Saturday, August 31, 2013

How Fagen Friedman Fulfrost managed to lose its contract with Carlsbad Unified: both Democrats and Republicans are disgusted


On September 11, 2013 the Carlsbad Unified School District canceled its contract for legal services from Fagen, Friendman and Fulfrost. I am amazed that there were negative repercussions for unethical behavior by school attorneys (see original post below). I thought school attorneys could act with impunity in every case.

Let's hope that the law firm that gets the work will understand that the Association of School Boards and Council of School Attorneys won't always be able to protect them, and that the public is starting to get wise to what is going on behind the scenes.

ORIGINAL POST: Whose side am I on? Fagen Friedman Fulfrost or Carlsbad Unified School District candidate Sage Naumann? Neither!

See all posts about Kelli Moors and Fagen Friedman Fulfrost.

Sage Naumann, 18, listens to CUSD Board member Kelli Moors condemn his negative campaign tactics at the Aug. 14 meeting. Naumann has been critical of current board members since he began his campaign in January 2013 for election to the CUSD Board...
Photo by Rachel Stine CUSD to appoint new board member Coast News Aug 15, 2013

[Irony alert: Kelli Moors voted for a school district contract with Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost law firm, then 12 days later went to work for the firm. She apparently wants citizens to leave the negative tactics to the lawyers. Efforts to silence complaints by the public have also been going on at Sweetwater Union High School District, where lawyer Dan Shinoff lectured members of the public on civility and wrote a threatening letter to a member of the bond committee.]

Fagen Friedman Fulfrost (FFF) law firm founder Howard Fulfrost,
member of the School Attorney Advisory Board

Mr. Fulfrost, partner in Carlsbad Unified's law firm Fagen Friedman Fulfrost, is famously loyal to school officials. So loyal, in fact, that a federal judge has accused his former firm of lying and obstruction. This is a big deal to me (Maura Larkins), and I've provided some information about FFF below that has not been mentioned by the media during the current brouhaha--though it should have been.

Nevertheless, I believe that some things are more urgent than the sisyphean task of finding an ethical firm of school attorneys for Carlsbad Unified.

Although I am similar to Sage Naumann in that I demand accountability from school board members, right now I'd like to set aside the issue of corruption in schools and talk about something more important: teaching and learning!

Sage Naumann is right that school districts are corrupt.

But so is almost every other institution in the city, the state, and the world. Most human beings are greedy and shortsighted, and they abuse power when they get it. And it is true that corruption tends to lower the average quality of teachers and administrators since personnel decisions are so deeply influenced by politics. But good teachers and good ideas are struggling to be heard, and we need to listen. We can't stop everything to try to eliminate a problem that has existed as long as human beings have existed.

Mr. Naumann is wrong on the most important current issue: implementing Common Core standards in classrooms.

Once in a while people actually work for the common good, and Common Core is the product of one such effort. The designers worked hard because they want students to understand their world and know how to navigate it.

Our education system is a failure, and it's not just the fault of kids and families. Most teachers are mediocre, and many are downright bad. Few of them have received adequate training, not to mention a real education. Common Core is a system that helps teachers do a better job.

The main idea of Common Core is that instead of rapidly introducing a long series of facts, American teachers will imitate successful schools in successful countries, and deeply explore a smaller number of ideas. Quick learners can learn how to fully analyze information, and slower learners will have a chance to really learn something, instead of being lost most of the time.

And big money is being offered to help teachers do this.

I oppose Sage Naumann for one reason: he opposes Common Core. But he's right about all that other stuff.


Carlsbad Unified claims that it hired Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost immediately after the law firm was formed (by Howard Fulfrost and other lawyers who were sanctioned by a federal judge for lying in the Moser case when working for Lozano Smith). Soon after that ruling, Lozano Smith shut down its special education section. Basically, FFF is Lozano Smith under a new name. And Carlsbad Unified is using this to defend themselves? Just how smart are these people?

CUSD Board President Elisa Williamson

CUSD Board President Releases Statement on Law Firm Contract
Posted by Deanne Goodman (Editor)
August 26, 2013

The following is written by Elisa Williamson [and was also posted on the district's website]:

We are aware that concerns have been raised regarding the relationship between the school district and the law firm of Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost in light of that firm's hiring of Trustee Kelli Moors. Although the Board is not privy to the details surrounding the timing of Ms. Moors' discussions with the firm, in an abundance of caution, the contract that was voted on at our July 24 meeting will be brought back for a re-vote at our meeting on September 11. Re-voting on the contract renewal after Trustee Moor's departure will obviate any questions about the validity of the Board's ultimate vote under the law.

The school district has utilized the services of Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost since the firm was founded in 2006. The bulk of expenditures over the past seven years have been for legal services related to Special Education and Personnel matters. Prior to 2006, the partners in Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost provided legal assistance to CUSD while working for another firm.

[Maura Larkins comment: The firm that Ms. Williamson is referring to without naming it--for good reason!--is Lozano Smith. Carlsbad Unified chose to hire a law firm whose previous incarnation used lying and obstruction to deprive a special education student of an appropriate education. See following article.

Melanie Petersen of FFF

Ms. Williamson also says that "partners in Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost provided legal assistance to CUSD while working for another firm." I think she may be talking about Melanie Petersen.]

Despite the district's long-standing relationship with the firm, on August 7th I informed the Superintendent that, at the September 11, 2013 Board meeting, I will be recommending that the District limit its use of the services of Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost to only those areas that staff deems critical to the District.

Elisa Williamson, President
Board of Trustees


Attorney Elaine Yama, sanctioned along with Howard Fulfrost for lying and obstruction when they were at Lozano Smith

Article about Moser v. Bret Harte High School District on the Parent Advocates website:

California Federal Judge Sanctions Law Firm For Lying in a Special Education Case
Fresno law firm Lozano Smith billed the school district $500,000 for a case that could have been settled years ago for $8,000. How this makes sense is beyond us. Betsy Combier

Lying, obstruction cited in sanctions for law firm
Fresno's Lozano Smith, attorney ordered to train in ethics
By Erin Kennedy
The Fresno Bee
January 18, 2005

Fresno law firm Lozano Smith and its attorney Elaine Yama have been sanctioned by a federal judge for lying, misrepresenting law and facts, and intentionally dragging out a case involving a school district and a special education student.

U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger fined the law firm, Yama and Bret Harte Union High School District in Calaveras County $5,000 each. He also ordered Yama to take 20 hours of ethics courses and Lozano Smith to conduct ethics training for all of its attorneys and shareholders...[Click HERE to see the whole article.]


So, whom do you think the California School Boards Association (CSBA) chose for its legal team? You guessed it--Elaine Yama.

And who trained Board President Elisa Williamson AND trustee Kelli Moors? Right again--CSBA. It gave them each a "Masters in Governance".

So who actually runs the district--the lawyers or the officials? It's hard to unscramble the egg, isn't it? But here's a clue: school board members come and go, but the lawyers remain the same.

The thing I can't understand is why Carlsbad Unified and Elisa Williamson thought nobody was going to find out the backstory about FFF after the Kelli Moors story broke. But there's another backstory I'd like to learn about. What did the board member who abstained from voting on the FFF contract know about FFF? Very likely she knew more than I know.

Elaine Yama-Garcia joins CSBA legal team
April 30, 2012

CSBA’s new associate general counsel is Elaine Yama-Garcia, a mid-career professional with more than 15 years experience practicing law in the areas of education, special education, and labor and employment. Along with General Counsel Keith Bray, she will manage the Education Legal Alliance and respond to corporate legal issues for CSBA and its affiliates.

Yama-Garcia has practiced with the Law Offices of Bennett & Sharpe in the Central Valley, where she represented clients in the areas of labor and employment and special education law. Before that, she worked for the law firm of Lozano Smith in Fresno, specializing in education law, and until recently she managed her own law firm representing school districts and county offices of education.

She earned her law degree from the San Joaquin College of Law in Fresno.

Born and raised in Fresno, Yama-Garcia is married and has an adult married son, a step-son attending college in Costa Rica, and a teenage step-daughter.

“I am thrilled to be part of CSBA’s legal team,” said Yama-Garcia. “I look forward to the many exciting and positive changes we can make to benefit school districts and county offices of education in the state.”

[Maura Larkins comment: I'll give credit to Ms. Yama for one thing. At least she doesn't claim to be trying to benefit students.]

Richard Riehl

Politics Enters Carlsbad School Board Race

Richard J. Riehl
San Diego Reader
August 10, 2013

In the 2008 election I voted for 19-year-old Evan Delaney Rodgers for the Carlsbad City Council. I was sad to see her lose because of the youthful energy and positive attitude she would have brought to that gang of mostly good old boys.

After Kelli Moors announced her retirement from the Carlsbad School Board a few days ago, 18-year-old Sage Naumann declared he's more than eager to take her place. But unless you favor contentiousness and political grandstanding, Naumann has already revealed he wouldn't be the right choice.

Unlike Rodgers' city council campaign, filled with dozens of practical suggestions for improving the city's quality of life, Naumann has begun by smearing two highly respected school district retirees, former Superintendent John Roach and board member Moors. Here's what he posted on his Facebook page:

"Is it just me, or does it seem suspicious that both our Superintendent and a board member have jumped ship to take jobs with a law firm that taxpayers are actively paying for? That’s why I am emailing you. Should I assembly (sic) my team to begin looking deeper, or does this just seem like a harmless coincidence? I’m eager to hear your response."

He urged his followers to reply to "Our mailing address: Sage Naumann for Carlsbad School Board 2014, 2307 Fenton Parkway, Suite 107-114, San Diego, CA 92108.

To paraphrase the young candidate, is it just me, or does it seem suspicious that a candidate for the Carlsbad School Board has a campaign headquarters address next door to Qualcomm Stadium? Email your response to

The law firm to which Naumann refers is Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, which contracts with the school district for legal advice and hired Roach and Moors as consultants after they left their positions with the district. In the style of Congressman Darrell Issa's discredited witch hunt of the IRS, Naumann makes no accusations, since he has nary a shred of evidence of legal or ethical misbehavior. He simply rallies his supporters with the implication of corruption. Those of us of a certain age remember how effectively Joe McCarthy used that technique.

Naumann's outrage that "taxpayers are actively paying for" the services of a law firm reveals both his naiveté and misuse of an adverb for exaggeration. Would he be less offended if taxpayers paid the law firm inactively?

[Maura Larkins' comment: Defenders of CUSD might want to be careful when criticizing the critical-thinking and writing skills of a recent graduate of Carlsbad High School. It's sort of a two-edged sword. And the phrase "actively paying" sounds perfectly fine to me. It conjures an image of money flowing. I call that good writing.]

The word "irresponsible" comes to mind when characterizing Naumann's character attacks on Roach and Moors. The words "empty promises" best describes his "Back to Basics" campaign theme. In a breathtaking leap of logic, he promises in one paragraph to "do everything I can to question purchases, staff and faculty additions, and other funding that seems unnecessary," to stop the "reckless spending," and to "be a taxpayer's "watchdog." In the next he promises to "keep class sizes small, " "materials available" and "teachers stress-free and able to concentrate on their students, " while "no longer will we look to slashing department budgets to fill shortfalls."

Naumann ignores the district's most pressing challenge: putting in place a plan to implement the Common Core of expected learning outcomes. But we have a glimpse of what he feels about it.

In a Guest Commentary in the conservative blog San Diego Rostra, "Putting the Carlsbad School District Back on Track," Naumann assures a reader: "I have already pledged my support against CCSS, and I will continue my advocacy against it throughout my campaign and if I am elected."

At its July 24 meeting the school board learned CUSD will received approximately $2.1 million in state funds to implement the Common Core during 2013-2015. Judging from his vow to be the taxpayer's watchdog, it sounds as if Naumann will do what he can to turn down the funding. So much for his promise to "Keep cuts away from the classroom."

Naumann's platform calls for making connections with the community. A look at a list of his supporters tells us much about the connections he's already made and what Carlsbadians can look forward to from the influence of his network of colleagues.

Topping the list is Carl DeMaio, former member of the San Diego City Council. He's followed by city council members from Vista, Encinitas and Imperial Beach (none from Carlsbad thus far), School Board members from La Mesa/Spring Valley, Encinitas and Dehesa (none from Carlsbad).

The Vice Chair of the California Republican Party heads a list of 10 San Diego GOP Central Committee members, including Sherry Hodges, whose campaign Naumann staffed.

The list of those with titles ended with the president of the Oceanside Rotary Club and the former president of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. Curiously missing from the entire list were Carlsbad officials.

See a pattern here? If you liked the vicious tactics of the failed Sherry Hodges campaign and don't mind having a political operative with an agenda joining a non-partisan school board with a history of civility, than Naumann's your guy.

And that would be a sad day for Carlsbad schools.

Richard J. Riehl writes from La Costa.

Kelli Moors, who started the current scandal
when she voted on a contract for FFF,
then 12 days later left CUSD to work for FFF


Friday, November 30 [2012]- CSBA [California School Boards Association] Annual Education Conference
Exhibitor Table Talks
Boards, the Brown Act and Cyberspace

As education leaders turn to social media for timely communication, well-intentioned board members can find themselves in violation of the Brown Act when cyber communication conveys information coming up for vote. If used improperly, social media starts the slippery slope into online serial meetings, resulting in costly, embarrassing legal consequences, and can be subject to public records requests. Attend this workshop to learn how to avoid social media pitfalls in your governance capacity.

--Kelli Moors, Board Member, Carlsbad USD; Christopher Keeler and Namita Brown, Partners, Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP

See all posts about Kelli Moors and Fagen Friedman Fulfrost.

Here are some links to FFF cases:

Palo Alto, FFF and the Office of Civil Rights regarding bullying

FFF loses against teacher Pamela Lukkarila in Jurupa School District:

FFF loses against teacher Ermine Nelson in Jurupa School District

FFF wins against student and parent in Carlsbad School District:

School investigation in Claremont USD a waste of taxpayer money?


Friday, August 30, 2013

Mom's celebratory back-to-school dance goes viral

Click the following link to see the video:
Mom's celebratory back-to-school dance goes viral (VIDEO)
A. Pawlowski
TODAY contributor
August 30, 2013

When kids go back to school, some moms weep, others just bust a move.

Meet Tracy Moutafis, a firm believer in the second approach. The Framingham, Mass., mom has become known for her celebratory dance moves performed right outside her house as her two sons board the school bus and head back to class after the summer.

She’s been dancing with joy on the first day of school for five years now, videotaping her routines set to carefully-selected tunes and becoming something of a YouTube star in the process.

This year’s edition, titled “Mommy's happy dance 2013,” features Moutafis dancing to *NSYNC’s hit, “Bye Bye Bye.”...

Not a Single Liberian Student Passed This Year's University Admission Test

There are obviously a lot of changes to be made, but to start with, the university should admit the highest scorers, and give them remedial instruction. The fact that they didn't learn English shouldn't disqualify them. Doesn't the University know how to teach English?

Not a Single Liberian Student Passed This Year's University Admission Test
28 August 2013
Written by Ndesanjo Macha
Global Voices

As Liberia marks the 10th anniversary of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the 14-year civil war, nearly 25,000 school-leavers failed this year's admission test to the University of Liberia. It is the first time that not a single candidate passed the admission test.

Liberia's president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel peace laureate, acknowledges that the education system in Liberia is “in a mess”. Public Domain photo from the US State Department.

The BBC has reported that Liberia's Education Minister Education Minister, Etmonia David-Tarpeh, found it hard to believe that not a single candidate passed. She therefore intends to meet university officials to discuss the matter. She describes the failure rate as “mass murder.”

However, a private consultant, James Dorbor Jallah, who was hired by the university to manage the entrance examination confirmed the report and said the days are over when students were admitted into the University of Liberia through bribery or based on how many important people they know.

The world has reacted on Twitter with shock and disbelief at the news.

This is how Kenyan Harvard Kennedy School Professor Calestous Juma (@calestous) described the news:

King Leopold II of Belgium was the sole and de facto owner of the Congo Free State, the present day the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 1885 to 1908.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Here's a plan to resolve the violent teacher standoff at the Zocalo in Mexico City

I agree with the indigenous teachers from the poverty-stricken south of Mexico that they should not be systematically replaced with richer, whiter native-Spanish-speakers who received better educations, nor should they be replaced for political reasons.

My plan for effectively utilizing all teachers, originally designed for the US, would be perfect for Mexico. See bottom of this post.

Reforma Avenue, Mexico City, Aug. 22, 2013 Photo by Marco Ugarte/AP

In Mexico, teachers fight tooth and nail against reforms familiar to those north of the border
Members of the National Workers of Education Coordinator (CNTE, for its initials in Spanish) protest violently against the educational reforms in the street across from Congress...
By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post
August 28, 2013

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government is trying to overhaul the nation’s public schools in a way that might ring familiar in the United States: changing how teachers are hired, fired and evaluated.

But if American teachers unions were resistant to the idea, some in Mexico are openly hostile.

Hundreds of ski-mask-wearing, rock-throwing, stick-wielding teachers have smashed windows and set fire to the offices of the major political party in the southern state of Guerrero, and thousands are flooding Mexico City, blocking national TV networks, subway lines and, on Wednesday, swarming the roads around Los Pinos, the official residence of the president.

In what has become a fairly common event here, at least 8,000 teachers have set up camp under a sea of nylon tents in Mexico City’s central Zocalo square, where Gumaro Cruz Lopez, an elementary school director from the southern state of Oaxaca, explained his fear that the changes will turn kids into globalized robots at the expense of indigenous culture, free thought and possibly homemade tacos.

“They want to create one prototype of individual for the sole service of the global socioeconomic system,” said Lopez, 51. “They say private companies like Coke, Pepsi and Bimbo” — one of the world’s largest baking companies —“can help to better our schools, but soon they’ll start bringing all their sodas and snacks and all the little pastries of Bimbo!”

The angry invoking of trans­national soda and snack-food companies has to do with the fact that Coca-Cola has built model schools in Mexico, as corporate giants such as Microsoft have gotten involved in U.S. education reform. Union leaders have turned that into a symbol for their fear that some distant authority will soon be telling them how and what to teach.

Political analysts say the fierce resistance also has to do with the fact that the changes directly challenge long-standing union power over jobs.

The overhaul that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is pursuing keeps with ideas championed in recent years by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and others who argue that raising teacher standards is the key to fixing failing schools.

In February, Peña Nieto signed into law the framework for his plan, which would shift the power to hire, fire and evaluate teachers to the federal government and away from Mexico’s main teachers union, which has been accused of rampant corruption and presiding over a system of awarding jobs in ways that have little to do with merit.

A new system of periodic teacher evaluations is intended to identify incompetent teachers, reward good ones and set professional standards, with the hope that Mexican students will become more globally competitive.

“In principle, the reforms have a positive spirit,” said Miguel Szekely, director of the Institute for Education Innovation. “They are going in the right direction, but implementing them will take time.”

Additional legislation is required to spell out how the system will work. And that is what the massive teacher protests here have stalled, along with traffic.

The emphasis on union corruption — almost universally acknowledged as a huge problem — has to some extent obscured other concerns of the teachers who traveled to Mexico City from some of the poorest states in the southern part of the country. The union that holds sway there is not the one directly targeted by the new education law, but a smaller one that controls jobs and state education budgets and is among the most radical in Mexico.

Rosalia Alonzo, a director of an elementary school in Oaxaca, said any new measures should recognize the disparities between the poorest schools of the south and wealthier ones elsewhere.

“A lot of schools don’t have power or technology, or even books,” she said. “The people who come up with these reforms, their kids go to Harvard. They don’t know what it’s like for us.”

Pilar Palma, a teacher at the protest, said she suspects that evaluations will be used unfairly. “I agree I should be evaluated,” she said. “But give me the tools and the ways to get better.”

Lopez, the elementary school director, noted that many students and teachers in his area speak native languages in addition to Spanish. He worries that such particularities will be obliterated by standards handed down from Mexico City.

“Those languages are close to our own customs, to our own environment,” Lopez said. “They want to make our children useful as labor for the future of the private sector — to teach them only to work and obey and not to reflect, not to liberate their minds.”

It was early afternoon Tuesday, and thousands of teachers were heading from the plaza to protest a national TV network they said has been unfairly describing them as a nuisance. The station broadcast interviews with Mexico City residents fed up with the road blockages, people who described the teachers as “dirty” and “those Indians,” a reference to their native background. “We are going to block Televisa!” Lopez said, undeterred. “We will be here until the authorities answer us.” (END)

Romualdo Gutierrez, Oaxaca

Maura Larkin's Plan--A great teacher for every child without firing anyone

This research indicates that the average teacher salary in Mexico is $20,000. I imagine the number is significantly lower in southern Mexico, but this figure will serve to demonstrate my point. My plan (see Idea Tournament article below) would offer a pathway to much higher earnings for many teachers--and students!--while allowing weaker teachers to keep their jobs and have an opportunity to become master teachers.

Here's what the chart in the article below would look like for four classrooms and one extra salary (in thousands) in Mexico:

Currently: $20 + $20 + $20 + $20 + $20 = $100

New plan: $32 + $17 + $17 + $17 + $17 = $100 (minus exorbitant cost of education vendors)

All Kids Can Have Great Teachers (Without Firing Any Teachers)
By: Maura Larkins
Voice of San Diego
September 7, 2012

No one really knows what’s going on in individual public school classrooms. Observations by principals tend to be fleeting and few. We don’t need to fire anybody, but we do need to use highly-skilled teachers and ordinary teachers where they can do the optimal good.

The truth is that the critical moments in learning don’t happen continuously five hours a day. They add up to at most a couple of hours each day, and probably much less. The rest of the time an ordinary teacher can handle lesson reinforcement, computer activities, art projects, silent reading, etc.

The best teachers should be able to rise far above average teachers on the salary scale — and they should have far more responsibility. In my plan, each classroom would have a full-time regular teacher. Several classrooms would share a master teacher, who would be responsible for student progress, teaching lessons part-time and guiding the regular teacher. Gifted regular teachers would be eligible to become master teachers. Instead of bringing in vendors selling the latest gimmick for tens of thousands of dollars, master teachers would do all necessary training.

Here’s the comparison for four classrooms and one extra salary (in thousands):

Currently: $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 = $300

New plan: $100 + $50 + $50 + $50 + $50 = $300 (minus exorbitant cost of education vendors)

If we add more money, we could have more master teachers. Meaningful evaluations of teachers would have to be instituted. Current evaluation systems are worse than useless. My plan would call for frequent observations by both master and regular teachers, who would observe classrooms in other districts to keep school politics at bay. The observations would have a beneficial side effect: they would allow teachers to pick up new ideas.

See more of my plan in the yellow column on the right of this page.

Profesores se manifestaron este viernes afuera de la Secretaría de Gobernación en protesta por las leyes secundarias de la reforma educativa (Cuartoscuro).

El diálogo entre legisladores y docentes de la CNTE, en un punto crítico
Las negociaciones estuvieron cerca de romperse debido a que el PRI señaló que la evaluación docente podría votarse la próxima semana
Por Mauricio Torres
CNN Mexico
30 de agosto de 2013

El encuentro de este viernes entre legisladores y docentes terminó sin avances
Los líderes de la CNTE se molestaron por declaraciones del coordinador de los diputados priistas
Beltrones dijo que es posible que se vote la Ley del Servicio Profesional Docente el martes
Los legisladores y los docentes se reunirán de nuevo este sábado

"A nosotros nos parece altamente preocupante que por un lado tengamos esta mesa acá, que se hablé de diálogo, y por la otra, en otro carril, estén declarando en la Junta de Coordinación Política de la Cámara de Diputados que a más tardar el próximo martes se presentará la Ley del Servicio Profesional Docente. Este nos parece que es un doble juego."
--Francisco Bravo, líder de la Sección 9 de la CNTE

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO (CNNMéxico) — El diálogo entre legisladores y la Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) estuvo cerca de romperse, debido a la molestia de los docentes por los señalamientos del Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) en el sentido de que la ley que contempla la evaluación magisterial podría votarse en los próximos días.

El encuentro de este viernes —el cuarto de la semana— entró en receso cuando tenía una hora de haber comenzado, luego de que los líderes de la CNTE expresaran su molestia por las declaraciones del coordinador de los diputados priistas, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, que por la mañana dijo que es posible votar la iniciativa de Ley del Servicio Profesional Docente el martes, aun cuando la CNTE pide suspender el proceso.

Los dirigentes dejaron la reunión privada para analizar si se mantendrían en las negociaciones o no, informó la diputada Nelly Vargas, del partido de izquierda Movimiento Ciudadano, que en las mesas ha exigido atender las propuestas de la CNTE.

"Los compañeros de la CNTE están declarando un receso en la mesa bicameral que tenemos montada. (...) La percepción que tenemos es que a los compañeros los están engañando", dijo Vargas a medios.

Alrededor de 30 minutos después, los líderes de la CNTE volvieron al encuentro argumentando que seguían con "disposición" a dialogar y plantear sus demandas. Más tarde, al término de la reunión, informaron que sus exigencias inmediatas son que los legisladores garanticen que la iniciativa de ley no se votará próximamente y que sus planteamientos en la materia serán escuchados.

La respuesta a esos puntos tendrá que producirse en el encuentro programado para las 16:00 horas (local) de este sábado, según los dirigentes Rubén Nuñez, de la Sección 22 (Oaxaca); Juan José Ortega, de la 18 (Michoacán), y Francisco Bravo, de la 9 (Distrito Federal).

"El gran desencuentro, el problema que hoy se planteó fue el carácter de la mesa. A nosotros nos parece altamente preocupante que por un lado tengamos esta mesa acá, que se hablé de diálogo, y por la otra, en otro carril, estén declarando en la Junta de Coordinación Política de la Cámara de Diputados que a más tardar el próximo martes se presentará la Ley del Servicio Profesional Docente. Este nos parece que es un doble juego", dijo Bravo a medios.

En otro encuentro con la prensa, los diputados priistas que acudieron a la reunión señalaron que ellos no pueden tomar esa decisión y que plantearán la solicitud a los líderes parlamentarios de la Cámara baja.

"No hay en este momento un día señalado. Lo que sí queda claro es que tenemos una gran comunicación, acuerdos entre las principales fuerzas políticas (...) de que es necesario que concluya el proceso legislativo de la reforma educativa", dijo el priista Arnoldo Ochoa.

La del Servicio Profesional Docente es la única de tres leyes reglamentarias que falta por aprobar en el Congreso para que la reforma pueda funcionar.

El documento causa polémica entre los docentes porque establece que aquellos que no aprueben evaluaciones obligatorias serán cesados, lo que la CNTE considera lesivo de los derechos laborales del magisterio.

Los diputados priistas dijeron este viernes que la CNTE apenas presentó propuestas concretas de redacción, aunque sólo de forma verbal. Según esa versión, los profesores pidieron cambios al artículo 75 de la legislación para especificar en qué casos un maestro será sujeto de sanciones.

El dirigente magisterial Rubén Núñez tachó de "mentira" esa declaración y aseguró que entregaron a los legisladores un escrito con sus planteamientos.

"Si el gobierno ignora nuestra posición, no hace caso, será su responsabilidad", dijo Bravo.

Los líderes de la CNTE han advertido que realizarán más movilizaciones en la capital mexicana durante los próximos días, como lo han hecho desde hace más de una semana: bloqueando sedes legislativas, televisoras, edificios gubernamentales y algunas de las principales avenidas de la ciudad. Hasta ahora, no han detallado qué acciones tomarán.

Este viernes, los docentes mantuvieron un plantón de ocho horas frente a la Secretaría de Gobernación (Segob), en demanda de que su titular y funcionarios de las secretarías de Educación Pública (SEP) y de Hacienda y Crédito Público (SHCP) se sumen a las negociaciones con legisladores.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Merrill Lynch settles discrimination lawsuit--but only after the suit was given class action status by a judge

Another story about Merrill Lynch's corporate culture was also in the news recently. The two stories seem to have a common element: people at Merrill Lynch tend to undermine each other.

Merrill Lynch settles discrimination lawsuit
Wall Street brokerage to pay $160 million to hundreds of black financial advisers.
Shelley DuBois
The (Nashville) Tennessean
August 29, 2013

For eight years, Nashville executive George McReynolds has been the face of a fight against racial bias at Merrill Lynch. On Wednesday, the company announced it would pay $160 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that was filed in 2005.

If approved by a federal judge in Chicago as expected, the payout by Merrill Lynch to around 1,200 plaintiffs would be one of the largest ever in a racial discrimination case, Chicago-based attorney Suzanne E. Bish said.

Bank of America-owned Merrill Lynch — one of the world's largest brokerages with more than 15,000 financial advisers — issued a statement Wednesday saying only, "We're not at this point commenting on the existence of the settlement nor the status of a settlement."

McReynolds, 68, has worked for Merrill Lynch's Nashville office since 1983. He still works there, even after filing the lawsuit in 2005.

According to his lawsuit, the company culture was "toxic" for African Americans. In 2005, only 700 out of its 14,000 financial advisers were African Americans. McReynolds was one of only two black brokers in Tennessee when he was hired in 1983. The Nashville branch didn't hire a second black employee until 1987.

Beyond its lack of diversity, Merrill Lynch would impede the careers of African-American employees it hired, the lawsuit claimed.

McReynolds' attorney, Suzanne Bish, noted that the settlement coincides with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech."

"(McReynolds) and his wife are really amazing people who acknowledge that they are where they are because there was a struggle before them, and (they) think it's incumbent upon them to make things better for the next generation," Bish said.

Bish said the settlement should force changes beyond the company being singled out as the defendant in the eight-year-old lawsuit.

"They are leaders on Wall Street," she said. "And increasing opportunities for African-Americans at Merrill Lynch should spill over to the rest of Wall Street."

Plaintiffs claimed discrimination pervaded Merrill Lynch, at least partly because the company employed relatively few African-Americans overall. In a 2009 plaintiffs' filing, they contended that fewer than 2% of the brokers at Merrill Lynch were black.

"Far from being a colorblind meritocracy, race permeates policy and practice in a way that creates substantial obstacles to equal employment opportunity for Merrill Lynch's African-American employees," William T. Bielby, a professor of sociology, said in the filing.

Merrill Lynch sometimes relied on stereotypes, the filing also asserted, once allegedly suggesting managers encourage black brokers to "learn to play golf or other activities designed to learn how business gets done in manners (they) might not be familiar with."

Merrill Lynch prevented black brokers from working with high-profile clients, the suit alleged. It also promoted a companywide policy that encouraged associates to work together on certain cases, and blacks were generally excluded from these beneficial partnerships, the lawsuit said. Finally, after creating an atmosphere that prevented the success of African-American financial advisers, executives at Merrill Lynch would allegedly publicly badmouth the performance of minority employees, the suit alleged.

Robert Gettleman, the U.S. district judge overseeing the case in Chicago, had denied the suit class-action status. But the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago granted the status in 2012 — reviving the case and vastly extending its reach.

Gettleman must formally approve the deal, a process that could take months. A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Teacher who had sex with 14-year-old who later killed herself gets 31 days in jail while taxpayers pay $91,000

Does this look like the face of a person with the sexual sophistication of a fourteen-year-old? This teacher, and the judge in his case, apparently agreed that since 14-year-old girl had already had sex, the teacher wouldn't be causing any more harm by getting a piece of the action. Others think the teacher took advantage of a disturbed child who ended up killing herself. I wonder if he could have made a difference if he had involved himself in her life in a more positive way.

UPDATE Sept. 6, 2013: Judge not allowed to change 30-day sentence

UPDATE: New opinion piece by Meteor Blades

Unfit judge rules rape victim who killed herself 'was as much in control of the situation' as rapist
by Meteor Blades
Daily Kos
Aug 28, 2013

Outrage is growing against a Billings, Montana, judge who handed down a 30-day sentence to a rapist teacher and said the victim, who had killed herself, "was as much in control of the situation" as the teacher—35 years her senior at the time—because she was “older than her chronological age.” Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence in the case, with 10 years suspended. District Judge G. Todd Baugh imposed a 15-year sentence and suspended all but 31 days of it, with one day credited for time already served. The judge noted that the crime "did not warrant a lengthy sentence."

Whatever other rulings the 66-year-old Baugh has made during his time on the bench, that one makes him unfit to serve a single day longer.

The outrage began when the girl's mother, Auliea Hanlon, upon hearing the judge's ruling, stormed out of the courtroom repeatedly screaming "You people suck!" She had testified that the sexual relationship between her 14-year-old daughter and high school teacher Stacey Dean Rambold, then 49, had been a major factor in the girl's suicide a few weeks before her 17th birthday. Talk of the case on the internet and coverage in various traditional media have multiplied Hanlon's outrage far and wide.

Organizers plan a rally and protest for Thursday in a park next to the Yellowstone County Courthouse against District Judge G. Todd Baugh. A petition seeking his removal from the bench has been post online.

The case began in 2008 when Stacey Rambold, now 54, a high school teacher who four years earlier had been warned not to touch or be alone with female students, was discovered to be having a relationship with Cherice Morales, a 14-year-old student. He was arrested and initially pleaded guilty to a single felony charge. He was placed on paid leave from his teaching job, soon resigned and was forced to give up his teaching credential. In October 2008, he was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent. The age of consent in Montana is 16. But before the case came to trial, Cherice killed herself, complicating things for the prosecution.

A settlement was reached. Rambold was granted deferred prosecution and ordered to complete a sexual offender treatment program after which the charges would be dropped. He finished the first two of the program's three phases. But then he stopped coming to sessions. It was learned that he was having unsupervised visits with minors and had begun a sexual relationship with an adult without telling the program's supervisors. "The violations were serious enough when taken together to kick Rambold out of the program, although it was learned that the minors Rambold was visiting were family members." Of course, sexual offenders never ever prey on family members...

Former teacher in Montana gets 30 days in jail for raping student who later committed suicide
By Associated Press
August 27, 2013

BILLINGS, Mont. — A former Billings Senior High School teacher who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old student who later killed herself has been sentenced to 30 days in jail by a judge who said the victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years in prison for sexual intercourse without consent, with all but 31 days suspended. He gave Rambold credit for one day already served, The Billings Gazette reported ( ).

The girl’s mother repeatedly screamed, “You people suck!” and stormed out of the courtroom Monday.

Rambold, now 54, was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent alleging that he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Cherice Morales, starting the previous year when she was 14.

Morales took her own life in February 2010 while the case was pending.

In July 2010, Rambold entered a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors that said the charges would be dismissed if Rambold completed a sex offender treatment program and met other conditions, including having no contact with children. He also admitted to one rape charge.

The case was revived last December when prosecutors learned Rambold had been terminated from the sex offender treatment program.

Treatment provider Michael Sullivan said Rambold started missing meetings in August 2012, but Sullivan said he met with Rambold and he appeared to be back on track with his treatment.

Rambold was terminated from the program in November when it was learned that he had been having unsupervised visits with minors, who were family members, and did not inform counselors that he had been having sexual relations with a woman.v Defense attorney Jay Lansing said Rambold has since continued his treatment with a different program and an evaluation found him at low risk to re-offend.

Baugh said he was not convinced that the reasons for Rambold’s termination from treatment were serious enough to warrant the 10-year prison term prosecutors recommended.v The judge said he listened to statements given by Morales before her death and believed that while she was a troubled youth, she was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold and was “older than her chronological age.”

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he would not appeal the judge’s sentence.

“We respect the court’s sentencing decision. We obviously disagree with it, based on the recommendations my attorneys made, but it appears to be legally permissible,” he said.

Asked about Baugh’s reasoning that a 14-year-old girl below the state’s age of consent had an equal share of control of the relationship, Twito declined to answer directly.

“The judge’s reasons are his reasons and his reasons alone. He has broad authority under state law, given the proper criteria,” Twito said.

The case resulted in a $91,000 wrongful death settlement between the school district and Morales’ family.

Rambold reached a confidential settlement with the girl’s family.

Mont. judge apologizes for comments in teen's rape
Associated Press
August 28, 2013

ILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge apologized Wednesday for saying a 14-year-old rape victim was "older than her chronological age" and had as much control of the situation as the teacher who raped her — remarks that prompted protests and a petition for his resignation.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh made the comments Monday while sentencing former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold to a 15-year prison sentence then suspending all but 31 days and giving him credit for one day already served.

...Faced with backlash over his comments and the sentence that protesters considered too light, Baugh wrote an apology in a brief letter to the editor to The Billings Gazette. The newspaper provided a copy of the apology to The Associated Press.

"I'm not sure just what I was attempting to say but it did not come out correct," he wrote. "What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens."

"I will add an addendum to the court file to hopefully better explain the sentence," he added.

A protest scheduled for Thursday outside Yellowstone County Courthouse will go on despite the apology, said organizer Sheena Rice, stressing that it's important for the community to show it is not going to stand for victim blaming.

"I'm glad he apologized, but he should have known better as a judge," Rice said. "The fact that he said it makes me think he still believes it."

A petition will be circulated at the protest calling for Baugh's resignation. An online version of the petition had more than 8,500 signatures by Wednesday morning.

If the petition and protest aren't enough to force Baugh's resignation, protesters will shift to defeating him in the 2014 election, Rice said.

He was first elected to the bench in 1984 and has been re-elected every six years since then without an opponent.

Rambold was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent after authorities alleged he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Cherice Moralez, starting the previous year when she was 14. Moralez killed herself in 2010 at age 16 while the case was pending.

The girl's mother, Auleia Hanlon, said in a statement to the Gazette that she no longer believes in justice after Baugh's sentence and remarks about her daughter.

"She wasn't even old enough to get a driver's license. But Judge Baugh, who never met our daughter, justified the paltry sentence saying she was older than her chronological age," Hanlon said. "I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14."

Under state law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tell science book publishers not to cave to Texas Board of Education

Tell science book publishers not to cave to Texas Board of Education
Daily Kos
August 2013

The right-wing majority on the Texas State Board of Education wants to revise the state's standards for science textbooks to require the addition of religious pseudoscience in biology.

Because of the scale of production of these textbooks, the dictates of the Texas Board of Education may be included in textbooks used by millions of students in other states.

We won’t change the minds of theocrats at the Texas Board of Education. But textbook publishers can refuse to make these changes, or pull out of the state's business altogether.

Join Daily Kos and CREDO in telling textbook publishers to stand up to the right-wing ideologues on the Texas State Board of Education.

Click HERE to send this message to all textbook publishers:

"Science textbooks should provide our children with the best and most broadly accepted science information. It is unacceptable to cave to right-wing politicians and include religious pseudoscience in your publications."

Sequester threatens American scientific research for a generation

Sequester threatens American scientific research for a generation
by Laura Clawson
Daily Kos
Aug 14, 2013

HIV research. Cardiovascular disease research. Diabetes research. Research that could improve our treatment of everything from the common cold to foot-and-mouth disease, from muscle injuries to muscular dystrophy.

Those are just a few of the projects now underway that are seriously endangered by the sequester's cuts to science funding, and the results could be catastrophic.

Under George W. Bush, funding for the National Institutes of Health rose to $30.8 billion, and under President Obama, the stimulus included $10.4 billion in additional funding. Now, with NIH funding falling to $29.1 billion, scientists interviewed by Huffington Post's Sam Stein spoke of having to cut salaries or cut lab staff altogether, of seeing scientists choose jobs in other countries or other fields rather than face the circumstances in research science in the U.S., and of having to consider euthanizing their lab mice.

These aren't just the threats of a brief period in time:

"Medical research is not like building widgets. We cannot turn it on and off," [the Medical College of Wisconsin's Dr. William Jackson] said noting that, among other things, his staff would move on and his project would be tarred as unsuccessful.

And if staff move on to other countries or out of science altogether, that could create a brain drain that will weaken scientific research in the U.S. for a generation or more. Like so many other austerity-driven policies, it's appallingly shortsighted. But "austerity-driven and appallingly shortsighted" is among the top contenders for the motto of today's Republican party, so much of this research is and is likely to remain endangered.

The current teacher evaluation system is no better than the system that evaluated the Fort Hood shooter

Anybody familiar with the teacher evaluating system in our schools knows that it's a joke. Even Camille Zombro, former president of San Diego Education Association, tells the story of how she repeatedly asked her principal for an evaluation, but her principal would say, "Oh, I know you're doing fine." It was the most honest thing the principal could do for such an active political figure. But other teachers have the same complaint: there are shockingly few observations by principals, and the evaluations are useless political statements at worst, and useless blather at best. Teacher culture, not professionalism, rules the schools.

We need evaluations done by outsiders with no personal or political relationship to the evaluatee. Evaluators should do frequent observations (at least three or four times a year) and should use specific criteria.

Ft. Hood shooter received glowing evaluations before attack
Maj. Nidal Hasan, convicted of killing 13 and wounding several others, was said to have 'great potential as an Army officer.'
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
LA Times
August 24, 2013

Months before the Ft. Hood shooting in November 2009, the Army psychiatrist convicted Friday of killing 13 and wounding more than 30 was completing a fellowship at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where military supervisors praised his unique interest in Islam's impact on soldiers, according to documents provided to The Times.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's supervisors had also repeatedly recommended him for promotion, according to documents.

"He has a keen interest in Islamic culture and faith and has shown capacity to contribute to our psychological understanding of Islamic nationalism and how it may relate to events of national security and Army interest in the Middle East and Asia," supervisors wrote in an evaluation report July 1, 2009.

Among Hasan's "unique skills," the report listed "Islamic studies" and "traumatic stress spectrum psychiatric disorders," concluding that "Maj. Hasan has great potential as an Army officer."

The officer evaluation report, and another from earlier that year, were provided to The Times by Hasan's civil lawyer, John Galligan, who says he believes they are relevant to Hasan's sentencing, which is set to begin Monday. He is eligible for the death penalty.

Hasan, 42, has been convicted of 13 charges of premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting in Texas. The same jury of 13 officers that convicted him will determine his sentence. For a death sentence to be imposed, the decision must be unanimous.

Galligan, a former military judge, said the reports could be used at Hasan's sentencing to argue against a death sentence. But Hasan, who will be representing himself at sentencing as he did at trial, has yet to submit them as mitigating evidence. Galligan says he is concerned the jury will have an incomplete account of Hasan's service record and the role superiors played in promoting him.

The evaluation reports were filed while Hasan, an American-born Muslim, was earning a master's degree in public health through a two-year fellowship in disaster and preventive psychiatry. A colleague of Hasan's at Walter Reed testified that he pursued the fellowship in order to avoid deployment.

The other report, completed March 13, 2009, said Hasan had "outstanding moral integrity" and that he had selected a "challenging topic" for his master's of public health project: "the impact of beliefs and culture on views regarding military service during the Global War on Terror."

Supervisors recommended Hasan for a position "that allows others to learn from his perspectives," noting his "unique insights into the dimensions of Islam" including "moral reasoning" were "of great potential interest and strategic importance to the U.S. Army."

An Army doctor testified that a month before the attack, Hasan told her that if the military forced him to deploy to the Middle East "they will pay." He was later ordered to deploy to Afghanistan, and began plotting his attack.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's next for Goodby Silverstein & Partners? Somehow I doubt they'll be offering free latkes to mark the Holocaust

I remember seeing this ad on TV, in which unlimited french fries were offered to mark the Irish potato famine. I don't think it was intentionally insensitive. But can you imagine TV ads invoking the Holocaust or famines in Africa to get people to come to a restaurant? No, it wouldn't happen.

Denny's "Irish Famine" Ad Raises Ghost of Past Racial Scandal
Jim Edwards
MoneyWatch/CBS News
March 1, 2010

Denny's (DENN) appears to have withdrawn a TV ad commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Irish Famine with a free pancake special, according to The ad, from agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, is currently nowhere to be found on the Internet but was running as recently as two days ago. The Irish Echo reports:

The commercial is for their new promotion of endless fries and pancakes and it uses the Irish famine as a joke. To paraphrase the commercial: "In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Irish famine, Denny's is offering free endless fries and endless pancakes, though we haven't ever heard of a pancake shortage before" ...

Many Irish famously regard the famine as unfairly neglected in history books and worthy of the designation "holocaust." (In the 1845-1852 famine, 1 million Irish died and 1 million more emigrated, largely to the U.S., as a potato blight coupled with British intransigence left the entire country short of food.) It's surprising that Denny's of all chains would make this mistake. In the 1990s, Denny's was successfully sued by several Secret Service agents who had waited an hour for service at an Annapolis restaurant while their white counterparts were served immediately. That incident followed the beating of some black customers in a Denny's parking lot after they complained the restaurant had refused to serve them...

The native Irish were allowed to eat only their potato crops; they were required to turn over all other crops to their landlords as rent. If they didn't pay the rent, the constables would come in and "tumble" the roofs of their houses.

Irish Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, and diaspora
by CT yanquiFollow
Daily Kos
Jun 22, 2012

...The British Empire was maintained by so-called English beef, English wheat and barley, and English pork, all of which was produced in Ireland.

Exports of Irish produce ("English beef") continued unabated throughout the famine. The potato blight did not just affect Ireland, but extended its reach all across Europe. Potato crops failed in France, Germany, Poland, and Russia but those countries stopped exporting food so they could feed their own people. No such thing happened in Ireland.

It took weeks or months during 1846 for the news of the ghastly condition of the Irish people reached the United States and other countries. In the states, the Quakers and wealthy Jews from New York collected money and shipped shipped vast numbers of foodstuffs to the starving Irish. The ships were stopped when they entered Irish ports and were required to be offloaded into English ships, which ended up distributing the food to horses owned by the British Army...

International Relief Efforts During the Famine
By Christine Kinealy, Contributor
August / September 2009

...Just as relief efforts were getting underway in India, a committee was established in Boston, Massachusetts...At a meeting in early December 1845, at which $750 was raised for the Irish poor, one speaker claimed that, due to “the fatal connection of Ireland with England, the rich grain harvests of the former country are carried off to pay an absentee government and absentee landlords.” These fundraising efforts were short-lived, drying up at the beginning of 1846, when it was suspected that reports of the distress had been exaggerated.

...In the summer of 1846, the blight reappeared even more virulently than in the previous year. And it appeared earlier in the harvest period. The impact was devastating and immediate. As early as October, deaths from hunger and famine-related diseases were being reported...

The involvement of the Quakers was particularly important because it was direct, provided in the communities where it was most needed, and given without any religious or other stipulations.

An even larger relief organization was the British Relief Association. It was formed in January 1847 by Lionel de Rothschild, a Jewish banker in London...

Despite the shortages, the British government decided not to interfere in the marketplace to provide food to the poor Irish, but left food import and distribution to free market forces. Moreover, they allowed foodstuffs – vast amounts of foodstuffs – to be exported from Ireland. Merchants made large profits while people starved.

At the same time, public works, which entailed hard physical labor building roads that led nowhere and walls that surrounded nothing, were made the primary form of relief. By the end of 1846, deaths from hunger, exhaustion and famine-related diseases were commonplace. No part of the country, from Belfast to Skibbereen, had escaped...

Another head of state to send money to Ireland was the Sultan of Turkey. He had an Irish doctor but he was also trying to create an alliance with British government. According to local legend, Abdulmecid tried to compensate for his reduced monetary donation by sending two ships to Ireland, laden with food. Allegedly, but there is no documentary proof of this, the British government refused to allow the ships to dock in either Cork or Dublin so, surreptitiously, they docked in Drogheda... On 17 March 1847, foodstuffs were loaded onto The Jamestown. It left Boston for Cork a week later, taking only 15 days and three hours to complete the transatlantic journey. All of the crew were volunteers. The captain, Robert Forbes, caustically commented that as the food supplies had taken only 15 days to cross the Atlantic, they should not take a further 15 days to reach the Irish poor. His comment was apt. The labyrinth of bureaucracy attached to the public works had meant that it had taken between 6 and 8 weeks for them to be operative – far too long for a people who were starving.

Forbes declared himself to be impressed with the women of Cork – because ‘they shake hands like a man.’...

Throughout 1847, subscriptions to Ireland came from some of the poorest and most invisible groups in society. This included former slaves in the Caribbean, who had only achieved full freedom in 1838, when slavery was finally ended in the British Empire (Daniel O’Connell played a role in that). The British government had given the slave-owners £22 million pounds compensation for ending slavery; the slaves received nothing. Donations to Ireland came from Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts, and other small islands.

Donations were also sent from slave churches in some of the southern states of America. Children in a pauper orphanage in New York raised $2 for the Irish poor. Inmates in Sing Sing Prison, also in New York, sent money, as did convicts on board a prison ship at Woolwich in London. The latter lived in brutal and inhuman conditions, and all of them were dead only twelve months later from ship fever.

A number of Native Americans, including Choctaw Indians, also sent money to the Irish poor. The Choctaws themselves had suffered great tragedy, having been displaced from their homelands and forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s – the infamous Trail of Tears. They sent $174 to Ireland...


Even more callous than the English response to the Irish potato famine was the holocaust that took place in Ireland in 1649-53 under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell.

"Estimates of the drop in the Irish population resulting from the Parliamentarian campaign vary from 15–25%, to half and even as much as five-sixths. The Parliamentarians also deported about 50,000 people as indentured labourers."
--Wikipedia--see sources

The 50,000 young Irish men and women sent by Oliver Cromwell to the Caribbean to work in slave conditions with no choice over how many years they would serve. They seldom survived very long, but did produce descendents, part Irish and part African, who can be found in the hills of Barbados today, still speaking some of their ancestors' Irish language.

Africans and Irish in Barbados
Yale University

During the 1600's, African slaves and Irish natives shared a common fate on the island of Barbados. Slaves first arrived on the island in the 1620's with the first white settlers and continued to be brought there as the need for labor created a new market for the international slave trade. By 1645, the black population on the island was 5680, and by 1667, there were over 40,000 slaves on the island. In the early years of the colony's growth, Barbados also became a destination for military prisoners and Irish natives. Oliver Cromwell "barbadosed" Irish who refused to clear off their land and allowed other Irish to be kidnaped from the streets of Ireland and transported to Barbados. Those who were barbadosed were sold as slaves or indentured servants, to British planters. They lived in slave conditions and had no control over the number of years they had to serve. The number of Barbadosed Irish in not known and estimates very widely, from a high of 60,000 to a low of 12,000.

Both groups suffered in harsh conditions and joined together to revolt against British settlers.

The colony had its own set of problems, including raids by Spanish and French pirates, and turbulent weather that decimated crops and precipitated African and Irish slave revolts. Slave revolts often coincided with raids or uncontrollable weather when slave owners were distracted and sent slaves to other settlers or towns for help. The ability to move about gave slaves an opportunity to pass on information to other rebels. The rebellions increased the fear of white slave owners and added to the image of Irish natives as wild savages.

The enslavement of Africans in Barbados continued until 1834 when slaves were emancipated, and then apprenticed for a period of four years. By then the kidnaped Irish had disappeared into history and the census of the 1880's did not identify any Barbadians as Irish. What did remain was a small population of poor whites, often called 'redlegs', who may be the descendants of the Barbadosed Irish.


...In Ulster, the Cromwellian period eliminated those native landowners who had survived the Ulster plantation. In Munster and Leinster, the mass confiscation of Catholic owned land after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, meant that English Protestants acquired almost all of the land holdings for the first time. In addition, some 12,000 Irish people were sold into slavery under the Commonwealth regime and another 34,000 went into exile, mostly in France or Spain.[39]...

Merlie Evers could have used some help during the past 50 years

Merlie Evers in 2013 at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington

What would have happened if these leaders hadn't been assassinated?
Medgar Evers, assassinated in 1963
Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated 1968 and Malcolm X, assassinated in 1965
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, both assassinated in 1968

KPBS News anchor Gwen Ifill talks about the March on Washington

Gwen's Take: Remembering And Reimagining August 28, 1963
Gwen Ifill
August 23, 2013

Two years ago, I wrote this piece about looking back and looking forward. Now, because we love our landmarks, the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington has allowed us to focus once again on a pivotal national event that did so much to shape the way we view ourselves and our nation.

Names have been lost in the popular retelling. Bayard Rustin was the organizer who somehow figured out a way to get a quarter of a million people to descend on the capital for a march that made some pretty radical demands. Walter Reuther and A. Philip Randolph were the labor organizers whose efforts ensured that the crowd was so racially diverse. Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the only woman on the organizing committee, and scolded the civil rights leaders who decided the day's speakers would all be male. She lost that fight.

I'm embarrassed to say I've learned, or re-learned, a lot of this recently as I was preparing for the series of conversations we've been having on the PBS NewsHour and Washington Week leading up to the anniversary. It puts nearly everything we are watching unfold in Washington now in context -- from economic stress to power politics to personal security. And it helps us to look forward, too.

My daily commute takes me south along the Potomac River and past the neoclassical majesty of the Lincoln Memorial, a beautiful drive I try not to take for granted. But I had been living and working in the nation's capital for more than two decades before I retraced the steps I had taken as a schoolchild, up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was steeper than I remembered. (It always is.) But when I reached the broad landing at the top, I glanced down, and to my surprise, discovered something there I had never noticed before -- a shiny disc embedded in the floor that marked the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what came to be known as the "I Have A Dream" speech...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Can toxic workplace cultures at schools and banks be deadly? Castle Park Elementary; Moritz Erhardt at Bank of America

Castle Park Elementary, Chula Vista California
UPDATE: Here is another story about Merrill Lynch workplace culture that has popped up in the news. Former intern Polly Courtney: "It wasn't just a culture of long hours and hard work; it was more a culture of desperately trying to impress, with 'face time' – pretending to be hard at work even when you were done for the night – and backstabbing – taking credit for a job well done, blaming others for problems – both commonplace. Ultimately, the money and perks could never make up for the exhaustion or the lack of control we all had over our lives..."

This reminds me of some of the teachers lounges in Chula Vista Elementary School District, where I observed a "culture of desperately trying to impress...pretending to be hard at work" even when you were sitting in the teachers lounge playing politics before school and at every break – "and backstabbing – taking credit for a job well done, blaming others for problems – both commonplace."

I would rarely see the teachers who called the shots working late or on weekends.

But I did see the Castle Park Elementary principal at lunch time during the 1999-2000 school year kneeling next to the seated J.H. (a teacher who actually put a crown on her own head at one assembly). The principal was asking J.H. what to say at the staff meeting about the Comer Program. J.H. told her superior exactly what to say to turn the "all-stakeholders-have-a-voice" Comer Program, for which our school paid $20,000 for training, into a tool for the politically powerful teachers at the school to exert control over every decision. These teachers even overturned a decision NOT to have the Kingdoms Program. The teachers reached the decision by a vote of all teachers. The controlling teachers clique cherry-picked parents and teachers to form an illegally constituted School Site Council (yes, there is a law that specifies how the council should be constituted), which rubber-stamped their demands. It was at a Kingdoms assembly that J.H. wore her crown.

I myself conducted the voting about Kingdoms, and I had the ballots in a box in my classroom, but the ballots disappeared after J. H. and her acolyte L. W. made a concerted effort to get rid of me. Someone actually went to the trouble of searching every box in my room to find the ballots and remove them. I have wondered recently if the culture of advancing oneself through sabotage of coworkers, which reached a remarkable intensity at Castle Park Elementary, might have transferred to Allen School along with several Castle Park teachers, and claimed the life of teacher Teri Coffey this past June. Peggy (AKA Peg, then Margaret) Myers was one of them. She is now in disrepute after many shenanigans at Castle Park and Chula Vista Educators CVE).

The disappearing ballots remind me of A Tale of Two Cheaters, a recent story about voting fraud at Los Alamitos High School when Superintendents Rudy Castruita and Tom Anthony headed the school.

Bank of America reviews long-hours culture after intern's death
Moritz Erhardt, who was 'tipped for greatness' was found dead in shower after working solidly for 72 hours at Merrill Lynch
The Guardian
23 August 2013

Bank of America said it would form a working group to look at its office culture, especially the hours worked by younger staff.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch will review its working practices and culture of long hours following the death of a German intern last week, who colleagues said had pulled three all-nighters in a row before being discovered by emergency services.

One of the world's largest banks issued a statement on Friday afternoon expressing shock at the death of 21-year-old Moritz Erhardt, who was working in Merrill Lynch's investment banking division, and announced a review of working practices with a special focus on junior members of staff.

Erhardt, from south-west Germany, was found dead in a shower cubicle at his temporary accommodation in east London last Thursday evening.

The death of the "dedicated" student sent shockwaves through the world of global finance, as reports of his alleged extreme working habits sparked debate about the culture of punishing hours in some high-profile financial divisions.

A Bank of America statement said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Moritz Erhardt's death. Moritz Erhardt was popular amongst his peers and was a highly diligent intern at our company with a bright future.

"Our immediate priority is to do everything we can to continue to support the Erhardt family, our interns and impacted employees at this extremely difficult time. We have also convened a formal senior working group to consider the facts as they become known, to review all aspects of this tragedy, to listen to employees at all levels and to help us learn from them."

A spokesman from the bank said the panel would review "all aspects of working practices with a particular focus on our junior population". He added: "We're going to look at everything."

He said it was too early to say how long the panel would take to complete the study but it would involve very senior members at the multinational bank who would have the capability to bring in third parties for extra scrutiny.

"If the committee decides it wants some additional expertise then they can go and hire it," the spokesman said. "We will look at hard factual evidence. We want a lot of employee feedback and we're going into this with no preconceptions as to what the outcome will be."

The exact circumstances surrounding Erhardt's death are yet to be officially determined. The coroner's court at Poplar told the Guardian that no decision had yet been taken as to whether an inquest would go ahead. A toxicology report as part of the autopsy conducted by Prof Petter Vanezis, was yet to be filed.

A fellow intern at the bank described the aspiring student as a "superstar", adding: "He worked very hard and was very focused. We typically work 15 hours a day or more and you would not find a harder worker than him." He told the Evening Standard: "He seemed a lovely guy and was very popular with everyone. He was tipped for greatness."

According to his biography on the social media platform Seelio, Erhardt said he was naturally inquisitive and had previously stated that he'd undertaken work experience at Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank's corporate finance division.

Polly Courtney, author of Golden Handcuffs and an intern at Merrill Lynch in 2001 before its merger with Bank of America, said the culture of punishingly long hours was endemic. "During my internship, all-nighters were like a rite of passage. They were discussed among us in the Merrill Lynch canteen each night with an outward sense of loathing, but tinged with pride. You weren't seen as a 'proper' analyst until you'd worked through the night.

"It wasn't just a culture of long hours and hard work; it was more a culture of desperately trying to impress, with 'face time' – pretending to be hard at work even when you were done for the night – and backstabbing – taking credit for a job well done, blaming others for problems – both commonplace.

"Ultimately, the money and perks could never make up for the exhaustion or the lack of control we all had over our lives,
but it took most of us a few years to realise this. Looking back, the money was just an anaesthetic."

Fagen Friedman Fullfrost hires school board member 12 days after she votes to renew their contract

For more recent updates, click HERE.

UPDATE: AUG. 25, 2013

So now that Superintendent Suzette Lovely and the entire Carlsbad Unified board know that Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost was secretly talking to at least one board member, will they change their minds about renewing FFF's contract? I doubt it--most school officials like this type of law firm. Also, what other type of education law firm is there? They all belong to the National Council of School Attorneys, which seems to guarantee that they're all on the same page.

Carlsbad to redo law-firm vote
By Aaron Burgin
Aug. 23, 2013

The Carlsbad school board on Friday announced that it will redo a vote to renew a $100,000 law-firm contract, one day after U-T Watchdog reported that one board member was in negotiations for a job with the firm at the time...


Carlsbad Unified Board Member Kelli Moors

See update on this story HERE.

Compare this story to the hiring of school board member Art Palkowitz by his district's law firm, Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz.

I checked the California Bar Association website, and found that Ms. Moors is not a lawyer. So it's a bit counterintuitive that she'd be hired by a law firm. Ms. Moors has worked in business development in the past, so I imagine that that's what she'll do for Fagen Friedman Fulfrost. But I wonder, did FFF have a job opening, or did they create a position for her?

And how can FFF advise the district on adhering to legal and ethical practices when it seems to be manipulating the board for its own benefit?

Hiring by law firm came 12 days after contract renewal
By Aaron Burgin
Aug. 23, 2013 updated

Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission, 18747(a):

“No public official shall ‘make,’ ‘participate in making,’ or ‘use his or her official position to influence’ any governmental decision ... if the decision directly relates to a prospective employer.”

18747(c): “A person is a ‘prospective employer’ of a public official if the official, either personally or through an agent, is ‘negotiating’ or has an ‘arrangement’ concerning prospective employment with that person.”


November 2012: Voters re-elect Moors to a four-year term that expires in 2016.

March 2013: Moors is laid off from her position at the Tri-City Healthcare District.

Summer 2013: Moors contacts Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost.

July 24, 2013: Moors participates in vote to renew district’s contract with law firm for an amount not to exceed $100,000.

Aug. 2, 2013: Moors notifies Carlsbad Superintendent Suzette Lovely, that she is accepting a position with the law firm
and resigning from the board. Moors said this was the first she time she told anyone with the district of her contact with the law firm.

Aug. 5, 2013: Moors submits resignation to the Carlsbad Unified School District and the San Diego County Office of Education.

Former Carlsbad school board member Kelli Moors was hired by a law firm 12 days after she voted to renew the firm’s $100,000 contract with the district.

Moors announced Aug. 5 that she was resigning from the Carlsbad Unified School District board to take a job with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP, a statewide law firm that specializes in education and has contracts with multiple local school districts, including Carlsbad.

On July 24, the Carlsbad board had voted 4-0, with trustee Ann Tanner abstaining, to renew 23 contracts with various vendors. The Fagen contract was the largest of the group.

State law prohibits elected officials from participating in or influencing any decision that would financially benefit a prospective employer if the elected official is already in employment negotiations with the employer.

Moors told U-T Watchdog that she had been in talks with the law firm before the July 24 meeting about accepting a position there. She said she did not exert influence or persuade her fellow board members to approve the contract, which was approved without discussion.

“I never discussed my potential employment with Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost with my fellow board members, district staff or the superintendent because I didn’t want there to be any hint of a conflict of interest,” said Moors, who was elected to the board in 2000.

Gary Winuk, enforcement chief for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, said an elected official’s own vote can present a conflict involving prospective employment. This, he said, includes consent agenda votes, which typically come with no discussion.

“The general rule is that once you begin employment negotiations with an outside entity, you may not make, participate in or influence a decision regarding that entity,” Winuk said.

Moors was employed at Tri-City Medical Center before her position was eliminated in March. She said she began searching for new employment several months later. She would not give a specific date when she first contacted the law firm, but said it was earlier in the summer...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

More than 57,000 kids cut from Head Start because of sequester

Too many voters of America seem to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Right wing Republicans in Congress are doing a Tom Corbett stunt on the whole country: preferring to build prisons rather than give funding to schools.

More than 57,000 kids cut from Head Start because of sequester
Stephanie Condon
CBS News
August 19, 2013

More than 57,000 children this fall will be cut from Head Start, the program for pre-school age children from low-income families, because of the ongoing "sequestration" budget cuts, the Obama administration announced Monday.

Head Start and Early Head Start saw a 5.27 percent reduction in its $8 billion budget after Congress this March enacted the sequester -- $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts to federal spending over 10 years.

Administered by the Health and Human Services Department, Head Start awards grants to public and private institutions on a competitive basis to provide pre-school services in their communities. The program serves more than one million children every year in every U.S. state and territory.

Obama tells Congress: It's time for bold economic action
As Obama talks, Washington barrels toward budget showdown

So far, the impact of sequestration is not as drastic as anticipated -- the Obama administration originally estimated it would mean having to cut 70,000 students from the program.

Nevertheless, 51,299 fewer children will be enrolled in Head Start, while 5,966 fewer children will be enrolled in Early Head Start. The Office of Head Start reported the data after collecting reduction plans from individual Head Start grantees. California will see the largest number of students affected, with 5,611 children cut, while Texas will have to cut 4,410.

The office also reported that there will be 1,342,015 fewer days of service nationwide, and at least 18,000 staff members will be affected, either through pay cuts or job losses.

When Congress returns from its five-week summer recess, sequestration will be just one of the many pressing budget issues it will have to address. So far, it doesn't appear that lawmakers have a plan for repealing or replacing the sequester, which slashed $85 billion from the budget this year.