Thursday, July 31, 2008

Judge: Florida Principal went on ‘witch hunt'

This from the Panama City News Herald:

Court thrashes ‘relentless crusade' against homosexuality

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.

It cost the school district $325,000, but the court's full opinion was not released until this week. It thrashed Davis, who has since been replaced as principal.

"Davis embarked on what can only be characterized as a witch hunt," wrote U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak, who blasted him for his "morality assemblies" and misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

The opinion came more than two months after Heather Gillman and the American Civil Liberties Union won a free-speech lawsuit against the Holmes County School Board, which actually was Davis' complicit "alter ego," Smoak wrote.

Gillman and the ACLU claimed Davis violated her rights by silencing all pro-gay messages. Students had begun showing support after the taunting of a gay student at school.

In response to the taunting incident, Davis told the gay student it wasn't right for her to be homosexual and held a morality assembly, according to testimony.

Then, after an investigation into the "secret society" of gay pride at school, Davis suspended several students for supporting the girl. He told one suspended student's mother "he could secretly send her daughter off to a private Christian school" and said "if there was a man in your house ... you wouldn't be having any of these gay issues," according to the court.

Davis banned rainbows, pink triangles and a number of what he called sexually suggestive slogans. The slogans included "I Support Gays" and "God Loves Me Just the Way I Am."

But Smoak noted that Davis did not ban several magazines in the school's library -- Cosmogirl, Woman's Day and others -- that contained articles about sex and dating. He also did not punish a boy for making explicit sexual advances toward a girl, an incident that occurred the same month as the morality assembly, according to testimony.

Davis hushed Gillman and others "because of his animosity toward students who were homosexual and his relentless crusade to extinguish the speech supporting them," Smoak wrote.
Advocates celebrated the court's opinion Friday.

"The atmosphere that was created at the school was so intimidating for these kids," said Chris Hampton, who worked on the case for the ACLU from the start. "It's not about everyone agreeing; it's about being able to disagree respectfully."

Smoak wrote that the court's opinion was not meant to "mandate a social norm for Holmes County or its schools," but rather to apply the Constitution to the case.

"Indeed, Davis' opinions and views are consistent with the beliefs of many in Holmes County, in Florida, and in the country," Smoak wrote.

"Where Davis went wrong was when he endeavored to silence the opinions of his dissenters," he said.

Interview with Heather Gillman : Audio

Did I mention how much I love Charter Schools?

I just got a note from the newest teacher in the Day family.

Congratulations to my son E. Travis Day who will join the faculty at the North Springs Charter School of Arts & Sciences in Atlanta, Georgia this fall.

Congratulations Travis. We're all very proud of you!



Three generations, 2004: Travis, Richard & Isaac.

Parents Say Standardized Tests No Way to Pick Kids for Advanced Classes

This from the Village Voice; Graphic by Rufus Harvey:

Looking a Gifted Horse in the Mouth
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...

Charter School Promises Fall Short in Texas

So far as I know, I was the first principal in Kentucky to ask the Governor for permission to turn Cassidy School in Lexington into the state's first charter school.

My goal was simple - to focus only on Cassidy - and offload some of the burdensome state and local initiatives (ie. primary program) that I believed were actually making it harder for us to meet our goals.

Ed Ford, who was Secretary of Governor Paul Patton's cabinet, told me that Kentucky was not ready for charter schools. End of story.

So I don't have any particular antipathy toward charter schools in and of themselves.

But what I didn't know (or care about) at the time was that the state constitution requires the General Assembly to provide quality schools across the state. Making Cassidy even better while others floundered did nothing to meet this goal.

Viewed from the state level, any law governing the schools must work toward providing quality schools for each Kentucky student regardless of where children live or the wealth of their parents.

Some say charters are the way to accomplish this. The argument is that business opportunity will bring out entrepreneurs and competition will raise the quality of instruction for all kids. But so far, everything I read about charter schools tells me that, where they exist, they are performing about as well as the public schools - and no better.

Some are great. Some are terrible. Most are somewhere in between.

Where we do find success (in either setting) - we either find a highly supported (or select) student population; or a strong principal, a longer school year, and a faculty that is working their butts off.

But counting on charters to fix broken schools across the state is not likely to produce the promised long-term benefit. As more and more entrepreneurs understand how difficult the work is, and how narrow the fiscal margins, they're looking for better opportunities to make money.

This is the circumstance in Texas where entrepreneurs were invited to step in and establish charter schools - but nobody showed up.

This from the Dallas Morning News:

Failing Texas schools face dwindling options

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....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conway updates Open Records, Open Meetings information

Attorney General Conway Announces Distribution of
Updated Open Records and Meetings
Materials to Local Officials

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 cutting 975 jobs...and David Williams still can't feel any real pain

You may recall our self-esteemed President of the Senate David Williams declared that Kentuckians would not feel any real pain as a result of the recent budget cuts. I'll bet 975 Kentuckians would beg to differ.

This from Raviya Ismail at the Herald-Leader:

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 deal with the Courier-Journal and the Robert Felner story?

Surely C-J knows news when they smell it. They cover certain other stories with journalistic zeal. But on this story, C-J has been consistently a day late and a dollar short.

They seem to be reprinting Page One reporting without attribution.

An alternative explanation is that they are waiting to independently verify everything Page One reports, so that they can "ethically" print it without attribution.

In the e-mails, which The Courier-Journal obtained from UofL under the Kentucky Open Records Act, Felner expressed concern that ...

What's the explanation?
  • Does C-J have a sweetheart relationship with U of L that is getting in the way?
  • Are C-J's news gathering resources so completely depleted that they struggle to keep up with lowly bloggers?
Today's story is a nice recap of what you read yesterday. Read it. Don't read it. It won't enlighten anyone who has been following the story from other sources.

What today's story will do however, is get into the mainstream media. It will get picked up by the search engines and regular news outlets - none of whom will acknowledge the original source of the story.

Is this assessment too harsh?

Preparing Creative and Critical Thinkers

This from ASCD:

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:

  • 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.
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.

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...

Student blogger plans libel lawsuit

This from the Boston Globe; Backstory from KSN&C:

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?"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ill Senator launches protest against inequitable school funding

This from the Chicago Sun Times:

New Trier vs. CPS: Meeks plans protest

State Sen. James Meeks is urging parents to keep their children out of Chicago Public Schools the first day of class and instead board buses to the New Trier school district.

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."

Hat tip to Alexander Russo:

Felner's Non-Profits: A Simple Theory

I'm no expert, and I could certainly be fooled when it comes to tax forms, but I can't find anything wrong with the following theory.... sent to KSN&C from anonymous. So, I thought I'd shine a little light on it...for your reaction. Whadya think?
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.

Assessment and Accountability Task Force to Meet

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) –The first meeting of the Task Force on Assessment and Accountability will be held on Tuesday, August 5, in the State Board Room of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.

The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. and is scheduled to end at 4 p.m. The tentative agenda includes discussion of the group’s work, procedures and future meeting dates.

The meeting will be webcast, and information about accessing that will be posted on the Department of Education’s homepage at http://www.education.ky.gov.

The task force will review the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) and provide a blueprint for the system’s progress in the future to ensure that the system meets the best interests of public school students. Members of the group include policymakers and experts in the field.

Education Commissioner Jon E. Draud asked statewide organizations, partner groups and leaders of the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives to name members to the task force.

The task force will seek input from teachers, administrators, parents, businesspeople, elected officials, education advocacy groups and others. The group will analyze individual components of CATS and determine the effectiveness of those in meeting the needs of students.

SOURDE: KDE press release

More Felner Emails

Jake at Page One Kentucky wrote to remind me that he has posted all of the Felner/Schroeder emails. I'm glad he did because I left out some of the mechanics of running a university laundry.

By the way, if you haven't noticed the U of Hell folks have been commenting heavily on the unfolding events at Page One. It's worth a trip to check it out. These folks name names and call for heads.

As for the emails, let's with April 26th and go from there.
~
From: “Robert Felner” r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 17:14:43 -0500
To: riccatds@aol.com
Subject: Gotta

Tom,

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.

Me

~
From: “Robert Felner” r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2008 11:12:03 -0500
To: RICCATDS@aol.com
Subject: I need you to send me and submit the 1099 I asked for showing $36,450

And I need it asap -ok? Please do not daudle on this. Then payments to you will stop in the next month or sooner.

We really really need the tax thing if we are ever going to get out of this hole or get you additional payments or if I am not going to lose my house.

I am already needing to relentlessly look for another job as this one I have been told is probably not long.

~

Tom,

I’ve helped you with this for five years asking very little back and the amount is HUGE….(54 x 3000)

I’ve taken care of covering it MYSELF anticipating we would get the tax status and cover it in my accounts and new value we could show the university. Please do something as quick as humanly possible-I have checked with the IRS-the longest thhey have taken to respond is 7 months not 5 years.

Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.
Dean and DistinguishedUniversity Scholar,
College of Educationand Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.eduvoice:
(502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464

~

From: riccatds@aol.com
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2008 15:01:49 -0500
To: r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Subject: Re: I need you to send me and submit

Robert:

In response to your email of 4/27, I am picking up the 1099 form that must be scannable for the IRS, and will complete the form, submit and mail to you. Also, I have met with the attorneys twice since last week about the National Center, and we will be conference calling with an IRS compliance person on Wednesday morning. I will continue to push and give them anything they request.

I truly hope you have a better week. Take care.

Tom

~

From: “Robert Felner” r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 09:34:11 -0500
To: RICCATDS@aol.com
Subject: Please send 1099 as requested - amt 36,400.

And be on look out for check for final payment for data collection on project and call as SOON as received.

Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.
Dean and DistinguishedUniversity Scholar,
College of Educationand Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292r.felner@louisville.eduvoice:
(502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464

~

From: RICCATDS@aol.com
Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 12:03:58 -0500
To: r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Subject: Re: Please send

Robert,

I completed the 1099 for $36,450. Would you prefer I send the form to your home or U of L address?

Also, I will send the check to you as soon as it arrives, and I have had three conversations in the last two weeks with officials from the IRS regarding 501c3 status for the National Center, and I am re-submitting some of the forms of the application.

Whatever I can do for you, please know that I will.

Take care, and I hope to talk with you and see you soon.

Tom

~


From: “Robert Felner” r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Date: Sat, 17 May 2008 18:12:12 -0500
To: RICCATDS@aol.com
Subject: Re: Please send

Please send tome at P.O. Box 436 Harrods Creek KY (for a short time) 40027

Check to you soon.Any progress?

Will talk to you next week. Right now trying hard to find a job.Gotta get out of here.

Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.Dean and Distinguished
University Scholar,College of Educationand Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.eduvoice:
(502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464

~

Subject: Re: I need you to send me and submit
From: “Robert Felner” r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Date: Tue, 27 May 2008 07:18:27 -0500
To: riccatds@aol.com

Have not yet received the 1099 form. Any news on the IRS stuff. What happened on the conference call.

This is URGENT.

Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.Dean and Distinguished
University Scholar,College of Educationand Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.eduvoice:
(502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464

No Single Explanation For Md. Test Score Bump

This from the Washington Post:

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." ...

Is college no longer affordable?

This from H-L:

The Price of Higher education

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...

NCLB data to be released

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky Department of Education will release data related to the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) during August and September.

On Tuesday, August 5, NCLB data will be publicly released at 8 a.m. EDT. The data will be available on the Department of Education’s Web site at http://www.education.ky.gov. NCLB data will not be available prior to the release under embargo.

On Wednesday, September 10, at 12:01 a.m. EDT, data from the 2008 administration of the Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT) will be publicly released. The data will be made available under embargo prior to the September 10 release. Released information also will include CATS performance judgments, which are based on the KCCT, nonacademic data and other measures.

Each year, students in Kentucky’s public schools participate in assessments of a variety of subjects. The scores from those tests, along with other variables, are used to determine schools’ performance levels. Data from the reading and mathematics testing also are used to determine schools’ standings under NCLB.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Flint cops crack down on sagging pants

This from the Detroit Free Press with thanks to Alexander Russo:

Violators of ordinance could face fines -- even jail time

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...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Felner and Schroeder's Sweetheart Deal

Recently WHAS TV has been doing some journalistic heavy lifting on the investigation of former Dean Robert Felner; and they're doing a smash up job. Last night's 5:30 pm newscast is a fine example.

Emails obtained by Channel 11's Adam Walser suggest that Felner and Schroeder conspired to swindle the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of No Child Left Behind grants. The grants were obtained by Anne Northup and lauded by U of L President James Ramsey, even though no one seems to be able to determine where the money went. At least, not officials from the Jefferson County Public Schools officials or the Kentucky Department of Education whose students Felner said would benefit from his work. Former Education Secretary Virginia Fox never heard of it either, but Felner said she was in charge of a project.

Walser seems to have found one possible place grant money went missing. $2.9 million in real estate.

Page One Kentucky has been reporting that the actual amount of money under investigation could run into the millions.

Tonight's story adds a new and apparently unexpected element - a possible relationship between Felner and Thomas Schroeder.







Just wondering:
Were the Riverdale Schools ever involved with a Robert Felner grant?

Here's what the emails say - thanks to WHAS.
~

#1

From: Robert Felner [r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 10:30 PM
To: RICCATDS@aol.com
Subject: Re: FW: Grant opportunity

Great-we need to do this quick. good funding and no one is better at this than you guys/our team.

Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.
Dean and Distinguished
University Scholar,
College of Education
and Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.edu
voice: (502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464
>>> 5/30/2006 10:49:24 AM >>>

Dear Robert:

The grant idea is excellent. We could work with the Moline Schools, the Superintendent is Dr. Lee from Champaign, or with the Riverdale Schools, I am the Board President.

How is your schedule looking in the next few weeks for me to visit?
Please advise.

Take care,

Tom
~
#2


From: Robert Felner [r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu]
Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2007 10:17 AM
To: RICCATDS@aol.com
Subject: HELP


Hi Tom,


This is starting to completely destroy my break.


I spent three days trying to get a loan - not fun and chaos - been getting yelled at by RI - have my whole group who are not going to get paid very angry with me-and now am hanging around waiting for a fed ex guy who is not coming.


All on top of two years of waiting for an IRS thing that has me completely terrified and nuts as well as multiple contracts/earmarks that never come.


I love ya to pieces but please, I need just a little reliability and follow through on this stuff - all I ask in return for the ability to get you paid....please....it is creating great havoc in my life.....and some in yours..


Hugs

me


Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.
Dean and DistinguishedUniversity Scholar,
College of Educationand Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.eduvoice:
(502) 852-3235fax:
(502) 852-1464

~
#3


From: Robert Felner [r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2008 3:40 PM
To: RICCATDS@aol.com
Subject: May 22-25

Tom

I'm looking at a meeting in Chitown those dates-possible for you?

R

Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.
Dean and Distinguished
University Scholar,
College of Education
and Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.edu
voice: (502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464
~
#4


From: Robert Felner [r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu]
Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 2:15 PM
To: RICCATDS@aol.com
Subject: Re: (no subject)

HI honey,

Next couple of weeks I am traveling-this was a great week but I understand about the weather> So, call me and we can try to find a time I am around.

Hugs

me

Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.
Dean and Distinguished
University Scholar,
College of Education
and Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.edu
voice: (502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464

>>> mailto:RICCATDS@aol.com%3E%202/16/2007%201:44%20PM%20%3E%3E

Robert:

I am interested in visiting the great cityof Louisville on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Is this a possibility with your schedule?

I will call your cell phone this afternoon and try to connect. The weather up here in this arctic wasteland has been awful this week.

Talk to you soon.

Tom
~
#5


From: Robert Felner [r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 9:43 AM
To: RICCATDS@aol.comSubject:
Re: (no subject)


I called-call

me


Robert D. Felner, Ph.D.
Dean and Distinguished University Scholar,
College of Educationand Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky. 40292
r.felner@louisville.edu voice:
(502) 852-3235
fax: (502) 852-1464>>>



RICCATDS@aol.com> 3/3/2008 3:36 PM >>


Robert,


I am hoping to travel to Louisville to visit you later this week, if that fits into your outrageous schedule. Please let me know. I could arrive on Wednesday evening, and leave Friday in the morning.


Thank you and see you soon.


Tom

~
#6


From: RICCATDS@aol.com
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 11:28 AM
To: r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu
Subject: (no subject)


Robert:


I have been trying to get in touch with you by hand held communications device.


How are you? What do you think about the Yankees? Is Joe Girardi going to make it as Stenbrenner's whipping boy? What did you think about the John Adams series on HBO? Don't you feel the show depicted Adams as over the top sensitive, paranoid and insecure?


Where are you and when does your schedule accomodate a visit from your old friend?


Let me know, and take care.


Tom
~
#7


From: Robert Felner [r0feln01@gwise.louisville.edu]

Sent: Saturday, April 26, 2008 6:15 PM

To: riccatds@aol.com

Subject: Gotta

Tom,

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.

Me




New Strategy to Keep Kids Out of Special Ed

This from US News and World Report:


"Response to intervention" aims to determine
students' weaknesses before they fall behind

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?" ...

For Many Student Athletes, Game Over

This from the New York Times, and photo by G. Paul Burnett:

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....

Hawpe takes a moment to smack Ramsey

Following a trip to SF, C-J's David Hawpe...

...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."



Sunday, July 27, 2008

Felner Attny hints at Schroeder involvement

This from the C-J:

...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.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beshear comments on Ten Commandments in Pulaski Co

This from the Commonwealth Journal:

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.“ ...

In Tough Times, Legislators meeting the needs of legislators

This, and photo, from the Herald-Leader:

Lawmakers who switch jobs get pension boost
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...
...Former lawmakers with pension boosts include but are not limited to:

Jon Draud, 69, served nine years in the legislature, became state education commissioner in 2007 earning $220,000.

Frank Rasche, 61, served 15 years in legislature, accepted post as Education Department legislative liaison in 2008 earning $80,000.
...and a few more names you may know: Steve Nunn, Daniel Mongiardo, J.R. Gray, Greg Stumbo, Carolyn Belcher, and Judges Tim Feeley, Frederic J. Cowan, Kelsey E. Friend Jr. and Martin J. Sheehan.

Candidates’ K-12 Views Take Shape

This from Education Week:

McCain and Obama Tussle On Choice, Teacher Issues

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...

Draud and Rasche: This Week's Comment on Kentucky

Draud's Car not quite Surplus

Rash judgements about Rasche

Tony McVeigh from Kentucky Public Radio broke the story this week on Jon Draud's plan to sell his state vehicle on eBay. Calling it his favorite story of the week, guest host Mark Hebert, invited him to appear on Comment on Kentucky. With Hebert and McVeigh were Pat Crowley of the Enquirer and John David Dyche a Louisville attorney and C-J columnist.


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.

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.

Hebert asked,
"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.

McVey:
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.

David Adams over at Kentucky Progress opined earlier this week Rasche's hiring was actually a Beshear move to get rid of Draud. His post, "Beshear makes move to behead Draud," suggested that "if Beshear plans to replace him with Rep. Frank Rasche, he is not exactly moving us forward."

I don't buy any of it - mostly because it doesn't make any sense.

Beshear didn't hire Rasche - Draud did. Now, I'm willing to stipulate that Beshear is a smart guy. But to pull off what David suggests, he would have to be some kind of hypnotic genius.

When I pressed David on this he backed down a bit saying, "Draud hiring Rasche to be policy adviser and legislative liaison may not be Beshear's move. I never suggested that..."

But PolWatchers bit. So did Crowley. Hebert didn't.

Crowley:
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:

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.

The voice of reason.

Felner: Anatomy of a Fraud?

"Betrayed" Felner pal Thomas Schroeder discusses an apparent laundering scheme that washed away hundreds of thousands of No Child Left Behind dollars.

This from Quad Cities Online Moline, Illionis:

Area man questioned in fraud case
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.


Hat Tip to Jake.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blue Bird #1: Early School Bus

This past March, Albert L. “Buddy” Luce, Jr. announced the
acquisition of one of the first school busses in the country, Blue Bird No. 1.

Nice video of Blue Bird #1 from Bright Blue Sky Productions, LLC.

Luce gifted the bus to The Henry Ford in Dearborn Michigan where it will be prominently displayed within the Henry Ford Museum later this year.
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.”

Photo courtesy of Erwin Harrison

Thanks Myra.

Ravitch, Finn in a 'Clash of the Titans' on Education Policy

This from the New York Sun:

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.

A Kentucky Morning

I don't know the source, but thought I'd pass these snaps along anyway.
It's a Kentucky thing.




And I'm told...after the horses moved on, the doe came for her fawn.

Thanks Chief.

Judge tells JCTA "No"

Kentucky children are guaranteed a fundamental right to an adequate education by our Constitution. But teachers have no such guarantee of employment - especially when they are under a one-year contract - and especially when their performance is generally lousy or specifically harmful.

This from Toni at the C-J:

Judge rules against request to rehire teachers
Judge denies request for immediate action
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.
In a related story, the Courier-Journal ran the word "assholes" on the front page of the paper, above the fold.

Great Deal on a lightly used Chrysler 300C

From Mark Hebert at WHAS, and the Courier-Journal:

First Mark:
The Draudmobile On eBay

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.

C-J adds:

Education Commissioner John Draud's car listed on eBay.
Commissioner to bid full price to repay state
..."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.
A commenter on Hebert's blog asked,
"...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?"
I don't know. But it's a good question. It does seem odd to have a "surplus" government vehicle with less than 5000 miles on it.

Maybe the state could solve its budget crunch by buying up cars on price contract - then selling them back to the general public at a profit.

When the story first broke I called Paul Cleaver at Freedom Chrysler.... to ask about the car. Cleaver said...
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.
Sweet deal. ...except for the fact that it's a ...well...you know...big toothy-looking Chrysler.

DuPont Manual council proposes policy to fight academic cheating

This from the C-J:


On-site council creates student penalty system

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.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Court Upholds Florida Law Requiring Parental Permission for Students to Opt Out of Pledge of Allegiance

This from the School Law Blog:

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...

Serious School Failure Is Depressing For Girls, But Not Boys

This from Science Daily:

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." ...

Hudson woman sues school over right to distribute religious flyers

This fromthe Nashua Telegraph:

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...

McCain on Education at the NAACP Convention

McCain Touts Bush policy

...For years, business ownership by African Americans has been growing rapidly. This is all to the good, but that hopeful trend is threatened in a struggling economy -- with the cost of energy, health care, and just about everything else rising sharply.

As in other challenges African Americans have met and overcome, these problems require clarity of purpose. They require the solidarity of groups like the NAACP. And, at times, they also require a willingness to break from conventional thinking.

Nowhere are the limitations of conventional thinking any more apparent than in education policy. Education reform has long been a priority of the NAACP, and for good reason. For all the best efforts of teachers and administrators, the worst problems of our public school system are often found in black communities. Black and Latino students are among the most likely to drop out of high school. African Americans are also among the least likely to go on to college.

After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off old ways and to demand new reforms. That isn't just my opinion; it is the conviction of parents in poor neighborhoods across this nation who want better lives for their children. In Washington, D.C., the Opportunity Scholarship program serves more than 1,900 boys and girls from families with an average income of 23,000 dollars a year. And more than 7,000 more families have applied for that program. What they all have in common is the desire to get their kids into a better school.

Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last weekend, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as, "tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice." All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?

Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of "tired rhetoric" about education. We've heard it in the endless excuses of people who seem more concerned about their own position than about our children. We've heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up for real change in our public schools. Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children.

Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.

We should also offer more choices to those who wish to become teachers. Many thousands of highly qualified men and women have great knowledge, wisdom, and experience to offer public school students. But a monopoly on teacher certification prevents them from getting that chance. You can be a Nobel Laureate and not qualify to teach in most public schools today. They don't have all the proper credits in educational "theory" or "methodology" -- all they have is learning and the desire and ability to share it. If we're putting the interests of students first, then those qualifications should be enough.

If I am elected president, school choice for all who want it, an expansion of Opportunity Scholarships, and alternative certification for teachers will all be part of a serious agenda of education reform. I will target funding to recruit teachers who graduate in the top 25 percent of their class, or who participate in an alternative teacher recruitment program such as Teach for America, the American Board for Teacher Excellence, and the New Teacher Project.

We will pay bonuses to teachers who take on the challenge of working in our most troubled schools -- because we need their fine minds and good hearts to help turn those schools around. We will award bonuses as well to our highest-achieving teachers. And no longer will we measure teacher achievement by conformity to process. We will measure it by the success of their students.

Moreover, the funds for these bonuses will not be controlled by faraway officials -- in Washington, in a state capital, or even in a district office. Under my reforms, we will entrust both the funds and the responsibilities where they belong in the office of the school principal. One reason that charter schools are so successful, and so sought-after by parents, is that principals have spending discretion. And I intend to give that same discretion to public school principals.

No longer will money be spent in service to rigid and often meaningless formulas. Relying on the good judgment and first-hand knowledge of school principals, education money will be spent in service to public school students.

We can also help more children and young adults to study outside of school by expanding support for virtual learning. So I propose to direct 500 million dollars in current federal funds to build new virtual schools, and to support the development of online courses for students.

Through competitive grants, we will allocate another 250 million dollars to support state programs expanding online education opportunities, including the creation of new public virtual charter schools. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of Advanced Placement math, science, and computer science courses, online tutoring, and foreign language courses.

Under my reforms, moreover, parents will exercise freedom of choice in obtaining extra help for children who are falling behind. As it is, federal aid to parents for tutoring for their children has to go through another bureaucracy. They can't purchase the tutoring directly, without having to deal with the same education establishment that failed their children in the first place. These needless restrictions will be removed, under my reforms. If a student needs extra help, parents will be able to sign them up to get it, with direct public support....