Whose voices on the school board should you listen to? (rough draft)

Today Superintendent Vitti’s evaluation came out and there were two distinct voices.

One was represented by business interests who would turn our children’s futures over to vouchers and charters, Fischer, Grymes, Shine and Ashley Smith-Juarez and they despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary gave the superintendent a highly effective evaluation.

From the Times Union:

Board members Jason
Fischer and Cheryl Grymes gave him 50 and 49.5 points respectively and Scott
Shine gave him a 48.
A 46 is highly effective and Ashley Smith Juarez gave the super a 44
The other voice is that of teachers and lifelong educators, Hall, Wright and Couch who had a different take on what the super has done.
Also from the Times Union:
Several board members
were more critical about Vitti’s and the district’s performance in the last
Hall gave Vitti two
points for most of the 15 performance indicators. Two points is the equivalent
of “needs improvement,” one level above unsatisfactory.
While she gave him low
scores for problem solving using student data, fostering safety in schools, and
collaborating with the school board, she gave him passing scores – “effective”
– for managing district resources, expanding elective courses and extra
curricular activities for students, and leveraging “stakeholder” support for
the district.
Couch agreed in part,
saying during the board meeting that Vitti has done an outstanding job
expanding grants which benefit the district, for instance.
But in her written
comments she noted that the district’s overall academic performance means it
met only 18 of 29 goals or targets this past year, which is a 62.5 percent
success rate.
And Duval has the
highest percentage of D and F rated schools among Florida’s big districts, she
noted, and the highest number of schools to turn around.
She gave Vitti low
scores for gathering and using student data to solve problems and develop
district improvement strategies, also for cooperation and teamwork, and for
financial planning.
Look even if you like the super how can you with a straight face say he has been highly effective? The answer is you really can’t if you use metrics like student achievement and yes I know graduation rates are up but they were heading up before he got here and they are up every where.
What else is up is the number of charter schools as they have increased by over 300 percent under his watch, 
I don’t want to be that guy that just slams the super all the time though with discipline, curriculum, admin placements, his relationship with anti-public education businessman Gary Chartrand and teacher morale, he gives me lots of material. Like Couch mentioned this guy can write a grant and even though it was ham fisted he has brought the arts back to the district, both of those things shouldn’t be overlooked.
At the end of the day however there are two voices on the board, educators and those who believe choice just for the sake of choice is the right choice. One voice that thinks the super is borderline perfect and another that thinks we have a lot of work to do Which voice are you going to listen to? 

Corruption reins supreme in Tallahassee

Here are the facts, Richard Cochran, the incoming speaker of the house’s wife operates a charter school.

She will benefit from a newly passed law that allows charter schools, the lion’s share of which are for profit, to access public funds for construction costs after two years rather than three.

Finally even though the public pays this money it will not own the property, nope that will remain in private hands.

Cochran with his hands in the air and saying who me, wants us to believe that this change in the law had nothing to do with benefiting his wife, nope instead its designed to slow down the big for profit charter school companies.

Hey here’s an idea how about not giving public money to private companies so they can buy property that the public does not own? 

Don Gaetz all but admits the charter school corruption is rampant in Tallahassee.

From the Tampa Times

They negotiated tougher provisions on charter school capital funding during the final days of the session, including mandates that state money go only to charters owned by the public, nonprofits or groups not connected with charter operations.
Those provisions against “private enrichment” did not make the final bill (HB 7029), which passed the Legislature and awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s action.
Many House members lamented the deletion of those proposed regulations. But Gaetz said they could not survive the pushback by “legislators who had personal financial interests, or their families had financial interests in these real estate transactions.”

Read that again please.

It’s past time we said no to charter schools.

Ricky King embraces dirty tricks in the district 7 school board race.

Look I completely get it, I am naive thinking people should want to do things the right way, that being said Ricky King is lying to somebody and that makes me mad.

In the paper when asked about him hoarding opponents potential web-site names he said:

From the Florida Times Union:

King, a 26-year-old
former high school teacher of government, said he is following a national
example: Until recently the website Jebbush.com was redirecting people to a
Donald Trump website. Trump’s staffers have denied creating the link.
King said he believes
the tactic is effective, and that his rivals would try it if they could.

“Don’t take this as a
smart-aleck remark, but … they’re just unhappy that they didn’t think of it
before me,” he said.

He embraces this move! I imagine he looked around the room for high fives. This is however different frm something he wrote on his web page.

On his web-page when asked by a voter about taking web sites he says: thank you for your inquiry. Ricky does not manage this page and his camp is unaware of a candidate by that name. However- if you’d like, you can email him directly at vote4rking@gmail.com

On one hand he says, yeah I did it and the other candidates are just mad that they didn’t think of it first and on the other he or his representative says, what who me, I didn’t have anything to do with it?

I know it’s early but is this who we want on the school board? Somebody who embraces dirty tricks?

Inline image 1

District 7 is the most important race in 25 years and I have to think we can do better than somebody who thinks these kind of tactics are okay.

Is Vitti getting worse as a superintendent? He seems to think so.

In June of 2013 the superintendent gave himself 47 out of 48 highly effectives, Only Jesus, Tiger Woods and Micheal Jordan ever received more. That was after just seven months on the job.


Fast forward to today and his self evaluation is a little different, now its still what most teachers would kill for but it’s not walk on water.

From the Times Union:

Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti gave himself
“effective” ratings in a self-evaluation he turned in to school board members.

puts him one step below the top rating of “highly effective” but better than
the other ratings of “developing” or “needs improvement.” The board will decide
March 31 whether they agree with him when each member turns in their own
evaluation of the district’s top administrator.
Though if you read the piece he gives himself credit for everything short of the sun rising.
If I were evaluating Vitti I would give him needs improvement nearly across the board with the only highly effective coming in securing grants, even I am impressed with this administrations ability to do so.
Speaking honestly I feel the district has taken a major step back under his watch, mostly because as bad as things were under Pratt-Dannals we as a district weren’t in danger of being privatized which is a constant threat with Vitti at the helm.
Has he done some nice things? Sure, but with teacher morale, discipline, the curriculum in elementary school and pushing back against mercenaries looking to make a buck off our children  he has been a failure. 

Funny or Die gets it wrong about common core

Take a minute and forty-eight seconds and watch Funny or Die’s common Core spoof.


Now that’s some funny stuff and sadly it gets it completely wrong too.

I have heard several Common Core theories which quite frankly I thought were Mel Gbson Conspiracy Theory crazy but I also heard my own superintendent say the following.

At a community meeting an exacerbated couple said they couldn’t help their elementary school aged child with her math. They had hired a tutor to help her and they wondered what else they could do.

My super said that they (the district) would be setting up a math hotline to help children and hiring a tutor was great.

Problem solved right, just have a parent call the hotline and/or hire a tutor.

Except what if they can’t afford to hire a tutor, or they work nights and can’t call the hotline, or they don’t know the hotline exists or they live in a county that doesn’t have the funds to set up a hotline?. Or a child’s parent’s just aren’t all that involved in their student’s school work? Or a dozen other scenarios? What happens then?

We have disenfranchised millions of parents from helping their children do the most basic of computations and that’s not funny. If a parent is unable to help their child then we have lost the battle and that’s whats happening all over the country.

The cure of common core at least in math anyways is worse than the disease.

I will just throw this in too but I have also seen no evidence that the countries we are trying to catch use anything approaching common core and if they aren’t then why are we?

Some early shenanigans in the district 7 race

Some early shenanigans in the district 7 race

Thus far there are six candidates in district seven and a
few of them are off to poor starts.

First there is Nick Harding who wrote a Facebook post where
he wrote about several to say the least controversial positions.

Then there is Greg Tison who appears to be crossing being
elected off a bucket list a he is running for his third different position in
four years

Now let’s add Ricky King to the list.

Stacie Dern, Lorie Hershey and Barbara Tascono are the other
candidates thus far, take a moment and visit these sites.


As you can see they all take
you to Ricky King’s web-page. Nothing illegal mind you but come on!
I don’t want a candidate
that is going to try and use parlor tricks to get me to vote for them I want a serious
candidate who is going to bring serious solutions to our serous issues.

Furthermore School Choice is
always a red flag for me too as quite often that doesn’t mean more options in
our schools that serve our children’s interest but privatization.

District 7 is the most
important race we have had in 25 years and it’s important that unlike in 2012 we get
it right and we need a candidate committed to doing things the right way and
buying the names of the other opponents .com isn’t that way.

Oy vey!

Like Ben Carson? Your kids are about to learn all about him.

I know his back story and it is inspiring, rising from poverty to the top of his field helping so many children along the way. I also know some of the crazy things he has said and believes.


and I could have went on and on.

It seems our District ELA department in all its infinite wisdom has decided this is the man for our middle school kids to learn about.

Here are just a couple of the passages that our kids will be taught.

I get it too we are in the bible belt and a lot of people think these are the type of lessons that our kids should be learning but are our schools the proper place for them to be taught? Earlier this school year there was a book called the Librarian of Basra which had a Muslim character protecting books during the opening of the Iraq war and a fair amount of people lost their minds and that story barely mentioned religion at all. Here we have Carson practically ramming religion down people’s throats.

Is this really the best we could come up with? Or is this the oh so brilliant idea of a district Ben Carson fan wanting to push his ideas on our kids.

I submit if you want your kid to learn about Ben Carson, then it should be done on your time not in our schools. there are far more appropriate people and subjects we can use.

Finally before someone accuse me of being anti-religion, I will say I practice religion in school all the time. I often pray that this kid or that won’t show up and I will be able to teach. I often pray that the district will realize it is giving me an insane amount of work to do in not nearly enough time to do it, I pray that i will get a curriculum that works for my children and I pray that the state will start supporting our schools rather than continuing to routinely kneecap them.

We can do better than this. We should be doing better than this.

The denigration of the teaching profession

By Laura Mayberry

The teaching profession is under attack. Union
thugs. Lazy, tenured teachers and their bloated pensions. It wasn’t always this
way. Our profession used to be respected. Oddly enough, many of the people who
label our system broken and call for major reforms were taught in this very
system. This can mean one of three things: (1) Why are we listening to people
who are clearly undereducated, having been brought up in such a broken system?
(2) These individuals are the oh-so-rare exception to the rule – they are smart
and successful despite this system and we should listen to their sage words of
advice, or (3) The system isn’t really broken and these individuals have
something to gain from the reform movement.

The change in attitudes towards teachers is
fairly recent. While unions and their employers have always butted heads, the
general public was brought into the fight after the Great Recession. Cities
across the country found that they could not meet their public employee pension
obligations. Never mind that the underlying cause was that many of these
pension funds made investments in assets that were later found to be toxic – a
fact known to the banks and investment companies pawning them off on these
unsuspecting municipalities. Teachers, police, and firefighters bore the brunt
of the public’s anger.

I am the daughter of a 43-year teaching
veteran. When I decided to go into teaching 12 years ago, my dad didn’t try to
talk me out of it. I think he was proud. I’ll never forget the moment we were
walking through a store and a teenager walked by and said “Hey, Mayberry!” My
dad looked confused and said “I don’t remember teaching her.” I said, “No, dad,
she was talking to me.” We both laughed, and I knew that the rest of my life
would be full of these encounters. In my 11 years of teaching economics, I’ve
had the privilege to teach almost 3,000 students. Every time one of them tracks
me down after graduation to tell me that they started an IRA or saved money on
a car loan because of what they learned in my class, I know that I’ve made the
right career decision. What other profession can claim this type of impact on
their community? I love what I do, which makes it painful for me to hear my own
students say that they want to go into this embattled profession. Some of my
colleagues discourage them. Some of their parents do too. I try to remain
neutral, but it gets harder each day.

When society attacks teachers, what message is
being sent to our students? When teachers are accused of being minions,
manipulated and controlled by their union, what message is being sent to our
students? When teachers are given scripted lessons and reduced to little more
than test monitors, what message is being sent to our students? When schools
and teachers are graded on things that are not entirely under their control,
what message is being sent to our students?

But schools are failing! We have to have

Are schools actually failing? Throw out all
the bogus school grades, based on ever-changing factors with arbitrary cut-off
scores. Throw out all the comparisons to other countries, who have drastically
different education systems and criteria for which students get tested. Throw
out the “bad teacher” anecdotes that have proven to be the exception, not the

Let’s look at schools as a whole and our
children as individuals. Are you happy with your child’s teacher? Are you happy
with your child’s learning environment? The survey below says it all.

“Americans continue to
believe their local schools are performing well, but that the nation’s schools
are performing poorly. More than three-quarters of public school parents (77%)
give their child’s school an “A” or “B,” while 18% of all
Americans grade the nation’s public schools that well.”
This makes no sense. If the majority of parents
are happy with their child’s education, why does the public have such a
negative view of the public school system? The answer is that we are under

The education reform movement (dubbed the “deform movement” by many in
education) has successfully convinced the average citizen that major changes
are needed. Teachers are finally waking up and fighting back, but most of us
are too overworked to deal with anything beyond our individual classrooms. We
have not been good at being our own advocates, but that is slowly changing. The
high-stakes testing pendulum has finally swung too far and many parents are
joining the fight.

So what is this lazy, tenured, union minion

Treat us like professionals and let us do our
jobs! Teachers are actually begging to be able to work harder. We want to
create our own lesson plans based on our students’ needs, not read from
scripted curriculums. We want to create our own classroom assessments and
evaluate our own students, not take them to a lab to take another high-stakes
test. Perhaps this scares people who think that testing is the only way to hold
teachers accountable. Accountability rests at the local level. Parents, mentor
teachers, and school-level administrators are in the best position to evaluate
teacher effectiveness. Just imagine how much feedback and mentoring teachers
could receive if their administrators were not so bogged down with testing and
the pressures of gaming the school grade system.
So next time you are tempted to disparage an
entire profession or an entire system, please consider a few things:

1.Who is telling you that we are failing and
what do they have to gain from that failure?

2.Think about your favorite teachers from your
school days. Would the things that made them special be able to survive in
today’s high-stakes, micromanaged system?

3.How will starving our public schools of
funding and forcing them to compete against charter schools make them better?
When crime goes up, do we defund police departments? No. We know that the police
didn’t cause the higher crime rate and areas that suffer more need more
funding, not less.

4.When teachers push back against specific
reforms, it does not necessarily mean that they are against change. The very
nature of our profession is change. We readily embrace it when we believe that
it is in our students’ best interests. We fight against it with a passion when
we know that the only ones who will gain from it are those outside our

Proud but tired public school teacher, Laura Mayberry

When did teachers become the enemy in Clay County?

Was it when they asked for a raise after years of not receiving one  or was it thinking they should have job protections, or maybe them being upset by the fact that their benefits have gone up year after year that made them the enemy? If you think my rhetoric is a little bombastic just look what County Commissioner and mother of school board member Ashley Gilhousen, Diane Hutchings said in a facebook post.

She thanked the police for keeping them safe from a bunch of teachers, who I am told were remarkably restrained given the circumstances. She implies without the police it would have been a blood bath.

Yeah and of course you know only union teachers care about raises, health benefits and work protections. Teachers not in the union could care less about those things, Give me a break! The union isn’t the problem in Clay County its the terrible leadership of the superintendent and three fifths of the school board.

Clay county what happened? You had it all and now you are in danger of losing it. Experienced teachers are in demand and if you haven’t noticed people aren’t flocking to the field.

Such blatant disrespect on the part of Hutchins towards the teachers of Clay county and just so she knows, you can’t put kids first by continuously putting teachers last or by trying to make their representatives the enemy.

Also at the end she implies that her daughter and the clay county superintendent are little more than vindictive assholes when she says that they would have given teachers raises if only they wouldn’t have gone to impasse. Well I guess she got that part right.

Clay County what happened, you used to be the place Duval teachers dreamed about escaping too but now I imagine it’s the other way around.

District 7 gets a new candidate interested in checking off a line on his bucket list

Have I mentioned that Jason Fischer ran for the Soil and Water board and lost before he ran for the school board? Well say hello to Greg Tison who ran for the same in 2012. Oh what’s he been up to since then? How about running for the city council.


He probably would have run for dog catcher had he been able to by now.

From his candidate statement,  Among Greg’s top priorities for Duval Schools: expand “student choice” within local education, recruit and retain highly effective educators, and constructively deal with the problem of our aging school infrastructure.


Expanding student choice is usually a euphemism for privatization and that has been a disaster for district 7 and gosh darn it if only we had some good teachers we wouldn’t be in the boat we are. Ugh!

District 7 is the most important school board race in the last 25 years. It can tilt the board back from people who want to blow up our district and replace it with a privatized paradise to a board that wants to roll up our sleeves and improve it.

From what I can tell district 7 already has some solid choices and that’s what we need, not some guy looking to check being elected off his bucket list.