Atlantic Coast principal tells staff to get graduation numbers up, talks about losing money.

I will start by letting Debra Lynch, principal at Atlantic Coast High School, words do the talking for her.

It says right there and the implication is obvious, teachers lets get those graduation rates up or both the reputation of Atlantic Coast and your pay checks will suffer. I bet memos or conversations like this are taking place at high schools all across the county.
The pressure some teachers have told me they are put on is nearly unbearable especially for teachers not on a professional contract who are just year to year. Then to be honest with all the bending over backwards I am told teachers are required to do, I quite frankly am surprised our graduation rate isn’t 90 percent or higher.
As frustrating as this is, what is more so is the system we have set up. Schools and  teachers are incentivized to do whatever it takes to have children graduate whether they are prepared or have earned it or not.  
Teachers shouldn’t have to fight for bonuses, they should be paid a decent wage, and society and the media shouldn’t be so obsessed with graduation rates and instead should be obsessed with children being prepared to be contributing and responsible adults, even if it takes them a little longer to get there.
I believe the vast majority of kids at Atlantic Coast and at all our schools in fact are getting a great education, but I also believe more than a few are just being pushed out so the district can look better and schools can get higher grades. I also believe the powers that be at the Ivory tower know about this, subtly encourage it and are more than okay with it too.
Debra Lynch and our school system in general were dealt a bad hand but shame on both for worrying about reputations, rather than worrying about what is best for teachers and students alike.
Here is the full memo.

Veteran teacher explains how Vitti made things worse

From a reader and a veteran teacher

Historically Teachers in Duval County have been ignored and not treated as the “Professionals” they are or should be. Vitti has taken to a new high! 


Those who are outside the profession that continually criticize and offer solutions have no experience in actual teaching but rely on their experiences there and if it those were good or bad. They when they are criticizing teachers call them professional but when it comes to listening to them they are not considered competent to have any say in how things are done in the Educational process. 


The history of Schools here in Duval County since the early sixties has been one of ups and downs, from becoming discredited to integration to improvement, to the change to Middle Schools and all that involved, to the changing thoughts of school choice and charter schools, not to mention the changes in evaluation and compensation of the Teachers including the loss of tenure. 


At one time the Union fought for the teachers and there was the time of cooperating with the Administration to show good will etc. That’s where things are now and with the anti-teacher attitude of Vitti nothing will change until he is gone. 


He’s received praise for championing the Arts and yet many of the classes are overloaded (loads of 50 to 60 students) and under funded. What kind of support is that? 


He’s pushing so many changes that it’s difficult to keep up with what school is for what. And he’s pretty much undermined the Teacher’s authority with his ideas of discipline. 


I could keep going on but it’s flogging a dead horse, Perhaps it’s time for the Teachers to “take action”.

Veteran teacher gives his perspective of Vitti leaving

From a reader and veteran teacher

When Vitti first came on board he did some great things and I thought benefit of the doubt. 


Then fudged graduation numbers and you better not write referrals. Not to mention telling some of us on the Wednesday of pre-planning 3 years ago that we will have to implement a computer program as part of our curriculum then constantly changing the rules of how that program will be utilized. 


Real data shows that most admin spent 2 maybe 3 years in a classroom. They are so removed from that setting they don’t know what’s going on. Granted, I have met a few who get it but they have to walk a fine line. 


All of these business people need to stop dictating policy in how education should be run. Some teachers may think Vitti is good for the district and they are entitled to their opinion. I challenge those teachers to take a deeper look at what’s really going on. 


Parents in the know also know what’s really happening in the schools and I think they are finally tired of it. Watch out for a grassroots movement of parents fighting for the teachers and working to take back the schools.

Is Duval Cooking the Books with Graduation Rates?

Just a few weeks ago a principal at a charter school complained about how kids were counseled out of public schools to go to his school.

http://jacksonville.com/news/education/2017-03-03/school-board-members-vitti-question-charter-alternative-schools-graduation

The state has also announced an investigation into districts after allegations that they had been cooking the books about graduation rates surfaced.

http://tallahasseedemocrat.fl.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=1c5733740#.WNP9gPJVaAY.facebook

Then yesterday I received this comment which has echoed comments and tips I have received over the years.

From my principal’s 3/17/17 weekly memo (insulting bribe):

“Counselors and administrators are working tirelessly to support students and help them graduate in June. Please be aware that their success in fulfilling graduation requirements not only affects their future but the reputation of {our school} as well. If we do not have a final push with teacher support for out seniors to graduate, our rate could be as low as 80% compared to last year’s rate of 90%, which will negatively impact our school grade and reduce the chances of reaching our goal of “B” with recognition money…If grade recovery is needed for first semester, please work with the student to master those standards covered. A teacher may submit a grade change at any time, when the student shows mastery of the standards.”



Wouldn’t it be ironic that the one thing that the superintendent’s supporters always point to, an increase in the graduation rates, happened because the district has been cooking the books.


Please contact me at cpgbonjovi@gmail,com, if you have any information you would be willing to share. I can keep all tips confidential. 

Why superintendent Vitti is leaving (rough draft)

Why superintendent Vitti is leaving
It is true, he is from Detroit. He also may indeed have friends
and family members there and I imagine for some there is always a call to
return home. All that being said, something seems out of place.
Take for instance the huge pay cut. In Duval he makes 275 k.
Detroit has a range for its superintendent that goes from 123-182k. A best he
is facing a 90 thousand dollar pay cut. http://www1.salary.com/MI/Detroit/School-Superintendent-salary.html
Then look at his career progression, it’s been up, up and
up. I never expected him to last this long, but being in Duval is his longest stop
yet. Now I had expected him to leave by now but to go to the state as chancellor
or maybe even commissioner. Detroit is definitely a step backwards. Forty-seven
thousand kids compared to 120k in Duval and fifty fewer schools. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Public_Schools_Community_District
Sure, Detroit has challenges a mostly minority and poor make
up but Duval has a mostly poor and minority make up too.
No, it has to be something else and here are some thoughts
as to what it might be.
He may see the handwriting on the wall here in Jax. Despite
the city’s elites rallying around him last fall he barely kept his job. I
wondered at the time if he would be humbled by this experience or be emboldened
by it. Well friends if he was humbled I have not seen it as things seem as
contentious between him and the board as ever.  Then when the story broke at least three board
members, Couch, Wright and Hershey all seemed to wish him well in his future endeavors,
hardly the ringing endorsement of a job well done. Only Shine and Grymes seem
broken up by him potentially leaving.
Then again, the board, the sensible part of the board that is,
may just be tired of all the scandals. Just in the last year alone, Rachel
Vitti following a sitting school board member, a police officer revealing the
city has children baker acted to keep arrest record numbers low and a charter
school principal complained about the district counseling out poor performers
have rocked the city.  I have written how
it is hard to understand how Vitti survived the last two.   
There may be bad news about to break. It was widely reported
that DCPS did poorly on its mid-year scrimmage which was supposed to approximate
how the district is going to do on the state test. The district explained it
away as it does all bad news but it may have been a red flag for Vitti, that getting
out before the results are in is his best move.
If we do get poor results the blame would have to be
squarely in the superintendent’s shoulders as the curriculum we use, that uses handouts
instead of books to save money, engage NY is almost universally reviled and is
his baby.
Perhaps a scandal is about to hit the district. Whenever anybody
defends Vitti, they always say, look at how the graduation rates are up. I believe
this is intellectually dishonest because rates are up everywhere but maybe
there is more to the story.
From the associated press: Florida’s education commissioner announced Wednesday that the
state has launched an investigation into whether school districts are moving
students around as part of an effort to manipulate graduation rates.
Commissioner
Pam Stewart said that late last year the state began taking a closer look at
students in 10 counties who were switching to alternative schools in their
senior year but now the probe has been expanded statewide. The investigation
will look at all students who were in the 12th grade but somehow weren’t
included in data used to determine graduation rates.
I get tips regularly about how schools are manipulating
their numbers but nobody will ever go on the record. This means all they are
thus far is innuendo but wouldn’t it be ironic if the one thing that people point
to as an indication of his success turns out to be fabricated?
So yes, he if from Detroit and home is often where the heart
is, but at the same time, something seems off about him leaving.
That being said, I hope he gets the gig, good luck sir, may
you find what you are looking for.

Another reason he might be leaving? It looks like because of
global warming, Michigan will be the place to be.   http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/michigan-will-be-best-place-to-live-by-2100-ad-due-to-climate-change

Cheryl Grymes wants to throw Vitti a parade

In yesterday’s… In yesterday’s Times.. In Blech… sorry I just threw up in my mouth, okay better now.


In yesterday’s Times Union, Cheryl Grymes is quoted saying, well let me just let her words do the talking for her.


From the Times Union:   Board member Cheryl Grimes said she is bothered that Vitti was not invited to Wednesday’s meeting. “Nothing has changed,” she said. “The superintendent is still the superintendent. He is still leading the district and still doing the work. So even though there’s this thing out there… I want to make sure we proceed as a team.”

She also said she wants the Duval Board to acknowledge the great things Vitti has done while superintendent here. “I want to be sure that we give those accolades and appreciation … if he decides to take this other job,” she said.
First she is outraged that he wasn’t invited to cut his vacation short and return for a meeting, but then she wants to throw him a beeping parade.
I wonder what the parade would be for? Thinking teachers are widgets perhaps or maybe ending teachers careers? How about leaving before his contract was over? Maybe lying to the people of Jacksonville when he said over and over that this would be his last gig? The division he sown in the community, does she think that is parade worthy? Oh I know its the graduation rates, it’s always the graduation rates.
Full disclosure, I think Vitti moving on would be best for him and the city and I wish him nothing but well, but come on Grymes, as usual you are being ridiculous. I notice you didn’t have this persecution complex when you were in the majority of the board and would tell Hall, Couch and Wright, can’t we all just get along when you would vote to blow up the schools they represented, and when the toughest question you would ask the super, with your eye lids fluttering, was, so how’s your day going.
Grymes if you can’t do your job right, then why don’t you do the city a favor and go with him. 

Scott Shine continues to show he just doesn’t get it

It’s no secret that School Board member Scott Shine and I have not seen eye to eye. I think he is a terrible school board member and he thinks I am a terrible blogger and teacher.

To be honest I won’t disagree with his blogger assertion. If you have read my blog and cringed at bad grammar and inartful phrases, you aren’t the only one. As for my teaching well he’s never seen it so how he can judge that is beyond me, but I have seen his, um, err school boarding and it has been dreadful and he’s been showcasing how dreadful it is this week.

When he heard the superintendent may be leaving, he expressed some remorse but also wished him well. A far cry from the apocalyptic sentiment he expressed last fall when the school board almost parted ways with him.

“It would be a tragic mistake to terminate Dr. Vitti in the middle of the comprehensive school reform work we are currently undertaking,” Shine said. “In addition, termination in the middle of the school year would send a shock wave through the school system and likely damage students’ academic achievement.”


http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2016-09-19/story/duval-school-board-member-shine-accuses-chairman-smith-juarez-trying

He went from it being apocalyptic, to, that sucks, be sure to write.

Hyperbole be thy friend Scott, just like when he said in News4Jax: “The last time the district looked for a superintendent that was a 9 to 12 month process,” Shine said. 


http://www.news4jax.com/news/duval-county-school-board-holding-special-meeting

Unlike Scott I was there through the process, and the reality is it took about six months. The board voted not to renew Ed Pratt-Dannal’s contract and spent the summer and early fall looking for and hiring his replacement.

Shine also said:

Duval County School Board member Scott Shine said Monday that he doesn’t want to lose Vitti and will do what he can to keep him in Jacksonville.
“I’m concerned. We’ve had a lot of progress in the school district. Academic achievement is up. Graduation rates are up. Teacher morale has increased, so he’s made a positive difference,” Shine said.
The graduation rates are up canard is frustrating as grad rates are up everywhere, but when he said teacher morale is up, what went up was my blood pressure.
He is probably referring to the TNTP surveys which the super touted as showing morale being up but the problems with the survey are legion but of course Shine chooses to ignore them so he can defend his man-crush   and just go with what sounds good to him.
First ten percent of teachers didn’t even bother to fill the surveys out. Then some teachers have told me they were forced to fill out the surveys during early release training and others said they filled them out in a positive fashion because they wanted to avoid hours of in service training.
I can relate too because last year the staff at my school seemed to be asked a half dozen times, why we didn’t have a best friend at school.  
The thing is I know a lot of people like their schools and even their administrations, but that doesn’t mean their morale is up and that doesn’t mean they think downtown is doing a good job either.
A reader pointed out they don’t ask questions about how the super or the administration is doing on those surveys and I believe the reason is they don’t want to know what teachers really think and Scott Shine definitely doesn’t want to know.
Why should Shine do his job and be out their talking and meeting with teachers, when he can point to some self serving survey and say, look things are peachy? The answer, since being on the board is little more than a check on a bucket list for him, as he unsuccessfully ran for the city council twice before he ran for school board edging out more qualified candidates, is there is no reason for him to do so.
We deserve better than the superintendent and we deserve better than Shine as well.
Being on the school board is serious business, it is time Shine started treating it that way.

When did, teachers become so unimportant in Jacksonville?

When did, teachers become so
unimportant in Jacksonville?

I was once told that everybody has an
opinion about education because everyone had one (of sorts) and most think they
could be teachers.  

Recently somebody I like and generally
agree with about education wrote on Facebook about the impending departure of
superintendent Vitti:

We’ve had our
ups and downs, but I think Dr. Vitti has been good for our schools and his move
would be a loss for Jacksonville.

I
responded:

Yeah,
I am going to have to disagree with you on that one. He had the occasional good
idea here and there, the parent academy, bringing back the arts though it was
ham fisted and there is no doubt this admin could write a grant too, but to
many teachers paid the price for his leadership style and overall I believe the
district has suffered under his tenure.

They
wrote back:  Morale is a problem. And I
respect (and expect) that many teachers will share your view, Chris. Any Super
is going to be between the devil and the deep blue sea, though, given funding
pressures, privatization pressures, a punitive grading system and de
eply
held neighborhood concerns. I thought the school boundary/theme changes were
fairly creative, and the various school communities rose to the occasion to
make their voices heard. It was good to see the deep discussion, even if it was
messy.

Right
there they wrote, you know it doesn’t matter how many careers he ended, how
many people he chased out of the profession, I liked that he did this. In a
second teachers went from being people with families, and bills to pay, dreams
and aspirations to nothing more than widgets.

They
even acknowledged that most teachers shared the view that the superintendent
had been terrible for our schools, but even that didn’t sway their view.

You
see it doesn’t matter what teachers think or how they feel and if you don’t
think that is a problem then you are part of the problem.

Take Nina Waters of the Community Foundation,
she said in the Times Union,
“We absolutely would prefer that Dr. Vitti remain in
Duval County,” said Nina Waters, president of the Community Foundation for
Northeast Florida, which manages millions of dollars in donations and civic
funds, including a $40 million educational effort called the Quality Education
for All initiative, designed to help the district’s most disadvantaged schools
in inner-city Jacksonville.
“He’s brought the leadership we needed to make the necessary
progress now being documented in multiple performance measures,” Waters said.
“There is clearly more work to be done, and we would be delighted to continue
to partner with him and the School Board to build on this initial success.”
True
story, years ago after I commented how the racial makeup of the Community
Foundation would make a clan rally jealous, she called me into admonish me.

The
thing is why do we care what she thinks, or Wayne Weaver, or Gary Chartrand or
any of the other go to voices on education in the community, people who never
taught a day in their lives?

Why
do we listen to them while at the same time we ignore teachers? To them like my
friend and like the superintendent admitted to thinking just a week ago,
teachers are little more than widgets.

It
might be painful to some to admit but education cannot be just about kids, it must
be about teachers too.

How
can people care about children but then not care about what happens to those who
have been given the important responsibility of teaching them?

We
overwork, marginalize, and don’t adequately compensate teachers. We ignore
their concerns, belittle and blame them too. Then society wonders why we have problems
in our schools and why we have a looming teacher shortage. This is not a recipe
for disaster, this is the disaster we are currently living in.

You
see at the end of the day, the better things are for teachers, then the better
things will be for children, and we can learn that lesson, or we can continue to
marginalize, disrespect and ignore teaches as education crumbles around us.

My
friend said, I don’t care how many careers he ruined and how many people he
chased out of the profession, I like that he did this thing over hear. I say
that’s unacceptable. I say good leaders can have both good ideas and appreciate
and support their staff and those are the type of leaders we don’t just need
but can no longer afford not to have.