Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Still Believe in the Meaning of Christmas

“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.”

- Francis P. Church

A New York Sun Editorial

September 21, 1897

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing.”

- Apostle Paul

I Corinthians 13:2

It’s Christmas time. It’s a time to reflect, be generous, and believe in something greater than us. Wise men still seek Him. Better yet - show His Love.


Live Aide 1985 London
Youtube -


Trailer for Veggie Tales Saint Nicholas - A Story of Joyful Giving
YouTube -


Trailer for Nicholas of Myra
YouTube -


Samaritan's Purse Overview
YouTube -


Charles Schultz - Charlie Brown Christmas
YouTube -

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

School Prayer by a 15-year old

The following is a school prayer making the rounds on the Internet. A 15-year old student from Arizona is said to have written it.

Now I sit me down in school

Where praying is against the rule

For this great nation under God

Finds mention of Him very odd.

If scripture now the class recites,

It violates the Bill of Rights.

And anytime my head I bow

Becomes a Federal matter now.

Our hair can be purple, orange or green,

That's no offense; it's a freedom scene..

The law is specific, the law is precise.

Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.

For praying in a public hall

Might offend someone with no faith at all..

In silence alone we must meditate,

God's name is prohibited by the state.

We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,

And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks...

They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.

To quote the Good Book makes me liable.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,

And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.

It's 'inappropriate' to teach right from wrong,

We're taught that such 'judgments' do not belong..

We can get our condoms and birth controls,

Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles..But 
the Ten Commandments are not allowed, 
No word of God must reach this crowd.

It's scary here I must confess,

When chaos reigns the school's a mess.

So, Lord, this silent plea I make:

Should I be shot; My soul please take!



Red Skelton on the Pledge of Allegiance- Red Skelton Show 1969

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

We Need a Transformation in Education – Not Reform

“Chase down your passion like it’s the last bus of the night.”

- Terri Guillemets

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”

- Roger Lewin

“Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment and it’s not enough. Reform is no use anymore because that’s simply improving a broken model.”

- Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution

In education, we are heading in the wrong direction.

Sir Ken Robinson states in his 2008 Changing Paradigms talk at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA), that there are two reasons every country on Earth is trying to reform public education.

1. Economics - How do we educate our children to take our place in the economies of the 21st century?

2. Cultural – How do we educate our children so that they have a sense of cultural identity while being a part of the process of globalization?

Unfortunately, he notes, they are doing it with what was done in the past and not relevant to our current needs.

Sir Ken Robinson summarizes that our current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age.

According to Robinson, it was conceived in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment and in the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution. Education is modeled on the interests of Industrialization and in the image of it.

He states that schools are still organized on factory lines.

Ringing bells

Separate facilities

Separate subjects

Educates children by batches

He states, in view of the growth in standardized testing and standardized curricula, public education is about forcing conformity and standardization on children.

I agree. And I believe that is a bad thing for our future.

Our current juggernaut waddle of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT) is heading us toward a national test based on a national curriculum and killing what we need more in 21st century education – creativity and individualized instruction. This current politically bipartisan approach to education will lead to further teaching to the test, narrowing of the curriculum, pacing guides, and forced conformity on teachers and students.

Our current education system is not working. The current reforms will make matters worse.

I believe that the federal take over of education is the true intent of our current reform movement. The unintended consequences of these reforms will be increased student dropouts and the mass exodus of teachers from the public school systems. This may sound like good news to some, but it is not.

If our slower students cannot keep up with the pace – they will quit. We are not graduating a third of our students as it is.

We have a teacher shortage now. Despite the so-called great salary, benefits, and tenure of teachers, fifty percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years. And how are we going to attract the best of the best with corporate style performance based evaluations and financial incentives in a taxed based industry that never posts a profit? Are taxpayers going to foot the bill for millions of dollars of incentive bonuses in public education? California tried bonuses and we found that it could not be financially sustained.

Charter schools also have yet to show that they are overall a superior choice to pubic schools. And they have not yet been forced into the corner of literally having to education all students.

Our current education system is not working. The federal take over of education is not going to work. I rather see the privatization of a tuition free but profit making education system instead. It will be then that the entrepreneur spirit of free enterprise will give parents a true choice in education, improve individualized instruction, decrease the dropout rate, better prepare college bound students for higher education, and attract teachers by paying them what they are really worth.

This is not a pipe dream. It’s going to happen. Education as we know it is going to change anyway.


TED 2006

TED 2010


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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Unpacking Race to the Top (National Testing)– Part 2

It’s common knowledge now that California was not selected for the second round of Race to the Top (RTTT) funding. This releases school districts from their commitment to the binding no opt out Race to the Top Memorandum of Understanding agreement signed earlier in the year. I will, therefore, not be unpacking the California RTTT MOU agreement because it no longer applies to the education of students in California. But I will continue to voice my concerns.

The 10 winners in this second round of RTTT applications include Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington D.C.

They will be joining Delaware and Tennessee as RTTT recipients.

Race to the Top, however, has not become irrelevant for the remaining states. The goals of Race to the Top are still well on their way to being accomplished in California and nationwide. Also, the U.S. Congress may authorize a third round of RTTT applications.

The ultimate goal of RTTT is to wrest control of public education from states, local control, and from unions. I really wouldn’t have a problem with any of this if I believed that direct federal control of public schools would be an improvement. I don’t. I believe that federally control public education will have the same quality as federal government issued peanut butter and cheese.

Most of the reforms approved by Race to the Top are what educators have accepted as common sense good practices:

· An efficient system of collecting and sharing of student data.

· Formative assessments to guide instruction.

· Time during the school day for professional educators to meet as interdependent teams to collaboratively review the data to raise the level of learning for students.

· And the development of rigorous Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses.

There are other requirements however that needs closer scrutiny and a lot more discussion before acceptance. The scrapping of the California Content Standards to implement the Common Core Standards is one.

The Common Core Standards are what have become the national educational standards for English language arts and mathematics. Adopting these standards is a requirement for Race to the Top funding. On August 2nd, the California State Board of Education voted to include California among the 34 states that have adopted these standards.

The rationale behind national standards is that some states have adopted less educational rigorous standards than other states and are thereby beating the No Child Left Behind accountability system. If the state standards are low – then the high stakes state test is easier than the states with more rigorous standards.

Unfortunately, the Race to the Top requirement is forcing states that do have rigorous standards to adopt the Common Core Standards as our de facto national core educational standards.

The Associated Press stated that critics worried that the common standards weren’t as stringent as California’s frameworks. During the process of adoption, Kathy Gaither, California Undersecretary of Education, stated, “It’s clear the general consensus is that the common core is not by itself as rigorous as California’s standards.”

As a compromise, the complete Common Core Standards will be supplemented with parts of California’s content standards. The Common Core Standards will make up no less than 85% of California’s new education standards. About 15% of the standards will be from California’s previous content standards.

To be fair, much of California’s content standards while considered rigorous have been criticized for being an inch deep and a mile wide. Also, the comparison between California’s Content Standards and the Common Core Standards may be much like apples versus oranges. California’s standards are content standards with specifics on knowledge and the Common Core Standards are more procedural with emphasis on higher order thinking.

I am willing to concede that the Common Core Standards may be more of what students need to be competitive in the 21st century. Suspicion, however, should be raised when considering the political manner in which it is being adopted. States are adopting these standards to get the millions of federal dollars attached to it to stabilize their own bankrupted economies. The Common Core Standards became a requirement for Race to the Top funding long before the final version was released. And there is no evidence that these standards are any better than the previous state standards.

But alas, they are now the de facto national core educational standards. California’s implementation plan will have them fully implemented by the year 2014. The process will include revamping textbooks, teacher resources, and a new online national test in which California will help in its development.

California will participate in a multistate consortium to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards that will be ready by 2014. Unlike the current pencil and paper fill in the bubble high stakes states tests - the National Test(s) that will come from this consortium will be online. I suppose it will be more like click on the answer type test.

If No Child Left Behind narrowed the curriculum to what is tested, the new National Test will further narrow the curriculum to what is tested on the Common Core Standards.

California loses bid for Race to the Top education grant

Buzzwords in Winning Race to the Top Application

School districts shoot for 3rd round of Race to the Top funding

California adopts new academic standards

Common core standards –customized for California headed to State Board soon

Racing to National Tests?

Race to the top promises new era of standardized testing

U.S. Schools Chief to push disclosure of education data

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Monday, August 16, 2010

$26.1 Billion Federal Jobs Bill

“The poor man’s budget is full of schemes.”

- Unknown

On August 10th, Congress approved a $26.1 billion federal jobs bill as a one-time payment to save approximately 300,000 non-federal government jobs, such as teachers, police officers, nurses, and other public workers from lay-offs.

The bill is believed to not add to the growing federal deficit because it also closes a tax loophole used by multinational corporations and reduces food stamps benefits in 2014 back to its pre-stimulus level.

I am not commenting nor will I comment on the wisdom or credibility of how this job bill does not add to the $13 trillion federal deficit.

I am not commenting nor will I comment on the election year timing of this job bill.

The legislation provides $10 billion to school districts to rehire laid-off teachers for the 2010-11 school year. The remaining $26 billion would extend for 6 months increased Medicaid payments to the states. This would free up money for states to save the jobs of laid-off police officers and other public workers.

California is expected to receive $1.2 billion and restore 16,500 teachers back to the classroom.

According to a California Department of Education news release, the funds will be for the 2010-11 school year to retain, recall, or rehire former employees and to hire new employees to provide early childhood, elementary, or secondary educational services.

The funds are not meant for general administrative expenses. Nor may the funds be used to directly or indirectly:

Establish, restore, or supplement a rainy day fund;

Supplant state funds to establish, restore, or supplement a rainy day fund;

Reduce or retire state debt; or

Supplant state funds to reduce or retire state debt.

According to the NSBA School Board News Today, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan provided more details in a conference call presentation last Friday. The following are the highlights they reported:

His (Arne Duncan) goal is to award the funds to states within two weeks of the application being received.

In the application, states must affirm that they are complying with Maintenance of Effort requirements and are not using the money for “rainy day” funds or other state programs.

States must choose one of two options for distributing the money: 1) Through their regular state allocation formulas or 2) through their Title I distribution formulas. The law allows states to reserve two percent of the award for administrative purposes.

The law stipulates that funds must be used for salaries and benefits for school-based employees, including teachers, principals, and support staff. Funds may not be used for compensation for district-level employees such as superintendents and departmental directors (an exception would be district-level employees who spend 100 percent of their time working in the schools).

Duncan says his department is structuring the fund to allow “maximum flexibility” for school districts, with options such as rehiring or recalling laid off teachers, restoring furlough days or professional development days and reinstating teachers in afterschool or summer school programs. “The purpose of the law is to give funds to teachers at the local level to benefit students in the classroom,” Duncan said. If states and districts are not meeting the intent, he said, “We will challenge them.”

Funds awarded to the states must be made available to districts for the 2010-11 school year. Districts have the option of using the funds for the coming year or carrying over some or all of the funds into the 2011-12 school year. All funds must be obligated by Sept. 2012.

California may have two problems in receiving and/or distributing the funds from the Federal Jobs Bill. The first problem is it still does not have a budget.

The second problem is that California may have to prove it is in compliance with the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement.

Maintenance of Effort (MOE) is a federal requirement committing grants recipients to maintain a certain level of state and local spending to be eligible for full and continued participation in federal grant funding. It is meant to ensure that federal monies supplement – not supplant state and local funding obligations.

Last year, Governor Schwarzenegger wanted to cut the pay of 250,000 In-home Supportive Service Workers. The Obama administration over ruled the decision because California accepted stimulus money meant to prevent such cuts. The violation of the MOE would have saved the state $74 million – but cause California to lose $6.8 billion in stimulus money.

Also last year, California’s decision to increase the premiums in Healthy Families, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, was challenged as a violation of MOE because it would reduced the number of eligible participants while the state gained more federal funding.

This creates a problem for a state that has already cut $19 billion from its education budget over the last few years. California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, attempted to address the problem of maintaining MOE in a letter to the members of the California Congressional Delegation, but it still remains a concern.

In February, as reported in State EdWatch, the Parents and Students For Great Schools coalition requested that the U.S. Department of Education reject California’s Race to the Top [Phase 1] application until the state increases its support for public education to meet the minimum of MOE requirements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

It is believed that Governor Schwarzenegger lobbied in Washington to be allowed to decrease spending on education to below the MOE requirement.

Also in March, Herb K. Schultz, Senior Advisor to the Governor and Director of California Recovery Task Force responded with a point by complex point rebuttal to their letter. There seems to be ways around the Maintenance of Effort requirements in federal grants - or at least ways to attempt to get around them.

In May, another broad coalition, including the California School Boards Association (CSBA), California PTA, and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), took California to court. They are suing California (Robles-Wong v. California) to fulfill its obligation to support public education.

How will all this determine the use of $1.2 billion in federal monies to save teachers and other public workers from lay-offs? We’ll know in two weeks. I suspect that it won’t make any difference. The funding model used for education is busted. There are not enough available federal monies to make up for the $19 billion cut from education. We are playing a shuffle game with state and federal monies to hide the fact that no one has money. We will continue to play this shuffle game for as long as possible in the hopes that the economy will recover enough to pay the bills before it all falls apart.

What are the odds of getting another federal jobs bill when this one is spent, the economy has still not recovered, and it’s a non-election year?

School Board News Today – ED officials give details on Education Jobs Fund rollout

California Department of Education News Release - $1.2 billion estimated for California Teachers

CNSNEWS - Obama Administration Sides With Union on California’s Proposed Wage Cuts

Fix School Finances - Robles-Wong v. California

The Quick and the ED – Will Schools End Up Under the Bus?

California Department of Education – Jack O’Connell addresses MOE problem

State EdWatch – Feds to California: Prove Maintenance of Effort

Office of the Governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – Response to Prove Maintenance of Effort

California Healthline – Maintenance of Effort Looms Over Health Families, Budget

First Five – State Budget Update: Maintenance of Effort Requirements Could Affect State Budget, Health Access For Kids

With All Our Might – State & Federal Tug of War on MOE?

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Unpacking Race to the Top (California Version) – Part 1

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

- Benjamin Franklin


This is the first post in a series called Unpacking Race to the Top. In this series I will unpack the RTTT grant and comment on them. It may surprise some to hear that there are items in RTTT I believe are actually helpful to education. Unfortunately, the rush to grab federal dollars and cede local control to the feds outweighs them.

Race to the Top (RTTT) is a $4.35 billion dollars federal competitive grant authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) – otherwise known as the stimulus package. Its purpose is to encourage and reward states that are implementing certain reforms in the four education areas described in the ARRA.

Enhancing standards and assessments

Improving the collection and use of data

Increasing teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution

And turning around struggling schools

States must apply for the grant. We are currently in the second phase in the selective distribution of this grant. The U.S. Department of Education awarded $100 million and $500 million dollars respectively to Delaware and Tennessee in the first phase of the program. California was not selected in the first phase. It is now a finalist in the second phase. If California is selected as a winner for this grant, it will be awarded $350 - $700 million dollars by September 30, 2010.

California had until June 1st to submit its application for phase 2. [Special note – The Common Core Standards, a required adoption were not finalized and released until June 2nd]. Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Department of Education announced on April 30th that California would participate in the second phase applications. School districts or Local Education Agencies (LEA) had until May 21st to submit a binding no opt out memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreement to participate in the state’s application.

The cover letter to the binding no opt out memorandum of understanding agreement stated that to participate the LEA must agree to implement all parts of the state’s plan. [Special note – prevailing legal opinions opined that local school board action was not needed to commit districts to this agreement]. Once signed and submitted, the LEA was committed and could not back out except with permission from the California Department of Education in a mutual agreement or by being “kicked” for non-compliance with the mandates.

302 out of 1729 LEA’s in California signed and submitted the MOU agreement. The majority of them (two-thirds) were charter schools. An education law expert opined that the small (17.5%) turn out to be included in the application is not as much a factor as the inclusion of the huge major school districts, such as Los Angeles, in determining the viability of California’ s RTTT application. The number of students serviced in these huge major school districts is equal to the numbers served in smaller states like Delaware and Tennessee that were awarded the grant in the first phase.

In the next post we will unpack the memorandum of understanding agreement. We will look at the binding no opt out commitments of school districts that signed and submitted the MOU agreement.

Race to the Top FAQ -

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Measure of a Man

This world can analyze and size you up and throw you on the scales

They can I.Q. you and run you through

Their rigorous details

They can do their best to rate you

And they’ll place you on the charts

And then back it up with scientific smarts

But there’s more to what you’re worth

Than their human eyes can see

Oh, I say the measure of a man

Is not how tall you stand

How wealthy or intelligent you are

‘Cause I’ve found out the measure of a man

God knows and understands

For He looks inside to the bottom of your heart

And what’s in the heart defines

The measure of a man

- The Measure of a Man

Performed by 4Him

Songwriters: Stephanie Lewis, Don Koch, and Mark Harris

©Dayspring Music, Definitive Music

California is now among the 34 states plus the District of Columbia to adopt the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Common Core Standards are the national English language arts and math standards that will be used by the federal government to judge the progress of children, teachers, and administrators across the nation. Stand by for a future national test to go with them.

The National Governors Association Center (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) coordinated the Common Core State Standards Initiative. They must have done a great job because its implementation (before it was finalized and released) was a requirement for states applying for the $4.35 billion dollars Race to the Top federal competitive grant.

Cash strapped California is now among 19 states as a finalist in the running to be awarded the Race to the Top grant. The California Department of Education is hoping to be awarded up to $700 million dollars from the grant. If awarded the grant, it would only have to cede much of its authority in the education of children to the federal government.

Apparently we have learned nothing from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Race to the Top is NCLB on steroids. It will lead to further narrowing of the curriculum at the expense of science, social studies, history, and the visual and performing arts. It will continue the practice of teaching to the state test (or future national test). It will discourage risk taking in developing individualized learning for students. It will secure the dominance of direct instruction at the expense of other teaching methods, such as, the Socratic method. And let’s not forget, it will create slick gaming of the system and outright cheating.

California will eventually scrap what was already considered quality standards and fully implement the new standards in four years. In that time learning materials and the state test will have to be revamped. Actually, it will have to change everything. So expect a drop in test scores simply because there will be a new unfamiliar test.

Educators know that what fill in the bubble standardized norm-referenced tests measures best – is how well a student performed on that test. They tell us very little about what students actually know and can do. Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards are not about improving the education of students. The agenda here is the federal take over of public school education. Students will be squeezed and pushed through the schooling system as they are now but at a federal scale. Students will go through the one-size fits all cookie cutter system and then sorted to meet the needs according to the federal government.

Cash strapped states are falling over each other for a piece of the $4.35 billion dollars the federal government doesn’t really have to fill their empty coffers without regard to what it will do to education. Federal government schooling is in the future. And as a wise person just told me – if you want to know how good federal government schooling will be, just look at federal government issued peanut butter and cheese.

I have decided that it is preferable to privatized education than to submit to direct federal control of public schooling.

The Scores are in, and the Texas Projection Measure results are mixed (Look at how bizarre high stakes testing can get).

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Ring of Gyges

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking."

- J.C. Watts

“An invisible man is a man of power.”

- H.G. Wells

Back in January, I had the opportunity as the board clerk of the Adelanto School District, to make the district eligible for the Race to the Top fund by signing a memorandum of understanding agreement. Race to the Top is a federal competitive grant. I didn’t dare sign the agreement. Race to the Top and the agreement were never on any board agenda, discussed, nor given prior approval by the board. I believed, at the time, that the other trustees would have torn me apart for committing the district on my own without board approval. I was wrong. I have been criticized instead for not signing it.

Another opportunity came in May. This time the memorandum of understanding agreement was a binding no opt-out obligation to the requirements of Race to the Top. That means that once submitted – a district is required to follow the mandates of the agreement unless “kicked out” for noncompliance or allowed out with permission from the California Department of Education. The superintendent and the board president signed and submitted the agreement without it ever being on a board agenda, publicly discussed, nor approved by the board. The agreement was also not on the agenda for discussion nor announced as an action taken in the next board meeting.

Under normal circumstances this action would be a clear-cut classic example of violating California’s open public meeting law called the Brown Act. Interestingly, legal opinions opined that this is OK without explaining or citing a source that explains how the Race to the Top memorandum of understanding agreement is exempt from the Brown Act.

This is a dangerous precedent. School boards and other public agencies need to conduct the people’s business openly or risk the serious reality of future misconduct.

The founding fathers of our nation established freedom of speech and freedom of the press as a way to keep the government honest. Keeping the public informed on how elected officials conduct the people’s business is a safe guard against unethical behavior. I find it incredulous that other trustees are accusing me of misbehavior for exposing how the district became obligated to sweeping mandates without the public being informed.

Public governance is an honest government. This is illustrated in the legend of the ring of Gyges. In Plato’s Republic, Glaucon shares the story of how Gyges, a shepherd in the kingdom of Lydia comes across a mystical ring that has the power to turn him invisible. The shepherd uses this power to seduce the queen, kill the king, and take over the kingdom. Glaucon then hypothesizes that if there were two such rings, one given to a just person and the other to an unjust person – it would be the just person whose behavior would change and become corrupted. If no one can see what you are doing, how can they hold you accountable or stop you?

I submit that if we want to have ethical behavior from elected officials – we need public governance to be the prime directive in how they conduct the people’s business. No more polling board members on the phone. No more action taken without public discussion and board approval.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Avoiding the Public Scrutiny - Part 4

“A common colloquial expression in the English language, to buy a pig in a poke is to make a risky purchase without inspecting the item beforehand. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis.”

- Wikipedia

This is the 4th and final blog on the “Avoiding the Public Scrutiny” series.

Yesterday I saw Spain beat Germany in futbol. It was my first World Cup game. Awesome! Then I gave the live stream of the California State Academic Content Standards Commission’s discussion on the Common Core Standards 20 minutes. They are going to make a recommendation on whether or not these standards should be adopted by the state. It wasn’t as action packed as the World Cup game.

A question came to mind. If California already submitted an application for Race to the Top with the commitment to implement the Common Core Standards – aren’t the good people on the commission wasting their time on what is a foregone conclusion?

The U.S Department of Education has $4.35 billion dollars in a competitive grant called Race to the Top. To receive it, states must apply for the grant and agree to the sweeping mandates it requires. Implementing the Common Core Standards was among them. In submitting its application, California committed to implementing the Common Core Standards the day before its final version was released. The standards commission is only now reviewing the Common Core Standards for adoption consideration. Does the expression buying a pig in a poke (bag) come to mind?

Of course, it was the U.S. Department of Education that set the deadline for the Race to the Top application. Does that mean that Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, didn’t read the Common Core Standards before making it a requirement for Race to the Top? There seems to be a lot of that going on in government these days.

Then, of course, there is the Adelanto Elementary School District. The Superintendent, Darin Brawley, and Board President, Lisa Marie Garcia, signed and submitted a binding no opted out Race to the Top memorandum of understanding agreement without prior board approval and public discussion.

[This paragraph was deleted because there is a board policy stating that if in the minority of any decision, they (board members) shall abide by and support the majority decision. It is my understanding, therefore, that no matter how dumb the official decision is - I'm not allowed to criticize it. The above statement is valid, however, because it is about the behavior of two individuals that committed the district to an action without a board decision.]

It just seems to me that a whole lot of people are accepting a plan without a full understanding of its basis.

Please visit me at Facebook – Carlos Mendoza

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

California is a Deadbeat Parent to School Kids

"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."

- Benjamin Franklin

Class sizes in California will inevitably go up. When that happens we can jump up and down and proclaim that we are #1. We will be the #1 worst state in the nation for teacher to student ratio.

California has cut $17 billion dollars from education. $550 million of it was from the state’s class size reduction program. I remember when this program was initiated. The idea behind the program approximately 13 years ago was to provide districts with a financial incentive to bring K-3 classrooms down to a maximum of 20 students per teacher. The incentive was needed to counter the cost savings of larger class sizes.

That financial incentive is now essentially gone. Districts are reeling from waves after waves of state cuts they must absorb and pass on to their employees at the expense of our children’s education. Class sizes are going to go up.

The Adelanto Elementary School District, along with other districts in the state, requested a waiver of the California Education Code 41376 relating to class size penalties for grades 4th through 8th. This legislation set the district wide class size average for those grades to be no more than 30 when calculating the district’s apportionment from the state. Except for districts with class size averages above 30 when this was set in 1964, districts are penalized for averaging more than 30 students in a class grades 4th through 8th. This waiver will relax that requirement. Class sizes are going to go up.

What can be done about it? A broad coalition, including the California School Boards Association, California PTA, and the Association of California School Administrators, is suing California (Robles-Wong v. California) to fulfill its obligation to support public education. The lawsuit is essentially treating the state as a deadbeat parent unwilling to pay for child support. One school district, Cupertino School District, recently passed a resolution in support of this lawsuit. Perhaps more can show support.

Robles-Wong v. California -

Cupertino School District Backing Lawsuit Against State -

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Avoiding the Public Scrutiny - Part 3

Click on the image for a closer look

The superintendent of the Adelanto Elementary School District, Mr. Darin Brawley and board president, Mrs. Lisa Marie Garcia, signed and submitted a binding no opt-out Race to the Top memorandum of understanding agreement without prior official board approval and without public discussion. This signed agreement, if the grant is received, commits the district to requirements never previously discussed nor approved by the board in an official public meeting. Nor was the action publicly announced in the next board meeting after signing the agreement. And prior to my actions – the public didn’t know anything about it.

Why is this a big deal? It is a big deal because transparency in governance as described in California’s Brown Act is meant to be the prime directive in how school boards should conduct business. The Brown Act is a law that essentially states that school boards and other public agencies in California need to conduct the people’s business openly. In the case of Race to the Top, legal opinions opined that board action was not required to sign the agreement, but the California School Boards Association advised local school districts to secure board approval in order to comply with state law. It just becomes worrisome and a conflict when new legislation, contracts, and board actions are crafted to bypass the public scrutiny.

Disregard for transparency in governance leads to justification for all kinds of attempts to bypass the public scrutiny. Look at the above image of board item 8.10 of the April 20th board meeting agenda. The title of the board item is PTA Membership Drive. It is well described. The idea was popular among the board members. Helping to expand the enrollment of PTA membership sounds like a good idea. The funding source, however, was not acceptable. Most of the board was uncomfortable with taking $2400 already allocated per school from a Reading and Math grant to buy incentives for a PTA membership drive. It sounded like a school would lose its $2400 if it did not reach its PTA membership drive goal. It was tabled with a 3-2 vote. The idea behind tabling the item was to find a different funding source.

Click on the image for a closer look

Now look at the above image of board item 8.01 of the June 1st board meeting agenda – it’s devoid of any information. It turns out, with questioning by the board, that this item was really board item 8.10 from the April 20th meeting revisited without any changes, except devoid of up front information. The funding source to buy the incentives for a PTA membership drive was unchanged – it was just not revealed except under questioning.

These types of practices are not good examples of transparency in governance. Avoiding the public scrutiny is not how we should do business.

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California Government Code – Brown Act

The First Amendment Project – Brown Act

The Brown Act

Monday, June 28, 2010

Avoiding the Public Scrutiny - Part 2

Click on the image for a closer look.

This image is all the information that was available for item 8.07 on the June 22nd Adelanto Elementary School District Board meeting agenda. The title of the item is Board of Trustees - Potential Misuse of District Email System. The public, from this agenda, could not possibly have any idea going into that board meeting what this item was about.

It turns out that the board president put this item on the agenda to have a discussion regarding the district not having an existing board policy that addresses the use of email by trustees. Board members are among the few with access to district wide options in the district email system. It has been used to send out happy holidays and have a great summer type messages. So why is there a need to have a cryptic board agenda item on the subject?

Apparently, the whistle blowing emails I sent district wide brought the issue to the forefront. I include this board item in my Avoiding The Public Scrutiny series because it is directly related to the subject.

I sent out two whistle blowing district wide emails a few days after the June 1st board meeting. In them I revealed that the superintendent and the board president signed a binding no opt-out memorandum of understanding agreement for the Race to the Top grant without prior board approval and public discussion. Nor was the action publicly called out (announced) in the next board meeting after signing the agreement. Legal opinions opined that board action was not required to sign the agreement. Regardless, they committed the district to mandatory requirements that should have been publicly reviewed and discussed prior to signing the agreement. And prior to my actions – the public didn’t know anything about it.

Board agenda item 8.07 was tabled to allow time to draft guidelines for trustees’ use of the email system. It seems, because of the whistle blowing emails I sent, that the intent of this board agenda item is to draft a policy that will curtail the use of the district email system by board members. You couldn’t get that from reading the board agenda item.

Ironically, I am not opposed to a policy on board members’ use of the district email system. Written properly it could be a wise thing. I just find it irresistible to point out that it will be about keeping board members quiet.

Board agenda item 8.07 is not an example of transparency in governance.

Below is my public board comment on that item.

Further AESD Board Comments from Carlos Mendoza III – Board Clerk

June 22, 2010

This comment is directed at board item 8.07 Board of Trustees – Potential Misuse of District Email System (at least it was item 8.07 online – it may be different in the printed agenda).

Board item 8.07 on the online agenda is totally blank of information. There is absolutely no information on what it is about. I sent an emailed request to the superintendent and board president to fill in the blanks – I hope that was not a misuse of the district email system. I sent the emailed request to them because they are both in charge of putting the board agenda together. And even though I’m sure they put together the agenda with the advice of attorneys – it’s not right to keep the information from the public.

I suspect that this board item has to do with the whistle blowing district wide email I sent out to the teachers. In that email I blew the whistle on the superintendent, Mr. Darin Brawley, and board president, Mrs. Lisa Marie Garcia, for signing and submitting a binding Race to the Top memorandum of understanding agreement without official board approval and without public discussion. Prior to my actions – the public was not made aware of their actions. Of course, I can be mistaken and it could be about something else (we would know if the agenda was clearer).

If the board item is about the whistle blowing email, then I suggest we bypass the district email system for future communication. I created a new (just for education issues) Facebook page. I have links to it on my blog – Educator Musing ( I encourage everyone to friend me, so we can interactively communicate as a group without potential misuses of the district email system.

Also, traditional email is old. Web 2.0 technologies provide better methods of interactive communication. More and more associations are creating invitation only professional online communities for their membership. The online communities provide chat, video, forum discussions and other methods of communication. I urge ADTA and CSEA to create their own online communities to also avoid any future potential misuses of the district email system.

Please visit me at Facebook: Carlos Mendoza