Monday, December 31, 2007

MP3's for the children

As a result of Christmas giving everyone in the house now has their own MP3 player. That makes them very happy but it makes it a bit more difficult to hear mom calling to remind them of chores still to be done.

With the RIAA's ridiculous opinion that riping CD's you've purchased may be a violation of their copyright you might be looking for some other options to fill those tender ears. I've got 'em.

We've been long time fans of Homeschool Radio Shows (classic radio programs that include literature, history and just silly stuff), we appreciate the free books via the audio archive (Uncle Tom's Cabin currently) and now (thanks to Ben Cunningham) we're going through the Kiddie Recordings: Classics from the Golden Age. Even cooler, sit your child down in front of this screen so they can listen to the audio while scrolling through the original illustrations that have been restored. They can watch "Between the Lions" some other time.

Kiddie Records Weekly began in 2005 as a one year project devoted to the golden age of children's records. This period spanned from the mid forties through the early fifties and produced a wealth of all-time classics. Many of these recordings were extravagant Hollywood productions on major record labels and featured big time celebrities and composers. Over the years, these forgotten treasures slipped off the radar and it became our mission to give them a new lease on life by sharing them with today's generation of online listeners. Each week throughout the year we added a new recording and before we knew it, our one year project turned into three!

Yeah, what Nathan said

The argument advanced by some here in Tennessee is that such a vote will “depress turnout”. And they’re right - it will depress turnout of those who shouldn’t be voting in the first place. If the argument is simply that presently reliable Democrat voting blocks aren’t motivated enough to go get a voter identification card once every five years, paid for by the government, I extend my deepest sympathies to Democrat politicians everywhere who are going to have to find new, more dynamic groups to pander to. That is a disingenuous argument.
Nathan Moore's got some of the other objections covered. This one hits close to home. This argument mimics one used on homeschoolers regularly:
A third argument against the voter identification law is that there are practically no instances of fraud reported, so there is no need for a voter identification card. A simple question for those making that argument - how do you know?
Often the education establishment pushes for homeschool regulation and testing out of concern for the children (they say). We say "But there are very few instances of educational fraud." They respond: "But we don't know how many more there might be." Another one way street.

Vote early and often

no, not in the presidential primary--regarding MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia . I'll leave the poll at right up for several weeks while the BOE reviews and discusses his performance. More importantly be sure and let them know how you want them to vote. Use this link to email them all.

And surely we all know the poll won't be a perfect barometer of the community's feelings. But I've provided a pretty good range of responses, I don't think we'll be far off.

Starting the new year right

Karen Johnson's not the first MNPS BOE member to blog (I was) but her presence is very welcome. Hopefully, this will be a great communication tool for not just her constituents but for MNPS parents, taxpayers and voters as well. If it's nothing but a place to post MNPS press releases it won't be. Comments are enabled. She's started a conversation folks, let's keep it going.

Visit and add the Karen Y. Johnson District 6 blog to your feed reader.

She's got two polls on her site (on the left, scroll down) asking if Antioch needs a new elementary school or a new middle school. Nice safe questions. It's more likely people want to vote yes or no on MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia staying instead but this is a start.

Who's next to jump in to the blogosphere? David Fox or Mark North ?

Hat tip: AC Kleinheider

Friday, December 28, 2007

Oh well then...

Persons unknown have managed to break into two government offices over the Christmas holiday and gain access to our contact information and even our Social Security numbers. Both the Davidson County Election Commission and the Department of Safety (just a short car ride along Murfreesboro Road as AC Kleinheider illustrates) were hit.

The Election Commission does not anticipate that the theft will cause any problems in upcoming Presidential Primary voting which begins on January 16. Press Release dated 2007-12-28
Oh, well that was the first concern I had upon hearing this bad news.

Actually, my first question after reading this Tennessean account:
Security workers were on duty over the holiday, but the theft went undetected until the day after Christmas, when Barrett unlocked the office at 7:30 a.m. and found a broken window and missing office equipment —
was what were we paying security for if they never noticed a broken window????? Good grief, my local convenience market has more security over the beer case, apparently.

Dave Ramsey's ID Protection Insurance is $72.00 a pop. Who do I send the invoice to to cover the three voters and drivers in our household?

While we wait for the dust to settle you may want to keep an eye your credit report via the Federal Trade Commission's The law requires all three credit reporting agencies to provide one free report each year.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs has some good suggestions. Vote in some Democrats that will require real ID's before voting and get the election commission to issue voter cards with pictures and keep those laptops with our essential information in a location that is actually secure.

Mentoring parents

This is what I tried to convey to magnet school parents in the summer of 2006 when I answered their candidate survey. I asked them to mentor parents that didn't know how to work the system.

Jerry D. Weast, the schools superintendent in Montgomery County, Md., was recently asked what he was doing to improve low-performing schools. His answer should serve as a wake-up call for school districts throughout the nation.

Weast replied that his public school district spends big bucks every year trying to teach low-income parents “how to kick my butt … how to work the system just like affluent people.”

With that vivid statement, Weast spoke volumes about both the need for involving parents inside their children’s schools, and the reality of making that happen—especially in struggling communities that desperately need engaged parents. Education Week

This should be on the top of the mayor's Project for Students Success committee's recommendations.

Laughing at ourselves

This "Homeschool Family" video is making the rounds in the homeschooling community. It's hilarious, even if it isn't entirely true for all of us.

That's a real homeschooling mom and dad but they've added a few children for effect. I don't know where Tim Hawkins has been....but his stuff is very funny.

Country Music fans might find "Cletus Take the Reel" (a spoof of "Jesus Take the Wheel") amusing.

Hat tip: Why Homeschool

Time in seat

does not equal an education. I've been saying that for years. It's mastery of skills or subject matter that ought to be the benchmark. Let's create a high school test that measures those and as soon as you've passed that test---you're outta here and on with the rest of your life. (Don't tell me they're too young to be out of school at this point if you believe they're old enough to make decisions about intimate relations or medical care without parental permission.)

I was very happy to read Martin Kennedy's opinion piece in today's Tennessean, particularly this line:

Graduating should not be a function of time spent in a desk but of demonstrating a level of competency. Tennessean 2007-12-28
And then again in his blog entry today:
Focusing on goals will move us toward adopting goal-time and away from a clock-time orientation. What should we care how much time a student spends in a desk in a particular building? Let motivated students accelerate the process. Let other students work on their degree at a slower rate.
Exactly. This is something the homeschooling community has always focused on. It's our focus here in our home. So much so that I have a hard time remembering what grades my children are in. From the beginning we've focused on the skills and subject matter not on the when of achieving them.

I taught the children from the beginning that we all learn at different speeds and in different ways and that was OK. Our current public school system doesn't make that truth a priority. The biggest problem with that is the shame that is created when you don't learn a skill on some 'normal' timetable. I can't imagine the number of students that have been labeled 'learning disabled' for life when it really was a temporary situation that maturation on the child's part and patience on the adult's part would have solved.

And to answer Martin's question...people care about the time in the desk because that's a more reliable way to run the system. We know how many jobs we'll need. How many lunches, how many buses. The other way doesn't ensure anyone's job or supply contract.

Martin's blog post is also right about two other things. The State of Tennessee and MNPS need to completely embrace online education and athletics (and I'll throw in extra-curricular activities generally) shouldn't be school based. Tennessee is far behind many states in both of these areas. In a world where online conferencing for corporations is becoming commonplace---why shouldn't online learning also be encouraged? And if we really want our students to embrace a lifestyle of healthy activity in sports and the arts, why shouldn't students be participants in community activities that will allow continued participation throughout their lives no matter which neighborhood they live in?

Birth and death

If yesterday's murder of Benazir Bhutto does anything it reminds us what little cooperation and understanding we have with Islamic factions.

I recommend yesterday's New York Post opinion piece by Ralph Peters who provides some context to those of us who have only read the headlines about Bhutto. It's a two pager so don't overlook page two.

The one slim hope is that this savage murder will - in the long term - clarify their lot for Pakistan's citizens. The old ways, the old personalities and old parties have failed them catastrophically. The country needs new leaders - who don't think an election victory entitles them to grab what little remains of the national patrimony.
Al Qaeda has claimed credit for this most recent murder and so Rob Shearer's recent review of "The Seige of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda" by Yaroslav Trofimov will certainly help put some context to events which are not at all confined to 'the middle east'.
Trofimov has done an incredible service for all those who want to understand the times and the conflict between Islam and the West which has dominated history for the last thirty years. Penetrating the reticence and secrecy of the Saudi kingdom is a formidable task. That Trofimov was able to track down so many eyewitnesses of the events of 1979 and piece together their accounts is astonishing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Caricatures and conservatives

AC Kleinheider links to the Tennessee Guerrilla Women's pulling of one quote from Ann Colter's most recent article titled "LIBERALS SING 'HUCKELUJAH'" regarding Mike Huckabee.

“Liberals adore Huckabee because he fits their image of what an evangelical should be: stupid and easily led. . . I guess Huckabee is one of those pro-sodomy, pro-gay marriage, pro-evolution evangelical Christians.”
Two things. I find it very funny that the TN Guerilla Women don't embrace their fellow Guerilla Woman. They don't, I suspect, because she's on the opposite side of the political spectrum. But they're both cut from the same cloth. I don't read either guerrilla sites so thanks to AC for making the connection.

Second, there is a lot of 'guerrilla' in Ann's post but her comment about Huckabee fitting the liberal image of what an evangelical Christian is she has right. Huckabee does fit the image that many vocal liberals have of Christians. Christians (and homeschoolers) don't fit in that box very easily and those liberals know that, but the caricature is handy. A lot like using Ann Coulter as the voice of 'compassionate conservatism". It's unfortunate that both sides use this tactic.

To demonstrate the diversity in both the Christian homeschooling and conservative communities here is a link to a former Home School Legal Defense employee, Ned Ryun a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and son of sitting U.S. Congressman Jim Ryun, who takes issue with the HSLDA PAC's early endorsement of a presidential candidate. Huck, he says, isn't really pro-homeschooler and even questions his conservative credentials.
As has been clearly documented by Spunky Homeschool, HSLDA has condemned Huckabee’s anti-homeschool legislation in the past, and yet now endorses him because . . . I think HSLDA members need to ask, Is the defense of homeschooling still the priority for HSLDA, or are there other things that are priority? And really, what are membership dues being used for?
He even brings up Ned Lamont as an example of what could very well happen to Huckabee:
Candidates driven by a highly motivated, small base can win primaries, but they can’t win generals. I make this point because Huckabee’s rise in the polls is driven by a highly motivated, but small percentage of the Republican base. I have a hard time believing that he can actually pull in enough of the independent voters, moderate GOPers, etc. I honestly think that in a general, if it’s Obama vs. the Huckster, Obama peels off the moderate GOP vote and independents.
A great deal of Huckabee's 'small percentage of the Republican base' is comprised of homeschoolers that are closely affiliated with HSLDA. But HSLDA membership is not as encompassing as it used to be. As homeschooling matures and homeschoolers become more personally involved in protecting their right to homeschool they have less and less need for an advocacy group in far off Washington DC that has fallen victim to mission creep in order to stay alive. The problem is just as Ned outlines it. This group can be highly effective in specific battles but it takes a wider base to win this war. The trick is to recognize that a win in Ohio or New Hampshire isn't THE tipping point. There's a lot more nation beyond those two states. Hopefully, some of these good men will be able to hang on long enough to demonstrate that.

And don't ever forget that there are tens of thousands of homeschoolers that aren't Christians and will be voting for Democratic candidates all the while frustrated by their absolute allegiance to the NEA that adamantly maintains that the education choice of these voters, homeschooling, is a substandard education--another caricature to be sure.

Monday, December 24, 2007


The Tennesseean expended a lot of ink this weekend on opinions about improving schools.

We heard from Catherine McTamany an East Nashville resident whose education credentials are mentioned but not her political ones. She thinks student poverty as it relates to mobility is the most serious problem.

Students do not fail at school because they're Hispanic. They don't fail because they're black. They don't fail because they're poor. They fail because our system is based on an antiquated model of parent involvement and wealth-based access. Higher achievement in Metro schools is linked to lower mobility in those schools — lower mobility, in turn, is linked to wealth.
We hard from Anderson Williams of Oasis Center which has been in our schools for a good long time. He beats the same mobility drum and takes it a whole step (or two) further.
We must look to the mayor now to make the connections; to ensure we are doing all we can for affordable, stable housing for the working poor; to promote zoning and policies that prevent predatory lending practices; to focus as much on the economic development of our core urban neighborhoods as on new corporate headquarters; to create a proactive agenda for us all to address the systemic issues of poverty in our city.
And we get new Mayor Karl Dean's view:
But unlike many other cities where entire school systems are struggling, our problem in Nashville is isolated to just a handful of schools. If we address this now, I know we can solve it. It's just the right thing to do.
Notice he doesn't shame any particular BOE members, or their constituents, by naming those schools.

Bob Fisher of Belmont University and Co-Chair of the Mayor's new drop out committee Project for Student Success opines:
Another reason that our work will succeed is because of the strong leadership and unity that has, and hopefully will continue to exist in our board of education and our director of schools. In the past couple of years, the board members and the director have made student learning and welfare their guiding North Star. Substantial gains have been made and now is the time to solidify those gains and to continue to build on them.
If he really believes this...he's in for a rude awakening.

And of course the Tennessean editorial board, those anonymous elders of wisdom, states:
But one reason the 40-member committee given the task of improving the rate looks promising is the inclusiveness of the panel. It includes not just good-intentioned, community-minded citizens but people with direct interests in the success of schools. The group includes representatives of higher education, the business community, school officials, law enforcement, Metro officials ranging from the Juvenile Court judge to the head of parks and recreation, and students themselves.
I look at this panel and see dozens of names that, yes, have a direct interest but not necessarily in ensuring the truth of the situation is revealed and dealt with. Many of these are people who have enabled this situation for quite some time and are unlikely to change their ways. As I wrote before, perhaps the magic is in reshuffling the cards....but I remain skeptical.

And after all of the above it's Gail Kerr that seems to bring us all back to reality.

Mayor Karl Dean faces a Catch-22 management situation.

To succeed, he's got to somehow fix public schools, over which he technically has no control, without appearing to usurp the elected school board, which really is in charge.

He's got a limited amount of money to spend, and no expectation of much more.

The system is run by Pedro Garcia, who works for the school board, not the mayor. Garcia has lost his once powerful edge. He's looking, but hasn't been able to find a job. His evaluation is coming up in January.

Mayor Dean tied his campaign to improving schools. Only time will tell if he should have avoided the issue altogether and referred people back to the BOE. He got a lot of flack for not having his children in public schools and yet making them a big part of his campaign. I appreciate his concern for the children. My suggestion to him is to work on the Chamber to actually back BOE candidates this August that will actually run the system the way it ought to be. They bought and paid for many of those BOE members, as did the unions...and look where we are. If you want change, you're going to have to put people in charge whose first loyalty is to their constituents and not the adult organizations with a 'direct interest' in the system. People who aren't afraid of speaking up, debating the issues and holding its employee responsible.

5/9ths of the BOE is up for reelection in August. Pay attention folks. Get involved in a campaign with your money and your time. Ask these board members some hard questions and expect specific answers. How are they going to ensure your child's school, your neighborhood school is better? With the exception of Mark North, all of these folks have had plenty of time on the BOE or as employees of MNPS to have a track record you can utilize. With the exception of Mark North all of these folks voted to keep MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia , their only employee, and give him a hefty raise. In January they will all review Garcia's performance and decide if he deserves another raise or if it's time to send him packing. I think having the State of Tennessee in the house would be sufficient grounds for dismissal. Unfortunately, all year long his assessments haven't reflected this reality. They've put themselves in a corner and our children at risk.

From left to right:
Ed Kindall on the BOE 22 years since 7/9/1985,
George Thompson, more than 11 years: 4 months on the BOE in 1991 and then back on 8/1/1996,
MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden on the BOE since 8/24/2004 ,
Gracie Porter elected in August of 2006 and
Mark North since spring of 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What should be the norm, not the exception

CM Emily Evans is still pondering the public schools in her district and the participation and non-participation by some parents. We could use a few more councilmen to look around their districts and ask similar questions and then look at the BOE and ask for specific remedies. CM Evans blogs:

This purely anecdotal observation is or should be disturbing to public school educators because my district is predominately middle class, property owning and educated. In most cities, people like those who live in the 23rd district form the backbone of the public school system. They are more likely to have the kind of job that lets them out of work to participate in parent-teacher conferences or volunteer as a tutor or teacher"s aide. They are more likely to have a parent that does not work outside the home and is available to organize and execute fundraisers. They are more likely to be educated themselves and as a result have high expectation for the education of their children. They are also generally politically aware and inclined to become activists in support of public education.
Then she lists 7 items (she has two #5's) that are part of the decision making process by parents in her district.
1. Influence and control
2. Plant and equipment
3. Teachers
4. Safety
5. K-4, 5-8 and 9-12
5. School size
6. Academic excellence
She ends with this:
But magnets, like private schools, skim the best teachers, students and families off the zoned schools and educate in a way that should be the norm, not the exception. Academic magnets are one of the few ways we keep a limited grip on middle class families. But for reasons I have never fully understood, we only offer this option to a limited number of families each year and force the rest to find other alternatives.
I'm with her on this. If you're not lucky enough to win the lottery, know someone who can mentor you in the convoluted choice process or can't afford to live in one of the better districts...the MNPS choices are a cruel joke.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Database of disciplined teachers published

From Breibart this evening:

A confidential, nationwide list of 24,500 teachers who have been punished for a wide array of offenses was made available to the public Friday by a Florida newspaper.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune created a searchable database of the teachers' names after waiting for years to gain access to the list. The paper began seeking the material as part of its earlier reporting on teacher sexual misconduct in Florida. It obtained the list from the Florida Department of Education.

The list, gathered and maintained by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, does not provide any information on why any of the teachers were disciplined. Sexual misconduct, financial misconduct, criminal convictions and other misbehavior all can bring disciplinary actions against teacher licenses.


The newspaper's [Sarasota, FL Herald-Tribune] Web site allows readers to type in a name and state to determine whether a person is in the database. The list provides no other information than a date of birth to confirm an identity.

Here's the link to the database. The disclaimer reads:
These results shows a list of licensed educators who states report have had action taken against their certificate. The types of behavior that lead to sanctions may include serious misconduct or relatively minor issues, including contract disputes or failure to repay student loans.
You can search by last name, first name or state.
For a copy of the entire database, please email Chris Davis
A searchable database of Florida records is available through the Broken Trust series or the Florida Department of Education.
And here's the Herald-Tribune's 4 part investigative series about teacher misconduct in Florida entitled "Broken Trust".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Al Fondy doesn't like Garcia

An anonymous comment at the Tennessean article regarding MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia not getting the San Diego gig recommended an article titled "A Skeptics Guide to Pedro Garcia" by Drew Ruble and printed in the Nashville Post in July of 2002. I got curious and started poking around the site currently hosting the article.

The domain is actually owned by former MNEA president Harry McMackin but the contact for e-mail is Al Fondy. Al Fondy is the name of the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers who died in 2005 just 7 months before the domain name was first purchased. It's not clear who the author of the entries are but s/he really should get a regular blog going if only to ensure the post dates are recorded. The web site posts provide an interesting walk down memory lane. Clearly Garcia is the enemy. S/he doesn't think much of education reporters. Al Gore's "Assault on Reason" is quoted several times.

From the most recent post Pedro Garcia attempts to escape:

Now, without the fig leaf of his leaving the system for “bigger and better” California, the school board and the supporters of the majority will have to confront the disaster that they have enabled. It is not a pretty picture. But the five members who voted to extend his contract deserve to sit through the long tense meetings, and receive the heart-rending phone calls, and lose sleep at night. It is small consolation, but the truth is, Garcia has given the school board members themselves more trouble than he has to the teachers. We will soon see how much power frustration has to move those members toward courage.
From Observations of the BOE meeting of 01-10-2006:
Kathleen Harkey [now former BOE member] wonders why we cannot get exit interviews from parents and teachers who are leaving the system. We used to have that listed in the board minutes. But as a part of suppressing data, the numbers of teachers departing and the reasons is now secret--or at least not transparent. The board could change that back by asking for the personnel report to be included in the board minutes like it was from before 2003.
Good idea. An industry that refuses to do some kind of exit interview won't know enough to make appropriate changes. While on the BOE it was made clear to me that my conversations with parents who had left MNPS didn't accurately reflect the truth as several BOE members believed it to be. That truth being people leaving didn't want their children around 'those children'. It couldn't possibly be an issue of academics, failure to meet their child's individual learning needs or legitimate safety concerns.

From How Things Go Wrong in December of 2005:
During the 1990s school finances were the most transparent ever. That was a time when the computing power of the PC matched, or came close enough to matching, the mainframe at Metro Schools. Citizen researchers could take budget data construct their own database for analysis.
I can't be the only one who has wished MNPS would issue an Excel version of the proposed budget for tweaking during the debate.

The Nashville Scene called Pedro Garcia the 2002 Nashvillian of the Year [adult site].
It’s too early to predict whether Garcia is the messiah people want him to be, but he’s certainly not sitting around, appointing study committees and waiting for suggestions. Garcia, a rabid moviegoer, is a veritable action hero, quickly sizing up the problems and indiscriminately tackling them.
Looks like former BOE member Murray Phillips was exactly right on page 5 of the "Skeptics guide":
And the result, Philip says, will be that Nashville will be left with a system that does not serve the average and above average students, further exacerbating the local problem of average and above average students ending up in private schools.

"You've got to look at what Garcia is all about," Philip says. "It looks like public education in Nashville is becoming more and more for the disadvantaged."
Thanks for your point of view, Al. It was good to be reminded about several things.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Apparently there was dirt to rub

Governor Bredesen was quoted in yesterday's Monday's Nashville City Paper as saying:

“Somebody sees this as an opportunity to rub a little dirt on her, a little dirt on me,” Bredesen told reporters.
Who knew there was so much dirt available? The Tennessee Republican Party has all the details about what they're calling a funding shell game in regard to the renovations of the governor's mansion (executive residence) and the party bunker/ballroom (Conservation Hall) that the Bredesens insist is essential to a well run government.
“Gov. and Mrs. Bredesen have claimed that the ballroom is being funded with private donations rather than tax dollars, but that’s not really true,” said Bill Hobbs, communications director for the TRP. “The Bredesens shifted nearly $3 million in private donations to the ballroom project that had been given for the renovation of the mansion itself – and then replaced that mansion renovation money with tax dollars. (A 20-page PDF file of the documents can be found online at the Tennessee Republican Party website, .)
The $4 million given to the Tennessee Residence Foundation for renovation of the mansion – and held up as proof that the mansion renovation was being funded mostly by private donors - was shifted to the Conservatory Hall addition.

Was this shift OK'd by donors?

A time line with lots more details and some suggested other state owned facilities that could serve the publicly stated purpose of the bunker can be found at the TN GOP blog.

I hate this whole mess. Who really wins here? No one. Oh, the governor may get his bunker but taxpayers will get stuck with the bill. The GOP provides evidence of a financial cover up and will be painted as mud slingers instead of legitimately holding the powers that be accountable. Citizens, already predisposed to believing the worst of their elected representatives and assume their tax dollars are a complete waste, have even more reason to distrust and disconnect from the process. All so some folks who have long ago forgotten that their priorities are not necessarily the best thing for the general population can party hardy, away from what little public scrutiny is allowed.

You want to spend our $12 million on state troopers, classroom teachers, honest government instead? I suggest you write or call the governor. 615-741-2001 or

Garcia stays...for now

From the San Diego Unified School District:

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education has named William Kowba as interim superintendent. Kowba, the district’s acting Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer, will begin January 1, 2008.

The board continues its search for a permanent superintendent. Kowba’s term as interim will end upon the arrival of the new superintendent.

January's BOE evaluation of MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia could be very interesting.

Bogied news coverage

It took 17 months but the Tennessean is finally reporting what the Tennessee Center For Policy Research pointed out in July of 2006--the state run golf courses are losing taxpayer money hand over fist. In an article penned by TCPR titled "A Needed Slice: Operating in the Red Is Par for the Course" you can read details like this:

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Trace courses were built in the mid- 1990s at a cost of $20 million to the state. A private firm—Redstone—managed the courses, but because of their remote locations—in far-off places like Henderson, Winchester and Harrison along the state’s southern border—there was little demand for the lavish resorts. The private management company, which successfully runs a PGA tour course in Houston and several other distinguished courses, tired of hemorrhaging money— $6.85 million over the past three years—on the out-of-the-way courses and returned them to the state. Without the management expertise of Redstone and carrying a decades-long track record of failure in the golf business, the state government figures to lose even more than the private company. The difference is that, under state management, the loses incurred by the courses are paid by taxpayers.

If you want to take a sneak peak at what the Tennessean will report on next year you can read the TCPR's 2007 Pork Report today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Congrats to Ben!

Ben Cunningham announces he's won a Sammy.

Ben Cunningham of Nashville won the $5,000 Local Blogger award for his blog, Taxing Tennessee, which gets on average over 2 million views weekly and covers topics on taxes, freedom, and individual rights. (snip) The Sam Adams Alliance aims to revive the principles of our namesake by connecting and supporting citizen leaders who are working to defend liberty, hold the government accountable, and protect the rights of taxpayers starting at the state and local level. The Sam Adams Alliance & Foundation
A well earned award. I'm glad it comes with cash. I'm sure Ben will put it to good use.

Being sensible

Gov. Bredesen wants US to be sensible about his bunker.

“Somebody sees this as an opportunity to rub a little dirt on her [Mrs. Bredesen], a little dirt on me,” Bredesen told reporters. “But in the end, I think people will be sensible about this.

“It’s not for her own purposes. She’s trying to do the right thing here and to leave something for the state to be able to use effectively for a long time in the future.” Nashville City Paper 2007-12-18
Be assured that for my part it's not about flinging dirt. It's all about the money and the fact that it could be better spent in dozens of ways that would be more beneficial to Tennesseans. It's about the fact that he and his wife have failed to fully account for the money being spent (that will be spent) in this effort, have failed to consider the desires of the adjoining property owners and provide any sort of proof that the other excellent venues in Nashville are completely unsuitable. And yes, she'll leave something for the state (that's you and me) for quite some time such as upkeep on an unnecessary facility, likely the payment of damage to some homes as a result of the blasting and we'll suffer the effects of whatever shenanigans occur in this very private venue.

And now Bill Hobbs points out what the rush is. The blasting laws change at the first of the year. So not only do we have our elected executive, whose first job is our welfare, ensuring that his wife's project doesn't have to be subject to the crucible of public debate it's also looking like he's going to stick it to the near neighbors, again, by ensuring that this pet project doesn't have to be be subject to the new, more stringent blasting regulations. That's not very neighborly--oh, that's right, he's never actually been a neighbor. A and B on this map are the governor's mansion and the governor's mansion.

It's time, it's past time, for the Governor to be sensible himself. They've done the right thing in rehabbing the mansion. For that they both have my thanks. But that's enough. Move on to more important issues. Move on to legitimate state business.

A gift for Rob Briley

My state representative State Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) was handed another gift yesterday regarding his most recent DUI trouble. His colleagues have, apparently, overlooked a great deal and now the judicial system has also. He crashed into a citizen, endangered the lives of who knows how many more in his attempt to avoid arrest and flaunted the very laws he helped create. I'm surprised all that didn't result in more severe punishment. Count me among those that believe his political connections, status and name had a great deal to do with this result--likely someone got God's ear also. Regardless, I sincerely hope this is THE wakeup call that does turn his life around. For his children's sake, I hope so.

Passing the time while we wait

While the Jeopardy theme music plays in the background and we wait for the San Diego Unified School District to make its announcement about who their new superintendent will be you might want to pass the time by taking the Tennessean poll and grade MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia yourself. As of 8:55 a.m. 120 people have voted.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ya gotta wonder II

Last January I blogged about MNPS being nominated for the Broad Prize (New York won). Then I noted it was founded by some Southern California folks. Now with MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia refusing to deny rumors that he's being interviewed by the San Diego school district this seems, again, like very convenient timing.

How MNPS could be nominated and yet be considered a failing district by the State of Tennessee is a wonderment to most of us.

The $1 million Broad (rhymes with "road") Prize is an annual award that honors large urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students. The money goes directly to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships.
The things you find doing a Google search. Last year the LATimes had Garcia on a list of potential new superintendents for their district. They gave the odds as 500:1 he'd make it.

Nathan Moore weighs in on this nomination also.

Sell tickets

New CM Emily Evans toured her local schools and blogs about her experience.

At HG Hill Middle we met up with Julie Simone. Julie strikes me as one of those rare teachers for whom teaching is a calling not a job. We talked about the children at HG Hill who rode the bus 30 minutes each way and how difficult it was for their parents to get to school for conferences. Julie told me that if a parent won't come to her, she gets in her car and goes to them. Julie's class presented the Mayor with a homemade hoola-hoop. In the ongoing effort to burden the education system with correcting every single pathology that affects our society, kids must get 90 minutes of activity a day. So, they have came up with the hoola-hoop as something they can squeeze in. The Mayor promised to return in March and demonstrate his hoola-hooping skills. I plan to attend and watch.
I believe they could sell tickets to this event and raise a tidy sum for the school.

Another committee

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean's Project For Student Success team certainly seems an impressive list of people at first. I haven't finished linking to their associations/memberships but it's obvious to see too many of them have already had opportunity to voice their opinions about what should be done--and here we are. I don't believe they're going to bring much new to the table and so I doubt they'll make any real impact. Maybe the magic is in the shuffling of the deck, but I doubt it. I look toward 2008 and see that Garcia has one foot out of the door and BOE elections are upcoming and so 5/9ths of the board is in limbo until after August elections and the state DOE is in the house and realize that this group can study and conclude all they want but there isn't a driver on this bus.

The only way we're going to improve our schools is to take them back from the "professionals". A couple of weeks ago the mayor meet with community leaders at the library and he emphasized the necessity of neighborhood groups being involved in schools. He encouraged the groups to have one person as a designated contact person for their local school. I couldn't agree more. Neighbors, taxpayers, parents, voters being in these schools on a regular basis, hearing first hand testimonies about what is going on and how it impacts children will motivate people to hold the system accountable and create real change that can be seen rather quickly.

Bruce Barry of the Nashville Scene [adult site] has some good comments. Why are Garcia and Warden on this list? As a courtesy? The time for courtesy is past, I'm afraid.

Let's hope they can be effective via e-mail because I also have my doubts that you can get this large a group together very often, if at all.

Project for Student Success Team members: I've started to include links to more info on them and [notes] need to head out. I'll finish this weekend. Feel free to include your own links and observations about these folks.

Carla Aaron, executive director of Child Safety for Tennessee Department of Children’s Services
Yousuf Ahmad, student at Hillsboro High and chair of Mayor’s Youth Council
Alene Arnold, parent [Hillsboro Cluster parent and member 2007 Chamber Report Card Committee]
Hal Balthrop, parent
Jim Bearden, CEO of Gresham Smith & Partners
Camilla Benbow, dean of Vanderbilt University
Mary Bufwack, CEO, United Neighborhood Health Services [board member Tennessee Justice Center]
Hal Cato, executive director of Oasis Center
Robert Churchwell, assistant principal of Gra-Mar Middle
Steve Cook, vice president of Dell Computers
Rodger Dinwiddie, executive director of Center for Youth Issues – STARS [also on Alignment Nasvhille Board of Directors]
Rev. Rueben Dockery of Bethel Family Church and BFC Missions [previous BFC charter school application was denied]
Randy Dowell, principal of KIPP Academy
Vincent Durnan, director of University School of Nashville
Marsha Edwards, executive director of Martha O’Bryan Center [also on Operating Board for Alignment Nashville]
Kim Finch, principal of Stratford High
Committee Vice-Chair: Bob Fisher, president of Belmont University [Board of Directors Alignment Nashville, Board of Directors Nashville Chamber of Commerce, PENCIL Foundation and NAPE]
Elizabeth Fox, community activist [heavy poster on the Nashville PTO Talk list]
Darrell Freeman, president and CEO of Zycron Inc. [Board of Directors Nashville Chamber of Commerce]
Allison Halbrook, teacher at Maplewood High
MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia
Adrian A. Granderson, president and CEO of 100 Black Men of Middle TN
Judge Betty Green, Metro Juvenile Court
Journey Johnson, president and CEO, YMCA of Middle TN
Melvin Johnson, president of Tennessee State University [Frist Center Board of Trustees]
Julie Lamb, community activist in Bellevue/Hillwood area [formerly head of the MNPS Parents Adisory Council and ran unsuccessfully against CM Eric Crafton of Bellevue]
Rev. Clint Lewis of Mt. Hopewell MB Church [Chamber of Commerce Report Card Committee]
Brenda Morrow, director of Edgehill Family Resource Center [Alignment Nashville Adolescent Sexual Responsibility Committee, MNPS Strategic Plan committee member]
Cesar Muedas, parent [former president of Committee of Latino Parents]
Committee Vice-Chair: Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors [former Nashville councilman-at-large, member Tennessee Alliance for Early Education, Director Vanderbilt Child and Family Center]
Michael Nettles, senior vice president of Educational Testing Service
Eric Polk, recent MNPS graduate
Cara Robertson, parent
Ralph Schulz, CEO of Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce [formerly the Adventure Science Center]
Chief Ronal Serpas, Metro Nashville Police Department
Julie Simone, teacher at H.G. Hill Middle
Ashley Stevenson, student at Overton High
George H. Van Allen, president of Nashville State Community College
MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden , chair of Metro Board of Education [up for reelection in August]
Roy Wilson, director of Metro Parks & Recreation

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ridiculous bunker

AC Kleinheider points us to the Governor's inaugural "New Media Hot Sheet" which presents a rundown of the chatter on blogs. Top of the fold, as it were, is discussion of the Governor's party bunker...actually named by his staffer as 'this ridiculous bunker'. Precisely. Legitimate criticism is dismissed as a GOP fund raising stunt and then asks if bloggers don't have any more important issues to worry about. Well, I consider the spending of $12.8 million of family budgets as very important. As the staffer writes there are other more pressing issues. I agree that taxpayer money and the Governor's time should be focused on other much more important items. What's ridiculous is the insistence that this effort to provide an entertainment space continue.

According to the most recent NEA statistics $12.8 million equates to funding for

1834 public school students
304 public school teachers
the per capita income of 429 constituents

and from Books From birth
participation for 426,666 children...

...all so the adults can meet, greet, schmooze and donate?

I don't care if anyone donates to the GOP. What I do care about are those students, teachers and constituents. I hope the Governor and Mrs. Bredesen do too and allow this $12.8 million (and future untold maintenance funds) to be used in ways that will more practically benefit the citizens of Tennessee.

A leader...leads

Leading, literally, the other presidential candidates Fred Thompson refuses to participate in the kindergarten exercise of hand raising as any sort of adult way of determining which candidate is suitable for election. Good for us. We need a leader who will lead. If you can't assert yourself in these silly situations, are you really the person to handle a war on terror, Putin, the Democrats in congress?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

MNPS zoning changes

From the MNPS press release just released comes this summary of the changed approved by the MNPS BOE at last evening's meeting.

Here is a summary of changes, by cluster:

Antioch Cluster:

Kelley: The fifth grade was added to Kelley for the 07-08 school year only, in order to keep students from having to change schools 3 consecutive years. In 2008-09, the fifth grade will be removed from Kelley since Marshall will open with grades 5-8. Kelley is reassigned from the Antioch Cluster to the Cane Ridge Cluster.

Maxwell: The fifth grade was added to Maxwell for the 07-08 school year only, in order to keep students from having to change schools two consecutive years. In 2008-09, the fifth grade will be removed from Maxwell since Marshall will open with grades 5-8. Maxwell will move from the Antioch Cluster to the Cane Ridge Cluster.

Mt. View: Reassign 5th graders in map area 1-A from Mt. View to Marshall. Students in grades K-4 who live in area 1-B will remain zoned to Mt. View, even though students in middle and high school from this area will go to Marshall and Cane Ridge. Kelley does not have the space to reassign these students from Mt. View. Since MNPS has land in 1-B to build an elementary school in the future, it is not desirable to rezone children in 1-B now to Kelley, and then rezone them again to the new school in 3 to 5 years.

Antioch MS: Areas 1-B, 1-C, and 1-D are reassigned from Antioch MS to Marshall. Current students rising to grades 7 and 8 have the voluntary grandfather option and may apply to remain at Antioch MS, without transportation being provided. Antioch MS is reassigned from the Antioch Cluster to the Cane Ridge Cluster.

Kennedy: Kennedy moves from the Marshall building back to the original location on Hobson Pike. Students in grades 6-8 in map area 1-A are reassigned from Kennedy to Marshall. Current students rising to grades 7 and 8 have the voluntary grandfather option and may apply to remain at Kennedy, without transportation being provided.

Antioch HS: The 9th Grade Academy at Antioch will relocate to the main campus.

Students rising to the 9th and 10th grades in 08-09 who reside in areas 1-A, 1-B, 1-C, 1-D and 1-E are reassigned from Antioch HS to Cane Ridge.

Hunters Lane Cluster:

Currently, students leaving Gateway after the 4th grade are split between Goodlettsville Middle School and Brick Church Middle School. This feeder pattern violates one of the 2 immutable zoning factors which the Board approved in 1998 (consistent feeder pattern). Until a permanent determination is made regarding Gateway, students from Gateway feed into Goodlettsville Middle School beginning with the 2008-09 school year. Less than 30 students are affected by this change.

McGavock Cluster:

Students in map area 7-A are reassigned from the McGavock Cluster to the Hillsboro Cluster for the 2008-09 school year. This area involves no elementary or middle school students. Only 1 high school student will be affected. The intent is to use I-40 as the boundary between the 2 clusters, which makes the boundary more easily identifiable. The one student affected by this recommendation will be allowed the grandfather option to remain at McGavock.

Pearl-Cohn Cluster:

Students in map area 9-A are reassigned from Cockrill to Park Avenue beginning with the 2008-09 school year. In addition to relieving the overcrowding conditions at Cockrill, this will create space for one or two additional pre-kindergarten classes at Cockrill. Approximately 130 students will be affected by this change.

Stratford Cluster:

Dalewood will be made available for other instructional uses for the 2008-09 school year, as originally proposed. Since Maplewood is scheduled to be renovated next year, space is needed at Dalewood for the relocation of Maplewood’s 9th Grade Academy.

Bailey: Area 10-E is reassigned from Litton to Bailey while 10-F is reassigned from Dalewood to Bailey.

Dalewood: Dalewood is being made available as a temporary location for Maplewood’s 9th Grade Academy while the Maplewood facility is renovated during the 2008-09 school year. Areas 10-A and 10-B are reassigned from Dalewood to Litton.

Isaac Litton: Area 10-E is reassigned from Litton to Bailey in order to make space available at Litton for areas 10-A, 10-B, and 10-G. Area 10-G is reassigned from Dalewood to Litton.

Dan Mills: Areas 10-A and 10-B are reassigned to Dan Mills from Inglewood. Current students rising to grades 3 and 4 have the voluntary grandfather option and may apply to remain at Inglewood, without transportation being provided. Area 10-D is reassigned from Dan Mills to Inglewood. Current students rising to grades 3 and 4 have the voluntary grandfather option and may apply to remain at Dan Mills, without transportation being provided.

Inglewood: Areas 10-A and 10-B are reassigned from Inglewood to Dan Mills. Current students rising to grades 3 and 4 have the voluntary grandfather option and may apply to remain at Inglewood, without transportation being provided. Area 10-D is reassigned from Dan Mills to Inglewood. Current students rising to grades 3 and 4 have the voluntary grandfather option and may apply to remain at Dan Mills, without transportation being provided.

Cluster maps showing the areas will be available for review at Information letters will be going to the homes of all students affected by these changes; those letters will be mailed from MNPS in late January or early February.

The filter fails again

The filter that is supposed to keep homeschoolers from participating in the public education system they pay for with tax dollars and expend their votes on has failed yet again.

Mother Who Home-Schools Kids Elected Chair Of Public School Board In S.C.
From Live 5 News

A woman who homeschools her four daughters has been elected head of the board that oversees public schools in South Carolina.

Kristin Maguire of Clemson was voted chairwoman-elect for the State Board of Education on Wednesday. She is scheduled to become chairwoman in 2009. (snip)

More details from yesterday's Independent Mail:

State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, said her home-schooling should not be an issue in whom is chosen as chairman.

“She is really on top of all the education issues,” he said. “She really knows what is going on, she is very committed to the public education system, and there’s nothing in the statute that says anything about how you raise your own children or whether you educate your own children.” (snip)

“She is probably the best prepared person I’ve ever seen come to (school board) meetings or any meeting for that matter,” Mr. Adkins said. “She knows her stuff and puts a lot of effort into what she does.”

Homeschoolers can and do care about the children around them. They can be quite knowledgeable about education issues. They can be competent at helping direct the system. I believe they provide an important point of view that school boards across the nation should be listening to. Congratulations to Ms. Maguire. I'm sure the children of SC will continue to benefit from her participation in the PUBLIC education system.

TAG you're it Gov

TAG turned up the heat on the Governor and his wife yesterday with a press conference and the unveiling of a website making their case against the use of taxpayer money for the Bredesen Bunker.

A few things from their website I hadn't read, heard or considered yet:

"Whatever is built will be operated and managed with taxpayer monies." Of course. Building it is one thing---but maintenance is forever.

"In all likelihood usage will be at the discretion of the governor and will be subject to whatever the political whims of the sitting governor are at the time. It is also highly unlikely it will be made available to the average taxpayer." More long term thinking we should consider. If this were Sundquist, scratch that, if this were Lamar!, Frist or Bryson's Bunker....would the shoe still fit?

"If the new Ballroom is approved, Tennessee will be first in ballroom space, while near the very bottom of the list in education. " You know we spend a lot of time trying to disprove the hillbilly label that's unfairly attached to our state. But it's moments like this, when we go over the top in trying to prove how sophisticated we are that we actually prove the stereotype right. First in ballrooms, 49th in education.

Sign the petition.

Terry Frank isn't letting up either:

Look, I’m all for Andrea having a hobby. I’d hope it would be about literacy or curing the sick. But those are her choices. But when Martha Sundquist planted red flowers on the interstate with my money, I wasn’t impressed. And likewise, when Andrea and hubby are kazillionaires, I’m not impressed that I get and work every day so she can play around with designers and architects. Pay for it yourself, Bredesens. And quit spending my money on a project that the majority of Tennesseans will never get to enjoy. This project screams “ELITE,” does it not?
Again, Mrs. Bredesen gets credit and kudos for getting the renovation of the mansion done. Apparently, it was past time for that. But it's time to stop. It's unnecessary no matter who pays for it. It is unconscionable for taxpayers to foot the bill when we have other needs that are more important.

And I'll remind people across the state we tried to tell you Bredesen was the mayor of big spending projects. You didn't listen. Here we are.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

So what are we paying THEM for?

The school board met Tuesday evening---

Plans for which Nashville schools should close, which areas need new schools and which school students will be zoned to attend will be shaped by a community task force created by the Metro school board.

The panel’s task is to create a plan that addresses school use and rezoning in time for the 2009-10 school year and which maintains diversity in the schools.
The task force will be responsible for reviewing the way existing buildings are used, recommending specific proposals for better use of under-used buildings and designing zoning recommendations that would “meet the needs of the district with as minimal an impact on students as possible.”

Its work could include deciding where new schools should be built, and whether existing schools should be closed. Tennessean 12-12-2007
This looks more like a way to avoid blame come election time.

Quotes from two African-American members of the BOE. One who seems to view Nashville as the same city is was 22 years ago when he first came on the board and the other from a younger generation:
Board member Ed Kindall expressed concern that the policy that set up the committee “ignores” the issue of diversity.

“I don’t see that anywhere in this proposal,” he said.

[Karen] Johnson said she didn’t feel it necessary to spell out that charge in the policy.

“I’m expecting the diversity issue will be addressed by those we appoint to the task force,” she said.
So where has diversity ensured a good education? KIPP Academy? Tuskegee? Do white children have to be in those classrooms before black children will learn? NO. ALL children need excellent teachers. They need moms and dads that participate in their education. They need school board members who are more concerned about their actual education than the color of the child that sits next to them in class.

Money priorities

Proving once again that the Governor can find money when he wants to:

Regarding the $12.8 million in taxpayer funds to be spent for Bredesen's party bunker at the 'executive residence' he's never lived in and likely never will:

Asked why public funding for the project had risen more quickly than private contributions, [Bredesen's spokesman Bob] Corney said, "It's for a variety of factors, not the least of which is funds available for the project." Tennessean 2007-12-11
What funds available? Just last week regarding current tax collections:
Gov. Phil Bredesen said he's certain the state won't have collected as much tax revenue as expected by the time the budget year ends in June.

The Democratic governor said he has no illusions of a complete rebound.

"We will end up short this year," he said.

Bredesen said he hasn't decided where he will make cuts in the current year's spending plan, but that he hopes to have an idea by the time he outlines next year's budget plan in late January. KnoxNews 2007-12-09

Here's an idea. Cut the party bunker. Now. Get it off the table and let's move on to more important state business---like public safety and education.

Read more at Bill Hobb's place: Democrat Math

Monday, December 10, 2007

Garcia interview in San Diego

The Nashville Scene (adult site) has the latest that MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia has again interviewed for another position. What's different this time is his star is plummeting in Nashville as a result of the system being a breath away from state takeover and the job would put him back in his beloved USC country. Works for me.

He'll have lasted less than a year without Sandra Johnson, btw, who left for Arizona. Wonder what will happen to Ben Wright.

From Garcia's bio at MNPS:

He began his teaching career in San Diego County in 1971. In 1976, he became the youngest high school principal in Los Angeles County at the age of 31. In 1987, Dr. Garcia became Assistant Superintendent for Instruction in Santa Barbara, CA. He became Superintendent of the Carpinteria Unified School District in 1991. Before coming to Nashville, Dr. Garcia served as Superintendent of the Corona-Norco Unified School District,

Hat Tip: AC Kleinheider.

UPDATE: If that doesn't work out, Memphis is looking for a new superintendent.
UPDATE II: The Tennessean weighs in:
San Diego school officials were interviewing candidates for the job last week, according to their Web site. A decision is expected Dec. 18.

Listen to these kids

These from the prize winning Jere Baxter students. Why these aren't playing on Nashville TV stations school mornings is a mystery. They deserve more airplay to be sure.

Dropout: Future Lost

Dropout: Future Lost is a Public Service Announcement designed to look like a horror movie trailer albeit slightly tongue-in-cheek. This video was the 2006 Jere Baxter Middle School entry for the Panasonic Kid Witness News (KWN) program in the Public Service Announcement (PSA) Category. This video was awarded the KWN New Vision Award Technical Award for Sound. Jere Baxter is an inner-city school located in Nashville, Tennessee. The group was sponsored by Mr. Sam Frey. For winning the New Vision award, Mr. Frey was able to take two students on an all-expenses paid to New York/ New Jersey for the awards show sponsored by Panasonic. This video was also entered into the Tennessee eTales contest and won one of the awards given to teachers.

And their second video: At Risk Students. Again from
"At Risk" Students is a Public Service announcement that is trying to inspire students to succeed despite the odds. This video was the 2007 Jere Baxter Middle School entry for the Panasonic Kid Witness News (KWN) program in the Public Service Announcement (PSA) Category. This video was awarded the KWN New Vision Award for PSA, the Technical Award for Writing, the Online Voting Award for Best Video, and the KWN New Vision Video of the Year-Best in the United States. Of the 14 awards given this video won four of them.