Tuesday, July 28, 2015

APS School board to meet in retreat

The APS school board intends to attend a "retreat" tomorrow morning beginning at 8am. Their retreat takes them out of the administrative complex on Uptown Blvd. in favor of the Nusenda Credit Union Training Center, 4100 Pan American Freeway; between Comanche Rd. and Montgomery Blvd., link.

Their agenda reads;

I. Review of Board of Education Operational Procedures Facilitated by Hugh Prather, Ph.D*.
A. Board Clarification of the Desired Structure of the Board of Education Operational Procedures. (Note; "Board of Education Operational Procedures" differs from the title of the meeting which reads; "regarding procedural directives".  Unclear at this point, to which specific procedures they will be attending.)f
B. Analysis of the Missing Components Which Need to Be Added to the Document and the Processes to Add those Elements.
C. Developing a Completed Operational Directive to Practice the Process
*Hugh Prather is the owner and principal consultant of Prather Consulting, which provides organizational consulting to not for profit organizations, boards, membership organizations, small businesses, the medical community, and educational institutions.
Unclear still, what the board and Prather mean by "retreat".
Retreat can mean;
  • a place you can go to be alone
  • a place affording peace and quiet
in a military sense it means of course;
  • a withdrawal from a dangerous position
It can also mean;
  • the process of receding from a position
  • process of changing or undergoing change in one's thinking or in a position
If anyone was hoping the board might be in the process of changing their position or thinking on dealing with the 1994 character education resolution and with the issue of double standards of conduct in the APS; they will be as disappointed as I.

Monday, July 20, 2015

APS board will meet three times this week

None of the agendas include;

"a public reconsideration of whether the core curriculum should continue to give explicit attention to character development as an ongoing part of school instruction"
The agendas for the Audit and Finance Committee meetings wouldn't be a logical place to find the discussion.

The agenda of the Equity and Engagement Committee could legitimately include it; committee chair Barbara Petersen could facilitate the discussion.

What better way to engage the community than to host a discussion of character education;
  1. should the board reaffirm its commitment or
  2. abandon it?  
It appears they may not address the issue at all; just continue to pretend there's nothing wrong with double standards of conduct in a public school system.

Nearly as bad as not discussing the issue at all, would be to let it take place in a Policy and instruction Committee with board member David Peercy chairing the discussion. While it could be argued that Policy is where the discussion belongs, there could not be an environment less conducive to that discussion than David Peercy's committee.

... don't need no stinkin' 
role modeling clause!
... end of discussion
Peercy has spent years obstructing this very discussion, link.  Policy is where the administration went to slip through a "semantic" change that would have effectively ended character education in the APS.

How can Peercy be expected to facilitate an open, honest and balanced discussion even if that was what the board wanted?

photos Mark Bralley

Friday, July 17, 2015

Grumblings about nepotism laid to rest

The daughter of the school board president had been appointed to APS' leadership team; the job pays $125K.  There were grumblings about the appearances of conflicts of interest and impropriety.  More specifically, accusations of nepotistic indulgences.

The letter of APS' policy on nepotism reads "initial hire".  Because she has a long history with the district, hers is not an initial hire; APS policy has not been violated.  It does not mean that nepotism wasn't at play; just that technically, it doesn't violate their policy.

As much was reported this morning by the Journal, link.

He reports that APS Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta, who he refers to as a "spokesperson", said;

“Based on my conversations with Art Melendrez (sic), the district’s legal counsel, the appointment is not a violation of the statute because Dr. Blakey is not an initial hire."

aps image
Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools Dr. Gabriella Blakey seems as well qualified, link, as any of the rest of them.  No one is suggesting that as an issue.  Maybe there are other people who think they are more qualified or experienced and should have been appointed instead.  Who knows?

It's not the point.

The point is; stake and interest holders are expected to "trust" school board members and senior administrators.  They are supposed to take the word of a superintendent who says, "trust me".

Co-incidentally, Supt. Valentino and the board were challenged this week, to reconsider in public, the resolution that created character education in the APS and established "higher standards of conduct" for students and for their adult role models.

Currently, there is some confusion in the leadership of the APS about whether or not they are actually accountable as role models and of what standards of conduct.

In light of their confusion, you can see why people might not want to trust them.  You can see why people wonder about nepotism.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

St Cyr earns NM FOG recognition

In this 2009 photo, St Cyr interviews
mayoral candidate Richard Romero.
Peter St Cyr has an earned reputation for digging out public records against the whim of politicians and powerful public servants who would rather that the records remain secret.

It's a pleasure to see the NM FOG get (another) one right in granting their recognition by bestowing Dixon Awards.

Richard Romero, a former APS administrator, has the distinction of being the only political candidate ever (in my world) to endorse, link, the Pillars of Character Counts! as the appropriate standards for politicians and public servants.

photos Mark Bralley

Let’s talk character (education)

It's been more than twenty-one years since the APS school board adopted the resolution that began character education in earnest, in APS

The kindergarteners who saw the first deliberate, concerted effort to help them build and maintain their good character, graduated nine years ago.

Recent events, including an effort to erase standards the resolution specifically established, suggest that the leadership of APS has lost its resolve.

A simple (public) reconsideration of the motion is in order.

Please urge the APS board of education to reconsider the 1994 resolution and their commitment to helping students gain and maintain their character. Urge them to reaffirm their commitment.

Attend the meeting tomorrow, link.  Speak at the public forum, or
simply stand up when I petition board members to arrange for their reconsideration.

There is some urgency for the reconsideration, as the new school year begins in about a month and it would be nice if our expectations for students are stated clearly and with some conviction, before we expect them to start meeting them.

I am grateful for your time and attention.

End note; an edited version of this post was submitted to the Journal (letter to the editors) in plenty of time for them to inform the democracy; should they care to participate.

Should reconsideration reach fruition, it will be interesting to read their editorial for or against attention to character education and higher standards of conduct.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, July 13, 2015

"All that is necessary... is for good men to do nothing."

Recent events, including an administrative effort to abandon districtwide efforts in character education by means of "semantic changes" in the APS student handbook, have raised questions.

I submit; the most important of which is;

What will be the standards of conduct for APS students?

The answer to that question is not easy to pin down as you might suppose.

Student standards of conduct represent a policy decision by the school board.  The school board decides what the standards will be, and then charges their superintendent with administering the enforcement.

Two decades ago, the board adopted a particular set of standards of conduct for students.  Those standards of conduct require APS students to model and promote accountability to a nationally recognized, accepted and respected code of ethical conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts!, link.

Twenty one years later, those are still the standards and expectation of students; they have been neither rescinded nor amended.

Should those still be our expectations for nearly 90,000 students in public schools?  Should we reaffirm the resolution or rescind it?  In favor of what else, exactly?

There are those who do not want to discuss student standards of conduct, in particular in public meetings; more particularly in meetings where there will be public input. The reason is; you really cannot talk about student standards of conduct without talking also about adult standards of conduct - right up to the most powerful politicians and public servants in the APS; school board members and superintendents.

The leadership of the APS doesn't want to talk about their standards.

One naively assumes that they are accountable to the same standards of conduct that they establish and enforce on students; that they are role models of student standards of conduct.  They are not.

School board members and superintendents have not been accountable as role models since a night eight years ago when they voted unanimously to strike the role modeling clause from their standards of conduct.  It read;

In no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult
be lower than the standards of conduct for students.

For the better part of a decade there have been double standards of conduct for students and their adult role models.

An independent examination and review of the standards and accountability that apply to school board members and senior administrators would find a lack of due process for complaints filed against them.  It would find a "culture of fear of retaliation" against whistleblowers and other complainants.

The question;

what will be student standards of conduct? 

and the attending questions about the roles, responsibilities and obligations of their senior-most adult role models, are uncomfortable questions to say the least.

I have been asking the same questions in one form or another for nearly a decade; ever since the night the voted to remove the role modeling clause from their own standards of conduct. 

I will ask again Wednesday afternoon, at the public forum during the school board meeting, if the school board will engage in a public reconsideration of the 1994 resolution; a reaffirmation or a rejection.

I would appreciate support.  Though recently adopted school board rules prohibit audience members from standing up in support of a speaker or point, perhaps a little civil disobedience is appropriate in this case.

I'm not suggesting that the leadership of the APS is evil, but when Edmund Burke concluded that;
All that's necessary for evil to prevail in the world
is for good men to to nothing.
these are situations that concerned him; and your willingness to make sacrifices in support of "good" was the subject of his concern.

Stand in support of a public reconsideration of the 1994 resolution that made character education part of the curriculum, and accountability to higher standards, the standards and expectation for students and for their adult role models.

Sacrifice is the currency of commitment.
There is no equivalent gesture.

photo Mark Bralley

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Time to revisit the 1994 resolution; reaffirm or rescind?

In March 2004, the APS Board of Education passed a unanimous resolution.  The resolution did two things;

  1. it affirmed the need for public schools to participate meaningfully in the development of the character of students, and
  2. it named a particular character education model as the adopted model and the standards associated with that model became the student standards of conduct.
In so far as the leadership of the APS are the senior-most role models of student standards of conduct, those nationally recognized, accepted and respected standards of conduct became at once, the standards of conduct for students' adult role models as well.  That's what role modeling means.

In affirmation of their acceptance of the obligations of role models, the standards of conduct that applied to school board members and senior administrators had a role modeling clause.  It read;
In no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult,
be lower than the standards of conduct for students.
The board voted unanimously, to remove the role modeling clause from their standards in 2005 or 6.

Since, there have been double standards of conduct;
  1. students expected to model and promote accountability to higher standards of conduct, 
  2. while their role models have been accountable only to the law; the standards of conduct that all higher standards are higher than.  
Senior adult accountability is enormously eroded by litigation and legal weaselry in order to escape real, honest to God accountability even to the law. Operational dollars are spent as a matter of routine to buy admissions of no guilt for corrupt and or incompetent politicians and senior public servants.

They spend without limit and without oversight.
Their "subordinate oversight" is not oversight at all;
it is an oxymoron.

Though it is more than two decades old, absent and until it is rescinded, the 1994 resolution is as binding today as it was the evening it was unanimously resolved.

If the 1994 resolution is no longer in the best interests of students, it needs to be rescinded.

If the 1994 resolution remains in the best interests of students, then it needs to be reaffirmed.

We need two school board members to move for a public reconsideration of the resolution that made character education part of the core curriculum.
  1. one to move to reconsider the 1994 resolution in open meeting(s), and
  2. another to second that motion.

Below please find the resolution - it is not first source; it has been transcribed as accurately as I am able.

Note as well; "character education" and "Character Counts!" are not the same thing.  The resolution establishes and requires districtwide character education efforts.  Character Counts! is one of a number of models for character education.  Endorsing character education is not endorsing any particular model.  I remain enamored of Character Counts! - I am honestly unaware of anything that is very much better.

To endorse and Implement Character Counts! Program in the Albuquerque Public Schools

Whereas, Albuquerque Public Schools reaffirms the need to join with other community groups to actively engage in the development and demonstration of ethical behavior among youth and adults, and

Whereas, the mission of Albuquerque Public Schools is to provide learners of all ages the skills and knowledge needed to become successful and productive members of a dynamic society, and

Whereas, the Albuquerque Public Schools recognizes that students in our schools are more likely now than in the past to experience family disintegration, homicide, drug use, teen age pregnancy, dishonesty, suicide, and strong messages from media and society that undermine home teaching of ethical values, and

Whereas, the Albuquerque Public Schools recognizes that no single community institution can instill ethical behavior in youth and adults if it is acting without the support of other institutions and groups, and

Whereas, the Albuquerque Public Schools recognizes the important role played by teachers and other adults in school settings in modeling good character for young people.


1. That the Albuquerque Public Schools endorses the Aspen Declaration on Character Education as well as the Character Counts! Program as ways to develop character based on six core ethical values; trustworthiness, respect, responsibility , fairness, caring and citizenship;

2. That the Albuquerque Public Schools will enter into community-wide discussions with other institutions and groups to reach agreements about the role of each in promoting ethical behavior among young people, and adults in various aspects of life;

3. That the Albuquerque Public Schools is committed to creating models of ethical behavior among all adults who serve students and schools;

4. That the core curriculum should continue to give explicit attention to character development as an ongoing part of school instruction;

5. That 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;

6. That all schools examine school curriculum and practices to identify and extend opportunities for developing character, especially through the utilization of violence-prevention programs, mediation training, community service programs. fair rules which are fairy enforced, democratic practices in classrooms and organizations, and extracurricular activities which help students learn and model caring and ethical behavior.

DATED this 2nd day of March, 1994

Below please find the Aspen Declaration. It was cited in the resolution.
1. The next generation will be the stewards of our communities, nation and planet in extraordinarily critical times.
2. In such times, the well-being of our society requires an involved, caring citizenry with good moral character.
3. People do not automatically develop good moral character; therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to help young people develop the values and abilities necessary for moral decision making and conduct.
4. Effective character education is based on core ethical values rooted in democratic society, in particular, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, justice and fairness, caring, and civic virtue and citizenship.
5. These core ethical values transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences.
6. Character education is, first and foremost, an obligation of families and faith communities, but schools and youth-service organizations also have a responsibility to help develop the character of young people.
7. These responsibilities are best achieved when these groups work in concert.

8. The character and conduct of our youth reflect the character and conduct of society; therefore, every adult has the responsibility to teach and model the core ethical values and every social institution has the responsibility to promote the development of good character.
If ever there will be something you can do that will make a difference, standing in support of a public reconsideration of the 1994 resolution regarding character education in the Albuquerque Public School, is that thing.

If ever there will be a time to stand up and get involved, this is that time.

If ever there were a place to be and a time to be there,
it is at the school board meeting on Wednesday, July 15,
at 5pm.

Friday, July 10, 2015

APS Student Handbook revision premature

Above all else; the APS Student Handbook is a collection of policy statements.

The likelihood that any discipline policy will be successful, aside from enforcement, depends on its relationship to some underlying principle.  If the only reason you don't want a child to do something is because you said no, you're in store for some push back.

You must or mustn't, do this thing because we believe doing or not doing this thing this thing violates commonly held principles.
... relieves enforcers from having nothing better to tell student than;
 ... because I said so.
APS does not have a discipline philosophy upon which to base discipline policies. 

There has been no consensus established on even such fundamental issues as;
  • whether students who deliberately break rules should be punished or given another second chance, or  
  • whether student discipline records should be maintained, or
  • whether chronically disruptive students should be left in classes and disrupting other students education, or.
  • whether students who commit criminal acts should be dealt with "administratively" or by professional law enforcement. 
Writing a policy handbook without a philosophical foundation is putting the cart before the horse;
they want to decide what to do without having agreed on why to do it, or how.

Back to the drawing board!