PONCE DE LEON — Principal David Davis led a "relentless crusade" against homosexuality at Ponce de Leon High School, a federal judge said in court documents filed Thursday.
Advocates celebrated the court's opinion Friday.
Brooklyn mom Natalie Barratt had a bad feeling when her four-year-old son Luke Serrano emerged from his February testing session for admittance to the city schools' gifted and talented programs. "The teacher who had administered the test wasn't clear if he'd finished the test," she recalls.After weeks of phone calls with the Department of Education, she had Luke retested. His score this time: an 89, one point too low for acceptance into a G&T kindergarten class. For want of a single correct answer, Luke was officially non-gifted.In past years, this would have been just one setback in the tangled swirl of bureaucracy and arm-twisting that is commonplace in navigating the city's Department of Education. This year, however, is different. Last fall, the city announced that in place of the patchwork that had been G&T admissions—where some districts offered gifted classrooms at all their schools and others at none, and each school decided on which kids to accept by its own selection process—beginning in 2008 there would be only one way into city-approved G&T classes: by scoring high enough on standardized tests. The goal, says Department of Education spokesperson Andy Jacob, was to "set a single, rigorous standard" that would level the playing field among all parents—and stop the perception of G&T as a haven for wealthier, whiter kids.
But as schools prepare to welcome the first classes of the new G&T regime this fall, it hasn't quite worked out that way. Some parents are angry at what they see as inequities in the tests themselves; others, that contrary to Department of Education promises, not every kindergartner with a high enough test score has been guaranteed a gifted classroom. (As in past years, most of the Bronx and Queens G&T classes will begin in first grade, not kindergarten.)
Meanwhile, The New York Times revealed that fewer children from poor districts were getting into gifted programs than under the old, un-level playing field...
AUSTIN – Fixing the worst schools in Texas is about to get harder.
A 2006 law meant to spur improvements at low-rated schools gave the state two options for campuses that rack up five consecutive years of "unacceptable" ratings – closure or the use of outside managers to run them.
In practice, though, there's just one choice.
The state did not attract a single bid – from either a private company or a nonprofit entity – after soliciting proposals for several months for an outside manager.
"At this point, we have no one to call on," said state Education Commissioner Robert Scott. "Because there are no takers, we are left with just one option – closure" for chronic underachievers....
Attorney General Jack Conway announced today that his office is distributing an update to more than 1400 public officials concerning the open meeting and open records laws.
Those receiving the updated information include all county judge/executives and mayors, all school superintendents, all public university presidents, and their legal counsel. This distribution is statutorily required when either the open records or open meetings laws is amended. It is aimed at enhancing public officials’ understanding of the law and ensuring open government.
On July 15, 2008, the open meetings law was amended to permit public agencies to send notice of special meetings to agency members and media organizations by email if the members or media organizations have filed a written request with the agency indicating a preference for email notification.
Public officials who receives the open meetings and open records update from the Attorney General are required by law to distribute the information to all elected and appointed officials and members within the county, city, school district or university they represent, and to certify compliance with the Attorney General.
The update will reach several thousand state and local officials and promote compliance with the open records and open meetings law in Kentucky.
I'm pleased to report that KDE has been ahead of the curve on this one.
SOURCE: OAG press release
Kentucky schools have eliminated about 975 positions, including 455 teachers, to cope with cuts in the state's two-year budget, according to a state education group.
The Kentucky School Boards Association conducted a survey that found nearly 90 of the state's 174 school districts have cut about 455 certified positions and about 520 classified positions from their payrolls. Teachers are certified staff, and teachers' aides, also known as para-educators, are classified staff.
The reductions affect about 1 percent of the state's 42,000 teachers.
“The worry is that (layoffs) will be worse in the '09-'10 school year,” said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association.
When adjusted for inflation, the state's funding of K-12 education will decline by $172 million this fiscal year and $171 million next year, according to an analysis by the Council for Better Education.
Specifically, the state budget cut about $43 million from education programs, including a $14.7 million reduction in the main funding formula for school districts. Also hard hit were professional development and after-school tutoring programs...
What's the explanation?
In the e-mails, which The Courier-Journal obtained from UofL under the Kentucky Open Records Act, Felner expressed concern that ...
Teachers can help students become 21st-century problem solvers by introducing them to a broad range of thinking tools.
If you doubt that we live in a world of accelerating change, just consider the everyday life experiences of millions of children and teenagers today:
Once upon a time, educators might have said to their students, "If you'll pay close attention to what I'm going to teach you, you'll learn everything you need to know for a successful life." It's doubtful that this message was ever entirely true, but it's certainly not true today. We don't know all the information that today's students will need or all the answers to the questions they will face. Indeed, increasingly, we don't even know the questions.
- They can view live images from every corner of the world and talk with or exchange video images with other young people who live many time zones away.
- They have more technology in their classrooms (and in many cases, in their
backpacks) than existed in the workplaces of their parents 20 years ago.
- They will study subjects that were unknown when their teachers and parents
were students, and they may well enter careers that do not exist today.
- In contrast with most of their parents, more of today's young people will
routinely come into contact with other people of diverse backgrounds and
experiences. They will grow up to interact, collaborate, and compete with others around the globe.
These realities mean that we must empower students to become creative thinkers, critical thinkers, and problem solvers—people who are continually learning and who can apply their new knowledge to complex, novel, open-ended challenges; people who will proceed confidently and competently into the new horizons of life and work...
BURLINGTON, Conn.—An attorney for a high school student who brought a free speech lawsuit against her school district last year said he now plans to file a libel lawsuit against the principal.
Jon Schoenhorn, a Hartford attorney representing Avery Doninger, said he has served notice to Lewis S. Mills High School Principal Karissa Niehoff of the impending lawsuit.
Doninger and her family have been at odds with the district since last year, when Doninger used offensive slang to refer to administrators on an Internet blog. School officials removed her as class secretary, which Doninger said was a violation of her constitutional rights.
The case went as far as the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York as Doninger sought an injunction to regain her spot as class secretary and speak at her class graduation in June. The court rejected that request, but her lawsuit is pending.
The threat of a new libel lawsuit stems from an e-mail exchange that Niehoff had with a Wisconsin man who read about the legal case in the New York Post.
School administrators said Niehoff improperly disclosed information about Doninger in the exchange, which the man forwarded to Doninger's family. Niehoff was suspended for two days without pay for the incident.
Schoenhorn said Thursday that Niehoff will be sued for libel "for the false things she said to people about Avery."
A formal lawsuit has yet to be filed, and Schoenhorn declined to give details about when and where the suit might be filed.
Niehoff's attorney, Christine Chinni, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
Doninger's mother, Lauren, said Niehoff was punished for making a comment and distributing it on the Internet, the same reason cited for the punishment of her daughter, she said.
"It's not a decision we made lightly," she said. "The irony is too overwhelming that Avery, at 16, made some ill-considered remarks and sent them into cyberspace, and she was punished relentlessly. The principal effectively does the same thing. Does she expect no consequences?"
The plan is an attempt to bring attention to the "ever growing school funding inequalities between rich, white and poor, minority school districts in the state," said Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church, on Sunday.
Meeks, joined by a coalition of minority clergy, will also attempt to enroll the children Sept. 2 into the "wealthy, white New Trier suburban school district."
"He's tried everything," said Tasha Harris, a church spokeswoman. "But when does change occur? Change occurs when we fight for it, especially for our children."
Harris said Meeks received a letter last week from an Illinois State Board of Education official assuring that "schools will not be penalized" financially because of the planned absences.
New Trier High School Interim Principal Tim Dohrer said: "Whatever plan he has, he has to make sure that the individuals live in the district."
Notes from one who's spent too much time with tax forms.
A 1099 reports one year's payments to an independent contractor. For calendar 2007 payments, they should have been mailed by January 31, 2008. That legal requirement was clearly not met.
The 1099 must be mailed to the contractor. A 1099 for $36,400 was mailed to Felner. So, Felner was paid that as a contractor on the grant he also oversaw as a U of L administrator.
Or, alternatively, he received a 1099 made out to someone else, which would violate the IRS rules.
Also missing in the story is the (alleged) non-profit's federal 990 forms.
A 990 is equivalent to the 1040 we all know, but for non-profit organizations bring in more than minimal revenue. In addition to revenues and expenses,it shows assets and liabilities, and it also shows employees and contractors paid more than $50,000.
At guidestar.org, one can usually see the ones filed in recent years. However, the organization getting the big checks from U of L isn't listed as ever having filed one.
Informed guess: the conference call with the IRS was about that missing 990 paperwork.
Reasonable possibility: the inability to file the 990 could be what triggered the federal investigation.
Maryland educators this month celebrated a major jump in test scores, with achievement gaps narrowing and pass rates rising six percentage points in reading and four points in math. Then skeptics crashed the party.
The revelation that this year's Maryland School Assessments were a half-hour shorter than last year's raised suspicions among researchers who thought the scores were too good to be true. Here, some thought, was the smoking pencil.
The episode illustrates a basic disagreement within the education community over why scores are rising across the nation since the 2002 enactment of No Child Left Behind, which sets a goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014: Are kids getting smarter, or are tests getting easier?
"The Congress has told governments and state school officials that all children must be magically proficient by 2014," said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. "They're finding ways to make sure everybody creeps toward universal proficiency." ...
Without financial aid, Jonathan Curry describes his chance of attending the University of Kentucky in a single word. ”Impossible,“ said the senior from Henderson. ”I wouldn't be here at all.“
With the help of federal, state and UK scholarships, Curry is on schedule to graduate next spring.
Still, college has hardly been free from struggle. He works 15 to 20 hours a week taking tickets at Comedy Off Broadway, and donates blood plasma as often as twice a week.
”Sometimes I need groceries, and I have $5,“ he said.
His mother, Cynthia Curry, works two jobs and they still don't have enough to cover college bills. So on top of the $10,000 he has already borrowed, he expects to take out $16,000 more in loans this year.
”It's more and more debt,“ he said. ”There's something wrong somewhere.“
What's wrong is that the cost of a college education has mushroomed in Kentucky over the past decade.
Meanwhile, the state has more than doubled the amount it spends on financial aid programs, but that doesn't offset the increasing costs.
This summer, the Kentucky General Assembly's Joint Interim Committee on education has begun a series of meetings that lawmakers hope will come up with some solutions by the time they reconvene during the regular session in January 2009.
There are no easy — or cheap — answers...
Flint residents now have to watch their butts because Police Chief David Dicks is on the lookout.
Dicks, who took over the department last month on an interim basis, announced that his officers would start arresting people wearing saggy pants that expose skivvies, boxer shorts or bare bottoms.
"Some people call it a fad," Dicks told the Free Press this week while patrolling the streets of Flint. "But I believe it's a national nuisance. It is indecent and thus it is indecent exposure, which has been on the books for years."
On June 27, the chief issued a departmental memorandum telling officers: "This immoral self expression goes beyond freedom of expression."
The crime, he says, is disorderly conduct or indecent exposure, both misdemeanors punishable by 93 days to a year in jail and/or fines up to $500.
Dicks, 41, broke down his interpretation of the laws as such: Pants pulled completely below the buttocks with underwear showing is disorderly conduct; saggy pants with skin of the buttocks showing is indecent exposure, and saggy pants, not completely below the buttocks, with underwear exposed results in a warning.
The American Civil Liberties Union is already scrutinizing the enforcement, something Dicks fully expected. But he said he's not backing down until the pants stop falling down...
Here's what the emails say - thanks to WHAS.
Were the Riverdale Schools ever involved with a Robert Felner grant?
From: Robert Felner [email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 26, 2008 6:15 PM
Situation is getting real dicey.
I could lose my house and you too as your payments will be stopping.
I really need you to take care of this. Not manyana. Now. Please, for the sake of our familes and friendship.
When 8-year-old Hannah Hart started struggling in the classroom, her school wasted little time coming to her aid. Teachers and specialists provided extra daily tutoring in math and reading.
About every six weeks, special educators, other classroom teachers, and even the principal of her school attended "data meetings" to examine Hannah's test scores, evaluate her progress, and pinpoint her specific needs. "Anything we did was in response to the data," says Ellen Barton, Hannah's second-grade teacher at Newmarket Elementary in Newmarket, N.H.
That early attention paid off; the difference was like flipping a switch. "It was like going from the dark to the light," says Trish Hart, Hannah's mother. "Her confidence as a learner and a child just soared."
Across the country, districts are adopting similar early intervention plans to help identify and evaluate students at risk for learning disabilities. The approach, called response to intervention, uses research-based instruction, data collection, and multiple tiers of intense tutoring to catch struggling students before they need to be placed in special education classes.
But implementing RTI successfully presents many challenges, especially in schools with limited resources, and classroom teachers have been generally slow to embrace the method, fearing its emphasis on data could interfere with their quality of instruction.
"Teachers really feel this will be a burden," says Wayne Sailor, a professor of special education at the University of Kansas. "Everyone's great fear is: Will the science compromise the art of teaching?" ...
MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. — Student athletes in maroon and gold uniforms filled their water coolers with more than $19,000 in donations last weekend by standing on street corners here to ask friends, neighbors and strangers alike to help revive the school district’s $1.1 million athletic program, which was eliminated last month in budget cuts.
“They cut out part of my life,” said Mark Cole of Mount Vernon, N.Y., whose senior season on the basketball team is in jeopardy.
On Long Island, a group of parents started a charitable corporation, Wantagh S O S (Save Our Students), to collect money for nearly 100 sports teams and extracurricular clubs that were dropped from the school district’s budget last month. The group has raised more than $334,000, about half of its goal, through dinner parties, car washes, a lacrosse tournament and a walk-a-thon at Jones Beach.
And come fall, middle school students in Dearborn, Mich., will have to settle for fewer games after every team’s season was cut by a quarter, or about two weeks, to save $130,000 annually on busing and coaching. The district trimmed the schedules after students and parents opposed its plan to replace the sports teams with an intramural program, in which students would not have competed against other schools.
As cash-strapped school districts across the nation scale back sports programs or try to pass on part or all of their costs to students and parents, some fear that the tradition of the scholar athlete is at risk....
...came home to find the University of Louisville still involved in what appears to be an increasingly bitter public unveiling of its embarrassment -- the apparent mismanagement of a $694,000 federal gift that was supposed to fund a center for the improvement of academic achievement. Unlike the McConnell Center, which has been a real asset for U of L, the federally funded education center doesn't seem to have existed.
President James Ramsey defended U of L's handling of complaints against Robert Felner, former dean at the College of Education and Human Development. Ramsey said, "We looked into things we shouldn't look into, like a lot of this anonymous crap."
...Thomas D. Schroeder of Illinois told the Rock Island Argus Thursday that he acted as a fiscal manager for the National Center on Education and Prevention, which U of L documents show was contracted to receive $450,000 from the grant to provide and administer education surveys.
Schroeder said he signed a contract for the project. But he said he wasn't aware of any work the center produced and never received the remaining $200,000.
"I found out this was being investigated when two federal agents came to my home," he told the Rock Island newspaper.
Schroeder's lawyer, Herbert Schultz, told The Courier-Journal yesterday that he was present at the interview but wouldn't make his client available for further interviews. Schroeder did not respond to numerous messages left at his workplace and home.
Felner's attorney, Scott C. Cox, said yesterday that he had read the Rock Island story and called Schroeder's comments "an interesting version of events."...
...Schroeder said, Felner alerted him about the No Child Left Behind project, and Schroeder signed the contract and returned it to Felner, he said.
He later received a check for $200,000 and another for $50,000 in 2007. When he asked Felner about them, Felner said they were sent mistakenly and Schroeder returned them uncashed at Felner's request, he told the paper. He did not say where he sent the check...
...U.S. Attorney David Huber said he expects the investigation to take at least another month.
An audience of nearly 300 people attended a town hall meeting Monday to ask questions and hear comments from Gov. Steve Beshear concerning the local community and the state alike.
...Beshear... touched on several controversial subjects during the meeting, including the hanging of the Ten Commandments in public schools and government buildings.
Former Gov. Fletcher issued an executive order during his term ordering that the document be hung in public schools.When asked whether he would support the action, Beshear said he would leave that decision up to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
“I personally from the state’s standpoint am not going to try to get us into a lawsuit or a bunch of lawsuits where I’ve got to spend your tax dollars on litigating that issues,” Beshear said. “We’ve got enough problems trying to educate our kids and get better health care for our people.”
“That’s what I’m going to try to concentrate on and whatever the Supreme Court says we’ll do then we’ll do,” he finished.
Several audience members asked about the limited funding afforded to state programs in the face of a nearly $1 billion shortfall in the state’s budget for the next two fiscal years, such as teachers’ and other state employees’ retirement pensions.
Beshear said he is working to promote preventative health care and wellness throughout the state in an effort to significantly reduce the cost of health insurance for state employees.“ ...
FRANKFORT — Thanks to a provision lawmakers quietly approved in 2005, many former legislators who switch to judicial or executive branch jobs will see their annual retirement benefits double, quadruple or even increase six-fold.
Most recently, Democratic state Rep. Frank Rasche of Paducah chose this week to leave the General Assembly after 15 years to accept a job at the state Department of Education.
By doing so, he will join the first dozen former lawmakers who can qualify to draw much higher retirement checks from the legislative retirement system now that they've taken better-paying positions elsewhere in government.
Lawmakers who serve more than five years in the General Assembly are eligible to join the legislative retirement system, which pays retirees a pension based on the number of years served and their legislative salary, which is usually between $15,000 and $22,000 a year for most.
But a technical provision buried in a 2005 retirement system bill altered the pension program so that lawmakers who become judges or take a position in the executive branch will get a pension benefit based on their highest three years of salaries in state government — not just as a lawmaker.
The former lawmakers' more robust pension checks from the legislative retirement system are in addition to any retirement benefits they'll receive for their new job in the judicial, general government or county pension systems.
That would mean, for instance, that if Rasche works in the Department of Education for at least three years, his legislative pension payments would be calculated on his 15 years in the General Assembly and his new $80,000 salary instead of the $15,000 to $22,000 he's been earning as a lawmaker...
As their education plans begin to crystallize, sharper differences are emerging between John McCain and Barack Obama on school choice, teacher preparation, and tutoring, even as neither presidential candidate has released a detailed proposal on revising the No Child Left Behind Act.
Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., has pledged to direct federal money to alternative teacher-certification programs, give parents more direct access to supplemental educational services, and expand private school choice, specifically through online education and by expanding the federally funded voucher experiment in Washington.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona appears at the NAACP annual convention in Cincinnati on July 16. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee pledged to expand private school choice and direct federal funding to alternative teacher-certification programs.
Obama, D-Ill., has called for spending $18 billion more annually on education. He wants to expand teacher-residency programs, which help bolster field experiences for prospective educators while allowing them to earn certification from a university program. And he’s been opposed to allowing public money to go to private school vouchers...
Pat Crowley said he drove down from northern Kentucky to talk with Draud about it and he said the only way to get the safety features he wanted was to get the bigger engine. But, we've been all through that. It was Draud's repeated insistence on the larger engine, as C-J showed through numerous emails, that drove costs up.
McVeigh: John Draud has an albatross around his neck, and its a $31,000 Chrysler 300...
The school board called him on the carpet; he apologized to the people of Kentucky for the way he handled the matter...The apology didn't seem to appease the board, they wanted to know, "What are you going to do." He said, well, I'll either make up the difference or I'll buy the car. And apparently he's going to buy the car...They're going to put it up on eBay...
...I talked to Glenn Mitchell over at Finance this week and he said they can't sell it on eBay until its surplus property so there'll be 6 months; they'll declare it surplus property in 6 months.
"Do you think he gets it?" The deal wasn't so much the car. It was the impression ...the message it was sending out there. When your teachers aren't getting any raises or anything...Dyche quipped,
It's like flying your staff in airplanes to town hall meetings....a reference to Governor Beshear's recent decision to fly staffers to an eastern Kentucky town meeting.
I think he's gets it because his first performance review is next month.Hebert:
You think the timing might have something to do with it?Crowley then segued into a question involving Frank Rasche's appointment this week to a legislative liasion position with KDE.
Mark, what do you read into the reporting this week that a legislator, Frank Rasche, may be hired by the department? Is that any kind of signal that Draud might be in trouble here?Hebert:
The voice of reason.
I don't think he's in trouble. He and Rasche are buddies. They were on the Education Committee together and I think that's where that came from. You know, Frank Rasche is a pretty respected legislator. I think, if Draud's smart, he wants to hire some more folks around him who he trusts and has known for a while.
A local school board president, who also serves as executive director of the Rock Island County Council on Addiction, has been questioned by federal agents in connection with an investigation into allegations that a former dean at the University of Louisville mishandled federal grant funds.
Thomas Schroeder, of Port Byron, said Thursday he is cooperating with investigators, and immediately returned money sent to his non-profit corporation in connection with a U.S. Department of Education grant to create a center to help schools boost student achievement on federal No Child Left Behind exams.
The project manager, Robert Felner, until recently was dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the university.
Mr.Schroeder was listed as director of the National Center on Education and Prevention Inc., a non-profit corporation he formed in Rock Island in 2001 at Mr. Felner's request. He said the center had served as the fiscal agent in other projects supervised by Mr. Felner.
According to reports published by the Louisville Courier-Journal, the center allegedly received $450,000 from a $694,000 federal grant to provide and administer education surveys in connection with the project.
Mr. Schroeder said that in 2007 the center received a contract for the project, which he signed and returned to Mr. Felner. It later received two payments, one for $200,000 and another for $50,000. Both checks were returned uncashed, he said, at Mr. Felner's direction.
He said he is unaware of any other payments, specifically $200,000, made to the center.His organization performed no work in connection with the project, and that was the last he heard about the project until two Secret Service agents knocked on his door last month, he said.
“I found out this was being investigated when two federal agents came to my home.
There were some forged addendum to this contract and forged signatures of mine. This had been going on all along. Where the money is and what was done with the money we had nothing to do with,” Mr. Schroeder said.
Mr. Felner's attorney, Scott Cox, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Earlier, however, he confirmed to the Courier-Journal that Mr. Felner is the subject of the probe.
University spokesman, John Drees, could not be reached for comment Thursday, but did say earlier in the week the university is cooperating in the investigation.
“We are investigating all leads as we typically do in fraud cases, which usually have a lot of fingers. We'll follow them out,” said U.S. Attorney David Huber.
He declined to speak about specifics of the case.
Mr. Schroeder met Mr. Felner in late 1987 or early 1988 when Mr. Felner
worked for the University of Illinois and Mr. Schroeder was working for RICCA.
Mr. Felner was involved with a state agency that evaluated substance abuse and alcoholism programs throughout the state. After that, Mr. Felner became an evaluator of large grant programs throughout the state, Mr. Schroeder said, and they had occasions to work together and became friends.
The National Center on Public Education and Prevention was formed in 2001 in Rock Island after Mr. Felner had moved to Rhode Island. “He called me and said, 'I have this assessment which I can use to help schools determine where they need to improve. I need an organization to be the fiscal agent and catalyst for that',” Mr. Schroeder said.
Mr. Felner even named the nonprofit, Mr. Schroeder said. “It all sounds a little funny now, but he didn't want his name as a member of the board or staff member,” he said.
Mr. Schroeder became the executive director and fiscal manager. His job was to sign contracts, receive checks, take care of legal issues, get paid and send the rest of the money to Mr. Felner. On two projects, they also brainstormed and bounced ideas off one another.
Mr. Felner handled all the assessments and payment to those doing the research and analyzing the data, Mr. Schroeder said.
“I had no program responsibilities with the national center,” Mr. Schroeder said, adding that he didn't know how the assessments were delivered.
They worked together on two projects before the contract with the University of Louisville. In 2002, the center received a $400,000 contract for a project with the Atlanta school district and in either 2003 or 2004 received approximately $125,000 for a project with the Santa Monica, Calif., school district.
For that work, he said, he was paid $3,000 a month as director of the center.
Mr. Schroeder admitted that in 2006 he failed to file required paperwork with the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, and that the state considers the corporation to be dissolved. At that point, he said, the center wasn't actively involved in any work.
In late 2006 or early 2007, Mr. Felner told Mr. Schroeder about a contract with the University of Louisville to do work with Louisville schools on a No Child Left Behind project.Mr. Schroeder signed the contract and returned it to Mr. Felner.
“Shortly after that, a check arrived in Rock Island for $200,000. I called Dr. Felner at the university and asked, 'What is this? What are we to do with this? He said the check was a mistake, it shouldn't have been written and to send it back,” Mr. Schroeder said.
Mr. Schroeder said Mr. Felner seemed livid that the check had been sent. It was sent back to Mr. Felner.
Then about Christmas 2007, a $50,000 check arrived in Rock Island. Mr. Schroeder said he called Mr. Felner, who again said to send the check back. It was a mistake.
“When it got to this Louisville thing, we had no role. No role at all.
We honestly didn't think there was a contract because we had to send the checks back. I got the impression from that that it was a mistake and this wasn't happening,” he said.
He said everything with the nonprofit corporation seemed legitimate until this happened.
“It just seemed like a good thing. It was a good way for schools to identify where improvement is needed in student achievement, parent involvement and various areas. That's why it was such a shock when federal officers came to my house and started talking to me about all these things that weren't done, and how they came to find there weren't any students surveyed or teachers surveyed.”
Mr. Schroeder is upset that his name is involved. “I'm distraught about whatever might be possibly involved here. Yes, I'm mad. I'm betrayed,” he said.
“It is real strange. We were close friends and professional colleagues, then this happens.”
Mr. Schroeder also worked as a research assistant for Mr. Felner from Jan. 1, 2005, until this past April. He was paid $2,400 a month to search for programs and funding opportunities for the university.
Mr. Schroeder said he does not know from where he was paid -- the university's general fund or a grant -- but had to provide federal authorities with records of the time he spent doing the work.
Mr. Felner's last day with the university was June 30. He resigned to take a position as chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. According to the Louisville Courier -Journal, he backed out of the job after the federal investigation became public on June 20.
Blue Bird No. 1 was designed and built on a Ford Model T chassis by Luce’s father in 1927. His design evolved into a multi-national school bus company.
The Luce family connection with The Ford Motor Company is longstanding.
Regarding the gift, Luce said, “Donating No. 1 to The Henry Ford at this time is meaningful to me for many reasons. Last year was the 80th anniversary of Blue Bird Body Company (Now Blue Bird Corporation), and I feel this is a great way to acknowledge that milestone.
In addition, 2008 is the centennial of the Model T Ford. The Henry Ford is planning many programs about the innovative and entrepreneurial qualities of Henry Ford’s universal car. Blue Bird No. 1 will be a valuable addition to their collection.
It gives me great comfort to know that No.1 will be housed at a facility where it will be preserved in the years ahead and be available for thousands of people to see for many generations to come. I have a real joy in knowing that Blue Bird No. 1 is at the right place.”
In a sign of how substantially her thinking on school policy has evolved, the education historian Diane Ravitch this week is engaging in an online debate with one of her oldest friends and collaborators, the education policy analyst Chester Finn Jr.
At issue: an emerging divide among education policymakers about the best way to improve America's schools.
Everyone seems to agree that the schools are in dire straits, but there is a divide about how to solve that problem.
On one side are leaders including the schools chancellor, Joel Klein; the Reverend Al Sharpton; the federal education secretary, Margaret Spellings, and the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, who have started an initiative called the Education Equality Project, endorsing strong accountability measures such as those currently written into No Child Left Behind as well as choice options such as charter schools.
On the other side is a group calling itself the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, which has criticized No Child Left Behind and declared that students need help in more fields than just education to succeed, arguing for improved health care and after-school programs. That group includes the teachers union president Randi Weingarten, the labor economist Lawrence Mishel, and the former Boston school superintendent Thomas Payzant.
The debate between Mr. Finn, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and Ms. Ravitch, a trustee of Fordham, kicked off when Mr. Finn criticized the Broader, Bolder group, whose proposal Ms. Ravitch has signed.
Mr. Finn said in a Web log post that this camp reflects a dangerous move to shift away from an emphasis on academic excellence and toward a sloppier and less meaningful focus on the "whole child" that happens throughout American history.
"It's a darn shame," Mr. Finn wrote. "Yesterday's push for achievement hasn't yet produced the learning gains we need. But it may be starting to do so. The surest way to curb tomorrow's gains is to change the policy focus and ease the pressure."
He added, "As for the AFT's future direction, all I can say is that President Weingarten's early signals do no credit to Al Shanker's legacy."
Ms. Ravitch is fighting back with a counter-post on Fordham's Web site, edexcellence.net, which is billing the debate as a "Clash of the Titans."
"Will it help or harm children's academic achievement — most especially children who are living in poverty — if they have access to good pre-K programs?
Will it help or harm children's academic achievement — most especially the neediest children — if they have access to good medical care, with dental treatment, vision screening, and the like?" she writes.
She also dismisses Mr. Finn's assertion that she is opposing academic standards by criticizing No Child Left Behind, asking how the law can have worked if American students have been falling behind international competitors through its inception.
Mr. Finn's response is that while he believes Ms. Ravitch is not straying from setting high standards, he worries that others are merely searching for diversions.
Jefferson County Public Schools will not have to rehire 18 teachers who were let go for alleged disciplinary and performance issues, at least for now.
Circuit Court Judge James Shake refused yesterday to grant a temporary injunction that would have given the teachers their jobs back, saying the law "does not provide for a right of employment as to these employees."
But an attorney for the teachers' union said he was disappointed with the judge's decision and will continue to work to have the teachers reinstated.
"This is a preliminary stage of the lawsuit … a final decision on whether they can be hired is many months away," said Everett Hoffman, representing the Jefferson County Teachers Association. "At that time, the court will decide whether they have a right to be reinstated and if they deserve back pay and other damages."
Tyson Gorman, the attorney representing the school district, said he has filed a motion for summary judgment and hopes the case soon will be dismissed.
"We are pleased with the judge's decision today," Gorman said. "This is a tremendous step in the right direction and a great victory for he district and the children of Jefferson County." ...
...According to documents filed in court by the school district, 14 of the 18 teachers had significant misconduct or disciplinary problems in addition to having received a poor evaluation for the 2007-08 school year...
...In his ruling, Shake said the plaintiffs "have failed to meet their burden of supporting the motion for injunctive relief."
He added that "while there is clearly a substantive question of law at stake, there has been no showing that a concrete personal right is in jeopardy and no showing of injury that is not compensable by monetary damages."
Two teachers in the lawsuit, Bryan Beeler and Cynthia Norton, said they were disappointed with the ruling.
Beeler, whose contract was not renewed for failure to maintain a learning environment and poor performance, received two excellent evaluations from Southern Leadership Academy before his arrival at Knight Middle School last year.
"I am not a bad teacher and I believe that my record shows that," he said. "I received one written reprimand in three years. It never even crossed my mind that I would be looking for another job at the end of the year. When I got my nonrenewal letter, it came as a complete shock to me."
Norton, who taught at Doss High School, received reprimands for tardiness and failure to follow proper procedures in securing a substitute when absent. She also was suspended for five days for calling students a "bunch of assholes."
In her file, Norton admitted it was an "inappropriate thing to say."
Yesterday, she said the incident was "completely mischaracterized."
"I know that I have things that I needed to improve on, but they never gave me the chance … I didn't know that it would be the end of a career," she said.
Kentucky Public Radio reporter Tony McVeigh is reporting that Education Commissioner Jon Draud plans to auction off his controversial state car on eBay.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud's expensive new state car will be sold at auction on eBay.
The move is intended to lay to rest a controversy over the purchase of the $31,000 Chrysler 300. The price included about $13,000 worth of upgrades, including a more powerful engine, a hands-free phone system and a global positioning system.
Draud drew criticism by opting for the upgrades at a time when the state is facing a $900 million revenue shortfall. The projected shortfall has triggered widespread cuts to government services.
The education commissioner told Kentucky Public Radio that he plans to enter a $31,000 bid for the car himself to ensure that the state recoups the full price. But he said he will be pleased if someone makes a higher bid.
..."I'll tell you what, I hope I don't get it," he said of the car, which had 4,851 miles on it as he was driving and answering a reporter's questions last night. "I really don't want the car, not at all."
Draud, a former state legislator who started the commissioner's job in December, ordered the car at a time when the state was facing a $900 million revenue shortfall and education funding at all levels was being slashed. He requested the car after the lease expired on the Ford Crown Victoria he had been driving.
He said most of the additional cost for the upgrades was for a larger engine, which was required to get the GPS and hands-free phone. He said he needed the add-ons because his job requires a lot of travel.
The move provoked a hail of complaints from taxpayers and educators. Draud acknowledged last month that he "used some bad judgment," given the budget situation.
If he wins the eBay auction, Draud said he doesn't know what he'll do with the car, as he prefers his Cadillac. "I guess I'll keep it, maybe give my car to my son."
After the car is sold, Draud said he'll drive whatever car is assigned to him by the state. "It's in my contract; I get a car," he said. "I'll drive whatever they give me."
Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said the state's Finance & Administration Cabinet decided to sell the car on eBay because state laws require that surplus property be sold at auction.
"He just couldn't write a check," she said.
Instead, Draud told Kentucky Public Radio yesterday that he plans to bid $31,000 for the car to ensure taxpayers get back what they paid for it.
"If the process goes as planned, this should put an end to this," Gross said of the controversy surrounding the car.
Online auctions aren't new to government. The city of Louisville has been selling surplus property on an Internet site for several years.
"...what is the legality of Draud bidding and perhaps purchasing a vehicle that the state bought on price contract, especially if the $31k is less than what a regular consumer would pay for the same vehicle with the same options and features?"
This is a top of the line automobile with a luxury package, leather seats and different sized wheels. This has a hemi...V-8... and a completely different power train [than the regular 300]. The one I'm driving lists at $41,000. It sounds to me like the state got a heck of a deal at $30,000. That's $11,000 cheaper than what I'm driving.
DuPont Manual High School wants to become the first public school in Jefferson County to adopt an honor code imposing tough penalties on students who cheat.
Principal Bev Keepers said that although incidents of cheating and plagiarism aren't tracked, teachers have said cheating is a growing concern.
After months of research and seeking comments from students, teachers and parents, the school's site-based decision-making council recommended a new policy with penalties ranging from an automatic zero on an assignment or test for a first offense to suspending repeat offenders from extra-curricular activities.
A federal appeals court has upheld a Florida law that requires students to have parental permission to opt out of daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.
"We conclude that the state’s interest in recognizing and protecting the rights of parents on some educational issues is sufficient to justify the restriction of some students’ freedom of speech," a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, said in Frazier v. Winn.
An 11th grader in Palm Beach County, Fla., challenged the statute as unconstitutional on its face. A federal district court ruled for the student, but in its July 23 decision, the 11th Circuit court upheld the parental-permission requirement.
The court said it saw Florida's law as a "parental-rights statute" that could be distinguished from the flag salute and Pledge-recitation requirement struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.
"Here, unlike in Barnette and in the cases cited by plaintiff, the refusal of students to participate in the Pledge—unless their parents consent—hinders their parents’ fundamental right to control their children’s upbringing," the court said...
ScienceDaily (July 23, 2008) — Adolescent girls who had a serious school failure by the 12th grade -- being expelled, suspended or dropping out -- were significantly more likely to have suffered a serious bout of depression at the age of 21 than girls who did not have these problems.
New research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that girls who had early conduct problems in elementary school also were at increased risk for depression in early adulthood. However, the University of Washington study did not show any link for boys between academic, behavior or social problems and depression at age 21.
"For girls there are broader implications of school failure," said Carolyn McCarty, a UW research associate professor of pediatrics and lead author of the study. "We already know that it leads to more poverty, higher rates of being on public assistance and lower rates of job stability. And now this study shows it is having mental health implications for girls." ...
CONCORD – A woman claims the Hudson School District illegally prevented her from distributing vacation Bible school flyers to students.
Hudson resident Patricia Regan filed a federal suit Monday against the district and its superintendent, Randy Bell, citing civil rights violations under the First and Fourteenth Constitutional Amendments.
Regan, whose three children attended Nottingham West Elementary School this past school year, wanted to distribute pamphlets for a summer vacation Bible school affiliated with Calvary Bible Church, where she worships, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
But on June 13, a day after Regan delivered copies of the flyers to Nottingham school, Bell denied her the right to distribute them because of their religious content, the suit alleges.
Bell told Regan “that he had denied written materials from other church groups and organizations in the past, and that he was ‘not going to have anything to do with vacation Bible schools and that stuff.’”
The suit points to how the Hudson School District allows, under certain guidelines, for the distribution of flyers for other non-profit organizations...