Monthly Archives: September 2015

3 Huge Problems With the Charter School Movement

hite1Dr. William Hite Jr who was a superintendent in Prince George’s County before applying to Philadelphia caused a similar mess in Prince George’s County. has a story this week that distills many of the troubling qualities of the charter school movement down to a disturbing essence. All these millions of dollars are being drained in Philadelphia school district under Dr. William Hite Jr (pictured above).

Yes, it’s that bad.

This deeply reported piece by Alex Wigglesworth and Ryan Briggs zooms in on one school and one deal: the academically well-regarded String Theory Charter School, which is housed in a high-end eight-story office building at 16th and Vine. This is the same building that not long ago was the North American headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline. It would be eyebrow-raising enough if the taxpayer-funded String Theory were merely leasing such high-end digs. But the school — or, technically, a separate nonprofit run by two of the school’s board members — actually owns the tower, and acquired it through a $55 million tax-exempt bond deal.


It was the largest bond deal of its kind in city history.

It is also the most conspicuous example yet of a risky, expensive, and fast-growing financial scheme underpinning the rapid expansion of Philadelphia charters — a market now worth nearly $500 million. But the bond financing behind the mountain of money gets little scrutiny on whether the debt is a smart use of Pennsylvania’s limited educational dollars.

The lack of transparency can translate into deals that may be unsustainable. Shortly after moving into its flashy high rise, String Theory posted its first operating deficit. After revealing they were $500,000 in the red from paying out millions annually to bondholders, administrators told parents they were cutting certain classes and suspending bus service as cost-saving measures.

Deeper in the story, we learn that the school leases the property from that nonprofit controlled by two board members, and then collects $188,000 a year from the state, which reimburses charter schools for some lease costs. This is, we are told, not at all unusual arrangement.

The story also shines a light on the consultants and attorneys who are profiting off these charter land deals. One New Jersey firm has collected at least $5 million in consulting services for charters that have received municipal bonds to fund capital improvements and property acquisitions.

It’s a complicated story, and you really should read the whole thing.

But here are my takeaways from the piece.

1. Charter school administrators and leaders are every bit as capable as school district officials of making boneheaded financial decisions that saddle their respective institutions with crippling debt.

This isn’t exactly news, of course, but nonetheless the overwhelming public perception is that it’s public school districts that squander taxpayer money, not charter schools. This crippling, false perception makes it politically easier for politicians in Harrisburg to fund public Philadelphia schools at levels well below their needs.

To be sure, there are many charters that are managed responsibly and effectively. These schools are, by their very nature, independent operators, and the bad decisions made by some charters don’t predict bad decision-making by others.

But it’s long past time to set aside the clearly bogus notion that charters = efficient stewardship of public money, and public school districts = waste and fraud.

2. Profit-minded businesses are destroying whatever moral authority the education reform movement had.

I’ve long cringed when ed reform skeptics attacked the motives of charter advocates and others who’d like to see the public school system reinvented (or scrapped). With very rare exceptions, the individuals I’ve interviewed and spoken with in the ed reform movement over the years are True Believers: their fury and impatience with traditional public education is real and righteous. I haven’t always agreed with where they’re coming from, to say the least, but I’ve long dismissed accusations that reformers are in it for the money.

 Now I’m not so sure. There plainly is a large and growing group of interests within the education reform movement that stand to profit as traditional public education shrinks. There have always been the for-profit charter operators, the testing companies and the curriculum consultants. More recent are the reports of non-profit charter operators and leaders who have gotten involved in complicated financial arrangements with the schools they serve. And then there is the emergence of a profitable consulting and legal infrastructure that services the booming charter sector (as chronicled in the story).

Wait, you might say, much the same has always been true of publicly-run school districts! And, yes, reports of bad contracts, undisciplined spending and politically-connected consultants were, in the past, commonplace in the School District of Philadelphia.

But that’s precisely the point. Charters were supposed to be different. Traditional public schools were beholden: to teacher’s unions, to political masters, to a powerful class of consultants and attorneys. Charters were supposed to be the indies. But as the charter movement grows, a big corps of financial interests has grown up around it. Increasingly, charters look just as financially beholden to an array of interests, only it’s harder to tell exactly who and what those interests are.

This is a really significant problem for ed reform advocates, and I’m not sure that it can be solved. The moral clarity of the early charter movement — nonprofit, about the kids, self-reliant — well, that’s gone. Increasingly, it seems not just fair to question the motives of ed reformers, but necessary.

3. The charter movement is way too big and way too ambitious to operate on an ad hoc basis.

As reports, one of the entities authorizing these tax-exempt bonds for charter schools is PIDC, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. PIDC is an unusually effective organization (they run the Navy Yard, for instance), that’s run jointly by business interests and the City of Philadelphia.

PIDC’s reason for existence is economic development, and while you could make a case that building up charter schools is an economic development good, it’s hardly a slam-dunk, direct-line kind of argument. This isn’t a new Dietz and Watson factory.

John Grady, PIDC executive director, writes to say that the agency hasn’t made charters part of its economic development. Rather, he says, tax exempt financing “is regulated by federal and state law,” and that PIDC’s role is to administer “the legal process for accessing tax-exempt debt as required by, and pursuant to, these laws.” In other words, this isn’t a PIDC initiative, and charters are just using the agency to access tax-exempt bond markets, as is their right under law.

But is there a better way? One of the most interesting quotes in the story comes from Bruce Baker, a Rutgers education professor and a frequent critic of the financing mechanisms used to fund charter schools. As says:

Baker described the system as one that evolved out of necessity, with little foresight. No concrete financing vehicle was ever created for charters, and many schools had in the past relied on leasing buildings or taking out commercial loans with even higher interest rates.

“Who can blame them?” Baker said. “For each of the parties involved, their behaviors kind of make sense. But it’s still stupid public policy.”

There are 86 charter schools in Philadelphia alone, educating more than 64,000 students. This isn’t a boutique public education side business any more, and it hans’t been for a long, long time. And yet, we still lack coherent policy and mechanisms for something as basic as facilities financing for charter schools.

And it’s not just the buildings. The School District’s charter oversight office is still understaffed and under-resourced. And charter operators frequently bristle at the prospect of more accountability. But something’s got to give here. The charter movement can’t keep growing and eating up tax dollars while operating in the relative darkness.


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Former PGCPS high school football coach convicted of having sex with a student

0522-andre-brown-webA former Prince George’s County teacher and head football coach was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor Friday after a 17-year-old student alleged that he had sex with her in the boys’ locker room during homecoming.

A jury found Andre Brown, 33, guilty Friday in the case stemming from a September 2013 incident at High Point High School in Beltsville, prosecutors said.

Brown had been out on bond, which was revoked after Friday’s conviction, according to prosecutors.

Brown’s first trial in March ended in a hung jury. He faces up to 25 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

“As an educator who had the responsibility to care for and protect the students of his school, there is absolutely no excuse for Mr. Brown to engage in sex with a 17-year-old student,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said in a statement announcing the conviction.

The attorney listed for Brown could not be immediately reached for comment.
Read more>>> WUSA9

In California, New School Improvement Agency to Be ‘A Dramatic Departure’

The Legislation that created California’s Local Control Financing Formula and the companion Local Control Accountability Plan called for a new organization to account for the legislation’s results and help schools perform. The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence got a broad legislative mandate, including the expectation that it would deviate sharply from the punishment and compliance-driven intervention efforts of the last decade.

Carl Cohn-thumb-autox261-14898Carl Cohn, who started teaching in Compton 45 years ago and went on to lead Long Beach and San Diego schools, has been named CCEE’s first executive director. Cohn is also a former State School Board member and faculty colleague atClaremont Graduate University . Here is our slightly condensed and edited interview:

This organization you’ve agreed to lead bears an uncanny resemblance to prior organizations that the state used to intervene in schools and districts the state labeled as failing. These past efforts produced results that were modest at best. How is CCEE going to be different?

I think this is a dramatic departure from the past. Most of those other efforts were driven by state capitols and the federal government, but this is a major departure. The reason that I’m involved is that it is an opportunity to prove that the state of California has it right to emphasize teaching and learning and support for schools as opposed to embarrassing and punishing and shaming, which is what some have been all about since No Child Left Behind.

This isn’t a new version of previous CDE [California Department of Education] efforts at intervention. It’s a completely new philosophy and execution independent of the state bureaucracy. It’s designed to listen to people in the field and to bring them together around improvement. It also draws heavily on the principle of subsidiarity where those at the local level actually know better how to rescue kids that we care about. So, I see this as a fundamental departure from what we’ve done in the past.

How does that look different on the ground? I’ve got the 30,000 foot view .

Sure, I think as opposed to a lot of dictates and mandates coming from Sacramento, we start with the idea of collaboration, which is very different from what we’ve seen in the past. We start with best practice that is developed and honed at the local level. The idea is a powerful one in that you actually spend time in these places that have been labeled as failing, and you build their capacity.

In the past, it was a lot of one-off luminaries coming in and regaling people with their skill set, how to reach poor kids, how to reach ELs. In stark contrast, this is about embedding people in schools so that once you leave after an extensive period of time, the locals have the capacity to better serve kids who are poor, kids who are in foster care, kids who are learning English, kids who have special needs. Very different on the ground than what we have seen in the past.

Are there existing models in California or elsewhere you plan to borrow from?

Interestingly, the L.A. Times had a very compelling [op-ed] piece recently on Mission High School in San Francisco where extraordinary results have been achieved by taking this approach of starting with the voices of teachers and students in the school, and building their capacity to do better. I’m not sure that there is an existing state agency out there that does this. I’m interested in talking with Michael Fullan, Linda Darling-Hammond and others to find out whether or not internationally there is a model out there. But I’m excited about the philosophical underpinnings of this new agency.

The legislature in its beneficence has given you a $10-million budget, which in California budget terms is less than a rounding error. How are you going to get all this grand stuff done–embedding people in schools–with a budget that small?

I will spend two days in Sacramento, starting tomorrow, and I’ll be asking some questions about the $10-million: whether or not it is a placeholder, whether or not there will be additional funds, what are the expectations with regard to raising more funds in the philanthropy community.

I don’t find the initial investment of $10-million as an obstacle.

It has been suggested that a lot of what CCEE would do can be done through or aided by technology. Has this come up on your radar?

I think it’s an important part of how we will go forward. The whole issue of sharing and collaboration is important, and using the latest technology is a no brainer.

There are some other organizations using collaboration that are farther along: the Collaborative for District Reform and the CORE districts, but linking partners together with similar demographics to help the process move is a valuable and important idea.

I don’t automatically see technology as “Oh boy, because we’ve got technology we’re going to fix these schools or districts in a year.” This is a long, hard slog. Anybody who has really been involved in turning around schools and districts knows that there aren’t a lot of quick and easy shortcuts because of technology.

Is it possible to get the unions involved? Dick Gale’s organization that sits on the borders of the CTA, for example.

I’m a huge fan of Dick Gale, and actually worked with him when I was superintendent in San Diego. I think there are tremendous opportunities both in terms of the CTA and the CFT.

I will be sitting down with Joe Nunez (CTA executive director) in Sacramento, and I look forward to sitting down with Eric Heins (the CTA president) and Joshua Pechthalt (the CFT president)

Based on my experience in the second and third largest districts in California, I look forward to working with the teacher unions, and I think they will be very positive contributors to the work of the Collaborative.

The civil rights community has been seeking assurances that there are going to be hard number indicators of success or failure and demonstrable sanctions for people who don’t meet those indicators. This doesn’t sound like where you are headed.

I’m looking forward to sitting down with the civil rights and advocacy folks. When I was on the state board and this was unfolding, I was very moved by my experiences listening to representatives from faith-based and advocacy organizations including PICO, the Advancement Project, Ed-Trust West, and others. I’ll never forget the young people that I encountered at Our Lady of Solitude in Palm Springs, and St. Bernadine’s in San Bernardino, who spoke so eloquently about how this change in governance and finance might influence their chances for a better life.

What we have to get to is a conversation about how we get to a bias for action that better serves kids that the advocacy groups care about. Based on the feedback that I’ve received so far, we’ve made the LCAPs a huge new compliance exercise. What we need to get to is what I call a bias for action.

It shouldn’t be about “plan-itis”; it should be about better serving kids, and whenever we find that something isn’t working, we pull people together, we talk about how we can do it better, but the whole focus is on action. It’s not about checking boxes that some group is going to say, “well, that box isn’t checked, and therefore, you’ve got a problem.” We have been bureaucratic in the past, and I would argue that we need to take time, and we need to be better focused on how we can really serve these kids that we all claim we care about.

There are two impediments. One is the need for a metric to determine whether people are doing the right things, and, if they’re not, the ability to go to court. The other is the extremely low trust environment. The organization that you are going to head is really in the middle of trying to get advocacy organizations to do something other than sue people.

I don’t expect instant Kumbaya, but over time, I hope we are all saying this or that school district has a real bias for action: they are not doing the same things that they were before. They have new monetary investments, and they are spending it in ways that we think are reasonable given their circumstances. I don’t expect to wave the magic wand or for anybody to say that Carl Cohn has worked with whatever groups in the past. I believe there’s going to be a period of time where trust is going to have to be built. So, I’m hopeful that we avoid a lot of quick lawsuits and have some deep conversations about progress. What does a good outcome look like attained by this bias for action?

Your name keeps popping up in LAUSD as a desirable candidate for superintendent. Are you are at all wooable?

I don’t think so. I do appreciate Superintendent Cortines’ recent revival of his decentralization plan. If I thought that there was a real commitment to meaningful decentralization, and ultimately to full empowerment at the local level, I might consider it. But I still think that, as I argued in the EdSource piece, there is a lot that’s broken that needs fixing, and I don’t think that you want a superintendent who believes in ultimate breakup.

Via Education Week


PGCPS misleads the public on school lunches fiasco.

CNhioWDUsAA3-VYThe “can’t fix, won’t play by the rules” mantra by the PGCPS regime in response to the original tweet and the food did not come from their schools despite a tweet from a student on August 28th, 2015. (See below). The tweet shows an expired juice being served to the students.

This approach of misleading and falsifying information to the public rubbishes those who take care of our poor children in public schools every day, and also depicts a regime that is fully committed to the return of the imperial superintendency that caused this county so much pain and damage over the years.

So much so, that eliminating this sort of superintendency was the major reason for the demands for a new constitution for county schools in Maryland General assembly through HB1107.

In their press release, Their conclusion was that none of those pictures came out of a Prince George’s County school cafeteria. They said they know this because some of the trays, food items and milk brands aren’t stocked here.

And yes, while it is not as simple as re-allocating funds after the budget has been passed, a gesture of goodwill to engage the law makers, teachers, students, bus drivers, civil society etc in discussions on how, and when, these problems could resolved would be a healthy sign of good faith and respect.

This year the regime requested more millions for schools, an increase of several millions over the previous year and yet, they are in trouble accounting for simple things like good food for the students within the schools. This is the highest rise for schools in the region and one of the highest in the world.

We certainly need to demand better food security for our students this year, given the serious crisis of corruption within the county schools here in Prince George’s County, but throwing money at the Prince George’s County Public Schools is not the only way to deal with insecurity, especially when impunity, corruption and disrespect thrive.

>>> Read investigative news here. 



Why Schools Alone Can’t Cure Poverty

2995851157896dd09b85b_jpg_autocroppedSchool reformers often say that great teaching can overcome the effects of poverty. In this article, published on the Washington Post’s education blog, The Answer Sheet, I  discuss problems with this reform narrative.


September 18, 2012

President Obama and other supporters of current education reform policies often speak about high quality education as students’ only chance to escape from poverty. They also want to promote science and engineering literacy. However, their singular focus on schools as the cure for poverty violates a central crosscutting concept of science and engineering, understanding systems. The National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education makes the point clearly:

Consideration of flows into and out of the system is a crucial element of system design. In the laboratory or even in field research, the extent to which a system under study can be physically isolated or external conditions controlled is an important element of the design of an investigation and interpretation of results.

Not long ago, an otherwise healthy friend of mine almost died when a localized, microbial infection advanced into full-blown blood poisoning, or sepsis, which is characterized by multiple-organ dysfunction. Only a last-minute intervention saved his life.

Hospitals treat blood infections with powerful antibiotics, coupled with a multitude of strategies to maintain organ function. They recognize that supporting the essential organs is a critical care necessity, even as they work to resolve the underlying infection. Medical professionals understand that a successful treatment plan must address both proximal and distal issues, and that systemic illness must be treated systemically. Indeed, such an approach is now standard operating procedure.

In stark contrast, the current narrative of education reform says that by focusing on the apparent symptoms (e.g. low test scores and too few students prepared for college and career) and treating single organs, such as teacher evaluation and compensation systems, we can cure the causal infection (poverty). In the early 1990s, there was surge of interest in systemic change in education; however, those efforts were short lived in the face of complex problems and mounting impatience for a quick fix. Attempts at systemic change gave way to market-driven competitive solutions and a singular focus on measuring outcomes. We abandoned systemic change for symptomatic change.

To stretch the metaphor a bit, I would argue that the issues that often plague high-poverty schools — such as an overabundance of inexperienced teachers, low expectations among staff and even among families, insufficient challenge and rigor, inequitable distribution of facilities and resources, and inadequate evaluation processes — are akin to the organs. Their prolonged ill health may exacerbate the disease, but they do not cause it.

As with sepsis, we cannot ignore the organs and simply treat the symptoms of poverty’s infection. As with strengthening human organs damaged by microbial driven infection, we need to build up educational systems so that schools and their students are less vulnerable to the effects of poverty. We can give students a fighting chance.

We can do so most effectively in four ways.

First, we need to ensure that teachers have access to and develop expertise with a wide repertoire of the most effective cognitive, social and emotional learning strategies. They also need time for collaboration, support systems to help them develop professional judgment about when to apply which strategies and manageable class sizes so that the needs of individual children can be addressed.

Second, we need to transform the culture of schools and districts from bureaucracies to learning organizations, in which non-defensive self-examination is the norm. Systems with competition, punishment and reward at their core are the antithesis of this culture.

Third, for support systems to be most successful — and for instruction, professional development, and supervision to interact effectively — we need to implement non-threatening feedback systems so that assessment data can be used formatively for iterative improvement.

Fourth, we need to make a massive investment in improving pre-service teacher recruitment, preparation and induction.

Vigorous attention to all of these educational organ supports is a critical care emergency. Quick action on these supports can make schools and their students less susceptible to the infection of poverty, but alone they will not cure poverty… the real infection.

The more successful school systems to which the United States are most frequently compared have less skewed income distributions and greater supports for students and their families — a more systemic approach. Our most important investment would be in creating well-paying jobs so that families have stability. In addition, the security of universally available health care, pre-school, after-school and summer programs would bring to poor students, what is a natural part of the lives of their wealthier, and typically more successful, peers. The systemic success of these supports depends not just upon their individual quality, but rather upon their purposeful coherent implementation though community-wide collective action. Finally, we need to abandon the delusion of the last several decades that separate but equal schools are possible at scale. Instead we need to actively promote and incentivize schools that are racially and economically integrated.

Let’s not forget to use the strongest medicine to fight the real infection, poverty. Let’s not imagine that by getting more accurate measures of educational organ failure, or by propping up one or another organ that we can cure the disease. As a nation we need to do more than that. I think we know what to do, but so far, we never have. In place of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” we now seem to have a war on schools and teachers in the name of ending poverty. We can’t save the patient without attacking the infection. It’s time.

– See more at:

55c11a7a8ef05.imageWhat is the role of education reform in relation to the problem of family poverty? What is the best way to achieve greater equity in educational and life prospects for children of poverty?


Relay Looks for a Leg in Memphis, Finds Protest Instead


Can Relay Graduate School of Education produce quality educators after a one-year teaching residency in one of Memphis’ charter schools?

The University of Memphis is reconsidering this question after faculty senate members have asked university president David M. Rudd to reevaluate the potential impact of a proposed partnership between the university, Relay, and Shelby County Schools/ Achievement School District.

The proposed program is drawing concern from faculty members and people in the community, where charter schools already use young teachers who obtain teaching certification from other non-traditional programs such as Teach for America or Memphis Teacher Residency.

The faculty senate unanimously voted to independently investigate any risks that Relay might pose to current university programs. Additionally, a task force likely to include Provost Karen Weddle-West, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Dean Ernest Rakow, and Professor of Educational Leadership Reginald Green will be established to offer recommendations for a university partnership with SCS/ASD.

Relay is a one-year teaching residency program available to undergraduates from any major, and while their training period is substantially longer than other alternative certification programs, some feel that it is still inadequate.

“With what they are doing, it is impossible to become a good teacher — especially if you do not have an educational background in areas like the psychology of education,” said Mate Wierdl, a U of M professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and a faculty senate member.

Relay’s official website outlines of their curriculum, that includes reviewing recorded classroom footage of student’s teaching interactions, as well as online tutorials. Wierdl, however, is perturbed by other concerns.

“We don’t exactly know what Relay is doing. We know that Relay is a company based in New York. We know that it is four years old. Otherwise, it has no track record whatsoever,” said Wierdl. “It’s just the strangest thing — that somehow charter school teachers can train other charter school teachers, and in New York and now in Tennessee, they can give out master’s degrees.”

The funding of the residency program has prompted other questions. The program is said to have a total cost of $5 million per year, which is roughly the per-year cost of the most expensive departments at the university, such as the Cecil C. Humphreys Law School. Some are a worried that the University is footing the bill – a claim University president David M. Rudd calls “absolutely untrue.”

“The University of Memphis is not funding Relay,” Rudd said in an email. “As mentioned, they are an independent institution. Philanthropists have offered to fund U of M students participating in the program. The $5 million figure is simply untrue. The University has expended no funds on this effort. If students did chose to participate and there was any portion of their costs unfunded by philanthropy, they would have to cover the difference with their own tuition payments.”

Still for Wierdl and other community members, the concerns around the potential three-way partnership go beyond a price tag or a certification. They find the broader matter of the privatization of public education to be the central threat.

“With what they are doing, it is impossible to become a good teacher — especially if you do not have an educational background in areas like the psychology of education,” Mate Wierdl

In the time since the first charter school opened its doors in Minnesota, 23 years ago, major cities like Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. have adopted charter schools into their public education systems. Numerous charter school studies have been published, and the divide over whether charter schools are a viable and sustainable educational system has deepened.

In Memphis, the first four charter schools opened in 2003. Now, 12 years later, Memphis is in the top 50 school districts in the nation for charter school development. For non-proponents of charter school systems in Memphis and elsewhere, a primary concern stems from charter school contracts with non-traditional teaching certification entities like Teach for America Memphis or Memphis Teacher Residency.

Mischa Nyberg from Put the People First, a community action group that addresses social justice issues in Tennessee, runs community meetings of parents, teachers, and students. They discuss the current issue of the U of M partnership in informative meetings, so that they may participate in community discussions with U of M officials.

“The Relay Graduate School is part of a much longer, much more complicated narrative of the corporatization of public schools than it seemingly projects, as is the recently announced partnership with ASD,” said Nyberg. The ASD is Tennessee’s state-run school district that takes over schools that perform in the bottom five percent state-wide.

A primary concern for many are the alternatively certified teachers that populate charter schools who, in turn, often replace traditionally certified teachers with more experience. In addition, the retention rate for large entities like TFA is low, with an average of 80 percent of teachers leaving after three years.

“The Relay Graduate School is part of a much longer, much more complicated narrative of the corporatization of public schools than it seemingly projects, as is the recently announced partnership with ASD.” Mischa Nyberg

For Nyberg and Wierdl, this alone is cause enough for concern.

“Relay is not only a threat to the profession of teaching, but it is a threat to a good, quality public education, which we believe is a human right,” said Nyberg.

Wierdl sees the high turnover rate of less-experienced teachers brought into the schools from the alternative certification programs as more than a threat.

“The Relay program is part of a cruel human experiment on the most disadvantaged children of Memphis,” said Wierdl. “It needs to be stopped.”

Put the People First plans to continuously monitor the potential partnership, as well as keep community members abreast of the latest developments.

The newly formed task-force will be holding meetings over the next few months. “This will allow for as much time as needed to identify and discuss all concerns,” said Rudd.

Nevertheless, through its website, Relay has announced that Memphis will be its sixth satellite location. The announcement alarmed those hoping to publicly discuss the university partnership.

However, Rudd says Relay’s announcement does not signal a solidified partnership.

“Relay is authorized as an independent educational provider in Tennessee,” said Rudd. “They do not need University of Memphis approval to operate in Memphis any more than any other institution, such as CBU, Rhodes, etc…”

via The daily helmsman

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Tennessee flag


Prince George’s Co. Public Schools refute claims about school lunches


UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – FOX 5 is getting answers after a Prince George’s County student’s tweet about her unappealing lunch went viral. It all started when this student from Friendly High School posted a picture of a pizza that she said didn’t taste like pizza at all. That led to a wave of tweets from students from other school districts complaining about their food.

Prince George’s County Public Schools officials told us on Tuesday that they take food service very seriously and they started looking into this right away.

They said they want people to understand the pictures that hit Twitter on Monday were in response to the original tweet and the food did not come from their schools. They said they know this because they don’t carry the kinds of trays or brands of milk that were shown.

Photo PGCPS: Photos of lunch meals were not taken from our schools
But whether it was on purpose or a coincidence, when we visited the school, we found a few surprises.

Friendly High School in Fort Washington is the “Home of the Patriots,” but senior student Tamera Perry said a piece of pizza she was served for lunch was nothing to write home about.

“That wasn’t pizza at all,” she told FOX 5’s Marina Marraco. “It was just disgusting.”

Perry said the “Rojo Fiesta Pizza” she received looked bad and tasted worse, and it wasn’t the first time.

“I’ve gotten lunch where my mandarin orange has mold on it,” said Perry. “There have been incidents where the lunch lady had to collect our fruit cup because they were expired. Our milk has been expired. Open up apple juice cartons and it’s been green. It’s just disgusting.”

When FOX 5 showed up at Friendly High School on Tuesday, something else showed up — a truck from Prince George’s County Public Schools’ supplier Eastern Food Services. A delivery man rolled out numerous boxes of brand new food items right into the school’s cafeteria.
“If a student has a concern about anything on their plate, please approach a food services manager,” said Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesperson Sherrie Johnson.

She said there is a good reason that the Rojo Fiesta Pizza might not taste like regular pizza.

“That was a vegetarian pizza and it did have refried beans on top of it, and she didn’t quite know what that was, so there was a bit of confusion there,” said Johnson.

School officials said they looked at the pictures that were tweeted in response to Perry’s original post. There were pictures of uncooked hamburgers, hollow chicken nuggets and spotty food.

Their conclusion was that none of those pictures came out of a Prince George’s County school cafeteria. They said they know this because some of the trays, food items and milk brands aren’t stocked here.

“We took a look at those pictures, folks from our food services department, and yes, we cannot attest to the validity of those,” Johnson told us. “Yes, all of those pictures are not from Prince George’s County Public Schools.

But as is often the case, when we came here to look at the new food delivery, it was not the only thing we found here.

It was not hard to spot workers smoking in the cafeteria doorway of Friendly High School, a clear violation of the school district’s ban on smoking anywhere on school property.

“I will have to investigate and look into that,” said Johnson.

We spoke with Perry on Tuesday and school officials said they spoke with her as well to explain out that vegetarian pizza wasn’t supposed to taste like regular pizza.

But clearly, this has touched a nerve with high school students no matter where they attend class. Officials said if any student has a problem with any food item, they have the right to take it up with the food services manager, get a replacement item or get a refund.

via fox5



Enrollment up at rescued Pittsburgh Woolslair school

education2-4Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, read to second-grade students at Pittsburgh Woolstair PreK-5 in Bloomfield.

The second-grade classroom at Pittsburgh Woolslair PreK-5 was filled Thursday with children eager to hear American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten read them a story.

Having an adult read a story is an ordinary event in many schools, but the extraordinary part of this story is that Woolslair could have closed last fall. Instead, it has new life with a partial magnet program for STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — after parents and staff fought to save the Bloomfield school.

At the end of last school year, Woolslair had 104 students, but now it has about 170 present, with 184 enrolled in K-5, said principal Lisa Gallagher. It also has about a dozen pre-kindergarten students.

Although it’s too early for an official count and the numbers could change, much of the growth is in the STEAM magnet, which opened this fall for K-2 students from throughout the city. Other grades also are being offered STEAM classes, and the magnet will expand to additional grades in the years ahead.

Ms. Gallagher said she is “ecstatic,” adding, “This is what the community wanted, teachers and parents wanted.”

The school board voted in 2013 to start the process to close the school in fall 2014, but a new board rescinded that action. Parents and staff got busy, took a survey and found a demand for a STEAM program. As a result, the district approved not only the magnet but also using STEAM to enhance Pittsburgh Lincoln PreK-5 and Schiller 6-8 on the North Side this fall. It also is developing a program for Perry High School on the North Side.

Pittsburgh superintendent Linda Lane, who enjoyed a STEAM lesson at Woolslair the first week of school, said it is too early to know whether the students who chose Woolslair came from other district schools or are increasing district enrollment. However, she said, “The early signs are positive.”

Parent Valerie Allman, who played a key role in helping to save the school and whose son is in fourth grade at Woolslair, told Ms. Weingarten, “I think when it comes down to it, it was people who understood how important having a good, solid public education system in our community is.”

Ms. Weingarten also visited Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood, where a public safety program will be added to its career and technical education offerings next fall. The union’s Innovation Fund awarded the district $150,000 to help promote CTE programs.

via Education writer Eleanor Chute:

Liberty Bridge over Allegheny River at sunset with Pittsburgh skyline

Liberty Bridge over Allegheny River at sunset with Pittsburgh skyline



The “Cancel your subscription to the Seattle Times” parent campaign is on


Seattle parents are encouraging others to cancel their subscription to the Seattle Times, which is anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public school, and pro-charter.

Dora Taylor writes on the parent activist blog:

The majority of people I speak to are thoroughly disgusted with the Times and its biased editorials and selection  of topics headlined that seem to reflect the views and opinions of the moneyed few rather than providing real information.

Bill Gates bought a section of the Seattle Times and titled it the Education Lab. Yes, “Lab” as in a laboratory where he can do his experiments on our students.  It seemed it wasn’t enough that the Seattle Times was already a shill for charter schools and merit pay for teachers based on test scores, Gates now had his own pull-out section of the newspaper.

Now parents of students in Seattle Public Schools are fighting mad about the one-sided reporting and editorializing of the teachers’ strike and they are taking action.

Several parents I have come across in the first week of the Seattle teachers’ strike on various Facebook pages have stated they have cancelled their subscriptions to the Seattle Times and are urging others to do so as well.

There is a Facebook page “Cancel your Seattle Times subscription” that popped up over the weekend asking subscribers to cancel their subscriptions on Monday, September 14th.

The sticky post states:

Money talks. If you’re fed up with pathetic coverage of the Seattle teachers strike in The Seattle Times, join parents & supporters as we cancel our subscriptions on the same day.

Seattle Times customer service numbers:

206-464-2121 or 1-800-542-0820

And here is one comment:

Seattle teachers have voted to strike. Seattle Times will tell you that the strike hurts students. You know what hurts students? Racist, classist, standardized tests. 15 minutes to eat lunch. No recess. Under-resourced schools. Overworked teachers. Crumbling infrastructure. Growing class size. Reduced art, music, and foreign language instruction. Selling out kids and their curricula to the highest corporate bidder. That’s what hurts students. So I fly a big middle finger to the Seattle Times and a big thumbs up to the Seattle teachers. Go, go, go!

It’s because of a lack of real reporting anymore from mainstream media and corporate owned newspapers that blogs such as Seattle Education and Save Seattle Schools have flourished along with other websites and blogs around the country.

Dora Taylor


Charter school equipment belongs to operators, not schools, court rules

charterA charter school operator – not the schools themselves – own the classroom desks, computers and other equipment purchased with state-provided tax dollars, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.

The ruling represented a victory for the charter-school operator, White Hat Management Co., and a defeat for 10 now-closed schools in Northeast Ohio that claimed they owned the property since it was bought with public funds.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote in the majority opinion that charter school operators perform a governmental function and establish a fiduciary relationship with the schools they manage in purchasing school equipment, contrary to the position taken by White Hat.

That finding should allow the public to obtain charter-school operator financial records that long have been withheld, said Karen Hockstad, a Columbus lawyer who represented the ex-White Hat charter schools.

Current law largely does not address the duties of school operators and does not restrict the provisions of contracts between operators and charter schools, Lanzinger wrote.

Therefore, a provision in White Hat’s contract allowing it to title property in its name and later require the schools to buy back any property they wanted to keep is enforceable, the opinion stated.

Unless there is fraud, courts cannot save “a competent person from the effects of his own voluntary agreement,” the opinion said.

“The schools were represented by their own legal counsel and they agreed to the provisions in the contracts. They may not rewrite terms simply because they now seem unfair.”

The schools wanted the court to overturn a decision by the Franklin County Court of Appeals that determined that nearly all of the property belonged to White Hat.

The funds were paid by the state to the seven Hope Academies and three Life Skills Centers in the Cleveland and Akron areas that hired White Hat in 2005 to handle operations. White Hat received 95 percent of each school’s state funding to pay teacher salaries, building rentals, utilities and other expenses.

The schools’ lawyer had argued the funds remained public despite their payment to White Hat and that classroom equipment belonged to the schools.

About $100 million was paid by the state to the seven Hope Academies and three Life Skills Centers in the Cleveland and Akron areas that hired White Hat in 2005 to handle operations. White Hat received 95 percent of each school’s state funding to pay teacher salaries, building rentals, utilities and other expenses.

White Hat Management is owned by David L. Brennan, of Akron, one of the early proponents of the publicly funded and privately operated charter schools and a major donor to Ohio Republicans.

The court ordered the case returned to a trial court to inventory the disputed equipment and dispose of it under the terms of the White Hat contract.

The justices were split over various components of the ruling, with two justices dissenting from the judgment.

“There has been no quality education, there has been no safeguarding of public funds, and there most certainly has been no benefit to the children,” Justice William M. O’Neill wrote.

He concluded that the contracts are not enforceable because they “permit an operator who is providing a substandard education to squander public money and then, upon termination for poor performance, reap a bonus, paid for by public money.”

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote that the court should have overturned the contract.

“The contracts require that after the public pays to buy those materials for a public use, the public must then pay the companies if it wants to retain ownership of the materials,” he wrote.

“This contract term is not merely unwise as the opinion would have us believe; it is extremely unfair, so unfair, in fact, as to be unconscionable. … The contract term is so one-sided that we should refuse to enforce it.”  @RandyLudlow

via The Columbus Dispatch

132050A charter school operator – not the schools themselves – own the classroom desks, computers etc. 7869414428_4aafd91cf4_b

The Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center -The Ohio supreme court building (Seen here) -in Downtown Columbus.Ohio-Flag***