Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday 12/14/06

Life is keeping me pretty busy. I'll make some quick comments on the following.

MNPS Chief Instructional Officer Sandra Johnson is, frankly, not well liked by many of our public education consumers. News in this morning's City Paper that she's up for a job anywhere else will be welcome.

Currently, Johnson oversees nearly all departments for the school district, answering only to Garcia.
And that's part of the problem for many parents. She wasn't accountable to the board and an obvious favorite of Garcia. If Glendale, Arizona wants her--God bless 'em.
“I think she’s done an admirable job and I certainly think it would be a loss to the district,” Thompson said. “And it may well be she has trained others enough to carry on.”
"Admirable?"--so there's one man's opinion. George is up for reelection in 2008. Let's see what tune he sings then.

LEAD Academy gets approval from the BOE. I'm very glad to see us get another charter school. This is an important option for some very needy students. MNPS isn't meeting their needs with what they have available--there is no good reason to keep there where they're not learning.
“A large part of the Pearl-Cohn district is in the district I serve,” [BOE member George] Thompson said. “My concern is how will we deal with maintaining Pearl-Cohn in the public school system if we’re going to help to populate a competing charter for that same population.”
Ask Sandra Johnson, George, she's been doing an 'admirable' job.

Actually, Mr. Thompson, the needs of the students should take precedence over saving any system. These students are not getting the education their parents were promised. We've got to try a different system. Regardless the board will protect the system despite the cost to students:
The board agreed to add language into LEAD’s contract to clarify the issue and guarantee the school would not drain the Pearl-Cohn cluster.
Pearl-Cohn cluster parents should contact the BOE members now and let them know how they feel about being excluded from a charter school that may very well be the answer to their child's education needs.

Traditional v. Balanced: Thank goodness the BOE members (well 7 at least) understood that a change was merely window dressing. That change for changes sake (a hallmark of public education) isn't beneficial for the children. Lacking any reliable evidence that the change will benefit the children and families the system serves it was given a thumbs down by the BOE.
“I hope tonight… that we don’t adopt policy simply to make a change and that we finally and permanently dump the balanced calendar matter into the dustbin of school board history,” Fox said. City Paper
Thank you, Mr. Fox. And for some illuminating information you may want to cruise over to the comments section of the Tennessean's article where "Magoo" posted the scores of local systems by calendar and it clearly shows that traditional scores higher. In our impatience and love for flash, glamour and NEW! we too easily abandon the boring and traditional forgetting that one of the reasons most traditions hang around is because they work. Sorry guys but it may be boring--but I'll take boring and effective over flashy and iffy every day when it comes to the essential education of our children.

Now maybe we can move that calendar all the way back to traditional and start after Labor Day and save some AC costs.

Cell phones for students--just not board members. This article in the City Paper Monday made me snort-laugh. After all the fuss the BOE went through over their cell phone use, the return of the phones, the vote over what equipment we could and couldn't have provided we now have MNPS handing out free phones to students.
The students have been allotted 500 minutes a month and all incoming calls are free of charge. Students are also encouraged to give out their cell phone numbers to fellow students to get feedback regarding district issues.
And what do we know about teens and allotted minutes? Let's see if teens are better than BOE members at limiting their minutes.

Irony aside, if this 'narc-phone network' works I'll be happy to pay the bill.

The Robert Bowers dismissal hearing continues according to yesterday's City Paper. It's these sorts of hearing that are exceptionally draining on BOE members. And it's these hearings that prove to me that the MNEA (Metro Nashville Education Association) is a union and not a professional organization. Yes, everyone deserves their day in court, but if MNEA were a true professional organization they'd be equally appalled that the unprofessionalism of some of their members and do some housekeeping of their own. Instead, if my summer dismissal experience and this current one are reliable indicators, they make excuses for the employee and point accusatory fingers at others in a desperate attempts to keep the employee employed--at the expense of children.
Bowers’ attorney Vince Wyatt implied during questioning of Mansfield that most of the errors were the fault of previous guidance counselors, not Bowers.
Then why wasn't Bower's complaining from the get go about the mess he'd inherited and why wasn't he begging for additional help?

It's time to work on the budget and so it's time to lead and stand. It doesn't look like Steve Glover understands that.
“I’m nervous about stepping out saying we’re going to cut this position or we’re going to cut these positions,” Glover said. “We’re really just so early in the game.” City Paper
Someone's got to start the process. I dearly hope there is a leader on that Board that will. Looks like Mr. Fox has taken over former BOE member Kathy Nevill's number crunching job for the BOE. Bless him and his calculator.

That's it for now, life calls.


Anonymous said...

Sorry for the length...

On charter schools (and really on Dr. Johnson as well), it seems ironic to me that we enact curricula system wide for public schools, give teachers less and less say in the decisions that impact the very students they see on a daily basis, abate professional development except for the central office initiatives, and then say we need for some schools to try innovative things, but that we have to do it outside the public schools. To put it another way, why does the city allow the leadership to create cookie cutter schools, and then say "we need alternatives"? I'm not against charter schools per se, but when people are for innovation, but only a specific route to innovation, it really seems more political than educational.

The same is true for vouchers. We have zone schools, we have some open enrollment and magnet schools (especially for those who get how the system works.) Yet there is a call for school competition, and instead of relaxing the strict rules for recruitment and advertising/marketing to actually let our schools compete for students as well as expanding open enrollment policies, some cry out for money to go to the schools outside the school system. If the bureaucracy is the problem, deal with the bureaucracy overall rather than only letting a handful of kids have options. Why does no one really call out for our existing schools to be allowed more self-directed (including parents and community) innovation?

I still don't get the whole Maplewood charter order for Maplewood to do things differently, we're going to let it become a charter school controlled by...the very people who controlled it in the first place??? Inane!

Balanced Calendar- I was pleased with Mr. Fox's vote and particularly his comment about change for change's sake. Exactly how I felt about the issue. I hope he continues to be an independent voice that serves his district.

As for the dismissal hearing on Mr. Bowers, I think you'd find many, many teachers very upset at the thought of a guidance counselor changing the grades we assigned to a student or even inventing that they received credit in the courses we teach. From what I've seen, he totally needs to go (and perhaps there are more who need to go with him as well. Though on a side note, I remember being a first year teacher and my assistant principal came to me to pass an athlete who had done next to nothing in class. Could I help the student? The administrator was going to fight for me to stay if positions had to be cut; couldn't I help him out on this? That blatant- I kid you not.)

Now, I've read that linked article three times and still fail to see where MNEA is mentioned. A google search for "Richard Bowers" and MNEA brings up the MNPS sitemap (which lists tons of unrelated items) and your site. That's it.

We pay our professional organizations over $500 dollars a year. Part of that is essentially insurance that we get a lawyer if we request a due process hearing as a result of disciplinary actions. MNEA helps teachers find those lawyers. This insurance seemed important enough for the MNPS administration to propose paying it for every teacher a few years back (Three guesses why). True, it is unfortunate for the PR of an organization that this causes it to be seen as bolstering bad teachers rather than providing assistance in due process. That's the nature of advocacy at times; if you contract to provide someone legal assistance, you can't later pick and choose who you fulfill the agreement with. Our forefathers put that concept into the Bill of Rights- you seem to agree in saying everyone deserves a day "in court." I can't find any evidence that suggests MNEA has done anything more than fulfill a contractual obligation to provide outside legal assistance.

And anti-union citizens are quite happy to bring up the "union" when a teacher is accused of a misdeed, but are quite silent about the professional organization when its members become school leaders, earn awards, grants, and become media recognized "teachers of the year". Many of us are MNEA members, too.

Anonymous said...

I should add I don't even know for a fact that he's a member.

And that I generally do agree with your statement: "Actually, Mr. Thompson, the needs of the students should take precedence over saving any system." in terms of assuring a school a minimum enrollment or denying the families other options. LEAD Academy sounds interesting; these students should also be allowed to ask for spots at other Metro schools. The parents should be better taught about how to "ask" or apply.