Friday, August 11, 2017

The Scripps Research Institute ranked first in the world, while nearby UC San Diego was 14th

Scripps Research Institute Tops World in Science Quality, Says Ranking
The Scripps Research Institute ranked first in the world in research quality and commercialization of new products, while nearby UC San Diego was 14th, according to the journal Nature.

The publication’s Nature Index connects scholarly papers from research institutions with the patents that cite them..

Monday, August 07, 2017

Poway Superintendent Collins charged with 5 felonies

Ex-Poway Superintendent Is Facing Five Felony Charges
John Collins is facing five felony charges for allegedly misusing public money, vacation, sick and leave time while superintendent of the Poway Unified School District, according to a complaint filed by the San Diego County district attorney’s office on Friday...

Collins enjoyed a close relationship with the teacher’s union during his tenure as superintendent, which was credited for helping to avoid a strike and layoffs during difficult economic times.

The district was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when news emerged about a costly $1 billion capital appreciation bond deal struck on Collins’ watch in 2011, and Collins faced criticism locally during his last year on the job for, among other things, edits made to a consultant report and so-called “me-too” clauses in Collins’ contract that allowed him to benefit from teacher and manager pay negotiations...

[Comments by me and Chris Brewster--and Charles Sellars:]

So Poway school board member Charles Sellers says the board offered to work out an "amicable solution" for his departure from the district and the repayment of the funds that he misappropriated. What responsible public entity endeavors to work out an amicable solution with someone who has misappropriated over $300k? This suggests to me a serious lack of judgment on the part of the school board, which is probably already evident in that they kept this individual employed for so long.

@Chris Brewster Litigation is very costly and time-consuming. All civil cases should be settled. When they're not settled, it means one or both parties is being unreasonable (unless there is a genuine uncertainty about the law applicable to the case). Clearly, in this case, Collins is being unreasonable, and he wants to do as much harm as he can to the school district.

Ms. Larkins: I agree that litigation can costly and time-consuming. I do not agree that all civil cases should be settled. Some, for example, are initiated to intimidate or for other inappropriate reasons. A good example is the civil case against Taylor Swift, which was recently tossed by a federal judge, but only after she contested it in court. Had she settled, she would have implied some degree of personal responsibility, which the judge found lacking. Settling to avoid court costs is a tactic that avoids costs, but can add insult to injury.
The suggestion of my post however is that the members of the school board who presided over the district during this individual's tenure were seriously negligent in allowing someone who has now been charged with felonies to engage in the alleged activities. Trying to mediate with someone you believe has stolen public funds is a fool's errand and even if successful, allows the person to retain some of the purloined public funds. One might suggest that something is better than nothing, but there is principle involved. For example, do you negotiate with someone who has robbed your bank and settle for half of the funds they stole?

@Chris Brewster
I would like to amend my comment to say,
"All civil cases should be settled or dropped (unless there is genuine uncertainty about the applicable law)."

Of course, dropping a case is a sort of settlement. In fact, frivolous lawsuits are sometimes settled in favor of the defendant when the plaintiff comes to his senses. Taylor Swift's case could have been settled in her favor, with the plaintiff apologizing to her and perhaps paying her legal fees.

The idea of settling for half the funds stolen might make sense if the money has already been spent and the defendant has no other resources. You can't get blood from a stone, but you can waste a lot of time and energy trying. But remember that it is also possible to settle for ALL the money and then some. Surely you'd approve of that????

I do not believe in the principle of draining a school district of money and people-hours and peace just out of revenge. The first duty of a school district is to the public, not the desire for revenge.

@Chris Brewster Also, it is ridiculous for you to pretend that Sellars has responsibility for keeping Collins employed so long. Sellars opposed Collins from the start. Sellars was elected in November 2014. In April 2015, VOSD reported on Sellars:
"John [Collins] and Candy [Smiley, president of Poway teachers] cut up the pie,” said school board member Charlie Sellers, who was elected in November. “The previous board simply rubber-stamped their action and this board is actually questioning their actions and they don’t like it.”

Ms. Larkins: Could you kindly point out where in my remarks I suggested that Mr. Sellars has responsibility for keeping Mr. Collins employed for so long? I'm unable to find any such implication. As for your other point, I agree that the first duty of a school district is to the public, not the desire for revenge. The school board clearly made some terrible decisions here. The question is, once they determined this gentleman fleeced them, would the best option not be to turn the case over to the DA and ask that as part of the prosecution, the defendant be required to pay the school district back? Achieving an out of court settlement for half (of what they think he stole for example) is not, in my view, in the best interest of the school district or justice. It is Mr. Sellars who is quoted as believing the some mediated settlement would have been desirable. It is with that sentiment that I disagree for the reasons noted.

@Chris Brewster
If you tell me that you didn't intend to blame Sellars for keeping Collins employed, I believe you.

But let me explain how a logical reader would read your statements (although your final clause might not have accurately reflected what you wanted to say).

To start with, you mentioned Sellars by name, saying, "...Charles Sellers says the board offered to work out an "amicable solution" for his departure from the district and the repayment of the funds that he misappropriated."

You thus pointed out Charles Sellars as the one board member who took public responsibility for the effort to settle with Collins. We can assume that a majority of the board supported this effort, but we don't know who the other individuals were.

You then made clear that this effort by Charles Sellars and these other unknown individuals  demonstrated a lack of judgment: "What responsible public entity endeavors to work out an amicable solution with someone who has misappropriated over $300k? This suggests to me a serious lack of judgment..."

You then added another accusation against Sellars and the unknown individuals, "This suggests to me a serious lack of judgment, which is probably already evident in that they kept this individual employed for so long."

"They" obviously refers to Sellars and the unknown individuals.

I believe you if you didn't mean to implicate Sellars in keeping Collins employed so long. If you didn't mean to implicate him, I'd be interested to know that.

@Chris Brewster
Regarding your point that settlement is bad because the DA might want to get a judgment for ALL damages, I agree with your sentiment that the money should be paid back in full if Collins has the ability to pay.

But the man seems to be broke. In other words, he is judgment-proof.

You can't get blood from a stone. If he had turned over what he still had at the time of the settlement offer in return for the district waiving the rest of his debt, the students would be ahead.

I doubt Collins will ever pay a cent to Poway Unified.

Ms. Larkins: I know nothing about Mr. Sellars other than what I have read here (i.e. his quote). I think the action he supported was unwise and inappropriate. I think that if a public entity becomes aware that a person in their employ has acted unlawfully, they should turn the information over to the proper authorities. Full stop. I think this is a continuation of bad decisions by the board, Whether Mr. Sellars was involved in some or all of them is not something I am in a position to dissect. 

@Chris Brewster
Chris, you have every right to believe that the settlement offer was "unwise and inappropriate."
But you are wrong to deny that the new board with Mr. Sellars and Kimberly Beatty did an investigation and turned their results over to the proper authorities.
That's exactly what they did.
They also are suing Collins to get the money back. Are you saying that they shouldn't be suing Collins to get the money back?
We are talking about two separate things here: the criminal case and the civil suit.

And I must disagree with your insistence that "the board" continued the same kind of decision-making after Mr. Sellars and Kimberly Beatty were elected. There was a significant change. For some reason, perhaps a political reason, you don't want to give Sellars and Beatty credit for any change.

@Maura Larkins @Chris Brewster Ms. Larkins, thank you for your support it is much appreciated.  Mr. Brewster, what I meant by "amicable" was "mutually agreed".  While I cannot divulge the content of these negotiations, rest assured that our goal as a Board was always to minimize any damage caused to the District.  Sometimes that involves not throwing good money after bad.  While we strongly believe that Dr. Collins owes PUSD all these monies, if not more, there is no guarantee that a court will agree with us.  Even if it does, there is no guarantee that we will ever collect in full from Dr. Collins.  We simply attempted a settlement that would have yielded the most dollars in the least time.  However, Dr. Collins was simply not amenable to negotiation, much less compromise.  Perhaps if he had shown remorse for his actions, paid back what he could, resigned instead of having to be fired, settled instead of forcing us to sue him, he might not be facing jail and the loss of his pension, even though you (and many others) feel that is what he deserves.  I can't speak for the authorities.  We simply followed the law and turned over our findings.  The decisions to  criminally prosecute and strip him of his credentials were made by others.  I'm just saying that had he agreed to do what was best for Poway Unified, he may also have been doing what was best for himself.  While he had numerous opportunities to do just that, he always chose not to and only he can say why. Perhaps he will, in court. - - Charles Sellers, PUSD Trustee.

Mr. Sellars: Thanks for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated. My view is that if a public entity, such as yours, has reason to believe that crimes have been committed, that information should be turned over to the proper prosecutorial authorities and they should handle the case. If that was done expeditiously, it is not apparent to me from the stories I have read. 
@Chris Brewster When we fired Dr. Collins for cause in July of 2016, we immediately turned over the results of our forensic audit to both the District Attorney and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, as required by law.  I can only assume that appeals with the CTC and negotiations with the DA are what took up the past year.  As they say, the wheels of justice turn slowly.

Mr. Sellars: Thank you for enlightening me and anyone else reading this thread. If the board expeditiously turned over the audit to the authorities noted, I clearly think that was the right thing to do.

Boston charter school leaders' big earnings should help reset expectations in education.

The Pay Leaders Deserve
By Frederick M. Hess
U.S. News and World Report
Aug. 7, 2017

Last week, The Boston Globe ran a front-page story on the pay of Boston's 16 charter-school leaders. Headlined "Charter School Leaders Making Big Money," it reported that most of the charter leaders earned total compensation of $150,000 to $200,000 in 2016, with three topping $200,000.

The Globe pointedly noted that Boston's superintendent, Tommy Chang, earned $272,000 last year for leading a 55,000 student district—while most of these charter schools enroll something closer to 500 or 600.

What to make of these data? One could obviously conclude that Boston's charter leaders are wildly overpaid...

But perhaps something else is going on.

It may be that terrific school leaders are underpaid...

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Japan Might Be What Equality in Education Looks Like

"...[I]n Japan only about 9 percent of the variation in student performance is explained by students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. The [world] average is 14 percent, and in the United States, it’s 17 percent."
 Japan Might Be What Equality in Education Looks Like
The country’s government makes sure areas with low income levels and property values get good teachers too.

KAWAMATA, Japan—In many countries, the United States included, students’ economic backgrounds often determine the quality of the education they receive. Richer students tend to go to schools funded by high property taxes, with top-notch facilities and staff that help them succeed. In districts where poorer students live, students often get shoddy facilities, out-of-date textbooks, and fewer guidance counselors. 

Not in Japan...“In Japan, you may have poor areas, but you don’t have poor schools”...