Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Acting Chief acting derelict

I was not APS acting Chief of Police Steve Gallegos' only problem yesterday.

There was a crisis in progress, I was told, of such magnitude that there was no one on the entire APS police force, except the ladies at the reception desk, who could free themselves long enough to tell me why I was being denied access to legitimate business in their Employee Benefits Office.

Though Executive Director of Communications / Crisis Manager Monica Armenta was nowhere to be seen, during or since;
there was in fact a bonafide crisis. Five schools had been shut down because there was a kid (flashing?) a gun and hanging around one of them, link.

Five schools, more or less. It turns out that many classrooms don't have working all-calls, and aren't in the loop. They might never have discovered their lives were in danger, except for the number of resourceful students who spend their days non-stop texting pretty much everybody but the leadership of the APS.

Oddly, no one in APS' Communications Dept, showed up on TV.
Instead, they wheeled out COO Brad Winter to assure parents
and community members that everything is fine because
they practice active shooter drills in schools all the time

In charge; Deputy Chief Steve Gallegos.

He was in charge, I was told,
because the actual Chief, Steve
Tellez, like Elvis, was no longer
in the building.

That subject came up when I
asked who I could talk to about
the unlawful order they were
enforcing, denying my access
to their castle keep.

I had legitimate business. I was behaving appropriately. I was in violation of no law, no regulation, no ethic, not even Marty Esquivel's unlawful restraining order. I did nothing wrong; I will stand on the public record; security cameras, recorders, and eyewitness testimony.

Though they were up to their eyeballs in a crisis, APS acting Chief Steve Gallegos found the time to walk clear across the building, personally, to harass and eject me.

Admittedly, I only had half his attention. He was holding a cell
phone to his ear most of the time.

Which means of course, whoever was on the other end of the
calls he was fielding, people dealing with a kid with a gun,
had half his attention as well.

I would argue the students, staff and community members in
those schools and whose lives were at stake, should have had
his full attention.

Both Tellez and Gallegos have been voted no confidence by the
people who in situations like these, hold their hands closer to
their guns than their cell phones.

Gallegos, a double dipper, probably pulls down north of $100K;

to protect children from gunmen and administrators from
whistleblowers, both at the same time.

Tellez photo Mark Bralley
Gallegos, Armenta photo ched macquigg

Arrested by APS Deputy Chief

This is Steve Gallegos; he's the Deputy Chief of APS' Police force. He arrested me this morning for no reason except to harass me.  By arrest I mean he used his authority as a police officer to deprive me of my liberty.  He did so with no justification whatsoever.

It isn't the first time Gallegos has been a party to my harassment. He was there for the unlawful arrest at the Gubernatorial Debate at Eldorado High School.

He's seen here standing behind APS Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta while she is ordering them to eject me from the building. She has no authority to order the APS police force to do anything; but that's a whole different story.

I was in the administrative digs at 6400 Uptown Blvd to drop off a check at the Employee Benefits Office. I was arrested, basically for being in the building. The public record; belt recorders, security cameras and witness testimony will substantiate the allegation.

I will ask for the public records; they will claim none exist.

Either Gallegos doesn't understand the banning letter he thinks he's enforcing, has never read it, or it wouldn't make any difference anyway.

Before he ordered me to leave the building, he asked if I had finished my business. I told him "no"; he threw me out anyway.

The APS Police Force is a publicly funded private police force functioning as a Praetorian Guard in every sense. They are accountable to no one, accredited by no one, and certificated by no one. The report directly to and only to, the leadership of the APS.

In theory, they should be accountable to Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston. But judging by his apparent lack of concern over APS cops sitting and watching high schools students drinking alcohol, link, and his lack of concern over the cover up of felony criminal misconduct by APS senior administrators, Houston doesn't take his oversight role all that seriously.

Gallegos photos
ched macquigg
Houston photo
Mark Bralley

Monday, February 27, 2012

One community group gets school board attention, the other still being ignored.

The APS District and Community Relations Committee will finally provide some due process for a group of interest holders who have been waiting four months for the board to consider their petition for acceptance of a policy they wrote called; the Families United for Education Process for Proposed Family Engagement Policy.

Kudos to Committee Chair Lorenzo Garcia for putting their petition on his agenda and then allowing a public forum. Unclear still, why he will not extend the same courtesy to another group of interest holders whose petition has been before the board for two months longer than the Families for Education petition.

The Citizens Advisory Council on Communications submitted a petition, link, in August of last year, link, and is yet to see public discussion.

As usual, the agenda is posted with minimum notice required by the law as oppose to early as the law allows. I would encourage you to check their agenda, link, for any reason this agenda could not have been published days ago instead of at the very last minute.

The problem of course, the less notice, the less chance for interest holders to rearrange their schedules in order to participate in a meeting about their interests and that begins before their workday ends.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Still nothing from Brooks on student discipline

It has been more than three months now, since I asked APS Supt Winston Brooks why we never talk about student discipline, link.

So far, not a word.

Two possibilities; the first, student discipline, like the color their lockers are painted, has no effect on learning. It is of so little consequence that it doesn't warrant gathering data, examining it, and making plans to address the issues we find.

The other possibility; student discipline doesn't look good, so in the interests of positive public perception, it simply isn't brought up.

There is no data to examine. By their own deliberate choice, the leadership of the APS does not gather data that looks bad; that will stain their precious public perception.

Less than five years ago, a document was created by Council of the Great City Schools investigators; "Evaluation of District Security Operations". It holds the findings an investigation into APS' police force; a publicly funded private police force; a praetorian guard.

They wrote;

"The annual statistical crime report to the Board of Education (and the community) may be inaccurate and possibly misleading. "... there is a prevailing culture of under-reporting incidents in order to improve the image of the district and the individual schools."
"... a prevailing culture ..."

CoGCS auditors, in another administrative audit, found "... a culture of fear of retribution and retaliation" against whistleblowers.

"... a culture of fear ..."

I doubt CoGCS auditors used a word as powerful as "culture" casually. It seems unlikely in a report where the word "may" is used to describe the possibility that a culture of under-reporting manifests itself in inaccuracy and deception.

Cultures of anything don't disappear overnight.

They don't disappear over five years.

There is still a culture of under reporting in the APS; witness their unwillingness to produce data on student discipline.

There is still a culture of fear of retaliation against whistleblowers.

All anyone has to do to prove that, is ask.

Which gets us to the Journal, and why won't they ask a few APS employees if they are witness to any administrative corruption and incompetence, and if they feel comfortable exposing it?

This is Journal Managing Editor Kent Walz. He is seen here defending his nomination of Winston Brooks for a NM FOG Dixon Award.

Walz, and school board enforcer Marty Esquivel, bamboozled the NM FOG board into giving Brooks a Dixon Award as a hero of transparency while at the very same time, Brooks and Esquivel were, and are, suppressing public records of felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators, link; the Caswell Report, and every other public record of any investigation of public corruption and incompetence in the leadership of the APS police force.

I have no idea whose fist pounds the table last at the Journal. But, as managing editor, one could reasonably suppose that Walz could instigate an investigation and report upon the suppression of evidence of felony criminal misconduct, by the APS police force, until statutes of limitation expired, and the collateral and ongoing cover up.

But Walz won't.

And neither will he have anyone investigate and report upon student discipline in the APS, the lack of record keeping, the deliberate falsification of records, and the culture of fear of retaliation on any whistleblower who tries to do anything about it.

And that's why Winston Brooks doesn't have to talk about student discipline.

Or about the lack of character and courage that keeps him from holding himself honestly accountable as a role model of the student standards of conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts!.

photo and frame grab Mark Bralley

Journal editors step up on pumpkin theft

You don't have to read deep or long on this blog to find criticism of the Journal editors, primarily over their relentless disinterest in the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

This morning, the Journal editors became the first of the establishment news outlets to take a stand on the right side of pumpkin thievery. All of the rest pandered to their audiences who think the thieves were the victims and the victim the villain. They wrote, link;

"At the risk of sounding really old and really square, there
was a time when people simply knew not to take something
that didn’t belong to them. Not from a neighbor’s yard, not
from a business, not if it wasn’t theirs. If they did, that
“taking” was labeled for what it really was: i.e., stealing."
How do editors suppose children grow into adults who don't
know any better, or care any more about honesty, than to take
something that doesn't belong to them? Where do editors
expect students to find guidance and role models if there are
none in their homes?

The leadership of the APS is doing a huge disservice to students
and the community by neglecting character development in the

The Journal, and the rest of the establishment media, are
doing a huge disservice to students and the community by
ignoring the lack of character development as part and parcel
of a sound education.

Theodore Roosevelt was absolutely right;
to educate in the mind and not in the morals is to create
a menace to society.
These young adults went through a school system somewhere (maybe APS) and were educated in the mind, acquiring a skill set that enabled them to steal pumpkins and then to mitigate or avoid consequences. That school system never helped them understand and internalize basic tenets of right and wrong.

Whatever school system it was, created two "menaces" to society.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vega-Brown; "we're done! We're done!"

KRQE reporter Alex Tomlin was trying to find out if a BCSO recruit was given special treatment because of a connection to Sheriff Dan Houston's church. She was interviewing Lt David Knowles. Sitting in; the Sheriff's legal adviser/PIO Jennifer Vega-Brown.

This post isn't about the apparently preferential treatment given to this recruit or to another before him who happened to have political connections.

Rather, it is about whether a public information officer should help a reporter (or citizen) get to the truth, or to deflect them from it.

Tomlin was asking legitimate questions. Public servants have an obligation to respond candidly, forthrightly and honestly; answering as many questions as the law will allow, and refusing to answer only when the law requires.

At 3;20 into Tomlin's report, link, Vega-Brown announces;

We're done. We're done.
They weren't done; nowhere close. Tomlin had not dug as deep as she had a right to, though clearly she had already dug too deep to suit Vega-Brown.

Public Information Officers are first and foremost public servants.
Is Vega-Brown serving the public? hardly.

Watch her face, measure her irritation. She is not serving the
public interests; she is serving her own interest and those of
the man she works under, not the people she works for.

I have personal experience with Vega-Brown's misguided

I asked her for the truth about what Sheriff Houston is going to
do about APS Police Officers, carrying his commissions, who
watched high school students get drunk for a couple of hours
before putting and end to it, link.

She is yet to respond.

Out of respect for the people's interests, or Dan Houston's?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

APS redistricting to be revisited.

Bowing to public pressure, the APS School Board has voted
to reopen the discussion on the boundary lines between APS
school board districts.

School Board President
Paula Maes, according
to the Journal, had a
different take on their
impetus; "... emphasizing
that the vote was not
prompted by public
pressure". (emphasis added)

She announced; “This board meeting has nothing to do with what happened at the Legislature, what’s happening in the community, nothing.”

For those having trouble reading between the lines, by her own
free admission, Maes cares little for public opinion.

The board intends to create new maps and post them online for
"public comment". Begging the question; why are they soliciting
community input if their decision making has

"nothing to do with community input, nothing"

photo Mark Bralley

Policy committee meeting to begin with violation of the Open Meetings Act

According to the Open Meetings Act, draft minutes of public meetings are supposed to be made available ten days after a meeting. The draft minutes are then required to be adopted at the next meeting of the group.

At the meeting this afternoon, the agenda, link, shows they will be approving

... minutes for the Minutes of the November 8, 2011, the December 14, 2011 and the January 10, 2012 Policy meetings (Discussion/Action)
Not a huge deal in the overall scheme of things, but you have to wonder at their ongoing and blatant disregard for the law.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pumpkin stealing OK with far too many

If you listen, watch or read the media reports on the Great
Pumpkin Heist; two college students who "accidentally" stole
two pumpkins, you will not find a report that doesn't confuse
the victim and the villains. In not one of them, will you find
read or written, that stealing is wrong regardless of the value
of that which is stolen.

Each story portrays the shoplifters in varying degrees of
victim-hood, and the shop owner, the law and the court, in
varying degrees, as villains.

If you read the comments being left on these stories, you will
find a disturbing number of people making all manner of excuses
and justifications for just letting the whole thing slide.

It is apparently OK with them, and ultimately with their children,

  • to steal small and to expect if caught, to set it all right by offering to pay for what they stole.
  • It is ok to do wrong things if other people are doing worse things, in particular if they're getting away with it.
  • It is ok to steal something if it costs more to prosecute the crime than the booty is worth.
You won't believe how many people argued that if drunk drivers
are getting off scot free, wikilink, these two shoplifters should get off scot free as well.

The problem stems from an unwillingness to recognize a line
that cannot be blurred as part of a defense for having crossed it.

Lines are useful in controlling (mis)behavior. As a middle school
teacher, it was at one point, my job to supervise the line at the
snack bar. I was charged with keeping kids away from the fence
that separated the line from everyone who wanted to cut into the line.

As it turned out, "stay away from the fence" wasn't practical
from an enforcement stand point. I decided to paint a line on
the asphalt about ten feet from the fence. I found "stay behind
the line" was eminently more enforceable. Lines work.

In stealing, there is only one line. A number of other lines have
been suggested, by those who have been caught stealing and
want to draw a line on stealing that doesn't include what they
stole, or minimizes their theft in some other way.

Children need to have their character developed. All day long
they are bombarded with messages from music, movies, TV,
and their peers. For the most, the messages they hear blur
the lines between right and wrong.

I would like to think that the students I shared my Character Counts! training with, did not grow up to be casual pumpkin thieves. Or at least that they would not try to justify their thievery as anything but their lack of moral courage in the face of temptation.

President Theodore Roosevelt argued;
To educate in the mind and not in the morals,
is to create a menace to society.
The need for character education as part of the core curriculum in public schools is self-evident.

The leadership of the APS has made a deliberate decision to abandon character education. They will not explain, defend, deny, or even acknowledge their decision. Just as they will not explain, defend, deny, or even acknowledge having removed from their own code of conduct, the words and commitment to serve as role models of the standards of conduct they establish and enforce upon students;
In no case shall the standards of conduct for adults,
be lower than the standards of conduct for students.
Upon consideration of their investigation and reports on this incident, it is becoming clearer to me why the establishment media won't investigate and report upon the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.
It isn't just because they're in cahoots with them.

Judging by the slant they put on their reports on the pumpkin stealing; they really don't think the stealing small pumpkins is wrong. And therefore don't think APS leaders are doing anything wrong in renouncing their accountability to standards of conduct that prohibiting stealing even small pumpkins; ethical standards of conduct; APS student standards of conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Disturbing thread on KOB story

KOB TV has run a number of pieces on a college student who stole a pumpkin. One of the latest has a profoundly disturbing comment thread. The folks that get it are outnumbered by the ones who don't; the one's whose kids probably shoplift. If they think all they have to do is pay for it if they get caught, why not shoplift? But only under two bucks.

I went to their site after watching one of the pieces that I thought portrayed the young adult as the victim and the victim as unnecessarily strident. Points were made in defense of that argument; after all

  • she didn't mean to steal it, and
  • it's only two bucks, and
  • other people get away with far worse, and
  • she offered to pay for it when she got caught.
  • and, and, and.
There are only two kinds of stuff in the world; the
stuff that belongs to you and the stuff that doesn't.
If it doesn't belong to you, you can't just take it.

There is only one line on stealing; either you do or you don't.
Every other line is as indefensible as it is completely arbitrary.

If not at one cent, then when does stealing become stealing?
10 cents, ten dollars, ... Wherever the line is set, other than
at zero, it will creep. If its ok to steal a penny one day, it will
be ok to steal two pennies the next. There is no other place to
draw a line other than at zero and, "because I said so".

It is a pity that KOB took down all their previous coverage.
I was going to ask you to take a look at it and determine
whether you thought any children who had watched them
had been corrupted; convinced that there are a lot of good
excuses for taking something that isn't yours.

Eventually, they will take down this link as well. In the mean
time there is a bold record of why an awful lot of kids have
no idea where the line is between between right and wrong.

If we really want children to grow into adults who embrace
character and courage and honor, someone has to show them
what they look like.

Someone has to show them what it looks like to overcome two
dollars worth of temptation. The fact that she was willing to
sell her integrity for "only" two bucks is a far greater outrage
than that she was prosecuted for stealing "only" two bucks.

Someone has to show them what it looks like to step up and
admit having done something wrong and then accept the consequences; it's the whole point in the fable about George Washington and the cherry tree.

Apparently as long ago children first heard that story, they
were unable to point to people who children actually knew and
who could serve as examples of people willing to hold themselves honestly accountability for their conduct.
The best time to influence the character of a child
is 100 years before he is born. W.R. Long
Character counts.

Special board meeting Thursday

There are two meetings scheduled on Thursday the 23rd.
One is a Special board meeting whose agenda, at posting, is still secret, link.

Interestingly, if you look at the agenda for the second meeting; the Policy and Instruction Committee meeting, link, you will find indication that they know what is going to be discussed during the Special Meeting and that it will only take 15 minutes.

During the Policy Committee Meeting, they will discuss;

Future Topics: Various topics will be presented as time allows.
It would be a shame, and I do mean shame, if the board discussed their intentions with respect to the various citizens petitions they hold, without notifying stakeholders of their intention to discuss their interests.

If you take a look at their last Policy Committee agenda, link, you find a list of future topics;
JROTC Update; Long-term Suspensions (Vision Quest), Standard Based Assessment; Review of the Trademark for High School Logos; Common Core Standards; Public Forum and Board Reports; Truancy Update; Retention Research; Career Enrichment Center Presentation of Curriculum and Innovative Courses; Update on Rio Grande High School; Small Learning Community Grant Evaluator Report; APS Charter School Collaboration Compact (Gates Foundation); Family Engagement Presentation; Instate Preference; New Student Management System; Student Behavior Handbook; Update on the Career and Technical Charter School; Middle School Online Pilot Program (Discussion)
That list has been there for years. It used to include discussion of the role modeling clause, (in no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult by lower than the standards for students), and whether or not to reinstate it, in the adults standards of conduct.

That topic disappeared from the list without any public action by the board, and now the rest of the list has disappeared as well.

Whatever they do talk about will be hard to nail down, the meeting is not being webcast and audio records are not archived. There is no public forum on the agenda and the meeting will be over long before working interest holders can get there.

If a gauntlet is thrown down in the forest ...

I would suppose that every single candidate has at one time or another said, I'm here to fight for the people.

Talk is cheap. Have they ever actually been in a fight for the people?

Where is their blood splattered on the ground? Where have they spent political capital; where have they burned a bridge?

In order to know whether or not a candidate can and will actually fight for the people, one has to see what the candidate does when they're actually in a fight. One has to see their mettle tested.

When one becomes aware of a fight, their choice is to move away or move toward. One moves toward a fight, to see if there is a need to pick a side.

Having seen the need to pick a side; the test of mettle has begun.

If Confucius was right,

to know the right thing and then not do it; is cowardice.
I would like to test candidate's mettle. There is a perfect arena;
the John Milne board room.

The prize; due process for a Constitutionally protected petitions for redress of grievances against the government.

There are a number of petitions languishing in the School Board's denial of due process. Among them one is a petition in defense of the most basic civil right; open and honest two-way communication between the politicians, public servants and the community members they serve.

It's a clean fight. There are no other issues at play; no hidden agendas. Just straight up, does the government have to respond to a legitimate petition for redress of grievances with due process?

Do the people have the right to expect candid, forthright and honest answers to their legitimate questions about the public interests and their public service, or do they not?

Honor would attach to the first champions who stepped up to the podium at a school board meeting and actually fought for the people, for their petition, and for their combined rights to due process; public discussion and a roll call vote.

Less honor will attach to those who step up begrudgingly, and none of course to those who never step up at all.

I would like to throw down the gauntlet, wikilink, before candidates for any office whose constituents include the 89,000 of this community's sons and daughters in the APS.

It isn't as easy to do as one might imagine. Community members and candidates have no idea the fight is even going on. The media won't tell them.

Why isn't the establishment media investigating and reporting upon the several legitimate petitions languishing in denial not only of due process, but of any good faith response at all?

Who benefits?

School board members and APS senior administrators benefit enormously.

The public interests enjoy no benefit whatsoever.

Is there any connection between the leadership of the APS and the establishment media, that might incline the Journal, KRQE, KOAT, KOB, KKOB to ignore;
  • the denial of due process to legitimate citizens' petitions,
  • the denial of due process to hundreds of APS whistleblowers and their complaints,
  • the cover up of felony criminal misconduct in the leadership of the APS police force, and that
  • the senior-most role models of the student standards of conduct, the Pillars of Character Counts!, are grossly derelict in their duties?
Apparently, there is.

And that's why the gauntlet might just as well,
not be thrown down at all.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Brad Winter's anniversary

Over the weekend, APS Chief Operating Officer Brad Winter had an anniversary; it was three months to the day, since he promised interest holders that he would produce a candid, forthright and honest accounting of spending on the APS board room.

He has not produced the record for one of two reasons;

  1. he cannot, or
  2. he will not.
Cannot would mean the records on the spending of nearly
a million tax dollars have been lost, destroyed, or are too confused or incomplete to be useful.

Will not would mean, the records exist but will not be produced because a deliberate decision has been made to hide them; likely because the records are too embarrassing, too shameful, or too criminal. It wouldn't be the first time the leadership of the APS has covered up criminal misconduct by administrators.

Nor would it be the first time the Journal has been part of a cover up of corruption and incompetence in the leadership of the APS.

If there is a third reason that taxpayers have not been told how much money they spent on a completely unjustifiable new board room, I cannot imagine it, and no one in the leadership of the APS or the Journal, has articulated it.

photo Mark Bralley

They just don't make it easy to be a Republican; part deux

Two years ago, there was a meeting planned for the Republican Party Central Committee. I wanted to attend, not as a voting member but rather, as a registered Republican and a member of the press.

Initially, I was denied entrance, though Republican Party rules, link, read quite clearly;


B.It is the intent and purpose of these rules to encourage and allow the broadest possible participation of all Republican voters in Republican Party activities at all levels and to assure that the Republican Party is open and accessible.
Yesterday, I went to the Republican pre-primary convention and was again, link, denied entrance as a registered Republican and member of the press.

On neither occasion, having gained entrance, did I witness
anything that needed to be hidden from interest holders in the
first place. Which begs the question; why hide?

Why do they make casual attendance at Republican Party "activities" impossibly difficult, in diametric opposition to their own rules? Their Rule #1, no less.

One could argue, as Bernalillo County
Chairman Chris Collins did, my room,
my rules. " a closed meeting, he said.

I find the attitude disturbingly reminiscent of the my bat, my ball, my rules leadership of Col. Weh and the rule of the gavel mentality that saturates the leadership of the NMRP.

They bought the room, they get to decide who gets in.

They got to decide as well, that candidates would not be allowed to speak to their candidacies when they were introduced to the delegates.

It's all "legal".

I have a pet peeve that drives me; politicians and public
servants who create beliefs or leave impressions that they are willing to be held honestly accountable to higher standards of conduct than the law; ethical standards of conduct, and then defend their unethical conduct by cloaking themselves in legal weaselry and loopholes in the law; the lowest standards of conduct of all.

The Republican Party of New Mexico creates the belief and leaves the impression that they are role models of honesty accountability to ethical standards of conduct when on their banner, link, they write that the RPNM is all about
"... ethical leadership and accountability ..."
though their conduct paints a far different picture.

... or are we now going to quibble about what the word
"ethical" means?

photos Mark Bralley

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Do we really need teachers anymore?

If so, how should we use them? In what ratio to students?
How well trained must they be? How well educated?
How closely must they be supervised, are they being micro-

It seems to me, that at the very least, we should stop expecting them meet the individual needs of students by first forming them into groups. Stop expecting them to take groups of students with nothing in common but their age and forming them into "thought choirs"; expected to move lockstep in the same direction, at the same speed, year after year after year.

Herding kittens is a waste of energy and resources. Yet that
is the model we use because we can't come up with another
way to babysit thirty kids at a time and hire only one adult.

It is based on the premise that herding them is the only way
to keep them out of trouble. It isn't.

Teachers must be enabled to give individual students their
full attention; an impossibility in the current model.
Divided and individual attention are mutually exclusive.

If the ultimate goal is to produce lifelong independent learners,
why is that not the immediate goal as well? The more independent learners there are in a classroom, the more time teachers will have to give students their full attention.

Why do we insist that children learn and practice independent learning skills in groups?

Why must individual learners move lockstep in the same direction and at exactly the same speed, year after year after year?

Except to create and maintain a need for a standardized testing industry?

And to create benchmarks that are as convenient as they are meaningless.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

West Side redistricting meeting scheduled, public forum is not

The APS School Board has scheduled a meeting to revisit the issue of school board district boundaries.

The agenda, link, includes no public forum.

Because it is a "special" meeting, there will be no webcast and only audio will be recorded.

This, though they are sitting in front of $150K worth of recording equipment and people and could easily do it.

The meeting is scheduled in our $1M "community room".

It will begin at 5pm and be over long before anyone who works
until 5, can get there.

They will;

Redistricting (Discussion/Action)
It is hard to imagine how one could be less specific.

Reasonably, they will decide only whether to revisit their roundly criticized decision on school district boundaries, and not try to decide upon a new map.

The Journal, link, reports to the contrary;

"They plan to meet next week and consider a map
that is more palatable to the West Side."

Have they learned nothing? The problem wasn't the map.
The problem was their failure to engage stakeholders and to
have them feel they participated meaningfully in decision-making that affected their interests.

Interest holders and board members need to engage in open and honest two-way communication about district boundaries. Citizen stakeholders have legitimate questions and are entitled to candid, forthright and honest responses from the politicians and public servants who are spending their power and resources.

The question is;
Will redistricting be revisited?
Any answer except yes, means no.

Yes or no, the answer should be delivered to constituents face to face.

The leadership of the APS have individual obligations to role model the character and courage they expect from students. They can do that only by looking their constituents in the eye when they answer such an important question.

Especially, if their answer is no.

Friday, February 17, 2012

King Richard dissing another blogger

Mayor Richard Berry, by and through his PIOs, will have no truck with bloggers; the political pamphleteers of the digital age.

It is his opinion that the First Amendment doesn't apply to members of the press unless they are "credentialed reporters for a newspaper or broadcast station, licensed by the FCC."

The arrogance of his position could not be more appalling.

In the absence of any illumination from the Mayor, we are free to speculate on his reasoning. What seems most obvious is his need to control the access of non-establishment press, a press he cannot control; bloggers beholden to no interests but the public interests and their own.

Dayna Gardner is Berry's newest PIO, taking up where former PIO Chris Huffman-Ramirez left off, protecting Berry from access by bloggers who might report unfavorably on the Mayor and his doings. One of the latest to feel the point of king's lance, the Burque Blotter, link.

photos Mark Bralley

The Pillars of Character Counts!; an unabashed defense.

Because APS School Board Policy reads; students are expected to model and promote the Pillars of Character Counts!, the Pillars, link, are the de facto student standards of conduct.

It doesn't make any difference whether the Pillars are the best standards, or even good standards of conduct. The board picked them; they are the standards.

It really doesn't make any difference why the School Board unanimously adopted the Pillars as the student standards, only that they did. If they want not to be held accountable to them, board policy must be changed.

There is nothing they would like to do more, than strike from board policy, any reference to higher standards of conduct than the law.

The mention of "modeling and promoting the Pillars" appears in the APS Student Behavior Handbook, link, pg 3.

The leadership of the APS would very much like it to not be there. It is getting progressively difficult for them to deny their obligations as role models and consequent accountability to standards of conduct that require truth telling.

The Handbook is under revision. I suspect an attempt will be made to strike the reference to the Pillars of Character Counts! without anyone noticing. Just like when the board struck from their own code of conduct, the words that pointed to their obligations as role models;

In no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult,
be lower than the standards of conduct for students.
without anyone noticing. My suspicions are based on the difficulty I am having getting information about the process and changes, from APS.

A discussion has to be had, and decisions need to be made;
  1. what are the standards of conduct for students, and
  2. what are the standards of conduct for adults?
Are administrators and board members actually accountable as role models even for the measly few hours a day they establish and enforce students?

If and when that discussion takes place, I will stand in unabashed defense of the Pillars of Character Counts! as the standards of conduct for students and adults in the APS.

The tug of war is between accountability to the law, or
accountability to higher standards of conduct than the law.

There is no standard of conduct higher than the law that does not require truth telling. It isn't about accountability to the Pillars specifically, it is about having to tell the truth; having to respond to legitimate questions candidly, forthrightly and honestly.

Something the leadership of the APS is loathe to do, and will obfuscate at every turn.

Korte singing a different tune.

When the APS School Board decided three weeks ago, to keep their seats instead of creating a new west side board district, the hugely unpopular decision created a groundswell of opposition among westsiders, link.

Board Member Kathy Korte was quick to fix the blame on westsiders who showed up too little and too late. They "... should have come to meetings if they cared ..." about redistricting, she argued.

Korte added; “This is a board that will be swayed when presented with a lot of public opinion and comment ...”

To her surprise, that is exactly what happened. So many people showed up at the public forum, the board had to blink on issue of redistricting, link.

Korte covets authority; the wielding of power. She gets very testy when people suggest that their interests have a place on the table of pubic business.

Before she was elected, character counted for Kathy Korte.
She would talk out loud about the wonderful effects of
Character Counts! programs in the schools her own children attend.

Now she won't talk about Character Counts! at all; or about
student standards of conduct, adult standards of conduct, or
the duties and responsibilities of role models.

The second most-senior role model for students, of student standards of conduct, will not look students in the eyes and explain to them, why they are expected to "model and promote the Pillars of Character Counts!, and she is not.

She won't talk about hundreds of whistle blower complaints she and the rest of the board are denying their due process. The board promised whistleblowers individual review and approval of every single complaint, and have yet to review and approve even one.

She won't tell you "why" the ethically redacted public record of felony criminal misconduct in the leadership of the APS police force, link, a publicly funded, private police force, is not available for public inspection. Not how they are being hidden; why are they being hidden?

She won't explain, defend, deny, or even acknowledge the board's opposition to "any audit that will individually identify" corrupt or incompetent administrators or board members.

She won't be taking any questions on the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

She won't be taking any questions on her part in the ongoing denial of due process for the Citizens Advisory Council petition, and for the effort to establish open and honest two-way communication between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve.

But, she will show up somewhere to talk about redistricting.

Her Praetorian Guard will show up
to make sure nothing else comes up.

photos Mark Bralley

In fairness to Korte, she is not the only member of the leadership of the APS who will not point to a time, a day and a place where they will respond candidly, forthrightly and honestly to legitimate questions about the public interests and about their public service.

None of them will, not one.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Martinez finds Winston Brooks "embarrassing".

On Governor Susana Martinez' Facebook wall , link,
a message to her followers;

It was embarrassing that the superintendent of the state's largest school district was cheering against New Mexico last week to score cheap political points.
She was referring to a crack that APS Supt Winston Brooks' made when it was announced that the Martinez/Skandera application for a waiver from NCLB had been denied, link.

It passed finally, and now Martinez is getting some payback.

Nanny nanny boo-boo.

Not that either has much choice; if Brooks weren't bashing Martinez and Skandera, he would have to be explaining why he is blocking efforts to investigate standards and accountability in his administration.

And if Martinez/Skandera weren't bashing Brooks, they would have to be explaining why they're trying to bring an obsolete public education model, cemetery seating, into the digital age.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Supts scared of Skandera?

Hugh Prather, Ph.D., is a retired New Mexico superintendent and educational consultant. I accept Prather's credentials on their face; though the point is moot as his credibility doesn't play.
He has raised a legitimate question. Questions stand alone,
it doesn't matter who raises them or why.

Prather has released a report on the survey he conducted of New Mexico Public School Superintendents, link.

In the introduction to his survey, Prather wrote;

Many of you in private conversations have shared similar concerns with me as well, and yet the chilling effect of prospective retribution places each of you in very uncomfortable positions for publicly voicing such concerns.

This report card was compiled because of its author's concern about the chilling effect that the Secretary-designate's perceived retaliatory behavior has had on the educational leaders of New Mexico and potential sanctions that might befall them if they were to speak out actively on their own behalf.

There are only two possibilities;

Superintendents are afraid to express
themselves candidly, forthrightly and
honestly in opposition to Secretary
Designate Hanna Skandera,

or they are not.

Does it make any difference?

If we accept the premise that fear of retribution and retaliation is a bad thing, then yes, it does make a difference. The most emblematic of indicators of oligarchical ill health, is fear of retaliation and retribution against whistle blowers. Cultures of corruption and incompetence are based upon creating fear among potential whistleblowers.

A recent audit of the leadership of the APS by the Council of the
Great City Schools, found a culture of fear of retribution and retaliation against whistleblowers.

APS interest holders have yet to be surveyed.

If APS Supt Winston Brooks were evaluated by his subordinates, and they could respond to legitimate questions candidly, forthrightly and honestly, without fear of retribution or retaliation, how would Brooks score; what grade would he earn?

That's why Brooks and the rest of the leadership will never agree to any audit that individually identifies corrupt and incompetent administrators,

nor any other survey of their conduct and competence as public servants.

The survey on Skandera was only done because Hugh Prather felt like doing it and has the power and resources to pull it off.

Who can we get to do a survey on Brooks?

KOB did a survey and graded Governor Martinez, link.

Can anyone think of a good and ethical reason they cannot,
should not, or would not do one on Winston Brooks?

Let me know, I will post it here;
  1. _______________

photos Mark Bralley

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teacher cleared; told to keep his mouth shut.

The Tony Hillerman Middle School teacher who was put on paid leave two weeks ago, is back at work, link. He has been cleared of wrong doing. The only thing not cleared will be the damage APS did to the teacher's reputation by their handling of whatever the allegation was.

A letter set to parents read;

“The accusations did not involve conduct with students and the investigation showed that the allegations were unfounded.”
Doesn't quite un-ring the bell.

The Journal reports; the teacher said in an e-mail that,
APS has told him not to make further statements to the media.

It reminds me of when the scandal was breaking in the leadership of the APS police force, link, and one of the first things then Asst Supt, Tom Savage did, was to order APS employees to keep their mouths shut.

I wondered then as I wonder now, how is it exactly, that the leadership of the APS thinks they have the authority and justification to tell employees who they can and cannot speak to, especially the press?

Skandera's report card one of a kind

NM PED Secretary Hanna Skandera
was the subject of a recent (unscientific) survey of NM public schools superintendents, link.

The anonymous online poll was
administered by an education
consultant gathering information
for his own purposes.

Superintendents gave Education
Secretary Hanna Skandera an
average grade of “D” for her overall performance.

The online poll was conducted anonymously to ease fear of retaliation against participants.

I find it interesting that superintendents admit fear of retaliation. Apparently the "culture of fear of retribution and retaliation" found in a recent APS audit, extends into the highest reaches of public school educators.

88 superintendents had the opportunity to participate; one more than half of them did. One fourth of those, gave Skandera an overall grade of "A" or "B".

Skandera was dismissive of efforts to get her to engage on the report card, arguing she was too busy advancing critical education reform initiatives in the legislature to discuss her grades;

  • "D" training and preparation,
  • "D" effectiveness leading the Public Education Department,
  • "D" sensitivity to New Mexico culture,
  • "D" involvement of superintendents,
  • "C"communication with school districts and
  • "D" demonstrated competence.
Skandera's lowest grade had to do with not "involving superintendents", where an overwhelming majority of them gave her a "D" or "F". Superintendents did not feel their input was taken seriously. Proving, if nothing else, superintendents can experience the same feelings that teachers do, on the issue of their input not being taken seriously.

Issuing a report card for a Secretary of Education begs a few questions. Why not have give Superintendents report cards? Why are they above evaluation? Why aren't school board members given report cards?

Never, is when superintendents intend that their subordinates will be surveyed. Never, is when they will willingly allow subordinate evaluation of their own conduct and competence.

Never, is when principals will be evaluated by their staffs.

The entire umbrella above teachers never gets evaluated by someone who doesn't have an interest in their subordinates looking good.

The Council of the Great City Schools auditors found APS
"... administrative evaluations are subjective and unrelated to promotion ..."
They found also;
"... a culture of fear of retribution and retaliation ..." in the administration of the APS, against people who allege administrative corruption or incompetence.
School Board President Paula Maes said she will never agree to any audit that individually identifies corrupt and incompetent administrators or board members.

Can you imagine her agreeing to subordinate evaluation as a matter of course in APS administration? Can you imagine why not?

Of all the indicators of administrative incompetence and/or corruption, the most emblematic is low morale.

When is the last time morale was measured in the APS?

According to the Journal, APS Supt Winston Brooks said he did not respond to the survey.

Nor will he respond if you ask him why he allows no subordinate evaluations of his own conduct and competence.

photos Mark Bralley

Westsiders are misguided

Westsiders want their own school board districts. It makes perfect sense. They feel under-represented.

Their misconception is that westsiders will be better represented by more west side districts. They are not represented by lines; they are represented by people. It is school board members that are failing them, not school board district boundaries.

Consider a parallel example;
the larger schools get, the less represented each student feels. Conversely, as schools get smaller, individual representation grows. Continue to the extreme; one school, one principal and one student.

Suppose that principal, for whatever reason, is unwilling to engage in two way communication. How is that student better represented by being part of a smaller school?

All seven school board districts could be on the west side, and if board members are unwilling to respond candidly, forthrightly and honestly to legitimate questions about the public interests and their public service, how would westsiders have benefited from districts of their own?

The willingness of school board members to engage in open and honest two-way communication with interest holders is the overriding consideration. Their (un)willingness transcends every other consideration.

If the school board won't point to the time, the day and the place where they will engage in open and honest two-way communication with the community members they serve, then
"the community members they serve" have no choice
but to pick a time, a day and a place of their own.

I would suggest, as always, the public forum at a school board meeting.

There is one such, tomorrow; 5 pm

Monday, February 13, 2012

Board meeting Wednesday, no agenda posted

If you go to APS' awarding winning website looking for the agenda of the board meeting two days distant, link,
you will be disappointed.

Many agencies of government post their agendas 72 hours in advance; some post as built. Those who go beyond the bare minimum notice required by the law; 24 hrs, show more respect for the public interests and interest, than those who do not.

Ironically, the code of conduct that binds school board members because they are the senior-most if its role models, points to higher standards of conduct;

one's character is built and maintained by willingly doing
more than the law requires, and less than the law allows.
Maybe those standards are hooey, but they are the standards
they expect students to "model and promote".

APS acts decisively to protect students

A message was sent out to allusers in APS this morning. In order “to protect children” administrators will no longer have internet access to pornography, gambling, online dating, e-Bay, Facebook and Twitter.

Being the cynic that I am, I suspect it wasn't really children abusing access at "administrative sites".

To: All APS Staff
From: Lynn Harris,
Chief Information Officer
APS Information Technology

Re: Web Filtering

Beginning today, more stringent web filtering will be in place on all Albuquerque Public Schools computer servers. While schools have had this filtering in place for many years, all administrative sites will be included now as well.

WHAT WILL BE BLOCKED or FILTERED OUT? All adult content sites, sites that show explicit art, image servers, freeware and shareware sites, gambling sites, online dating, instant messaging, online auction sites like e-Bay, alcohol and drug sites, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and others.

WHAT WON’T BE BLOCKED or FILTERED OUT? Online classes, online shopping sites where there is a valid business need, banking sites, and others.

WHY IS THIS BEING DONE? APS needs to comply with the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act ). CIPA requires school districts and public libraries to apply a number of information security best practices as a condition of receiving e-Rate funds. Web filtering is one of those best practices. If a school district does not comply with CIPA, its e-Rate funding will be frozen until the district comes into compliance. APS receives somewhere between $2 million and $3 million in e-Rate funding each year, which is used to provide IT infrastructure throughout the district. While web filters have been in place at the schools for many years, we need to apply those same web filters to the administrative network to comply with CIPA.

WHAT IF I HAVE A BUSINESS NEED TO ACCESS A BLOCKED SITE? Contact your supervisor for approval. If your supervisor approves, the request will be forwarded to the district Executive Leadership team. If the Leadership team approves, your request will be sent to the Information Technology Security staff to unblock the requested site for you.

Long ago, when character counted in the APS

School Board President, then and now, Paula Maes was the also the President of the Character Counts! Leadership Council.

United States Senator and Character Counts! Founding Father Pete Domenici had brought home some pork; $50K to spend on Character Counts! education. The still secret membership of that group spent the federal grant and then evaporated.

Some of that money, I believe, was spent buying a bunch of t-shirts to give to students when they completed Character Counts! training.

The shirt on its front and back read;
stand up for what
you believe in ...

even if you're
... standing alone.

When Marty "the enforcer" Esquivel stepped down from the board presidency, Paula Maes decided to continue to enforce the unlawful restraining order he has written.

She and APS' publicly funded private police force, will continue to deny my free exercise of Constitutionally protected human rights to assemble peacefully, to speak freely, and to petition one's government for redress of grievances.

Maes, as school board president, is the absolute senior-most role model in the entire APS of the student standards of conduct; model and promote the Pillars of Character Counts!

And here she is, ordering their police force to arrest anyone stands up for what they believe in, especially if they're standing alone.

And most especially if they stand up to ask her and the rest of the senior-most leadership;
Is there a single one of you with the character and the courage to hold yourself honestly accountable,
by a process over which you have no control, and powerful enough to hold you accountable even against your will,
to the same standards of conduct you establish and enforce upon students? the Pillars of Character Counts!
Any answer except yes, means no.

photos Mark Bralley

Saturday, February 11, 2012

APS audit findings nowhere to be found

APS is "audited" several times a year.

There are different kinds of audits under different names. By audit, I mean, an impartial and objective search for the truth. I will divide audits into, financial and other. This is about "other" audits; the Caswell Report being one such.

The "findings" of auditors are public records; even if they individually identify corrupt and incompetent politicians and public servants.

If you go looking on APS' award winning website, for findings of public corruption and incompetence in the leadership of the APS, you will find them hard to find.

Nearly a year ago, I communicated with "webmaster", a still unidentified and apparently unidentifiable, public servant of ours.

From: Ched MacQuigg
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 5:22 PM
To: Webmaster
Subject: aps audits

I am trying to find results of the various audits done on APS.
Are they compiled anywhere on the website?

grateful for your time and attention

To which the one known as webmaster replied;
We are in the process of building out and migrating content for the Internal Audit department web site. There aren't any documents or information currently posted on aps.edu. Please refer back to the following page in the future, as that information may be listed.


You may reach Internal Audit at (505) 880-3727 or you can also contact the APS Service Center at (505) 855-9040.

Thanks for your inquiry.

APS Web Team

Now, nearly a year later in response to my further inquiry,
I am told by APS Director of Communications Rigo Chavez,
here quoted in significant part;
"... other audits conducted by the APS Internal Audit Office, ... have not yet been posted.

Friday, February 10, 2012

NCLB waivers and the achievement gap

New Mexico and ten other states applied for relief from strict accountability to NCLB bench marks. New Mexico's application was denied.

One of the reasons the application was denied; it did not address adequately, the elimination of achievement gaps between groups of students.

Government never questions the premise; students must perform "in groups".

Achievement gaps are individual; they represent the difference between individual potential and individual achievement.

Achievement gaps for groups; ethnic, racial, socioeconomic status, etc, exist only because someone decided to conglomerate individual statistics. Why conglomerate them?

The only gap we need to pay attention to is the gap between an individual child's potential and their achievement. If a "group" member closes their individual gap, the group statistic closes as well.

It is the government, not educators, insisting upon cemetery seating; five rows of six kids joined in a thought choir; thinking about the same things at the same time for twelve years. To prepare them for what? Where else in life will graduates be compelled to perform in groups of thirty people who have nothing in common but the year of their birth, moving at exactly the same speed, in exactly the same direction, for years at a time?

Education gets an A+ if it recognizes and addresses the individual needs of every student.

Public schools cannot succeed because of the oxymoronic relationship between individual student needs and the government's need for large group test performance.

There are entire industries built on addressing the education and testing of "groups" of students despite the abject failure of the premise; individual student needs can be met in large group settings. There is a lot of power and resources up for grabs. They will be split between the needs of individual students and needs of individuals employed in the industry of large group education and testing, in and out of government.

Education really is like herding kittens; especially in the primary grades. Students arrive with independent interests, abilities and motivation. Their kitten-like curiosity and excitement, rather than being exploited to teach them independent learning skills, is crushed instead by cemetery seating and group think.

You can't have it both ways. You cannot create lifelong independent learners and, insist upon herding them like sheep toward NCLB requirements based on their homogeneity.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Watch school board "due process"

Up on APS' award winning website; a link to the February 1st school board meeting. I have been told that I am not the only one who can't hear well, the audio on the board meeting video. This wouldn't be the first time the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of recording equipment and dual operators taxpayers have provided, have failed to provide the record we deserve.

At 37:00, James "Robbie" Robertson stepped up to the podium during Public Forum and petitioned the school board for redress of his grievance; the school board is denying due process to a legitimate petition carrying a hundred signatures in addition to his own.

At 39:05, retired Federal Magistrate Judge David Walker stepped up to the podium and petitioned the school board for redress of his grievance; the school board is denying due process to a legitimate petition carrying a hundred signatures in addition to his own.

Continue to watch, and you will see a teenaged girl step up to the podium and petition for redress of her grievance; administrative inconsistency, disrespect and inappropriate role modeling.

Six of the eight APS leaders on the dais ignored the petitions by the two gentlemen entirely. A couple more spoke to the courage and carriage demonstrated by the teenaged petitioner.

Board Member Kathy Korte was the first board member to speak to the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication petition. She begins at 54:35.

The long and the short of it is; Korte will obstruct the creation of a venue for open and honest communication between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve.

It is her opinion; the avenue for community members to take in involving themselves in schools, is to go "volunteer" in schools. And if they have other interests, like improving communication, they must "first" pay some dues by working in a school. How many hours must one volunteer in a school for each question they would like answered? Will it vary by the question? How many hours must one volunteer to get an answer to a question like; Why are you hiding the Caswell Report and the criminal investigation of felony criminal misconduct in the leadership of the APS police force?

Board Member David Robbins begins speaking at 1:07:15. Though he finally conceded the need for due process for the petition, he spent a lot of time beating around the bush. His support is less than rock solid and I wouldn't be surprised to see it crumble.

Noteworthy; in response to the petition of the teenager; he suggested violating school board policy by having her submit her complaint to the school board rather than directly to the administration.

Ironically, in doing so, Robbins promised her exactly the same executive oversight over the handling of her complaint against administrators, that he is denying to more than 300 other whistleblower complaints against administrators.

He also suggested that rather than expecting school board members to answer legitimate questions during school board meetings, petitioners and the like should invite board members to speak outside of board meetings; where they will respond to questions about the petition.

He promises something that doesn't exist, never has, and
likely never will; board members and senior administrators
willing to respond candidly, forthrightly and honestly to
legitimate questions about the public interests and about
their public service; in public and on the record.

If you are among those who believe in open and honest
communication the people and their public servants,
your next opportunity to stand up in support of that end,
to stand up for what you believe in for two minutes,
is less than a week away; February 15, 2012.

I would be there, but I'm still locked out according to an unlawful restraining order by School Board enforcer Marty Esquivel, School Board President Paula Maes, and APS Police Chief Steve Tellez, enforced by the publicly funded private police force they command.

photos Mark Bralley

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Public School grades curving, more defense

Almost a month ago to the day, Governor Susana Martinez and Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera rolled out their grades for public schools, link.

It was the same day I asked Skandera to explain, in words any middle school student could understand, why the grades were not only curved, but curved so much.

It can be explained to the average citizen, that the grades were "curved", they understand how grades can be curved. But the assumption upon which they base their evaluation of public schools does not include the possibility that the grades have in fact, been curved. KRQE interviewed a few parents and students, link, and they were clearly taken by surprise.

It is clear from watching KRQE's interview, that Skandera still has not figured out how to explain in plain English, the justification and magnitude of the curving; failure drops from 59 to 37%.

Skandera said; “I know what an ‘A’ means. I know what a ‘B’ means. I know what a ‘C,’ I know what a ‘D,’ and an ‘F’ means.” But if you asked stakeholders if they know what "A" means, there is wild disparity.

To Skandera;

A 75-100%
B 60- 74.9%
C 50-59.9%
D 37.5-49.9%
F < 37.5%
To everyone else, and I mean everyone else;
A 90 100%
B 80-89 %
C 70-79%
D 60-69%
F 0-59%
Her justification bears scrutiny; the
state needed to set a benchmark,
and grading on the curve was
the best way to do it

In other words,

the state needed to set a standard
of excellence, and putting
deliberately misleading spin on how
well we are doing, was the best way
to do it.

There are two frames of reference for measuring educational outcomes; criterion referencing and norm referencing; comparison to set standards, or comparison to everyone else's efforts to meet those same standards.

Norm referencing looks better for people like Skandera whose toes are being held to the fire, than comparison to actual, intellectually and philosophically determined goals; in particular if most schools aren't even coming close to reaching them.

Skandera argues, the top ten percent of schools deserve a politically correct "A", even if they only earned an intellectually justifiable "C". She is entitled to an opinion.

Her argument becomes jumbled when she expresses her aspiration that "... every single one of our schools is in the top 10 percent” a concept that is mathematically impossible if grades are curved. Only when measured against specific criteria, can every single one of our schools be in the top 10%. It could be argued, only when students have to meet meaningful criteria in order to earn an "A", will every school be in the top 10%.

Some parents apparently do grasp what Skandera is doing, and approve. "
Jessi Allen, president of the elementary school’s parent-teacher organization, said that although the new grading system is confusing, she understood why the state graded on the curve.

“This was the very first time the grades came out,” Allen said. “And I would think they didn’t want everybody to just throw in the towel. I certainly would have been devastated if a 67 percent would have said that Marie Hughes was at a ‘D.’ ”
People who "protect other people" from the truth are misguided.

Human beings have a right to autonomous decision-making.
Knowing the truth is fundamental to autonomous decision-making. Skandera and Allen advocate "protecting" us from the inconvenient truth, and in so doing prevent interest holders from participating meaningfully in decision-making that affects their interests.

They might want to spend tax dollars differently if the were told most public schools are failing, than if told most public schools are doing just fine (when compared to all other schools failing just as badly).

Half of our kids leave high school undereducated and unemployable. It doesn't make any difference that most other public schools aren't doing very much better.

One cannot solve problems while at the same time hiding them.

Skandera said the grading curve will once again be used in June when the official grade report is released.

It would appear that she will.

Skandera's PIO, Larry Behrens has not responded to two follow-up emails on the issues of the grade curving and the PED's release of Skandera's Advisory Council's, link, product; raising again the question;
do pios work for the people or the public servant?

photos Mark Bralley

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Veteran must pay more dues before communications begin

James "Robbie" Robertson spoke to the School Board last
Wednesday evening. He spoke at the public forum, in defense of a petition he signed; the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication petition. He wants to see open and honest, two-way communication between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve.

Robertson served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. If anyone has standing to insist upon open and honest communications regarding the spending of public power and resources, Robertson does.

The fact is, both Robertson and a high school student that followed him to the podium Wednesday, have the same right to petition their government.

One doesn't have to earn the right, it is protected under the First Amendment.

Enter Board Member Kathy Korte. She let Robertson and others who want to form the CACoC know, if she wants to hear from them, she'll let them know. In the meantime;
"... when people ask to be more involved with APS, and 'we want more communication' what I would like to see them do first, is getting that background check, going into a school in their neighborhood school and asking that school principal, how can I help you? ..."

Korte is apparently deeply confused over her authority to tell citizens what they must first do, before she recognizes their Constitutionally protected human right to petition their government and expect a good faith response for their legitimate petition.

Korte is among APS' senior-most role models of student
standards of conduct. Among other things, she is supposed
to be showing students how government of, by and for the
people is supposed to function.

She is supposed to be modeling and promoting the Pillars of
Character Counts!; Respect, Fairness, and Citizenship.

However short she falls, she says she's doing the best she can;
providing damn little consolation to those whose First
Amendment rights are being ignored, and to students in search
of role models of participatory democracy.

Korte photo Mark Bralley

Monday, February 06, 2012

Policy Committee meeting cancelled

On Wednesday night, during Matters of Information, School Board Member David Robbins, alluded that Policy Committee Chair David Peercy and the committee, have some obligation in providing due process for the CACoC petition.

Co-incidentally, Peercy's next meeting of the Policy Committee has been cancelled without explanation or apology, and rescheduled, link; from the day before the next school board meeting, until late in the week after the Board meets on February 15.

photos Mark Bralley

Citizens Advisory Council on Communication

More than one hundred citizens have signed and submitted a petition to the leadership of the APS. Those citizens feel that communications with APS can be improved, and
have proposed an eminently workable plan to do just that.

The plan begins with an open and honest discussion of the expectations of citizens, politicians and public servants, with regard to transparency in the spending of public power and resources.

The petition and plan were hand delivered to the school board by Rep Janice Arnold-Jones, during a public forum in August, 2011.

The petition is being denied due process. Whatever else “due process” includes, it includes at the very least; public discussion and a roll call vote on a legitimate petition.

Citizens who have

  • assembled peacefully, and exercised their Constitutionally protected human rights to
  • speak freely and
  • petition their government,
are being ignored.

How can the Constitution protect citizen's right to petition the government without creating a corresponding obligation on the part of government to respond in good faith to the petitions they receive?

Never mind, for the moment, the Constitutional violations;
consider the violations of their own code of conduct they create
by their denial of due process to the petition.

Their code of ethics, link, reads in significant part;
Establish an open, two-way communication process
with students, staff, families and all segments of the
How does obstructing the efforts of the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication, establish open, two-way communication?

Make the education and well-being of students
the basis for all decision making.
How does denying due process for the CACoC petition contribute positively to the education and well-being of students?

The denial of due process for the CACoC contributes only to the well-being of people who are trying to avoid having to sit down somewhere and respond candidly, forthrightly and honestly, to legitimate questions about the public interests and about their public service.

Accept responsibility and accountability for one’s own
actions and behaviors.
There are board members and senior administrators who have not accepted responsibility and accountability for their actions and behaviors. The violation of their own code of conduct is as blatant as it is egregious.

And finally,
Avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof
and refrain from using the board position for personal
... gain.
There is personal gain in their decision to withhold due process,
for every board member and senior administrator who is
unwilling to be held honestly accountable to meaningful
standards of conduct and competence within their public service;

... a subject that just might come up if open and honest communication between the leadership fo the APS and the community members they serve, ever gets underway for real.