Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Montana teacher's 1-month rape sentence overturned


Teacher Stacey Dean Rambold

Montana teacher's 1-month rape sentence overturned
Associated Press
By MATTHEW BROWN
Yahoo
April 30, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has overturned a one-month sentence that was widely condemned as too lenient for a former high school teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student.

The court ordered a new judge to re-sentence defendant Stacey Dean Rambold, who has been free since completing the previous term last fall.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says that according to state sentencing laws, the decision means Rambold must serve a minimum of two years in prison.

The high court's decision cited in part the actions of District Judge G. Todd Baugh, of Billings, who suggested the young victim shared responsibility for her rape because she had some control over the situation.

The office of Rambold's attorney, Jay Lansing, says he is traveling and not immediately available for comment.

See also: Judge Todd Baugh can't change his 30-day sentence for rapist teacher; only the Appeals Court has jurisdiction now

See previous post on this case: Teacher who had sex with 14-year-old who later killed herself gets 31 days in jail while taxpayers pay $91,000

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vergara v. California: the Case That Could Blow Up Teacher Tenure (But who cares? Without a good teacher evaluation system, it won't make much difference.)


Judge Rolf Treu must issue a ruling on the case by early July. Source: Courtroom View Network

See all posts on Vergara v. California.

The main problem with the current system is that principal evaluations are a joke. Principals rarely observe teachers, perhaps because school politics is so influential that principals are not likely to criticize a powerful teacher or defend a politically-unconnected teacher. Observations should be done by outsiders.

Get rid of tenure or keep it--but if you want good teachers you need to evaluate them in a meaningful way.


See: How about we try to make better use of both effective and (currently) ineffective teachers?

The Case That Could Blow Up Teacher Tenure
By: Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego
April 28, 2014

The toxic debate over hiring and firing teachers in San Diego Unified has reverberated for years.

Union-won teacher protections mean school districts that want to dismiss an ineffective or even dangerous educator face a dizzying legal web that can cost hundreds of thousands to navigate. Even then, efforts to send a teacher packing might not work.

For the most part, calls to reform the system have rung hollow. Any significant change would mean a change to state laws.

Vergara v. California, a case being deliberated in Los Angeles County Superior Court, would do just that. And if the plaintiffs succeed, the impact could set off a mushroom cloud that will envelop school districts across the state and beyond.

Driving the lawsuit is Students Matter, a group founded by Silicon Valley business mogul David F. Welch. The group recruited students from several California school districts to be the public face of its case.

A cast of heavy-hitting attorneys, which includes the lawyer who helped defeat the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, argue that current protections keep ineffective teachers in public schools and violate students’ constitutional rights to an education.

Plaintiffs say these policies have the most disparate impact on schools that serve black or Latino students, as bottom-rung teachers are more likely to end up at high-poverty schools.

Their objectives are straightforward, but ambitious: Increase the time it takes teachers to earn tenure, revamp dismissal policies so it’s easier to get rid of the lemons and strike last-in-first-out policies that favor seniority over quality.

Attorneys for the California Teachers Association joined the state in its defense, as the ruling will impact their members directly. They argue that teacher protections are a benefit – like health care – that helps attract and retain quality employees to a challenging and humbly paid profession.

Let’s take a look at each prong of the case within the context of San Diego Unified.

Tenure

Union leaders don’t like to call it tenure. That’s a word reserved for college professors who’ve got academic freedom – not those in the trenches of K-12 public schools, teachers union President Bill Freeman told VOSD in the past. Union leaders prefer “permanent status.”

Regardless of what we call it, here’s how it looks in San Diego Unified. Once they’re hired, rookie teachers have to make it through a two-year probationary period, during which they can be dismissed for pretty much any reason.

But because the district has to tell teachers by mid-March whether they’ll be invited back for the next school year, the trial period is actually shorter than two years. In the past, the district hasn’t been particularly aggressive in the number of probationary teachers it sends away – only about 1 percent wasn’t given tenure.

“With such little time, you don’t even have enough information to actually consider whether they’re an effective teacher,” said Nancy Waymack, a managing director for the reform-advocacy group National Council on Teacher Quality.

California requires one of the shortest probationary periods for teachers in the county, she said. Most states wait until teachers have been around three or more years until they’re offered permanent status.

Other states have upped the bar by requiring that measures like test scores or student surveys be included in teacher evaluations. And while some California districts like Los Angeles Unified embraced “value added metrics,” a way of gauging teacher effectiveness by measuring student improvement, San Diego Unified just uses principal observations.

“In general, California is a lot further behind in make changes to teacher policies,” said Waymack. “They’re way behind the curve in rating effectiveness.” ‘Who Are the “Grossly Ineffective” Teachers?’

Some of the most famous cases have come out of Los Angeles Unified: There was the teacher who mocked a boy after he tried to commit suicide, jibing him to cut deeper the next time. There was one who stashed porn and cocaine vials in his desk. Both contested their dismissals – and won.

Once a teacher is granted tenure, it’s very difficult to fire him or her.

Protections for tenured teachers extend beyond what’s given other public employees. For example, teachers get warnings and time to improve before being fired, and can take their case to a panel and appeal it if they disagree with a ruling.

Those protections can be clipped if a teacher is accused of something egregious or criminal – like coming to school drunk, or molesting a student. But the dismissal process can be so byzantine and costly that it’s impractical to try to fire a teacher for being “ineffective.”

In their closing brief, attorneys for the state and California Teachers Association wrote: “Who are the ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers? How is that term defined? … Plaintiffs have not answered any of these questions.”

Of course, that’s also a convenient point for the union to make: It hasn’t agreed to test scores or other measures as a factor in teacher evaluations.

Last in, First out

When layoffs happen, the youngest teachers are the first to go. This might mean that a more veteran teacher, even if he or she has accrued complaints from parents and doesn’t bolster student test scores, gets to keep the job while a younger teacher walks.

Striking that protection, plaintiffs argue, would mean that the district hangs onto which teachers it sees fit, instead of reducing employees to faceless numbers.

They say these rules disproportionately impact black and Latino students, because less experienced teachers are more likely to end up in schools with higher rates of student poverty and are the first to go when teachers are laid-off.

But lawyers from the California Teachers Association argue that “well-run” districts like San Diego Unified have been able to sidestep the worst impacts of layoffs by using discretion. For example, if a younger teacher is credentialed in special education, that teacher might bump out a longer-tenured teacher without the extra certificate.

And the spirit of collaboration that San Diego Unified teachers showed when they agreed to extra furlough days and delayed paid raises, they argue, would be undercut by removing teacher protections that promote teamwork and sacrifice.

What’s Next

Lawyers from both sides handed in their post-trial briefs on April 10, and the judge has until July to make a decision. An appeal is likely either way.

In the meantime, the teachers union and San Diego Unified are sidling up to the bargaining table.

The district hasn’t given exact details about what they’ll be seeking, but if you look closely at the contract proposal it recently sent the union, you’ll see hints of some of the same reforms Vergara plaintiffs are calling for.

In addition to revamping teacher evaluations to include student and parent feedback, San Diego Unified wants more wiggle room for where it decides to place teachers.




VOICE OF SAN DIEGO IS THE "PARTNER" OF UPforEd

Maura Larkins' note: The story above seems to be somewhat impacted by the fact that Voice of San Diego is a "community partner" (I think that means having one or more major donors in common) of UPforEd, a group that says on its website:

We can help change the story...Students Matter, a national non-profit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education, has filed a lawsuit, Vergara v. California, challenging outdated and potentially harmful state laws that keep ineffective teachers in schools, allow great teachers to be laid off, and could jeopardize the future of our students.


It seems that of the seven current VOSD Community Partners, some partners might have donors in common with VOSD, and others might simply be donors themselves. It would be nice if VOSD explained on its site exactly what this means. The other partners are:

American Medical Response
UC San Diego Extension
Hughes Marino
SDG&E
California Western School of Law
La Jolla Playhouse

COMMENTS FROM VOICE OF SAN DIEGO

JLDodd

The teachers know who should not be there, an initial step would be for the school staff to have a retention secret vote conducted by the principal for those in their probationary period. Those folks not making the cut are invited to leave…
jim dodd


Maura Larkins [response to Jim Dodd]

Jim Dodd's comment is a beautiful illustration of my point about school politics. He states:

"The teachers know who should not be there, an initial step would be for the school staff to have a retention secret vote conducted by the principal for those in their probationary period. Those folks not making the cut are invited to leave."

In my experience, the teachers do NOT know how other teachers teach. They believe that their friends are good teachers and that their targets are bad teachers. I think it would be nice if teachers spent time in each others' classrooms so that teachers would know the truth.

It's hilarious that teacher union officials are very tuned in to gossip, but they don't want test scores to be considered. Test scores would be much more reliable than "secret votes" by teachers. Teacher cliques would have an enormous impact on such voting. All members of the clique would know ahead of time exactly how they should vote.

Using my own experience as a guide, here is what would happen: the probationary teachers who are good politicians would become part of the ruling teachers clique, and would be supported no matter how poor their teaching skills might be. If a probationary teacher exhibited independence from the clique, which, by the way, would likely consist of mostly mediocre teachers, he or she would be targeted for elimination.

Maura Larkins' note: Here is an earlier comment by Jim Dodd that appeared 9 days ago.


JLDodd
I know from past experience with San Diego Unified and other districts that the teachers know who should be let go, so why not ask them to nominate the bottom 10% to be replaced each year? Bill & Melinda Gates say that replacing the bottom 10% of teachers is a strategy that will absolutely work (from studies at their Foundation). But since the teachers unions are organized to protect the worst teachers, I don't expect the union will be happy with this proposal…jim dodd


Maura Larkins' response:

I looked up the Gates Foundation paper Empowering Effective Teachers.

I did not find anything about firing the bottom 10% of teachers.

I did, however, find some statements that seem reasonable and designed to help improve public education:

One barrier to major systems change is the
lack of robust, multidimensional measures
of teacher effectiveness.

The contribution of teachers to student
learning and outcomes is widely recognized.
A teacher’s effectiveness has more
impact on student learning than any other
factor under the control of school systems,
including class size, school size, and the
quality of after-school programs.

In a study of Los Angeles schools, the
difference between the performance of a
student assigned to a top-quartile teacher
rather than a bottom-quartile teacher
averaged 10 percentile points on a
standardized math test.

Researchers studying high schools in North
Carolina found that having a class with a
strong teacher had an impact 14 times greater
than having a class with five fewer students.

MASTER TEACHERS AND MERIT PAY 1

I believe that ineffective teachers who are not abusive to kids could be paid less and should work under a master teacher rather than being fired. Firing the lowest 10% of teachers would simply mean that one-tenth of teachers (a small percentage) would probably be replaced with average, mediocre teachers. That would leave the vast majority of students in the hands of mediocre teachers.

MORE COMMENTS FROM VOSD

VeronicaCorningstone
But how many new teachers are hired on the probationary basis? Last time layoff notices went out, the "last in" teacher at my school had been there 8 years! All the newer teachers had been hired on temporary, 1-year contracts. We had a newer teacher who was ready to quit the profession because she didn't want the instability of year-to-year contracts. I don't know if she did or not, but she was extremely frustrated.

Ideally, tenure enables quality teachers to dig in deep with the subject matter, as opposed to stressing over test scores and keeping a principal happy. Also, the popular teachers are not always the most competent ones. Just saying.

Maura Larkins' response:
Your words are very reasonable; I very much agree with your last point.

Dennis Schamp
Maura - what outsiders would you choose? Parents? While I support parents working with us and supporting their students, I personally would not want one conducting my evaluation, unless they can prove to me they have some sort of teaching background. Without that, they really don't have the background to tell me how to do my job better. I would not presume to evaluate my doctor, or my neighborhood police officer for the same reason. Plus, what's to keep them from tanking an evaluation because their student is not doing well in my class - and they choose to blame me rather than look at their own child's performance.

Ditto with the district's other thought on having students contribute to teacher evaluations.

I would be very open to having a more realistic evaluation system. But there isn't one. Yet.

Maura Larkins
I agree that parents from the same school could not be relied upon to be unbiased. And I agree that you can't just send a parent into a classroom to do an evaluation. But you might have them check for certain specific things, such as interactions with students, ability to engage students, and simply record what's going on. I think all evaluators should come from a different district. I would expect that most evaluators would be teachers. Young teachers could learn a lot at the same time that they'd be recording their observations. Experienced teachers could give more nuanced feedback.Edit (in 4999393 minutes)

Dennis Schamp
And if the way I interact with my students is not what a parent expects, then...what? I'm ineffective? No - I would push against any parent evaluation of teachers, no matter if a casual observation or a formal one. Without full knowledge of what goes on in a classroom, parents are not qualified to tell me if I'm a good teacher or not. I would not appreciate having an outsider taking notes on everything I do, then using those notes to report back to my administrators. If that observer does not have educational training, credentials, or the like, then they are not qualified to evaluate my performance. Period.

Maura Larkins
May I explain further before you put a period at the end of your rejection of my idea? I think I failed to explain that I would NOT want parents to EVALUATE, but merely track simple facts such as HOW OFTEN a teacher interacted with students (as opposed to sitting at his or her desk correcting papers). I should also clarify that I was thinking of academic interactions, not discipline. Teachers and students should be speaking, writing on white boards (or laptops), drawing charts. Teachers should be moving around the classroom (and students should be allowed to move once in a while, too!) One of the problems in education is that some students are ignored. Simple, factual observations by unbiased individuals could track this. The observers might be parents, but parenthood wouldn't be a requirement.

Dennis Schamp
Maura - I must still disagree with this plan. How often I interact with my students during a lesson or class project depends upon the level of interaction they need from me. The push from Common Core is to provide the students with instruction, then leave them to their own designs, with guidance and direction from me, rather than 2 hours of lecture and note-taking. Even before CC, our district curriculum was moving towards less-structured instructional environment. If I choose to sit for a moment and review notes/papers/lessons/etc, am I suddenly going to be seen as ineffective by this parental observer? The notion that I walk the floor for the full 115 minutes of my class is absurd. There are times when the students are working on group or individual projects in the class...after they have received explicit and direct instruction, front loading, scaffolding, and then given time for a Q&A session. I may not check in again with them for (horrors) 15 minutes or so. Would the parent observer then determine that I am not engaging my students and decide I am not an effective teacher? Or would they understand that students also need to be responsible for their own education?

And no - I would not have time to stop and explain all of my plans/reasons/methods/etc. to this parent observer. That would take away from the educational time.

I have no problem with a parent or guardian coming in as a guest to informally observe and watch the class work. But I draw the line at having that parent tell me if I'm effective.

Maura Larkins
I appreciate that you are being specific about the types of behaviors teachers should engage in. This is the type of discussion that is needed to create a template for what observers should be looking for. I agree that the notion that you walk the floor for the full 115 minutes of your class is absurd. Surely you did not understand me to say that? Also, I tried to make clear that I would want non-professional observers to make simple factual observations, NOT value judgments. I would not expect you to explain ANYTHING to a non-professional observer, but I think that teacher interviews by professionals would make sense as part of the evaluation process. If your experience is like mine, you never had a principal ask you what you had learned from your years of experience and what you were doing in your classroom.

Maura Larkins

I'm curious about a couple of things.

1. If you were the evaluator, what would you expect a teacher to be doing during the time that the students were left "to their own designs"-- if that teacher wanted to be rated as highly effective rather than average or below average?

2. Are you saying that Common Core expects teachers to have NO interactions at all with any students during the time that students are left "to their own designs"?

ScrippsDad 39

Hey Guys - I think a major component of an evaluation is being lost here. You want to focus on the teachers interactions with students, and, when they do and how much they do for all the reasons is good to evaluate and understand.

BUT - please note that an evaluator can also look at how engaged students are regardless of what they are doing and what the teacher is doing. If the teacher is not directly working with students and students are doing projects, reading, etc... it can certainly be noted about how involved they are or engaged in that activity. So, an observer is not just observing the teacher, but, students and a classroom. If students are not engaged in these group or individual projects, I would say that that is a criteria for effective teaching.

I have been involved in an evaluation process and the criteria for evaluation are many and comprehensive and based on a scale system for statistical review. The viewing is done multiple times over various times so not a once only effort to avoid "bad days", etc... The evaluation criteria cover a broad spectrum of topics, instruction, engagement, etc... AND, both admin and teachers vetted this out and agreed to implement it. The observer is noted so it can be looked at and reviewed from the perspective of the observer which could be (will be) a parent, peer, or Principal or more.

I think it very important to understand how and what criteria is used to evaluate to avoid these one stop one time evaluations on "teachers". Evaluating teachers is not just how they interact with students, but, how they engage and manage students, run their classrooms, etc... and this can be evaluated regardless of the teachers disposition at any one time or specifically any individual or class engagement of a teacher directly to students.

when you go back over a years worth of this type of evaluation, it is clearly shown areas of success, areas that need improvement, etc... and provides a quality feedback mechanism to help teachers better perform.

It's tool to improve, not a vehicle for determination of continued employment.

Maura Larkins

You make an excellent point, Scripps Dad, in noting that we can observe the effects of a teacher's long-term involvement with students by looking at how engaged the students seem to be from the moment they walk into the classroom. And of course, there are still more things to observe that we haven't mentioned here.

The evaluation system your school is using sounds wonderful. Are you talking about SDUSD? Are you able to tell us the name of this evaluation process?

It's tool to improve, not a vehicle for determination of continued employment.



Maura Larkins

To Scripps dad:

I also agree with you on some more points:

1) An extended period of time with lots of observations is needed to make an evaluation legitimate;

2) Evaluations should be a "tool to improve, not a vehicle for determination of continued employment."

And I'd like to add another use for evaluations.

MASTER TEACHERS AND MERIT PAY 2

We know that some teachers are educational geniuses, truly gifted. And others are more restricted in their pedagogical repertoires.

Also, there are differences in emotional intelligence. Some teachers might be great at making most students buckle down, but at the same time they might actually be setting other students back quite a bit because of extreme rigidity and cruelty. Some teachers help students simply by being kind and respectful, even if those teachers aren't particularly brilliant.

We need to utilize teachers effectively. Evaluations could help determine which teachers could be given more responsibility by being assigned as master teachers. Master teachers could come in and give a few lessons each week to supplement the work of regular teachers who might be terrific at classroom management and follow-through on lessons, but don't have the necessary spark to get students deeply engaged.

I think we could attract super teachers with extra pay, but the regular teachers are perfectly capable of doing most required tasks for less pay.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bertha Lopez pleads guilty to an underwhelming charge while Jason Moore asks for justice: perhaps getting rid of Bonnie Dumanis would be the best way to improve public integrity in San Diego




Current Sweetwater Union High School
District trustee Bertha Lopez pled guilty
on April 24, 2014 to an extremely small-potatoes
transgression: accepting a gift over the limit.

It seems clear that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis never intended to go after serious corruption in schools.

I'm not saying Bertha Lopez is an angel. Far from it. For years I've been complaining about her illegal actions on behalf of Chula Vista Elementary School District.

My problem is that I think Dumanis went after Bertha for the wrong reasons. The reasons were pathetic. But at least there was some actual misbehavior underlying the charges against Bertha Lopez. Dumanis went after other targets for purely political reasons.

San Diego seems to be as bad as Alabama.

Serious corruption is tolerated among public employees in both
places. In San Diego the district attorney seeks paltry convictions
of small-time miscreants, but releases the full fury of the
justice system on public employees like Jason Moore and
Edward Lane who sought to tell the truth about public officials.


Compare Bonnie Dumanis' inconsistent prosecutions to the Alabama
case of Lane v. Franks, a scandal in a 2-year college that is now
a Supreme Court case: Edward Lane was fired because he testified truthfully
that an Alabama state legislator was a no-show employee, being paid
by the taxpayers for no work.

Dumanis pursued preposterous perjury charges against Jason Moore and Steve Castaneda apparently because they dared to interfere with the political ascent of Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox. Meanwhile, Dumanis ignored a boatload of perjury committed to cover-up wrongdoing by Cheryl Cox herself, as well as Cheryl's fellow Chula Vista Elementary School District trustees Bertha Lopez, Pamela Smith, Larry Cunningham and Patrick Judd in the Maura Larkins v. CVESD case.

Even the Sheriff of Santa Barbara admitted that his office signed a false declaration in that case. Some examples of others who committed perjury can be found HERE and HERE.

Dumanis has been careful not to go after any of the truly powerful players in the San Diego education establishment.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

"Two more Sweetwater school board members pleaded guilty Thursday to minor charges in the South County political corruption investigation, effectively ending a case once described as the worst corruption scandal in a decade on a muted note. Board President Jim Cartmill and trustee Bertha Lopez each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of accepting gifts over the state limit. They will be sentenced in June."


The SDUT is correct that this effectively ends the case since these are the last two school officials to plead out. But according to the Daily Transcript, there is still one contractor left whose charges have not been resolved. I doubt that there will ever be a single trial in this case.

"Their plea deals leave just one trial-bound defendant, Jeffrey Flores, remaining in the probe that rounded up more than a dozen South Bay-area school officials, a construction contractor and a bond underwriter for allegedly being implicit in either giving or receiving gifts that could influence votes by school districts when construction contracts were awarded.

"Flores, president of Seville Construction Services, was also scheduled to begin trial on Monday. But due to medical issues, is likely to have his proceedings continued to a later date, Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said Friday. All named defendants outside of Flores have pleaded to lesser charges than what they initially faced."



THE JASON MOORE CASE

It's about time that the abusive political prosecution of Jason Moore should be rectified. Steve Castaneda also seeks information about the political prosecution he endured.

See recent revelation: Phone Call Raises Questions About DA Dumanis’ Chula Vista Investigations


News Of Dumanis Call Prompts Request To Strike Plea Deal
By Amita Sharma
KPBS
April 24, 2014

An aide to former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla wants to undo his 2008 misdemeanor guilty plea.

Jason Moore's defense attorney says his client should have been told about District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' call when he was charged.

The request follows news of a call San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made before she investigated Chula Vista city officials.

In 2007, former Padilla aide Jason Moore faced five felony charges for perjury. Moore was caught spying on the political enemy of his boss at an event during work hours. Prosecutors said Moore lied about when he submitted a request to take time off from work. Moore ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in a deal with the DA’s office.

Moore’s attorney Knut Johnson said that deal would have never been cut today. Johnson says revelations in a KPBS story this week changed everything.

The story reported that Dumanis called then-Mayor Padilla in 2006 just weeks before she started investigating Chula Vista city officials. Padilla said Dumanis asked him to appoint her own aide to a vacant Chula Vista City Council seat. Padilla refused and soon afterward, she launched her probes.

"If the district attorney called up Mr. Moore’s boss and tried to get that boss to make a city council seat available for one of her employees and then when refused a week later started an investigation that included subpoenaing Mr. Moore to the grand jury, that was undisclosed and we should have known about that," John said. "It's such an obvious conflict of interest."

Johnson said he plans to file court papers arguing that Moore’s plea deal was obtained illegally. The DA’s office said it had no comment at this time.



Here's one of my early posts about the Jason Moore case:

Is Jason Moore the Dale Akiki of Bonnie Dumanis?
May 20, 2007

Tanya Mannes writes about Bonnie Dumanis' mysterious "Public Integrity Unit" in this morning's San Diego Union-Tribune:

"In existence about 14 months, it has filed charges against one person: Jason Moore, a former Chula Vista mayoral aide." Jason Moore worked for Steve Padilla, a Democrat who was in a run-off election against Republican Cheryl Cox.

The investigation of Moore, for taking two hours off work to take pictures of Cheryl Cox with David Malcolm at a Cox fundraiser, began in August 2005, well before the November election. Oddly, Bonnie Dumanis says, that in the future, in most cases, "we will not investigate a complaint until after an election."

Bonnie says her office is determined to be nonpolitical. When will that start, Bonnie? Specifically, when will you investigate complaints against Cheryl Cox and her associates?

Dumanis did not even announce the existence of her "Public Integrity Unit" until March 1, 2007. Jason Moore was indicted on March 27, 2007.

O'Toole and Dumanis have each claimed to be personally interested in prosecuting perjury. But Dumanis' office recently refused to investigate proven perjury regarding illegal actions committed at Chula Vista Elementary School District when Bertha Lopez and Cheryl Cox were trustees of CVESD.

UPDATE April 25, 2014:

Maura Larkins' note: I imagine that readers are more likely to believe me regarding illegal actions and perjury committed by school officials in the South Bay after the recent revelations of pay-for-play deals with contractors. See related posts. I think these revelations will hurt Bonnie Dumanis in her contest against Bob Brewer in the upcoming election for district attorney in San Diego. But I hope that Bob Brewer, if he wins, won't give all public officials a free pass. I worry about that since Bob Brewer has made most of his money defending powerful white collar players. And he even has Bonnie's henchman Patrick O'Toole, who savagely prosecuted Jason Moore and Steve Castaneda, in his camp. That's sort of scary...



In a related case, another political target of Bonnie Dumanis also asks for follow-through on the new information about the D.A.'s political motives.

Ex-Chula Vista Councilman Wants DA To Release Emails
By Amita Sharma
KPBS News
April 22, 2014

Former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda called on District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release emails connected to his 2008 prosecution.

Former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda called Thursday on District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release emails connected to his 2008 prosecution.

Castaneda's request followed a KPBS report that Dumanis investigated him and his colleagues after failing to get her aide appointed to a vacant Chula Vista council seat.

In 2006, Dumanis opened an inquiry into whether Castaneda received favors from a developer. That was months after then-Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla said he refused Dumanis' phone request to appoint an aide, Jesse Navarro, to a vacant council seat. Castaneda was later indicted on accusations of lying to a grand jury.

A jury acquitted him on most of the charges and hung on others.

Castaneda said he should have been told about Dumanis' call to Padilla. He now wants the District Attorney's Office to release all emails regarding his case because he wants to know "what happened and why it happened."

"Frankly, if she were on my side of the prosecutorial desk, she'd be at a grand jury right now," Castaneda said. "And she's hiding behind her status and her position, and I think she owes it to not only me and my family, but she owes it to the people of San Diego County."

A Dumanis spokeswoman released a statement on the matter saying, "Mr. Castaneda's criminal case is closed and we will not allow the District Attorney's Office to be used as a political pawn."

KPBS also asked for the same emails but was told the records didn't exist and would be exempt from disclosure anyway.

Patrick O'Toole v. Steve Castaneda (Chula Vista City Councilman) trial


Flashback to 2008: Steve Castaneda (see all posts re Steve Castaneda) has been reelected as Chula Vista City Councilman, but Patrick O'Toole has disappeared from the Public Integrity Unit.



ELECTION UPDATE NOVEMBER 5, 2008 STEVE CASTANEDA

CITY OF CHULA VISTA CITY COUNCIL - SEAT NO. 4
Precincts Reporting: 100.0%
SCOTT VINSON - 46.88% (24876)
STEVE CASTANEDA - 53.12% (28183)


ORIGINAL POST

Patrick O'Toole seems to be disappearing from the San Diego District Attorney's website. He's not on this page, nor is he on this page.

I went down to the courthouse to see part of Mr. O'Toole's prosecution of Steve Castaneda today.

I can't believe Bonnie Dumanis is spending tax dollars on this bizarre prosecution while ignoring my complaint about obstruction of justice at Chula Vista Elementary School District involving current Chula Vista mayor Cheryl Cox and others. It sure seems like the D.A.'s "Public Integrity Unit" is overly fond of Cheryl Cox, manufacturing opportunities to charge Cox's opponents with perjury (by investigating them with the flimsiest of pretexts, such as taking two hours off work, or thinking about buying a condo), while ignoring evidence that already exists.

I did notice that O'Toole was sitting by himself. He seems to be the only person on the planet who wants to see this prosecution go forward. Well, I suppose Cheryl Cox is sitting with him in spirit, but it's still a pretty lonely position.

Bertha Lopez pleads guilty to a shamefully underwhelming charge while Jason Moore asks for justice: perhaps getting rid of Bonnie Dumanis would be the best way to improve public integrity in San Diego




Current Sweetwater Union High School
District trustee Bertha Lopez pled guilty
on April 24, 2014 to an extremely small-potatoes
transgression: accepting a gift over the limit.

It seems clear that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis never intended to go after serious corruption in schools.

I'm not saying Bertha Lopez is an angel. Far from it. For years I've been complaining about her illegal actions on behalf of Chula Vista Elementary School District.

My problem is that I think Dumanis went after Bertha for the wrong reasons. The reasons were pathetic. But at least there was some actual misbehavior underlying the charges against Bertha Lopez. Dumanis went after other targets for purely political reasons.

San Diego seems to be as bad as Alabama.

Serious corruption is tolerated among public employees in both
places. In San Diego the district attorney seeks paltry convictions
of small-time miscreants, but releases the full fury of the
justice system on public employees like Jason Moore and
Edward Lane who sought to tell the truth about public officials.


Compare Bonnie Dumanis' inconsistent prosecutions to the Alabama
case of Lane v. Franks, a scandal in a 2-year college that is now
a Supreme Court case: Edward Lane was fired because he testified truthfully
that an Alabama state legislator was a no-show employee, being paid
by the taxpayers for no work.

Dumanis pursued preposterous perjury charges against Jason Moore and Steve Castaneda apparently because they dared to interfere with the political ascent of Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox. Meanwhile, Dumanis ignored a boatload of perjury committed to cover-up wrongdoing by Cheryl Cox herself, as well as Cheryl's fellow Chula Vista Elementary School District trustees Bertha Lopez, Pamela Smith, Larry Cunningham and Patrick Judd in the Maura Larkins v. CVESD case.

Even the Sheriff of Santa Barbara admitted that his office signed a false declaration in that case. Some examples of others who committed perjury can be found HERE and HERE.

Dumanis has been careful not to go after any of the truly powerful players in the San Diego education establishment.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

"Two more Sweetwater school board members pleaded guilty Thursday to minor charges in the South County political corruption investigation, effectively ending a case once described as the worst corruption scandal in a decade on a muted note. Board President Jim Cartmill and trustee Bertha Lopez each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of accepting gifts over the state limit. They will be sentenced in June."


The SDUT is correct that this effectively ends the case since these are the last two school officials to plead out. But according to the Daily Transcript, there is still one contractor left whose charges have not been resolved. I doubt that there will ever be a single trial in this case.

"Their plea deals leave just one trial-bound defendant, Jeffrey Flores, remaining in the probe that rounded up more than a dozen South Bay-area school officials, a construction contractor and a bond underwriter for allegedly being implicit in either giving or receiving gifts that could influence votes by school districts when construction contracts were awarded.

"Flores, president of Seville Construction Services, was also scheduled to begin trial on Monday. But due to medical issues, is likely to have his proceedings continued to a later date, Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said Friday. All named defendants outside of Flores have pleaded to lesser charges than what they initially faced."



THE JASON MOORE CASE

It's about time that the abusive political prosecution of Jason Moore should be rectified. Steve Castaneda also seeks information about the political prosecution he endured.

See recent revelation: Phone Call Raises Questions About DA Dumanis’ Chula Vista Investigations


News Of Dumanis Call Prompts Request To Strike Plea Deal
By Amita Sharma
KPBS
April 24, 2014

An aide to former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla wants to undo his 2008 misdemeanor guilty plea.

Jason Moore's defense attorney says his client should have been told about District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' call when he was charged.

The request follows news of a call San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made before she investigated Chula Vista city officials.

In 2007, former Padilla aide Jason Moore faced five felony charges for perjury. Moore was caught spying on the political enemy of his boss at an event during work hours. Prosecutors said Moore lied about when he submitted a request to take time off from work. Moore ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in a deal with the DA’s office.

Moore’s attorney Knut Johnson said that deal would have never been cut today. Johnson says revelations in a KPBS story this week changed everything.

The story reported that Dumanis called then-Mayor Padilla in 2006 just weeks before she started investigating Chula Vista city officials. Padilla said Dumanis asked him to appoint her own aide to a vacant Chula Vista City Council seat. Padilla refused and soon afterward, she launched her probes.

"If the district attorney called up Mr. Moore’s boss and tried to get that boss to make a city council seat available for one of her employees and then when refused a week later started an investigation that included subpoenaing Mr. Moore to the grand jury, that was undisclosed and we should have known about that," John said. "It's such an obvious conflict of interest."

Johnson said he plans to file court papers arguing that Moore’s plea deal was obtained illegally. The DA’s office said it had no comment at this time.



Here's one of my early posts about the Jason Moore case:

Is Jason Moore the Dale Akiki of Bonnie Dumanis?
May 20, 2007

Tanya Mannes writes about Bonnie Dumanis' mysterious "Public Integrity Unit" in this morning's San Diego Union-Tribune:

"In existence about 14 months, it has filed charges against one person: Jason Moore, a former Chula Vista mayoral aide." Jason Moore worked for Steve Padilla, a Democrat who was in a run-off election against Republican Cheryl Cox.

The investigation of Moore, for taking two hours off work to take pictures of Cheryl Cox with David Malcolm at a Cox fundraiser, began in August 2005, well before the November election. Oddly, Bonnie Dumanis says, that in the future, in most cases, "we will not investigate a complaint until after an election."

Bonnie says her office is determined to be nonpolitical. When will that start, Bonnie? Specifically, when will you investigate complaints against Cheryl Cox and her associates?

Dumanis did not even announce the existence of her "Public Integrity Unit" until March 1, 2007. Jason Moore was indicted on March 27, 2007.

O'Toole and Dumanis have each claimed to be personally interested in prosecuting perjury. But Dumanis' office recently refused to investigate proven perjury regarding illegal actions committed at Chula Vista Elementary School District when Bertha Lopez and Cheryl Cox were trustees of CVESD.

UPDATE April 25, 2014:

Maura Larkins' note: I imagine that readers are more likely to believe me regarding illegal actions and perjury committed by school officials in the South Bay after the recent revelations of pay-for-play deals with contractors. See related posts. I think these revelations will hurt Bonnie Dumanis in her contest against Bob Brewer in the upcoming election for district attorney in San Diego. But I hope that Bob Brewer, if he wins, won't give all public officials a free pass. I worry about that since Bob Brewer has made most of his money defending powerful white collar players. And he even has Bonnie's henchman Patrick O'Toole, who savagely prosecuted Jason Moore and Steve Castaneda, in his camp. That's sort of scary...



In a related case, another political target of Bonnie Dumanis also asks for follow-through on the new information about the D.A.'s political motives.

Ex-Chula Vista Councilman Wants DA To Release Emails
By Amita Sharma
KPBS News
April 22, 2014

Former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda called on District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release emails connected to his 2008 prosecution.

Former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda called Thursday on District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release emails connected to his 2008 prosecution.

Castaneda's request followed a KPBS report that Dumanis investigated him and his colleagues after failing to get her aide appointed to a vacant Chula Vista council seat.

In 2006, Dumanis opened an inquiry into whether Castaneda received favors from a developer. That was months after then-Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla said he refused Dumanis' phone request to appoint an aide, Jesse Navarro, to a vacant council seat. Castaneda was later indicted on accusations of lying to a grand jury.

A jury acquitted him on most of the charges and hung on others.

Castaneda said he should have been told about Dumanis' call to Padilla. He now wants the District Attorney's Office to release all emails regarding his case because he wants to know "what happened and why it happened."

"Frankly, if she were on my side of the prosecutorial desk, she'd be at a grand jury right now," Castaneda said. "And she's hiding behind her status and her position, and I think she owes it to not only me and my family, but she owes it to the people of San Diego County."

A Dumanis spokeswoman released a statement on the matter saying, "Mr. Castaneda's criminal case is closed and we will not allow the District Attorney's Office to be used as a political pawn."

KPBS also asked for the same emails but was told the records didn't exist and would be exempt from disclosure anyway.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Teachers Union screws up an entire public school system; Washington loses its NCLB waiver for refusing to use test scores in teacher evaluations


Gov. Jay Inslee tried to get the legislature to pass a bill to save the waiver, but the lawmakers balked. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Democrats need to show a little spine and not let the teachers union harm children by protecting incompetent teachers. It's time for effective evaluations. Why shouldn't student test scores be one small part of the evaluation system?

Washington becomes first state to lose its waiver from No Child Left Behind
By Niraj Chokshi
Washington Post
April 24, 2014

Washington state lost its waiver from implementing certain parts of the No Child Left Behind education law, an action that could lead to layoffs and program cuts, Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement Thursday.

In a letter to the state superintendent, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that he would not renew the waiver because the state had failed to implement promised changes to how it evaluates teachers and principals. The state is the first to lose its waiver.

In February 2012, the state committed to making student learning growth a substantial factor in those reviews. Last August, it was placed on high-risk status for failing to implement that and other changes, giving the state until May 1 to produce a plan. Because that would require a legislative change and Washington’s legislature won’t reconvene until next January, Duncan said the state would be losing its waiver.

“Washington has not been able to keep all of its commitments,” he said in the letter. “Thus, although Washington has benefitted from ESEA flexibility, I regret that Washington’s flexibility will end with the 2013–2014 school year.”

Inslee criticized lawmakers in his statement on the loss of the waiver, saying it “could have been avoided if the state legislature had acted last session.”

As a result, districts will lose flexibility on how to use nearly $40 million in federal funds, he said: “Loss of that funding means those districts now face potential impacts that could include laying off some of Washington’s tremendous teachers or cutting back on programs that serve at-risk students.”

Forty-three states, including Washington, were approved for waivers, according to an Education Department page last modified Tuesday.

Arne Duncan Revokes Washington State's NCLB Waiver
By Alyson Klein
Education Week
April 24, 2014

UPDATED

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yanked Washington state's waiver Thursday, making the Evergreen State the first to lose the Obama administration's flexibility from many of the mandates of the outdated No Child Left Behind Act.

But, in an important twist, the state will not be returning to an accountability system that's exactly like the one it had under NCLB, particularly when it comes to intervening in low-performing schools. Specifically, like other waiver states, Washington will still single out "priority" and "focus" schools this spring, even as it largely reverts back to NCLB-style interventions, such as tutoring, sources say.

Sound complicated? Accountability experts think so too. "I think it's going to be really confusing for the public and for parents to understand this," said Anne Hyslop, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation. "There are going to be a lot of questions about how this affects local districts and schools."

The decision to pull the waiver comes as no surprise to Washington state officials, who have said for weeks that they fully expected to lose the flexibility. The issue? Washington state doesn't require state test scores to be integrated into teacher evaluations—instead districts can choose either state or local assessments.

How Will This Work?

The move means that, for starters, districts in Washington state will lose control over nearly $40 million in federal money. That's because schools will now have to begin setting aside that money for NCLB-prescribed remedies for low-performing schools, such as tutoring and school choice. The state will also have to return to the NCLB law's much-maligned yardstick, gauging schools based on "adequate yearly progress," or AYP.

In fact, in the fall, Washington state will need to make AYP determinations based on the goals for the 2014-15 school year. As anyone who has ever read the NCLB law knows, that means 100 percent of students are supposed to be proficient. From there it gets tricky. To decide where schools fall on the improvement timetable, the state will have to determine what the school's status would have been prior to the waiver. Under this retroactive labeling scheme, a school that would plan for "restructuring" (the most dramatic NCLB intervention) might have to implement those interventions next year, sources say.

And there's another very particular wrinkle here because of Washington's unique ex-waiver status. Like other waiver states, Washington will continue to identify schools that are foundering the most using a system that looks more like the waiver rules than NCLB. The Evergreen State is still choosing to pinpoint "priority" schools (the lowest performers) and "focus" schools (other struggling schools.) The result will be an accountability system that is a mishmash of NCLB and the state's waiver system, potentially resulting in some muddled messages for low-performing schools.

"I appreciate that transitioning back to NCLB is not desirable, and will not be simple," Duncan wrote in a letter explaining his decision.

The department also made it clear to Washington officials that the state could be eligible for a new waiver if it is able to make the necessary changes to its teacher evaluation system.

State Politics

But that may not be politically possible. The state's governor, Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and schools chief, Randy Dorn, had tried to save the waiver, but were unsuccessful. Despite heavy lobbying from both leaders, Washington state lawmakers were unable to pass a bill earlier this spring that might have appeased the Education Department by calling for state tests to be a factor in evaluations by the 2017-18 school year.

Inslee laid blame for the waiver's revocation at the legislature's feet, and warned that the loss of funding flexibility could lead to layoffs. "The loss of this waiver could have been avoided if the state legislature had acted last session," he said in a statement. "The waiver provided districts flexibility to use nearly $40 million in federal funds to support struggling students. Loss of that funding means those districts now face potential impacts that could include laying off some of Washington's tremendous teachers or cutting back on programs that serve at-risk students."

But it's uncertain if the fix would have even saved the waiver—the administration has required every other state to get its teacher-evaluation system fully in place by the 2016-17 school year, at the latest. (Notably, the Obama administration will leave office in the middle of that school year, and it's anyone's guess what will happen with the waiver scheme under a new administration.) And for its part, the Washington Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, stands by its decision to lobby against the change.

"WEA believes the Washington Legislature did the right thing last session when it rejected Duncan's inflexible, and bureaucratic demands," the union's president, Kim Mead wrote in a statement. "Republicans and Democrats alike saw that Duncan's failed federal mandates would have done nothing to help Washington's kids or their teachers, but rather would impose broken federal law on our students."

Federal Politics

Although Washington state's waiver was the first to go, it may not be the last. The Education Department has awarded waivers to 43 states and the District of Columbia so far. And three other states have had their waivers put on "high risk" status: Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon. Like Washington, all three are hung up on the issue of teacher evaluation.

Last year, Duncan told the Council of Chief State School Officers that he was likely to "revoke a waiver or two or three." Washington state's new accountability regime could be a harbinger of what other high-risk states have in store, should they lose their waivers. And it could also have implications for any states that elect not to extend their waivers.

Kate Tromble, the director of government relations for the Education Trust, said revoking the waiver was the right thing to do.

"The department needed to set a bottom line" to make it clear to states that they are serious about waiver enforcement, she said. "It is unfortunate because Washington students are going to bear the burden of the failure of adults" in the state.

Tromble is worried, however, about what may happen when all students in the state take the rigorous Smarter Balanced Assessment next school year. The test may prove to be a lot tougher than Washington's current exam—and all schools may be labeled as "failing" to make progress.

"It's important that we hold schools accountable, but schools need to feel the system is legitimate," she said. The impetus is on Washington state leaders to find a way to work through this issue, she said.

So far, the department has thrown the hammer down on states that didn't follow through on their plans when it comes to teacher evaluation.

But it's been another story when it comes to another requirement for waiver states: using assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards, Hyslop noted.

States, including Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Utah, said they planned to use participation in either PARCC or Smarter Balanced—the two consortia developing tests that align with the common-core standards—to fulfill that requirement. And then they ditched the consortia. The U.S. Department asked for their Plan B, but so far hasn't put any of those states on high-risk status.

Coming down hard on those states may carry more political risk than getting tough on teacher evaluation, Hyslop said, given the pushback around the country on the Obama administration's championship of common core.

"Teacher evaluation is a very politically charged issue, but common core is even more so," she said. "Stepping in and really getting tough on assessments I think would have a lot more political ramifications."

Will the waiver revocation prod Congress to actually act on renewing the NCLB law? Maybe. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who may be next in line to head up the Senate education committee, said in a statement that the waiver's revocation points to the need to revise the ESEA law. "What's most important now is that we all do our part to rectify this situation," said Murray, who reportedly spoke to the department on her home state's behalf. "I have made clear time and again that I will work with anyone who is willing to reauthorize ESEA, but to date, making progress on updating this law has been an unnecessarily partisan fight."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

To Cindy Marten: how about we try to make better use of both effective and (currently) ineffective teachers?


Lincoln High School

Dear Cindy Marten,

You say, “I’m tired of the polarized rhetoric that pits teachers against administration. I’m tired of the conversation about good teachers and bad teachers. None of this is helping.”

I agree in part. I can understand why you don't want to talk about good teachers and bad teachers. It doesn't seem to get us anywhere, does it?

But what kind of operation ignores the functioning of its chief operators? That's nuts.

Cindy, how about we figure out which teachers are effective, and which are ineffective in their jobs as currently configured? And how about we make better use of both types of teachers?

Here's my plan.

Evaluate teachers--but don't fire them. Does that sound crazy? Here's why its not.

If you had a fair, effective method for evaluating teachers, teachers wouldn't feel so threatened by strong administrators--and weak administrators wouldn't feel so threatened by teachers. You could take a whole lot of the politics out of the teacher-administrator relationship.

Also, you could get a lot more value for your money from all your teachers. In the current system, the weakest teachers often rely on oppositional politics to protect themselves while the best teachers hunker down in their classrooms.

In the current situation, neither the masterful nor the mediocre are being used effectively to help kids.


Yours truly,

Maura Larkins

Cindy Marten: We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About Lincoln High
By: Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego
October 25, 2013

When Cindy Marten looks at the dust-up at Lincoln High, she said she doesn’t just see anger over a principal’s leadership style or teachers’ effectiveness.

The tensions at Lincoln — which have escalated following years of failing test scores and a mass student exodus — are bigger and deeper than both of those pressure points.

“What’s happening at Lincoln is at the heart of the struggle in America,” she said. “When we get Lincoln right, we get America right.”

At the core of the controversy, she said, is a question about how to make a high school work in a large urban district, one that struggles with the same issues facing cities across the nation: generational poverty, racial disparities and budget shortfalls.

In a lengthy interview with Voice of San Diego, Marten said she doesn’t care for the word “turnaround,” or the idea that a single person can save a district or school.

Like it or not, that’s exactly what people are hoping she can do with a school like Lincoln.

Marten evangelically believes in the need for a “shared-conversation,” in which the community airs its concerns, defines its goals and together creates a plan.

Yes, Marten said, a conversation is happening at Lincoln, but not the right kind.

“I’m tired of the polarized rhetoric that pits teachers against administration,” she said. “I’m tired of the conversation about good teachers and bad teachers. None of this is helping.” The Lincoln Monologues

When Lincoln started the 2007 academic year with a new, $129 million campus, it opened with four separate academies: a center for social justice, arts, science and engineering and public safety.

Test scores — to the degree to which they can — tell the story of a school that has sputtered academically since it opened. In 2012, Lincoln ranked last in the district in its Academic Performance Index, a number derived from statewide assessment scores.

Stacked up against high schools statewide, Lincoln ranks well below average.

Ray Adair, a former math teacher who organized and administered the California Standards Test (CST) during his tenure at Lincoln, attributes the low test scores to the fact the school had a “shotgun start,” meaning that when it opened, it took in kids from over 70 schools to fill all four grades at once.

Most new charter schools, he said, begin with a 9th grade class and grow their student bodies year by year.

Adair said he wasn’t thrilled by a recent Voice of San Diego story that cited a 300 percent proficiency gain in Lincoln’s CST math scores over the past year.

Math proficiency scores, he said, are still very low — around 15 percent. “When I was there, we had a 300 percent increase, too. But we didn’t go around bragging about it,” he said.

Almost 30 percent of Lincoln’s student body has left since 2009, and so has much of its staff. Adair said a large number of teachers left after a controversial principal, Esther Omogbehin, took over in early 2012.

Under Omogbehin, the school restructured its campus, moving from four academic centers into a single-functioning unit. And district-wide curriculum changes have further stoked the fire.

This year, Lincoln began shifting to an A-G curriculum, meaning students will be required to pass classes that are aligned with University of California admission standards.

To that end, classes at Lincoln that didn’t jive with the A-G curriculum have been cut, and many of their teachers have been excessed or have relocated.

Teachers have accused Omogbehin of bullying staff who grieved her leadership, and transferring teachers based on her personal preferences.

The principal declined to speak with Voice of San Diego, but she told 10 News in 2012 that the animosity is rooted in racial tensions that predate her arrival.

Dan Camacho, a former teacher at Lincoln, has been one of many loud voices at school board meetings for the past several weeks.

Camacho has repeatedly asked the board to conduct a “social audit” that would determine whether school administration is following the district’s ethics code.

Dozens of Lincoln students and staff have appeared at school board meetings, dressed in red shirts, demanding accountability and transparency from the administration. What, exactly, meeting those demands would look like remains unclear,
but away from the public podium, teachers agree on this: Omogbehin needs to leave.

This isn’t the first turbulence Omogbehin has experienced at Lincoln. In 2012, shortly after she became principal, a student accused the principal of making physical threats against her. A school district investigation found no wrongdoing, but Omogbehin told 10 News that the damage was done.

Sally Smith, who has served on the school governance board at Lincoln, has opposed teachers and defended Omogbehin in school board meetings and after-school protests.

To Smith, the issue comes down to “bad teachers who don’t want to be held accountable.”

Marten’s Take

As superintendent, it’s Marten’s job to moderate the conversation that can transform the vitriolic bickering taking place at Lincoln into a constructive dialogue.

Part of that, she said, means not taking a side.

“I don’t think either side is right or wrong. Each point of view points to a bigger debate about what people are seeking in school,” Marten said.

Marten said there are opportunities to learn from both sides.

“You talk to teachers, you hear, ‘We need to be nurturing, we love our school and our kids, we need to build relationships, why don’t you let us do it?’ You talk to the other side, they want educated children and they want accountability,” she said. “What we’re talking about here is how to best educate our children in the community, and I believe we can achieve what both sides want. In the end, they all care about students.”

So what’s Marten going to do about the situation at Lincoln?

“I’m already doing it,” she said.

Mediations are under way, Marten said, and there’s been progress. She’s been holding town hall meetings, listening, bringing in district relations personnel to work with the staff at Lincoln.

“At the end of the day, we need to figure this out,” she said. “The students are counting on us to get this right.”

Ex-lawyer Sally Smith is on a mission to keep schools fair


Sally Smith speaks at a San Diego Board of Education meeting in January. She focuses her attention on illegal school fees that districts pass on to students.

Ex-lawyer is on a mission to keep schools fair
Sally Smith knows California law and is challenging districts across the state that charge students for basic supplies and activities. One official calls her 'an irritant.'
By Stephen Ceasar
Los Angeles Times
Photography by Glenn Koenig
Reporting from San Diego
April 23, 2014

As Sally Smith strode to the lectern, a few people in the audience rolled their eyes. Behind their nameplates, members of the San Diego school board fiddled with a cellphone, stared at laptops and rustled papers.

They knew what she would say — she's said it dozens of times and repeats it at nearly every meeting.

"In this district," she said firmly, her eyes fixed squarely on the board members facing her, "…we have educators who exploit students to generate revenue."

The ceramics teacher who charges $20 if students want to keep their clay art projects? That's illegal, Smith contends.

"Taxpayers paid for this toothpick and noodles," she said, pointing to a brooch on her blouse that her daughter made in elementary school. "Just as we paid for that clay."

"It has to stop," she said, her words punctuated by a buzzer indicating that her speaking time was over.

With the persistence of a gadfly, the zeal of a civil rights activist and the know-how of a lawyer, Smith has made it her mission to challenge the San Diego public school system and many others across California that require students to foot the bill for basic school activities.

She bounces around the state meeting with administrators. She blasts off emails to reporters — often a hodgepodge of legal complaints, case law and bemusement at those who try to ignore her. In about a year, she's filed 200 formal complaints around the state, a huge number of appeals and countless California Public Record Act requests.

Sally Smith, left, speaks to parent Maegan Savage before the start of a San Diego school board meeting. Smith asked Savage what her troubles were, explained what services her children were eligible for and told her not to hesitate to call if she needed help.

The San Diego Unified School District gets the brunt of her focus.

"There are times where I think you can say she can be considered an irritant," school board member Scott Barnett said. "Certainly, some of the legal staff — given the amount, the breadth and depth of her requests — I think are irritated at times, to say the least."

Smith's home, where her family frequently finds her typing complaints late into the night in the living room, is only a quick trip to the district offices, where most everyone knows her — or at least knows of her.

Some parents, however, are fierce critics, accusing her of ruining school activities for their children, she said. She said her car has been vandalized at district headquarters, and she quips that a brick through her window wouldn't surprise her.

"I'm not well liked," she said, her waist-length brown hair tucked behind her ears. Then again, she said, "I'm not in this battle to make friends. I'm in it to help those kids who can't pay."

A large number of school districts were quite brazenly ignoring the law.”

— Attorney David Sapp


In 1879, California's Constitution granted "free school" for its citizens. The state Supreme Court would later find that fees charged for educational and extracurricular activities violated the state's guarantee of a free education.

"Access to public education is a right enjoyed by all — not a commodity for sale," the state Supreme Court said in a decision in 1984.

Smith's activism grew from her own frustration over what she saw as a trampling of that right.

One afternoon in 1997, her daughter, who was in seventh grade, arrived home from school excited about a class trip to a popular science camp near Big Bear.

Everyone in her grade was going, she said. But Smith found out that wasn't the case. Only those who could afford the $300 price tag could attend, and that left out six classmates.

Smith took a hard line: If other kids couldn't go, her daughter wouldn't either. Instead, she bought the class materials to hold their own science camp. They made papier-mache volcanoes that spewed baking-soda and vinegar lava.

"The kids that went on the trip were jealous of us," said Jessica Baris, Smith's daughter, now 27.

Smith, 55, knew then that this was an issue she couldn't let go of. Today, she can recite dozens of examples in which she believes districts are charging illegal fees: A high school in Orange County requires students to pay $30 for a spot in the school parking lot; marching band members in San Diego have to participate in fundraisers; and seniors up and down California are forced to shell out for graduation caps and gowns.

"I can't understand why adults have no empathy for children who are left out," Smith said.

Her name and her efforts have spread by word of mouth. Parents from around the state, often afraid of retribution if they take on their own schools, seek her out, asking her to fight against fees foisted on their children. "Thanks in advance, Sally," said a letter from an out-of-town parent.

Sally Smith checks paperwork during a school board meeting. "I'm not well liked," she says. But "I'm not in this battle to make friends. I'm in it to help those kids who can't pay." More photos

"I've seen the faces of parents when they see the fees," Smith said. "They're devastated."

As Smith scanned the meeting agenda before speaking to the board on a recent evening, a woman she hadn't seen before approached her: "Are you Sally Smith?" the woman asked, like a fan approaching a star.

Maegan Savage, a mother of three, came to tell the board about her kindergartner, who had started to fall behind in class, and her other child who wasn't receiving the tutoring he desperately needed. She needed help, and someone had suggested she talk to Smith.

As Savage's children played in the grass nearby, Smith asked her what her troubles were, explained what services her kids were eligible for and told her not to hesitate to call if she needed help.

Before saying goodbye, Smith had one more question: "Were you ever required to buy pencils? Paper? Crayons? Anything like that?"

For years, Smith practiced family law, trudging unhappily through messy divorces. In her free time, however, she relished her pro bono work providing legal aid to the women who were victims of domestic violence. She eventually grew tired of the long hours and left law to raise her children full time.

Meanwhile, California schools faced years of devastating budget cuts. To cover shortfalls, officials often moved to cut personnel and programs. And some appeared to attempt to maintain programs and activities by passing the costs on to students.

The American Civil Liberties Union found that some California campuses charged students for such basic things as workbooks or lab fees for science classes. Others charged hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to participate in extracurricular activities.

"A large number of school districts were quite brazenly ignoring the law," said David Sapp, an ACLU attorney. "Sally has been a tremendous advocate for families."

The ACLU sued the state in 2010, dropping the case two years later after a law was passed requiring the California Department of Education to ensure that schools don't charge illegal fees. It also provided a path for families: a new complaint process.

When they rule against me, they're ruling against the kids.”

— Sally Smith


This allowed a way for Smith to combine her legal skills and her advocacy. "I know how to rattle cages," she said.

San Diego school board member Barnett said that after awhile, it's "'Here comes Sally again.' But in most cases, she's right, and we need to make sure we're protecting the public and doing the right thing."

(San Diego schools Supt. Cindy Marten and four other board members did not respond to repeated requests for comment about Smith.)

At the same meeting recently, the school board agreed to prohibit all illegal fees. Board President Kevin Beiser seized upon the vote to make a statement to district families.

"Anywhere that children are being told that they must pay a fee," he said, "we will remedy that."

Smith was unimpressed. "Well, he's up for reelection," she said.

Most challenges are acrimonious, but others go smoothly.

Earlier this year, Smith filed a complaint with Principal John Dixon at Vista del Lago High School in Folsom after the school asked students to pay for art supplies and caps and gowns. Dixon said the fees weren't mandatory, and Smith was prepared for the typical back and forth. Instead, Dixon examined the issue and replied apologetically.

"I would like to thank you for bringing Vista's noncompliance to my attention," Dixon wrote. "In recent years, we have had a lot of discussion on this issue, and I was under the assumption that mandatory fees were no longer a part of our programs."

Victories, however, are rare for Smith. All but a dozen of her complaints have been denied. But she contends that it's not because her opponents are in the right but because they know the right legal loopholes.

"When they rule against me," Smith said, "they're ruling against the kids."

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-c1-schools-activist-20140423-dto,0,364568.htmlstory#ixzz2zotsEPtf

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Susan Luzzaro refuses to apologize for lapses in journalistic ethics; reveals that her daughter is on the CVE bargaining team



San Diego Reader reporter Susan Luzzaro seems to
have turned her back on journalistic ethics

See all posts re Common Core in SDER blog.

When I called out San Diego Reader reporter Susan Luzzaro on April 15, 2014 for her biased reporting about Common Core testing in Chula Vista Elementary School District, I thought I knew exactly how much she had compromised her journalistic ethics. It turns out, I didn't know the half of it.

I was shocked to read the following in an April 19, 2014 article by Ms. Luzzaro:

"...Chula Vista Elementary’s public relations officer, Anthony Millican, followed up by intimating it was unethical for me, as an author, not to have disclosed in the April 10 testing article that my daughter is a member of the Chula Vista Educator’s bargaining team. Millican also stated in an April 18 email, “You should have got our side of the issue in the first place”...(emphasis added).

Say what??? Susan Luzzaro's daughter is a member of the CVE (Chula Vista Educators) bargaining team?!?

I had no idea! What is going on, Susan Luzzaro??? How could you have concealed that information from your readers when you were attacking CVESD?

(I checked the latest "bargaining update" on the CVESD website, and found that Vanessa Luzzaro-Braito, who seems to have suddenly changed her name to Vanessa Braito, is listed as a member of the CVE team. I'm going to make a wild guess that the reason for the name change is to conceal the fact that she is Susan Luzzaro's daughter. While I'm at it, I think I'll make another wild guess: I bet Vanessa Luzzaro-Braito does not like Common Core. Do I have any takers on that bet?)

NO APOLOGY

I notice that Susan Luzzaro expresses no remorse about her ethical lapse. Instead, she seems to be offended that Mr. Millican would "intimate" that her behavior was unethical. Ms. Luzzaro seems to believe that it's okay for her to behave as she does, but it's not okay for others to talk about it.

If she really believes that there's nothing wrong with her actions, then why is she upset that people are discussing them?

Ms. Luzzaro's attitude, and certainly the attitude of the San Diego Reader, seems to be expressed in the contemptuous headline of Susan's latest story: "Hey, Chula Vista Elementary School District, test this".

NO EFFORT TO CORRECT BIAS IN APRIL 10, 2014 ARTICLE

Ms. Luzzzaro has made no effort as of April 22, 2014 to balance the reporting in her April 10, 2014 story, "Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents." After reading the story, one might be forgiven for believing that ALL parents at CVESD oppose the testing. Ms. Luzzaro does not appear to have made any effort to talk to parents who approve of Common Core and the associated testing.

WHY IS THE TEACHERS UNION ATTACKING COMMON CORE?

Susan Luzzaro is clearly trying to shift responsibility away from teachers who are having problems teaching basic concepts as required by Common Core. These teachers want to go back to methods that rely largely on rote memorization. See "Teachers who don't know how to teach are complaining about Common Core in Chula Vista Elementary School District."


Photo published by Reader on April 19, 2014.

Instead of retracting the false implication in her April 10, 2014
story that kids may be held back if they do poorly on a standardized
test, Ms. Luzzaro and the Reader reinforce the false impression with
a photo of a child being hoisted up by her mother, holding a sign that
says, “I am not a test score.” The photo dishonestly implies that the
district will change its treatment of the child based on a test score.
Shame on Susan Luzzaro and the Reader—and the parent who created that sign!

ANOTHER CASE OF COMPROMISED ETHICS AT THE READER?

All this is causing me to wonder if Dorian Hargrove's "mistake" in this story about Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz v. Larkins was really a mistake. In his story about me, Mr. Hargrove said that I had written a statement about Stutz law firm that was, in fact, written by an anonymous commenter on my blog. I let Mr. Hargrove know about the error right away. When I asked him to correct it, he refused to do so, saying, "It happens."

At the San Diego Reader, such happenings are apparently not considered grounds for an apology or retraction.

NOTE #1:

I will be presenting my oral arguments in Stutz v. Larkins in the Court of Appeal on May 16, 2014 at 9 a.m.. I won in August 2011 in this separate appeal in this same case. This bizarre free speech case has dragged on for over six years. Click HERE to see all posts regarding this lawsuit.

NOTE #2:

I have severely criticized CVESD on numerous occasions, but I support Core and the associated testing because it is in the best interest of students.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This 19-Year-Old Pedophile Has Never Gone Near A Child. And He Needs You To Hear His Story.


This 19-Year-Old Pedophile Has Never Gone Near A Child. And He Needs You To Hear His Story.
Adam Mordecai Adam Mordecai
Upworthy

"This American Life" decided to take on a REALLY hard topic: pedophilia. As a parent of two young kids, just hearing the word triggers a rage in me that I didn't even know I had. This is a hard episode to listen to, but it's really important that you do. Listen to it at work when you are bored at lunch, in your car, wherever. Just please hit "Play."

The definition of pedophilia is "a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger."

Note how I emphasized "attraction." To be a pedophile, you don't have to act on your urges. Just thinking them is enough. Which makes sense. The thing is, though, this attraction can start manifesting in kids as young as 12 or 13. And they have no way to talk about these urges or how to prevent them from taking control of their lives without being considered a threat. Talk to a shrink? You risk being reported to the authorities. The scientific community is so afraid of the stigma attached to even researching pedophilia that it's barely been studied it at all. Which seems like kind of a bad idea if we want to prevent the victimization of more young children.

So a 19-year-old kid, an admitted pedophile who has never acted on his impulses, started an online support group. His mom is helping him find solutions. He needs you to hear this, for the sake of your own kids.

"This American Life" was expecting lots of hate mail for this episode. So far, they've received none. It's a really good look at a really hard issue. So please listen.

"Also, directly from Ira, "Though there's nothing graphic in this story at all, victims of child sexual abuse should consider this a trigger warning."

[Link--CLICK HERE to listen] This American Life #522: Tarred And Feathered - Act Two - Help Wanted

"This American Life" is the best podcast on the Interwebs. If I were you, I'd Like them on Facebook.

Reporter Luke Malone spent a year and a half speaking and meeting with members of the support group. You can ask him any questions you might have via Twitter, @bylukemalone, and use hashtag #TarredTAL.

More importantly, if you could tweet and share this so we can prove that audio stories about important and complicated issues can reach a wide audience, I'd owe you one. It's a really painful issue, but it needs to be addressed.

Most importantly, if you have children, the reality is that not all pedophiles are like this guy. So here's a really good article about how to talk to them about it. [To see this article, CLCK HERE and scroll to bottom of page.]

Sunday, April 20, 2014

San Diego County 7th graders are increasing their use of marijuana: kids should be reminded to protect themselves

Today seems like a perfect day for discussing marijuana. (The date is 4-20).

Listen to this:

"Using marijuana a few times a week is enough to physically alter critical brain structures according to a new study..."

The study involved only young people.


Kids should be told about this. But if we want kids to listen to us, we should stick to the truth. If we exaggerate the negatives, kids won't trust us and will stop listening. For example, kids shouldn't be told, "If you smoke you will get lung cancer." They should be told that their risk of lung cancer will increase, and so will the risk of those who breathe their smoke.

Here's a story about a hoax intended to scare people about marijuana. Some of us are not amused by this satirical website. Politico says, "The Daily Currant isn't funny." I have to agree, at least in regard to this story, which was neither entertaining nor enlightening.

Sorry, teenagers. It's not looking so good for marijuana: a new study links casual marijuana use with significant changes to parts of the brain

Study: More County 7th Graders Are Smoking Pot
The county's "Report Card on Children and Families" was presented to the Board of Supervisors this week.
Posted by Michelle Mowad (Editor)
April 19, 2014

Teen pregnancy, child abuse and arrests among San Diego's youth declined over the past few years, but alcohol and tobacco use remained prevalent and marijuana use increased among seventh-graders, according to a report presented to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Between 2011 and 2013, researchers compiling the biennial "Report Card on Children and Families" measured progress in 25 areas that indicate health and well-being, including prenatal care, immunization, academic achievement and attendance.

The study is designed to provide elected officials, other policymakers and the public with a comprehensive look at trends related to the health and well-being of the county's children, teens and families.

"The San Diego County Report Card on Children and Families is more than a collection of charts and numbers," board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said. "It helps us step back and take a measure of our most important treasure, which is our children."

The detailed report by the nonprofit Children's Initiative showed improvements in 13 areas and little or no change in 10 others, Children's Initiative CEO Sandra McBrayer said.

More low-income families were accessing nutritional assistance and the number of residents with health coverage held steady. However, poverty in San Diego County also increased, which left more than 142,000 kids living below the local poverty level last year.

This year's report also included, for the first time, five indicators in adults that affected health from childhood -- oral health, obesity, substance abuse, poverty and health coverage. Obesity and oral health figures held steady but were not improving, and poverty and health coverage among adults were moving in the wrong direction. The percentage of adult smokers dropped.

"We're trying to demonstrate in this report card that childhood behaviors last a lifetime," McBrayer said.

The report also called attention to several areas with little available data, including human trafficking, untreated mental health needs and issues facing refugee children. It includes recommendations for improvement in San Diego County and outlines national best practices to make improvements, McBrayer said.

"Communities and heath departments don't have to think up what to do. We actually show them what's proven to be done to improve the indicator," McBrayer said.

—City News Service