Saturday, May 28, 2016

San Diego Unified stonewalls Sally Smith

Citizen on a mission sues district for violating state public records act
By Dorian Hargrove
San Diego Reader
May 27, 2016

San Diego Unified School District is discriminating against a student advocate in her quest to obtain public records, says a newly filed lawsuit filed on behalf of San Diego resident Sally Smith.

Over the past six years, Smith has been dogged in her quest to end illegal school fees and raise awareness of poor investigations into sexual assaults and other abuses within the country's eighth-largest school district. To help in her quest, Smith regularly submits public records requests to the district.

Oftentimes, those requests are met with resistance from school officials. In November 2014, Smith sued the San Diego Unified School District after she was denied access to log on to district computers to view public documents that are only offered on those certain computers.

While that case continues to make its way through court, Smith has filed a new lawsuit. On May 24, attorney Paul Boylan, who specializes in public records law, filed a lawsuit on Smith's behalf after the district refused to hand over legal bills that the district paid to outside counsel who were advising school-board members on the controversy surrounding former trustee Marne Foster.

...In response, the district hired legal firm DLA Piper to look into the alleged abuses of power. But a short time later, trustees voted to suspend the legal contract after the San Diego County district attorney announced that a criminal investigation had been launched. On March 8, trustees approved paying DLA Piper $34,000 for work leading up to the D.A.’s investigation.

Smith wanted to see the invoices for legal work, documents that are typically available under California's public records law. Nine days after filing her request, the district responded by stating there were "no non-privileged documents responsive to your request."

Days later, Smith responded, "This is not a legal document. It is a standard request for payment detailing what taxpayers paid for. I made the request...just a few days after the San Diego Unified School Board approved paying the bill." Again, the district refused: "...[T]here are no non-privileged documents responsive to your request. More specifically Government Code 6276.04 protects attorney client communications, in addition to Section 6068 of the Business and Professions Code and Sections 952 and 954 of the Evidence Code." Smith once again contacted attorney Boylan to file a lawsuit...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Castle Park Promise Neighborhood continues to conceal results of $60,000,000.00 grant

Voice of San Diego published a story about SDUSD board member Kevin Beiser urging parents to opt out of standardized testing (see below). But I don't think the real story is Kevin Beiser. I think it's Promise Neighborhood.

Promise Neighborhood Institute gave a $60 million grant to Castle Park neighborhood and schools in December 2012. So what do you get for $60,000.000.00? It's anyone's guess. Promise Neighborhoods conceals Castle Park results.

What improvements in student performance have been seen since the money started being spent in early 2013?  Strangely, Promise Neighborhoods took credit for improvements in the spring 2013 test scores at Castle Park Middle School though some think that the new principal, not Promise Neighborhood, deserved credit for the student progress.

But I'd be willing to give Promise Neighborhoods some of the credit if test scores had gone up again in spring 2014.  But strangely, Promise Neighborhoods is silent about those scores.

In fact, Promise Neighborhoods doesn't seem to want people to see its own June 2013 article by Samuel Sinyangwe announcing the spring 2013 scores.

Promise Institute took down its original website, but the article was concealed even before the website went dark, and it is also missing from the new website. Here's all the information that the new website is giving about Castle Park: vista_070615_b.pdf

If a $60 million grant isn't working, shouldn't Promise Neighborhoods be honest about it?  Who is gaining from their secrecy? Are they afraid that competent people might be brought in to replace the folks who are spending large sums of money?

Why are some schools so afraid of test results? Because they don't know how to improve them. For many, of not most, teachers, test preparation is just a bunch of boring worksheets, not fun lessons on logic and concepts.

Beiser Encouraged Castle Park Students Not to Take State Tests
By Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego
May 16, 2016

Kevin Beiser, who serves on the San Diego Unified School Board, sent a note to students and parents in his Castle Park Middle School class days before the class was set to take mandated state tests. In it, he encouraged students to opt out of the tests — something that’s forbidden by the state’s Education Code.

...Parents and educators oppose testing for a number of reasons, ranging from resistance to the possibility of sanctions imposed on teachers and schools to skepticism of profiteering by testing companies.

Yet, groups that want to preserve testing – including the NAACP, National Council of La Raza and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund – argue that standardized testing reveals disparities that exist between students.

Last year, civil rights groups wrote in a joint statement: “There are some legitimate concerns about testing in schools that must be addressed … But we cannot fix what we cannot measure. And abolishing the tests or sabotaging the validity of their results only makes it harder to identify and fix the deep-seated problems in our schools.”