Sunday, December 20, 2009

JG Right on Target Today

Both Kelly Soderlund's front page article and Karen Francisco's editorial about the troubles of FWCS were straightforward and right on the mark today. Two points were particularly telling. One were Steve Brace's comments that his job is saving teachers jobs. There should be no doubt that's the primary mission of the Fort Wayne "Education" Association.

The other was Karen's line "It will happen because there is no other choice." Not because as Wendy keeps claiming "It's the right thing to do". Why didn't they change when they had a choice? Isn't that what ("proven") leadership is about?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Social Promotion and High School Principals

The FWCS layoffs of assistant principals shouldn't come as a surprise in light of state budget cuts. Although FWCS will try to spin this as part of their shakeup to get "Race to the Top" funding , it's purely a money issue. In removing the principals at North Side and South Side high schools, however, Wendy and the board probably think that this will be seen by the state as a serious effort at reform in light of the recent visits by the Cambridge Group to diagnose the reasons for their imminent failure under PL221. Two years away from possible state takeover and perhaps, God forbid, conversion to charter schools, these two high schools (well, at least SSHS when I went there) were once among the best in the state.

There may be legitimate concerns about the effectiveness of these principals. But the success of a high school is determined almost entirely by the quality of the students from the middle schools that feed into it. When almost half of the students are socially promoted through these middle schools into the high schools, unprepared and doomed to failure, the high schools and their principals don't have a chance. Social promotion is the equivalent to the moral hazard in bailing out failing banks. In a school system the high schools, being at the end of the chain, suffer the consequences of a misguided attempt to decrease the drop out rate.

Unless the district changes its blanket policy of social promotion, the new principals (sacrificial lambs) will suffer the same fate as their predecessors. FWCS may hope that these changes may turn these schools around within the two year deadline the state has imposed, but they won't.

On the bright side, Don Willis is planning to open a new Imagine charter school on Pontiac Street in the former Fruehauf headquarters building. You go, Don! Keep on truckin'!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wendy, you can't be serious? Finally?

At last night's FWCS board meeting, Wendy Robinson gave a presentation about jumping on Obama's "Race to the Top" bandwagon. She repeatedly emphasized that she was finally going to reform the system instead of just talking about reforming it, not because of the threat of closing failing schools, turning them into charters, or mandated "turnarounds"/ "transformations" of those schools by the state if they can't get their test scores up. It's not even about getting a cut of Arne Duncan's $4.3 billion handout to states and schools who go along with the program. We're doing it because "IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO" for the students, their parents and a community footing the bill that deserves to see improved results.

Seven years ago at a town hall meeting at SSHS I asked Wendy what her plans were for raising test scores to comply with NCLB. She didn't have a plan. She and everybody else running our district blew it off. Apparently back then it wasn't "THE RIGHT THING TO DO". The demographics were too tough. Now seven years later, with the demographics even tougher, it is "THE RIGHT THING TO DO" but not for any of the reason above. School board president Mark GiaQuinta did offer up a valid reason, saying that having schools in our district designated as "failing" could prompt parents who didn't know better to send their kids elsewhere. Parents like, oh..., for example, school board president Mark GiaQuinta who sent his three kids to Canterbury although they live within walking distance of South Side HS.

Whether anything happens is now is up to the teachers who have to agree to a change in their contract to allow their evaluations to be linked to standardized test scores. So now Wendy and Steve Brace and company have to come up with a way to do that that's palatable to the state, the feds and the teachers. But I'm sure they'll go along with the program because the teachers also believe "IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO".

Hey, Steve, if you're out there, I did pat several teachers on the back today like you suggested. But if they're going to go have to go along with merit based pay, you should at least see to it that they don't have to put up with social promotion. If you don't, every high school except Snyder will soon be at the mercy of the state. And you know it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Don Willis must be doing something right

Anyone who can trigger a personal tirade by Karen 'Frisco has to be doing something right. In a rambling editorial rant the other day she accused Willis of saying the public education system has to die. Whether Willis said that or not is irrelevant. The truth is that urban systems like FWCS are dying all on their own. FWCS is not being killed by Willis but by an academic decline that forces middle class parents to avoid the system by moving, staying out of the district or sending their kids to private school like school board members Steve Corona and Mark GiaQuinta did. At least Willis isn't a hypocrite.

FWCS is dying a slow, agonizing death because the teachers union, the administration and worst of all the board can't adapt to the reality of urban education. They fear change too much. If Willis can speed up inevitable collapse with his charter schools, FWCS students, parents and taxpayers should thank him. After all, they shoot horses don't they?

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Good" arrows and "Bad" arrows

Yesterday we learned from the JG that State Superintendent Tony Bennett wants FWCS to give him a presentation on their balanced scorecard. You can look at the scorecard after the first year on the FWCS web site. What you'll see is that the district finally has targets for academic improvement. That's the good news. The bad news is that they didn't meet their targets. The only area where they show "improvement" is in reducing some of the achievement gaps between white and minority students. But there are two ways to reduce the gaps. Minority scores can go up or white scores can come down. You can't tell which happened so these indicators don't mean anything.

The chart has green arrows pointing up for exceeding the target, yellow arrows pointing sideways for meeting the target and red arrows pointing sideways for failing to meet the target. Why would the red arrows point sideways instead of down? To make the failures less apparent. Is this scorecard about improvement or about appearances?

Wonder if Tony Bennett will pick up on all this? Someone should give him a heads-up.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wendy's "transparent" no-cut contract

Now Karen Frisco wants us to rejoice in the "transparency" of the process that gave us five more years of Wendy. Wow, each side even had a lawyer! This contract puts Wendy in the same league as Charlie Weis. The difference of course is that while Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is only concerned about results, FWCS board president Mark GiaQuinta is only concerned about appearances. Discussion of Wendy's performance on the much ballyhooed "balanced scorecard" has was put off until after she got her new deal. Now that results no longer matter, she will be "evaluated" by the scorecard.

Sadly, the district has gotten to the point where it no longer matters who's in charge. Seven years ago, when Wendy got the job, it might still have been possible to turn the district around, if academics had been her top priority. But, in hindsight, that was too much to expect from a lifetime member of the FWCS education bureaucracy which is only concerned with self perpetuation. The shifts in the district's demographics and income levels are probably past the point of no return. The only schools still academically viable and attractive to middle income parents are north of Coliseum Boulevard and they will eventually succumb to the trends.

The question now is how much longer the ship will stay afloat and how much it's going to cost the taxpayers to keep bailing it out. Wendy's "frozen" salary is irrelevant in that equation as are Karen's (and the JG's) new-found concern for saving taxpayer money.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Five more years of Wendy

Surprise, surprise, Wendy Robinson's contract has been extended for five years. She declined to resign and the board is resigned to decline. Actually they said she'll be evaluated on the results of the "Balanced Scorecard". Remember the "Balanced Scorecard"? That's the system of goals and evaluations the district set up two years ago. How's that going by the way? Is it still around?

What she does bring to the table is continuity - in the exodus of middle class students from the district.

Monday, November 16, 2009

JG has selective hypocricy on black achievement

Today the JG went after East Allen Schools again, citing the formation of a task force by the mayor of New Haven to look into the inequities in achievement between New Haven and Harding High Schools and the other high schools in the district. Since Harding and New Haven High Schools have most of the black students, the obvious, startling achievement gap between those schools and EAC's other predominantly white schools infuriates Karen Francisco.

That same racial achievement gap exists in Fort Wayne Community Schools. In fact the gap in FWCS is bigger if you look at last fall's GQE scores. But FWCS hides the disparity with its cherished "Racial Balance" program, which buses black students "voluntarily" to white schools to even out the scores (the Supreme Court has outlawed forced busing). All that FWCS black students have gained from this politically expedient program is a daily bus ride at taxpayer expense. Since FWCS is steadily losing white students at a rate above 400 per year "racial balance" will eventually become irrelevant. Like Gary there will eventually be no school anyone would want to be bused to except a charter school. But that's a longer term problem someone else will have to deal with.

The only thing she has right is that the future of a city is tied to the success of its schools. Mayor McDonald of New Haven is doing the right thing, although he won't be able to do anything about it except to propose busing black kids in East Allen so they can also do a better job of hiding the problem. So get on Tom Henry's case while you're at it Karen. You won't have any more success than I did with Graham Richard. He wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.

And until you're willing to go after Wendy Robinson and FWCS with the same zeal as you do EACS, let it rest.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

JG still nagging on Imagine Schools

Today it was about the Imagine board violating the "Open Meeting Law". They didn't conduct their votes at public meeting as the state law required. That's right and the net result is? How many government board and council members decide how they vote at a public meeting? None, their minds are already made up in "private" meetings. Public meetings are a meaningless formality.

Two years ago I attended a "public meeting" on the FWCS bond issue at Anthis Career Center. After listening to district employees cheering for the project for three hours the board immediately voted exactly as they would have without a public meeting. It was an orchestrated farce.

OK, Imagine, you've been caught and properly chastised by the JG. Clean up your act so Tracy and company and stop insulting our intelligence.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gary public schools "Turn ON the lights, the party's over.".........

The Gary public schools are reportedly having a problem with school vandalism. That would be in the twenty buildings that are now standing empty because the district has lost 16000 students since 1990. So they're considering keeping the lights ON in those buildings to discourage the vandals. I wonder if those buildings were remodeled with updated energy efficient lights before they were closed.

Is this the future of unionized urban districts in Indiana? Surely not in Fort Wayne. Surely FWCS board member Steve Corona, who went to school in Gary (the Marion County Correctional Institute's high school has a better ISTEP passing rate than Steve's former high school), won't let that happen here, at least not before I'm gone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Harry S. Truman to the JG "The prostitutes of the mind.....

Another day, another article (make that editorial) on Don Willis and Imagine Schools, this time on their involvement setting up charters in Texas. I can't figure out if Willis has done anything wrong or unethical. If he has, Ball State Teachers College (the school that gave us the JG editorial staff and David Letterman) can easily pull his charter. What is obvious is that Wendy Robinson and by extension Harriet Inskeep and her reporters and columnists at the JG despise Don Willis for having the balls to challenge Wendy and get some of her money.

Around the time of the 1948 presidential campaign, Harry Truman was getting the same kind of treatment from the ALL the major papers. In a letter he never mailed he wrote "The prostitutes of the mind in my opinion are more dangerous to the future of mankind than the prostitutes of the body". He had a special contempt for the papers' owners, who were "character assassins" and their columnist doing the dirty work who were "no better than whores (Harry had a way with words, didn't he) in that they offered their favors for money". He did respect the reporters who were trying to make a living getting stories. But the JG articles, while written by reporters as "news" read more like a hatchet job on Imagine Schools. They belong in the editorial pages along with similarly biased opinions such as Karen Francisco's Sunday piece, "Who's Minding the Charters?".

Sunday, Karen also favored us with her opinions on revised state proposals for teacher licensing. She talks about attending a class for illiterate middle age people who had been "failed at some point by Indiana schools". "For too many years students somehow passed from grade to grade without making the connections that would somehow engage them in learning". She implies that "rigorous academic standards and accountability requirements for teachers and schools" now in place keep that from happening now.

WRONG!! Hello, Karen, get a clue. We're still "somehow passing students from grade t0 grade"! Having standards is totally different from achieving standards. In her classic story on "One School" she failed to mention that all the struggling students going through that middle school are being socially promoted from grade to grade and out the door into high school whether they meet the standards or not. These kids, about half (going by last fall's GQE scores) of the freshmen coming into our high schools, don't meet the standards and start high school unprepared. That's why our high schools are failing. "Freshman Academy" isn't going to fix that. "High School Reinvent" won't fix that. We can't do remediation in the high schools. Half of those unprepared kids will drop out. The rest, after failing five times to pass the required GQE, will get a diploma with a waiver. You'll see them in those literacy classes in the coming years, Karen.

The high schools won't do better if our elementary and middle schools don't do better. If Imagine can get kids coming out of their elementary schools ready for the next step they could put FWCS elementary schools out of business. That prospect has Wendy and the teacher's union (and by extension the JG) in hysterics. Because it's not about the kids. It's about their money and their jobs.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mark Twain to the JG "First God made idiots...

In today's JG, Dan Stockman and Kelly Soderlund go on and on about the lack of influence the local board has over Imagine Schools. Dan's wife Krista, by the way, works for FWCS as a public relations person. She gets more than $60K a year from the taxpayers to issue platitudes about school matters to the public and the media, a job she does very well (why that's worth $60K per year to the taxpayers is another question). But I'm sure that has much less influence on Dan's opinions than what the Innskeeps want us to hear.

As Mark Twain said over 100 years ago. "First God made idiots. That was just for practice. Then he made school boards." What good is a "local" board that doesn't have a clue what's going on in our classrooms? What good is a local board elected with money from the teachers union and local building contractors? What good is a local board who's main agenda is patting each other and the superintendent on the back? By failing to stop the slide in academic achievement, they have effectively ceded their function to the state and eventually the feds.

Go to an FWCS board meeting and count the number of people in attendance who don't work for the district or the media. After sitting through a meeting or two, you'll never come back. The test for a school district is the choice people make on where they send their kids. If Imagine Schools can't attract students, they will go out of business. That's all that matters at the end of the day.

Nice picture of Imagine's Wells Street campus, by the way. Aren't you going to tell us how Don Willis ended up with such nice buildings without spending any of the taxpayer's money?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Earth to the JG, "Charter Schools not the Problem"

Today the Journal Gazette, on behalf of FWCS, launched a frontal attack on Imagine Schools. In case you're wondering which planet the JG and FWCS are on, the name of the planet is "Money". This has nothing to do with the quality of education offered at Imagine Schools , which should be the primary concern. Despite the professions of Mark GiaQuinta that they "welcome the competition" (he's only pissed off because the Imagine School on Broadway has air conditioning as does the campus on Wells Street thanks to Becky Hill), Wendy Robinson is seething because Don Willis is taking some of her money. The teachers union is awash with rumors that the state will turn South Side, North Side and, soon after, Wayne high schools into charter schools.

What are they worried about? Eventually, a well run charter system will probably do a better job academically than the current establishment schools and maybe even do it for less money. We can only hope. If not, charter schools will fade away and the status quo will reign on Clinton Street. This is not New Orleans. We can't hope for a hurricane to give us the opportunity to start over. This is not Washington DC either. We don't have a mayor with the power to dissolve the school board and let someone like Michelle Rhee clean house.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another nasty remonstrance in New Haven

Today's JG political column included comments from the president of the New Haven city council on the deplorable tactics used by opponents in the Jury Pool signature campaign. Well, what did they expect? The three recent remonstrances carried out in this area- the FWCS, Columbia City and Jury Pool bond issues all caused hard feelings in their respective communities. The amount of money was not the issue in any of the campaigns. The issue was an arrogant group of public officials who used what might have been a legitimate need as a vehicle to get their wish list funded. At the end he said if they don't get their project, close the pool! The remonstrators didn't want the pool closed, they just wanted to spend what was necessary to fix it and keep it open

Will they ever learn? No way. During last year's school board campaign FWCS board member Becky Hill cited the need for officials to know the difference between "needs" and "wants". This comes from someone who signed a yellow petition. Becky Hill doesn't know the difference any more than Steve Corona did. John Pierce led the yellow ribbon effort. The only saving grace is that the next proposal will end up as a ballot referendum. Thanks Mitch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can the Brits fix FWCS high schools ?

Because of the failure of the FWCS high schools to improve ISTEP passing rates for several years, the State of Indiana has contracted a group from Cambridge University (that's what I'm told, although Cambridge Mass. would make more sense) to assess the situation at North Side and South Side high schools (how did Wayne get left out?) and find out what's wrong. It's not really that complicated. The high schools are stuck with kids from our middle schools, half of whom are socially promoted through to the 9th grade every year. No significant improvement in the high schools is possible until the product of the middle schools improves, and that has to start in the elementary schools.

You might feel sorry for the high school principals, who are caught in the middle, knowing there is not much they can do. You might, except they will never tell the public or our clueless school board members what's really going on in their buildings. It's all happy talk and pablum for public consumption. Let's see if the Cambridge group catches on.

(The JG confirmed today that they're from Cambridge Mass.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Still no "WOW" day at FWCS

The spring test scores were no better than the fall test scores, so the JG chimed in with an editorial about the need for pre-school programs to help disadvantaged kids catch up. Apparently full day kindergarten, the previous solution, hasn't done the trick, although now that we have it, it's here to stay, whether it helps or not. Maybe pre-school is the answer. Maybe those of us who have books at home should adopt all the kids from homes without books. We appear to care more about these kids than their parents do.

What's obvious is that FWCS can't improve their scores. But they never seem to be able to just come out and say that because they can't admit that they're going down the same track as every other urban district. That eventually means declining resources and declining enrollment. So when they come up with another building remodeling proposal, what's in it for the taxpayers? Nothing. Many of their buildings will eventually be empty. As the inevitable happens, all that can be justified is keeping the buildings we have viable.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Race To the Top" Grants Mean Teacher Merit Pay

To be eligible for billions in Federal money under the Obama "Race to the Top" initiative for public schools, states must not prohibit merit pay systems for teachers. Indiana's legislature repealed its prohibition of teacher merit pay (and did not set a limit on charter schools pushed for by the Democrats) but individual districts like FWCS have union contracts which don't allow the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. Teachers don't want pay tied to raw test scores, which is understandable. But there are ways to tie salaries to improvements in test scores.

Although the state is now in compliance, presumably FWCS as a district will be ineligible for federal money unless they change their stance. With contract talks coming up let's see how they react. I predict they'll react along the lines of the Washington, DC union , which voted down the offer of six figure teacher salaries based on objective evaluations to preserve their seniority system.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Our "humble" public schools

In a column in the JG, John Ellis laments the callous actions of the Governor and the Republican legislators in "trying to destroy our public schools". Well, if they're trying to destroy the "public schools as we know them" as Mitch Daniels said, we should cheer them on. According to Ellis, the "humble" public school is one of mankind's great inventions. Except the humble public school doesn't exist. The "public" schools don't belong to the public. They belong to an arrogant government run bureaucracy in bed with the teachers' unions and the Democratic Party.

Who is John Ellis? He's the head of the Indiana school superintendents' association. He's a lobbyist. Why do our "humble" public schools and their "humble" superintendents need a lobbyist? To get more money from the taxpayers wallets for preserving the education establishment and the status quo. And in picking Mr. Ellis the superintendents couldn't couldn't have made a better choice. Having seen him in action in front of the house budget committee, I can say he represents the arrogance of the education bureaucracy quite well.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

South Bend public schools "fail at everything"

According to an editorial in the JG this morning, Mishawaka Democratic state representative Craig Fry lashed out at the South Bend school district, which did better under the new state budget than Mishawaka because of the influence of Democratic house majority leader Pat Bauer of South Bend. Image that. What does a state Democratic representative know about the condition of our public schools besides how much the teachers union contributed to his campaign?

Fry reportedly said "they fail at everything. Their school board is a disaster, it's an embarrassment and it goes right down the line." Now wait a minute! FWCS ISTEP passing rates are only about 5% better than South Bend's. Should we infer that our school board is only 5% less of an embarrassment than theirs? Of course not. He means 5% on average. While some of our board members are a total embarrassment, the others even it out. Sort of like the schools north of Coliseum Boulevard making up for the ones on my side of town.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Arne Duncan wimps out

Obama's secretary of education, Arne Duncan, former superintendent of Chicago's public schools was interviewed by Diane Rheem on WBOI (Public Radio) this morning. For one hour we got nothing but political blather and dancing around the issues from the man who's supposed to turn our public schools around.

Indiana school superintendents, including Eugene White of Indianapolis have cited No Child Left Behind and PL 217, which allows Indiana teachers to unionize, as the two biggest obstacles to improving Indiana's public schools, especially the urban public schools which are in dire need of change. But Arne never once mentioned the dominance of public education by teacher's unions. Perhaps that's because those unions gave $500 million to Obama's campaign. Teachers' unions are the number one obstacle to change in public education. If your district is doing well and doesn't need to change, unions are not a problem. If your district, like FWCS, is sinking, you'll have to vote with your feet if you can afford it. Like GM and the UAW, the end result is just a matter of time.

When asked why charter schools could succeed in urban areas where traditional public schools failed, he wouldn't say it's because charter school teachers are not unionized. He talked about excellent data bases on students and teachers in California, which couldn't be merged to evaluate teacher performance based on student improvement. He complained that in California, as in most places, 10% of teachers are excellent, 10% are incompetent and the rest are in between. But there was no way to know in which category a teacher fell. That's because teachers and their unions adamantly oppose any evaluation system. And if they lost that battle, their union would still protect the incompetent teachers from dismissal. Apparently, teachers, like the children of Lake Wobegon, are all above average.

Then he said we are in a new age where dropouts and even kids without a post secondary no longer have manufacturing jobs as an avenue to make a decent living. So do you think Arne and Barack are going to change that? No way!

Their approach is to hold out stimulus money as bait to get public schools to do the right thing. If you've ever owned a boat, you've heard it described as a hole in the water to throw your money into. If you don't own a boat, you can throw your money onto the hole in Washington D.C. and the one on South Clinton street.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Karen Francisco smoking?

Anyone who doubts the need for a massive sewer project hasn't read Ms. Francisco's piece on FWCS in Sunday's JG Perspective. Rolling your pant legs up won't be enough. You'll have to take them off to keep them out of the new level of bullshit Ms. Francisco reaches. Only at the end , when we hear that Wendy, excuse me, I mean Dr. Robinson, could serve in the Obama administration, does it make any sense. As Henny Youngman would have said, "Barack, take my superintendent, please." Maybe then we can find someone who can actually get the test scores up.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rev. McGill dumps on EACS

In this morning's JG a local minister attacked EACS recommendation to close Harding High School citing it as an example of that system's disregard for the education of poor (African American) kids. Most of what he says about the failure of the education system to deal with kids from poverty is true, but singling out EACS is unwarranted. Black students at Harding are doing better on the ISTEP than black students in FWCS. The problem is that having them concentrated in one school shines a spotlight on the problem.

Why dump on Kay Novotny, when FWCS, with a black superintendent, is doing a worse job than EACS educating black kids? Because FWCS has "racial balance" which spreads the problem over all its schools making it much less obvious what's going on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SACS votes money for academics

Yes, people in Aboite may have nicer school buildings, but they also recognize that maintaining the academic reputation of their schools is most important, so they voted overwhelmingly to continue paying for additional teachers. More teachers don't necessarily translate to higher test scores if the aren't used in the right place and the right programs. FWCS' $100 million racial balance expenditure, most of it going for extra teachers, has not achieved any demonstrable effect on test scores. But by and large, in a district where so many kids come in disadvantaged, more teachers, especially in the early grades should make a difference if used effectively.

So why hasn't FWCS proposed a referendum to add teachers in K-3? Maybe they think the academic situation is hopeless and the best they can do is give the kids buildings like Aboite instead of test scores like Aboite. Why not try asking for money for a few struggling elementary schools and demonstrating that it can make a difference? If that works, voters would probably support additional extra taxes to expand it across the district.

But that would also make it harder to ask for a lot more money for buildings.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


In recent years FWCS has cited increases in the number of schools making AYP as an indication of academic progress. Never mind that stagnant test scores made progress in AYP unsustainable, especially when the bar was going to be raised. So when that happened this year, the number of schools making AYP dropped to four. Needless to say, there were no self congratulatory announcements from the district (or the JG) this year.

Granted, defining a school or a district by its ability to meet all of 30 some measures doesn't make much sense. Looking at the list of outstanding scholars in the Sentinel yesterday shows that there are kids doing well. But the fact that one of the FWCS mathematics honorees was able to excel while reading novels during algebra classes, shows that the level of instruction is aimed at too many kids who are too far behind and falling through the cracks.

Redesigning the high schools won't change that. Some major redesign of the entire public education system is needed but that won't happen either. FWCS should be facing some stiff sanctions from the state for failing to meet AYP every year since the inception of NCLB. So far nothing has happened.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

JG telling EAC what to do

Yesterday the JG's editorial page saw East Allen's financial pinch as the way to finally improve that district's "racial balance". While they can never seem to find fault with FWCS, they have no problem going after the redneck district, primarily because of the dismal performance of Harding High School, which is almost 70% black. Presumably if EACS had "racial balance", in other words busing, African American kids would do better, although as Glynn Hines points out, they are primarily the ones who will be bused.

FWCS which has spent $100 million on their "effective" (the JG's adjective) racial balance program (voluntary busing and magnet schools) over the past 20 years had passing rates of 30% for black students on both portions of last year's 10 th grade ISTEP. Harding's black kids passed at 32% and 35% for English and math. For $100 million of taxpayer dollars FWCS' sacred "Racial Balance" program has achieved the same progress with black students as Gary and Indianapolis - NONE.

But then maybe the "Racial Balance" program is really a misnomer. Maybe it's really just a way to slow the exodus of white students from the district by providing a few high performing schools that they can attend (on buses) in areas that wouldn't otherwise have a good school. So why can't all schools be the quality of magnet schools? Because government operated, union dominated school systems are unable to educate kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Whether charter shools are the answer remains to be seen. But we need to find out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Laying off teachers counterproductive

With budget cuts forcing FWCS to cut staffing, it appears about 50 teaching positions will be cut. With retirements at about 30% of the normal levels that means some number of teachers will be laid off. It's diffcult enough to get and retain competent (not to mention lower paid) young teachers, without adding to their frustration by keeping teachers in order of seniority.

I'm sure there are many more senior teachers who would love to retire but are forced to keep working because of the steep declines in their 401K accounts. Give them an incentive (package) to retire and they'll be gone, avoiding teacher layoffs.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"arrogance and contempt"

Yesterday and today the JG was on Mayor Henry's case about failing to disclose information obtained with the taxpayers' money and proposing a casino referendum without disclosing who was behind the push for a referendum. Personally I agree with their position on this one but where were they when King Richard and a majority of the city council crammed Harrison Square down our throats? Oh, that's right, they were on board with that one. What did they say when Wendy and Steve (Mr. Fiscal Responsibility) Corona spent $450 thousand of our tax dollars to provide political cover for a record property tax increase to get buildings like Aboite? Well, they were the district's cheerleaders.

Selective indignation rings hollow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wayne HS project "under budget"

FWCS reported its technology conversion project to be under budget, allowing them to use the "savings" on other stuff. What does that mean? That probably means they used the old rule of thumb of estimating - get the best number you can, then double it and add 15%. Then you can crow about it when you come in "under budget" and you also get a slush fund. If they want to impress us with their accountability, give the extra money back to the taxpayers.

I don't have a problem with the educational concept they're trying out. It's worth a shot and if it works, they can crow about something that has some payback for kids and taxpayers. Just spare us the self congratulatory press releases. Pat yourselves on the back in the board meetings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Corona buys seat for $27,000+

Taking a page from the Chicago politics "pay to play" book incumbent Steve Corona and the rest of the new board members spent what they though it would take to keep the "Blues" off the board. Corona spent five times what he did last time to continue his long oversight of the system's decline. Those who backed the new members invested heavily in the failing status quo, including the contractors who make their money from FWCS and the taxpayers.

With the exception of Kevin Brown, no-one on this board has a clue to what's going on in the classrooms and what it will take to turn things around. They will believe what they are told by an administration that thinks the path to educational excellence is social promotion and "buildings like Aboite".

The irony that sweetens the grapes is that they spent way more than they needed to. They were all the first names on their respective ballots, which is the main criterion for most voters in a city election. If Diane Sliger had changed her last name to Armstrong, she would now be on the board. And Corona supposedly still owes himself $8500. Let's see, where the hell did I put my checkbook?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Last one is a "loser"

Yesterday's JG (no not my copy, I cancelled my weekday subscription) said Robert Armstrong won a seat on County Council without spending a dime on his campaign. He was on the FWCS board before that. All three new FWCS board members chosen in the last election were the first names on the ballot. Does that mean the primary qualification for local public office depends on the first letter of your last name? That's all I can think of as a reason for Steve Corona being on the school board for 28 years. Nobody knows who the hell they're voting for.

That's the bad news. The good news is that nobody cares who the JG endorses either.