Thursday June 28, 2012
The sinister looking main office building of Dade County Public Schools has had a banner on its south-facing wall forever, and for years it was a close-up of one ernest-looking student doing her work. Boring, and due to budget cuts that banner stayed up way longer than it should have, and over the years in the sun got embarrassingly faded and sad looking. Well, the school board finally decided to spring for a new banner last year, and this is the result. I can see how the intentions behind the photo shoot that led to this image were good, but the fact that none of the people who saw this image on its way to being hung from the side of the building said anything, well, it just tells you everything you need to know about the people in charge of educating our future leaders.
I want to count the ways in which this picture is terrible, but I’ll just note that the DCPS staff decided — at the very start — that sending a photographer into a school to take a photo of actual students actually learning could not result in a presentable photo and therefore they’d have to “stage” something.
Tuesday May 13, 2008
An interesting article on the discussion about which schools to close due to budget cuts. Sounds to me like low enrollment + crappy school (C, D, or F school) = a good one to close. Of course it gets more complicated, because there have to be nearby schools to absorb those kids. But the worst thing you can do is to have the professional staff figure it all out, and then close all the schools they recommend except the ones where there’s the most complaining. The solution? I dunno, maybe make Rudy Crew school Dictator For Life — did you see yesterday’s post? The school board is nothing but a thorn in his side anyway.
Monday May 12, 2008
“I do not believe that the effort required of my staff to gather and organize the information regarding job descriptions and cost of all board office renovations … is an effective use of their time.” — School Superintendent Rudy Crew, responding to a request for information from the School Board. From Michael Lewis’ column on how the School Board operates, which is a must-read. (Among info Crew is not interested in providing: where the overtime is going.)
Wednesday April 30, 2008
A Miami-Dade school principal offered to do his job for $1 per year plus benefits, and the school board turned him down, essentially saying he can have the job for $120,000 a year or not at all. The reason is some budgeting BS. Meanwhile, the State is cutting $60.5 million in funding to Miami-Dade schools (and, if you want extra anger with your lunchtime burger, “Meantime, there’s enough money to keep giving the owners of 20 sports stadiums and arenas — including the ones used by the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers — tax subsidies as high as $2 million each.”)
Wednesday April 23, 2008
An expansion at Coral Way Elementary requires cutting down 6 old Ficus trees, and local residents are protesting.
Thursday April 3, 2008
Any way you slice it, graduation rates for Miami-Dade schools are pathetic. It is astounding to me that school boards are too logjammed and uncaring to get their shit together and fix this. I know the problems are difficult, but there are good solutions out there. Get the experts together, figure it out, and do it. I know it’s hard, but is it impossible? (Alternate link)
Monday March 10, 2008
Update on the Edison Case: the school police are so disgusted with the way the situation was handled they’re holding a vote of no confidence in the chief. In other news, the arrest records from the brawl are a mess, which will make it almost impossible to try any of the students. To me, the latter news suggests the police arrested way more people then they should have — had they cuffed only those they knew had done something violent the records would be easy to produce correctly.
Monday March 3, 2008
“The tenth grader said a pizza was thrown over his head at an officer and that he was then told by an officer he was not getting out of the way fast enough. He said an officer slammed him off a table.” — Incident at Edison High School. A confrontation between a vice-principal and a student on Thursday led to a sit-in protest by many students in the lunch hall Friday, for which over 60 police were called in, resulting in a violent melee. Update: Does this look like “nothing more than a classic example of kids fabricating a story to justify their own misdeeds”?
Wednesday February 6, 2008
Wow, the state of Florida is deliberately trying to slow down enrollment to its public universities.
Tuesday November 20, 2007
The New School Preparatory in Orlando is suing a parent for publishing a blog critical of the school. This is just exactly the heartwarming story of censorship and corporations pushing around anyone who dares to say anything critical about them that warms my heart.
Basically, Sonjia McSween’s daughter attended this school (doesn’t anymore). She had some unpleasant experiences, and her mom started a blog about the school’s alleged practices. Yadda yadda, the school SLAPPs her with a lawsuit. Which is to say something like “We don’t like what you’re saying. We may not be right, but we can make your life so difficult that you will be forced to stop.” Of course this works like a charm, and the Sonjia McSween’s blog, here and here is long gone, unretrievable by Wayback Machine or Google Cache.
But the internet, the court system, the media . . . these things sometimes have a peculiar poetic justice sometimes. See, the court documents the school filed, by necessity, need to substantiate their claims, and so must reproduce the blog’s content. Read the entire pdf of the complaint blog lawsuit complaint.pdf, or just click the images below to see the blog’s content, as captured and reproduced by the school. And if what McSween says isn’t enough to convince you about New School, ask yourself whether you really want your child to attend a school that uses the courts to silence its critics. Judge for yourself whether her statements rise to the level of “slander” against the school. You may also note that it appears from the lawyer’s letters intermingled with the below that McSween complied with every obnoxious takedown request the school’s henchmen threw at her.
Update: from the Orlando Sentinel story:
David Simmons, an Orlando attorney representing New School, said the lawsuit, filed in late October, was prompted by McSween’s postings suggesting a possible kickback scheme between a psychologist and the school. Simmons described that allegation as “ludicrous” and “damaging.”
“We’ve only asked that she tell the truth if she’s going to make any kind of statements,” Simmons said. “No one should be able to hide under the cloak of freedom of speech by making false statements.”
This is pretty transparent bullshit. The wording on McSween’s website makes it extremely clear that the “kickback scheme” is a suspicion, not an allegation. What’s more, she provides some pretty convincing evidence for her suspicion, based on her conversations with other parents and the school’s administration (see second page of the above documents).
To boot, contrast “we’ve only asked that she tell the truth,” the line David Simmons gave the press, with “in order to avoid incurring and additional damages in the future, we hereby demand that you and/or your representatives cease and desist,” from his letter to McSween. “You or your representatives”? What a mocking asshole.
Monday November 19, 2007
Miami-Dade School Board members have to pay a public records fee — just like anyone else — when they request information about the school district they’re trying to run. Which would be crazy enough even if the fee sometimes didn’t run into the hundreds of dollars.
School District Chief Communications Officer John Schuster: “It’s a process. In some cases, the records are in storage, and we need to get them from a warehouse. In other cases, we need computer programmers. It can be costly and time-intensive.”
Two things: First, get your information storage in order. You know those commercials Xerox runs on TV, where you can scan all your documents (like, thousands of pages per hour) and make then text-searchable and instantly accessible from any computer? They’re talking to you, Schuster. Call ‘em up. Get a quote to ship everything to Bangalore and have it scanned there on the cheap if you have to.
And second (this one’s at a higher pay scale), STOP CHARGING THE SCHOOL BOARD FOR INFORMATION THEY NEED. Jesus Christ on a stick — are you really trying to cultivate the dumbest, least active board possible? I mean, if you’re afraid their requests will become an unreasonable burden, you can give them a budget for this and charge out of that. But you’re better off implementing the system I just described. This is the fourth largest school district in the country, and we at least deserve a shot at having it run decently. The school board can be a bunch of knuckleheads, but let’s not actually try to actively prevent them from making good decision, bokay?
(Also noteworthy from the article: this website, the school board’s “clearinghouse” for public records and information. Seems to be not much more then a collection of links to other spots on dadeschools.net, which itself deserves a bit of my anti-Flash fury, but there you go.)
Thursday October 18, 2007
If you’re a high school kid, and you get kicked out of marching band for having a straight D average, don’t hold a big protest with all your friends, because people will either laugh at you or shake their heads in pity at your sorry misguided ass, and they’ll be right. (That said, I’m impressed they got 60 people out for the protest.)
Wednesday July 25, 2007
The Homestead Housing Authority is kicking a Miami-Dade Public Schools program for the children of migrant workers off its property and getting ready to tear down their portable classrooms. The CBS4 report and DeFede commentary twist words to make it sound like it’s a full-fledged school, when it’s really a summer camp, after-school, and pre-K program, and omit the fact that there are other similar programs offered. Even with a more complete picture though, this seems incomprehensible — why not allow the free program that people obviously want? And why are the classrooms being razed; isn’t the whole point that they’re portable? Update: I love Jim DeFede as much as the next guy, but does this indicate that he’s as willing as anyone else to play word games and twist facts to spin a story a particular way?
Thursday July 19, 2007
“That’s why I hate the [Broward County] school board. It’s lifeless, no heart, no fun, gulag central, full of paranoia, run by corrupt and dumb political whores. And this case is just adding more coldness to the equation.” — Bob Norman, on the firing of a teacher over MySpace content. (The page is set to private, but there’s the suggestion of “fired in part for being gay” here.) Update: Bob updated his post with more information.
Thursday July 5, 2007
“We can blame teachers for not working harder to get their pupils to work harder, or principals for not working harder to get teachers to work harder to get pupils to work harder, or administrators for not working harder to get principals to work harder to get teachers to work harder to get pupils to work harder . . . Admit problems and strive to fix them rather than striving to fix blame, of which there is plenty to go around.” — Michael Lewis on the fact that 26 schools in Dade got failing scores.
Wednesday June 27, 2007
FIU and UM have a new program in place that allows students of either school to attend classes at both. But wait: it only applies to Doctoral-level students. What’s up with that?
Friday June 1, 2007
Yesterday was the last day of the school year for most kids. The punks (and the teachers who teach them) get two-odd months of kicking-around time. But this isn’t about bitching about having to work. I want to point out a post by Frances Nash about the last day of school, which pretty well summons up the feeling of the last day of high school.
As I sit on the curb and wait for Dad’s car, a tide of papers cartwheel in the breeze. Weeks later, they will crumble into the grass like melted snow: all the quadratic equations and gross national products, the research papers and dangling participles. I will try to remember them and draw a blank.
Congrats to all the kids that survived another year, especially those that just graduated high school. You’ll never experience anything like that ever again. Not that you’ll miss it, but it’s a memory that will seem more surreal with every year that goes by. Do like Frances: get yourself a digital camera and use it.
Wednesday May 30, 2007
“I went to the office and they gave me a paper that said, ‘Walk to your sister’s house’ . . . Then I told the lady that my sister’s house is far, then she said she didn’t care, ‘Walk home.’” (PS, his sister’s house is in Atlanta.)
Thursday May 17, 2007
About 70% of Broward elementary and middle schools have mandatory school uniforms, and Steve doesn’t approve (I think).
Monday April 16, 2007
DeFede on Rudy Crew, Miami-Dade’s Superintendent of Schools.
Friday June 16, 2006
Some cranky guy loves hearing the school board meetings on WLRN, and so do I. The actual issues are lost on me: don’t have any kids, and don’t usually even listen long enough to get the full gist of what’s going on. But it’s real life in the raw, and the seriousness of the issues is unlike any fictional entertainment.
Monday June 12, 2006
Over on Net for Cuba, Agustin Blazquez argues passionately for the removal of Vamos a Cuba and its English counterpart, A Visit To Cuba, from school libraries (via 26thparallel). The two books are in the middle of a giant debate, because it’s a “unreasonably sunny portrait of life under Fidel Castro.”
Blazquez’s argument boils down to this: if you remove books offensive to other groups (as is the school board’s policy), then you must remove remove this book, because it is extremely offensive to Cuban-Americans. The problem with that argument, of course, is that it could be used to remove books about nuclear power from schools if they are deemed offensive to environmentalists, or to remove books about computers if they offend the Amish.
No, the only sensible reason to remove a book from a school is if the book could be harmful to children. That would actually be the case if it misrepresented the political situation in Cuba. I haven’t seen the book, so I can’t make up my mind for sure. According to the description on Amazon, the book covers “land, landmarks, homes, food, clothes, work, transportation, language, school, free time, celebrations, and the arts.” It’s unclear how a denunciation of the Castro regime, or even depictions of suffering, would fit into this program: the book is intended for grades 2 to 4. What’s more, it’s part of a series, and I’m guessing the rest of the volumes don’t discuss the politics of the nations they’re from.
But yes, it’s a touchy subject, and it’s certainly possible that some of the pictures in the book cross the line. I suspect that what’s happening here, though, is that we have a book that is free of politics, and that is what bothers the Cuban-Americans. Any opportunity to criticize the Castro regime should be seized, and any such opportunity missed should be condemned. And while I’m generally sympathetic to that attitude, I don’t believe it should be extended to a book intended for little children. If all the it does is make the idea of people living in Cuba more of a tangible reality for children, then it’s doing exactly what it should to prepare them to understand the situation Cuban people live under. With any luck, by the time they’re old enough to learn about the specific politics, the Castro regime will be long gone, and Cuba will be democratic and prosperous.
Update: it’s gone.
Friday May 5, 2006
Wednesday May 3, 2006
Yes, FCAT scores are up, but anyone who’s even remotely involved with primary education knows the sacrifices that have been made for this: art classes, PE, music programs, and field trips have all been slashed or eliminated in the interest of putting kids noses to the wheel (or whatever). BTW, this is the kind of stuff Steve used to write over here, in the good old days.