Tuesday, July 31, 2012

APS "courageous" in sharing data

The UNM Center for Education Policy Research has compiled a 130 page document, link, entitled, Mapping the Landscape of Educational Outcomes in Albuquerque.

The document begins with a declaration of their intent; "... to support the conversations that will make this city an even better place to live." The conversations that make communities better are dependent on a number of things, not the least of which are data; complete and accurate. Their intention then, was to provide data, and to provide it in an easy to understand format. They produced a hundred or more different maps and charts to display the data graphically.

Charter schools were not included.  Instead, they offered a promise to include that data "at a future time".

By page three, the authors have moved to Our Most Important Messages.  First among them;

"We thank Albuquerque Public Schools for the courage to share these data"
APS courageously shared data on; "... daunting inequalities including disparities in economic, health, and social support; and academic achievement and attainment".

The researchers used that data to determine how students are put "at risk" of failure in their effort to graduate from  APS with a useful skill set.  The data shows that risk factors accumulate in different areas of the city, and accumulate at different times developmentally.

According to researchers; there are no schools without risk factors;
"... students are at risk in some way, in every school and in every neighborhood in Albuquerque."
In their examination of risk factors, the researchers conceded;
These maps and charts include only some of the important data that impact student success.
Those in the know, know that a primary impact on student success is discipline, their own and their class and schoolmates. I went looking for the data on student discipline.  Three pages qualified, if only marginally.  Two offered data on the percentage of students who were bullied at school, middle and high, and a third page on the percentage of students who reported having been in a fist fight at school.

Other than that, nothing.

One page offered the "Primary 'Off-Track' Indicators for Potential Dropouts".  They include attendance, behavior, and academic performance. Behavior, they write, is significant if a student has received an  “unsatisfactory” behavior mark in at least one class.

In my experience, middle and high school and a decade old,
is there is no such thing as a "behavior mark" unsatisfactory or otherwise.  There is no longer, a citizenship grade.  If students were graded on behavior, I suspect the results would correlate powerfully with other risk factors.  They would also document an administrative and executive failure to control disruptive students.

Years ago, APS and UNM teamed up at times, to survey teachers to gather their input on what's wrong.  They no longer do.  When they did, one of the questions allowed teachers to estimate the negative effect on teaching, of disruptive students.  Teachers reported that it was a significant issue.

One year, the question disappeared from the survey. I asked why? I was told; "because the data never changed."

The leadership of the APS, the board and administration, is hiding data on student discipline, link.

Kent Walz and the Journal,
are hiding the hiding.

photo Mark Bralley

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sagger wars, on again, in earnest

This isn't about "sagging", wikilink.

Three APS high schools will attempt to do what has never been done before; end sagging in an APS high school.

This isn't the first time its been tried. In the late 80's early 90's "sagging" was specifically and explicitly prohibited in APS School Board Policy. The leadership of the APS then did their best to get kids to pull up their pants; they're still sagging.

KRQE reports, link, Eldorado, La Cueva and Volcano Vista  High Schools will try once again to enforce dress codes that prohibit, among others fashion faux pas, sagging.

Wish them luck.

Saggers, all well versed in Constitutional law, point out that it's first amendment issue, and they will resist on principle.  They will resist as well, to remind adults who is in charge.

If adults at a school establish a rule and students ignore or deliberately disobey it, who is in charge, the adults or the kids?

The out of control in schools, the lack of authority of adults over children, interferes with education, yet we never talk about discipline in schools when we talk about reform.  Why not?  Who benefits from the lack of attention paid to student discipline and its effect on test scores and graduation rates?

Administrators and school board members are the only players I see, who have an interest in keeping the lid on the truth about discipline in schools.  Creating district wide discipline policies is specifically a school board responsibility.  Enforcing those policies is an administrative responsibility.  The failure to establish and enforce effective discipline policies is an administrative and executive failure.

As I first pointed out, this isn't about "sagging".  It is about the permission of prohibited behavior.  It is about telling kids
they can't do something, and then letting them get away with
doing it anyway.

The costs of acculturating children to believe they can ignore rules at will, is enormous, link.

Students won the last sagger war; they will win this one.
They will prevail because the leadership of the APS lacks
fortitude in dealing without of control students, link.
Ask any teacher.

As easy as it is to blame teachers for student discipline issues, it would be unfair.  If a teacher sees a student doing something wrong, they are obliged to ask the student to stop doing whatever it is they are doing.  If the students response means "no", the problem is no longer one of educating the student, it is one of managing the student; baby sitting the student.  If you want to use teachers for teaching, then you have to use somebody else for "babysitting" chronically disruptive students. And that is an administrative responsibility.

Their priorities are confused.  The administrative priority isn't eliminating student (and adult) discipline problems, it is hiding them, link.

Their strategic plan to end sagging falls short; they haven't asked "what if" enough times.

Q. what if a kid sags?
A. we're going to call his parent(s)
Q. what if that doesn't work?
A. uh, well, we'll suspend them (in school or out) further complicating graduation and test score issues.

Q. what if that doesn't work, what if kids still sag?
A. uh, well, ...

In rekindling the sagger war, the leadership of the APS is picking a fight they haven't the stomach to win.  These principals will find they're on their own; the higher they go up the chain of command, the less support they will find.  The Board and administration aren't willing to do what must be done, to re-establish the authority of adults in schools.

Students will push dress code to the limit and adults have to be ready to push back.  Writing rules and then allowing students to break them, just trains students to ignore rules.

At some point you have to be willing to stand on the property line and turn away saggers, chronically disruptive students, and any other students who won't obey the rules and who won't submit to the authority of adults on campus.

Adult authority over children in schools is under siege.  It doesn't help that Supt Winston Brooks places so little importance on kids obeying adults.  Given the opportunity to categorize misconduct for middle school students, Brooks came up with this;
Level One (the likes of); tardiness, horse play, profanity, violations of the dress code.

Level Two (the likes of); profanity toward staff, bullying, cheating, and vandalism.

Level Three (the likes of); theft, possession of alcohol or drugs, fighting and gang related activities.
Brooks included in Level One; the least consequential misconduct; insubordination, defiance of authority.

He tells teachers to enforce rules they have no part in establishing,
and then tells kids he doesn't care all that much, if they ignore or disobey adults.

Some people would call that clueless, and utterly unfair to teachers and other
adults working in schools.

We never talk about student discipline, link, because the Board and administration have the wherewithal to keep their failure hidden; not the least of which, Kent Walz and the Journal, and the NM Broadcasters Association affiliates.  If  Kent Walz and the Journal or any of the TV stations were inclined to investigate and report upon discipline in schools, parents and community members would learn how out of control APS schools really are.  Walz, the Journal, KRQE, KOAT and KOB are not so inclined.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, July 26, 2012

If Schultz had to stand for election, would he win?

City Councilor Ken Sanchez thinks Albuquerque voters should pick their Chief of Police by the same process
they pick their County Sheriff, election.

The prospect of Chief Ray Schultz running for Chief begs a question;

if did have to run, could he win?

The obvious answer; no, is by itself, justification enough
to insist that he stand for election.

photos Mark Bralley

Skandera plan credibility questioned

NM Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera and Governor Susana Martinez have implemented a plan for evaluating public schools. Because the plan is utterly indefensible, it has met with resistance as considerable as it was predictable.

In an effort to make it easier for parents and community members to understand how schools are performing, they implemented a plan based on mathematical machinations that "only a few people in the entire state can understand."

It has been seven months since the Secretary was asked, link, for a paragraph or two, plain English explanation of the math that supports the curving. I have yet to receive a response.

The harder it is to understand a grading system for schools, the more likely that system is a smoke screen around abject failure.

If you are a parent looking for a school for your child, all you really need to know about a school is;

  1. How do students behave at that school; are adults in charge or are the students?
  2. Does the school have supplies, tools and technology.
  3. Is there accountability for adults at the school? Do complaints against teachers or administrators see due process, or are they swept under the rug?
  4. And, most importantly, are student's individual needs accommodated, or are they sat down in five rows of six, there to join a thought choir preparing to perform on standardized tests?
As an aside; APS and Supt Winston Brooks won't discuss student discipline, and won't discuss adult standards and accountability, smoke screen or no.
APS routinely provides cemetery seating for learners.

Senators Linda Lopez and Howie Morales, and Rep Rick Miera called her out in a press release Wednesday;
Date: July 25, 2012
Contact: Lorraine Montoya-Vigil,


Santa Fe—“Based on testimony presented to the Legislative Education Study Committee last week, it has become readily apparent that Governor Susanna Martinez’ proposed cure for better school performance may very well cause more harm than good,” said Senator Linda M. Lopez. “The methodology and process of the reform models are severely flawed, with no scientific or educational findings proving their worth. We all want better school performance, but gambling on our children’s education with an untested and untried mandate is not acceptable.”

Senator Lopez, LESC member and chairman of the State Senate Rules Committee, was joined by Senator Howie Morales, LESC member, and Representative Rick Miera, LESC member and chairman of the House Education Committee, in expressing concern with the dramatic and unrealistic changes in school grades from the new school grading system. The system has drawn considerable criticism from administrators, educators, parents and students over its incomprehensibility and steep fluctuations in a school’s scoring between the old and new system. The fluctuations were demonstrated with one school dropping from a B to an F and another rising from an F to a B within a one semester period.

“Some members of the legislature have not embraced PED’s reforms from the very beginning, and have consistently asked the Public Education Department for supporting documentation related to their proposals,” said Rep. Rick Miera.

“This legislative caution was validated last week, “ added Senator Morales, “when it was revealed that the A-F grading system promoted by this administration is lacking in clarity and substance to even the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education, which is composed of some of the state’s finest scientists and mathematicians.”

Today, Senators Lopez and Morales and Rep. Miera are calling upon Governor Martinez and PED Secretary Designate Hannah Skandera to adopt the educational reform recommendations developed by the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education. These include:

• Peer review of the PED Reform Manual by knowledgeable, independent educational statisticians
• Clear and completely defined methodology
• Provide all data and software to the school districts prior to grade distributions
• Simplifying the Value Added Model for ease of use by the school districts.
• Not placing multiple components into one grade. This includes not combining demographically neutral growth and proficiency residuals with non-demographically neutral proficiency scores in a meaningful way, when they are in fact two different measures with two different outcomes.

The PED grading system should also include the following traits:

1. A defensible, clearly defined, and more easily replicable mathematical process that is available for district use.
2. A transparent, defensible process – possibly mathematical – to determine the optimum grading factors' weighting.
3. The optimum weighting factors are necessary for combining the various similar, meaningful performance output factors to derive a grade.

For additional information, contact: Sen. Lopez 505-831-4148; Sen. Morales 575-590-7804; or Rep. Miera 505-843-6641.


photos Mark Bralley

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brooks backed down on principal transfer

APS Supt Winston Brooks stirred up a hornet's nest recently; he transferred the beloved and respected community member and principal of 14 years, out of Mission Avenue Elementary School.

The issue is as much how Brooks handled the transfer, as it is the transfer itself.

Either it never occurred to Brooks that he should involve the community in the decision to replace their principal, or it did occur to him, and he decided against it. It amounts to incompetence or corruption.

It is small wonder that Brooks will not hold himself accountable as a role model of student standards of conduct, which do respect stakeholder rights in decision making.

Brooks' manifest disrespect for community members and their right to participate meaningfully in decision making affecting their interests is what energized them. They have been showing up at public forums for months, and protesting the move.

They were moderately successful; a new principal will be selected, and the community will participate in the selection.

Full success was denied them, when Brooks let them know
he's still boss; the principal they really want, will not be on the list from which they will select the new one.

Brooks has the "right" to run his little Chinese fire drills with principals; but that doesn't make it "right" that he does. Just because he has the "right" to deny stakeholder rights in decision making, doesn't make it "right" that he does.

The Journal reports, link, that the community members who pushed back were "publicly chided" by Brooks and the Board. The circumstances of the chiding are what passes for two-way communication with the leadership of the APS; citizens ask questions in the forum that board members won't answer, and then Brooks and the board take pot shots from the dais when the targets have no opportunity to respond without being declared unruly, and possibly removed from the meeting by APS publicly funded, private police force, link.

You can watch if you wish, link and click on "video" for the July 18th board meeting. Watch the meeting; the public forum and responses from Brooks and the Board.

The Journal reports that Board Members Esquivel and Robbins went off on community members, at one point the meeting being stopped until order was restored.

It was John Kennedy who pointed out;

those who make peaceful revolution impossible,
make violent revolution inevitable."
By extension, those board members and superintendents who make it impossible for interest holders to involve themselves "peacefully" in decision making that affects their interests, will involve themselves "un-peacefully".

It is the School Board and the Superintendent who establish and enforce the rules for community involvement in the APS. It is they, who force the form of their opposition.

If they had the character and the courage to provide a venue for "harder conversations" to take place, they wouldn't have to take place at public forums between the podium and the dais.

The Journal is yet to investigate and report upon the efforts of the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication to establish just such a venue, and the Board's rebuff by denial of due process for their lawful and legitimate petition.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, July 23, 2012

Emailgate only one aspect of shadow influence

As emailgate unfolds, the extent of the "alleged" shadow government in Santa Fe will come as a surprise to some people. They will be further surprised to discover that the width and depth of the shadow hides much more than politicians and public servants' in-private public business..

The shadow, by which I mean the players, extends beyond government to every other influential institution, even the press.

There is a theory that no two people on earth are further away from each other than six introductions, wikilink. In the shadows there are no introductions needed.

There is at most, one degree of separation between an overwhelming majority of members of bodies of influence. A relative handful of people, serving on a disproportionately large number of boards, executive committees and task forces, exert a shadow influence on all decision making.

It would be interesting to examine the degree of separation between influential institutions and government by means of the small group of people and commingled directorships.

It is hard to imagine more diametrically opposite endeavors than participation in a effort to end shadow government, and being a major player in a "legal" shadow government. Yet Pat Rogers was not only a player on both teams, but one of both teams' heavy hitters. Can anyone say, appearance of a conflict of interest?

Pat Rogers, a player in a shadow government and a player in the institution bent on eliminating shadow government. Is that one degree of separation or none?

With regard to in-private decision making about the public interests, Rogers argues, its all "lawful", and in so doing, points to the standards of conduct, to which he is willing to be held personally accountable.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but
the "law" is the lowest standard of
conduct there is, and not a very
high bar.

People who hold themselves
accountable to higher standards
of conduct, require from themselves
more than the law requires, and afford themselves of less nefariousness than the law allows.

And there are higher standards of conduct than the law; ethical standards for example, and the most widely shared delusion about government, is that politicians and public servants are somehow accountable to them. They are not, clearly.

There are other people of the if its "legal", it's alright ilk.
They and the shadow they bring with them to stretches to Boards of Directors, Executive Committees, and governance committees of all sorts everywhere.

Though they may have no particular allegiance to each other, the have allegiance to a system that accommodates people just like them. They take care of each other. They protect each other. They protect the system that enables their continued wielding of power by means of in-private deliberations and decision making.

And its all "legal".

Shadow government, shadow influence everywhere,
is evidence of a deliberate and concerted effort to continue manage transparency. They manage the conflict by pulling strings on both sides of the fight.

Pat Rogers was equally adept and welcome pulling strings on both sides of a fundamental principle of democracy.

photo Mark Bralley

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ed reform and teacher evaluation

By any reasonable measure, public education is performing poorly. Fifty percent literacy in math and reading, and 67% graduation rates point to fundamental flaws in the way we're doing business.

Teachers play a part in the failure, but overall, a smaller part than most people think. There is no weak link in public education, the whole chain is failing from one end to the other.

There are a few inescapable facts and obstacles to educating young children in particular. Their attention span and interests for one; they really are kitten like in their approach to learning.

In stark contrast to individual student needs, we find a need in public education to immediately seat these kids in five rows of six desks, there to join into a "thought choir" thinking and learning in unison, and then singing together in standardized testing recitals.

You can't make people learn. You especially cannot make the immature learners learn. Learning is the responsibility of the learner. If the learner is disengaged, for any reason, for any amount of time, there is no learning. You cannot make people pay attention; you cannot make children pay attention to what you want them to pay attention to.

Children pay attention all the time. Every minute of every day, they are paying attention to some thing, but rarely the same thing.

Succeeding in public education's cemetery seating model of education, depends upon the ability to get thirty kittens to pay attention to the same thing, at the same time, all day long, for twelve years. This though it could be argued that the only time they really need to be on the same page on the same day, is the day when their cumulative achievement is finally measured by "testing" and they are given a diploma that implies certain levels of achievement in basic areas.

An important mission of public education is to create independent lifelong learners. That objective should be its top priority, and its most immediate objective. Yet teachers are being evaluated on their ability to make many kids learn in unison; using a fundamentally flawed, manifestly obsolete education model.

What do we want from teachers? What do we need?

Most kids don't need a "teacher" most of the time.
Most of the time, most kids just need to be watched.
When a student does need a teacher, they need a whole teacher, a teacher who can give them individual attention for as long as they need it.

Cemetery seating dictates that every kid will have (a small part of) a teacher all of the time; one thirtieth of a teacher, all the time.

Students need "teachers" when they need help learning; students with learning disabilities for example. Students struggling with subject material, need subject material experts. Students who need help finding information don't need a "teacher". Students who need help staying on task, don't need a "teacher".

Regardless of the model used, there is an elephant in the room with respect to evaluating teachers. No one wants to talk about subordinate evaluation, having students evaluate teachers.

It isn't surprising, because we don't talk about teachers evaluating administrators either.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

APS Community Relations Committee still owes due process to CACoC

The APS District and Community Relations Committee meeting agenda is posted, link. It lacks follow through on a problem that came up during a previous meeting of the committee.

On March 27 of this year, representatives from the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication were given an opportunity to speak on behalf of a petition they delivered to the board in early August last year.

With exception of a "thank you" note from School Board President Paula Maes, the Board ignored a legitimate petition signed by more than a hundred people, for more than six months.

The petition is yet to see due process.

During the board's discussion of the petition, District and Community Relations Committee Chair Lorenzo Garcia spoke to the need for the board to "learn how to have the harder conversations"; the very kind of two-way communication the CACoC is trying to enable.

It is now four months later, and you have seen what the Board is actually willing to do to learn to have the harder conversations; nothing.

Their manifest intention, is to avoid having them altogether.

... if they can.

There are at least two reasons why the Board isn't willing to actually have the harder conversations;

  1. they lack the courage, and/or,
  2. they lack the character

    that they need to begin them.

If there is a third reason, I cannot imagine it, and no one in the leadership of the APS has ever articulated it.

Now would be a good time.

If there is a reason beside the lack of character and courage;
if there is a good and ethical reason to not create a venue
where the harder conversations can take place, what is it?

What good and ethical reason is there to not create a venue where we can have the harder conversations about;
  • administrative and executive standards and accountability,

  • student standards of conduct,

  • the responsibilities and obligations of the senior-most role models of the student standards of conduct,

  • the whereabouts of evidence of felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators and the APS Police Force,

  • the denial of due process to hundreds of whistleblower complaints,

  • the lack of due process for complaints filed against administrators and board members, and of course,

  • the board's denial of a petition for standing for a committee of volunteers ready, willing, and able to put together, open and honest two-way communication between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve.

One would think that Kent Walz
and the Journal would investigate
and report upon the efforts of the
Citizens Advisory Council on
Communication to create real
communication between APS
and the community.

One would think Walz would
report upon the board's
response to the CACoC efforts.

One would think Walz would report upon the board's efforts to avoid having the harder conversations that will expose the corruption and incompetence they are trying to hide.

One would be wrong.

photos Mark Bralley

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rogers avoids showdown with FOG

Modrall Attorney Pat Rogers has resigned from the Board of Directors of the NM Foundation for Open Government, the proximate result of his involvement in the brouhaha over emailgate.

The FOG notified its membership in an email today.

In his resignation  letter, Rogers argued that his actions, conducting public business using private email accounts, "were always lawful"; the problem in a nutshell. Nevertheless, he offered his prompt resignation to ... "avoid further distractions... for the FOG and its volunteers"

By resigning, Rogers avoids what certainly would have been a very awkward discussion about whether FOG Directors can serve on the FOG Board while at the same time personally engaging in the very conduct the FOG is fighting to eradicate.

Also breathing a sign of relief. I suppose, that there will be no discussion of Board of Directors members embarrassing the Foundation with their personal efforts to obfuscate open government; Marty Esquivel and Kent Walz. 

photo Mark Bralley

Accusing Kent Walz

There is a post on Heath Haussamen's website having to do with NM FOG considering whether Pat Rogers should remain on their board, link. I took an opportunity to again accuse Journal Managing Editor Kent Walz of covering up the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS. Haussamen took exception to my accusations, and chose to not publish it. He feels that my allegations lack the substantiation Journalist's Ethics require.

My accusation; Kent Walz is complicit in a conspiracy to cover up an ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

The premise; there is in fact, an ethics and accountability scandal.

Yet to be refuted facts;

1. There are two sets of standards of conduct in the APS; one applies to students, the other to administrators and board members. The one, a nationally recognized, accepted and respected code of ethical conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts. The other, the law; the lowest standards of acceptable conduct among civilized people, replete with all the loopholes and escape hatches that unmitigated legal weaselry will allow.
That, if true, is newsworthy on its face. That administrators and board members will not hold themselves honestly accountable to the standards they establish and enforce upon students, is newsworthy.
2. There is no place in the APS, where a complaint can be filed against an administrator or board member, and where that complaint will see due process. Every complaint against an administrator or board member is adjudicated by a colleague, or in the case of a complaint against the Superintendent, a subordinate. The manifest appearance of a conflict of interest is unaddressed, since the board reneged on its promise to provide executive "review and approval" of the handling of every single whistleblower complaint.
That allegation, if true, is newsworthy. The allegation is true. An effort was made to hold APS COO Brad Winter accountable for his refusal to provide a candid, forthright and honest accounting of spending at 6400 Uptown Blvd; the board room in particular. The result; he could not be held accountable for refusing to respond candidly, forthrightly and honestly to a legitimate question about the public interests in the APS, link.

The Journal reported during construction, link, the board room was running way over budget. Today, Walz knows Winter won't tell the truth about how much over budget they finally went, and isn't investigating and reporting on it.
3. While I was running for the school board, then School Board President Marty Esquivel wrote an utterly unlawful restraining order, link. It is co-signed and enforced by the APS Chief of Police Steve Tellez, link. The APS Police Force is a publicly funded, private police force that reports directly to, and only to, the leadership of the APS. The police force is unaccredited, uncertified, and uncertificated by anyone except the leadership of the APS.

The restraining order is still in effect; I am arrested at the door if I try to exercise my Constitutionally protected human right to petition my government at public forum, link.
That an citizen, much less a bonafide school board candidate, can be barred from school board meetings by a Praetorian Guard waving an unlawful restraining order is newsworthy.
4. Public records of felony criminal misconduct by APS senior administrators is being hidden from District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

Kent Walz and the Journal know about the public corruption and incompetence in the leadership of the APS police force, they first exposed it, link. Walz know that felonies were committed by senior APS administrators; moving money from evidence to petty cash without record keeping, and running federal NCIC criminal background checks on whistleblowers in an effort to harass and intimidate other whistleblowers.

Walz knows that the corruption was never investigated by any agency of law enforcement outside of APS. Walz knows of the existence of public records, the Caswell Report, link, for one, which are being redacted in their entirety, in blatant violation of the law, that name the names of senior APS administrators who have yet to be accountable. Walz knows the evidence of felony criminal misconduct was never turned over to District Attorney Kari Brandenburg for prosecution.
5.  More than 100 citizens signed a petition for standing for the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication.  The CACoC seeks to create a venue for the "hard to have" discussions; a place where there is open and honest two-way communication between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve.
Kent Walz and the Journal and the Journal know about the petition and the board's response, and have reported on neither.
6.  Student discipline problems and their effects on other student being covered up, link,
Walz and the Journal know that a recent audit by the Council of the Great City Schools found APS administrators routinely falsifying crime statistics to protect the reputations of schools.

Walz knows or should know of all these allegations.  If not, his willful ignorance is no excuse.   Walz knows of credible allegations of public corruption and incompetence in the leadership of the APS and will not investigate and report the truth to interest holders.

For what reason except that he is part of the cover up?

frame grab Mark Bralley

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Will Esquivel and Walz sit in judgment on Pat Rogers?

In an emailgate spinoff, we find Attorney Pat Rogers' membership on the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, being questioned.

Some find his membership on the Board difficult to explain, in light of his involvement in emailgate; the diametric opposite of open government.

Who will decide the propriety of Rogers continued presence? Will the entire Board participate, or will a few FOG heavy hitters take care of business behind closed doors? Either way, Marty Esquivel and Kent Walz are likely invites.

If the FOG Board were really committed to open government, Esquivel and Walz would be sitting beside Rogers, not across from him.

Esquivel and Walz are covering up an ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS. They are covering up, the cover up of felony criminal misconduct by APS senior administrators, link, including hiding evidence from the DA. The APS Police Force investigated its own public corruption and is holding the evidence still, even as statutes of limitation expire.

Esquivel's real commitment to open government is manifest in my arrest at a public forum, link, for asking inconvenient questions about the public interests and about his public service. It is further manifest in an unlawful restraining order, link, that his Praetorian Guard uses to deny my free exercise of constitutionally protected human rights to freely assemble, freely speak, and freely petition my government.

Walz' real commitment to open government is manifest in the Journal's failure to investigate
and report upon credible
evidence of an ongoing ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

Neither of them is suitable to judge Rogers.

Neither of them is suitable even to sit on the Board of Directors of the FOG, for the same reasons Pat Rogers is unsuited.

In light of their own ongoing scandal, if either the them sits in judgment of Pat Rogers, the judgment is a sham.

photos and Walz frame grab, Mark Bralley

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

$750,000 for duplicate investigation

The New Mexico Finance Authority has hired an international law firm to investigate "how and why" a fake audit was filed.
They intend to pay up to $750,000 for the investigation.
The investigation will duplicate the investigation by the State Auditors Office.

If both probes are honest and competent, they will have identical findings, and taxpayers will simply be out three-quarters of a million dollars for no reason except to enable corrupt and incompetent public servants begin building their legal defense at taxpayer expense.

These are people who are going to need a whiz bang legal defense to escape the consequences of their corruption and incompetence, and what better way to begin than to have an inside track on the investigation and gathering of the evidence that will be used against them.

Look what APS did with their self-investigation of felony criminal misconduct in their police force, link; they (with the aid and abet of Kent Walz and the Journal) buried the whole thing.

Why do we let corrupt and incompetent public servants investigate themselves?

Why do we allow them to redact their own public records?

Update; during a subsequent meeting of the NMFA, the plans to hire their own investigators was put on hold, at least for the time being.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Korte off on a rant

Journal Managing Editor Kent Walz has given School Board Member Kathy Korte the opportunity to pen a guest column, link.

Korte is upset by funding inadequacies and critics.

She has her own ideas about why APS is failing half its students. Among them, truancy. Her solution to truancy; compulsory attendance through graduation. It illustrates her conviction, in the face of conventional wisdom, that horses actually can be brought to water and made to drink, even against their will.

There are a whole set of problems that cripple APS performance, problems that no one ever talks about. For example; student discipline problems.

Korte won't talk about student discipline; none of them will. Either because she and they don't think it's a problem, or because she and they don't want to talk about it. Its an example of what School Board Member Lorenzo Garcia called, a "hard to have" discussion.

We don't talk about student discipline and chronically disruptive students, link, because the efficient and effective enforcement of discipline policies is an executive responsibility and an administrative function and failure. They're in hiding.

They're hiding their record. Even if Korte and the rest were willing to talk about discipline problems, they couldn't talk facts because adequate records weren't kept; there is no longitudinal record on their website.

The woeful record they do have, isn't credible. Auditors from the Council of the Great City Schools found that administrators routinely falsified crime statistics to protect the reputations of their schools.

The board won't have the administration prepare a PowerPoint for interest holders, on Student Discipline, standards and accountability because the presentation, if honest, would be embarrassing. If it weren't embarrassing, or worse, it wouldn't be hidden; it would be published on their award winning website.

The only defense of an indefensible position, is to hide it.
Hiding problems complicates their solution.

A major problem, student discipline and chronically disruptive students, remains unaddressed because the board doesn't want to have a hard to have discussion.

It requires a great deal of character and courage to have the hard to have discussions; that's why they're hard to have.

If there is the character, and if there is the courage to have the hard to have discussions, why aren't we having them? Why aren't any being planned?

Speaking of which, what happened to the community meetings on bullying (and student discipline problems), that were promised by APS and the Journal, link? Was I right, link, about their unwillingness to be candid, forthright and honest with interest holders?

The Citizens Advisory Council on Communication offered to help create a venue for hard to have discussions. Korte shut them down summarily. They have yet to see due process for a petition carrying more than 100 of their signatures. She stands foursquare in opposition to the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication and their effort to find a venue where there can be open and honest two-way communication about student discipline, and other public interests, between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve.

If Korte and the board have the character and the courage to have the hard to have discussions, they have to prove it; they have to have the hard to have discussions. That or explain to our satisfaction, their good and ethical reason to not have them.

Why can't we expect to have the hard to have discussions about why half of APS students are failing? except that the leadership of the APS cannot summon the character and the courage to show up and participate?

photo Mark Bralley

Friday, July 13, 2012

Entire audit faked, Martinez to blame

The Journal reports, link, the New Mexico Finance Authority lied about audits and provided investors with fraudulent documents. It seems, State Auditor Hector Balderas will demand a special audit, the results of which will be forwarded to law enforcement.

Too little, too late. All reaction, no evidence of an effective proactive effort to prevent this from happening. The first legitimate use of power and resources is to ensure that neither the power nor the resources can be abused, by anyone, ever.

Manifestly, government oversight is an abysmal failure.

When Balderas begins his audit, he will do so at some disadvantage; his office is underfunded and understaffed. When his findings go to Attorney General Gary King for prosecution, King as well, will begin at some disadvantage; his office is underfunded and understaffed.

Every agency of government whose responsibilities include oversight, is underfunded and understaffed. Balderas has been on record for years; he could, given the resources, make it impossibly difficult to hide public corruption and incompetence.

Casinos do it. Banks do it. Companies and corporations do it. Given the resources, why couldn't a state auditor and an attorney general make it not only impossibly difficult to hide corruption, but nearly impossibly difficult to escape honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence within public service.

It isn't so much the public servant who spends their workday playing the slots or hanging out in porn shops, as it is, the public servant whose job it was to make sure public servants can't get paid their salary for sitting in front of a slot machine or video booth, instead of at their desk.

Why do they think they can get away with it, because obviously, they can. They think they can get away with it, because for the most part, they can get away with it. They can get away with it for years and years and years.

Every time corruption, incompetence, or bone-headed stupidity is exposed, the exposure never includes the person whose job it was to make sure that what ever happened, doesn't happen. That's why it continues to happen.

The Journal reports;

The Finance Authority said Thursday that its erroneous financial documents were the fault of its former financial controller, who left the agency in early June.
Finance Authority Director Richard May offered a prepared statement, here quoted in significant part;
“This matter is deeply concerning but it will have no effect ...”
It came in the form of a prepared statement, because those whose heads should roll, will not point to a time, a day, and a place where they stand up and deliver their responses to questions about the public interests and about their public service.

Reportedly, Gov. Susana Martinez is
“deeply concerned” about the fraud.

During her campaign, link, Martinez
promised intervene in the culture of
corruption and incompetence in
state government, by supporting
independent investigations of every
agency of state government;
investigations that would ferret out
corruption, incompetence, and the
practices that enable them.

Had she kept her promise, the lack of standards and accountability that enabled this kind of public corruption and incompetence, would have been exposed, before it was abused.

She didn't, it wasn't, and here we are.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How long will this building last?

APS has built a new high school. It replaces a concrete, block, and steel building that has been standing for fewer than fifty years.

The construction of an entirely new building was made necessary by APS' legendary inability to maintain roofs. According to APS Supt Winston Brooks;

"..., worst of all, roof leaks in the past few years had damaged not only the structure, but also the equipment. The district’s Facilities Design and Construction Department had looked at just replacing the old roof, but when they considered the cost of remodeling and repair, it made more financial sense to replace the whole building."
"In the past few years", APS allowed the building to deteriorate to the point it needs to be replaced. In the past few years, they spent money on building on fancy new schools that improve public perception of their leadership. In the past few years, they build a brand new and utterly unjustified board room; a candid, honest and forthright accounting of which, they still will not provide.

They are touting the new building as some monumental success, and will have the adjacent monument of their failure razed to the ground as fast as their little bulldozers can push.

Will APS be able to figure out how to keep the new building from leaking? Their track record suggests that they won't, and that taxpayers will be building yet another building in another fifty years.

The old one leaked due to administrative incompetence and corruption; both of which continue to be enabled by the district's profound lack of honest and transparent administrative and executive accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence; ethical standards of conduct and competence, as provided in the standards of conduct they establish and enforce upon students; the Pillars of Character Counts!.

That lack of standards and accountability is the substance of the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS. Their unwillingness to engage in open and honest two-way communication about administrative and executive standards and accountability suggests they have plenty to hide.

Interest holders, the folks who will pay for the replacement, don't know their investment is in jeopardy. They don't know because Kent Walz, the Journal, and the rest of the establishment media are covering it up.

The extent to which they are willing to go, to help APS Supt Winston Brooks and the School Board look good, includes their current participation in the cover up of the cover up of felony criminal misconduct, link, in the leadership of APS' publicly funded, private police force.

Why aren't the establishment media asking the leadership of the APS to surrender the public records of findings of investigations of public corruption and incompetence in the leadership of the APS Police Force; beginning with, but not limited to, the Caswell Report?

Why aren't they looking at the public record of the evidence that APS did send to the DA, and comparing it to the evidence Brooks and the board are still holding, even as statutes of limitation expire?

If the establishment media aren't part of the cover up, why aren't they investigating and reporting upon credible allegations and evidence of the cover up of felony criminal misconduct by APS senior administrators?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Whose head(s) should roll in an oversight failure?

Recently in the news; numerous reports of city employees spending their days serving their own interests instead of the people's.

You know that a handful of reports is the only the tip of an enormous iceberg.

As citizens and taxpayers, our defense against public corruption and incompetence is administrative oversight. With the exception of an occasional whistleblower and investigative reporter, it is our only defense.

Every public servant bent on betraying the public trust, expects to get away with it. They know the system, and they expect that their corruption and/or incompetence will not be exposed. They know they are breaking the law, and do it anyway because they believe they can get away with it.

It is possible to create institutions where it is impossibly difficult to hide corruption or incompetence; casinos and banks to name two. Government could be a third. Government, the spending of the public trust and treasure, could be so transparent as to make it nearly impossibly difficult to hide public corruption and incompetence.

Instead, we have city employees disappearing from their jobs for years at a time, and know idea who their immediate supervisor is, or theirs.

We do know where the buck stops.

Albuquerque voters elected Mayor Richard Berry to provide oversight over the spending of our power and resources. The responsibility rests on his shoulders; the buck stops on his desk.

Berry delegated authority, but not his responsibility, to Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry who passed down as well, and so it went until at some point, public servants were able to defraud taxpayers for years on end, with no one noticing.

Whose head will roll? Whose head should?

Clearly, the heads of politicians and public servants careless enough to get caught in flagrante delicto should roll. What about their immediate supervisor? And theirs?

Berry's head will not roll over this failure of oversight. Nor will Perry's, nor will Perry's immediate subordinate nor theirs. No heads will roll except the poor slobs who get caught.

And that's how you enable public corruption and incompetence.

photos Mark Bralley

Monday, July 02, 2012

You Are Never Finished in Smart Lab ...

I participate in a political discussion group every Saturday morning. It meets in a charter school called Southwest Learning Centers, link.

Last Saturday, we met in a different room; a classroom called the Smart Lab. In the Smart Lab, students can do wind tunnel experiments,

test the tensile strength of material samples,

make video productions of some kind,

and any number of other hands-on activities.

Southwest Learning Centers is a top notch school, but not because they have equipment like this. APS schools have the same equipment.

The difference is summed up in a poster on the wall;

Clearly, the staff at this school get that, each student is on an individual learning path, and they won't reach the end of that path during that class period, that school year, or even upon graduation.

In APS classrooms, students sit like tombstones a cemetery;
five rows of six desks, or maybe six rows of five, depending on
the shape of the room and the flexibility of the Principal.

When students in those classrooms are "finished", they are
expected to wait quietly for the rest of the class to finish,
in order that they can then move on together, thinking and
learning in a thought choir; for twelve grueling years.

If the ultimate goal of education is to create lifelong independent learners, why is that not the first priority?

Apparently, in a few (charter) schools, it is.

photos Mark Bralley