Does Duval have union problems?

From a reader:

Talk to an AP (no union for them) and you know that the supe is a wage-bustin’ man. I’m not surprised the bargaining is hard. But our steps are not keeping up with increased prices. Since the last raise, not step, in the salary schedule–7 years ago–our standard of living has been declining. 

DCPS has the money. If Vitti can purchase a major program/curriculum like i-Ready for middle school in the middle of the year, he’s stashing the money somewhere. When he lays off 160 security guards in the summer, crying the no-money blues, but can add two additional to my school in the middle of the year, he’s got cash in his desk drawer. I’m sure others can contribute examples.

What sours the taste in employees’ mouths is DTU giving up the “salary supplement,” provided by the legislature for this year, without a whimper. And frankly, some of the zone reps have an arrogance when they condescend to meet with members at building sites that people are PO’d. I know one school where the members are getting up a petition to demand a change in zone rep. She won’t meet with the members but pals around with the region super. The optics are terrible. The Brady regime is under scrutiny.

It’s hard to feel bad for the families of Scholar Academy

The Duval County School Bard has voted to close the Scholar Learning Academy Charter School at the Bank of America building and this is what I have to say. 

I want to feel bad for these parents. I really do. But it’s like trying to feel bad for people who smoke cigarettes for the health benefits and then are shocked and upset when they get cancer. It’s like people who buy a long-haired dog and are upset that there’s fur on the furniture. It’s like people who hit themselves in the head with a hammer and complain about the headache.

Here are two things for charter school customers to remember, so they can avoid being shocked, stunned, angry or otherwise surprised in the future.

Charters are not run by elected school boards. They do not have to answer to the voters. They do not have to answer to the customers. They do not have to explain anything, and in some cases have gone to court to fight for their right to be just as non-transparent as they want to be. They are a business, and they don’t have to show you their decision making process any more than McDonald’s has to show you the recipe for their special sauce. 

Charters can close at any time for any reason. People seem to automatically associate the idea of a school with the idea of permanence. That’s incorrect. Public schools are permanent. Charter schools are not. Public schools represent a community commitment to provide schooling as long as it’s needed. Charter schools represent a business decision to operate as long as it makes sense. Enrolling your child in a charter is making a bet that the school will be in business as long as you want to send your child to it. If you lose the bet, you have to know that losing was always a possibility when you made the bet in the first place.

Considering a charter? Do your homework and understand the risks that come with choosing a charter. Pro tip: “doing your homework” does not mean “listening to charter sales pitch and nothing else.” That’s like getting info about the car you want to buy only from the salesman trying to sell it to you.

I believe it’s possible to find charters that do a pretty okay job out there, but any charter comes with certainly fundamental differences from public school, and some come with differences that can be shocking or stunning if you haven’t been paying attention. Bottom line? Charter schools are not created to be just like public schools– and they aren’t. If you’re going to understand anything about putting your child in a charter, that’s the bare minimum that you need to grasp.

Here is the thing, I didn’t write above, and the author who did, Peter Greene of the Curmuducation blog wasn’t even talking about the Scholar Academy, he was writing about two charter schools that just failed in Indiana. What he wrote however fits perfectly for whats happening here and in so many other communities.

All across the nation charter schools are opening in communities promising great things on the front end, making profits on the back end and then closing down leaving communities, families and students in a lurch. Over 270 have closed in Florida alone, on average one every three weeks.

It’s just not right what Charter Schools ave become.

Systemic problems in Duval County Public Schools

From a reader:

Unfortunately this (the problems with the roll out of Edgenuity) is symptomatic of a much deeper problem, which is the
managerial style of the Chief of Academic Services.

He has insisted
that academic directors route all communication with principals through
him. That means directors send him essential information schools need to
know, but since that is too much for one person, communications from
directors to principals sit for weeks on his desk waiting for his

Decisions are held up until the last minute, which leaves
schools scrambling to comply. People are left out of the loop so they
cannot perform their functions of improving what happens at the school.
One wonders if the problems at the top are merely growing pains or
simply the manifestation of the good ol’ boy/girl network that has
plagued this district for decades.

As the big cheeses try to out
maneuver each other, squeeze out lower levels for their own people, the
schools and the students suffer.

One wonders if Dr. Vitti is in charge
anymore or whether a palace coup has taken place. NV is himself known
for sudden, unanticipated decisions that roil communities and their
schools. Remember open enrollment? The conceit is that they can turn
the organization on a dime. The problem is DCPS is huge. The captain of
the Exxon Valdez thought the same, but when they woke him up 20 minutes
before his oil tanker hit the reef, it was already too late. The ship’s
momentum carried it into the worst environmental disaster of our

Other large districts are giving teacher raises, will Duval?

Without comment, the Pasco County School Board unanimously approved a
2014-15 contract for teachers and school-related employees on Tuesday.

The deal provides average raises of 3 percent.

Most teachers in Orange County’s public schools will get raises of
$3,100 or $2,000 this year, plus an extra $1,000 bonus, according to an
agreement reached Thursday between district administrators and the local
teachers union.

two-year salary agreement provides an average pay hike of 6.3 percent
to more than 13,000 teachers. It also boosts starting teacher pay by
$1,000 this year to $38,500 and then by another $500 the next school
year.Teachers who were employed last year will get the $1,000 bonus because in the 2013-14 school year,

Look at the raises Orange County is giving. Where i would love it I don’t expect anything like that but if other large counties can give raises then Duval should be able to do so too!

Poverty, the class size amendment and giving money to for profit charter schools.

These are the letters I sent to the states papers today. I would urge you to send something similar as well. If more people know, more people will want better.

According to the Washington Post 59 percent
of Florida’s public school children are considered low income, that’s eligible
for free and reduced lunch. Poverty is also the number one measurable statistic
in education, quite simply those kids that live in poverty don’t do as well as
those that don’t.
How does stripping teachers of work
protections address poverty? How do charter schools and vouchers? Does Common Core
make a student feel less hungry, safer and get their parents more involved? What
about high stakes testing or blame the teacher evaluations? How do any of those
things effect poverty? The answer is they don’t.

Instead of blaming teachers for not
being able to overcome the dehibilitating effects of poverty, maybe we should
thank them for what they do because many of our children would undoubtedly be
much worse off without them. Also maybe it is time we stopped ignoring poverty
or treating it like an excuse and in their place put in things like wrap around
services for our neediest children, a longer school years so children can have
more time to learn what they need and less time to lose it and smaller classes
so children can get the individual attention they need.

As I see it, we can either try and
mitigate poverty or we can continue to blame the teaching profession and double
down on reforms that have failed.  
Money to for profit charter schools
 Governor Rick Scott wants to give the states 600 charter schools 100 million dollars in maintenance and construction money while giving the states 3,000 plus public schools a fraction of that amount. His reasoning being that public schools have other ways to raise money for maintenance and construction costs. There are two important things the governor is leaving out.

The first is public school districts are run by elected officials who have had their power increasingly eroded by the state. Charter schools however which are increasingly being authorized by the state board of education after being rejected by local districts are run independently and as a result don’t answer to tax payers. Since that is the case why should they have the ability to raise money from them?

Next many charter schools are run by for profit management companies and for chains like Mavericks and Charter Schools USA and a few other business is good. These chains take home millions and millions in management fees. Why don’t they use that money to pay for maintenance and construction costs? Some people might not like nor appreciate public schools but they all spend local and nobody is getting rich. Charter schools often siphon money out of communities and some of their owners are becoming incredibly wealthy.
Over 270 charter schools have taken public money and closed in Florida leaving families and communities in a lurch and these schools have wasted untold millions of dollars. It’s my bet that if the governor canceled his 100 million dollar give away that no charter schools would close shop, the reason being is even without the money they are already taking home a lot. The bottom line is the governor should not be giving millions of dollars to for profit companies whose profits show they don’t need it.
chair of the state board and the class size amendment
Gary Chartrand a grocer by trade is the chairman of
the state board of education and he is not a fan of the class size amendment.
At the last state board of education meeting he said, “It’s
a bad law. The intentions are right, but the end results. Your electives get
filled up with more kids than they should.”
He would rather see the
legislature pass a new law so schools and districts would be able to average the
sizes of their classes, rather than comply with the law which is something the
people of Florida rejected in 2010.

Here is another option, how about
instead of repeatedly gutting the class size amendment the Florida Legislature
properly fund it which is something I have to believe the people of Florida
assumed they would do when they passed the amendment.

Smaller classes by the way, not merit
pay, charters, vouchers, VAM scores, Common Core and high stakes testing, is
one of the few education reforms that has evidence that says it works

Since Gary Chartrand has never taught or
worked for a school he might not know it, “but give me five or ten more students
and I will be a better teacher”, said no teacher ever. Maybe if he were an
educator he would have a greater appreciation for the amendment but either way
I would urge him and the state legislature to follow the will of the people and
properly fund it rather than water it down again.

Gary Chartrand just doesn’t understand the class size amendment.

Gary Chartrand the grocer turned chair of the education board sent his kids to an exclusive private school that extolled the virtue of small and intimate classes, and no this was not the type of private school that takes the vouchers he also is trying to sell.

Gary Chartrand also thinks the class size amendment is a bad law and I have to be honest with the way the Florida legislature had gutted it, it is just a shell of its former self.

From the Tampa Times: “It’s a bad law,” Chartrand said. “The intentions are right, but the end results… Your electives get filled up with more kids than they should.”

Chartrand wants schools to be able to submit their average class size instead of the figures for each individual classroom. (Charter schools already have that flexibility because they receive fewer capital dollars than traditional public schools.)
There is course anther option and that is to fund the amendment like the people of Florida expected them to do but of course since Chartrand never taught a day in his life and he wants to starve public schools that option hasn’t occurred to him.

Rick Scott wants to give 100 million to for profit companies.

Oy vey, what is with rich guys helping other rich guys get richer at the expense of the middle class and poor? For years the state of Florida has given money to charter schools above and beyond the FTE money, the money they get per pupil. This year Scott wants to give the approximate six hundred charter schools in Florida one hundred million dollars. That money won’t go to maintenance and constriction but instead to pad their bottom lines.

Much of this money will go to for-profit chains like Charter Schools USA or Mavericks, for profit friends and the profits have been good. Why are we giving money to for profit companies and I want to remind you that nobody is forced to create a charter school. I doubt many of these charter schools would throw up their hands and go away if they didn’t get this give away.

If a charter school is a legitimate non-profit and there are some then that is a different story but unfortunately to more are more concerned about their bottom lines which the governor through this give away is about to make a lot more lucrative.

At the same time charter schools are getting these construction and maintenance funds  public schools of which there is over 3,000 have seen their piece of the pie reduced to nothing but crumbs.

We should all be outraged by this.

 To read more click the link:

Does Duval have Edgenuity or Eduinsanity?

is a computer program that the district is using to satisfy high school
students requirement that they have to take one on-line class, they are
using it for government classes . Sounds good right, well here are the

First kids are taking it at the same time they are taking their brick
and mortar government classes. They are taking both together as kind of a
hybrid class. Which seems to me they are not getting the full benefit
of either but what do I know. The program,
was sold as a supplement initially for the classes but that morphed into
teachers next semester having to use it a set amount  (51% of the
time). The reason being, I imagine is because crossing that threshold
makes students eligible for the on-line credit.

The program did not go live until about six weeks into the school year,
and the determination that it could be used to satisfy the requirement
wasn’t made until a couple weeks after that according to the Government
teachers that contacted me.

There was back and fourth with the district if Government teachers would
have to fail kids, regardless of their in class grades if they didn’t
meet the 51% completion of the computer program. At first I am told they
were told to fail kids but as of a couple
days ago the district has dialed that back making it optional for
teachers. Optional.

think the districts heart is in the right place on this one, letting
kids take their on-line classes for free and during school when they are
most likely to
do it, even if that kind of messes with the spirit of the law,  the
problem is they gave teachers mixed answers and directions about how
much to use it and what it was going to be used for  and if teachers are
going to have employment and pay decisions based
on how they teach and what the kids learn is it really fair to make them
use a computer program they may or may not be giving the kids what they
need to be successful.

Maybe all this is just growing pains of a district trying to help kids
out with their on-line requirement or maybe it’s symptomatic of a
district which is having terrible communication problems, the fact they
are on their second high schools social studies person
this year can’t help, and that seems to be making things up as they go