telling the bullies to stop aggravating the girl. The harassment stopped for a little while, but then the bullying students began threatening her, despite her regular complaints to school officials.

In response, the district revoked Rich's bus-riding privileges, saying Rich exhibited bully behavior.

"[The district official] said what I did made me the bully, with me telling the kids that if they didn't stop, and if the school didn't do anything, that I would have to handle it," Rich told the Daily Commercial. "To me, it was just going too far."

District officials are standing behind its response, telling WOFL-TV that two wrongs don't make a right. Rich says she's being punished for adhering to school policy, which calls on students to report any bullying they witness.

Lake County Schools communications officer Christopher Patton told the Daily Commercial that he cannot discuss the bullying complaints or student discipline, adding that this is just "one side of the story. …There are other parents that are involved in this."

Rich's story echoes a number of controversial school decisions made with respect to bullying. In March, Georgia student Essance McDougald said she was suspended for not reporting to Lithonia High School officials that she was being bullied.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

America's Worst Educators

America’s worst colleges
How badly are for-profit schools serving young people? Corinthian Colleges embodies the industry's worst trends
JUN 5, 2012

In the fall of 2010, three former students at Everest College, a for-profit career school in Salt Lake City, sued their school’s parent company, Corinthian Colleges...

A 13-page affidavit filed in the case by a former admissions officer, Shayler White, described a high-pressure recruitment process in which prospective students were barraged by phone calls multiple times a day and hustled through financial aid paperwork. With his employment contingent on meeting a strict enrollment quota, White made as many as 600 calls a month, and was, he said, instructed by his superiors to use bullying psychological tactics, to ask questions “designed at putting down the prospective student” and “making them feel hopeless.”

“The ultimate goal was to essentially make them wallow in their grief, feel that pain of having accomplished nothing in life, and then use that pain as their ‘reasons’ to compel the leads to schedule an in-person meeting with an Everest admissions representative.” ...Kent Jenkins, Corinthian’s current vice president for public affairs, deflected a question asking if White’s account accurately represented Corinthian’s recruitment process by noting that there has been no final disposition of the Utah suit. “There have been absolutely no court rulings that support any allegations” in the affidavit, he wrote in an email...

But generally speaking, there’s little question that an obsessive focus on constantly boosting enrollment is crucial to survival in the for-profit college world. Sky-high withdrawal rates plague the industry. It’s not uncommon for the biggest for-profits to enroll as many new students during the course of a single year as originally signed up for classes at the beginning of the year, a phenomenon referred to as “enrollment churn.” For example, Corinthian had 71,246 students in July 2008, enrolled 120,638 new students during the following year, but ended up with only 89,479 by June 30, 2009. Recruiting all those new bodies costs a lot of money. In 2009, Corinthian spent almost a quarter of its $1.3 billion in revenues on advertising and recruitment.

“They are, by and large, a marketing operation,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a speech on the Senate floor last September. “Bring the students in, sign them up, bring in the federal dollars; bring in more students, sign them up, bring in more federal dollars.”

Corinthian Colleges, in that respect, is no different from any other career school. But in an industry where bottom-line considerations often trump devotion to educational achievement, Corinthian invites scrutiny. Over the course of its 17-year history, the company has attracted numerous lawsuits. Corinthian schools have recorded some of the highest default rates on student loans in the country, a worrisome fact for a company that derives nearly 90 percent of its revenues from government loans and grants. If you want to understand why the Obama administration has been so steadfast in its efforts to crack down on the for-profit industry, Corinthian is as good a place as any to start.

Founded in Irvine, Calif., in 1995 by five veterans of the vocational school business, Corinthian’s strategy from the beginning was to purchase already existing schools and aggressively boost enrollment. The business plan was simple: grow, grow, grow....

Corinthian generates almost as much bad press as profit.

In 2004 former students filed three separate lawsuits in Florida alleging credit transfer fraud, claiming that Corinthian misled students as to whether their credits would be accepted by other educational institutions.

In 2005, Corinthian paid the Department of Education $776,241 for violations of student aid procedures at California’s Bryman College.

In 2007, reported the O.C. Register, Corinthian paid the state of California $6.5 million to settle charges of false advertising relating to allegedly overstating “the percentage of its students who obtained employment via its courses.”

Just three weeks ago, Corinthian revealed in a regulatory filing that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating the company to “determine whether for-profit postsecondary companies, student loan origination and servicing providers, or other unnamed persons, have engaged or are engaging in unlawful acts or practices relating to the advertising, marketing or origination of private student loans.”

But perhaps the most embarrassing twist in Corinthian’s recent history came earlier this year in California. In 2012, a new state law came into effect that denied colleges access to the state’s Cal Grants financial aid program if the three-year student loan default rate at an institution exceeded 24.6 percent. Of the state’s 165 for-profit schools, 67 failed the test. Eighteen of those 67 schools are owned by Corinthian. In fact, some of Corinthian’s schools exhibited default rates of over 40 percent. None of California’s public schools failed.

...The high costs, withdrawal and student loan default rates all help explain why the Obama administration pushed last year to institute new “gainful employment” rules that would require for-profit schools to prove that acceptable percentages of their graduates were paying down their debt after graduation. However, even those rules were extremely watered down, say higher education watchers, after extraordinary lobbying efforts from the for-profit sector, including Corinthian Colleges.

That’s right: Corinthian spent money generated from taxpayer-funded student loans to pay for lobbying efforts aimed to weaken rules designed to ensure that students get a good education and taxpayers get their money’s worth. If that doesn’t send you screaming to your nearest publicly funded community college, nothing will.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Camille Zombro Lashes Out at Her Successor

Voice of San Diego has provided an insightful analysis of former SDEA President Camille Zombro's open letter to teachers in San Diego Unified School District attacking current SDEA President Bill Freeman.

See all Camille Zombro posts.

'Our Union May Be on the Verge of Accepting Deep … Cuts'
May 14, 2012
By Will Carless
Voice of San Diego

...2. Zombro Lashes Out at Her Successor [as President of SDEA]

When my presidency ended in 2010, I proudly passed the torch to Bill Freeman, a site Association Rep. who told all of us he believed in (and campaigned on) our model of strong, member-driven unionism. Unfortunately, it is increasingly obvious that Bill is no longer committed to that vision. Rather than lead an aggressive fight to hold the School Board accountable for their unnecessary layoffs, he is now taking dramatic and abrupt steps to systematically dismantle the very foundation of the powerful union we have built: our democracy, our transparent communication with membership, and our tough stance in defending our jobs and our contract.

The SDEA became increasingly hard-line and isolated throughout the tenure of Zombro and her ally, Leedham. Apart from some subtle hints at reconciliation with the district, however, Freeman hasn’t offered much to suggest publicly that there is the sort of rift at the SDEA that Zombro is alleging. He has appeared in public with Zombro and has continued to say at board meetings that concessions are not the answer to the district’s problems.

3. There’s a ‘Tug-of-War’ Going on at the Union

Zombro writes:

Those of us inside the SDEA building have seen this coming for some time, resulting in a tug-of-war within the office over the fundamental direction of our union. On one side of SDEA’s tug-of-war have been Craig and I and thousands of you, fighting to keep SDEA’s contract closed while saving our valuable coworkers’ jobs. On the other side are Bill, a portion of the SDEA Board and a portion of the SDEA staff who want to “collaborate” with the District, possibly open the contract, resulting in significant salary and benefit concessions in the hopes that the District will reduce layoffs.

Again, this is fascinating because it gives some insight into the decision-making going on within the union. The organization, which has prided itself on presenting a united front in the face of recent financial storms, is clearly wrestling with the latest round of bad news, according to Zombro’s account.

We’ve seen signs before that there is division within the union’s membership. Earlier this year, two teachers sent us an open letter calling for the SDEA to change its firm position against concessions.

This is the first public recognition that those divisions go all the way up to the top of the union.

4. Zombro Claims She and Leedham Have Been ‘Purged’ From the Union

She writes:

Unfortunately I am writing to you today because our democracy — the open and sometimes raucous debate that defines us — is being threatened as current SDEA leadership shifts the direction of our union while actively working to discredit those who are speaking up against these actions.

Further: The stark reality is that Bill is driving out the opposition — me, Craig, and anyone else who pushes back. Bill has led the SDEA Board to demand Craig’s resignation after two months of unexplained paid administrative leave, and threw me out of the meeting where the decision was debated. Despite a permanent, legally binding contract (much like the one you and I enjoy), and a perfect performance record, Craig is being forced out with no just cause or progressive discipline, no chance to tell his side of the story, and without ever even being told what, if anything, he had been accused of. That should horrify anyone who believes their contract protects their employment status.

For the last two months, I have also experienced a level of personal harassment and villification that I won’t detail, but that no worker deserves to experience in the workplace or in her union.

To recap: Zombro was voted out of office earlier this year in the union’s elections. Leedham was placed on administrative leave, and the union has been extremely tight-lipped about what, exactly, they claim he has done to warrant his removal.

I’ll be pushing the union for more details on Leedham’s ouster in the coming days, in the light of these accusations from Zombro.

5. A Pressure Group Has Been Formed to Push the SDEA in a Certain Direction

Zombro writes:

So how do we get through this with our union intact? We step up our involvement and we stay involved. I sent this email to just about every teacher in the District I personally know. I know a lot of people… and so do you! Forward this email, tell them to forward it, and follow up with conversations because, as I always say, a flier or an email are only as good as the conversations that go with them.

Link arms with other SDEA members — don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do! In just one example, a group of teachers from several schools across SDUSD have formed the “Breakfast Club” (which SDEA leadership will likely discredit as a “splinter group” or a “divisive force”). They are a passionate and articulate pocket of SDEA members who are working together to push back against layoffs AND concessions — the core of the SDEA agenda — and I will be proud to start getting involved with their efforts as they grow.

So, Zombro appears to be calling on her union brothers and sisters to step away from the SDEA and join this new group that she may be willing to lead...

[Zombro’s replacement [as vice-president of SDEA], Lindsay Burningham, has also made clear that she hopes to work more closely in union with the district.]