Thursday, March 05, 2015

APS' PARCC protests illustrate an underlying problem; a greater one

Before beginning, I would like to draw a distinction among the students who walked out in protest over the PARCC exam; this post is about students who walked out on principle as opposed to those who simply went along for the hell of it.

Students have Constitutionally protected human rights to protest.  They have also, as good citizens, the obligation to follow the rules.

Students who walked out, believe they are being civilly disobedient; a behavior that is often celebrated in cultural heroes.

civil disobedience: refusal to obey laws as a way of forcing the government to do or change something
The leadership of the APS consider the students who walked out, to be "breaking the rules" and liable for consequences.

So, civil disobedience or simple disobedience?
The distinction is not without difference.
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible
will make violent revolution inevitable."  John F. Kennedy
Civil disobedience is almost never the appropriate first step in forcing change.  Students argue this wasn't their first step; that they have made other attempts to force change and, that their efforts were futile.

If the basic purpose of democracy is to allow peaceful revolution; the democracy must respond in good faith to peaceful revolution.  If students did in fact make civilly obedient efforts to provoke change, and if those efforts did not result in "the government's" good faith response, then "the government" provoked the disobedience.

The underlying and yet to be examined problem the PARCC protests illustrate is; the lack of control over students in schools.

The number of "out of control*" students is APS is growing; in both absolute and relative terms;
  • the absolute number of students who are out of control is increasing and, as "under control" students flee to charter schools,
  • the relative proportion of out of control to under control students left in classrooms will increase at a faster rate than their absolute number.  
*Out of control; when an adult at school tells a student; stop doing that, and the student's response means no, that student is "out of (the) control" of that adult.

The out of control in students is the result of years and years of the executive and administrative permission of prohibited behavior*;
  • Students are told to not do certain things, 
  • they are promised "consequences" if they do, 
  • they do those things anyway and 
  • meaningful consequences are rarely if ever delivered.
*take for example "sagging"; clearly prohibited; manifestly permitted.  This is not about sagging.

Students will become increasingly out of control for as long as the leadership of the APS keeps their heads buried in the sand over student discipline and chronically disruptive students.  Asked for a PowerPoint presentation on student discipline in the APS, link, the leadership of the APS is stonewalling; refusing to be candid, forthright and honest with stake and interest holders about their failure to keep students under control at school.

They are enabled by the Journal
and its Editor in Chief Kent Walz,
who relentlessly refuse to
investigate and report upon
student discipline in the APS.

photo Mark Bralley

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Retiree survey delayed; scope will be addressed

At the City Council Meeting last night, link, City Councilor Diane Gibson moved to appropriate money to survey retired police officers.  Her motion was seconded.

First to speak after Gibson was
CABQ Chief Administrative Officer
Rob Perry.

My jaw does not drop often; but
it did when Perry suggested widening the scope of the survey.

Perry is not a man with a history of wantingly gathering data that might make the Mayor and his Chief of Police look bad. You will remember how Perry behaved when the press was inquiring after Darren White's apparent misconduct; he threw a handful of papers at them.  And, that was only the beginning, link.

I suspect he has had himself involved in order to do damage control.  It's a small step from being the one who decides "who" gets surveyed to deciding "how" they will be surveyed and the questions they will be asked.

The smart money is on Perry finding some way to make certain the survey doesn't produce any results that might cost someone their job or an election.

Next to speak, City Councilor Brad
Winter.  In stark contrast to his want
and practice as an APS senior
administrator and Interim
Superintendent; Winter argued in
support of Perry's suggestion to widen
the scope of an employee survey.

He quickly reverted to his APS roots and suggested that "... we all define the scope" of the survey. emphasis added.

Again, insinuate yourself in the process in order that later you can steer it.

Avoid like the plague, powerful people who want to write the survey by which they will be evaluated.

The scope of the survey should be defined by stake and interest holders; not by politicians and public servants with conflicting interests in the scope of the survey.

Councilor Don Harris suggested a two week deferral in order that the sponsor could sit down with Rob Perry.  Harris argued;

"Let's do it once and do it right".
I can't agree more. But Rob Perry? seriously?

Who but the Mayor and his Chief of Police would want Rob Perry to decide who and how surveys will be done?

photos Mark Bralley

Monday, March 02, 2015

Why are you leaving? is the right question to ask cops

The Journal informed the democracy this morning, link.
The information they provided will be of use to those who both care and are willing to do something about what they care about.

 "Councilor Diane Gibson, a Democrat, is sponsoring legislation that would call for an independent group to survey retiring officers and ask them why they are leaving the Albuquerque Police Department."
'"The intention here is to get data and make better-informed decisions regarding (officer) retention," City Councilor Diane Gibson says."
Good as far as it goes.  I find myself wondering;
by what logic are the opinions of one group of police officers valuable, and the opinions of all of the other police officers are not?

There are some fundamental truths about surveys such as the one they contemplate;
  • People whose incompetence and or corruption will be exposed, will do everything they can to diminish the gravitas of the results.
  • The smaller the survey sample, the easier to ignore.
  • Surveys will be limited to groups sizes that cannot be extrapolated to the population.
  • Surveys will be anonymous*
*Anonymity, for whatever reason it is granted, makes it harder to use survey results to hold powerful people individually actually, honestly accountable for their character and competence.

The need for anonymity points to fear of retaliation over truth telling. If there is a more important indicator of organizational ill health, than fear of retaliation against whistleblowers, I cannot imagine it.
"... a report on the survey's findings would be created."  
Then to be redacted as they need and fought over, under the Inspection of Public Records Act.
"... there likely would be additional surveys of the annual retirees.
Written by whom?  Surveys written the politician and public servants and creating an appearance of a conflict of interests, and possibly of impropriety?

Police officer organizations are on board;
 "Bob Martinez, the president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, said the survey would be an “excellent idea.” "One issue (affecting police retirements) may be wages and working conditions, and another may be how officers feel related to doing their jobs and not getting the support or backing by management and people in the community,” Martinez said. “Those are concerns (among police officers) across the state. But I don’t think they have the dramatic intensity that exists in Albuquerque.” emphasis added

Shaun Willoughby, the vice president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said he liked the idea of the bill but said it’s crucial the surveys are anonymous.I wouldn’t want to leave on a bad impression by saying something detrimental to the organization,”* he said.
By all means, let's not say something "detrimental".
How would that look?
Who cares how it "looks"?  People standing up for what they believe in, don't get to stop, nor should they want to, because it might leave a "bad impression".

Finally; someone has to ask,
why is the concept of surveying retirees coming up now?
Why haven't they been surveying retirees (and others) all along?

An important question is what "leader" of ours, is personally responsible for the fact that no data has been gathered on why police officers are leaving the APD?

Those who believe in "the buck stops here" accountability, would hold Mayor Richard Berry accountable for never wondering, and or never hiring a subordinate who would wonder in his stead;

Why can't we find enough good men and 
women to staff a top notch police department?

The bill is on the agenda for action at tonight’s City Council meeting; 5 p.m. at One Civic Plaza NW.  

photo  Mark Bralley

Friday, February 27, 2015

Martinez and Skandera challenged to take the PARCC test

"On the heels of student protests against a new standardized test, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez has challenged Gov. Susana Martinez and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera to take the high-profile exam", Journal link.

What if the Governor and her Education Secretary had to take the test they're cramming down everyone else' throats?

The question resonates, but not because the answer is germane to the discussion.  It is not, not in even the smallest measure.

Whether the governor and education secretary can "pass" the test has nothing to do with whether students should take the test.  The concepts are utterly unrelated.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez would like to know whether Martinez and Skandera could pass the PARCC.  Why?

By what reasoning is it important to know whether the Governor and Education Secretary can pass the test, and by which it is not important to know if the Senate Majority Leader can pass it?

Has Sanchez ever passed a bill regarding testing and licensure?  Can he pass all the tests he voted to require others to pass?

I hate it when politicians and public servants respond to allegations by characterizing the allegation rather than addressing it head on.  But when the Governor's spokesman Enrique Knell brushed off the challenge as “yet another ridiculous political stunt” he hit the nail squarely on its head.

I will take issue with a claim Knell made regarding "... the thousands of teachers who worked on designing the PARCC exam".  I find that extraordinarily hard to believe.  I doubt Knell can cite documentation to support his unlikely claim.

The PED found it “disappointing” that the students protesting the PARCC were not in class during the middle of a school day.  It has been alleged (on talk radio) that teachers and parents might have played a part in stirring up students and encouraging various mutinies.

If true, that would be a shame.

photos Mark Bralley

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Videotape of public meetings, whose call is it?

There are two ways of looking at the truth about the wielding of public power and the spending of public resources;

  • the one, and the prevailing thought, is that the truth belongs to politicians and public servants and 
  • the other is that the truth belongs to the people whose power it is and whose resources they fundamentally are.
They are reflected in the manner in which that truth is told.

If the truth belongs to pols and public servants, they will share that part of the truth that makes them look good; character and competence enough to be worthy of the public trust.  Any truth which might embarrass, shame or indict them will not be told unless it is absolutely required by law.

If the truth belongs to the people then it is up to the people to decide what kinds of truth should or should not be recorded and published.

The very worst thing any politician or public servant can do, is anything they do in unnecessary secrecy from the people whose power and resources they spend.

Apparently, the City Attorney is going to let the people know what it is that "the city" is willing to put up with.  It will be up to the city to "interpret" the Open Meetings Act whose language is more than specific enough; a reasonable accommodation will be made for audio and video recording of meetings.  There isn't enough legal weaselry to be bought (with our tax dollars) to make no accommodation look like reasonable accommodation.

Where will be the hearing on whether it should be up to a City Attorney to decide if we can record our public meetings?  When will be the hearing on whether the people can freely exercise or not, their right to take personal notes with a recording device instead of a pencil?  Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky they "allow us" to use only quill and parchment.

Kudos to KOB Eyewitness News 4's photojournalist Paul Sigurdson who stood his ground and made the cowards run away, link.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Webcast archiving - the will of the people

The Journal reports, link, that two attempts to provide archiving of webcasts of legislative meetings were amended or tabled to thwart the effort.

The quality of reasoning going into the refusal is frightening;

“I think if the executive wants to do it, lets let them (pay for it),” 
Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan.
"When I leave here, I don’t want to think about this place.”
Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec.

The people support any opportunity to hold politicians and public servants accountable for their performance in legislative meetings.

Some of those politicians and public servants would rather not be held actually and honestly accountable for their public service.

Guess whose will prevailed.

Since when is the will of the people a "wish list" for legislators?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How hard will the Journal dig to find the truth?

I have been insisting for a while, that the Journal needs to begin an investigation and report upon an ethics, standards and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

All they have to do is to expose the scandal, or lay the allegation to rest at once and for all is to;

  • examine the standards and competence that apply to senior administrators and school board (members within their public service), and 
  • examine the various venues in which and by which they can be held "accountable" to those standards;
  1. are they swift?
  2. are they certain?
  3. are they free of undue influence?, and
  4. are they powerful enough to hold the most powerful accountable even against their will?
All they have to do is ask the leadership of the APS to
  • produce copies of any standards of conduct to which they claim accountability, and to 
  • identify the venues where complaints can be filed over their failure to meet those standards.
All they have to is ask, read and report.  They don't even have to leave their desks.  At most, they should have to read a few dozen pages; and then of course, tell readers what they find.

Journal Editor Kent Walz
Are there high enough standards?
Is there accountability; are complaints
impartially adjudicated in a timely manner and without appearances of conflicts of interest and impropriety, and without fear of retaliation?  Is there due process?

Research, evaluate, tell the truth; candidly, forthrightly and honestly.

Come on  Walz, step up!
Inform the democracy.

photo Mark Bralley

Winter's blunder will cost more than $125K - lots more

If you read the backsides of the reports on Winston Brooks' suit in the Journal, KRQE, KOAT, and KOB, you will find a number of steaming comments.  The most of the commenters think Brooks is the heavy; that he is doing something wrong by enforcing the terms of the settlement agreement APS entered into with him.

The settlement agreement included a promise that APS (Interim Supt Brad Winter) would not defame Brooks or his wife.  And damned if it doesn't look like Winter went right ahead and did just that. 

If guilt and consequences could be assigned where they belong, the quarter of a million or so that this thing is finally going to cost, would come out of his pocket and not out of the operational fund; dollars that were destined for classrooms before they were squandered along with our trust.

photo Mark Bralley