Archive for April, 2011

Stan Mack is Back…..Almost!

April 30, 2011

Former “retired” Robbinsdale superintendent Stan Mack was a finalist for the same job in the Duluth district!

The three finalists looking to become the next Superintendent of Duluth Public Schools are being interviewed this week by members of the public and school board.

First on the list is Stan Mack, an executive director for the Minnesota Board of School Administrators in Roseville, Minnesota.  Many residents asked tonight how he would create a diverse staff and address the achievement gap.  Mack explained modeling behavior, staff development and community are important tools in closing the gap.  He also said he’s had years of experience and Duluth could be more progressive.

“Being surrounded by and benefited by competent cultural specialists to help meet with the community to deal with that adaptation of change is a critical aspect of my experience,” said Stan Mack.

Duluth could be more progressive?  Huh?  What is a competent cultural specialist? 

Duluth has apparently not made the mistake we did and hired someone else.

Free Speech Wins

April 30, 2011

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision and returned a First Amendment and Free Political Speech case to the U.S. District Court in MN.

On April 29, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion reversing the U.S. District Court’s decision in the 281 Care Committee case.  The opinion can be found here.

Erick Kaardal comments, “This published opinion is significant for Minnesotans in knocking down jurisdictional barriers to access to their federal district court when suing the Minnesota government for free speech violations.  We look forward to arguing the case in District Court on the merits.”

Nice to know we still follow the Constitution every once in a while!

Tea Parties Clash With School Boards

April 27, 2011

Here is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal;

YORK, Pa.—Trying to plug a $3.8 million budget gap, the York Suburban School District, in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania, is seeking to raise property taxes by 1.4%.  No way, says Nick Pandelidis, founder of the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government, a tea-party offshoot, of the plan that would boost the tax on a median-priced home of $157,685 by $44 a year to $3,225.  “No more property-tax increases!” the 52-year-old orthopedic surgeon implored as the group met recently at a local hospital’s community room. “If you don’t starve the system, you won’t make it change.”

Fresh from victories on the national stage last year, many local tea-party activist groups took their passion for limited government and less spending back to their hometowns, and to showdowns with teacher unions over pay in some cases. Now, amid school-board elections and local budgeting, they are starting to see results—and resistance.  In its budget proposal for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the York district has already axed noontime buses for half-day kindergarten kids, halved money for teaching supplies and raised the fees for driver education to $300 per student from $50.  District parent Sarah Reinecker told the school board she would be willing to pay more taxes. “Starving education is the last thing that makes long-term economic sense,” she said.

Legions of tea partiers continue to focus on the federal budget and debt ceiling. But many are following the strategy of other rising political movements, such as the Christian Coalition in the 1990s, and seeking representation on school boards. They are flooding this spring’s board elections, and creating an unusually long lineup of candidates in places like York County. Dr. Pandelidis’s group is fielding five candidates in May’s election and hopes to win a majority on the nine-member board.

From Lisbon, Maine, to Rockford, Ill., tea-party groups are arguing, sometimes successfully, against more property taxes, which in many communities largely go to public education. They say schools already spend too much on extras unrelated to core learning and that staffs are bloated, and they challenge the idea that smaller class size equals better instruction.  Schools are under the microscope on every issue. Members of the Maine Tea Party attended a recent town meeting on the school budget in Lisbon to protest a budget proposal that could raise property taxes to deal with a shortfall. Tea partier and district parent Thomas Barry, 51, said one local school had drafty windows, forcing the school to keep the heat too high.

“Two weeks ago, I went into the school to get report cards, and it was 90 degrees inside,” he said. “I was peeling off clothes left and right.”  School districts say they are already cutting deeply and need more help from taxpayers. The York Suburban district gets just 13% of its revenue from state and federal funding; the rest comes from local property taxes, and state aid could decline further under budget cuts proposed by Pennsylvania’s new Republican governor, Tom Corbett.  “It’s like they are saying: Cut at any cost—we don’t care about the service level and how it’s affected,” said Dennis Younkin, finance director for the York Suburban school district.

The Peoples Tea Party of Jacksonville, Fla., beat back a proposed increase in teacher pay. After learning in February that the Clay County school board planned to raise salaries 1.5%, the group urged supporters to call school-board officials and attend the meeting where the raise was to be considered.  “A lot of people are laid off. Why would the teachers look at this and think it’s OK?” said retiree Mavis Caplinger, co-founder of the Peoples Tea Party.

The board voted 4-1 against its own proposal, which had come after months of negotiations with teachers. Board chairman Frank Farrell said he worried that the budget of Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, which contained education cuts, would make the raises unaffordable. He said he wasn’t influenced by the tea party.  “Baloney. I know it had an influence,” said Clay County Superintendent Ben Wortham. He said the proposed contract contained union concessions that would have resulted in annual savings offsetting much of the pay increase.

In Rockford, Ill., on the other hand, local tea-party coordinator David Hale says the battle between Wisconsin’s governor and public employees has energized teachers in Rockford, about 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border, and created an “uphill battle” for his group.  In school-board elections in early April, none of the candidates endorsed by the Rockford Tea Party won, while two of three candidates endorsed by the teachers’ union did—even though the tea party’s pre-election media blitz linked property taxes to teacher pay the party said was exorbitant.  “I honestly believe people don’t buy that story,” said Karen Bieschke, of the local teachers union. “They don’t see anyone getting rich being a teacher.”

In Pennsylvania, the York 9-12 Patriots has a dozen candidates running for school boards, and has formed local offshoots, such as Dr. Pandelidis’s group, to monitor local budgets. Next, reversing the movement from the federal to the local level, they plan to scrutinize state and federal school spending.  At a recent meeting, York 9-12 members ticked off their list of school waste: too much technology; too many teacher aides; federally subsidized breakfasts. “Parents should feed them at home. No one pays for my children to eat,” said group founder Lee Ann Burkholder, who home-schools her children.

Dr. Pandelidis argues that more spending doesn’t lead to better results. While per-pupil spending has steadily risen, 11th-grade math and reading scores fell last year, he notes. District officials say that the scores don’t reflect the entire student body, but that they are reviewing the 11th-grade curriculum.Dr. Pandelidis recently gave the board a petition with 500 signatures opposing any property-tax increase. The board had been weighing a 4% increase and backed down to 1.4% “because of the political climate,” says Mr. Younkin, the finance director.

Sounds like this battle is here to stay!

Chicago School Bans Bagged Lunches!

April 15, 2011

In the realm of the unbelievable, check out this story from Chicago;

The days of brown bagging it are over for students in a Chicago school. In an effort to encourage healthy eating, their principal banned lunches brought from home.  Elsa Carmona, principal of Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, forbade students from bringing food from home (except those students with a medical excuse) after she noticed kids eating “flaming hot” chips and drinking soda at lunchtime. “It’s milk versus Coke,” she said.

Flaming hot chips and a soft drink are cause for banning bagged lunch?  As John McEnroe would say “you cannot be serious.”  Is there any evidence that kids who bag their lunch are fatter than kids who eat lunch at school?  And this policy has supposedly been in place for six years as we understand it!  Where has the outrage been?  And, of course, as with everything else. Congress and our camera-hungry president have to stick their noses in it;

As part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, school lunches everywhere will soon undergo a dramatic makeover thanks to Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed by President Obama last December. The act allows the government more power to decide what foods can be offered in school lunches, school vending machines and at fundraisers during school hours.

While the goal of healthy eating is a positive one, parents are understandably upset about the Carmona dictating what their kids can and cannot eat for lunch. Not to mention the fact that some parents may be able to send their kids to lunch with a meal that costs less (and one that could be even healthier) than the school’s offerings.  The kids are upset, too. When the Tribune reporter visited the school, one seventh grader led students in a chant of “We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!” Students say the school’s food tastes bad. Bad-tasting food, parents say, often means that kids throw away the school lunch and go hungry.

Of course there may be another reason to ban school lunch that has nothing to do with so-called nutrition;

It’s also worth noting, as reported by the Tribune, that the school district receives money from the federal government for each free or reduced-price lunch it serves, meaning that in banning homemade lunches could potentially put more money in the pockets of both the district and the school district’s food provider.

No that couldn’t be the reason could it?

So what to Americans think about this ridiculous government intrusion?  Well, Scott Rassmussen did a poll and here are the results;

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that an overwhelming 92% of American Adults believe students should be allowed to bring lunch from home. Only three percent disagree, with six percent (6%) undecided.  Support is slightly stronger among those with children in the home compared to those without children living with them.  Fifty-nine percent (59%) of all adults think lunch brought from home is healthier for students to eat than a school cafeteria lunch. Nineteen percent (19%) say a cafeteria lunch is healthier, but another 22% are not sure.  Among adults with children living with them, 71% say lunch from home is healthier. Only 48% of adults without children in their home agree. Adults under the age of 50 are more likely than their elders to believe bringing lunch from home is the healthier alternative for students.

Americans don’t seem to like this, nor do they much else the government is trying to do when it comes to telling us what to eat.

In December, just after President Obama signed into law a measure that gives the federal government the authority to regulate all foods in schools, only 23% of Adults said the government should set school nutritional standards.   Fifty-two percent (52%) of adults feel that sugary snacks and soft drinks should be banned from sale in schools.  But only 32% favor “sin taxes” on soda and junk foods. Fifty-nine percent (59%) are opposed to new taxes of this kind.  Just 11% support a ban on kids’ fast-food menu options unless they meet nutritional guidelines.  A move for such a ban in San Francisco was unsuccessful late last year but now is being proposed in New York City.

So Americans clearly saying NO to the big government food police!  Are our arrogant leaders listening?

Budget Deal Restores DC Voucher Program!

April 14, 2011

The last minute budget deal on Friday restored the voucher program in Washington DC that the Democrats and President Obama killed in 2009 bowing to their union donors!  Here is some data on the program from the Washington Examiner;

The voucher program began in 2004 and gives low-income students money to use toward private school tuition fees. In 2009, Democrats closed the program to new students. Now, the program is slated receive federal funding for the next five years.

5: Years the program is slated to be re-authorized for

$20 million: Federal funds to go toward scholarships each year

$40 million: Funds to go toward D.C. public and charter schools each year

$8,000: Maximum scholarship for elementary and middle school students

$12,000: Maximum scholarship for high school students

2,881: Students who received and used scholarships, 2004-09

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Thank you to Congress for resorting the voucher program that gives poor families school choice!

Hear Ye, Hear He, Public Meeting Coming

April 7, 2011

We’ve been struck by the silence recently on the possibility of opening a closed school for a possible magnet.  But, apparently the idea is still alive and finally the public has a chance for input.  An informational meeting has been scheduled.

Wednesday April 27, 2011

3rd Floor Boardroom 6-730 pm

4148 Winnetka Ave N New Hope, MN

Please attend and ask questions like….

What is the cost of renovating Pilgram Lane or Olson?

Does the public get a vote on this?

What will the kindergarten entrance policy be (ie; all the special privileges)?

What school year could this begin?

See you there!

Middle School Achievement Gap Widens

April 5, 2011

At the Board meeting on April 4 there was a presentation on the “progress” being made in closing the achievement gap.  The results were not encouraging.  In fact, the gap has actually widened instead of closed in our middle schools.

Here is the link to the presentation;

You’ll notice a few things;

The fall snapshot in Reading; White 84 Kids of Color 59

In the winter snapshot both groups fell; White 82 Kids of Color 53

Not only did both groups fall slightly but the achievement gap widened from 25 points to 29!  Remember the goal for the 2011 year was to decrease the gap to 20.  In other words we are nine points off.

The math results aren’t any better;

The fall snapshot in Math; White 80 Kids of Color 50

In the winter both fell slightly as well; White 79 Kids of Color 46

Again the gap widened from 30 to 33.  The goal was to lower it to 22.  So in math we are now 11 points off the goal.

Superintendent Dr. Aldo Sicoli was clearly not happy;

“Obviously these scores from the fall to winter Map scores at the middle school level are not where I hoped they would be.  We need to continue to look at what things do we continue to and implement and as effectively and quickly as possible and what additional things we can look at……this is one set of data, but it’s important data and we need to do what we can to help our students be as successful as possible.”

In fairness as Dr. Sicoli pointed out, the elementary scores were better and they are further along in the district’s “Response to Intervention” program.  We still think Dr. Sicoli has his head screwed on straight and one or two tests shouldn’t mean everything, but something has to turn around fast.  Going backwards is just not acceptable and if the gap doesn’t close, there needs to be accountability from Sicoli on down.

Mark Bomchill asked an intelligent question about the importance of early childhood education in relation to the test scores;

“There’s been a lot of talk about the relationship between early childhood education and performance in later years, on both sides of the issue, can we see if there is greater academic progress, specifically in non-Caucasians, if they attended early education through 281?”

Nobody had an answer for Mark, but it’s a good question.  The public school types get orgasmic anytime early childhood education is mentioned and it would be interesting to see if it really does make a huge difference 7-9 years down the road.  All day kindergarten has already been proven to make no difference by the 3rd grade so if anyone has any info on it please send it our way.

Overall, we don’t see how this news on the achievement gap can be spun as a success and parents, students, teachers, administrators, and policy makers all have to share in the blame.

Market That District!!

April 1, 2011

A big thank you an email that alerted us to this story.  From the Sun Post on March 9, 2011;

District 281 names new marketing director

Tia Clasen has been named the new marketing and communications program director for Robbinsdale District 281 Area Schools. She was among 50 people who applied for the position after Jeff Dehler resigned from District 281. Her salary will be $94,447 annually.

Clasen has taught elementary and secondary language arts and social studies in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School district for the last 13 years.  In 2008, Clasen was named that district’s gifted magnet coordinator, responsible for developing, implementing and marketing the district’s gifted magnet school and programs. Her focus was recruiting and retaining students in the district and finding innovative ways to serve under-represented populations.

Clasen graduated summa cum laude from Augsburg College in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She earned middle school licensure in 1997 in the area of language arts and social students, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 2000. She also has a certificate in gifted and talented education from Hamline University. Clasen serves on both the metro and state boards of the Minnesota Educators of the Gifted and Talented. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children.

Wow, just 94 grand a year (plus all the cushy benefits)!  That’s it?  Gee, what a bargain for someone to market the district to the taxpayers……at taxpayer expense!

Unions vs. Taxpayers

April 1, 2011

Since Education Minnesota doesn’t have a stranglehold over our legislators anymore they seem to be getting nervous!  Here is their latest email alert;

Educators: Stand up for your rights on April 4!

Calling all educators! You’re needed to stand up for your rights and the middle class. We need a large presence of Education Minnesota members at the Capitol for the We Are One rally on April 4.  Minnesotans will march to the state Capitol April 4 to stand up for jobs, a fair budget and worker rights as part of the nationwide We Are One rally.  After seeing the power grab in Wisconsin and here at our own Legislature, it’s time for Education Minnesota members to speak out! Here are three things you can do:

1. Join us in St. Paul for the We Are One rally; details are below, including free busing to the Capitol.

2. Wear blue on April 4 to show your solidarity for public education.

3. If you can’t come to St. Paul, organize your own local union rally, either before or after school, districtwide or in your building.

4. Have members sign our Solidarity pledge at your rally. And send us a photo of your rally for possible use on our Facebook page!

April 4 rally details

5 p.m. — Meet at Cathedral Park at the intersection of Marshall Avenue and John Ireland Boulevard, St. Paul.

5:15 p.m. — March for the middle class down John Ireland Boulevard to the Capitol.

6 p.m. — Program and music at the Capitol

Wear blue to show your solidarity for public education! You’ll find more information on our website.

Avoid traffic and parking — ride our free buses to the Capitol!

Because parking near the Capitol is limited, Education Minnesota is sponsoring a bus from each of the following four locations for the April 4 rally. Registration is free, but limited to Education Minnesota active and retired members and their immediate family, and first-come, first-served. Please sign up before Thursday:

• Blaine: Northtown Mall

• Bloomington: Mall of America

• Burnsville: Burnsville Center

• Maplewood: Maplewood Mall

Buses will leave each location at 4 p.m. sharp and drop riders off at Cathedral Park. Buses will leave at approximately 7 p.m. after the rally from in front of the Capitol on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Yes everyone….wear blue to show your support for educators and the Democratic Party.  Since federal workers don’t have collective bargaining “rights” we are still waiting for the Obama protests to begin!  It’s funny to listen Education Minnesota act like their the defenders of the workers, and middle class, and acting like the government actually creates jobs…..and remember all these people care about is the children!