Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can Janice Arnold-Jones beat Diane Denish?

The answer to that very important question is;
it depends upon how people respond to the question;
Rep Janice Arnold-Jones beat Lt Gov Diane Denish?

Would we rather have
a new face
in the Governor's Office, or

would we rather have
the same old face
in the Governor's Office?

It is difficult for me to imagine anyone with an open mind, sitting down at a table with Janice Arnold-Jones for a more than a very few minutes, and then not walking away, at the very least, comfortable with Janice Arnold-Jones sitting in the Governor's seat. As for those to whom a government that is transparently accountable to the people is a priority, they will walk away excited by the prospect of the beginning of a new era in New Mexico state government.

There are those to whom backing a winning candidate is
more important than backing the right candidate.

If those people backed the right candidate instead,
the right candidate would be the winning candidate.

Janice Arnold-Jones will win election to Governor,
if people who recognize that she has character and
the competence and the courage to right the ship of state,
will simply reject the notion that she "cannot win", and then
do something, link, to make sure that she does.

photos Mark Bralley

More hot gossip from Jimmy Carter Middle School

It is alleged, that yet another staff member will be leaving Jimmy Carter Middle School.

It is further alleged, that the split has to do with a disagreement between the staff member and an administrator over what will and will not be, "covered up".

That there is in fact, something being covered up, is proven by Supt Winston Brooks response to a legitimate question;

Will there be an independent fact finding of the entire situation at JCMS, that reports to the public record?

photo Mark Bralley


"Teabagging" has a (vulgar) sexual connotation, wikilink.

It is that connotation that the folks on the back side of Democracy for New Mexico, link, have in mind when they use the term to disparage members of the Tea Party. Alternately, you will hear them argue that Rush Limbaugh, when he uses the term "Democrat" Party, has gone beyond the pale.

The Albuquerque Tea Party has standards, link. They include;

Attack policies, not people.
The irony is, of course, that they, those who disparage "teabaggers", are not willing to hold themselves honestly accountable to the same high standards of those they would disparage.

Sliding under the radar

After considerable reflection, I have decided to not name the APS very senior administrators that are the subject of this piece. If for no other reason than that it will be my word against his.

It was in the lobby during the charter school meeting.

One observed; "... haven't heard your name come up in a while."

To which the other responded; "I'm just sliding under the radar until I retire, (or words to that effect) followed by a low and outward sliding movement of his hand.

Which begs a question; is there any place in the entire APS, where someone can file a complaint that a senior administrator is shirking his duty, and where that complaint will see due process?

The answer to that question is no.

And that is why somewhere around $100K a year, is going down a rat hole, while this guy awaits his retirement, and there will be no money to hire two teachers or five teaching assistants.

Taxes on food are good for the poor.

When taxes were taken off of food, they were spread upon everything else that poor people buy.

"Poor" people do not pay food taxes. They are using food stamps and other government assistance not subject to sales tax in the first place.

By supposedly relieving them of a tax they were not in fact paying, an additional tax was levied on everything else they buy.

The net effect of not taxing food is the most regressive tax imaginable.

Update; I have come across an opposing point of view on the Journal's Op-ed page, link.

Janice Arnold-Jones doesn't have all the answers.

Nor does she need to have all the answers.

I can't swear that Rep Janice Arnold-Jones has ever actually said;

"no one of us is as smart as all of us."
It is however, fundamental to her perspective.

It is her confidence in the ability of (all) stakeholders together, to come up with the best solutions, and her willingness to involve all stakeholders in the decisions that affect their interests, that separates her from other politicians, other public servants and other gubernatorial candidates.

photo Mark Bralley

The real charter school threat to APS Supt Winston Brooks

By any reasonable measure, the leadership of the APS is treating charters as a threat. Where is the threat, exactly?

The threat lies in their success and in his failure in comparison. Many charters are doing things that APS schools cannot. They are seeing successes that many APS schools are not.

One can argue, correctly, comparing charters to conventional public schools is as comparing apples to oranges. The populations are not comparable; the average student is different, the average parent is different, and average community support is different.

Yet there are things that charters do, which lead to their greater successes, that public schools do not do, but could.

For one, they don't tolerate chronically disruptive students. The leadership of the APS is as far behind the eight ball on that one as they could possibly be.

The leadership of the APS is so averse to dealing with the issue of student discipline that they have yet to even articulate a discipline philosophy. They are so dedicated to allowing site level administrators to exercise their "best judgment", they will not articulate any guidelines at all, to which they might be held accountable. Even the Student Behavior Handbook, which is presented to stakeholders as a policy statement from the board, begins with a "weasel clause";

Nothing in the following is intended to prevent a ... principal or other administrator from using his/her best judgment with respect to (any) particular situation.
Administrators can do what ever they want, whenever they want, and excuse it all under their "best judgment" at the time. "Best judgment" is not subject to review; it requires no explanation and no defense.

I would suppose that social promotions are not the norm in charters. I cannot point to empirical evidence to support the supposition, but it stands to reason. No parent who goes to the trouble of enrolling their child in a charter school, does so with the expectation that they will earn a "social" diploma.

Winston Brooks has reason to feel threatened by the successes of charter schools because they highlight his failures in comparison.

In so far as charters are apparently an idea whose time has come, Brooks would do better to raise performance in the schools over which he has control, beginning with getting a handle on chronically disruptive students and social promotion, than engaging in continuing his tilt against windmills.

ATP Gubernatorial forum well executed

Say what you want about the Tea Party, they can throw a gubernatorial forum.

They apparently have little trouble lining up volunteers who will actually show up somewhere and work; the forum went off without a hitch.

I took issue with several of them over the decision to not release the straw poll results to the public. I understand their objections, but in the end, I come down in favor of complete transparency. I think, at the end of the day, one is more likely to regret telling too little truth, than too much.

Apparently, they are not forcing any restriction on the candidates, so I expect the poll results will be made public in short order; I cannot imagine the "winner" keeping the secret for long.

Again, kudos to the Tea Party for their investment, and for a well run forum.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Brooks "loses it", following meeting with NMPED

Note; I was not present at the actual meeting, nor was anyone else from the press. We missed the meeting and the post meeting dust up between APS Supt Winston Brooks and couple of charter school representatives, because we were told the meeting was to begin at 3:30. The PIOs from the NMPED chose not to tell the media about the "working meeting" that began at 2:30 and was long done before the media arrived. APS Supt Winston Brooks can thank his lucky star for that one, no video recordings were made of his appalling post meeting behavior.

As Supt Winston Brooks drove away from the meeting with charter schools and the Secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department, he was probably regretting the loss of control he exhibited as he left the meeting. If he was not, he should have been; his conduct, at the very least, was highly unprofessional and cast him and his administration in a very bad light.

I was not able to get anyone to go on the record regarding his name calling, or the language he used as he left the meeting; everyone wants to be a "gentleman" apparently and not point to his failure to keep his emotions in check after having his power play over the charters, nipped in the bud.

He is reported to have called Amy Biehl Administrator, Michael May, a "liar" before "bumping" into him as he left the room. May declined to call the "bump" an assault, offering that "the room was crowded" and that Brooks might have run into him accidentally. There was also an inappropriate exchange between Brooks and Southwest Learning Center's Executive Director Scott Glasrud as Brooks left the room

Months ago, the APS sent an email to Glasrud, asking for budget reporting in excess of the agreement between the charter and APS, the school's "authorizer". According to Glasrud, he responded by writing to APS, that, while he had no problem with additional reports, the arrangement, since it amounted to rewriting that part of their contract, needed to be negotiated board to board, rather than by someone in APS' administrative staff.

Months later, Glasrud found out that Brooks was threatening to revoke the school's charter if the reports were not immediately submitted. He found out from reporters who were following up on an APS School Board Meeting where the decision (which APS School Board President Marty Esquivel later admitted had been impetuous) had been made.

For reasons yet to be explained, Brooks decided to start a pissing contest, wikilink, with four of the best schools in the district, schools that routinely outperform their APS counterparts. The relationship between APS and its charters, has been one characterized by disrespect, to say the least.

Glasrud, in a op-ed piece in the Journal, characterized the move as a power play.

The Secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department Veronica Garcia, apparently reminded Brooks and APS that, while as authorizers they have certain powers and responsibilities, they also have an obligation to conduct themselves professionally by establishing open communications over issues, as opposed to running to the media with threats of charter revocations.

Brooks did not take the chastisement well.

It is a recurring theme. link.

The Journal of course, presents an entirely different picture of the meeting, link, going so far as to paint Brooks as the "winner" of the "power struggle". No mention is made at all, of his reprehensible behavior as he left the meeting.

It must be nice, having the "newspaper of record" in your pocket.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Any answer except yes, means no.

UNM President David Schmidly has been asked to begin an independent review of the administrative response in the Locksley scandal.

Once by me, during their last press conference, before they informed us that they were not going to answer any more questions, and once more by means of a recent vote by the UNM Graduate and Professional Student Association.

He has had more than enough time to decide; he has been thinking about it since November 10, 2009, link.

Schmidly has been asked to hold himself honestly accountable for his conduct and competence in handling Locksley Gate

and his answer,

means no.

photo Mark Bralley

Public interests at stake at Jimmy Carter Middle School

The public has an interest in Jimmy Carter Middle School. If nothing else, they have a financial interests. They are paying tax dollars for education that is not taking place. Every student who doesn't not gain one year educationally every year, costs tax payers as much as $10K per year, down the drain.

Then there are APS' lawyers.

Modrall, or Brad Winter's wife's law firm, or some other one's spouse's law firm making a killing with litigation for APS, stands to make boot loads of money "defending" APS over teachers "allegedly" having sex with students, teachers "allegedly" having assaulted students, and who knows what else? tax dollars appropriated for the "education" of our children by unwitting taxpayers, enriching lawyers and law firms instead.

The will run up billable hours as far as they can, and then settle with some agreement where the victims get more tax dollars, and the incompetent or corrupt administrator or board member gets left out of the record. They are making so much money off taxpayers, that they will not surrender their records to public inspection. They are making so much money off litigation, that APS' insurers raised our premiums to cover extraordinarily large amounts of expense litigation.

Taxpayers could loose millions of dollars at Jimmy Carter Middle School alone, and no one will tell the truth about what is going on there. The District won't even survey, and if they did, they would hide the results. The Union appears uninterested in collecting the truth. Where else can stakeholders turn for help in getting an independent review of the problems at JCMS?

Board Member Paula Maes said she would "never agree to any audit that individually identified" corrupt or incompetent senor administrators or board members.

And no one on the board or, in the senior administration, will stand up to her.

And the Journal of course, knows nothing.
Just like their readers.

photo Mark Bralley

Weapons in APS a manifestation of the out of control, in schools

Weapons in APS schools, link.

Students in the APS are out of control. Students in the APS are "in charge" in schools.

If an adult makes a rule, and a student deliberately ignores it, who is in charge?

The leadership of the APS has steadily and relentlessly backed off of holding students actually accountable for their deliberate misconduct. Chronically disruptive students are routinely given back to teachers, who have virtually no power or resources to deal with their problems, and told to "deal with it".

I have in my records a discipline referral that I submitted on a chronically disruptive middle school student who was throwing rocks at elementary school students. A post-it note was stuck on the referral by then Assistant Principal Michael McNamara reading in effect;

Ched, in the future please handle this and similar situations yourself.
When we were children, we pushed against the envelope; we tried to chew gum in class, some of the worst of us brought a cigarette to school. Those days are long gone. The envelope now includes drugs, weapons, bullying, and any number of misdemeanors that were unthinkable in our world. Can you imagine having looked a teacher in the eye, and refused to obey them when they told you to stop doing something?

APS publishes a pamphlet called the Student Behavior Handbook, link. Within it are; Minimum Mandatory Consequences. Minimum mandatory consequences are the district's assurance to teachers that if they shoulder the consequences of reporting a student's misbehavior, the student will receive at least some minimum consequence.

On page two of the Handbook, the "weasel clause";
Nothing in the following is intended to prevent a staff member, teacher, principal or other administrator from using his/her best judgment with respect to a particular situation.
Though it seems to give some latitude to staff members and teachers, it is in reality, the opportunity for site administrators to excuse themselves from confronting parents who are invariably upset that their child is being punished for some misdemeanor at school.

"Best judgment" is not subject to review; it requires neither explanation or defense. When a principal chooses to send a student back to class without having meted out any meaningful consequence, their failure is excused by simply arguing "best judgment".

If a survey of teachers were done, it will not, the survey would show that a significant number of teachers believe there are students who routinely disrupt the learning process in their classrooms and schools, and nothing is done about them.

And that is why the survey will never been done.

This despite the fact that taxpayers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to fund a department in the APS whose job it should be to conduct just such a survey;
APS' Research, Development, and Accountability Department.

Teachers Union claims power to poll at Jimmy Carter Middle School.

The Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein, in response to my question about whether the Union had been told it could not conduct surveys (at Jimmy Carter Middle School), indicated that she was not aware of the restriction, kind of;

"If the principal was restricting our right to conduct surveys I am sure the reps would have let me know."
A second email to her, seeking a more definitive response, and suggesting that maybe he office should investigate a little deeper, has not been answered.

There is trouble at Jimmy Carter. Just yesterday another teacher, this one a substitute, has been alleged to have inappropriately handled a student, link.

Let me begin by writing that I have no personal information about this specific incident, and the following is surmise based on a quarter of a century of teaching experience and my attention to developing trends.

Teachers who lose their tempers with students (assuming that this is what happened) are manifesting their frustration with a situation that holds them accountable for a student's behavior, yet gives them no authority over the student. It would be like telling your babysitter that you intend to hold them responsible for any damage your little dear causes in your absence, yet they are not to do anything by way of punishment to the child for any of their misconduct.

The leadership of the APS, in order to avoid litigation, has stripped teachers of their authority over students. They have effectively eliminated any punishment, even for deliberate misconduct.

In the rubric that APS Supt Winston Brooks recently delivered to JCMS and presumably to all schools, defiance of a teacher's reasonable and legitimate command, is among the "least serious" of misbehaviors, and therefore prompts the least consequential response.

In short, there really is no reason for a student to feel that they have any obligation to obey adults at school.

The very first rule is; you have to obey the rules.
And, there has to be a meaningful consequence if you don't.

If students are not expected to obey adults, how are adults supposed to moderate students' behavior?

All of this would come out in an impartial Climate Survey. The district did one last year; the survey revealed huge problems that the district then kept effectively secret.

There is a need to do another Climate Survey, this one to include questions that get to the heart of the problem. The district will not do the survey because it will quantify their own incompetence.

And the Union won't do one because ...?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Albuquerque Tea Party Gubernatorial forum.



"You cannot manage it, if you cannot count it."

There is no one in state government who can, or will, tell us the whole truth about the spending of our trust and treasure.

How can you manage your power and your resources,
if you don't know where they are, and you don't know
what they are being used for?

There is no reason to not tell as much of the truth as the law will allow, except to hide corruption and incompetence.

There is only one reason to not tell the truth, and that is to hide it. To hide it, in order to escape the consequences of what they have or have not done.

It is fascinating to watch the Health Care Summit at Blair House. It is a pity that we are not able to watch our Governor and our Senators and our Representatives debating important issues in a venue where we can watch.

And if we weren't in front of our TVs today, we have only to go to the internet to watch it in its entirety at our convenience.

The only reason we cannot do that with our own state government, is because of the actions and in-actions of those whose interests are served by hiding incompetence and corruption.

Weh "assault" largely ignored.

Gubernatorial Candidate Allen Weh is yet to refute the allegation made by the County Chairman of the Republican Party Rick Abraham.

, in an exchange of emails with Weh campaign director Whitney Cheshire, accused Weh of; "physically attacking" a member of his staff.

Abraham claims the attack took place in front of "many witnesses", yet will not elaborate beyond his initial accusation.

A number of bloggers have mentioned the string of emails that blogger Monahan first pointed to, link, but no one seems particularly worked up by the idea that a gubernatorial candidate may have lost his temper and actually physically attacked someone in public and in front of witnesses.

One would suppose that if the attack had actually taken place, it would be newsworthy.

One would also suppose that if the attack had not taken place, someone would deny it, and then hold Abraham accountable for a false allegation.

Whatever the truth is, it should not be hidden from stakeholders.

There are those who would not vote for the man who announced his plan to clean the Roundhouse with "a baseball bat" if they thought that was his actual intention.

Or, maybe they would, given the level of frustration surrounding the culture of corruption in Santa Fe.

Brooks' heavy hand underscores the justification for charter schools

State Auditor Hector Balderas recently ripped the APS over a recent audit that revealing 378 "findings" (problems) mostly related to APS charter schools.

Balderas wrote of;“poor financial management and failure to adhere to internal controls in many of the district’s charter schools."

Chagrined by the chastisement, APS complained that it was unfair to hold them accountable for charter school audits, as the district did not have authority enough over the charters, to be held accountable for their missteps.

It turned out that they did, they just didn't know that they did.

Still stinging from all the bad press, and eager to wield his "new found" authority, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks demanded that four APS charters turn in monthly reports or he would revoke their charters.

The immediate problem was, the contract between the charters and the APS, call for quarterly reports, not monthly reports. If nothing else, Brooks' demand would force charters to pull personnel and resources away from whatever else they might need to be doing, to work instead on the extra reports.

The most embarrassing part of this whole thing for Brooks, was that the schools from whom he demanded the extra reports, are schools that routinely out perform APS' traditional schools.

I attend weekly meetings at one of the charter schools, and am endlessly amazed by the successes I see at the school.

In the end, the charters furnished the additional reports, Brooks withdrew his threat and then announced that as far as he was concerned, the matter was past. All except for the embarrassment he brought upon himself with his heavy handed solution to the "problem".

It is this kind of micro-managing and heavy handed dealings that lead educators to break from the APS and create charters in the first place.

The leadership of the APS, the charters, and NMPED Secretary Veronica Garcia, are supposed to meet tomorrow to solidify understandings over what authority the APS actually has over the charters, and over what their obligations are with respect to oversight by the APS.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Has the Albuquerque Teachers Federation acquiesced to "hiding" the truth?

I am following up on a story from Jimmy Carter Middle School. I have been told that the Union rep there has been told that, the Union has been specifically and explicitly denied the right to survey staff members who are not also Union members.

This is an important issue because there are serious problems at JCMS, and those problems cannot be solved while they are being kept secret.

The last survey done of the JCMS staff, pointed to serious problems. The leadership of the APS went to great lengths to keep the survey results secret from stakeholders. I actually had to file a formal request for public records in order to view the results. Even then, I was not given raw data, only data thoroughly cooked by the powers that be.

There is a need for another survey.

APS is unlikely to commission another Climate Survey, because they are reticent, to say the least, to quantify problems over which they have any responsibility.

I suggested that the Union conduct the survey, if APS will not.

I was told that the Union had been told that they would not be allowed to survey any staff members, or other stakeholders, who were not Union members. I have been told that litigation has been threatened if they do.

I have emailed the Union twice in a effort to find out what accommodations have been made to hide problems with the administration at JCMS. Neither email received a response.

My experience leads me to believe that the lack of response from the Union, indicates that they have knuckled under to APS leadership, again.

The losers in all of this; stakeholders as JCMS; students, parents, community, and staff.

Allen Weh accused of assault on County Republican Party staff member.

Blogger Monahan provided us a link this morning, to an exchange of emails between Republican County Chair Rick Abraham and Allen Weh's campaign manager Whitney Cheshire.

Within the exchange, Abraham wrote;

"Your candidate (Weh) physically attacked one of my staff members in front of many witnesses ..."

A request has been made of Abraham, for some elaboration. His response was not received in time for this post. I will update accordingly.

The alleged assault would not seem out of character for Weh, who at one point promised to clear out the corrupt and incompetent in Santa Fe, with a baseball bat.

Cheshire's efforts to downplay this aspect of her candidate's character, re-marketing him as a "changed" candidate, have apparently been dealt a serious blow.

Update; I have received a response from Rick Abraham; he wrote;
"Unfortunately, I can not elaborate on this matter."

photos Mark Bralley

APS Audit Committee continues to deny due process to hundreds of complainants.

APS' Audit Committee is meeting tonight, link. Missing from the agenda, due process for more than 200 complaints that have been filed against administrators and others.

APS provides a whistleblower hot line, SilentWhistle, upon which complaints of ethical and criminal misconduct can be filed against APS administrators or other employees.

In so far as the administration investigates complaints made against the administration, there is a need for oversight by an impartial third party. In the APS, the oversight is supposedly provided by the executive branch; the School Board. They are supposed to review and approve of the handling of every single complaint.

APS School Board Policy reads;

B. 07 Board Committees...
"The Audit Committee reviews and recommends approval of ... any whistleblower complaints".
Yet the Audit Committee has not reviewed or approved the handling of even a single complaint.

Despite the specific and explicit obligation to review whistle blower complaints, Audit Committee Chair David Robbins steadfastly refuses to put them on his agenda.

He will not put whistleblower complaint review on the agenda because there are at least two complaints that he does not want to see the light of day. They are my complaints that APS Supt Winston Brooks has behaved unethically by refusing to step up to honest accountability as a role model of the APS Student Standards of Conduct, and that he (or someone acting in his stead) improperly closed that complaint without due process.

Though Robbins has clearly betrayed the trust placed in him by the voters who supported him, he won't discuss his decision to continue to deny due process to the complaints.

The only justification he will offer; "we haven't violated federal law".

Again, the obvious motivation for his refusal to do what he is required to do, the inability to summon the character and the courage necessary to hold himself, and Brooks, honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence.

When asked to point to another reason, he can't.

Instead he points to my motivation for filing the complaint, link, despite the fact my motivation simply does not play in the affording due process to legitimate complaints.

The only things that play are character and courage in the leadership of the APS.

And both are in short supply.

photo Mark Bralley

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Richardson's boggle.

Governor Bill Richardson has not yet made up his mind to put the establishment of an Ethics Commission on the call for the Special Session beginning Monday next. He isn't even talking about the prospect of finishing the work on robust webcasting by putting it on the call.

There is no good and ethical reason to put off webcasting and an Ethics Commission until another session. What do we need to see in another session that we do not need to see in this one? When will archiving be more necessary than it is right now?

There is a movie called The Great Debaters, link. In that movie, the character of a young Negro woman argues that it is time for students from Negro colleges to be allowed to debate students from White colleges. In closing, she pointed out;

"The right time to do the right thing is always right now."
According to Richardson, legislators have been working since the end of the last session, on the solution to the budget problem; hopefully, in groups small enough to avoid breaking Open Meetings law, and the spirit of the whole discussion surrounding webcasting.

He said; "I believe giving lawmakers this extra time to build consensus is the best thing for all New Mexicans.”

Well the very best thing for all New Mexicans, would be a government that is transparently accountable to the people.

In addition to the budget, he can just as well, give them the time they need to work on the solution to the need for transparent accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence for politicians and public servants.

After all, it really should not require that much more time.

How long does it take, to make up your mind whether or not you are willing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

When you are asked that question in a court of law, you are not expected, or allowed, nor should it be necessary, to take a great deal of time to formulate your answer.

Richardson's legacy is in the toilet.

NMI's Matt Reichbach, link, reports;
"... 63 percent of voters in the state disapprove of him and only 28 approve.
“He’s even in negative territory among Democrats at a 42/47 spread ..."
If he has any chance at all to rehabilitate his reputation and legacy, it would be by acting decisively to end the culture of corruption and incompetence in Santa Fe. He will shine the light of day on every corner of government that is not explicitly and specifically excepted by the law.

If he does nothing, if he offers some lame excuse for not making the Ethics Commission and robust webcasting the first priority of the Special, then it is because, and only because, he wants to do something that he needs to hide from voters in the next election.

And why in the world will we sit back doing nothing
while he does that?

Update; I stand corrected. Richardson cannot put webcasting on the call. "Separation of powers" dictates that the legislature take the initiative on the issue of webcasting.

I would settle for his encouragement on the issue.

photo Mark Bralley

What's not on the Policy Committee Meeting agenda? any display of character or courage.

APS' Policy Committee is meeting tonight, link.

You have to read clear down to "future topics" to find mention of; Progress APS Policies and Procedures Update. It isn't on the agenda for discussion tonight; nor likely will it ever be on the agenda for open and honest public discussion.

It has been nearly a year now since School Board Member David Robbins put the Role Modeling Clause on the table for discussion, link. The clause which reads;

in no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult be lower than the standards of conduct for students,
was removed by the board in order that neither they nor the senior administrative leadership of the APS could actually be held accountable as role models of the student standards of conduct.

In truth, there is not a single member of the board, nor a single senior administrator which the character and the courage to speak candidly, forthrightly and honestly about their intentions with respect to setting standards of conduct for students and then holding themselves honestly accountable as role models of those standards; not one.

Policy Committee Chair David Peercy has the authority to put the subject on the table for discussion; he does not have the character and the courage to do so, link.

Instead, he decided to lump the Role Modeling Clause into the discussion of all APS policies and procedures, and table the whole thing.

There are two reasons and two reasons only, to refuse to step up to honest accountability as role models of the student standards of conduct; a lack of character, and/or, a lack of courage.

If there is another, I cannot imagine it, and neither, apparently, can anyone in the entire leadership of the APS.

APS Supt. Winston Brooks, the senior-most administrative role model of the APS Student Standards of Conduct cannot summon the character and the courage to talk about it.

Neither can the senior-most executive role model;
School Board President
Marty Esquivel

photos Mark Bralley

Monday, February 22, 2010

Will ethics reform and webcasting be on the call for the Special?

Will robust webcasting and archiving be on the call?
Will we get the ethics commission we so badly need?
Not if these folks have anything to say about it.

Governor Bill Richardson

Senate President Pro Tempore
Tim Jennings

Senate Majority Leader
Michael Sanchez

Senate Majority Whip
Mary Jane Garcia

Senate Rules Committee Chair
Linda Lopez

Speaker of the House
Ben Lujan

House Majority Floor Leader
Ken Martinez

House Majority Whip
Sheryl Williams Stapleton

Noteworthy; they are all Democrats; the entrenched party and therefore, the party most responsible for the past and current sins of commission and omission, and therefore, the party with the most to hide from voters in the next election.

photos Mark Bralley
except Garcia and Stapleton,
whose photos come from the legislative website

Grandfathering in the culture of corruption.

It is one thing to prevent public corruption and incompetence.

It is a whole other thing to prosecute it.

Unfortunately, one cannot prevent corruption without first ending it, and corruption cannot be ended except by a process that holds accountable, those who are currently corrupt and/or incompetent. And a majority of legislators apparently lack the character and the courage to hold accountable fellow politicians and public servants; people with whom they have worked for years, maybe for generations.

If the culture of corruption could be grandfathered in, holding harmless those who have in the past manifest their corruption and incompetence, legislation could and would be created to end future corruption and incompetence.

But there will be no grandfathering in of the corrupt and the incompetent; the people are in no mood to allow it. Therefore, there will be no legislation passed that might expose it; no webcasting of legislator's faces as they defend or betray the trust the people have placed in them, and no archive of video records of their conduct and competence as politicians and public servants.

Nearly every one of them would pass a law to prevent corruption, if in doing so, they could avoid holding friends and colleagues honestly accountable for their conduct and competence. They cannot, and therefore, will not pass laws that would end future corruption either.

More trouble brewing at Jimmy Carter Middle School?

Something is up at Jimmy Carter Middle School. Three of the four site administrators have been unavailable for several days; sequestered in their offices discussing "serious issues".

Students, always watching, have taken the opportunity afforded by the reduced oversight, to misbehave without fear of consequence.

The newest misconduct; vampire kids. Apparently some students are running up to other students and biting them on the arms, wrists and necks. This in addition to reported heightened gang activity, fights, drug dealing and drug use, and inappropriate sexual activity among students in portable bathrooms. (Note; these allegations come from a source I consider to be eminently reliable. There is no concrete evidence to which I am privy.)

By any reasonable measure, things are not going well at JCMS, and have not been for some time.

At this time last year, a School Climate Survey was completed at the school. A number of serious problems were revealed in the Survey, which was then kept (effectively) secret from the staff and other stakeholders.

It would appear to be time for another Survey. This time, stakeholders should be at the table when it is decided what questions should be addressed by the survey. This time, survey results should not be kept secret; they need to be laid on the table for comprehensive study in order that workable solutions can be designed.

It is out of character for APS leadership to gather empirical data that documents administrative shortcomings and outright failures. They need to step out of character and do the right thing here, even if administrative heads need to roll.

The staff at JCMS deserves no less. Neither do students, nor their parents.

This also presents an opportunity for the Albuquerque Teachers Federation to step up and do something to represent the interests of union members (and non-members) at the school, and be a little less concerned with sucking up to the leadership in the hope of guaranteeing future pay raises for those they represent.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The solution to problems at Rio Grande High School, and at every other school.

The (lack of) success story at Rio Grande High School is back in the Journal; this time reporting successful(?) reform, link. The success is debatable.

There are two steps which must be taken to close the achievement gap. If those two steps are not taken, success if any, will be marginal. The steps address overriding considerations; those whose effect is so great as to dwarf the effect of any other reform.

1. End social promotion.

The idea that a student, behind in the first grade, will catch up in the second, is not supported by any real world data. The truth is that they get further behind in the second, even further behind in the third, and continue to fall further behind every year for as long as they are in school.

Social promotion was not the brain child of teachers; it was an administrative edict. Its purpose; kick the can down the road. Unfortunately, by the time the can gets kicked into their senior year, there is nowhere to kick the can to. Universities are holding the line against admitting high school graduates with no skills to enable their survival in classes where there is no social promotion.

The excuse offered; it is damaging to a student's psyche to hold them back. The damage done to their psyche by being put into situations where they have no opportunity to succeed, escaped discussion.

The idea that kids, with nothing in common but the year of their birth, can be made to move at the same pace in the same direction for 12 years is preposterous on its face.

Instead of social promotion, insist instead upon mastery learning wikilink; when you have mastered one level, you move to the next. If you have not mastered the material, you do not.

2. Remove chronically disruptive students.

There are students in every school whose presence interferes with the education of other students. Administrators are content to saddle teachers with the responsibility of managing children who are out of control, and they remain in class, their behavior unmitigated by any solution available to classroom teachers.

There needs to be another place for chronically disruptive students. We used to expel them (not the best answer by any means, but it did protect other students from their disruptive behavior).

For as long as students are not required to master subject matter, they will not.

For as long as chronically disruptive students are allowed to continue to disrupt the education of other students, they will.

For as long as these two conditions are allowed to prevail, there will be achievement gaps; enormous achievement gaps.

"Elusive success", no barrier in APS administrative promotions.

APS' Rio Grande High School, by any reasonable measure, is failing a majority of its students. The root causes for that failure are beyond the control of APS administrators. Dealing effectively with those root causes is under their control; it is in fact, their job.

Failing to do that job effectively, is apparently no barrier to further promotion within APS' administrative ranks.

This morning's Journal, includes two articles; "Success Elusive at Rio Grande", link, and "Reforms and Stipends Seem to be Working", link.

Highlighted in the article, APS Associate Superintendent Eddie Soto. Soto is a former principal at the beleaguered school. His career there ended after a student riot.

A recent audit by the Council of the Great City Schools, revealed that "APS administrative evaluations are subjective and unrelated to promotion and step placement". Soto's promotion out of his failed administration; a case in point.

According to the Journal;

Eddie Soto, a former Rio Grande principal who is now an APS associate superintendent, said Rio Grande in the past didn't put much thought into the programs it was starting.
"We would just layer on program after program after program without any real strategic thought. ...," he said. "It was simply, 'Oh, it sounds good. Let's do it.' "
His reward for piling program upon program with no strategic thought; promotion to Associate Superintendent planning strategy district wide.

A more stunning example, former Rio Grande Principal Veronica Garcia, who also failed to right the ship at RGHS, and yet ended up being promoted to the Secretary of the NM Public Education Department.

Promotions appear to have more to do with "paying dues" than in successful administration of the school.

photo Mark Bralley

Friday, February 19, 2010

"the clock ran out" oh, really?

The gentlemen and gentle-ladies most responsible for the legislature's failure to pass a budget, are pointing out that, while yes they did fail, it wasn't by much, and it was only because "the clock ran out".

Let's start with the "clock ran out". Is it just me, or does that seem like a really stupid reason to stop working a monumental problem, when the solution was just hours away?

Let's assume for the sake of argument, that there really is no possible way that the legislature and governor could have gotten together, sung Kumbaya wikilink, and then agreed to hang around for a just a little while longer.

Saying, "the clock ran out", is calculated to leave the impression that something happened that was beyond their control. Is it honest to imply that they were the victims of a clock, in the face of so much time wasted?

Why not get the budget done, and then start investing hours of debate on whether Pluto is a planet, or any other one of the other insipid memorials they did find the time to attend to.

They blew it, and there will be no film at 10:00,
because robust webcasting and searchable archives,
fell victim to "the clock" as well.

They managed to prevent any of what they did, didn't, and did instead, from being shown to voters in the next election.

First, before we do one other thing, let's end the culture of corruption and incompetence in Santa Fe. Before we discuss another bill, let's get cameras on everything. Let's draw the line between what we have a right to watch, and what we don't.

With respect to transparency and open government, let's go as far as we are ever going to go, right now, today, before we do another thing. No more incremental reform. No more glacial reform. Let's decide where we are going to finally end up, and go there now.

And then we will begin the debate on the other important issues of the day.

Should Ben Lujan remain Speaker of the House?

Heath Haussamen asked this question 8 months ago, link.

With the addition of the debacle that was the just finished session, and his apparent loss of control over his caucus,
the question bears repeating.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, February 18, 2010

If they really were proud of their work ...

At the end of the session today, there was much back slapping and mutual congratulations. To hear them tell it, they did a job they can be proud of.

Yet they refuse to record it and show it to anybody.

It is almost as if in truth, they were ashamed of what they have done.

Plans for an Extraordinarily Special Session of the Legislature

If it's a Special Session, legislators dance about under the Governor's strings.

If if's an Extraordinary Session, legislators pull their own strings, and the Governor begs for attention.

In an Extraordinarily Special Session, the Governor and a relatively small delegation of legislators from both houses, evenly matched, sit around that huge granite table next to the Governor's Office and pound out an agenda, right in front of God and everybody, robustly webcast, and meticulously archived.

And then they adjoin to their respective committee rooms and floors, and attend to the people's business, robustly webcast and meticulously archived.

Printer Employment Security Act passes in the Senate

There was a move afoot, to take unused absentee ballots
and (re)use them on election day.

Senator Kent Cravens, a printer, stepped on that foot.
As a direct result of his effort, the bill is dead.

Instead, taxpayers will pay someone to shred hundreds of thousands of perfectly usable ballots.

I cannot show you him doing this, because the camera on the Senate floor doesn't even show his seat, much less his face. And even if there were such a camera there would be no archive to point you to.

Cravens argued that wasting a few hundred thousand dollars, was no big deal, that the amount was inconsiderable.

Too little to worry about.

Yet too much, apparently, to have appropriated for use by the State Auditors Office, or the Attorney General's Office, or webcasting, or an Ethics Commission.

I cannot find any way that Cravens made any money on the deal, he does not print ballots, nor does he have any state contracts.

In so far as a rising tide lifts all printing presses,
he probably should have recused himself.
Stepping up to kill the bill personally, was beyond the pale.

In fairness to Senator Cravens: in response to one of his arguments, the next set of ballots will be likely be printed on recycled paper to save money.

Apparently, no one in that entire branch of government ever had the bright idea to buy the cheapest paper. Nothing too good for taxpayers.

Being the cynic, I will imagine that somebody knows somebody who knows somebody, who sells paper and offers kickbacks.

Also, as the result of his questioning, we know that roughly four ballots are printed for every one that is actually used. In other words, in the last election, taxpayers bought four ballots, and then paid someone to shred three of them.

Which brings us back to the guy who knows a guy, who sells paper. And printing.

photo Mark Bralley

Turner remains steadfast, they're hiding something, he says

Doug Turner was on the Jim Villanucci Show today.

I told him that the Democrat leadership had effectively killed full coverage webcasting of the legislature.

I reminded him that a couple of weeks ago, he said that the only reason to fight against robust webcasting, was to hide the truth from voters.

I asked him if he still felt as strongly. He does.

The real reason to not webcast robustly and to an archive,
is to hide the truth from voters in the next election.

In so far as the next election is concerned, it is already too late.

Unless robust webcasting is legislated next week,
before the Ethics Commission debates, and before the budget debates, it will not happen before the next election.

APS Board soon to be actually accountable.

The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education recently passed for themselves, a Code of Ethics. The code, by their own admission, is completely unenforceable.

There is in fact, no standard of conduct that applies to Board Members and senior administrators, that can be enforced against their will. It could be argued that, they are not even accountable to the law, spending untold numbers of tax dollars on litigation excepting them from actual accountability even to the lowest standard of all.

That may change. Legislation, link, just passed in Santa Fe, will include the APS Board under the auspices of the Governmental Conduct Act.

I will have to wait until July 1st, 2010, to file an ethics complaint with the Secretary of State, over their abdication as role models of the APS Student Standards of Conduct. I suppose that, that Office will be too busy to deal with the issue, but its worth a try.

"Hoping" for ethics reform.

It is driving me nuts! people "hoping" for ethics reform.

There are those who benefit from not reforming government to ethical standards. Some are outright corrupt and need to hide their corruption. Some are just enjoying the power they wield in the absence of reform. Some perhaps, just don't understand.

The impetus for change is supposed to come from the people; our government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our representatives are supposed to be doing our will.

Our will, by any reasonable measure, is that our government be as open and transparent as the law will allow.

And then we "hope" that legislators will legislate to that end.

Why? Do we hope our chef cooks the meal we ordered?
Do we hope our painter uses the color we ordered?
Do we hope our chauffeur takes us to where we ordered?
Do we "hope" our gardener plants the plants we ordered?

We have become accustomed to letting our servants run the house.

We need to be more assertive.

And yet, those who are depended upon to galvanize the people's will, write "Here's to hoping ..., link, and then expect things to change.

They haven't for generations, why would they now?

Hispanic Education Act passes both houses

Despite a lengthy and occasionally cogent argument by Senator Tim Jennings, the Senate has passed the Hispanic Education Act.

Jennings correctly pointed out that educational difficulties are individual and not the result of ethnicity. Therefore the difficulties should be addressed individually and not as a manifestation of race.

He also wondered, now that we have created a Hispanic Education Act, will we not in the next legislative session, be considering an African American Education Act, a Native American Education Act, a Asian Pacific Islander Education Act and finally a Poor White Kid Education Act?

For any student with educational difficulties, there is a list of appropriate interventions. Not one of those interventions requires first asking; what color is the kid's skin?

The insistence on following these courses of action, stems from the unswerving conviction that you can take thirty kids who have nothing in common except their age, and now apparently, their skin color, and move them in groups of thirty, in the same direction and at the same speed for 12 years.

When we finally are able to look at students as individuals, independent of their ethnicity, and apply individualized interventions, we will finally be able to address their individual difficulties successfully.

That legislation, unfortunately, isn't on the table.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NMI Live Blog sliding on slippery slope.

I had a feeling that comments, some of mine anyway, were being censored on the NMI Live Blog, link, of the legislature.

Recently, the Live Blog moderator, Matt Reichbach admitted that comments on the live blog were being censored.

It seems ironic that an effort to shine the light on the truth, can step so blithely into the role of censor.

There are comments that warrant publishing, beyond doubt. Certainly, there are comments that are clearly inappropriate to publish without at the least, admonishment, or perhaps not published at all.

That firm ground becomes slippery when you censor the first comment, and obligate yourself to then censor every following comment by the same standard.

Somewhere in the middle, there are comments that could go either way. And on 50% of those, the wrong call will be made.

It is an awesome responsibility to assume. I wish Matt good luck.

At any rate, I feel it is only fair to publicly disclose the censorship policy.

Even the Journal admits straight up; not all comments will be published.

Update; Marjorie Childress posted a comment on the live blog, writing;

"For the record, Matt Reichbach does not censor comments on the liveblog. He does "moderate" comments."
In another comment Matt wrote, and I quote;
"And we don't approve a lot of comments that are about Sens and Reps that don't add to the discussion, btw. "
If you look up censor you find;
an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams,etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.
I stand by my report.

photo Mark Bralley

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunshine on everything, except the names.

The House is struggling with the Sunshine that Lt Governor Diane Denish and State Senator Sander Rue have placed on their table, link.

They want to parse the truth.

At issue; whether the people have a right to know the names of their public servants and their salaries; who are our servants and, how much are we paying them?

Arguments against individually identifying public employees and their salaries, while valid, at least to some, are not overriding arguments. They do not compel us to parse the truth.

They are not more important than the most important arguments of all; that the people have a right to know the truth (unless and until, they surrender it following informed decision making).

The right is the people's to surrender, not the government's to usurp.

So what's up with Michael Sanchez?

From a report on Democracy for New Mexico, link, I have learned;

Senate Majority Leader
Michael Sanchez
has tabled SR1.

Senate Resolution 1
was his own bill. It would have marginally improved Senate webcasting from a technological stand point, although he did include language that would have prohibited archiving; the creation of any incontrovertible and accessible evidence of his conduct and competence as the State Senator from link, from District 29; Valencia County.

It was one year and a few days ago, that our attention had also been drawn to this man's obfuscation in ending the culture of corruption and incompetence in state government, through ethics reform, link.

He doesn't want Senate Committee Meetings to be webcast. Because they could be recorded by someone.

And at his election, someone might come up with a link to incontrovertible evidence of his corruption and/or incompetence, such as but not limited to; during a Senate Rules Committee Confirmation Hearing on UNM Regent Jamie Koch, link.

He really has no interest in holding himself honestly accountable to the people, for his conduct and competence as a politician and public servant.

There is no reason, nor sum of reasons, to not webcast and archive deliberative meetings of state government officials.

Yet he is dead set against it. He won't even allow its discussion.
He gets away with it because he is a man of power and privilege;

even though the power belongs to the people, and
the privilege is purloined.

photo Mark Bralley

Lujan kills independent review of state spending.

Last year, State Senator Tim Keller, introduced a bill, link, that would enable the Legislative Finance Committee to evaluate and review state spending.

The bill passed last year with unanimous bipartisan support.
Then Governor Bill Richardson vetoed it. I suppose he
vetoed it to prevent the exposure of all of the people he has
installed in jobs for which they are under-qualified and overpaid.

It was brought up again this session in order to override the veto.

Speaker of the House Ben Lujan has apparently decided that it should go through another committee hearing before the full house gets an opportunity to vote to override the veto.

In effect, since the session is about to close and time is running out, the move by Lujan effectively kills the bill.

I cannot think of a single good, or ethical reason for him to kill this bill.

His apparent interest is in covering up wasteful spending by state agencies. Why he would do such a thing, defies reason.

It's as if he were a crook covering the tracks, and asses, of his cronies. If there is any other explanation, it eludes me.

photo Mark Bralley

"Hoping" legislators will do the right thing

For the most, we expect legislators to legislate our will.
If there is a cause which has overwhelming public support,
we expect legislators to write and pass legislation that reflects
the will of the people.

Yet that connection is tenuous. We cannot count on the legislature to legislate the will of the people. Every year we find ourselves in the position of "hoping" that legislators will legislate our will.

Take for example; webcasting. I think it is fair to say that nearly every New Mexican who is aware of the issue, supports it. I seriously doubt the existence of very many voters who want their representative to vote against webcasting.

And here we are at the end of the session and we have squat for webcasting; cameras too distant to show legislators faces, and no archive to search should we not be prepared to record the streams ourselves.

Some will tout the current situation as a huge success, many steps forward in the effort to make our government open and transparent to us.

It is not.

We have been betrayed by those who we had "hoped" would open our government up for us.

Perhaps there will be justice in the next election; perhaps we can deny an office to any and every politician who did not stand on the record this session, demanding robust webcasting and an archive.

It is not enough to "not vote against it". It is not enough to have not opposed it. It is not enough to claim to be in support and then say and do nothing.

They picked a side when they refuse to pick a side.
And next November we will hold them accountable for their lack of character and courage.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Division of the House

"A Division of the House is a parliamentary mechanism, available since the time of the Roman Senate, which calls for a rising vote, wherein the members of the house literally divide into groups indicating a vote in favour of or in opposition to a motion on the floor." wikilink derived

I wish there could be compelled, a Division of the House,
in favour of or in opposition to,
robust webcasting and other fundamental issues.

Make the fence straddlers pick a side.

Make them accountable at their next election.

Make them stand up for what they believe in.

Cowards; need not apply.

Odd that, though they are our "servants",
we cannot compel them to do so.

Nor even to participate in open and honest public discussions
on that subject or on any other.

Webcasting, in a manner befitting ...

The legislation which would create legislative webcasting all contain some similar language;

A live audio and video stream of the senate floor proceedings shall be accessible through the legislature's web site in a manner befitting the senate...

The stream shall be accessible through the legislature's web site in a manner befitting the house of representatives ...
So what does "befitting" mean? Apparently that will be left up to the Legislative Council Service to determine. The dictionary suggests that befitting means; to be appropriate for, suitable for, proper for, becoming of, fitting for, ...

So if the LCS regards the legislature as essentially characterless and cowardly, they will provide camera coverage that won't show their faces; that won't allow voters to look into their eyes.

On the other hand, if the LCS regards most legislators as men and women of character and courage, willing to be held honestly accountable for their conduct and competence, they will provide camera coverage showing speaker's faces and body language.

Herein lies a rub. If the LCS does hold the legislature in high regard, they would of course, establish a searchable and user friendly archive. Unfortunately, (some) legislators have managed to introduce language that specifically and explicitly prohibits the LSC from doing the right thing about archiving.

It would appear that the LCS is being given conflicting directions; unless of course, the underlying supposition is, the legislature by in large, does lack the character and courage to hold themselves actually and honestly accountable to voters.

Legislative webcasting on life support.

If you accept the premise; government of the people,
by the people and for the people; it stands to reason,
"the people" must know as much as possible about their government.

The more they know, the more ably can they participate.

The government has the primary responsibility to spread the truth. The people should not be required to buy software, link, or do anything else except to simply "look it up".

Everything the people need to know about their government should be recorded in a place where anyone can simply look it up; quickly and easily.

At the end of this legislative session, there will or will not be webcasting done right. If there is not, the blame falls on the shoulders of those who did nothing; those who were willing to make no sacrifice in support of their commitment.

It will be because of those who picked a side when they would not pick a side.

It will be because of those who let "evil" prevail simply, by doing nothing.

What does it say for us that we are not willing to fight for the truth about the spending of our power and our resources?

The position,

the reasons to not webcast robustly to a searchable archive, outweigh the reasons to webcast robustly and to a searchable archive,
is indefensible.

That is why Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez will not lead a candid, forthright and honest, public discussion about every aspect of webcasting.

He cannot, so he will not,
defend his position.

There is only one defense for an indefensible position; hide it.
Stonewall. Deny the discussion.

And since there will be no searchable archive, we cannot show voters in the next election, videotape of Sanchez, betraying their interests. Thereby, making it easier for him to maintain his position of power and privilege.

There is a small handful of legislators in both Houses, who have stood on the record in support of honest webcasting. There is a small handful of legislators standing in the breach, relatively alone.

Leaders have the obligation to step into the breach. In the breach is the only place where real leadership can be manifest.

Those who cannot be the first through the breach, have an obligation to be the second. If not the second, then the third, and the fourth.

Sacrifice is the currency of commitment.
It is the only currency of commitment.
The debt one owes to one's commitments is paid in sacrifice and only in sacrifice.

Of what importance is any principle,
if there is no one willing to stand in its support,
if there is no one willing to fight in its defense,
if there is no one willing to sacrifice on its behalf?

Is truthtelling in government a principle worth fighting for?

It is time for those legislators claiming the character and the courage to be held honestly accountable for their character and competence, to step into the breach; stand up for what you believe in.

It is time for voters to stand up and deny a seat to every legislator too afraid, or too corrupt, to step into the breach on this issue and, rather immediately.

photo Mark Bralley