Saturday, July 12, 2014

Organization led by CVESD trustee Doug Luffborough fabricated its list of board members

Doug Luffborough parted ways with the Turning the Hearts Center this past May. He was the executive director who signed tax forms.

The organization now holds board meetings.

Local Nonprofit Made Up Board
An organization that evaluates charities across the United States said falsely listing the board members was unethical and not consistent with good governance of nonprofits
Wendy Fry
NBC 7
Jul 7, 2014

A South Bay nonprofit serving at-risk youth falsely listed board members on documents with the Internal Revenue Service, which two nonprofit experts say may raise questions about the organization’s integrity.

Three of the people falsely listed as board members for the “Turning the Hearts Center” since 2010 said they had no knowledge they were documented on tax forms as being involved with the organization. Some weren’t aware they were listed until they were informed by NBC7.

“I think a decision was made to ask people to be on the board and it never came to fruition,” said Sergio De La Mora, the organization’s co-founder and board chairman.

The Chula Vista-based nonprofit provides parenting classes, food banks, graffiti removal and gang counseling.

De La Mora says he didn’t know, until about mid-May, that several people were incorrectly listed as board members on the organization’s IRS Form 990’s - documents meant to provide transparency over how tax-exempt funds are managed.

“I sent (those people) a letter of apology, explained to them that their names would be removed from any literature or forms, of course the 990’s, that they would be changed and rectified,” De La Mora said. “And since we’ve done so.”

The names, including NBC7’s Diana Guevara and the ACLU’s Norma Chavez, are listed in IRS forms dating back to 2010.

Guevara and Chavez both said they declined invitations to serve on the “Turning the Hearts Center” board.

“I was shocked, surprised and disappointed,” Chavez said.
Attorney Richard Arroyo, listed as a board member, said he agreed to serve on the board, about five years ago, but he never realized that decision became official because he was never asked to attend a board meeting or take a single vote.
“Well, I don’t know if it makes me angry, it makes me question the administration and the integrity of the organization, because if they’re going to do something like this, who knows what they might be doing with the money, which is what I think is more of a concern,” Arroyo said.
An organization that evaluates charities across the United States said falsely listing the board members was unethical and not consistent with good governance of nonprofits.
“It’s deceptive and not at all transparent,” said Sandra Miniutti, the Vice-President and CFO of Charity Navigator.
Board members traditionally provide oversight over how tax-exempt funds are spent; and how state and federal grants are administered. In 2013, ‘Turning the Hearts’ received about $561,000 in grants and contributions, according to their amended Form 990.
A spokeswoman for the San Diego Workforce Partnership, which distributes federal grants to local nonprofits, said Turning the Hearts Center received $346,456 in federal Workforce Investment Act funds in 2013.
A nonprofit expert at University of San Diego said the public should be concerned about issues like this because all taxpayers support nonprofit organizations in that the funds collected are tax-exempt.
“If the public loses confidence in nonprofits, people will not volunteer their time or donate funds to a wide variety of causes,” said Pat Libby, Director of the Institute for Nonprofit Education and Research at University of San Diego.
De La Mora told NBC7 Investigates that he was unaware of the improper paperwork because it was not his role to sign the forms, but rather the job of the Executive Director Doug Luffborough, who parted ways with the organization in about mid-May 2014.
“You entrust people to run an organization and they do a wonderful job. It’s a growing organization – a lot of details. I’m not part of every detail,” De La Mora said.
Luffborough, also a Chula Vista Elementary School District trustee, briefly returned a phone call request for an interview but said he could not answer any questions about the organization because he was no longer involved in it. He declined an on-camera interview about the discrepancy in the board member’s names and stated he needed to consult with an attorney before speaking further with NBC7.
According to the previous and the corrected forms, Luffborough was paid $100,000 a year for his work as Executive Director for “Turning the Hearts.” Chula Vista Elementary School District spokesman Anthony Millican said Luffborough, as a CVESD trustee, was not required to disclose his “Turning the Hearts” salary because the nonprofit does not do business with the school district or meet any other triggers that would require disclosure.

After NBC7 Investigates began asking questions about the board, De La Mora sent people previously listed on the 990’s amended copies of the IRS tax forms.

He also provided NBC7 a copy of those amended forms.

The only two people who were listed on both the original and the corrected IRS documents from 2010- 2012 are the cofounders De La Mora and Doug Luffborough. The amended forms also add two additional names to the charity’s list of board members for 2010-2013: Luffborough’s wife and De La Mora’s wife, for a total of four board members between 2010 – 2013, according to the amended forms.

Charity Navigator's Sandra Miniutti said it is not a good governance practice to run a nonprofit organization with less than five independent board members, and especially not when those board members are related.

“They would lose 15 points in our rating system right there for that and that is the most an organization can lose,” Miniutti said. In California, state law allows for nonprofits to run with only one board member.

IRS Form 990’s ask an organization to identify whether or not board members, officers, directors and trustees have a family or business relationship with each other. On each of the corrected forms, the organization indicates “no,” that none of the directors or trustees are related, despite the fact that the board was apparently comprised of two married couples.

NBC7 Investigates reached 3 of the 5 people listed on the original tax forms. A fourth person declined to comment, and messages left at a fifth person’s work place were not returned.

De La Mora said he realizes the falsely listed board members was a serious oversight and that’s why he acted so quickly to correct the forms as soon as he learned of the discrepancy.

He said his organization, which serves more than 17,000 people annually, is ready to move past this growing pain.

“I feel really confident that the community can drive by Turning the Hearts Center and say, ‘There is an organization that is not perfect, but they are willing to be perfected,’” De La Mora said.

Since NBC7 Investigates began examining the Turning the Hearts nonprofit, De La Mora says the organization has made many other changes, including instituting a conflict-of-interest policy, holding board meetings and keeping minutes of those board meetings, and having a board vote on the new executive director’s pay.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Chula Vista Educators would rather strike than to accept impasse and mediation

When teachers and schools are unable to make progress in contract negotiations, an impasse is declared and a mediator is brought in. Makes sense, right? So why would teachers want to have a strike rather than engage in mediation?

I couldn't tell you. You'll have to ask the folks who are in power at Chula Vista Educators. I've been trying for years to figure out why these people act the way they do.

I also couldn't tell you why the teachers at CVESD keep choosing union leaders who represent their interests so poorly.

Bargaining update #15, May 20, 2014 CVE: "District requesting impasse even though we feel there is room to negotiate and several issues still unresolved."

Chula Vista Educators, the teachers union in Chula Vista has posted the following on its website:

Results from the Strike Authorization are in. There were 920 legal votes cast. CVE, that is HUGE. Of those votes, 95% voted yes to authorize the CVE Executive Board to call a strike at a time it determines a strike is necessary. 93% voted yes to honor the picket line if the CVE Executive Board calls for a strike. Those 920 represent 81% of the total membership. CVE, the Executive Board is extremely proud of the stance you have taken. We will not be ignored. This district has been using us as a door mat for far too long. And we're not going to take it anymore!

I personally think it's pathetic that CVE has allowed salary increases for teachers to lag behind other districts. But it makes sense when you realize that the officers of CVE, led by Jim Groth and Peg Myers for most of the past decade, seem to have traded off the well-being of teachers and students for advancement in their personal careers. Recent CVE President Peg Myers is now an administrator with the district--in the human resources department!

Also, CVE has wasted a lot of bargaining capital in its fight to prevent the district from requiring that teachers teach the basic concepts outlined in Common Core standards.

If the teachers don't want to do their jobs, then it makes sense that they would be paid less.

See all posts re Chula Vista Educators.

Recent bargaining sessions were scheduled for these dates:

Feb. 4, 2014
February 27 (CVE)
March 12(CVESD)
April 16, 2014 (CVE)
May 1, 2014(CVESD)
May 15, 2014 (CVE)

CVE representatives

Mary Ellen Berumen
Michelle Harms
Vanessa Braito
Liz Hutson
Barbara Dunwoodie
Carla Kriss
Chris Fite

District representatives

Gloria Ciriza
Oscar Esquivel
Sandra Villegas-Zúñiga
Peter Fagen
John Nelson
Ernesto Villanueva

See April 16, 2014 Bargaining Update #13

Notebook Tablet Replaces Bubble Sheets in Common Core Practice Testing at CVESD

See all posts re Common Core.

Notebook Tablet Replaces Bubble Sheets in Common Core Practice Testing
No longer filling bubbles with a No. 2 pencil, students are dragging answers from one side of a computer screen to another
Rory Devine and R. Stickney
NBC Channel 7
Apr 24, 2014

Over the past few weeks, California students have been taking a practice test that uses the Common Core curriculum. The new test will replace the STAR test next year.

7 in 10 Californians Favor Common Core: Survey
There have been a few technical glitches in the new computerized Common Core testing but school officials believe practice testing happening now will pave the way for a smoother roll-out when the testing matters next year.
Elementary school students in Chula Vista, Calif. have been practicing with the Common Core standardized tests for three weeks.
The company, Smarter Balance, has designed a computer program for Math and English standards that also gives teachers the ability to walk students through test questions.
No longer filling bubbles with a No. 2 pencil, students are dragging answers from one side of a computer screen to another.
Enrique Camarena Elementary fifth graders were quietly taking the test Wednesday, clicking and dragging correct answers on the Asus Transformer Book, a device that is part touchscreen tablet, part laptop with a keyboard.
Answers will not count in the exercise that’s designed to give students the opportunity to try the new format of standardized testing and gives the test provider the opportunity to work out technical glitches for the real deal to be given next year.
Robert Cochran, the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s test coordinator, said there have been some technical glitches but for only a handful of students...
“We’ve been dealing with them through testing,” he said. “Typically, they only affect maybe a student or two students in class.”
As for bringing the technology into the testing process, Cochran said students who use smartphones are having no issues working with the program....
His classmate, Patrick Clavillas, said, “I like life as a challenge, because there is no easy button in life. That’s what my teacher says.”
A portion of the test could be adaptive, Cochran said. That is, if a student keeps getting problems wrong, he or she will be given less difficult questions. If a student keeps getting problems correct, the student will be given more challenging questions...
“A few technical tings to work out but I think overall with more work, more professional development, more exposure to Common Core, I feel the students will be ready,” Elsmore said.
The tests will be given next year for the purposes of accountability just as the STAR test was used.
School officials say they have had approximately 30 students of the district’s 22,000 students opt out of the practice testing. Officials in Chula Vista Elementary School District say the number of students who have opted out is less than those under the STAR test.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Is Sweetwater Union High School District going from the frying pan into the fire?


FROM THE FRYING PAN INTO THE FIRE?

Convicted trustees out; SDCOE trustees in

SDCOE administrators and board members have assumed positions at Sweetwater: left to right in photo: SDCOE administrator Lora Duzyk, SDCOE Superintendent Randy Ward, SDCOE board members Susan Hartley, Mark Anderson, Sharon Jones, Lyn Neylon, Gregg Robinson. For some reason Sweetwater board member John McCann has been replaced, although he was NOT charged or convicted of crimes as his four colleagues were.


Bizarrely, the four convicted trustees of Sweetwater Union High School District--as well as trustee John McCann and Sweetwater administrators--had their seats taken over at the most recent board meeting by the five members of the current SDCOE board and top administrators at SDCOE. SDCOE got permission from the Superior Court to implement the takeover.

WHO'S GOING TO CLEAN UP THE FOLKS WHO'VE APPOINTED THEMSELVES TO CLEAN UP SWEETWATER?


Here's a question for candidates Alicia Munoz and Katie Dexter for San Diego County Office of Education board. (Candidates Rick Shea and Doug Perkins should answer the same question.)

Will you work to make sure that top administrators Diane Crosier and Dan Puplava of SDCOE report ALL the gifts they receive from companies doing business with SDCOE--and require them to explain who paid for their cross-county trips to be wined-and-dined by those companies?

Voice of San Diego education reporter Emily Alpert reported in 2010:

In response to questions from voiceofsandiego.org, the County Office wrote in an email that it believed Crosier had followed the gift rules. But despite repeated questions, it would not specifically explain why the trips could be legally left off the forms. In an email, Crosier said only that the trips were not included “due to discussion with legal counsel.”

I have personal experience with one of the companies visited by Crosier and Puplava, as recounted in the above article by Emily Alpert. The company was Life Insurance of the Southwest. I was signed up for an insurance policy with this company against my will. The name of the company was written in below, after I crossed it out. I was told the agent did not have an extra form so I would have to use the form you can see HERE. Note the scribbles. The agent also took $12,000 of my money and put it into an account where it would be locked in for years. I was fortunate enough to figure out the ruse before the lock-in date.

I expect that county officials--and union officials--get sweet deals from financial institutions in return for access to employees. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, "Incredibly, Superintendent Randolph Ward himself bought an annuity from Puplava shortly after Ward began work in 2006."

And how about the teachers unions? Are they any better? Dan Puplava used to work for teachers unions, as he told Forbes magazine.

Who is more shameless in taking advantage of teachers, the school officials or the teachers unions? That's a hard question. I haven't figured out the answer yet.

The most common problem in public entities is not blatant corruption such as the outrageous salaries ($560,000 for the assistant City Manager) of officials in Bell, California, but the money that gets channeled behind the scenes. Millions of dollars get moved around, and the public doesn't know about the connections and motivations that are guiding the transfers. Voice of San Diego reporter Emily Alpert was investigating SDCOE when she suddenly went silent, and then got fired. SDCOE exempts Diane Crosier (the director of Risk Management; also, Dan Puplava's boss) from having to disclose the gifts she receives. Why don't we have transparency in government at SDCOE?


SDCOE Risk Management Director Diane Crosier and her close associate Dan Puplava work with AIG

SDCOE has silenced its critics.

When Scott Dauenhauer revealed that SDCOE fringe benefits manager Dan Puplava [who is still employed by SDCOE] was getting at least $355,000 in commissions from AIG while working for the taxpayers, Dauenhauer was sued by Diane Crosier and Dan Puplava.

I went down to the courthouse and read the pleadings in the case.

The SDCOE managers claimed that Dauenhauer didn't know that what he said was true. I'm not kidding. They didn't claim he said something false. They claimed that he didn't actually know that what he said was true. Since he couldn't afford to keep paying an attorney to fight the case, he settled. SDCOE has also tried very hard to silence me. SDCOE lawyers had more success with Grossmont student representative Rick Walker, who obligingly shut down his website.


In the MiraCosta College scandal, in which SDCOE's favorite law firm got paid $1.3 million to investigate $305 of water stolen and used to water palm trees. (After investing all that taxpayer money, MiraCosta let the palm trees die. It was never about water or palm trees. It was all about power and politics.) Sounds a little bit like Bell, California, doesn't it? How can the taxpayers protect themselves?

Monday, May 05, 2014

Vergara v. California; what motivates people like former Chula Vista Educators boss, executive director Tim O'Neill of South County Teachers United, to support the current useless system of teacher evaluations?


Tim O'Neill violated union by-laws when he refused to allow a teacher to present an ethics complaint to Chula Vista Educators directors.

San Diego's liberals seem to be far more obedient to the California Teachers Association than Los Angeles liberals, and students suffer for it. Here's a bit of the history of that subject. Shame on Richard Barrera for abandoning his principles, apparently in exchange for campaign contributions and a cushy job.

I don't object to tenure. I object to the intransigence of the teachers union in the face of calls for education reform.

Getting rid of tenure will do no good at all, and would likely do harm, if teacher evaluations continue to be as worthless as they are now.

If we get rid of tenure we'll just have to worry more about the already-existing problem of principals protecting their own careers by making alliances with mediocre but popular and politically-strong teachers. I get the feeling that David Welch, mogul of Student Matters, honestly doesn't know that many principals are former teachers who switched to the front office when they realized that they don't have what it takes to make it in the classroom.

I also get the feeling that Voice of San Diego's education reporter Mario Koran doesn't know this, either.

HAS VOICE OF SAN DIEGO SABOTAGED THE DEBATE ON TENURE AND TEACHER EVALUATIONS?


Emily Alpert Reyes

Voice of San Diego muzzled and then fired its education reporter, Emily Alpert (now Reyes), who knew what was going on in schools. The reason for this seems to be related to the politics and big bucks of VOSD's big donor trio Buzz Woolley, Irwin Jacobs and Rod Dammeyer who are deeply involved in charter schools and anti-union politics.


Voice of San Diego founder Buzz Woolley

Just before she was fired, Emily Alpert was one of the few people in San Diego doing serious research on teacher layoffs based on seniority. She dared to bring up the topic of teacher evaluations. If VOSD donor trio Buzz Woolley, Irwin Jacobs and Rod Dammeyer were really interested in improving education for all children they would have fallen all over themselves to keep Emily in San Diego. (Emily now works for the Los Angeles Times, but she's not writing about education.)


Irwin Jacobs, Voice of San Diego's major donor

My belief is that Buzz Woolley, Irwin Jacobs and Rod Dammeyer want to improve education for just enough students so that they can run their businesses with American employees--and they want those students in charter schools. They think they can have a flourishing society while the middle and working classes sink lower and lower.


Rod Dammeyer, charter schools advocate and political donor

Note: Buzz, Irwin and Rod also tried to remake the San Diego Unified School Board with appointed members who would undermine the elected members. They seems to think we'd do better without democracy.

IS THE CALIFORNIA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION TRYING TO SELF-DESTRUCT?

You might think that the teachers union could manage to do a better job of acting in the interest of all citizens than Buzz, Irwin and Rod have done.

Sadly, this does not seem to be the case.

I believe that schools can be fixed without getting rid of tenure (I have described one such plan HERE), but schools can't be fixed as long as the California Teachers Association stands in the way.

Something clearly needs to be done, but Richard Barrera doesn't seem to want to address the problem of rampant mediocrity among teachers. It's actually a bigger problem than the incompetence of about 10% teachers. I wouldn't use evaluations to fire teachers; evaluations are needed to help teachers become highly competent.

Sadly, Barrera will likely continue to toe the line for the people who control the California Teachers Association, so reform is looking unlikely. CTA doesn't want teachers to be held accountable; it wants to continue the politically-convenient system of principal evaluations.

The current system is such a joke that principals rarely even bother to observe teachers.

See all posts re teacher evaluations.

Teachers need to have a union. But why can't it be better than this one? Couldn't it be one without people like Tim O'Neill? (See comment at the end of this post.)


VOICE OF SAN DIEGO STORY ON RICHARD BARRERA'S TESTIMONY AT VERGARA TRIAL

Teachers Call Upon San Diego School Trustee to Help Save Seniority Rules
By: Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego
May 2, 2014

In 2010, when San Diego Unified was in the throes of a budget crisis and staring down a round of layoffs, school board trustee Richard Barrera told U-T San Diego, “Pink-slipping disproportionately affects poorer schools – absolutely.”

Now, that argument is the basis of Vergara v. California, a case that could blow up deeply rooted protections for California teachers. Barrera, who is now the leader of the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council, which includes the teachers union, changed his tune when he testified in the case.

Teachers see the policies that force the youngest teachers to bear the brunt of layoffs as the fairest possible, he argued. Replacing it with a system that requires administrators to make value judgments would erode trust as teachers vied for their spots, he said.

Along with attorneys from the state and the California Teachers Association, Barrera pointed to San Diego Unified as proof that a district can succeed because of the current policies – not in spite of it.

The case is the product of Students Matter, a group founded by Silicon Valley business mogul David F. Welch, a group of California students and a heavyweight cast of attorneys. They initiated the suit and claim the teacher protections violate students’ constitutional rights to equal access to quality education.

California law makes it nearly impossible to dismiss a bad teacher once he or she has received tenure, they argue, and last-hired-first-fired layoff policies disproportionately impact schools in high-poverty areas because they’re more likely to have less experienced teachers. Layoffs at these schools, then, create more turnover and worsen the experience for students.

But Barrera said that because San Diego Unified has had a good relationship with its teachers union, it’s been able to avoid mass layoffs in the first place.

In the grip of the budget crises, about 1,100 teachers were issued pink-slips in 2011, and all but 200 of those were rescinded, he said. And when 1,500 teachers were laid off in 2012, everyone was invited back.

Josh Lipshutz, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told VOSD he found this part of Barrera’s testimony bizarre. “Look, nobody wants layoffs. But layoffs are reality,” Lipshutz said.v “We’re not arguing that teachers should be laid off. But in speaking with administrators we heard over and over that everybody knows who the worst teachers are. All we’re saying is that in a layoff environment, why would you not want to include those teachers?” he said.

And avoiding layoffs in dark budget times also comes at a very real cost.

At this week’s school board meeting, trustee and fiscal wonk Scott Barnett castigated the rest of the school board for promising teachers pay raises that it couldn’t afford and selling off real estate to make up the difference.

Even though the district got money from Prop. 30, a voter-approved statewide measure meant to stave off drastic cuts to schools, San Diego Unified is facing a $100 million budget shortfall.

“Guess what? The proposed hole is bigger next year than this year because of this board’s inability to have any semblance of control,” Barnett said.

Holding Up San Diego as a Model

Barrera said that the idea that layoffs disproportionately impact poor schools doesn’t capture reality.

He said Central Elementary in City Heights, the school that Superintendent Cindy Marten once ran, is a good example of how a school can create a culture where teachers want to stick around.

Barrera said a school like Central is possible because teachers share strategies for what works in the classroom. In other words, if a district were to try to measure which teachers were better, teachers might be afraid to share what works with a competitive colleague.

“If we replace the seniority system – one which most people tend to see as fair – with one that teachers see as unfair or arbitrary, we’re going to dramatically hurt trust between teachers and their principals,” he said.

Still, schools like Jackson Elementary in City Heights, now Fay Elementary, might say the problem is a little bit more serious. During the budget crises, high-poverty schools like Fay – which had less experienced teachers – were hit hardest by last-in-first-out layoff policies.

In 2008, 24 out of its 26 teachers received layoff notices. Most of those ended up being rescinded, but in 2011, when 25 out of 27 teachers got pink slips – it was deja vu all over again.

“The reality is,” Lipshutz said, “that once the pink slips go out, the damage is already done.”

Teachers will often look for positions in more stable districts, and “it’s very discouraging to be treated as a number, to be told that you don’t have value beside your hire-date,” he said.

Barrera doesn’t disagree. “That’s all the more reason that we need to do what we can to avoid pink slips and layoffs,” he said. “Pink slips are disruptive, yes, but what’s more disruptive is laying off teachers and having huge class sizes.”

So What’s a Good Teacher?

Barrera said the major hole with the Vergara plaintiffs’ case is that they never clarified what, exactly, makes a teacher ineffective. In fact, the defense led with that point in its closing brief.

Of course, rebooting the criteria to measure teacher performance depends on whether the plaintiffs can persuade the judge that measures like test scores can be considered.

Plaintiffs leaned on Harvard researcher Thomas J. Kane, who said black and Latino students in Los Angeles Unified were more likely than their white and Asian peers to be taught by the worst teachers.

Kane reached his conclusion by looking at teacher effectiveness through a value-added formula, which measures improvements in student test scores over time.

To be sure, value-added formulas aren’t universally accepted. Critics like education historian Diane Ravitch have railed against them for years. Another said they resulted in “mathematical intimidation” from school administrators.

One problem, Barrera said, is that the scores appear objective, but fail to account for poverty, or other factors that influence learning. He said he isn’t opposed to all changes to the evaluation system, but they should begin a conversation about the real goal: quality teaching.

“From a policy level, you think we’d start with questions about what’s working and how we could do more of that, instead of trying to force these blunt instruments in through the court system,” Barrera said.

Lipshutz said poverty was a theme woven throughout the trial.

“To us, that’s a red-herring. We don’t dispute that poverty is a factor in student learning,” he said. “The question to us is whether the laws that are in place are harming students and preventing them from getting the best education they possibly could. And we showed very clearly that the answer is yes.”

COMMENTS

Here's a comment I found intriguing (for personal reasons):


Tim O'Neill, former executive director for CTA affiliates in Chula Vista

Tim ONeill (cvtimo)

The Vergara lawsuit claims that seniority based layoffs negatively discriminate against children of color. A valid critical commentary or report would show how this claim holds water in ANY school district in San Diego County over the past several years when schools have been hit by budget cuts of 25% or more.

The fact of the matter is that there have been none. All the union-haters should consider this in their world view and perhaps question the motives of the plaintiffs in this case.


Maura Larkins comment:

Tim,
Are you calling Richard Barrera a "union-hater" for saying, "“Pink-slipping disproportionately affects poorer schools – absolutely”?

I don't think the charge would fit, since he is the CEO of the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council.

Also, the ACLU sued the Los Angeles Unified School District based on the devastating impact of teacher layoffs on poorer schools. Are you calling the Los Angeles ACLU "union-haters"?

Maybe you should stop with the name-calling and try to come up with a solution to the problem.

[Maura Larkins note: I suspect this "Tim O'Neill" may be the same Tim O'Neill who worked for the California Teachers Association until 2010, and who violated the Chula Vista Educators bylaws by refusing to allow me to make an ethics complaint to the CVE Representative Council.

See a copy HERE of his letter to me in which he states that Gina Boyd herself denied my request to appear before the Rep Council to make an ethics complaint about Gina Boyd!

The Tim O'Neill who was the executive director of Chula Vista Educators worked hard to make sure that politics ruled in the district. That Tim O'Neill aided and abetted multiple violations of labor law and the teachers contract to ensure the re-election of CVE President Gina Boyd. But he himself lost his job and was apparently sent to work anonymously (until now, it appears) in the CTA offices in Mission Valley.]


COMMENT FROM JIM JONES:

Tim,
Either seniority protects the best teachers, and also keeps them out of the worst cesspool schools, which are minority schools, or seniority doesn't matter, it can't go both ways.
It's time for teachers to step up and put kids first, stop using them as pawns to feed public union greed.



Tim O'Neill, former executive director for CTA affiliates in Chula Vista

COMMENT FROM TIM O'NEILL:


"Using them to feed public union greed", huh? Please be a bit more specific in your retoric (sic).

Teaching assignments (school, grade level, subject assignments) are regulated in each school district collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the local teacher union in that district, not regulated by state law, which this lawsuit addresses.

The vast majority of these negotiated agreements places seniority as a subordinate criterion to many other factors such as subject matter credential, and most notably the opinion of the school principal. In other words, seniority, in most cases is NOT the determining factor with regard to a teacher's assignment.

It is true that some teaching assignments are more difficult than others. It may also be that vacancies occur more regularly at schools with such assignments, but for a variety of reasons. Some of the "best" teachers work at these schools; sometimes they don't. Are you suggesting that the "best" teachers be limited in their options as to where they would choose to work?


Maura Larkins response:

No, Tim, Mr. Jones is not suggesting that tenured teachers be limited as to where they work. He is simply suggesting that tenured teachers tend to use their seniority to get out of--and stay out of--schools in low income areas. In fact, I must say that I did notice during my years in Chula Vista Elementary School District that teachers with high seniority tended to snap up the job openings at schools in high-income areas.

I think that the success of children should not be subordinated to any goal at all that the teachers union might have.

It doesn't matter what the reason is that CTA has refused to allow any real progress in evaluating teachers--whatever it is, it's not a good enough reason. The fact is that the current system of principal evaluations is a joke, and it's part of the reason so many kids are failing to get decent educations.

I had a principal who came in fresh to the school, not knowing that I had been given all the lowest-achieving students in my grade level because I was also given the English-learners and it seemed to make sense. I was perfectly happy with the situation.

Principal Charlie Padilla retired in the middle of the school year

The new principal must have looked at the students' tests before sending them in to be scored, because he wrote on my evaluation that I had low student test scores--before the results came back! My students were progressing at top speed, particularly in their critical thinking, but they were starting the year from far behind the kids in the other classes at my grade level.

In fact, when the scores came back, they showed that my students had made one, two, three or even four years progress when they were with me.

That principal was highly regarded because he was highly political. But, strangely, he eventually retired from the district in the middle of the school year. He got another job, so obviously he wasn't interesting in actually retiring. It sometimes takes a while to figure out how bad some principals are. This would be less of a problem if principals weren't in charge of evaluations.

I once heard former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett pointing out to CTA affiliate presidents that if they didn't improve education, they would become irrelevant. CTA would be wise to come up with an evaluation plan pronto. What's your plan for teacher evaluations, Tim?

COMMENT FROM francesca

@Maura Larkins If you taught in the Chula Vista School District, then you are probably more realistic about the idea of using test scores to evaluate teachers. When children have not mastered English, their test scores don't really reflect what they have learned or know.

Maura, Do you have an objective way to measure whether teachers are doing an effective job?


Maura Larkins COMMENT:

Thanks for asking, Francesca! I think observations are the single most important source of effective evaluations, and they should be done frequently by people from outside the school district (to avoid school politics).

Dennis Schamp and Scripps Dad and I had a somewhat detailed discussion recently on what should be observed; you can see our discussion at the bottom of this April 28 VOSD story:

The Case That Could Blow Up Teacher Tenure

The two main things we discussed as needing to be observed are:
1) What is the teacher doing?
2) What are the students doing?

Non-professionals could be used to make superficial observations. It would be up to professionals to evaluate the data and follow up with their own observations.

Scripps Dad says he's been involved in a good teacher evaluation program.

Also, student test scores would only be helpful after a number of years of gathering data about a teacher's performance, and even then, research shows that these scores are reliable indicators only for the top 10% and bottom 10% of teachers. The other 80% of teachers tend to get extremely variable results.

I do not think evaluations should be used to determine employment.

Instead, I think they should be used to identify the most highly effective teachers and to help average and below-average teachers.

I believe that the most highly effective teachers should then be given responsibility as master teachers to direct the less effective teachers and to give supplemental lessons to students, and to give training to their fellow teachers. This would be cheaper and more effective than bringing in ridiculously expensive outside vendors to do training.

I would expect master teachers to be paid like doctors and lawyers.

UPDATE MAY 5, 2014:

DO UNION LEADERS WANT TO KEEP THE EVALUATION PROCESS POLITICAL SO THEY CAN CONTROL TEACHERS BETTER?


You might be wondering why Tim O'Neill would lead Chula Vista Educators into aiding and abetting a string of illegal actions. Was it merely to protect CVE president Gina Boyd from the ire of the "Castle Park Family" as she was facing a union election? Perhaps not.

I just discovered a startling connection while perusing Facebook. The principal I mentioned above was Charlie Padilla. Here's a post about his middle-of-the-year retirement from CVESD. He turns out to be a personal friend of Tim O'Neill!


COINCIDENCE?
Charlie Padilla on the left, Tim O'Neill on the right.
Does this photo from Charlie Padilla's public Facebook
page of three couples out together for dinner on April 27,
2014 help explain why Tim O'Neill might be motivated to aid
and abet a string of illegal actions and violations of contract?


Tim O'Neill wouldn't allow the CVE board of directors to hear my complaint about him and Gina Boyd. CTA is a very top-down organization, run by administrators like Tim O'Neill--and CTA lawyers--rather than elected union officials.

I have spoken out for years on the behind-the-scenes collusion between the teachers union and school administrators. They often spar in public, but Wayne Johnson (President of CTA from 1999-2003) instituted a policy in which CTA affiliates would play nicer with school districts in order to reach more deals behind closed doors.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is this the problem with Manuel Yvellez and the other Chula Vista Educators union leaders who are struggling with Common Core?

From Education Week:

...There are cases in which educators themselves need more time simply practicing the mathematics and learning different ways of conceiving of it, she added. Fractions, which under the common core are introduced in 3rd grade, tops that list.

It's a point reiterated by Katherine K. Merseth, a senior lecturer and the director of teacher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who believes the shifts will require more programs to improve their content preparation.

Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., is sharing a library of video-based tools in order to familiarize the state’s teacher colleges with the common core and its implications for preparing new talent.

"Kids can learn to invert and multiply in order to divide fractions, but then they look at the teacher and ask, 'Why'?" Ms. Merseth said. "We have to make sure that our students and our graduates can answer exactly that question."


The lack of preparation of teachers (especially if they are union leaders like Manuel Yvellez) has been causing a lot of problems for the implementation of Common Core.

See blog posts about Common Core from CVESD Reporter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Shame on those teachers who are intentionally making kids anxious about standardized tests; parent complaints at CVESD


Chula Vista teachers and parents might want to give some thought to this quote by Albert Einstein

I was intrigued by the difference between the San Diego Reader and the Chula Vista Star-News in reporting the implementation of Common Core standards in Chula Vista schools. Star-News Reporter Robert Moreno provided a much more balanced view of the issue than did the Reader's Susan Luzzaro.

See all posts re Common Core from CVESD Reporter blog.

UPDATE April 15, 2014:

I just spoke to Anthony Millican at CVESD, and he tells me that it is not at all true that if a student "failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade." I hope that Susan Luzzaro at the Reader will publish this fact, since her article offers no contradiction to this quote in its first paragraph.

Mr. Millican notes that many teachers are delighted with Common Core. I'll bet the students of those teachers are also delighted. Why didn't Ms. Luzzaro quote any of them?

ORIGINAL POST:

I'm sure that there are many classrooms in Chula Vista Elementary School District where confident, competent teachers--and their students!--are completely relaxed about upcoming standardized tests. In fact, those kids probably think that taking tests is fun.

But what about the teachers who simply don't know how to teach well? They are having hissy fits, and pointing the finger at Common Core Standards. There is nothing at all wrong with Common Core Standards. It's just that many teachers don't grasp the concept of a basic concept. That's what Common Core is all about: basic concepts.

Historically, a large percentage of teachers have taught mostly by rote, without teaching kids how to think. Also, there are some pretty good teachers who simply don't like to go into depth when teaching a subject. They like to teach a concept and then move on. This method is NOT used in countries with highly successful education systems.

These two types of teachers are intentionally upsetting children so that parents will come in and complain about Common Core instead of complaining about the teacher.

Why isn't this parent asking why 70% of kids don't understand basic facts? Has she not been paying attention for the past decades as student performance has gone down? Does she know during those decades fewer and fewer teachers have come from top colleges? The average teacher these days is simply not up to the job. As teachers have become weaker, the job itself has become harder.

So why doesn't the district simply teach the teachers how to teach? Perhaps you think that the district is run by brilliant minds? Administrators tend to be people who were very immersed in teacher culture and school politics when they were teachers. They played the game. They followed the right people. Don't expect them to have a particularly good understanding of the educational process, and don't expect them to know how to teach teachers.

Has Ms. Phatek wondered whether there might be a better solution to her children's problem than getting rid of Common Core?

Perhaps she might consider this solution to the problem: Here's how every child can have an excellent teacher--without firing or laying-off any teachers!

San Diego County parents should have access, as do parents in Los Angeles, to information showing how much the students in each classroom are learning each year, as measured by year-by-year changes on standardized test scores. The Los Angeles Times published these "value-added" scores for each teacher. Why doesn't any San Diego news source publish our information?

Amazingly, it was revealed that students of the most admired and highly-regarded teachers frequently showed remarkably little improvement. You can always find teachers and parents who think they know who the best teachers are, but it turns out they're often completely wrong.

Of course, test scores are only a clue, not a final determination, as to whether a teacher is doing a good job. Proper evaluation would consist of regular observations, interviews and test scores of both students and teachers. In the current system, most principals have very little knowledge about what most of their teachers are doing in the classroom. Often, years go by without a principal spending more than a few moments in a teacher's classroom. And in my 27 years teaching in CVESD, not once did any principal ever sit down and talk to me about my thinking about how to educate children.

If teacher performance were evaluated effectively, there would be an added bonus: administrators could be chosen from among the best teachers.

But the district administration isn't the only problem. There's also the teachers union. The one thing you can count on the California Teachers Association to do is to protect incompetent teachers. The parent in the article below who claims that Common Core is "advancing an agenda that I believe is geared toward privatizing all education" is doing what the teachers union calls "staying on message". She certainly sounds like she was coached.

The test isn't creating a problem, it's exposing a problem that has existed for years.

Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents

“My son had been experiencing headaches”
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
April 10, 2014

One night last year, Gretel Rodriguez was playing the word game Hangman with her son who attends HedenKamp Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. He chose an unusual word. When Rodriguez asked him why, her son said he was learning it for the California State Test. Then he said he was nervous — worried that if he failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade.

Rodriguez said in an April 7 interview, “My son had been experiencing headaches, then when he told me his worries, I made up my mind to opt him out of any standardized exams.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Why didn't Rodriquez ask the school district if test results might be used to hold a child back? Did she ever consider helping her child to get the problem into perspective? Does she normally try to teach coping skills to her child? Does she teach her child to search out the facts before dissolving in fear? I suspect that the teacher might have been manipulating his or her students emotionally instead of dealing with his or her own fears about test results. Was the teacher really afraid of what might happen to himself (or herself)?

Also, I'm wondering why the reporter who wrote this piece, Susan Luzzaro, fails to tell us if this child's fear is based on reality. Why doesn't Ms. Luzzaro report on this important question? Luzzaro's entire article seems to be based on the belief that the district actually flunks kids who do poorly on the test.]


Rodriguez is one of many parents, locally and nationally, who are choosing to opt their children out of testing.

“By opting my son out of standardized tests I’ve also ensured he doesn’t have to take the SBAC [Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium] test this year as well,” Rodriguez continued.

In 2012, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was one of two companies that split a $330 million Department of Education grant to develop a computer-based test aligned with Common Core Standards.

In 2014, students will be taking a Smarter Balanced field test, or a test to test the test — based on Common Core Standards. The test will be administered to California students between March and June.

Rodriguez has another son who is a special-education student in the Sweetwater Union High School District. At first he told his mother that he wanted to continue taking the standardized tests and Rodriguez agreed.

Recently he changed his mind and asked his mom to opt him out. Rodriguez said she was happy about his decision because the new Common Core test has no modifications for special-education students or English-language learners.

The Phataks have three children in public schools. Two of them go to Salt Creek Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District; their older son attends Eastlake Middle School in the Sweetwater district.

When asked which tests she was going to opt her children out of, Kristin Phatak answered, “All of them.”

Phatak believes that “tests designed by publishing companies are not a good measure of my children’s progress. They also encourage teaching to the test.”

Regarding the Smarter Balance test aligned with Common Core, Phatak stated, “I firmly believe that test is being designed to fail the children, and in turn fail the teachers and the schools. It’s an attack on public education.”

When asked why she believes the test is designed to fail, Phatak resonded, “When you start looking at the money behind new Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balance testing, you begin to question both of them. Venture philanthropists, like the Gates Foundation, have poured millions into advancing an agenda that I believe is geared toward privatizing all education.

[Maura Larkins' comment: The Gates Foundation? Phatek sounds pretty paranoid to me. Why wouldn't Bill Gates simply be trying to do for education the same thing he does for health--giving away huge amounts of money in an effort to make life better for people around the globe? Or perhaps Phatek has simply been influenced by teachers who don't want to improve their performance.] "In states like Kentucky, where the Smarter Balanced Consortium test has already been used, the student failure rate was 70 percent. New York also had disastrous results with their Common Core exam. The push is to tie test scores to teacher evaluations. You can’t fail the teachers unless you fail the kids.”

Phatak encourages “parents who wish to be in tune with their childrens’ education to go to the Smarter Balance website and take the pilot test that corresponds to their child’s grade level.”

Phatak said she began talking to other moms about opting out last year. She is “shocked” because so many are coming up to her this year and telling her they are opting out.

Phatak is in contact with parents across the United States through her Facebook page, though she is not a member of a national opt-out organization.

“There are no consequences for refusing to take the tests,” Phatak said. “They [districts] cannot hold a child back.”

Opting out is not new to San Diego. In 2002, the Wall Street Journal carried a report on 212 Rancho Bernardo students who refused to take standardized tests. Rancho Bernardo parents expressed reasons similar to Chula Vista parents. They felt there was “no personal incentive for their children to labor over tests that aren’t included on school transcripts or are required for high school graduation.”



I was intrigued by the difference between the San Diego Reader (above story) and the Chula Vista Star-News (story below) in reporting this issue. Reporter Robert Moreno provided a much more balanced view of the issue than did Susan Luzzaro.

Common Core receives mixed reviews
Robert Moreno
Chula Vista Star-News
Sep 28 2013

California's newest testing method is getting high praise by education officials in the South Bay, but some parents in the area’s school districts are giving the new testing measure an F.

The Golden State signed on for the model on Aug. 2, 2010, with full implementation this school year. Forty-five states — including California — use the Common Core method of testing.

John Nelson III, E.d.D, assistant superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, said the new testing model places higher standards on students than the STAR testing did.

“We (the district) believe that these new Common Core standards reflect the academic need of all students to be successful,” he said. “We know that the old standards, we’ve learned a lot of good lessons from them; however, when it came to being college- and career-ready, the standards fell short.”

Nelson said under the STAR testing standards, students entering college were not prepared and as a result, dropout rates at the university continues to be high.

Common Core tests students from K-12 in math, English, science and social science. The tests and curriculum are based more on the use of critical thinking skills than memorization.

While the elementary school district approves the new testing measures, some parents are not getting with the Common Core program.

Kristin Phatak has a son in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and another in the Sweetwater Union High School District. She is opposed to the Common Core because she said it is “dumbing down” the education standards.

[Maura Larkins' comment: How does Kristin Phatek come up with this stuff? I'm guessing that she like the old rote-memory method of teaching that left students unprepared for college. Kids were left with very little understanding of basic concepts, and a whole lot of memorization that tended to be forgotten. I agree with John Nelson that the new concept-based instruction is better for kids.]


Kristin Phatek
Has Ms. Phatek wondered whether there might be a better
solution to her children's problem than getting rid of Common Core?

“California and Massachusetts were known in the nation as having some of the highest standards in the United States,” she said. “They did not use California or Massachusetts standards to rate these standards, they actually lowered the standards, and so by California signing on to these standards, we have in effect lowered our standards.”

Nelson said the Common Core is not dumbing down education standards, but rather deepening the understanding of learning. He said it is more critical thinking-based than the STAR testing.

Phatak claims that the Common Core puts local school districts in violation of the Williams Settlement Act.

The class action lawsuit was filed in 2000 and argued agencies failed to provide public school students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities and qualified teachers. As a result of this, for every student in a classroom, the school must make available one textbook for each student.

Phatak said because there are no textbooks available for the Common Core, teachers are struggling to come up with their own curriculum with Common Core methods.

[Maura Larkins' comment: What is this woman talking about? You can use ANY textbook to teach Common Core. But teachers who rely on textbooks to guide every step of instruction are simply failing to understand how to teach basic concepts. For one thing, the teacher should be guided by what her students know, and how well they are learning. The teacher's instruction should largely be coming from the teacher's brain rather than a textbook, and should be using his or her own words. The teacher should be making heavy use of the white board and a marker--and should be putting manipulatives in students' hands.

“What’s happening now is that the publishers have not come out with the textbooks for Common Core, yet the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Sweetwater School District have decided to go ahead and implement it,” she said.

Nelson said the Common Core is not solely dependent on textbooks.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Hear, hear!]

“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding in the community, Common Core is not about the curriculum, it’s about how we teach,” he said. “Literature is literature. Now we did achieve use of more complex literature but Common Core is about changing the instructional practice of teachers.”

Monica Cervantes is another parent who is against the Common Core. She has a child attending Tiffany Elementary School in Chula Vista. She said the elementary school district adopted the model without conducting research to see if it will actually work.

“I think before you implement any type of curriculum, you have to make sure it works,” she said. “If you go back and look where it was implemented first there is a lot of downfall with this.”

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recently announced that the Sweetwater Union High School District is receiving more than $8 million in state funding with the transition to the new testing model.

Manny Rubio, director of grants and communications with the Sweetwater Union High School District, said a portion of that money could be spent on new textbooks used in preparation for the Common Core.

The Sweetwater District is adhering to the Common Core too, because Rubio said the testing is mandated by the state, and therefore they have no choice but to implement it.

“This is something that is coming from Sacramento. It’s our mandate as far as following the law that they’ve issued.

My understanding is that ... we do not have a choice (to not implement the Common Core),” Rubio said.

Rubio said the district is implementing a Common Core curriculum for teachers this year with pilot testing for students. He said come next school year, the district will have mandated testing.

Tina Jung, information officer for the California Department of Education, said the adoption of the Common Core is not mandatory. She said it is up to the local school districts, not the state, to decide if they want to implement the testing.

“It is completely voluntary on the states and schools,” she said. “We can’t tell districts what to do. California is a local control state, that means local districts have more control than the state.”

Jung also said if a district accepts money from the state for Common Core, then that money must be used for Common Core purposes.

Because she did not want her child to take the Common Core test, Phatak withdrew one of her children from Tiffany Elementary school. The child is now being home schooled.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Why didn't Phatek help her child cope with anxiety instead of taking such a drastic measure. I have a suspicion that there's a lot more going on in Phatek's family than is revealed here.]

Cervantes said she plans to opt her child out of Common Core testing.

“We (parents) can try to stop this because this was adopted and not mandated by the state,” she said. “We have a choice, it is not mandated. They chose to adopt this.”

According to the California Department of Education’s website, the Common Core describes what each student should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade.

The name Common Core derives from the testing method that uses a set of national standards that apply to every school, district and state that has adopted the Common Core model.

Rubio said parents “will not” have a choice of opting a child out of the testing.

But while Rubio mentions that students can’t opt out, California’s education code says differently.

According to Education Code 60615, a student can opt out of testing.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted,” the code reads.





Stanford University mathematics professor James Milgram


I just noticed that the San Diego Union-Tribune has published a hysterical commentary on this subject by Lance T. Izumi. Mr. Izumi's rant contained an interesting fact:

...Stanford University mathematics professor James Milgram, an architect of California’s previous top-ranked state math standards and a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee, harshly criticizes the rigor of Common Core’s math standards: “With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the [Common Core] math standards end after Algebra II. They include no pre-calculus or calculus.”...

Professor Milgram wants every kid in California to learn calculus!?!

That's ridiculous. I took calculus in high school, and it didn't do me one bit of good because I didn't understand the basic concepts well enough. I got an A in the class, not because I understood the material, but because I learned and applied formulas. I had to take calculus over again at UCLA. I also took vector calculus, and when I graduated I thought I knew math.

Even though I wasn't interested in going to graduate school at the time, I decided to take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) at that time. I figured I'd never again do as well on the math section of the GRE than when I was fresh out of college math classes.

I was wrong.

I spent the next fifteen years teaching basic math concepts to fourth and fifth graders. I taught those basic concepts like they were going out of style. As a result, I myself came to understand those concepts really, really well.

Then I took the GRE again. My GRE math score went up 100 points, from 640 to 740.

My big improvement was due to focusing on elementary math concepts. I have had proof in my own life that if you want your kid to be really good in math, you must make your kid really learns basic concepts. And you shouldn't worry one bit whether your kid takes calculus in high school.



Will Susan Luzzaro continue to turn her back to
requests for more even-handed reporting?

I sent the following email to the Reader on April 17, 2014:

Regarding this story:
Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
April 10, 2014

In the very first paragraph, Susan Luzzaro quotes a parent saying that her child was worried that "if he failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade."

Ms. Luzzaro makes absolutely no effort in the article to assure Readers that the test is not actually used to flunk children. This is not good journalism.

I urge the Reader and Susan Luzzaro NOT to leave this false impression dangling in the minds of readers. Luzzaro should issue a clarification about the matter.

COMMENTS ON SUSAN LUZZARO ARTICLE:

eastlaker April 10, 2014 @ 12:41 p.m.

So, the testing is being done initially on materials the students have not been given. Gee, how fair is that?

Especially when not only the students will be evaluated, but the teachers will be evaluated.

[Maura Larkins' response to eastlaker:

The teachers are supposed to teach kids how to think, not just teach them specific facts and rules.

A good test measures thinking ability. That's why teachers who can't teach reasoning and logic hate them so much. If you call it "teaching to the test" when kids are thought to respond to any question with logic, then teaching to the test is a good thing.]



oneoftheteachers April 10, 2014 @ 6:36 p.m.

First of all, let's dispel the myth that corporations fostered:our educational system was broken. The US has some of the best universities in the world attended by graduates of our American public schools.

[Maura Larkins' response: No one is saying that American universities are broken. They're so good that people from all over the world come to attend them. Unfortunately, the only people breaking the door down trying to get into our average K-12 public school are people from Latin American countries with even worse educational systems. It's a disgrace that so many of our K-12 graduates are not prepared for our own universities.]

It's interesting that there is only ONE comment one this page (at 9:50 a.m. on April 17, 2014) that even suggests looking at this issue differently.

Bvavsvavev had the courage to say: "I am not an expert in education, so I don't know the answers. What I do know is that change is needed, money is needed, and testing is needed. The hows and whys can be left to experts to figure out."

Of course, he is immediately shot down by the regular commenters.

Interestingly, the Reader is the only news outlet in San Diego or elsewhere that prevents me from making comments. The reason was not that I made an improper comment, or even a comment that the Reader didn't like. In fact, the very first time I tried to sign up to make comments I was unable to do so. Who could have set this up? I suspect that Susan Luzzaro might have originated the idea. Susan Luzzaro's husband Frank, a former teacher and union official at Chula Vista Elementary School District, has made it clear to me that he doesn't want me revealing events at CVESD, at least not those that involve him. I once contacted the Reader to complain about not being able to make comments, and the result was that I was allowed to comment on this one story! Obviously, there is little effort at the Reader to provide a public forum. It's very much a controlled environment, run by political paymaster Jim Holman.]]


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Mother of Chula Vista student calls former teacher's behavior "the ultimate betrayal"


John Kinloch

Chula Vista Elementary School District has a history of covering up or ignoring safety issues. They need to create at least a rudimentary system of observations of teachers to protect children--and to improve education. Principals tend to spend most of their time with their favorite teacher friends. In my experience, many principals have a few teachers who spend large amounts of time in the principal's office, giving advice (or, in some cases, instructions) to the principal. These principals spend almost zero time observing the teachers who aren't part of their office furniture.

EXCLUSIVE: Mother of Chula Vista student calls former teacher's behavior "the ultimate betrayal"
By Derek Staahl
Channel 6
Apr 8, 2014

CHULA VISTA – The mother of a Chula Vista teen who testified that he was molested by his former second grade teacher is speaking out for the first time.

“It's the ultimate betrayal. He betrayed my son. He shamed him. He brought his whole life down,” the boy’s mother said. She agreed to speak with San Diego 6 on condition of anonymity.

The boy’s former teacher, 42-year-old John Raymond Kinloch, is behind bars awaiting trial on 44 felony counts, Deputy District Attorney Enrique Camarena said.

The San Ysidro man is accused of sexual misconduct with five boys. Of those, Kinloch is accused of physically molesting two of them, Camarena said. Most of the charges against Kinloch are connected to the former student, who is now 17.

“He took so much away from my son. Even though my son is strong and everything, I know that it's eating him up inside. It's eating me up inside,” the mother said.

The woman told San Diego 6 that she and her son viewed Kinloch “like a family member.” After Kinloch taught the boy in second grade at Feaster Charter School in 2003, they kept in touch and developed a close friendship. Over the next several years, Kinloch became a father figure for the boy, the mother said.

“He went to birthday parties, he went to family reunions, he took my son to games – basketball games,” she said. “When I had heart surgery, when I had cancer, I confided in him. I always looked at him, like ‘Wow, this guy -- he's like a dad to my son.’”

The woman said the student’s biological father left when the boy was about 3 years old.

Kinloch and the boy maintained a close relationship from 2003 until 2012, when he was first arrested on suspicion of child pornography after an investigation by the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Once news of the arrest broke, the woman says her son opened up to her about what had happened over the last nine years.

“I said, ‘Did he ever touch you? Did he ever say anything inappropriate? Did he ever, you know, do anything?’ And he dropped his head. That's when I knew,” she said. She encouraged her son to go to the police, and he became the centerpiece of the criminal prosecution against Kinloch.

Kinloch is accused of improperly touching and kissing the boy, along with asking him to remove his clothes and taking pictures of him naked, according to court documents. Kinloch has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial has been delayed until August 25.

The woman has filed a lawsuit against the former teacher, the Chula Vista Elementary School District, and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

“Mr. Kinloch was in his classroom at school, disrobing this child with the door locked. That's negligent supervision in my mind,” Elaine Heine, the mother’s attorney, told San Diego 6.

The lawsuit, filed in August, also argues that the Chula Vista Elementary School District negligently hired Kinloch because he was a known distributor of child pornography.

In 1998, Kinloch agreed to testify in Great Britain about his involvement in a child pornography ring. In exchange for his testimony, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to offer Kinloch immunity, and he was never charged, Camarena said. Kinloch was hired by the school district two years later.

“He should never have been a teacher. And I keep saying if he had never been a teacher, my son wouldn't have been going through this for the rest of his life,” the mother said.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District has filed a lawsuit against the federal Department of Justice, trying to determine why Kinloch’s background check raised no red flags.

See video.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Dear [insert name of school here]: You might have won, but I still have a voice. And I plan on using it as much as I can to make things change.

Read the Devastating Letter by a Harvard Sexual-Assault Survivor
By Asawin Suebsaeng
Mother Jones
Apr. 1, 2014

On Monday, the Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper, posted an anonymous letter written by a student and sexual-assault survivor. The student details the aftermath of the alleged assault that occurred last year, and discusses how Harvard University administrators profoundly failed her. (This sort of thing is hardly unique to Harvard; rape and sexual assault on college and university campuses across the country is a huge problem, as is too often the administrative response to such cases.) The letter, titled "Dear Harvard: You Win," was published one day before the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

Here is an excerpt (read the whole thing—which is obviously tough to get through—here):

More than anything, I'm exhausted from living in the same House as the student who sexually assaulted me nine months ago.

I've spent most of 2013 fighting the Harvard administration so that they would move my assailant to a different House, and I have failed miserably. Several weeks ago, in a grey room on the fourth floor of the Holyoke Center, my psychiatrist officially diagnosed me with depression. I did not budge, and I was not surprised. I developed an anxiety disorder shortly after moving back to my House this fall, and running into my assailant up to five times a day certainly did not help my recovery.

[…]

Dear Harvard: I am writing to let you know that I give up. I will be moving out of my House next semester, if only—quite literally—to save my life. You will no longer receive emails from me, asking for something to be done, pleading for someone to hear me, explaining how my grades are melting and how I have developed a mental illness as a result of your inaction. My assailant will remain unpunished, and life on this campus will continue its course as if nothing had happened. Today, Harvard, I am writing to let you know that you have won.

[…]

The last time I met with my resident dean, I told my dean about my depression, and how I thought it had been caused by the lack of validation and empathy I had received from the Harvard faculty. I said that it would be immensely helpful for me to know that my dean, not as a school official but as a human being, understood my pain and empathized with it. I asked my dean to take a step back from the situation and to admit that I had not been served well by the Harvard system. My pleas were met with a refusal to comment and an argument that it was not an administrator's role to criticize Harvard's sexual assault policy.

If my resident dean refuses to question the current policy we have in place, then I will. Dear Harvard: You might have won, but I still have a voice. And I plan on using it as much as I can to make things change.


In response to this letter, the Undergraduate Council, Harvard College's student government, announced the formation of a task force to involve students in discussion of Harvard's sexual assault policies.

Harvard University public affairs did not respond to Mother Jones' request for comment.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Southwestern College trustee Humberto Peraza calls for Sweetwater Superintendent Ed Brand to resign


Humberto Peraza

Several years ago I tried, with no luck, to interest Humberto Peraza in the problem of school corruption and dysfunction. I presented evidence of wrongdoing by Bertha Lopez and her fellow trustees at Chula Vista Elementary School District. It sure took a lot to get Peraza to speak up. He waited until Bonnie Dumanis indicted fifteen school officials and their associates. In fairness, I must admit that Peraza was very polite and respectful to me. Perhaps he would have done more if his boss at the time, Bob Filner, had given him the go ahead. But Peraza shouldn't pretend that Brand's sins are of recent vintage. Ed Brand was behaving badly long before Jesus Gandara came to town. I assume Peraza doesn't want to talk about that because too many powerful people might get unwanted attention if officials started taking an interest in what was going on at Sweetwater and other districts BEFORE all those famous dinners with contractors took place. For the record, the corruption I was talking about was directly harming students. It was not just about squeezing a few meals out of contractors.

Trustee Peraza calls for resignation of SUHSD chief Ed Brand
Written by: Jaime Pronoble / News Editor
Southwestern Sun
03/14/2014

As the Sweetwater Union High School District careens toward a possible March 18 teachers strike, Southwestern College Trustee Humberto Peraza called for the immediate resignation or termination of the district’s superintendent, Dr. Ed Brand.

Ed Brand

“This superintendent should be fired right away,” said Peraza. “We should not wait and just sit there for his contract to run out (in November)when he’s completely destroyed this district and continues to do damage to it on a daily basis.”

Peraza said he is “disgusted” by Brand’s handling of the negotiations with the district teachers and his use of threats and bullying tactics.

“Ed Brand was supposed to come in to help fix the situation from what was a corrupt regime,” said Peraza. “I don’t know who in this community thought that it could be any worse than what (former superintendent Jesus) Gandara did, but somehow, someway, Ed Brand has found a way to make this situation far worse than it was.”

Community leader Stewart Payne also called for Brand’s immediate resignation saying he has made conditions at the district “unhealthy.”

“(The district) had issues before he came back,” Payne said, “but (Brand) has certainly made conditions and the environment in the district worse.”

After more than a year of unsuccessful negotiations between the district and the Sweetwater Education Association (SEA), the teacher’s union, classroom teachers are gearing up to strike as early as Tuesday. SEA President Roberto Rodriguez said the district is not negotiating in good faith and has not cooperated with state mediators.



“(The district) has been showing up for mediations, they have been here every meeting,” said Rodriguez, “but after four sessions of mediation, we got our first proposal from them at the last session, and it wasn’t a credible proposal from our point of view.”

Peraza, said the situation at SUHSD has gotten out of hand.

“The fact that the leadership of this district has allowed this to come to a point where they are about to strike and leave a lot of kids without an education for who knows how long is unbelievable,” said Peraza.

Rodriguez said striking is not what the teachers want to do, but most have indicated they feel they have no choice.

“Our goal isn’t to strike, it is to settle the contract with the district as soon as possible,” he said. “However, we want to make sure the district understands if they keep dragging their feet the way they have been, our members are ready to take the ultimate action.”

A letter from Brand said it is unlawful for the SEA to threaten a strike while engaged in impasse mediation, but Rodriguez said his claim is not true.

Rodriguez said the SEA filed an unfair labor practice with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) on a contract violation by the district. He said district negotiators changed the amount of money the district contributes toward teacher health benefits.

“We negotiated an agreement last year,” said Rodriguez. “In October, the district unilaterally announced they were going to contribute less money than had been negotiated. By changing the condition of the contract unilaterally, that is a violation of contract.”

District negotiators denied any violations.

Peraza acknowledged that it might seem unusual for a trustee of the community college to call for the resignation of the superintendent of the high school district, but he said he could no longer stand by quietly.

“Sweetwater has a lot of great teachers and dedicated employees, but the place is a train wreck and Brand is driving the train,” he said. “We owe it to the kids in our community to fix this mess and we can’t start to do that until Brand is gone. He needs to leave right now.”


Southwestern College Elections 2012
October 20, 2012
Southwestern Sun
Compiled by: Albert Fulcher, Thomas Baker, Angelica Rodriguez, Amparo Mendoza, Serina Duarte, Enrique Raymundo

Governing Board Vice President Humberto Peraza was appointed last August during a time of turmoil and controversy. He said he decided to run for election to the board to continue his work to reform SWC and clean up the college’s reputation following the “pay for play” scandal that led to numerous felony charges against former college administrators and board members. He is a small business owner, and formerly policy director for San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso, regional director for Senator Barbara Boxer and district chief of staff to Congressman Bob Filner.

Married with two young boys, Peraza said he has coached soccer, football and Little League baseball. His wife is also a professional.

“We are a family that is constantly on the move,” he said. “That is a full-time job in itself. My parents, my aunts and my wife’s parents all live here so our family is a South Bay family. This is our home and I want to make sure that the education is good for our kids.”

Peraza said he brings experience and knowledge of the community to the college and this has fueled his efforts to reform old policies and demand transparency.

“Ultimately, I want to do something that leaves something for our children,” he said. “I am running so that the board stays on the right track. It has pushed in the right direction and hired a new superintendent. We have done more things in one year than most boards and governmental entities have done in three or four. You have instructional, ethics and campaign reform. We started the community benefits agreement. Countless things in between are happening and have been accomplished.”

Peraza said community members still have concerns about accreditation, Proposition R and past corruption. He said the current board majority is reforming the college and that “house cleaning” continues. “(The previous) board has been completely wiped out,” he said. “There is a new superintendent in town and she wiped out the (corrupt) staff. We continue to push and create reforms.”

Peraza said it takes people of courage to stand in the face of adversity.

“I have enjoyed working with this board and the superintendent to continue changes,” he said. “It has been my honor and I would consider myself lucky if I can continue to do it for four more years. We are still in the tunnel but we can see the light at the end. Perception is important. Doing the right thing, being a transparent, open government creates trust on campus in the community. I am running to continue to make those reforms, see that finished and see Southwestern College become the shining example for the rest of the region.”

Peraza said budget is the biggest challenge today and if Proposition 30 fails SWC faces “devastating” cuts to classes and programs.

“My hope is if that Prop 30 passes, that gives us a little more flexibility to stay within the budget, to be able to handle the services for the people and the students that we service right now,” he said. “That is important to make sure that we can actually educate people and that we have the faculty, staff, teachers and counselors. I don’t think anyone can come up with a sweeping solution and if they say they can, they are lying to you. If someone has a solution for a $10 million budget cut, I would love to hear it. I think that our solutions have to be looked at long term.”

Peraza said he has advocated for revenue generation as an alternative to constant cutting. He said the stadium is an example of an underutilized college resource and could generate revenue hosting local and international professional soccer, rugby and concerts.

“I have heard from experienced educators that up to 25 community colleges will close and cease to exist if the tax initiative does not pass and that is a very scary thought,” he said. “Things (in California are) getting worse and worse.”

Peraza said Senate Bill 1456, based on the Student Success Task Force Recommendations, has good ideas but is also troubling. Passed last month, the legislation narrows the mission of community colleges to transfer and certificate attainment. It will require all incoming freshmen to declare majors and have an educational plan aimed to get them through community college in two years instead of the current average of four.

“The whole thing about having people coming in and deciding what their major is going to be and turning it into almost like a factory, you are in and out in two years, not everybody works that way,” he said. “There are many students that do not know what they want and they come to community college for exactly that reason.”

Working students have it much tougher these days, Peraza said, and cannot take as many classes as the new legislation will require.

“Some will be left out in the cold and that is my biggest concern,” he said. “Not everybody is the same. It cannot be this cookie cutter ideal that everybody fits into this one box. It doesn’t work that way.”

Speech and press freedom are essential, Peraza said. He pledged to always fight for First Amendment rights for all while he is on the board.

“Student reporters (in colleges have) freedom of the press,” he said. “To me, the free press is untouchable. It should not be impacted in any way or influenced by anyone on this campus, including myself, and the administration. There should never be a time, like the (past) administration that tried to block printing of the newspaper just because they do not like what you write.”

Peraza said he is working to introduce a local hiring process that helps veteran and disabled-owned companies.

“One of the reasons is to ensure that local people get (college construction) jobs,” he said. “People that are paying for those bonds should be the ones (who benefit). If we can do that we can revitalize our local economy rather than money going somewhere else.”

Peraza said he is able to make tough decisions.

“We need the people with the most courage,” he said. “I am not worried about where else I am going to go, or where I am going to be. I am here to make sure that students get educated when there are cuts. What is the most important thing on this campus? Educating students, period.”