Wednesday, October 01, 2014

APS' Legislative agenda hard to find

There is an APS School Board meeting tonight.  On the agenda, link;

B. 2015 Legislative Agenda (Discussion)
Presenter: Carrie Robin Brunder, Director of Government Affairs and Policy, and Joseph Escobedo, Chief of Staff
No action will be taken tonight, only "discussion" of the agenda of the leadership of the APS with respect to the upcoming legislative session.

Their agenda has to do with their administration of more than a billion tax dollars; on the order of a fifth or so, of the entire state budget, not just the budget for public education.

If APS' agenda includes something stake and interest holders won't support, it behooves them to keep it secret from stake and interest holders for as long as they can.  Not on the agenda; any mention of asking the legislature to allow APS to have their own police department.  Their current status is that they are police force.

The distinction is that as a publicly funded private police force, they have be certified by, in this case, the Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston.  The school board and superintendent resent the external oversight and are trying to escape it, but they want to do in on the Q.T.

The switch from police force to police department will make it easier for them to cover up administrative and executive misconduct.

The leadership of the APS and of their police force are covering up a cover up of felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators.  The federal felony criminal misuse of the NCIC criminal database, and the state felony misappropriation of money in evidence, were first exposed by the Journal, link, in 2007.

A few undisputed facts pertaining to the scandal;
  • no criminal charges were ever filed against anyone
  • because the criminal investigation was done by the leadership of the APS police force; the very people who were being investigated, and because
  • none of the evidence was ever turned over to DA Kari Brandenburg.  It was Brandenburg's call, not the school board and superintendent (Winston Brooks) whether to prosecute senior APS administrators over their involvement in felony criminal misconduct, and because
  • all of the several investigations into allegations of felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators were self-investigations done by APS personnel or their private contractors, and because,
  • the findings of every one of those investigations are being hidden in their entirety from stake and interest holders.  The leadership of the APS is spending operational dollars hand over fist in non-viable litigation in their relentless efforts to keep the findings secret from voters, and because,
  • the leadership of the establishment's media, people like former APS School Board heavy hitter Paula Maes, are willing to help their cronies in the leadership of the APS, to keep all this secret.

Walz assuring Dixon Award 
 Banquet attendees that Brooks
was a true hero of transparency
Chief among the establishment's press willing to help cover up the cover up is Journal Editor in Chief Kent Walz.

On the day of the NM FOG banquet for heroes of transparency, it is worth remembering that it was Kent Walz, and APS School Board Member and Defendant Marty Esquivel, who joined forces and bamboozled the FOG into giving their formerly prestigious Dixon Award to none other than Winston Brooks.

All while the three of them were covering up a cover up of felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators.

frame grab Mark Bralley

Monday, September 29, 2014

Every politician and public servant redacting their own record, breaks the law in so doing

In New Mexico, politicians and public servants are allowed to redact public records.  Among the records they are allowed to redact are the public records of their own public service.

Simultaneously with their self- redaction, comes an appearance of conflicted interests.  Did the politician or public self- redact their record

  • in the spirit of the law; in the best interests of the people, or
did they self-redact their record
  • in order to forestall their own accountability for some yet to be exposed incompetence or corruption?

If self-redaction is not malfeasance;
the commission of an act that is unequivocally illegal
or completely wrongful
then surely, self-redaction must be nonfeasance;
the failure to act; especially failure to do 
what ought to be done*;
*having the redaction done by someone whose interests aren't conflicted; someone who will redact the record "in the spirit of the law" and in the people's interests.

They act like deliberately creating an appearance of conflicted interests is alright just because it's "legal"*.

*Not even legal actually; rather; "manageable" by means of
their legal weaselry and unlimited budgets for litigation even against the public interests.

Adding insult to injury, not a one of them to can be compelled to defend, deny, explain or even acknowledge the appearances of conflicted interests that they create.

Who else gets to redact their own record?  Do tax payers?

How about some leadership from some organization,
association or foundation with a stated interest in 
governmental accountability by means of transparency?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More on truancy, drop outs and, what in the world should we do?

The apparent goal; every child who enters public education at K
will emerge 12 years later with an "education".

The quality and quantity of that "education" will manifest itself in the results of a battery of tests that students must pass in order to earn a certificate.

Any student who can pass the tests should earn a certificate (diploma, whatever) demonstrating the extent of their learning and skill sets.

It really does not make any difference at all, how students prepare for the tests or how much time they spent preparing; it is irrelevant.

All that really matters is that students emerge from public education able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to do whatever it is they intend to do next whether it be additional education, training or meaningful employment.

It does matter if students make adequate progress every year.
One doesn't want to enable a poor student to screw around for 12 years with little or nothing to show for it at the end.

Adequate progress can be thought of in the following manner;
every bit of knowledge is worth a point.  In order for students to pass their battery of tests, they will have to accumulate, let's say, 130,000 points (10,000 points per year K-12 inclusive).

The number of points from which any student might select, in order to prepare for testing; is virtually unlimited.

In order to be making adequate progress, a student must be accumulating on average, about 10,000 points* per year.

*The exact number of points and what should and should not count as a point will be determined in enormous public meetings of the people who read this post and who's first reaction is to pound out a comment about how this could all go wrong because of what might or might not count as "a point" worth learning.
If a particular student is not accumulating 10,000 per calendar year, then that student is not making adequate process and should draw individual and specific teacher attention and remediation.

Teachers will actually have time to offer individual attention and remediation, when we stop requiring them to standardize individual student performances using group attention to and group remediation of their individual problems. 

Teachers have time for individual attention and mentoring,when (all) students start learning more or less independently of the teacher.  Many students, if given the opportunity to become independent lifelong learners, will.  In so doing, they will each become less of a burden on their teacher and on the system.  Many of them will earn meaningful certification in far fewer than 13 years.

Because teachers will have the time and opportunity, they can be expected to continuously monitor each individual student's progress and path.

Finally, there is something to be said for mastery learning, wikilinkMastery learning and learning in unison are entirely different goals.  More importantly, they are inconsistent goals - you can't achieve both in normal circumstances.

Mastery learning is a practical impossibility except by individual learners.  How can any but the very, very best students possibly master learning material, while at the same time expected to move in "lockstep" with a bunch of other kids with whom they have nothing in common; save their age and the neighborhood in which they live.

Creating arbitrary groups of students to learn in unison is like having kids who are racing around a track 13 times, stop every time they cross the start/finish line, to form back up in five rows of six.  Even if you could, why would you want to?

Changing the education model won't entirely solve the problem.  There is another aspect of the relative failure of public schools in general and APS in particular.  It is the relentless refusal of the school board and senior administration to allow teachers to participate meaningfully in decision making on solution development.

There are in the APS, nearly 100,000 years of teaching experience.  That wealth of education, experience, dedication and expertise is yet to be included in decision making.

The "leadership" of the APS; the school board and senior administrators, do not regard 100,000 years of current and ongoing teaching experience as an asset in decision making; not on truancy, not on dropping out.  If they appreciated the experience, they would exploit it.  They would mine it for everything it's worth.

You have to wonder why teachers don't have a seat at the table where decisions are made with regard to how to best educate nearly 90,000 of this community's sons and daughters.  But not for long.

The short answer is that once teachers have a seat at that table, they're going to want to deal with issues other than truancy and drop outs.  One of the things they are going to want to deal with is administrative character and competence.

The single largest obstacle to empowering teachers (and improving public education) is;
superintendents and school board members who do not want to be held accountable for quantity and quality of their own public service.
the single largest obstacle to holding superintendents and school board members accountable for their public service from the speakers podium during public forums in APS school board meetings is;

superintendents and school board members who do not want to be held accountable for quantity and quality of their public service.
imagine that

photo Mark Bralley

Friday, September 26, 2014

Drop outs cost taxpayers a lot of money

Drop outs cost communities untold and unnecessary suffering.  Drop outs are a problem.

Somebody should do something.

Imagine an "at risk" student standing between two otherwise identical high schools.  S/he wants to go to one of the schools and does not want to go the other.  Further imagine you have the authority to decide which school the student will be allowed to attend.

Imagine you have the authority to decide which classroom s/he will attend.  Imagine you have the authority decide which subject the student will study next and for how long.

In every case would you not allow the student to follow their own path?

Our only obligation is to get them to the end of school; then able to fully engage in whatever it is they decide to do next.  It doesn't matter how they get there.

The immediate obstacle to individual paths to education is standardized testing.  Standardized testing is the mechanism by which the efficacy of public schools is measured, in the effort to standardize individual performance.  Even if we could, why do we want to?

For as long as there is standardized testing, there will be standardized education.  One cannot standardize and individualize at once.  A choice has to be made.

The mission, primary goal and first objective of public school education is or should be;

to create independent lifelong learners at the earliest opportunity.
The overwhelming majority of children who are offered the opportunity to become independent lifelong learners, will not turn their back on that opportunity.

Educating children, especially immature children, has been compared to herding kittens.  It is an apt comparison.  And useful to note that kittens don't drop out; they never stop exploring.  Neither will children, if we enable them.

... if we allow them.

Cemetery seating; six rows of five desks.  Each occupied by students with nothing in common really, except their age and the neighborhood they live in.  Each has a book open to the same page on the same day, each preparing for tests they will all take all at once.

Even if we could create learning choirs; why do we want to?
If teaching children in groups was ever the best way to enable
students to educate themselves, it is not now.
It will never be again.  It is forever obsolete.

How do you encourage children to strive toward their potential,
when every time their "group" crosses the start/finish line,
they have stop; regroup themselves; hold the faster ones back
and then run in place until the slowest ones catch up?

It doesn't make sense.

submitted to Journal Letters to the Editors 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

NM FOG weighs in on APS' (Marty Esquivel's) Public Participation Policy and Procedural Directive

NM FOG was asked to weigh in on APS' recently adopted public participation policy and procedural directive.  If APS School Board member and Defendant Marty Esquivel was hoping NM FOG might back his play to further limit public participation in APS school board meetings, he must be disappointed in their response; link.

NM FOG made it clear, when the issue gets to court,
their letter should not be read to offer any opinions or
commentary on either the issues in that case or on the
circumstances surrounding APS' adoption of its new
"guideline". quotation marks added

"Guideline" ? It isn't a "guideline" when it will be enforced
a publicly funded private police force taking orders from
out of control petty politicians and public servants.

photo Mark Bralley

Hero story in Journal a worthy read

By "in the Journal" I mean mixed in the advertisements stuffed in the fold.

The story was published in a pamphlet called Athlon Sports Magazine. The story is about Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.

By all appearances, Jeter is the kind of person we would like the next generation to emulate.  There would be some point in spending some APS class time talking about Jeter.

That won't happen because in a nutshell, spending time teaching kids about character won't raise standardized test scores; the holy grail of education administrators and school boards.

APS records include no expenditures in any district wide effort to teach children about character and courage and honor.  This despite a binding school board resolution, link, that reads in significant part;

  • The Albuquerque Public Schools endorses ... ways to develop character based on six core ethical values; trustworthiness, respect, responsibility , fairness, caring and citizenship; (and)
  • is committed to creating models of ethical behavior among all adults who serve students and schools; (and)
  • the core curriculum should continue to give explicit attention to character development as an ongoing part of school instruction, (and)
  • materials, teaching methods, partnerships, and services to support school programs shall be selected, in part, for their capacity to support the development of character among youth and adults; (and)
  • that all schools examine school curriculum and practices to identify and extend opportunities ... which help students learn and model caring and ethical behavior.
Instead, the APS school board voted unanimously to remove the role modeling clause from their own standards of conduct.  Their role modeling clause read;
In no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult
be lower than the standards of conduct for students.

Journal Editor Kent Walz
I have a feeling, if Derek Jeter sat
at Kent Walz' desk; a reporter
would be assigned to investigate
and report upon ethics, standards
and accountability in the
leadership of the APS.

Do you suppose its too late for a trade? 
Maybe the Yankees might want Walz for some reason.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Armenta at odds with "aggressive" KOAT reporter

In records released to NM FOG in response to a request for public records surrounding former APS Supt Winston Brooks' firing, there is an email from APS' Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta to APS School Board President Analee Maestas.

Good Morning Analee,

Just a head's up that a very aggressive Regina Ruiz, link, (KOAT TV 7) called insisting someone go on camera to talk about the Agnes Padilla report. I told Regina the board issued a statement last week and it still stands.  KOAT TV 7 is doing daily stories with lawyers arguing the report is no long (sic)) a personnel issue, but a settlement agreement.

When I told Regina I could not talk and that the statement was still accurate, she said she'd try to reach the board's attorney and individual board members.

Nothing we can do, but I wanted you to know.

Thank you

Who does this person work for,
the people, who pay her $106K,
or the leadership of the APS?
Why are taxpayers paying Monica Armenta $106K a year to defend board members and senior administrators from the press?

photo  Mark Bralley

Town of Mountainair Mayor; newest poster child for Open Meetings Act reform

In some states, if a public body is going to take action on any issue; the public meeting in which that action is taken, must have a public forum.

New Mexico's Open Meetings Act requires no such; it is entirely up to politicians and public servants to decide whether to allow public comment during public meetings.  Though if they do provide a public forum, Constitutional protection of human rights to speak freely and petition one's government kick in.

The other transparency accountability law is New Mexico's Inspection of Public Records Act.  While the OMA allows politicians and public servants to limit public participation in public meetings; the IPRA allows them allows them the equally ridiculous opportunity self-redact the public record of their own public service.

The terms of public in-servitude are the prerogative of the people.  The people are to decide how they will participate in decision making that affects their interests.  The people are to decide how public records will be redacted and by whom.

Or not.

A stake and interest holder in Mountainair NM reports

Mayor Chester Riley has determined that
he will not allow any public input 
at the town council meetings.
The best way to defend rights is to exercise them
freely and often.  Speak up. Stand up for what you believe in.
Call bullshit on your mayor.

Journal editors' box of pandoras - not that at all

Journal editors are concerned this morning, link , that a recent State Supreme Court decision has turned elections "...into a game of 20 Questions that don’t matter".

If the questions don't matter; the problem lies with the questions and not with the process or procedure.  (except that process and procedure heretofore has been demonstrably lacking)

It would be a relatively simple matter to establish appropriate limits on both the number of questions (20 doesn't really seem all that bad), and on their purpose.

It seems to be; if the purpose is to enable a future decision then it is appropriate for a ballot.  But if it is to hold politicians and public servants accountable for their past service, then it can't be on a ballot. Why not?

Why couldn't school board members get a snapshot of their voter approval before they ask for hundreds of millions of mill levy and bond issue tax dollars to spend?

Why couldn't the ballot for the school board election in February offer interest and stakeholders the opportunity to express their opinion regarding the character and competence of school board members and superintendents?

A poll of people who care enough to vote is as representative a sample of people who care as any; better than most.

The editors argue;

"... it’s a waste of time as well as a false promise to voters to ask them weigh in on topics that have not been adequately vetted..."
The editors have not noticed apparently, that voters routinely weigh in on topics they don't comprehend.  Joe Monahan reports this morning;

A poll ... found many Americans don't know how the government works. The poll showed only 36% of Americans could name all three branches of the government and 35% couldn't name any of them. It also found over 60% of Americans don't know which political party controls the House of Representatives and the US Senate.
The editors argue that opening up ballots
... has the potential to deliver more disenchantment with the democratic process.
It has as well, the potential to allow voters to leave the process feeling like they have held politicians and public servants actually accountable for their public service.

The money quote comes from Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley who says,
“Let the people speak.”
... let the people speak about the public interests and
about the public service of the politicians and public servants in their employ.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Still waiting on NM FOG

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is reviewing APS' new public participation in school board meetings policy and procedural directive.

By that I mean, apparently somebody in the fog has "volunteered" to review the policy and procedural directive and then respond.

I defy anyone to read and then defend the Constitutionality of

Defendant and NM FOG
heavy hitter Esquivel
the policy and procedural
directive written by
Defendant Marty Esquivel
and taxpayer underwritten
lawyers from Modrall;
likely Art Melendres.

It reeks.

The FOG has already opposed Esquivel's efforts to hide the ethically redacted public records in the firing of form APS Supt Winston Brooks and the subsequent loss of more than a third of a million tax dollars.

APS Modrall lawyer
Art Melendres
Marty Esquivel and Modrall lawyers are (former) FOG heavy hitters.  Another candid, forthright and honest opinion from the FOG would be devastating to both Esquivel and Modrall.

That potential creates the
appearance of conflicted interests.

That appearance is aggravated
by further passage of time.

photos Mark Bralley