Cheryl Grymes is not the type of school board member we need

Charter schools are in the news a lot lately here in Florida as the legislature is hoping to send a massive tax payer funded giveaway at the expense of the state’s public schools, their way.

I have long advocated for fighting against charters especially since most do worse, many fail and the ones that do well are usually in neighborhoods with great schools, siphoning away resources from them.

Cheryl Grymes has a different philosophy and let me let her own words do her talking for her, from the Detroit Free Press 

Grymes said the administration has limited power to stop the process.

“We can vote against a charter school opening, but then what happens is it’s going to (get appealed to the Department of Education) in Tallahassee, and they’re going to overturn it. They always do,” she said. “What (Vitti) did to combat charters is he said we’re going to compete. We’re going to do what we can to market our schools so we’ll be your first choice.”

You know, there is nothing we can do to fight back against charters (other than blow up neighborhood schools, Vitti’s way to combat them) so Grymes thinks we should just bend over and take it.

Well friends you probably won’t be surprised to learn that other school boards feel differently and they feel our kids and schools are worth fighting for.

The same day Grymes said that in the Detroit Free Press, this came out in News4Jax

 The Palm Beach County School Board has taken a first step in asking the Florida Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional a law that allows the State Board of Education to overturn local denials of charter-school applications.
Hmm, there is a board that wants to fight back, to do its job, something I have been advocating our board do here for years.

What kind of board member do you want? One that says, lets just take it, like Grymes? Or one that wants to fight tooth and nail for our schools and students?

You see I think Grymes likes charter schools but she knows especially in her district where they have done poorly, they are unpopular, so instead of saying that is how she feels, she says, there is nothing we can do instead. and before she or anyone threatens to sue me or write me up, that’s just what I think.

Well the Palm Beach board and I completely disagree.

Vitti starts off by insulting the teachers of Detroit

I know, I know I shouldn’t be still writing about him anymore but my google alert settings keep sending me stories. 

Vitti starts off his tenure in Detroit insulting his staff. I will let his words do the talking for him.


“From a business perspective, you have to have talented individuals within an organization in order to create different systems that are the inputs to create better outputs,” Vitti said in an interview with Crain’s. “The (school) system already has some talented people, but we have to scale that.
“Once we scale talent, I think then your product — which is educational services — improves.”
Oh so Detroit has some good teachers, some, a few here and there and some, and once they fire the bad ones and hire some more good ones they will be AOkay. 
Ignoring poverty and blaming teachers has never worked, but hey Vitti may as well keep trying.
Vitti often partners with a group called the New Teacher Project and their overriding principle is called the widget effect, which says school districts can fire their way to success. 
From a business perspective, oy vey, schools can’t nor should they be run like a business and after a few years of him damaging Detroit’s school system they will figure that out as well. 
I am so glad he is gone, now to go change my google settings.

Florida sets teachers up to fail and then charges them to do so.

I have heard up to 500 teachers in Duval County have
not passed all or part of the general knowledge test, something they must do by
June 30th if they want to keep their jobs.

Before you think that maybe if they can’t pass the test
they shouldn’t be teachers you should know there has been an 800 percent
increase in failure over the last few years and yes, I meant to write 800.

It however gets even worse, from

Prior to 2009, the FTCE and FELE tests
costs examinees $25 per section to take.  Both the FTCE and FELE have
various sections depending on teacher specialties.

Prior to 2009, retakes didn’t cost a penny
more. Today, portions of Florida’s teacher tests cost up to $200 per section to
take and retakes are an additional $20 more.

The increase in costs since 2009 represent
nearly an 800% increases in less than ten years.

We discovered Florida’s teacher
certification exam is one of the priciest teacher certification tests in the

Not only has the state dramatically increased
what is considered passing, but they have used it as a revenue stream,
siphoning money from those that are already grossly underpaid compared to their

Florida has a teacher recruitment and
retention problem and at this point I have to think it is by design as private
schools, even those that take vouchers aren’t saddled with the same

The Florida Legislature isn’t just setting teachers up to fail, it is charging them hundreds of dollars to do so.

The state legislature want’s it’s public schools
to fail and this is even more evidence of that.

Superintendent deflects responsibility, insults, up to the very last minute

The Times Union did a piece talking about our one percent growth in third grade reading. It’s true we aren’t where we want to be and we have a long way to go but lets  acknowledge that and appreciate it.

However, I can’t help but wonder what we could have done had we had a curriculum that valued books above handouts and used a curriculum teachers both helped to pick and supported. I would like to think we could have done much better than one percent, that maybe we would have matched or exceeded the state gains of 4 percent, but we are who we are and superintendent Vitti is who he is as well and that’s a poor excuse of a leader and I will let his own words explain why that is.

He led off his comments to the Times Union with the following:

“This was a low-performing cohort as compared to the one before them,” Vitti said, adding they probably needed more phonics instruction in their younger grade levels.

He doesn’t mention that this cohort of third graders has been in the system for as long as he has been super here or that if he thought they needed more phonics he was the one person who could have made sure that happened. This cohort is the first one to have come up completely through his curriculum and leadership choices. Like no other cohort, he is responsible for how they performed and what does he do? He insults them.

Hey parents of third graders, did you know your children when compared to other recent cohorts, they just didn’t measure up? Hey superintendent Vitti did you ever think that maybe that’s because this group was immersed in your lousy curriculum choices?

The thing that Vitti did best was his ability to deflect responsibility and lay blame, whether it was on and these are things he has said, our short bench, our poor math teachers, the state or a low performing cohort.

Now if you read the piece he does mention the hard work of the third grade team but that is almost like an after thought to him.

Being the super has to be a tough job but you know what else is a tough job? Being a third grade teacher in Duval county and I hope the next super give them a better chance at being successful.

Mark Woods did an op-ed in the Times Union today where he talks about how Vitti will work right up to the last minute before he heads to Detroit, well he does something else and that’s by continuously deflecting responsibility and insulting the good people of the district he shows what a poor leader he is and how the District will be better off without him.

Good luck Detroit, you are going to need it.

Vitti saddles the district with more of his decisions on the way out the door and the board lets him.

A few weeks back the board said Vitti couldn’t fire or
promote people in the next ninety days. They did so in anticipation of him
leaving. Now there could be lots of motives behind their actions but the chief one
that comes to mind is they didn’t want the super to settle scores and promote sycophants.
Fast forward a few weeks, Vitti is cleaning off his desk in preparation
for his move to Detroit and he makes 11 moves, promoting a middle school
principal to assistant superintendent, firing five principals (six others were
retiring) and appointing 11 new ones.
What did the board do? They shrugged their shoulders.
From the Times Union

Days before he’s slated to leave, Duval
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti last week shifted principals at 11 schools,
despite recent School Board assurances that those job changes would be frozen
for 90 days.
Vitti’s last day is Friday; he starts as
Detroit’s new superintendent next week.
You know what it looks like he did to me? He settled scores
and promoted sycophants.
If he wanted to leave a memo saying, I think this is what
needs to happen that would have been fine but for him to make changes while
heading out the door saddles the next super and the district with more of his
decisions, and let’s face it despite the flowery accolades from the board, if
the majority thought he was doing a good job, then he wouldn’t be on his way to

This board and I am happier and more optimistic than I have
been in a while with the direction of the district should have said, no thanks,
we’ll take it from here. 
In the next few months we need the board to be strong as I am sure there will be lots of pressure to hire a super that special interests and the city’s elites can control. This bow to a man on his way out the door is more than troubling.  

Florida’s teachers are its biggest losers

From Kafkateach

Tallahassee’s continuous underfunding of Florida public schools, despite a return to economic good times, has caused a drastic cinching in teachers’ pay checks across the state over the last 10 years. The biggest losers of them all seem to be mid-career veteran teachers working for Miami Dade County Public Schools. I challenge any other school district in the state, or even the entire country, to produce numbers like the ones compiled below through the efforts of teacher collaboration on Facebook.
Thanks to technology and the hoarder nature of the profession, an old salary schedule from 2004 appeared on a Facebook post. See image below.
There is nothing particularly shocking with this salary schedule alone. But when one compares it to what teachers are actually making in Miami Dade County in 2017, 13 years later, the contrast is shocking. The numbers compiled below are taken from an anonymous online survey where Miami Dade County teachers posted their base pay for the 2017 school year.
Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.52.46 PM
If you would like a printable copy that you can tear into little shreds and mail to the Florida Legislature, click the link!AhDpVy8XhRUem3B0ovnf1nMbbQ0y
Seeing these numbers actually drove me to drink, and I am not a drinker. That’s why I’m publishing this blog on a Friday night when you might already be drunk and won’t blame this blog post for any actions taken after inebriation. If you look at the highlighted sections, you will see that teachers with 15 to 23 years experience teaching in Miami Dade County actually made more money 13 years ago in 2004 WITHOUT ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION! When you add on a 2% inflation rate, some teachers are making almost $22,000 less than they would have made in 2004! Teachers with 19 years experience working in Miami Dade County Public Schools seem to be the biggest losers with an inflation adjusted loss of $21,982.
I started working for Miami Dade Public Schools in 2003 so this is the contract I signed up for, not the current min/max schedule (of which I will now never reach the max, after 14 years I’m $4,000 from the bottom) published on Miami Dade County Public Schools website. You will also notice that there used to be a $10,000 difference in pay between a first year teacher and a 14 year veteran. In 2017, you actually have teachers with as little as 5 years experience making more money than a teacher with 15 years experience if they received highly effective evaluations. Regardless, almost every teacher’s salary in Miami Dade County Public Schools is thousands of dollars less than it should be if one acknowledges that inflation exists. According to the federal government, inflation was 2.2% but for some reason, Florida and the Magic City seem to be living in a Disney Dream where $1 in 2004 has the same value as $1 in 2017.  This, coupled with a 3% loss in income (thanks again Tallahassee!) and a soaring real estate market, is leading to economic despair for most mid-career teachers in Miami. The School Board’s answer seems to be to build a few hundred affordable condo units on top of a school for teacher housing. Perhaps the other 19,000 teachers can go live in sand castles they build for themselves on the beach? Hard to tell which will erode away faster, Miami Dade County mid-career teacher pay checks or the shores of south Florida.
There are over 7,000 teachers working in Miami Dade County Public Schools in 2017 who made less than they would have made, WITHOUT ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION, in 2004! The Miami Dade County Public School System is the largest employer in Miami Dade County. When employee pay suffers, the local economy suffers as well. I challenge anyone to find another government worker from firefighters to police officers, where experience does not earn you a higher paycheck. Even security guards working for the school system still have steps!
The Florida Legislature would never do this to other public servants like firefighters and police officers. Reasons for that include that firefighter and police unions frequently vote Republican, rich people who run the Florida Legislature want them to protect their million dollar properties and they most likely don’t send their own kids to public schools, so they stick it to the Florida public school teacher every chance they get. Teacher salaries are also a main target because there are just so many of them compared to law enforcement and other public servants. If they are concerned about paying pension benefits, the biggest bang for your political buck is to slash the salaries of teachers. The war on teachers is also part of the larger war on women and the war on the middle class. The teaching profession has been a ticket into the middle class for many minority women over the last fifty years. By suppressing teacher wages, we suppress a major route to upward mobility. This may be happening most notably in Miami and throughout Florida, but it is also part of a nationwide trend leading to the death of the American middle class. We should all be concerned about this alarming data coming from Miami Dade County Public Schools, teachers may just be the canaries in the coal mine.

With less than a week to go Vitti starts firing people

I received this from a reader.

The principal at Mandarin Middle school was unceremoniously canned with 14 days left of school. Vitti went to visit this morning for emergency faculty meeting. He told us the staff he had made some mistakes in placing people at MMS and wanted to own up to them and fix it before he left. Most staff thought this meant a new principal for next year. Nope…it meant, Principal Marx gone is gone and Williams an AP from Stillwell was promoted to Mandarin principal now, effective immediately. What a way to %$#^ someone over on your way out the door! She wasn’t the best principal but she didn’t’ do anything to deserve that.

I am told discipline was terrible at Mandarin Middle, though that’s a problem many schools have experienced under Vitti.

A bigger problem however is this new principal will be the fourth in four years after only having 3 in their first 21 years. Unless your name is Iranetta Wright it seems you don’t get many chances in the district.

Two things, who is next and Sunday, Vitti’s last day can’t get here fast enough.

Jason Fischer really hates public schools.

I wonder if they pulled his pig tails and put them in ink.

Jason Fischer once again proves his loyalty is not to Florida’s families or children when he wrote his op- ed supporting the Schools of Hope bill, but it is to the charter school operators who filled his campaign coffers with tens of thousands of dollars.

Fischer is also more than disingenuous in his defense of the bill as most teachers who he says will get bonuses, most parents who fought for recess and most school board members and superintendents those with an understanding of what the bill will do are against it.  They are because where they acknowledge there may be a few good things in the bill overall it is a pox on public education.

He then talks over and over about failing schools without mentioning there is already a mechanism, opportunity scholarships, in place for children to leave schools with multiple F and D grades where the district must also provide transportation. Most of these schools are in neighborhoods wracked with poverty and I am not sure if the extra 16 dollars per pupil, a number Fischer felt was so important he mentioned, is going to make a difference.

Here are some numbers that Fischer left out, 352, as in the number of charter schools that have taken money and failed over the years, costing hundreds of millions in tax payer dollars, leaving communities and children in a lurch, four in the last year in a half in Jacksonville alone and one million, the amount of tax payer money he secured for the KIPP school whose founder, Gary Chartrand, has been a substantial donor to Fischer over the years, and KIPP is part of one of the networks that would benefit from the bad bill.

Fischer though I am sure he didn’t mean to also told us that the charter schools we have here in Florida are as a group bad, if not why would we be setting hundreds of millions aside to attract out of state charter operators?

When Jason Fischer was on the school board he never met a charter school, he didn’t like and this has followed him to Tallahassee. Shouldn’t we elect officials who want to work with and improve our public schools, rather than ones who want to enrich their campaign contributors at the expense of our schools and children? I think we should.

Finally, if you care about our public schools or even if you just don’t believe in crony capitalism which is what this bill is, please ignore Fischer and urge Governor Scott to veto it.

If you want to read his op-ed, try not to wretch, here is a link.

Did Gary Chartrand pay politicians to steer more money to his pet charter school?

Gary Chartrand is not a mercenary like the owners of Charter
Schools USA, who are looking to make a buck. No, he’s a zealot, he hates public
schools and the unionized teachers that work in them. He is a smart zealot too,
he knows if he gives tens of thousands to select politicians they will reward
his KIPP school with millions.
The Jacksonville Children’s Commission broke with long
standing precedent to send the KIPP school three quarters of a million dollars.
From the Times Union:
 In the
recommendations announced Wednesday morning, Tiger Academy and KIPP Public
Charter Schools were able to secure funding through their associated
nonprofits. For Tiger Academy, which is recommended to receive $581,577 for
both summer and afterschool, that is the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. For
KIPP, which would get $752,796 for afterschool at three of its schools, the
nonprofit was its own foundation, the Jacksonville Alliance for KIPP Schools.
The director of the JCC John Heymann was so outraged by this
he threatened to resign. Also from the Times Union.

“As long as I’m the CEO of this place — and you guys can take
that vote as soon as you want — this should not stop the original dictate of
this agency to bring the expertise and the resources of outside agencies to
benefit the school system, and should not philosophically become another
funding arm for the public school system,” Heymann said. “By not doing this,
you are opening up a Pandora’s box that will greatly change the face of JCC.”
Fast forward just a few weeks and John Heymann quit his

What does this have to do with KIPP? Gary Chartrand donated
tens of thousands of dollars to Lenny Curry and the pacs that helped elect him.
This break from routine also had to be approved by the city’s general counsel
who serves at the pleasure of the mayor. I can imagine the conversation now.

GC: “Lenny what do you want me to do?”
LC: Checks bank account, “approve it.”

Then Chartrand did the same thing with Jason Fischer, he funneled
tens of thousands of dollars into his campaigns and pacs, and he introduced a
bill to give KIPP another million in tax payer dollars.

Millions of public dollars, broken precedents, tens of
thousands in campaign contributions to select politicians, this is an episode
of House of Cards.

The bottom line is politicians Chartrand supports end up funneling
millions of tax payer dollars into his pet causes and that is not how things
are supposed to work.

Want to see how much? Go to the supervisor of elections pages
and type in Chartrand