Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Supreme Court in Meredith v Jefferson County Board of Education

The Supreme Court after Brown v Board of Education

Wholesale Changes at KDE in advance of Erwin arrival

Mark Hebart, at the recently renamed WHAS11 Political Blog, picked up on the rapid fire changes occurring at the Kentucky Department of Education in advance of Barbara Erwin's arrival with his post...

Wholesale Changes at KDE
Kentucky's new Education Commissioner will be surrounded by a bunch of new hires at the top when she takes over the reins of the Kentucky Education Department in July.

One Deputy Commissioner and three Associate Commissioners have quit and been replaced.
In addition, Raviya Ismail at the Herald-Leader added some reaction from state school folks that echoes my own reaction, and I suspect, will represent the general sentiment.
"By and large, the decision to bring in people with district-level experience is going to be very well received," said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Hughes said he is not familiar with Spugnardi's work, but said Farris, Stinson and Draut are very well respected in the state.
Ditto. I worked directly with Elaine Farris for a few years in Fayette County and can vouch for her abilities. And, I am familiar with Draut and Stinson, by their good reputations.

Roger Marcum, superintendent for the Marion County school district and the president of the state's superintendent association, said the recent appointments could help Erwin win praise.

"We're far enough along in Kentucky reform that we've got a lot of folks with expertise that have been a part of this since 1990 that can certainly be an asset to Commissioner Erwin and the entire department of education," Marcum said.

Erwin can use all the assets she can get
The competent new Deputy and Associates could serve to soften the on-going controversy over Erwin's still unexplained resume errors and the general outcry from critics in other districts she has led - and here in Kentucky. (Including the Courier-Journal, the Herald-Leader, the News-Enterprise, the Family Foundation, the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky School News and Commentary, KET’s “Comment on Kentucky” host Al Smith, Richmond columnist Don McNay, Kentucky Progress blog, and Kentucky Women: Power, Passion and Politics blog...)
-- As an applicant, Erwin claimed she presented at the Triple I conference in Illinois in 2006. She didn’t.
-- She said she served on the American Association of School Administrators Executive Committee for ten years. She didn’t. It was three.
-- She told the state board she had never been involved in litigation, or pressured to leave. Wrong again. She was being sued by one of her board members in the federal case Schild v. Erwin, when she left Scottsdale for St Charles.
-- She told her current school board in St Charles, Illinois that “in good faith” she would serve until August 4th well after she knew her term in Kentucky would begin on July 16th.
-- The search firm Ray & Associates told the board she had solved a persistent mold problem in a St Charles high School. Not true. The problem had been solved a full six months before her arrival.
-- And that doesn’t even count a groundswell of concern raised in four different states over her temperament in office, a handful of other typos and misstatements, or the fact that a state’s attorney in Illinois recently issued penalties for willful violations of the Open Meetings Act in her current district.
The Kentucky Board of Education has reacted (at least, publicly) as though nothing's amiss. They took no positive action during their June meeting (without Erwin in attendance). If the same thing occurs in July, (with Erwin present) the blame for an absolute lack of due diligence will no longer be the fault of the search firm. It will rest on the board.
So OK...KDE's got some good folks coming on board who may be able to help - regardless of what else happens.
But here's what I can't figure out. Just how did these hires occur?
The Herald-Leader reported the resignations of three of the folks on June 7th - and replacements were announced on June 29th. That's less than 30 days, the typical requirement for job postings. Barbara Erwin isn't set to begin before July 13th. So I'm just wondering...
Were the jobs posted? (I'm not sure KDE falls under the same regulation as school districts.)
If so when, and for how many days?
If not, why not?
Who selected the successful successful candidates?
Who acted (signed off on) on their hiring?
If not Dr. Erwin, was she consulted during the selection process?


Ruling evokes memories of busing

Veteran teacher recalls 1970s' tensions

Mike Amburgy began his teaching career during the tense years when busing began in Jefferson County schools, and he plans to retire as the district's longtime desegregation policy comes to a close....

"I was used to seeing demonstrations on television but had never personally witnessed any violent confrontations."

That changed in Louisville.

During the first football game of the season, he saw "the ugly face of racism" -- a Ku Klux Klan member standing outside the school with a sign reading "NO INTEGRATION." Later he witnessed a KKK demonstration on Dixie Highway, in front of Valley High School.

But he remained enthusiastic about teaching at [Jesse] Stuart High, until he lived through a race riot that erupted from a fight between two boys. At one point, he said, he saw a white girl break her own nose while swinging a homemade weapon.

"The faculty tried to break it up, but in a school of 1,700 students, our efforts were futile," he wrote. "The uniformed school police were called and then the county police were called, and it wasn't until 1 before all the fights were broken up and the fighters were either arrested or sent home.

… There was blood on the floors, tear gas in the halls."

Later, Amburgy was asked to sponsor a "human relations club" with an African-American teacher, and it held meetings with white and black students in which they could come together and share their feelings....

...Valley High School, where the KKK once demonstrated, now has an African-American principal. Biracial couples are an accepted part of society, he said, and most students seem to abhor discrimination.

Amburgy said he's hopeful about the future and optimistic that the recent Supreme Court ruling might eventually bring a better school system. But he also wonders whether schools might "pretty much re-segregate."

"Society has changed," he said. "Has it changed enough that we can go back to local schools? I don't know."

This from the Courier-Journal.

I see your Moloch...and raise you a Jesus. My response to the Family Foundation's celebration of the Louisville school desegregation decision

Yesterday, Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation wrote a brief celebration on the Supreme Court decision in Meredith on his blog vere loqui. It is a ruling that has many historical overtones that must be understood. Since the issue hit me in my wheelhouse, I thought a response might be in order.

Cothran implies that those who think diversity is a good thing...(actually he says it better than that)...He says those who "sacrificed children to the idols of egalitarianism and diversity" are the modern descendants of the Canaanite god, Moloch.

Well, this sounds really bad. I believe there is strength in diversity, so I wonder... Have I just been offended?

I don't actually know. I'll have to look up Moloch find out if he was particularly nasty or something. But if I've been sacrificing little children to some Canaanite god and didn't even know it...I'm gonna be hacked off.

Martin is correct to point out that school districts will find other means to promote diversity.

Today I reveal the social liberal's Double-secret Plan B.
Dear Martin,

Access to quality education – who gets taught, and the quality of that teaching – is the central issue in the history of education in America.

Our Constitution said that all men were created equal. But in America’s earliest days, with few exceptions, it was the sons of white male landowners who received instruction. Why is that?

Racism? Well, yes…slavery was America’s original sin - but also economics.

Poor children were not thought to be worth the effort. After all, how much schooling is necessary to work a plow? An adequate education in the 19th century didn’t have to meet a high standard – just the 3 R’s (at about a 3rd grade level) would do. This - while children of means learned the classics. Millions of poor white and black children were denied equal opportunities. It was about class and economics – one’s station in life.

As a youngster in all-white Ludlow, Kentucky, I knew what it meant to have low expectations. I believe I was one of two Ludlow graduates in 1969 that went right on to college. That was not the story at the upscale Beechwood School. As bad as it could be for poor white children, being black was an additional burden. Why is that?

Neither group found it easy to get to a high quality school. It was doubly tough in Appalachia.

But, future economic success demands a competitive workforce. That means a 21st century education for all Kentucky children – something I suspect you fully support.

So we have to get the kids to school.

Every day school folks put millions of kids (who can’t drive themselves) on buses. We bus them...all over the place. We bus them from wherever they live. Big yellow busses. Flashing lights but no seat belts. And the wheels on the bus go ‘round.

It would have been nice if we never had to bus kids for reasons of racial desegregation. The best solution is always the presence of a high quality school in every neighborhood. But it didn’t work out that way. Why is that?

I assume nobody is arguing in favor of a return to the separate and very unequal days of Plessy v Ferguson. But when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v Board of Education I, in 1954, that separate schools for African-American children were unconstitutional the Court was largely ignored. The following year the Court in Brown II ordered schools to begin desegregating. But they didn’t. Instead over 100 southern legislators decried the Court’s “intrusion,” asserted local control, and signed the Southern Manifesto vowing to obstruct where they could.

It was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the decision in Green v. County Board of Education in 1968 that school districts made any real attempt to comply with the court’s 1954 ruling, and then only under threat of losing federal funds. In the 1963-64 school year barely 1% of black children attended school with white children. By 1972 that percentage had grown to better than 75%.

Social engineering? You bet. Let’s say it together. Social engineering.

It would have been better if the Court had never had to intervene. But I think one can argue that the Court in Brown upheld unpopular principles of the Constitution on Christian moral grounds. As I read the Bible, I have trouble finding any place where Jesus did not gravitate toward the poorest, lowest class, downtrodden, sick, or otherwise despised individual and lift them up. Correct me if I’m wrong. Should we not do likewise?

Of course, the present Court’s ruling was predictable – signaled during oral arguments last March. There is even a rational legal basis for the decision. It is notable that civil rights advocates who argued the need for federal protection in Brown, were now arguing for local control in the Louisville case, Meredith. Legally, what else did they have to argue? It is fairly well understood that today’s residual racial segregation is the result of housing patterns in our cities – not the result of any intentional efforts by school districts to keep the races apart. This under lays Chief Justice Robert’s snappy retort.

So what now?

Is the Court inviting local school districts to return to the days of Jim Crow? Of course not.

I suspect what you will see now is a shift toward economics as a basis for future busing schemes. Since African Americans are overrepresented among the poor, the real impact of the Court’s decision may be limited in some places. In other places, probably in most places, it will result in a racial resegregation. The extent to which communities have built diverse neighborhoods will determine the extent of the impact.

Is this social engineering? You bet. Social engineering and busing. Different ideology, perhaps. Different set of kids maybe. Same buses.

What you won’t see: school districts ignoring the Court.

The solution today is the same as in the beginning. We must have high quality schools in every neighborhood, but the requirements of an adequate education today are much more substantial than in the past. If the citizens of Kentucky will support this effort we will all be better off and the courts won't have to do anything. Actually, our children will all be better off. We need a gainfully employed citizenry – with more employer supported healthcare and a much lower Medicare burden on the state budget. We need to care for the poor – not by giving them a handout, but by giving their children an opportunity to do better.

What would Jesus do?

With respect,


Friday, June 29, 2007

KDE names three new associate commissioners


(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - Ken Draut, current director of the Planning Unit for Jefferson County Public Schools, has been named associate commissioner of the Office of Assessment and Accountability, the Kentucky Department of Education announced today.

Draut fills the post vacated by Pam Rogers, who has served in the position since 2005 and is retiring.

Draut will oversee the Divisions of Assessment Implementation and Assessment Support. The office and its divisions provide services to Kentucky public school districts, including management of the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), data reporting, federal compliance and communications.

Draut has 23 years of educational experience and has served as Planning Unit director since 2004, managing planning and evaluation programs for the school district and providing analysis of assessment and accountability policies. He previously served as district assessment coordinator for Jefferson and Henry Counties. Draut was employed by the Kentucky Department of Education from 1984 to 1991 as an education consultant and education manager. He spent 30 years in the U.S. Naval Reserves as a lieutenant commander.

Draut earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Rank I from the University of Louisville. He currently is completing coursework at Cumberland College for the instructional supervisor position.

Draut is expected to begin his duties before the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - Jamie Spugnardi, current director of instructional support services for the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC), has been named associate commissioner of the Office of Teaching and Learning, the Kentucky Department of Education announced today.

Spugnardi fills the post vacated by Starr Lewis, who has served in the position since 2000 and is retiring.

As associate commissioner, Spugnardi will oversee the Divisions of Curriculum Development, Early Childhood Development and Secondary and Virtual Learning. The office and its divisions provide services to Kentucky public school districts, including curriculum resources, preschool, the Kentucky Virtual High School and dropout prevention.

Spugnardi has 26 years of educational experience and has served as executive director of GRREC since 2004, providing professional development resources, coordinating grant budgets and facilitating development of standards-based units of study for local school districts. Her prior experience includes site coordinator for the Model Teacher Preparation Program at Western Kentucky University; director of Region Two Service Center in Bowling Green (a resource center for local school districts operated by the Kentucky Department of Education); and elementary school teacher for the Warren County school district. Spugnardi also served as a Kentucky Distinguished Educator (later known as Highly Skilled Educator) from 1994 to 1997.

Spugnardi earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Rank I from Western Kentucky University. She also holds a Kentucky teaching certificate with an early childhood endorsement and an instructional supervision certificate.

Spugnardi is expected to begin her duties before the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - Larry Stinson, retired superintendent of the Ft. Thomas Independent school district, has been named associate commissioner of the Office of District Support Services, the Kentucky Department of Education announced today.

Stinson fills the post vacated by Kyna Koch, who retired earlier this year.

As associate commissioner, Stinson will oversee the Divisions of Data Management, District Operations, Facilities Management and Nutrition and Health Services. The office and its divisions provide services to Kentucky public school districts, including financial calculations, school nutrition, facilities planning and pupil transportation.

Stinson has 34 years of educational experience and was superintendent of the Ft. Thomas Independent school district from 1994 until June 2007. Along with the traditional duties of a school superintendent, he also handled many financial duties, including tax rate calculations, state funding estimates and budget development. Stinson’s prior experience includes serving as superintendent for the Whitley County Consolidated School District in Indiana and for the Bremen Public School District in Indiana. He also has served as an assistant professorial lecturer at Thomas More College, high school principal, teacher and band director.

Stinson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Rank I from Murray State University. He also earned a doctorate from Indiana University and holds certifications for school superintendent, secondary school principal, supervisor of instruction and high school teaching.

Stinson is expected to begin his duties before the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.
This from KDE press releases.

Elaine Farris named Deputy Commissioner

Elaine Farris named
Deputy Commissioner,
Learning and Results Services

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - Elaine Farris, current superintendent of the Shelby County school district, has been named deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Learning and Results Services, the Kentucky Department of Education announced today.

Farris fills the post vacated by Linda France, who has served in the position since 2003 and is retiring.

Farris will oversee five offices: District Support Services; Teaching and Learning; Assessment and Accountability; Leadership and School Improvement; and Special Instructional Services. Those offices and the divisions and branches within provide services to Kentucky public school districts, including finance, facilities, nutrition, curriculum development, virtual learning, early childhood education, assessment, school improvement, school assistance, special needs, career and technical education, federal programs and teacher and student diversity.

Farris has nearly 30 years of educational experience and has served as Shelby County superintendent since 2004. She was named to that position after completing the Minority Superintendent Internship Program, which was sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Education. Farris also has served as elementary director in Fayette County; elementary principal and assistant principal in Clark County; and as a health and physical education teacher in Clark County.

Farris earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a Rank I and an elementary physical education endorsement from Eastern Kentucky University. She pursued post-graduate work toward a doctorate at the University of Kentucky.

Farris is expected to begin her duties before the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.

This from KDE press release.
Congratulations Elaine!

Harvard Professor Mica Pollock: Q & A on the Supreme Court’s Diversity Decision

In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court today ruled against Seattle and Kentucky school-choice programs that considered race in the assignment of children to public schools. Associate Professor Mica Pollock, whose research — including the award-winning book Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School — focuses on the role of race in educational settings, discusses the decision.

Q. How will the Supreme Court ruling affect schools that want to maintain racial diversity?

A. As Justice Stevens suggested, districts are now going to be waiting in fear to be sued for even voluntary attempts to create or maintain racial diversity in school enrollment. It’s a sad day in America when people fear they will be sued for attempts to create diverse and equitable schools.
This ruling could prompt more complex efforts at diversifying school populations. The danger is that districts will hear this ruling as a mandate to mute any analysis or discussion of race when planning student enrollment or school programs. But districts don’t have to be colormute – they don’t have to stop their conversations about race and opportunity, and about student body diversity. I hope districts refuse colormuteness, and keep talking about how to attract diverse populations to their schools and educational programs.

School-level educators also need to keep talking about racially equal opportunity inside their schools and classrooms. No one in the field of education should take this opinion as a mandate to stop talking about race and opportunity, or the need for diversity. We can’t afford that as a nation.

Q. Are you fearful that this ruling will result in increased school segregation or will districts find a way around the ruling?

A. I’m certain that the ruling will result in increased school segregation, as districts abandon voluntary desegregation plans out of fear. I imagine that people interpreting this opinion in more detail will keep debating whether it leaves open the potential to consider race as one of many factors in school admissions; I know people will keep debating how to use various other methods to pursue a racially diverse student body in a school.

Q. Do you see this ruling as part of a trend? Or is it an anomaly?

A. This caps off a legal trend of the past several decades, in which judges and courts have repeatedly limited efforts to diversify schools and to equalize opportunities to learn for students of color. Brown’s original intent was to outlaw race-conscious efforts to deny students of color opportunity. It outlawed race-conscious efforts to create segregated schools. Today, the majority argued that race-conscious efforts to help provide students of color opportunity, or to create diverse schools, are discriminatory. As Justice Stevens argued, the majority distorted the logic of Brown vs. Board.

Q. What are the benefits of having a diverse classroom? Why should this even matter?

A. Diverse classrooms, of course, need to be equitable classrooms. When opportunities are distributed equally and sufficiently within diverse schools and classrooms, they seem to be the nation’s ideal learning environments. Students in such classrooms get exposed to a greater diversity of human experience, and this enhances the learning experience for all.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, who argued that all the nation’s schools are now “equal,” is grossly uninformed. Schools dominated by students of color typically are less well resourced than predominantly white schools. Given the intertwining of race and class in the United States, they also tend to be pockets of student poverty, which depresses student performance. The students of color in today’s segregated schools are equally intelligent to the nation’s white students, but typically they do not have equal opportunities to learn or succeed educationally.

This from Harvard Graduate School of Education.

And now...Would you please stand for our national anthem?

Kentucky receives grant for literacy programs

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) will receive a one-year, $15,000 planning grant to help state efforts to incorporate literacy strategies into core academic subjects, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) announced today.

The KBE joined state boards of education in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Utah and West Virginia as grant recipients. The funding comes from NASBE’s Adolescent Literacy Network and is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“The board members are excited to embark on this project, which parallels the efforts we and staff at the Kentucky Department of Education have made to incorporate literacy strategies throughout the curriculum,” said Keith Travis, chair of the KBE. “This project’s focus on adolescent literacy is particularly important as we improve the rigor and relevance of Kentucky’s high school experience.”

“We are pleased to support the leadership of these five state boards of education in making literacy instruction a coordinated set of state policies spanning all programs and academic subjects in school. Their success will help other states develop similar solutions for this deficit in student learning,” said Brenda Welburn, NASBE executive director.

The year-long project will require states to commit to establishing ongoing collaborative partnerships and develop and implement a work plan that integrates improvements in literacy performance with school improvement efforts. It requires broad attention to the problems of connecting policy to practice and to the demands for systematic investments in the training and professional development of teachers.

The grants will support the design and implementation of state plans to improve adolescent literacy achievement that adhere to the recommendations put forth in the NASBE 2005 report, Reading at Risk: The State Response to the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy, and the 2007 publication, From State Policy to Classroom Practice: Improving Literacy Instruction for All Students. The recommendations urge states to base their decisions on a clear understanding of what needs to take place at the instructional core - the relationships between teachers and students around the content to be learned.

NASBE represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Its principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking; advocate equality of access to educational opportunity; promote excellence in the education of all students; and assure responsible lay governance of education.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” Advancing Literacy is a relatively new subprogram of the Education Division aimed at advancing literacy by affecting policy, practice and research.

This from KDE press release.

Post Mortem on the Erwin contract mess in St Charles

What follows are two editorials form WestChiTown papers. One opines that State's Attorney John Barsanti did not go far enough to protect the public interest and calls for resignations. The other seems to want to get over it as soon as possible, and calls for the Board to quickly rebuild trust, or else resign.
Who's right? Who's wrong? I'm not totally sure, but it seems to me that the "players" are not all equal.
Let's review:
Barsanti's solution seems an effort to find a middle-ground that upsets the fewest people in advance of his reelection bid. It looks like real action, without actually doing anything more than hurting school board members reelection chances. If Barsanti did more than listening to the tape and reading school board documents, it's not clear. Were district officials even interviewed?
One of his solutions - training in open meetings law - is laughable. Knowing the law wasn't the problem. Board members knew it when they broke it.
Apologizing for the wrongdoing is nice. But what impact does it really have? It would be a lawless society if folks were routinely allowed to escape consequences by simply apologizing. Gaffney never did apologize, did he?
As for the publication of the meeting tape - that should have some real impact - assuming St Charles voters care enough to act. It is direct evidence of a willful disregard for the law by a majority of the board and strongly implicates Mary Jo Knipp.
Barsanti's reelection campaign ought to show him as a smart, articulate and friendly kind of fellow. Running as a strong "law and order" type of candidate might not provide an appropriate level of truth-in-advertising.
Are all players equal?
I don't think so.
Mary Jo Knipp: Her mission clearly had more to do with keeping Barbara Erwin happy than it did with protecting the public interest. She knowingly violated the law, and aside from being outed, receives no punishment. At some point, however, she did receive a job with the district under Erwin's tenure. Her public comments make her sound as unembarrassable as James Gaffney.
James Gaffney: If there is a "Dick Cheney Public Relations Award" Gaffney ought to be a strong contender. His hard-headed failure to acknowledge his own culpability is shameful. He blames the whistleblower, rather than the culprit. He never apologized - voting No on the resolution - failing part of the agreed settlement with the state's attorney.
On the other side:
Bobbie Raehl: She asked the right questions and got smacked for it. She warned the board only to be rebuked and belittled. Then, she apparently chose not to undermine the majority of the board by going along as best she could, until she couldn't anymore.
Somewhere in between:
Kathy Hewell and Christopher Hansen: It was Hansen who raised the issue of a public vote in the closed session - only to be told by Knipp that it was not a problem; invoking the advice of some attorney. He saw his error, regretted it, and quickly got on the right side of the issue along with Karla Ray. Hewell was slower to come around.
And behind the scenes:
Barbara Erwin: Outgoing superintendent who receives a promotion, big salary plus thousands of dollars worth of sick days for her trouble. She, too, apparently tried to hide public information from the taxpayers. Who else could have placed her contract in her personnel folder - in a deliberate effort to conceal it?
My stand: While the players served on the same board they are not all equal. Sanctions should have been stiffer against Knipp and Gaffney...and maybe Hewell. Barsanti's solution was about right for Hansen; other board members. Voters ought to thank Raehl, and regret their vote for Gaffney. Erwin's own involvement should have gotten a closer look.
This from the Kane County Chronicle:
No trust in D-303

The St. Charles school board violated the public trust on April 11, 2005, when it voted illegally on a contract extension for superintendent Barbara Erwin.

The audacity of that violation remained unclear until this week.

A recording of the closed session meeting that night reveals board members purposefully discussing how to conceal their shady decision to give Superintendent Barbara Erwin an astounding perk, 85 sick days for every year of her contract.

Board members blatantly violated the Open Meetings Act, and attempted to intimidate the one board member, Bobbie Raehl, who resisted the action.

Among the most fundamental rights of Americans is the right to open government. In this case, the school board knowingly denied the public the right to know how its tax dollars were being spent.The board members who were in the room that night and who still are on the board today – James Gaffney, Christopher Hansen and Kathleen Hewell – should immediately resign their seats so the board can begin to try to regain the public trust.

Also, John Reichling and Mary Jo Knipp, who were in the room that night as board members and who are today employees of St. Charles School District 303, should resign their jobs or be removed from them.The district must cut ties with those who participated in this meeting.

Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti has told the board to issue a public apology, to release the tape of the closed session, and to attend training on open-meetings and open-documents law. We’re not sure that’s enough.

The law allows for a misdemeanor to be charged against those who violate the Open Meetings Act – it carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a fine – but that option is rarely taken by state’s attorneys.

Don Craven, a lawyer who specializes in media law and who is retained by the Illinois Press Association, said he can remember two instances in the last 25 years in Illinois when a prosecutor charged a public official with a crime for violating the Open Meetings Act.“It never happens,” Craven said.

This is indeed a litmus test for the St. Charles community. If this blatant disregard for open government infuriates you as it does us, we urge you to contact the following district officials, whose phone numbers and e-mail addresses are published on the district’s Web site:
Jim Gaffney(630)
Kathleen Hewell(630)
Robert Lindahl(630)
Scott Nowling(630)
Karla Ray(630)
Lori Linkimer(630)
Christopher Hansen(630)

Go to board meetings and tell them that St. Charles deserves better.What disturbs us most about the recording is the repeated reminder to keep the public in the dark about the contract extension. After the vote, just before the meeting adjourns, Raehl points out that the document is available by a Freedom of Information Act request.

“When we hired Dr. Erwin, we discussed the idea of her contract and the terms within her contract, that we knew it was FOIA,” Gaffney says. “But we were not going to push the idea that is was FOIA because we did not want people to know about it. You want to push it, that’s your business, OK?”

At another point, an unidentified male says: “It is public record, but we don’t want to make it public record. I don’t think we want to tell anybody.”After the vote, Knipp can be heard asking for a copy of the contract from someone.“I don’t think this is anything you want in anybody’s hands,” Knipp says.“And remember, this is closed session,” a woman replies.“Exactly,” Knipp says. “If someone wants to go for it ... It’ll be interesting to see if somebody asks for it.”

Two months ago, school board candidates campaigned largely on a theme of restoring the public’s trust. That job has just become more important and more difficult. This meeting happened two years ago.

What else have taxpayers been kept in the dark about?

Executive sessions let elected officials discuss sensitive issues without the need to tiptoe around questions. They should be used for frank, honest discussion about issues such as lawsuits, land acquisition and employees. And the rules governing them should be strictly followed. The public trusts that its city councils and its school boards are using their time out of sight honestly and within the scope of the law.

We no longer can be confident of that in St. Charles District 303. How can this be mended and who can mend it?Gaffney, Hansen and Howell can begin the process by resigning. Knipp and Reichling can further it by resigning their district jobs.And residents of St. Charles – the people who pay for this school system and the people whose children are affected by the actions of this board – should not sit idle and wait for someone else to fix this disaster. They should get vocal, get involved and let the school board know they deserve better.
And this from the Daily Herald.

Open meeting law violation creates serious trust issue

That some elected officials betray the trust of the people who elect them is old news.

Still, each new incident is troubling, all the more so when the betrayers are persons whom you know as parents of students, friends or neighbors. Because community members generally applaud these folks for voluntarily assuming the daunting task of shaping our youths’ education, it is indeed distressing when they conduct business in secret and try to keep it that way when knowing full well it is the public’s legal right to know what transpired.

Based on proceedings of the past month regarding Superintendent Barbara Erwin’s departure, it is hardly shocking that an audio tape of an April 11, 2005, St. Charles school board meeting confirms that members knew they were violating the Open Meetings Act when crafting her contract. But while this confirmation is not jarring, it is nonetheless maddening.

The tape probably would not have surfaced if former board President Bobbie Raehl had not recently brought media attention to it.

The tape shows that the board OK’d a contract sans open-meeting vote because members knew that portions might make voters ill, especially the granting of 85 sick days, apparently meant to help Erwin reach a pension after working a certain number of years in Illinois.

The sting of the contract’s effect on voters was softened when Erwin opted to leave for the top state education post in Kentucky, meaning that her sick day bonanza apparently will not boost her retirement income as long as she does not return to another job in Illinois.

But when hearing board member Jim Gaffney on tape saying, “If they find out about it, they find out about it. … But I don’t think we should tell anybody,” we find it tough to trust anything he would say on behalf of the board again.

We agree with Gaffney, whom we endorsed in the April elections, on one count: We wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know we had crafted such a ridiculous number of sick days in the contract, either.

But his comment was a slap in the face to voters and an indication that he either doesn’t think residents are smart enough to be told about such matters, or that they would catch on quickly and question it in public. Who does Gaffney think “they” are, if not the voters who elected him to represent their best interests openly and who also pay the freight for whatever contracts the board negotiates?

If Gaffney and current president Kathy Hewell can’t quickly grasp the seriousness of their roles on the board, particularly when it comes to making information about salaries and contracts public, then they should step aside and let someone else get involved who embraces the basic tenets of a public’s right to know.

The board as a whole is now in apology mode, saying it won’t allow this kind of the conduct again. Board member Chris Hansen has made it clear he’s glad the board’s conduct has been made public and sounds willing to take the heat that will follow. That’s much better than Gaffney’s attempt to deflect the problem off on the “previous board,” as if he weren’t a member of that board and instrumental in persuading colleagues to keep things quiet.

While board members are saying they won’t let something like this happen again, we don’t foresee any rush to eliminate secret meetings when discussing something like a superintendent’s contract. So, it’s left to District 303 residents to decide whether they trust the board or not — and that would be on two points.

First, do they trust the board to reveal the information that they are obligated by law to share? Second, do they trust the board to avoid granting inflated pay or benefits that would heighten the feeling among taxpayers that elected officials are bent on trying to pry money out of their pockets that isn’t vital to providing students a quality education?

Put us in the category that says the board has to earn its trust back — and quickly.
Kane Countychronicle readers respond:

AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 28, 2007 8:45 AM:
" Thank you for allowing your readers to "hear for themselves" what went on behind close doors. It is time for parents of students in CUSD 303, and this taxpaying community to let their voices be heard and put a stop to this unethical handling of our educational system. How unsettling to this reader to wonder what other issues have been "secretly" decided upon illegally. "

wedeservebetter wrote on Jun 28, 2007 2:24 PM:
" The only way our school district can recover from this problem is to get rid of the problems (Gaffney, Hewell) and staff (Knipp, Reichling). What is the process for a citizen directed "Vote of No Confidence?" I'd be happy to lead it! There has to be an impeachment process out there! "

myidea wrote on Jun 28, 2007 2:51 PM:
" Gaffney needs to go and Hewell can follow him. Knipp was clearly granted special status from her favors to the superintendent. She has no education. "

AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 28, 2007 5:05 PM:
" Can anyone tell me then the bottom line cost we are losing by paying Erwin for this illegal contract? Also, who and how much we paid the search firm to find her or was she related to Gaffney, Knipp, Hewell or Reichling? Makes you wonder....... "

i care wrote on Jun 28, 2007 8:17 PM:
" I have not heard of any relationships between Erwin and Gaffney etc. Something to think about though, maybe she is related to one of them "

i care wrote on Jun 28, 2007 8:19 PM:
" I seem to recall another Gaffney story, during the last referendum attempt. He and Erwin thought it best to pay rush fees to architechs to redesign the middle/grade school design. Well, that was a waste, I think a hundred fifty grand, because the referendum failed anyway. Why would anyone pay to redraw plans in a hurry when there is no money to pay for the project? That was real good thinking. Anyone remember the specifics? "

AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 28, 2007 9:35 PM:
" "i care" that is so interesting that you bring that up please go to Illinois State Board of Elections and click on committees then ID #8696 and review D-2 Semiannual Report 1/1/06 to 6/30/06 listing who contributed to the last referendum. Wight and Company gave $3,000 back in February 2006 to Citizens for Excellence in Education CUSD 303. The list also included Aramark Management Services $1,000 contributed on 4/15/06, B&B Enterprises $1,000, Fox Creek Limited Partnership $1,000, James Gaffney $500, Kathy Kaiser $300, Prairie Lakes Investment Group $1,000, Melanie Raczkiewicz $200, St. Charles Education Association $3,000, SouthHampton Homes of Fox Creek $500 and St. Charles Education Support Professionals $1,000. The report reflects a total of $12,500 in contributions. D-2 Pre-election report 2005 CE dated 1/24/05 to 3/6/05 lists Barbara Erwin contributing $500, Hestrup & Associates $2,000, Jim Keen $250, Mass Collection $550 Mendel Plumbing & Heating $1,000, Melane Raczkiewicz $200, St Charles Education Association $2,000 and Wight & Company contributing $5,000 on 2/7/05. This by no means deems any wrongdoing but it begs to question where the "citizens" were. "

spike797 wrote on Jun 28, 2007 10:44 PM:
" Excellent coverage of the issue - thanks Chronicle Editors! I'd like to know more about Erwin's son doing an internship for White Architects. I'd like to know more about Knipp's education, since she is paid as a top level Asst. Dean with a college education. This is just the tip of the iceberg where Gaffney and Hewell and Erwin are concerned. The rest of the story needs to come out. It would be great if all of you concerned citizens joined forces because school boards are practically untouchable. "

AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 28, 2007 11:33 PM:
" "spike797" I agree, this district has tried for too long to intimidate anyone from having a voice and even more insulting is the 3 minutes of eye rolling and paper shuffling they do when a community member brings forth their concerns at a board meeting. I for one would like to join that citizen force and stand up for change - where do we meet? "

i care wrote on Jun 29, 2007 6:50 AM:
" " I recall the 2005 school board elections. My memory is that the candidates had literature on themselves. Also, there were forums for the candidates to answer some questions in front of the public. My memory is that Ms Knipp had no college degree listed on her paper work and her occupation was a customer service rep or receptionist, something like that, for a seed company. Anyone else remember this? That was in 2005 so she could have went to college since then, night school I guess. OR she doesn't have a degree or she didn't want to list a degree on her campaign literature or tell anyone she had one at the forums. Anyone know? " "

USA Today moves Simpson's voting back to Monday


Here come the Simpsons...but not yet.

Beginning Monday, you'll be able to vote for the Springfield you think should host the hometown premiere of 'The Simpsons Movie.'

In the meantime, check out THE EVIDENCE from the Simpson's Archive at

'Brown V. Board' School May Be Spared

TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Kansas State Historical Society said [recently] it won't allow city officials to demolish the former all-white school that was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case.

The Topeka City Council had given preliminary begin the destruction, but the historical society contends that a 2002 agreement requires the city to preserve the structure until 2012.

To change the building's architectural appearance and structural integrity, the city needs the historical society's permission, said Patrick Zollner, the state agency's director of historic preservation. The covenant, signed by then-Topeka Mayor Butch Felker in 2002, can be amended or released only by mutual written agreement.

"The society would never consent to the demolition of Sumner School," Zollner told The Topeka Capital-Journal on Thursday.

Council and city staff members have said they would like to save the Sumner Elementary School building, but the cost to the city has forced them to consider other options.The art deco building became a symbol of civil rights history when Oliver Brown, a black minister, tried to enroll his daughter in Sumner School in 1950.When the school turned them away, the Browns filed a lawsuit that would eventually lead to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 desegregation decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

This from

Study: Whites Just Don't Understand the Black Experience

To White Americans, giving up television is a hardship; being Black is not.

That's the upshot of a series of studies by researchers at the Ohio State University. As part of the studies, Whites of different ages and geographic regions were asked how much they deserved to be paid for living the rest of their lives as an African-

Respondents generally requested less than $10,000 to become Black. However, they said they'd have to be paid $1 million to give up television for the rest of their lives.

...The study, titled, The Cost of Being Black: White Americans' Perceptions and the Question of Reparations, was facilitated by a postdoctoral fellowship to Mazzocco from Ohio State's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. The study appears in the fall 2006 issue of Harvard's Du Bois Review, a journal on social science research on race...

The costs of being Black in our society are very well documented, says study co-author Philip Mazzocco. Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to Whites.

When Whites say they would need $1 million to give up TV, but less than $10,000 to become Black, that suggests they don't really understand the extent to which African-Americans, as a group, are disadvantaged, says Mazzocco.

...Our data suggest that such resistance is not because White Americans are mean and uncaring, morally bankrupt or ethically flawed, adds Dr. Mahzarin R. Banaji, a professor of social ethics at Harvard University. White Americans suffer from a glaring ignorance about what it means to live as a Black American.

...[The] surveys show that 90 to 96 percent of White Americans are against slave descendant reparations. It is nearly impossible to get that many people to agree on anything, so it is an issue that really deserves attention to see why this is, says Mazzocco. We need to take a heated and emotional issue and look through a scientific lens.

This from Diverse Magazine.

From Facebook To a Yearbook, Teens Get a Jolt

Students at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda opened their yearbooks last month and found pictures they had already seen -- on Facebook, the Internet social-networking site.

In addition to the usual images of blurry hallway traffic, lockers and teens slumped at desks, this year's Walter Johnson Windup included scenes of student life clearly not intended for the yearbook: impromptu snapshots at house parties and random weekend gatherings; portraits taken at arm's length on cellphones; and at least one image of students at what looks like a tailgate party, drinking from telltale red plastic cups.

One student, venting in the school newspaper, said seeing her Facebook pictures in the yearbook was "kind of stalker-y."

Desperate and crunched for time, yearbook staffers resorted to filling pages with photographs downloaded from student Facebook pages. They did it largely without the permission of students and without crediting photographers.

"All the students were like, 'Whoa, that's my picture. I took that,' " said Amanda Horowitz, 15, a rising junior on the yearbook staff who concedes that she, too, published a few pictures from Facebook. "I was rushing, it was last-minute, I thought it was all right."

The episode illustrates how complacent the denizens of Internet vanity sites have become about sharing the artifacts of their private lives, and how, with the click of a mouse, their lives can become very public...

"We grew up with the idea that you can share anything you want with your friends through the Internet," said Amy Hemmati, 16, a rising Walter Johnson junior. "I think we're very trusting in the online community, as opposed to adults, who are on the outside looking in..."

This from the Washington Post.

Early education gains momentum in states

This fall, states will see the results of the big bucks they are promising to plug into early education programs.

Among several states expanding access to preschool classes, Washington state will have an extra 2,250 pre-kindergarten spaces, Oregon will serve another 3,200 youngsters, and Tennessee will have up to 5,000 more openings. Meanwhile, kindergartners in seven states could see their school hours double as the drive for all-day kindergarten gains momentum.

It’s all part of a push to get more kids learning at a young age when, research has shown, their brains still are developing and they’re most likely to soak in information. Advocates also say that students who have attended preschool are less likely to commit crimes later and more likely to attend college, get jobs and pay taxes.

So far this year legislatures in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington are among those that answered the call of a record 29 governors who sought to boost funding for their state pre-K programs. Two years ago, only 11 governors asked for such increases.

Currently, 39 states have a state-funded preschool program, although the majority of them only cover low-income kids. Only three states — Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma — offer voluntary preschool to all 4-year-olds. Illinois last year passed a law to create the country’s first universal program for 3-year-olds, as well as 4-year-olds, but the program is being phased in...

This from

Philadelphia to Keep Outside School Managers One More Year

The Philadelphia school district will allow six outside groups to continue operating some of the city’s lowest-performing schools for one more year, a decision that was immediately questioned in light of studies showing that the five-year, $107 million investment has not delivered overall academic results any better than the district’s own efforts.

The June 27 decision by Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission reverberated in the city, where critics said it was driven by politics and money, as well as elsewhere in the nation, where experts who have been closely monitoring Philadelphia’s experiment with outside management were divided on exactly what lessons it is yielding for educators.

The commission, an appointed panel that has been running the 173,000-student district since a 2001 state takeover, decided to offer one-year contract extensions to the providers—Edison Schools and Victory Schools, two New York City-based private companies; Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia; and two community groups, Universal Companies and Foundations Inc. Their five-year contracts expire on June 30, and a decision had to be made about the 38 schools they would run in 2007-08.

The extensions require all the providers to offer their services for $500 more per student than what regular Philadelphia schools receive. That means a cut in pay for the four non-university providers, which had been paid $750 extra per child, and an increase for the two universities, which had been receiving $450 extra per student. Whether all six would accept new contracts on those terms was an open question.

“How do we do more with less? That is the biggest issue,” said J. Roberto Gutierrez, a spokesman for Edison Schools Inc., which is the largest outside provider, with 20 Philadelphia campuses.

Margaret Harrington, the chief operating officer of Victory Schools, said her company would accept the one-year contract. “We want to maintain our presence in Philadelphia,” she said...

This from Education Week.

Schools call roll at a border crossing

Students routinely walk from
homes in Mexico to
attend public institutions in the U.S.
In Arizona, one district
has chosen not to ignore the violation.

San Luis, Ariz. — ROBERT Villarreal, standing at his post behind the customs officers at the border crossing station, knew he was being watched.

A slim teenage boy wearing a green T-shirt was furtively peering at him from behind a pillar on the Mexican side. "I know who it is before he even comes in," Villarreal said, ducking into an alcove. Minutes later, perhaps thinking Villarreal had left, the boy and another teen breezed through customs.

Villarreal sprang out of hiding and called the teens by name. "If you hide like that," he said, "you're just going to make things worse." Villarreal is not a border agent. He is a school attendance officer whose assignment is to catch students who live in Mexico but attend public school in the U.S.

Children who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants but live in Mexico cross every morning to get a better education for free in Arizona, breaking the law that requires them to live within the boundaries of the district. To many of their parents, who have ties in both countries, not living in the district is the educational equivalent of jaywalking.

"I pay taxes. I work over here," said a 31-year-old corrections officer who would not give his name as he walked his son from Mexico to elementary school in San Luis. "What's the difference?"

There are no hard statistics on the number of children who break the residency requirement, but some people opposed to U.S. immigration policy have seized on the issue as another example of how they say migrants exploit the U.S. They contend that most school districts do not enforce the law because they risk losing state funding, which is based on the number of enrolled students.

This from the Los Angeles Times.

Supreme Court rules on race-conscious school placements

The US Supreme Court [JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in the last three cases of its 2006 Term Thursday, including the consolidated cases of Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report] and Parents Involved v. Seattle School District [Duke Law case backgrounder], where the Court struck down public school consideration of race when assigning students to public schools.

In the Seattle case, parents sought an injunction against the school district's policy of assigning students to schools based partly on race, so that the racial makeup of each school roughly mirrors that of the district, arguing that the consideration of race violated the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment [text]. The district court upheld the policy. A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, applying the strict scrutiny standard of the 2003 University of Michigan affirmative action cases [JURIST online symposium] and finding that the policy was not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. Following an en banc review, however, the full Ninth Circuit reversed the panel [opinion, PDF] and sided with the school district.

Likewise, in the [Kentucky] case, the district court refused to issue an injunction against the school district and upheld the policy under strict scrutiny. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court reversed both decisions Thursday, holding that the policies did not survive the applicable "searching standard of review," which required the school districts to "demonstrate that the use of individual racial classifications in the assignment plans here under review is 'narrowly tailored' to achieve a 'compelling' government interest."

Read the Court's opinion per Justice Chief Justice Roberts, along with a concurrence from Justice Thomas, a second concurrence from Justice Kennedy, a dissent from Justice Stevens, and a second dissent from Justice Breyer.

This from Jurist.
5-4 ruling limits use of race by district

A divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down Jefferson County Public Schools' desegregation policy yesterday -- saying the district's use of race in assigning students was unconstitutional.

The landmark decision placed new limits on the ability of districts nationwide to pursue racial diversity.

In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said that by classifying students by race, the Louisville and Seattle school districts perpetuated unequal treatment and had failed to justify the use of race.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Roberts said.

The decision reversed the lower courts and was a victory for Crystal Meredith, who challenged the Jefferson County plan when her son was denied a transfer to Bloom Elementary School because he is white.

But the split decision left the door open for schools to consider race in narrower circumstances, with five justices saying that school diversity is a compelling state interest.

Although the ruling will restrict hundreds of districts' ability to integrate schools, it wasn't as sweeping as some civil-rights advocates had feared: It did not overturn past decisions on race in higher education or delve into affirmative action.

This from the Courier-Journal.
Also from C-J, Jefferson County Board of Education preliminary Press Conference; and Press Conference on School Desegregation ruling.
SCOTUS strikes down Jefferson County Schools' Integration Plan by 5-4 vote

Here is the opinion of the US Supreme Court (a/k/a SCOTUS) in the Seattle and Jefferson County School desegregation cases released June 28, 2007. For any SCOTUS afficianados, there were 75 slip opinions for the Oct 2006 term which can be found here. The local case was styled Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education but was consolidated with the Seattle schools case.

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1
From is the following short summary of this decision at Court strikes down school integration plans, ends Term:

[T]he Supreme Court divided 5-4 on Thursday in striking down voluntary integration plans in the public schools of Seattle and Louisville. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote the majority opinion in the combined cases. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy did not join all of the majority opinion, but joined in the result. Kennedy suggested in a separate opinion that the Chief Justice's opinion, in part, "is at least open to the interpretation that the Constitution requires school districts to ignore the problem of de facto resegregation in schooling. I cannot endorse that conclusion."

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Roberts wrote. On the two school plans, the majority found that the districts have "failed to provide the necessary support for the proposition that there is no other way than individual racial classifications to avoid racial isolation in their school districts."

The Chief Justice, in his oral announcement of the ruling, insisted that the Court was remaining faithful to Brown v. Board of Education in barring public school districts from assigning students on the basis of race. Answering that, Justice John Paul Stevens said in dissent that there was a "cruel irony" in making that claim, because it involved a rewriting of the history "of one of this Court's most important decisions." Stevens noted that he joined the Court in 1975, and asserted that "no member of the Court" at that time "would have agreed with today's decision."

This from the Kentucky Law Review blog.
Schools to re-examine racial integration

What to do now? School officials around the country are asking that question following a Supreme Court decision rejecting racial integration plans in Seattle and Louisville, Ky.

The 5-4 ruling prohibited those district plans but didn't entirely shut the door on using race as a factor when making decisions about what schools should look like.

The ruling brought complaints that it allegedly betrayed the Supreme Court's most acclaimed ruling - the 53-year-old Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregated schools.

Justice Anthony Kennedy went along with the court's four most conservative members in rejecting the Louisville and Seattle plans. However, he stopped short of saying race can never be a component of school efforts to achieve diversity.

This from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Justices Limit the Use of Race in School Plans for Integration

With competing blocs of justices claiming the mantle of Brown v. Board of Education, a bitterly divided Supreme Court declared Thursday that public school systems cannot seek to achieve or maintain integration through measures that take explicit account of a student’s race.

...Chief Justice Roberts’s control was not quite complete, however. While Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined his opinion on the schools case in full, the fifth member of the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, did not. Justice Kennedy agreed that the two programs were unconstitutional. But he was highly critical of what he described as the chief justice’s “all-too-unyielding insistence that race cannot be a factor in instances when, in my view, it may be taken into account.”

This from the New York Times.
And also from the Times...this editorial:

Resegregation Now

The Supreme Court ruled 53 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated education is inherently unequal, and it ordered the nation’s schools to integrate. Yesterday, the court switched sides and told two cities that they cannot take modest steps to bring public school students of different races together. It was a sad day for the court and for the ideal of racial equality.

Since 1954, the Supreme Court has been the nation’s driving force for integration. Its orders required segregated buses and public buildings, parks and playgrounds to open up to all Americans. It wasn’t always easy: governors, senators and angry mobs talked of massive resistance. But the court never wavered, and in many of the most important cases it spoke unanimously.

Yesterday, the court’s radical new majority turned its back on that proud tradition in a 5-4 ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts. It has been some time since the court, which has grown more conservative by the year, did much to compel local governments to promote racial integration. But now it is moving in reverse, broadly ordering the public schools to become more segregated.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the majority’s fifth vote, reined in the ruling somewhat by signing only part of the majority opinion and writing separately to underscore that some limited programs that take race into account are still acceptable. But it is unclear how much room his analysis will leave, in practice, for school districts to promote integration. His unwillingness to uphold Seattle’s and Louisville’s relatively modest plans is certainly a discouraging sign.

In an eloquent dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer explained just how sharp a break the decision is with history. The Supreme Court has often ordered schools to use race-conscious remedies, and it has unanimously held that deciding to make assignments based on race “to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society” is “within the broad discretionary powers of school authorities...”

Across U.S., a New Look at School Integration Efforts

...Louisville, whose plan was struck down by yesterday’s ruling, could move in that direction.
“We didn’t have a, quote, Plan B, ready in case we lost,” said Stephen Imhoff, one of seven members of the Jefferson County school board that oversees the Louisville schools at issue in ruling. “But I began bringing up socioeconomic diversity with the board five years ago, and I think it will be one of the viable options we will discuss. Our board believes that diversity is valuable, and we will work to maintain it.”

Sharon Browne, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative group that supported the parents suing Seattle and Louisville, said at a news conference yesterday that in addition to the foundation’s current litigation against policies in Los Angeles and Berkeley, Calif., schools, her group has identified several other districts, including Lynn, Mass., and Rochester, whose policies now seem ripe for challenge.

There are no reliable statistics on how many districts try to achieve racial balance by using race in decisions about which students go to which schools; estimates range from a few hundred to nearly 1,000. Some states specifically call for such plans....

This from the New York Times.

Parsing the High Court's Ruling on Race and Schools

What does this decision mean for other public school plans that consider race as a factor?
The decision narrows the arsenal of tools available to public school districts seeking to achieve or maintain racial diversity. However, because of Kennedy's concurring opinion, the decision does leave the door open for race to be used as a factor in limited circumstances.

Recent high court rulings have addressed diversity plans in higher education. Thursday's decision applies specifically to K-12 public education. However, even the majority justices disagreed on whether and how race may be considered as a factor in public school admissions. So, it isn't clear how this ruling will affect programs and circumstances in which a student's race is considered — such as admissions to competitive magnet programs. That uncertainty leaves school districts some room to maneuver.

What is clear is that school districts cannot classify students by race for the purpose of school assignments, as the Seattle and Louisville school plans did. Using race for other educational purposes, such as to track enrollment, is still permissible, based on Kennedy's concurring opinion.

School News from Around Kentucky

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kentucky town is one of 14 hoping to claim it's hometown of Simpsons

This from the Herald-Leader.

Hey, you know what would be sweeter than a plateful of doughnuts (Mmmm ... doughnuts!) to the folks in Springfield, Ky.? More intoxicating than a truckload of Duff beer? More smooth-jazz cool than a Lisa Simpson saxophone solo?

To be named the site of the world premiere of the The Simpsons Movie, due July 27. It's the big-screen version of the Fox TV animated series. And Springfield, Ky., pop. 2,800, is among 14 Springfields across the country vying to host the premiere.

"There's really a buzz around town," said Jeff Moreland, editor of The Springfield Sun weekly newspaper. "We've had a lot of excitement about it."
Each town submitted a 3- to 5-minute video to make its case as the premiere site. The Kentucky Springfield asked Washington County native and Lexington resident Michael Breeding to direct its video.

"I have never had more fun," said Breeding, who has made documentaries on Keeneland and other Kentucky subjects. "It's a sweet little community. We had 50 people show up for our call for actors, and 150 people showed up for the shoot."

The premise of Breeding's video is that the series' creator, Matt Groening, came to Springfield in the 1980s to research Abraham Lincoln, whose parents were married in Springfield. The video posits the theory that Groening's idea for an animated series was born in Springfield. So the town puts him on trial and confronts him with evidence that he based the cartoon world on the Washington County seat...

The Evidence?

One episode of the animated series said that the fictional Springfield is south of Shelbyville, which is the case in Kentucky. Fans of the show say another episode said the Simpsons lived in "Northern Kentucky," although the Kentucky Springfield is close to the geographic center of the state. The city's real-life postmaster is Marshall Simpson.

In another episode, a statue of Jebediah Springfield was beheaded. Well, twice a similar war-memorial statue was beheaded on the Washington County courthouse lawn in Springfield some years ago -- before The Simpsons episode ever aired.

"How much more evidence do we need to bring to the table?" said Hal Goode, executive director of Springfield-Washington County Economic Development.
The more famous Springfield, Illinois may have a power plant, run by a man who looks a lot like Mr. Burns, head of the nuclear plant on "The Simpsons," and the local school may be identical, but Kentuckians are still hopeful of getting the nod.

Afterall, the nuns at St Catherine College have been praying for Bart for years.
The Kentucky video features an original song written by Beau Haddock, a former member of the Little River Band of '70s fame. And Peter Thomas, who narrated NOVA science programs on PBS and Forensic Files, narrates the video. Rick Dees, the disc jockey and Disco Duck singer who owns a home in Boyle County, contributed a concluding comment.

Beginning tomorrow, people across the country can go to to view the competing videos and vote for the Springfield that most represents the spirit of the animated town. The voting ends July 9 and the winner will be announced on or about July 10.

Erwin Contract: St. Charles school board members knew they were breaking the law as they did it. "...we did not want people to know about it."

The Daily Herald reports:

Previous board intentionally kept taxpayers in the dark
about Erwin contract perk

When the St. Charles school board decided to start crediting the superintendent with 85 sick days a year, the question of whether to tell taxpayers came up.

The discussion that followed took place out of the public spotlight - and that's where it stayed for two years.

"If they find out about it, they find out about it," board member Jim Gaffney said at the closed-doors meeting in April 2005. "But I don't think we want to tell anybody."

"And remember," current board President Kathy Hewell told fellow board members then, "this is closed session."

Those comments and others were sealed under the board's closed-session privilege until Tuesday, when the board relented to a request from the Kane County state's attorney to release an audio recording of the meeting.

The recording not only confirms the board violated the Open Meetings Act by extending Superintendent Barbara Erwin's contract without the required public vote, but it also shows at least one board member hoped taxpayers wouldn't find out.

"When we hired Dr. Erwin, we discussed the idea of her contract and the terms of her contract, that we knew it was (available under) FOIA," Gaffney says in the audio recording, referring to Freedom of Information Act requests.

"But we were not going to push the idea it was FOIA because we did not want people to know about it."

Confronted with the quotes Tuesday, Gaffney, who was re-elected in April, said: "Did I make that statement? I don't recall that. ... If it's on the tape, I have to have said it. I'm not ashamed of what I said."

According to the recording, the board met behind closed doors to finalize the details of Erwin's contract extension.

Several members questioned the legality of crediting Erwin with 85 sick days a year toward an Illinois pension, but were assured by then-board President Mary Jo Knipp that it was legal.

Later in the recording, board member Chris Hansen asks whether a public vote is necessary.

"No, no," Knipp responds in the recording. "All I need to know is that the majority of the board is OK with this, and (Erwin) and I will sign off on it this evening."

Knipp says later, "It will be interesting if somebody asks for" a copy of the agreement...
...The issue of whether the board broke the law has been widely publicized since former board President and 2005 member Bobbie Raehl went to the state's attorney with the question this spring.

Audio excerpts of the meeting
posted by the Daily Herald (Quicktime).

At one point, while the board discussed keeping the contract secret, Bobbie Raehl says, "I don't feel comfortable with it." To which (Mary Jo Knipp, I assume) responds, "You don't have to Bobbie, but you've got a majority of the board here that feels comfortable with this and wants to do it."

Despite ignoring her concerns, and despite his admission that the board willfully kept the taxpayers uninformed, James Gaffney, who voted against making the recording public, still contends Raehl is simply being "vindictive" after losing to him in the election.

Similarly, the ethically challenged Mary Jo Knipp, who was board president in 2005 and signed the contract extension, earlier dismissed the dispute as a “personal vendetta.”

At the end of the meeting Raehl seems frustrated by her inability to get answers to certain questions and Knipp discourages her from taking a copy of the contract with her after the meeting. A man says, "She's entitled to keep any paper we give her." Raehl says, " read what was discussed tonight." Knipp snips, "Then keep it Bobby. Have a good time."

Neither Gaffney nor Knipp seem to have the facts on their side.

ST. CHARLES -- Tapes released by the Kane County State’s Attorney on Tuesday show that St. Charles school board members questioned the legality of a closed-session vote even as they were taking it.

When an unidentified male voice on the tape of an April 11, 2005, closed session asked whether the board needed to vote on an amendment to Superintendent Barbara Erwin’s contract in open session, a woman later identified on the tape as then-board President Mary Jo Knipp said no.

“All I need to know is that the majority of the board is OK with this and Barb [Erwin] and I can sign off on this this evening,” Knipp said on the tape.

Under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, while consensus votes may be taken in closed session, final actions must be taken by a public vote.

...Knipp said this move was so “this wasn’t anything that was going to come back and blow up at the end of Barb’s term.”

The Chronicle attempted to reach Marcilene Dutton, an attorney with the Illinois Association of School Administrators, without success. Marcilene Dutton is the only lawyer listed with the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission whose name comes remotely close to "Marcy Dutton."

When reached for comment on Tuesday, Knipp refused to confirm that she had led the 2005 meeting.

“I’m not sure what’s going on and I’m not going to confirm anything until I know what’s going on,” Knipp said Tuesday. “I’m not sure who’s out to prove what point. It’s a personal vendetta going on.”

During the closed session, former board member Bobbie Raehl said Illinois does not allow [that many] sick days unless an individual has served over several decades.

“Our people are entitled to 14 days,” Raehl states on the tape. “So I ask the same question: How can we make 85 out of 14?”

In response, an unidentified female board member said the law allowed it.

“This is something we don’t know why,” the woman said. “It’s a loophole.”

Raehl did not return messages left at her home phone number Tuesday.

Near the end of the tape, board members discouraged Raehl from taking documents out of the session.

“It is public record but we don’t want to make it public record,” one unidentified male board member said. “I don’t think we want to tell anybody.”

The full meeting recording
published by the Kane County Chronicle here.