Monday, August 09, 2010

Yet Another Rip-off at the Schools

Council of Trent gathers in Wimauma to decide whether to censure the St. Pete Times for glorifying with front-page coverage the Gates program of bad advice for the schools; the schools piddled away the Gates money by buying this geegaw program for millions from some slick outfit that ripped it off research Web sites.

I saw nothing about poverty and performance in schools in yesterday’s front-page story in the Times. Or about children struggling with a second language.

This county is chockablock with poor children and Spanish-speaking children, so poor that they can’t afford supplies to participate in class work. Yet school board members lark around the country splurging with thousands of tax dollars to stay in swishy hotels and eat gourmet food in upscale restaurants on the taxpayers’ dime while these children languish in classrooms without supplies.

Many times teachers buy these supplies out of their meager salaries for the poor children in their classes, and there is some kind of volunteer outfit set up to get donations to supply poor children with the things they need to perform in class. Why should a volunteer group have to beg for money for poor children’s supplies while the board and administration fritter away thousands and thousands for their ego satisfaction? Betimes Elia is making up jobs for failed administrators like Smith from Alafai, who gets the same salary as she got as a principal to sit on her tush in the book depository doing zilch because the administration’s secret policy is never to fire or punish a messed-up administrator but to fire teachers for the least little contretemps. Board members Jennifer Motel Breath Falliero and April Betty Boop Griffin journeyed out to Alafia at Elia’s behest—Elia can’t bear bad publicity-- to dangle the promise of a replacement job manufactured for her at the same salary as the principal job that the parents didn’t want her occupying a minute longer. Board members Motel Breath and Betty Boop did not realize that what they did violated equal opportunity and government in the sunshine.

The outfit that sold the Gates-funded program to the county for millions that it probably ripped it off of public research institutions’ Web sites made out like a bandit with the unsophisticated board and administration that clogs the halls of power in Hillsborough County.. The administrators and board members don’t read education Web sites; they read the National Inquirer and bodice-rippers. So this scam must have seemed like the key to board and administration innocents to the puzzle of how to educate children, an arcane they are none acquainted with.

The Gates program begins to remind me of the Nazi social program that everybody had to adhere to or go in front of a firing squad. That’s the teachers’ fate: buckle under or lose their job. Notice that the reviewers are 500 administrators and only 200 teachers according to the Times article. And the front-page milquetoast article means the press is playing tootsie with this rip-off, giving it front-page coverage with no editorial comments. The only resource to a skilled reporter is to point out the negative aspects of the program, which this first article did not and does not promise to do.

The Times readers aren’t smart enough or interested enough to analyze this taxpayer rip-off. And the Times publisher is a dumbass despite having graduated summa cum laude from some hayseed university in the outback of the country awarding Ph.D.s in the care and feeding of mules and donkeys and how to placate laying hens.

It’s a constant policy at the Times to pick dumb guys to head up the organization. The first time I saw the previous publisher (Andy Somebody) at a luncheon after he came to town, he was ostentatiously carrying around a copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra under his arm. I am sure he never read a word of it or knew Nietzsche from a hole in the ground This poseur’s great claim for éclat was that he had worked at the Washington Post, which had turned down Maureen Dowd for a job. There’s a smart bunch of sexists in charge there, too, of course.

What an industry the newspaper racket is! And people are naïve enough to think that if the press gets hold of a whiff of wrongdoing that it straps on its rhetorical Teflon armor and wades in to clean up the mess and save humankind. Ah yes, our saviors the crusading press. These are the knights manqué that the public thinks will guard democracy and wipe out wrongdoing. Dream on, my innocents.

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Why Culture Counts: Teaching Children of Poverty

Donna Walker Tileston, Sandra Darling

Look inside Why Culture Counts: Teaching Children of Poverty!

Poverty alone is not the cause of low achievement in our schools. Using careful research, Why Culture Counts shows why it is vital to take into account the needs, beliefs, and values that children of poverty and diverse learners bring to class every day. Find out:

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Efforts to improve achievement must focus on curriculum, instruction, and assessment—but to close the achievement gap, we need a model that also attends to the culture of the learner. This book does both.

Association of Educational Publisher (Distinguished Achievement Award Winner 2009)Foreword Magazine (Bronze Award 2008)

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Email to Olson's Opponent Post Times Wounding the Poor Wretch

Wired Witches International Strike Force and Quilting Bee Picketing the SPTimes and the Pinellas ACLU in our fancy hats to protest the sexism of both

Email to Frank Hernandez, Candy Olson’s opponent in the District 2 school election

Frank Fernandez, sir:

I see you got a swat from Mr. Marshall of the SPT for misrepresenting your credentials. That’s bad. People don’t like lying. Words have meaning and weight, especially for politicians. Pay attention to words and use them with care, especially when you put those words on a campaign flyer. April Griffin has lied like a rug all during her incumbency, but she has thus far gotten away with it. The press is a somnolent beast that wakes occasionally and takes a bite out of someone. You were the target this time.

My impression from reading your flyer is that you don’t have a clue about what you are getting into. The school board of Hillsborough County has over the years joined the administration to produce a kind of outback mafia of corruption that has become expert in the peccadilloes of crime. They both are protective of the perquisites of this production and will try to destroy anybody who threatens it.

Look at what happened to Mr. Erwin when he threatened their power by asking for an investigation of the crime he unearthed in the administration. Dr. Earl the Pearl Lennard was the center of Erwin’s savaging, a fact which suggests that the administration and board were taking bribes for approving slovenly building.

I cite from your flyer with comments.

Frank: Cultivate more talented students equipped with 21st Century Skills

This comment lacks sense.

The meaning of the phrase “talented students” is unclear. What about students without talent? As a former teacher, I avow there are lots of them. Do you suggest ignoring untalented students?

Be specific about “21st century skills.” Parents are anxious to have their children learn Standard English and even another language so that they qualify for college or jobs. Employers complain now that applicants emerging from high school and even college don’t know how to write Standard English. You could institute an exit essay from graduating students to demonstrate their literacy or lack of it. Parents want their offspring to know math, science, history, and other traditional academic studies that equip them with the sophistication that lets them to succeed in the global job market as well as on the corporate cocktail circuit. If they don't learn these academic fields in high school, they probably will live out their lives not knowing anything about them.

Don’t cooperate with April Griffin’s effort to turn high schools into trade schools. She has no college degree and is too lazy to get one with two universities and a community college in the county. Look at Griffin’ blog: it’s packed with grammar-punctuation errors from which parents would shrink back in horror; her vacuous opining about frivolous topics divorced from the problems besetting the Hillsborough County schools says little for her concern for the schools.

Frank: Cultivate programs that encourage higher levels of parent involvement.

In board meetings, one sees downright rudeness to parents who come to speak to the board by the board chair and by inattentive conduct of the board. Ms. Elia usually chooses this time to trade jokes with Mr. Gonzalez, who sits by her often slurping soda and eating chips. Other board members evince symptoms of ennui. The only board member I have seen be polite to parents is Ms. Valdes when she chaired the meeting. You might start this project with a Ms. Manners text for each board member and periodic pop quizzes. Board members are hospitable only to those who come to praise them is my observation.

A huge need is to devise a way to prevent Ms. Elia’s handing out jobs for reasons other than professional competence. The board goes along with this practice by rubberstamping them as they stream by on the consent agenda. A recent example: Ms. Linda Kipley’s husband applied for an accounting position. His credentials: a high school diploma only, no accounting degree, no experience. I reviewed the applicant file: there were four applicants with accounting degrees and experience. One was a disabled woman whom the federal government requires protection of by an affirmative action plan.

A courageous board member could demand that jobs and their descriptions appear on the board Web page with hyperlinks to applications for the jobs. Then the community could see whether Ms. Elia hires the best person. I long to see this move carried out by some intrepid board member. Courage, alas, is a rare quality in board members. New ones usually roll over and hew to the party line within weeks of their elections.

I have spent my professional life mostly in colleges and universities. My observation says that courage is much more rare than intelligence. In fact, courage threatens to disappear from the human lexicon of behaviors.

I checked because of the Kipley hiring to see if the school had an affirmative-action plan. It did not. Who got the job? Mr. Linda Kipley, of course. Why? My inference is that this job putting an unqualified person on the payroll was to reward Ms. Kipley for all the dirty work she has done as head of Professional Standards at the behest of Ms. Elia and Earl the Pearl Lennard before Elia. When Ms. Valdes from the podium timidly asked Mr. Valdez, head of employment if Mr. Kipley were really the best qualified, he said “yes” while his nose grew another inch.

Ms. Kipley herself has the exotic credential of a home ec degree for a job that pays about $150,000. She got the head-of-Professional-Standards promotion when the teachers of Hillsborough High, where Ms. Kipley, incredibly, was principal, would not enter a conference with her without a recorder because of her well-known penchant for lying. Ms. Kipley’s elevation instead of the firing she deserved illustrates the faculty’s aphorism that in the administration, “If you mess up, you move up.”

Recommendation: stop writing the blowsy educanto that characterizes your prose on this flyer. This substandard sort of writing comes from the ranks of the C and D students who populate the administrative ranks of school systems. It’s uncivilized and obtuse because those who affect it are uncivilized and obtuse. Read George Orwell’s short essay on how to write clear, civilized prose. Follow his advice. Your resume says you majored in history. Thucydides didn’t write educanto; nor did Herodotus; nor Gibbon. People still read those guys. They will throw all documents written in educanto in the trash can. History doesn’t tolerate fools who can’t write clear Standard English.

You aver that you will “Support our teachers by allocating required resources and proper mentorship.”

Oh, dear: here appears more educanto jawboning. What about promising to support teachers by ending the administration-board practice of filing Professional Standards charges against them on made up or marginal reasons to keep teachers quiet about what’s really going on in the schools? What about challenging the administration-board war on teachers who have blogs? This pledge would commit you to protect free speech, a Constitutional freedom you swear to uphold when you take an oath of office. What about promising to conduct a study of why only teachers have professional standards charges filed against them but never administrators although the state Board of Education says both teachers and administrators are liable for Professional Standards lapses?

I could go on and on; but these data are something you will have time to master before the next election four years from now. I invite you to read my blog and that of Susy Creamcheese, who is a teacher who disguises her identity for a valid fear of firing. I urge you to switch your major from education back to a Ph.D. in history. History is a hefty, academically valid degree. All areas of the education graduate school racket are academic fluff extracted by the education lobby from universities that should know better and protect learning.

I think your misrepresentation of your resume in addition to being a challenger of an incumbent will end your election hopes for this election.

But keep in mind my role model Scarlett O’Hara’s dictum: “Tomorrow is another day.”