How many schools can this guy screw up? We’ll see.

images1.jpgPaul Vallas and DOE Chief Margaret Spellings

A story in today’s New Orleans’ Times-Picayunne would have you believe that the New Orleans’ locals are waiting for Paul Vallas like some are waiting for the return of Elvis to Vegas.

At first it seemed impossible that an educator of Vallas’ stature would be willing to come to New Orleans, with its 58 schools and a little more than 26,000 students, after more than a decade turning around hulking systems like Philadelphia and Chicago, each with hundreds of schools and hundreds of thousands of students.

But it also seemed to make perfect sense for Vallas, who friends and colleagues say is always attracted to a unique challenge, particularly one that has been very much in an international spotlight since the storm.

But if you go to my brother’s blog, Small Talk, he exposes the secret report that suggests Vallas may not be what NOLA needs or wants. His tenure as Philadelpia’s school chief, where he pushed private charters with abandon, now looks bad with reports that every one of the charters were unable to show significant student progress and discriminated against students with disabilities and non-English Language Learners.

Another post about Green Dot and tenure.

My daughter Leigh is going to kill me for putting another post up here without a graphic. She hates when I do that and I have been doing that a lot since I moved over to WordPress.

I’m sorry Leigh. I’ll try and do better next time.

I questioned Leo Casey, who posts frequently on the AFT blog EdWize, about the seeming contradiction between Green Dot’s web site claim that they do not honor tenure and seniority rights and Casey’s claim that teachers at Green Dot schools actually have better tenure rights than teachers at regular LAUSD and UTLA represented schools.

I haven’t received a clear and definitive answer about this. But “Ken” comments on EdWize on this issue:

Hey Leo,
Thanks for focusing on this issue.
I agree that these debates can get confused by terminology.
I reviewed the Green Dot contract and I would make a few points:
1. The contract only refers to dismissal in one sentence: “No unit member shall be disciplined, non-renewed, dismissed, reduced in rank or compensation without just cause.”
2. “Just Cause” is not defined in the contract best I can tell.
3. The section on due process is called “Conflict Resolution”. It doesn’t mention dismissal explicitly but I think it is fair to suggest it would be covered by this section.
4. I think the contract is somewhat vague on the issue, but my reading suggests that a teacher can be dismissed as long as the administration believes there is “just cause”. The teacher could than appeal that decision based on the “Conflict Resolution” process. This process is time-limited such that it can’t last more than about 100 days.
5. This process seems like a reasonable one to me. Many people (like me) hear tons of complaints that the NYC process is a disaster and extremely complicated. Are you suggesting that you would be comfortable with the Green Dot process?
6. I plan (if possible) on chatting with Green Dot to get some clarification about the current contract with respect to this issue.
7. Please correct me where you think I made mistakes in my facts or analysis. I have only done a little work on this.

Superintendent’s contract is a secret.

In the final moments of the referendum election in my school district in Park Ridge, a nasty anti-referendum piece was delivered to each home. It contained the salary of four teachers. It included a PE teacher with 34 years in teaching, a music director who has created an award winning instrumental music program, a librarian and a 5th grade classroom teacher.

The mailing was anonymous. It had a Chicago post office box as a return address. We suspect it was not put out by local anti-referendum people, but some state anti-tax group.

Teacher contracts are public record. Any tax payer can and should know what a public employee makes.

Which makes the Phil Kadner column in The Daily Southtown so interesting.

Kadner tells the story of a local Joe by the name of Marvin Perez who was elected to his local school board in April. Once in office he asked for copies of the contracts of the superintendent.

First he was old no.

Now he’s been told by attorneys for the school board that he can only look at the contracts in the administration office. He can’t take a copy with him and he can’t copy one.

“I’m a working stiff,” Perez said. “I can’t be taking time off work to constantly go down to the school office during the day to look at every contract. I want to take the documents home and study them.”

Perez is a new school board member in Sauk Village Elementary School District 168.

Kadner reports:

Only two years ago, SD 168 was involved in one of the worst scandals in Illinois history.

Its superintendent, Thomas Ryan, pled guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the district. The school board president, who rubber stamped every decision made by Ryan, was charged with crimes and resigned in disgrace.

School district employees told investigators for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office that they gave Ryan kickbacks in exchange for pay raises.

Another piece of evidence that there is the rule that there are are two sets of rules. One for teachers and one for administrators.

Funding. What time is it?

Go to the IEA web site and the state leadership tries to paint a picture of optimism.

The interpretation of the IEA Government Relations Department is…that the Speaker is telling those of us who care about fixing funding that members of the House, both Republicans and Democrat need to be convinced we expect action.

Oh, that may not sound optimistic. But when you compare it to the Chicago Tribune’s interpretation of the goings on in Springfield the IEA Government relations office sounds positively giddy.

House Speaker Michael Madigan all but ruled out raising income or sales taxes Wednesday, saying his Democratic majority wouldn’t support higher taxes but might back expanded gambling as a way to solve the state’s budget problems before the legislature’s May 31 adjournment deadline.

In a rare news conference, the powerful Southwest Side Democrat sent the strongest message to date that lawmakers are headed toward a vastly scaled-back budget that would disappoint many groups seeking large spending increases for education and health care.

Since all sides believed that this was the session when something had to be done, it looks very likely that serious funding reform is now off the table for a while.

Says north suburban board member and blogger Open Board Blog:

Given that their 2-year re-election cycle will soon be upon them, distracting them from any meaningful legislative work, I will go out on a limb and declare that – barring any shocking new developments – education funding reform is dead for the forseeable future.

We’ll need to do a debrief when the actual session is over. But there’s plenty of blame and cowardice to go around.

More LA teachers looking at Green Dot.

While there have been lots of theoretical discussion going on about teacher unions and charter schools and weather Greet Dot is anti-union or if Steve Barr is actually pro-union, reality keeps butting in.

The LA Times reports:

Faculty at two more Los Angeles high schools met this week with a leading charter school operator to discuss alliances aimed at breaking away from the school district.

The meetings took place between teachers from Santee Education Complex in South Central, among LA’s poorest neighborhoods, Taft High School, described in the Times as diverse with middle of the road test scores, and Green Dot’s Steve Barr.

The response by UTLA President AJ Duffy and school board President Marlene Canter, seems to suggest they have no response to the latest developments in LA between teachers and Green Dot:

A.J. Duffy, president of the union, and school board President Marlene Canter expressed confidence that collaborative efforts to jump-start reforms in the district would take root soon and ease teachers’ frustrations.

“In the absence of us providing other options, [Green Dot] is starting to look like the only option to teachers,” Canter said. “This is obviously a call to action…. I am still confident that this district can respond.”

Boy. Tough talk, huh?

Richard Gibbons, a veteran teacher was one of those that took the lead in bringing teachers at Taft and Green Dot together. Ironically, he is a UTLA union rep at Taft.

IEA returns to THE issue: social justice in funding.

It’s late in the game. There’s just two weeks left for us before the school year ends. But, since I was critical of the IEA leadership when I thought they screwed up, I’ll tell them when they did good. If you go to the IEA’s web site now, there’s no sign of the Burnham Plan, no talk of accountability, no arcane references to new forms of governance. They’re back to the issues that got 8,000 people to Springfield: The fight for justice, equity and fairness in funding.

“Arrested while grieving.”

I’m in NY for the weekend. I’m seeing the kids and Lucy, my grandchild. And we’re celebrating my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s 25th wedding anniversary.

But the news in New York is not all celebratory. Bob Herbert’s column in today’s NY Times is a disturbing story reminiscent of the things you might have read during the Rudy Giuliani days. A group of high school kids on their way to a funeral of a friend, students from Bushwick Community High School, were literally assaulted by members of the NYPD. Evidence of their gang affiliation? They were wearing shirts that said, “RIP.” As Herbert titled his column, they were “arrested while grieving.”

Thirty-three people were arrested, 20 men for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, seven women got disorderly conduct summonses, and six juveniles were released on their own recognizance.

Herbert’s column, which requires registration to access on the NY Times web page, reports that the original story that the police were responding to a gang provocation was not supported by any civilian witnesses and was contradicted by the testimony of the kids themselves.

They were kids of color in NY going to the funeral of a friend.

What’s private? What’s public?

Sometimes the comments sections of postings get overlooked. And I would recommend you scroll down to the posting or just click on, I had to read Edwize again..

JD, Leo Casey and I exchange some thoughts about Green Dot, tenure, contracts and the issue of what’s private, what’s public and what does it mean for teacher unions. It’s a good discussion, if only just the start of one.

Leo challenged my assumptions about Green Dot as anti-union. He thinks we need to reconsider how we define these things. I challenged Leo to explain the contradictions between what Green Dot says on their web page and what Leo says they actually do. JD appreciates the need to see the issues through many lenses and warns against dogmatic definitions.

It’s just really interesting to me and I didn’t want you to overlook it.

Spellings was really funny.

Appearing on the Daily Show with John Stewart last night, DOE Secretary Margaret Spellings was hilarious.

My favorite part was when she said:

The old solution to education challenges was to spend money and cross our fingers. Now, we can find out what actually works because we are measuring. It’s become a favorite refrain of mine, “What gets measured, gets done.” I’m even thinking about getting a tattoo.

Oh wait! That wasn’t on the Daily Show. That’s what she said in a speech to the right-wing think tank, The Manhattan Institute.

I wonder if I could get that tatoo?

Sacco and Vanzetti.

sacco_vanzetti3.jpgBen Shahn’s Sacco and Vanzetti

My old friend from Atlanta, Jesse Crawford, has produced a documentary about the story of two Italian immigrants and anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti.

Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested for a robbery and murder it is now agreed they did not commit. They were executed in 1927. Their case became a world-wide cause celebre. Amazingly, this is the first major documentary ever made that tells their story.

It is showing at Chicago’s Facets Multimedia through tomorrow night.

The schedule of showings around the country can be found at First Run Features web site.