Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Esquivel defense illustrates the difference between "legal" and other, higher, standards of conduct

APS School Board President Marty Esquivel is being sued for violation of my constitutionally protected human rights to free speech, to be the press, to assemble freely, to petition my government, and ultimately, my constitutionally protected human right to due process.

You can understand why he might want a "cost is no object" legal defense team assembled in his behalf; his own dream team on someone else's dime.

The contract Esquivel has signed with his lawyers, according to APS Director of Communications Rigo Chavez, does not require that his lawyer report to the board about the liability he has brought upon the district.  Their contract does not require Esquivel's lawyer to be candid, forthright and honest about the essential elements of the case, including its cost to taxpayers.

Why there is no oversight whatsoever over how much he's spending, or on what?

When asked to tell the truth about some essential elements in the case, Esquivel and his lawyers who are being paid God only knows how much, wrote;

to the extent that this interrogatory seeks information which is protected by the attorney-client privilege and attorney work product doctrine, Defendant Esquivel objects.
And there you have it in a nutshell; when asked to hold himself honestly accountable to a higher standard of conduct than the law; Esquivel declined because it's "legal"; the lowest standards of conduct acceptable to civilized people.  Were he accountable to a higher standard, an ethical standard for example, he would be required to tell the truth; he wouldn't be allowed to hide his record.

The standards of conduct for which Esquivel is the very senior-most role model in the entire school system, require students to
do more than the law requires, and less than the law allows 
or forfeit their good character.

Esquivel should be showing students and staff what it looks like to accept responsibility and consequences for one's own conduct.  If we actually had role models who did that kind of thing, we wouldn't have to rehashing a centuries old fable about a kid, a hatchet, and a cherry tree.

Esquivel will do anything he can to litigate an exception for himself, from the consequences of his misconduct.  There is no one to stop him.

Privilege and doctrine do not require the truth to be hidden from stakeholders, they allow the truth to be hidden.

Esquivel has no good and ethical reason to hide the truth, if the truth exonerates him.  He has every reason to hide the truth if it does not. It does not.

Esquivel is not required to hide the truth; he chooses to.
David Robbins, Winston Brooks, Monica Armenta,
Rigo Chavez and Steve Tellez are not required to hide the truth,
they choose to.  They do so, not in the interests of students,
but in their own self interests.

It is pretty clear, the intent of board policy is for the board to oversee the spending of public resources on litigation; apparently even over their own litigation.  They are expected to meet, in secret if they must, to make certain that everybody knows, that everybody knows; nobody can pretend they didn't know about, and approve of, the spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars; against the public interests.

That meeting for this litigation is yet to take place.

It likely never will.

Esquivel and the rest of the defendants have no oversight;
not in the system, and not in the establishment media.
Neither the Journal, nor KRQE, KOAT nor KOB will
investigate and report on the appearance of an egregious
conflict of interests; Esquivel's own v. kids and classrooms.

photo Mark Bralley

Brooks told Robert Lucero to "use a pistol" to "take me out"

If you go to APS' award winning website and then make your way to the video of the November 4, 2009 Regular Board Meeting, link, you will find the record has been unethically redacted.  It ends when School Board President Marty Esquivel adjourned the meeting at 1:49:58 elapsed time.

The whole record has been introduced in federal court.

At 1:50 APS Supt Winston Brooks begins telling Board Member Robert Lucero about increased police presence he ordered after ejecting me from the public forum.

Former school board enforcer Lucero
Lucero said, " ... take him out!

Brooks replied, "Why don't you use a pistol?"

Lucero replied, "... wish I had a pistol!"  I need three minutes. I'm old, but ..." inaudible.

This kind of banter is of course, utterly unacceptable however innocent they will claim it was.

KRQE, KOAT, KOB, and the Journal were informed about of the spending of public money without oversight by the defendants in my complaints, and have yet to report anything at all to the people who are footing their exorbitant bills.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, April 29, 2013

Armenta "loses" key evidence against her; imagine that.

When APS'  Executive Director of Communications and Defendant in a federal complaint, Monica Armenta was asked, who keeps track of APS when it shows up on media and social networks, she, by and through her lawyers who are charging taxpayers God only knows how much, wrote among other things, Defendant Armenta objects to the request because it seeks information about APS students.

Say what? Are students being use to help Armenta keep tabs on her friends in the media and her not so friends in the blogosphere?

When asked for any documents relating to how they keep track of their friends in the media and their not so friends in the blogosphere, again, Defendant Armenta objects because we've asked for information about APS students.

When asked to identify everyone who had asked for press credentials to the APS District Relations Committee Meeting slash Gubernatorial debate, Armenta, by and through her lawyers who are charging taxpayers God only knows how much, wrote, Defendant Armenta has been unable to locate documents responsive to the request.

Has she lost the records of the most important undertaking she ever undertook?

When asked to identify herself as a person who has ever claimed to be afraid of me, Armenta, by and through her lawyers who are being paid God only knows how much, wrote that I had followed her around on a number of occasions and that on one occasion, I waited for her in a parking lot.

My habit is to stay well away from Monica Armenta, link, for very good reasons.

She claims as well, that I hang around her a lot, at close range and take her photograph.  She overestimates my interest in any more closeups of her.  You should see the ones that don't get used.

This is about as close as I ever got; and plenty close enough.

Armenta, ordering the Praetorian Guard to bounce me from her Great Debate.
I await her production of one iota of evidence that I have taken a photograph from any closer than this, ever.

In reply to a request for any documents she might have regarding the decision to deny me press credentials, she wrote, by and through her lawyers,  Defendant Armenta has been unable to locate any responsive documents.  They are apparently lost, stolen by North Korean hackers, or perhaps, deliberately deleted.

When asked to produce any background documents she might have, regarding complaints I've filed against board members and administrators, she wrote, by and through her lawyers ..., they're in the process of locating them, and will produce them shortly.  May I suggest they look in the enormous file they keep under my name?

When asked for any documents of any communications with regard to my complaints, that she might have had on her own behalf or on the behalf of any of the other defendants with any news organizations; she wrote by and though her lawyers who are charging taxpayers God only knows how much, she is not aware of any documents responsive to the request.  If she is to be believed, the establishment media isn't asking her any questions about the lawsuit she and they are buried in, up to their eyeballs.

This once, she is to be believed.

photo Mark Bralley
photo ched macquigg

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Shopping the story around

I couldn't get KRQE to commit to doing a story about taxpayers' double billing for legal defenses for Marty Esquivel and most of the rest of the leadership of the APS.

They told me to go ahead and shop it around if I wanted to.  Shopping it around doesn't mean I expect anyone else will jump on it either, but because it's worth pointing out that they could and won't.

I sent the following to KOAT, KOB and the Journal.
Taxpayers are being double billed for litigation in defense of Marty Esquivel and, most of the rest of the leadership of the APS.

The board and senior administration are being sued in federal court. They are entitled to legal representation at taxpayer expense. That said; they could spend excessively or inappropriately if there were no oversight. Without oversight, there is the temptation to overspend or misspend in defense of one’s self interests v. the public interest. The appearance of temptation creates the appearance of a conflict of interests. You can’t just ignore the appearance of a conflict of interest; it has to be addressed; openly, honestly.

The check and balance in the case of APS, is described in a Request For Proposal for Legal Services, https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=33483753 and in particular section 4.4.4.

According the agreed upon rules for legal services for board members and senior administrators; within 30 days of agreeing to represent board members or administrators, their lawyers are required to stand before the entire school board, in a meeting they hold in secret, and tell the board the truth about the case, no matter how bad; how embarrassing, or how criminal. They are expected to report candidly, forthrightly and honestly.

It is during those executive sessions that every school board member has the opportunity to object, on behalf of the people, to spending they deem excessive or inappropriate. They are the people’s defense against for example, a Superintendent who might want to spend unjustifiably large amounts of money covering his own ass.

The board has never met to approve Marty Esquivel’s spending on a legal team of his own, doubling or more, the cost to taxpayers for litigation. The cost is in “operational” dollars; dollars which would be otherwise spent in classrooms. The board never approved of the hiring of the legal team for their own defense.

The RFP establishes a rate; $160/ hour, for lawyers. I would not be surprised to find the contracts in this case, provide for far more.

Communications Director Rigo Chavez admits; The agreement does not include this language. He refers to the following, from the RFP;

Within thirty (30) days following receipt of a case, counsel shall prepare a comprehensive initial report for APS and/or its designated representative to contain a comprehensive written analysis. This analysis shall provide the initial evaluation of the case, including a brief synopsis of the facts to include any exposure in the case, identification of strengths and weaknesses, damages, plaintiff’s injuries and similar. Counsel shall also provide an initial impression of liability and identify the pertinent statutes and the case law expected to affect the outcome of the litigation including any precedent setting issue.
I had asked
I would like to know if the contracts with the lawyers who are representing the board and Marty Esquivel, contain the same or similar language.
The contracts for legal services in this case, my complaints in federal court, do not include any language requiring them to submit their plan to the whole board for their oversight and approval.

Something is fishy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

APS Board disses APS teachers in general, their union (leader) in particular

The APS School Board will meet tomorrow. link, to begin discussion on teacher (and school leader) evaluations.  The discussion will not include the input of a single teacher, a single community member, nor even a student from APS Supt Winston Brooks' beloved student advisory council.  The leadership of the APS has never offered to justify their decision to ignore teacher input, in particular on an issue so important to teachers as the process by which they are evaluated.  In denying teachers a seat at their table, the board and senior administration are denying the benefit of nearly 100,000 years of ongoing teaching experience.

More importantly, it will not include the input of the teachers union.  Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein apparently, has not been invited to participate.

Regardless of how one feels about teacher unions in general, the Albuquerque teachers union, or its president, denying them a seat at the table where teacher evaluation is being discussed, is unconscionable.

I suppose they will allow her to sit in the audience for as long as she behaves herself; asks no inconvenient questions, and offers no opposition to their plan or their process.

photo Mark Bralley

On the table; superordinate evaluation in the APS

Well, "on the table" might be a bit of a stretch.  According to the agenda, link, of Special Board Meeting tomorrow, they will begin;

Teacher and School Leader Evaluation System (Discussion) 
Noteworthy; the discussion will be among senior administrators and the board; the great unwashed, in what amounts to a monumental disregard for their combined nearly 100,000 years of current teaching experience, are not invited.

The only opinions that matter will come from;
  • Shelly Green, Chief Academic Officer; 
  • Andi Trybus, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources; 
  • RoseAnn McKernan, Executive Director of Instructional Accountability; 
  • Carrie Robin Menapace, Policy Analyst and Legislative Liaison; 
  • Karen Rudys, Executive Director of Labor Relations; 
  • Diane Kerschen, Associate Superintendent for Elementary Education; and 
  • Raquel Reedy, Associate Superintendent for Elementary Education
Noteworthy as well; according the discussion brief, link, the meeting will be "facilitated" by Green, Trybus and Menapace.  A fair question, does any one of them have any real training as a facilitator, or were they the just the ones who raised their hands?

You can't just go into a meeting and be a facilitator, wikilink.  Just because someone raises their hand, it doesn't mean they know what they're doing.  The lack of good facilitation for decision making meetings, is likely the single most damaging flaw in APS' administrative model.  It is what keeps teachers from their seats at the table where decisions are made.

It's all about control.  The leadership of the APS wants to remain in control of the process by which they are evaluated.  A recent audit by the Council of the Great City Schools found; administrative evaluations are "subjective and unrelated to promotion or step placement."  They want to keep it "subjective", so they can offer each other promotions and step placements based, not on their character and competence, but upon their loyalty to the rest of the good ol' boys; their readiness to be standing inside the line, when the administration is circling their wagons, urbandictionary,

Even if one of them was a competent facilitator, they are all conflicted.  Trybus and Green are part of the good ol' boy oligarchy; they're not about to rock the boat by injecting honest accountability into the system of administrative evaluation that got them where they are (and would very much like to remain). 

Ms. Menapace, is the least powerful person at the table.  I assume would like to continue her climb up the leadership ladder.  She is conflicted by what that same CoGCS audit referred to as a "culture of fear of retribution and retaliation" against those who try to hold administrators or board members honestly accountable for their incompetence or corruption.

Whether any of them actually acts on their self interests is an entirely different question than; is there the appearance of a conflict of interests, in giving them the opportunity to, should they so choose.

I've worked under principals with character and competence.  I've worked under principals with an astonishing lack of either; at least one of which is still on the ladder of success in central office.  I can tell you, without hesitation or reservation, the competence and character of principals makes a difference in schools.

Ergo, the failure to hold them honestly accountable for their character and competence, including subjecting them to meaningful subordinate evaluation, will continue to have a negative impact on the education of nearly 90,000 of this community's sons and daughters.

The validity of my suppositions will be proved when their "discussion" is done and there is not an honest process for the subordinate evaluation of principals by their staff and communities.

Just watch.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Brad Winter's Distinguished Service Award - service to whom?

APS COO Brad Winter has received a good ol' boy award from the Council of the Great City Schools.  They call it a Distinguished Service Award,  link.  According to APS Supt Winston Brooks;

“Brad Winter has been committed to APS for more than three decades as a teacher, track coach and high school and district administrator,”
What Brooks is most impressed with is, when Winter was asked if he would provide a candid, forthright and honest accounting of spending at 6400 Uptown Blvd, he was able to look into people's eyes while promising he would deliver, though he hadn't any such intention, link.

So while Winter may have served students and the community for decades, his primary allegiance is to the leadership of the APS and helping them cover their sins - even at the expense of truthtelling to interest holders.

Service, not as distinguished as they would have us believe.

photo Mark Bralley

Friday, April 19, 2013

Special deal for Marty Esquivel?

When APS administrators or board members get sued, they are represented by law firms that have responded to a Request for Proposal for legal services, link.  The RFP delineates compensations and expectations of the firms which will share in a lot of money - the exact amount unavailable.

One of the requirements of law firms is to provide "case analysis".  You will find the requirements beginning on page 24, section 4.4.4.  Part of it reads as follows, and then get better;

Within thirty (30) days following receipt of a case, counsel shall prepare a comprehensive initial report for APS and/or its designated representative to contain a comprehensive written analysis. This analysis shall provide the initial evaluation of the case, including a brief synopsis of the facts to include any exposure in the case, identification of strengths and weaknesses, damages, plaintiff’s injuries and similar. Counsel shall also provide an initial impression of liability and identify the pertinent statutes and the case law expected to affect the outcome of the litigation including any precedent setting issue.
There are reasons the board is folded into decisions regarding litigation; good reasons.

Imagine you had a superintendent bent on hiding evidence of felony criminal misconduct involving senior administrators.  You might well imagine him telling his lawyers; I don't care how much money you have to spend, I want you to litigate for me, an exception to the law, and to any consequences of my incompetence and corruption.

You might well imagine his lawyers being willing to tap into a large bore pipeline to "operational" funds in order to fund whatever cost is no object legal weaselry that will get their client off the hook.

The requirement that the case be explained to the board provides a fundamental check and balance.  In theory, when they hear the truth about our imagined superintendent's plight and the money he intends to spend to escape scot free, they might express some unwillingness to simply "go along".

School board oversight is the only mechanism that prevents public power and resources from being spent against the public interests.

The analyses are presented to the board in a meeting in secret.  They did it last Wednesday night where the agenda for the regular meeting included;
Consideration for Approval to Convene in Executive Session Pursuant to the Open Meetings Act NMSA 1978 (§ 10-15-1 (H)(7)) for the Purpose of Discussing Pending Litigation Albuquerque Municipal School District No. 12, Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties, NM v. Sidonie Squier, Case No. D-202-CV-2012-08666 (Action)
I have noticed, the board has never retired into secret to discuss my case.

Yesterday, I made two inquiries; one of the board manager and one of the APS Communications Director Rigo Chavez.  I asked the board manager if the board had ever retired into secret to discuss my case.  I received no reply.

I asked Chavez if APS School Board President Marty Esquivel's contract with his lawyer, and the contract between the rest of the board and their lawyers in the litigation against me, included the requirement of presenting a case analysis to the board.

I was told they did not.

School Board enforcer Esquivel
So where is the oversight over Esquivel?  Can he spend however many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars he wants, in his effort to escape the consequences of his own incompetence and corruption, without oversight?

Esquivel's lawyer sent a letter to my lawyers insisting, I shouldn't ask Rigo Chavez for information because I'm suing him.

I can't ask his boss, APS Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta because I'm suing her.

I can't ask her boss, APS Supt Winston Brooks because I'm suing him.

I can't ask his boss Marty Esquivel or the board because I'm suing them too.

Esquivel's lawyer went so far as to suggest that I shouldn't be asking questions of the board manager either, because I'm suing "the board".

It's classic APS; the first thing they do is clamp down on the truth.

As a result, important question remains unanswered; have special arrangements been for Esquivel, does he enjoy different rules for playing the game?

Apparently, the number one rule, provide oversight, has been quietly abandoned; what others?

The fundamental rift between me and the leadership of the APS is, I am in favor of more oversight.  I am in favor of so much oversight that it is made impossibly difficult to hide public corruption and incompetence.

Esquivel et al would have less, considerably less, including the oversight-less litigation in defense of his own interests at the expense of the public interest, in blatant disregard for the board's Code of Ethics, link, the first of which reads;
Make the education and well being of students the basis for all decision making.
If the truth about Esquivel's case is being hidden from the board, in particular if the truth is being hidden from the new board members, it represents an epic breech of faith.

Journal Editor Kent Walz
Almost as big a breech of faith as the establishment media's relentless refusal to investigate and report upon the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

photos Mark Bralley
Walz photo ched macquigg

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A touring we will go, a touring we will go, heigh-ho, the derry-o , a touring we will go

APS Supt Winston Brooks likes to "gather community input".  He loves to tour the district "gathering input", link, link, link, and link.

On his list of achievements, he claims "dozens of community meetings to gather input ..., link.

Brooks has let us know in his monthly Journal column, link, he has plans for more input; this time on school closings due to budget constraints.  Oddly, a few days later, the budget problems that would cause the school closings, seem to have evaporated, link.

We’re hoping to put together a committee this summer to begin the strategic planning process. We’ll need everyone at the table: the business community, parents, teachers, principals, students. These tough decisions aren’t just ours to make, they’re the community’s. We need to come together to figure out how to best serve our students.
The Journal editors think, link,
Brooks is smart to get “everyone at the table: the business community, parents, teachers, principals, students” to vet ideas.
For what purpose, exactly?  What does "community input" mean to Brooks and the leadership of the APS?

The community members who give their input, believe their input influences the decision making process, either by adding new information, or by changing the minds of policy makers.  Neither happens.

In the first place, there is no new information to add.  They're not going to stumble onto the silver bullet no matter how much "input" they gather.  And, gathering input doesn't come for free, link.

What about the recently completed forums on bullying, what did they really learn, link?  What about all the goal setting meetings, where are the notes about what they really learned?

The real tell; if Brooks' interest in "input" were genuine, he would be soliciting input from teachers who between them share almost 100,000 years of current teaching experience.  Instead, he squeezed them out of the decision making process.  Never, not once, during Brooks entire tenure, have teachers been surveyed.  Not once have they been asked what they need, or what they perceive the real problems to be.

Brooks is not looking for new information; he is not looking to have his decision making influenced.  He is giving interest holders a shoulder to cry on and misleading them about the impact it will have.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, April 15, 2013

Terrific news - Mayor Berry appoints Janice Arnold-Jones

Rep Janice Arnold-Jones has been appointed to fill the District 7, City Council seat recently vacated by Councilor Mike Cook.

Republican Party of Bernalillo County Chairman Frank Ruvolo issued the following statement;

"I’ve known Janice Arnold-Jones for nearly 40 years and can say with confidence Mayor Berry’s selection of her as the city councilor for District 7 is a good move for Albuquerque.

In her four terms as a state representative she was thoughtful and deliberate when deciding how to vote on legislation, always putting the people she represented before politics, a tradition I believe she will continue on city council.

She was a true representative of the people which led to her starting a Saturday morning coffee group so she could hear the concerns of her constituents. She credited the group with ‘helping’ her to decide to take a web cam to the Roundhouse; a move that made our state government far more transparent than before she took office.
Mayor Richard Berry could not have made a better choice.

photos Mark Bralley

Is the APS School Board out of touch?

APS Board Members, on occasion, say things that make one wonder if they really know what's going on in schools.

At the meeting where the eCADEMY was being discussed, Board Member Lorenzo Garcia raised questions about whether students will learn how to debate ideas.

“The challenge with this kind of setup is there isn’t an opportunity for debate.  There isn’t an opportunity to kind of practice interactions with other peers, to be able to put forward one’s thinking and then have some opportunity to kind of filter that through the way other people think that may be different."
I am wondering if Garcia believes that an average student, sitting in a desk in one of five rows of six desks, spends a lot of time putting forth their ideas and debating them with other students.

The truth is, they don't, and Garcia's concern that online students will be missing out on something that regular students get, is simply misguided.

Board members could get in touch is they really wanted to.  They could substitute teach for a couple of days every year.  The same experience would benefit administrators who themselves may not have had to maintain order in a classroom for many years.

They will miss the whole point of the experience if they arrange to substitute in an Honors English class.

photo Mark Bralley

APS eCADEMY students will not be allowed to work "way ahead"

Leave it to the leadership of the APS to take a perfectly good idea, an online high school, and find some way to screw it up.

The Journal reports this morning, link, that APS' eCADEMY is a go, as long as it doesn't go too fast.

"The classes at the new school will be teacher paced, meaning students cannot work way ahead ..."
How in the world are they going to stop them?

Why in the world would they want to?

Twelve thousand reasons come to mind.  Every year a student goes to APS, APS gets somewhere between ten and fifteen thousand dollars from the state.  A four year student could generate $60K for district officials to spend by the time s/he graduates.  If s/he finishes in three years, APS could "lose" up to fifteen large.  If they graduate in two years, APS "loses" twice as much.

Those are pretty good reasons (according the leadership of the APS)to drag the experience out for as long as possible.  Any other reason(s) they might have, have yet to be articulated.

The board also expressed their fear that some students might
"... complete classes quickly at the end of the semester."
Again you have to wonder, why not?  Who cares?
If a student can pass a course-end test, and the test is valid,
why do we care whether they take the test after 56 hours of preparation, or 56 days?

We don't.

The "leadership" of the APS does.  Why?

Don't look to APS' million dollar a year communications effort for any answers, and don't look to the Journal to be asking any questions.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Journal editors had bad science and math teachers

Journal editors share their upset this morning, link, over what they believe is proof that teacher evaluation isn't working.  They arrive at a correct conclusion, but by fallacious reasoning.

They reason; if half of students are failing while 97% of teachers are getting satisfactory evaluations, then teacher evaluations aren't working, because, if 97% of teachers are teaching satisfactorily, then 97% of students, or nearly that number, should be succeeding.

Clearly, the editors have never taught school.  Despite the fact that all any of them has to do to learn whereof they speak is to sign up as a substitute teacher for a day or two, it appears that none of them have.

Had they, they would know it isn't as simple as, good teacher = good student.  They would know that there are factors that affect student's learning that are far beyond the capacity of even the best teacher to remedy; not the least of which is apathy.

Whoever first observed that a horse can be led to water, but not made to drink, hit the nail on the head.  You can lead a student to educational opportunity, but you cannot make them partake. There is no such thing as a disengaged learner.  Education is not something you can do to someone else regardless of their interest.

There is a causal relationship between motivation and learning.  Motivation is the leading indicator student success.  More mature learners can learn something they are not particularly interested in.  They employ self discipline in place of intrinsic motivation.  With immature learners, there is not self discipline enough to pursue learning despite their lack of interest and enthusiasm, and there will be no learning.

It is unreasonable to hold teachers accountable for learner's motivation.   Motivation to learn must be brought to the classroom by students.  It would be nice if we could identify teachers who can interest dis-interested learners.  There is of course, no such thing as a teacher who can interest the dis-interested.

All any teacher can do, all anyone can do, is to point to information.  Whether a student finds that information interesting enough to learn, motivating, is beyond a teacher's influence.  Which is not to say there aren't teachers who are better or worse as enabling students to become motivated themselves; teachers who have more interesting information to share, or who share it more enthusiastically than others.  There are better and worse teachers.

But if we really want to raise the rate of success in schools, the increase will not follow better teacher evaluation, it will come when we stop the practice of taking children who come to school bursting with enthusiasm and interest, and tell them to sit down and shut up.  It will come when we stop telling students to forget about what they're interested in, and instead to sit down in one of five rows of six desks and join 29 other kids to "learn" about something else instead.

Before anyone takes a position on holding teachers or anyone else accountable for the failure of public schools, they really should substitute teach, for at least one day.

Apply here, link, or forever hold your piece.

Friday, April 12, 2013

NM PED investigates La Cueva testing irregularities; KRQE offers the best coverage

Every spring, APS students take standardized tests. The tests are important; seniors have to pass them in order to graduate and, both schools and teachers are evaluated based on students' scores. There are incredibly rigid and rigorous rules governing the administration of the tests.  For example, students are apparently escorted to restrooms if the need to go during a test period.  There is concern over students sharing answers about test questions while the testing is still going on.

An incident at La Cueva High School gives us a rare opportunity to do a side by side comparison of the depth and breadth of APS coverage provided by the establishment media.  The Journal, KOB, KOAT, and KRQE all received the same tip; the New Mexico Public Education Department is investigating "irregularities" in the administration of Standards Based Assessment testing at APS'  crown jewel High School, La Cueva.

It behooves interest holders to compare their follow up, investigations and reports.

First worst coverage; the Journal, link.  Journal coverage amounted to four sentences total.  For reasons known only to them, the Journal likes to call APS' highly paid Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta, a "spokeswoman".

Next worst; Armenta's alma mater KOB, link, and KOAT, link.  KOB didn't use Armenta's name or even her position, referring only to "school officials".

KOAT reported that concern over any cheating that might have taken place, was unwarranted.  They interviewed "students", and reported,

"... students said they don't feel any of their classmates need to cheat ..."
KOAT, apparently believes them, in the face of overwhelming controverting evidence and logic.

The best coverage by far comes from KRQE's Tina Jensen, link.  A junior she interviewed, had a different take on the possibility of cheating, reporting;
"... he and other students got (unsupervised) breaks in the middle of test sessions – making it all too easy for students to exchange answers, then come back and make changes.
We've known for a long time that Journal Managing Editor Kent Walz has no stomach for exposing corruption and incompetence in the APS.

KOB has been in the tank since their Monica Armenta moved from KOB to APS leadership.

KOAT has buried stories that would have shed light on the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS, link.

It would appear, at least for the time being, KRQE is the only station willing to pick at APS' scabs.  Unfortunately, KRQE is unwilling still, to follow through; investigating and reporting upon the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS. 

They will not, for example, investigate and report upon the cover up of the cover up of felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators and their publicly funded, private police force, link.  At the time of the scandal, I was singing their praise, link, for their coverage.  Then they let go.

I have reason to believe KRQE asked APS to produce public records of an independent investigation into the public corruption in their police force, the Caswell Report for one, and APS did not produce them.

KRQE could have sued for the records, but apparently decided to let the whole thing slide instead; I'm guessing, based on the advice of their open government lawyer, APS School Board President Marty Esquivel.

photos Mark Bralley

Thursday, April 11, 2013

APS talking school closings

In APS Supt Winston Brooks' monthly Journal column, link, Brooks revealed;

"... one of the most controversial changes that we’ll be talking about is closing some of our schools. We’ll approach this topic strategically, making sure families, staff and the community all have input before any decision is made."
APS is in a financial bind; Brooks claims all the easy fixes have been made; the "band-aid" repairs.  He claims to have clipped $195M from the budget in the last three years.  The cuts were forced and no one ever asked why there was so much low hanging fruit in the first place; nearly $200M worth of potential cuts just waiting to be taken, or whether the circumstances that enabled the bloat still exist, just waiting for a cash transfusion.

In any event, Brooks claims the easy cuts are all made and we're at the point of choosing which schools to close.  This will bring parents and community members out of the woodwork as the names of schools on the chopping block start circulating.  It is their hope that enough parents can be stirred up to involve the media and ultimately to compel the legislature to appropriate more money for APS to spend.

Still conspicuously absent from the discussion; whether the model the leadership of the APS has chosen for educating children (and adults); enormous capital investment in buildings and cemetery seating in classrooms, is the best model. Just because we've been seating kids in five rows of six, each on the same page in the same book on the same day for more than a century now, doesn't mean it is the still best model for public education, or that it ever was.

The whole point in educating children is to create independent lifelong learners; learners who don't need school systems in order to learn.  Independent lifelong learners unfortunately, don't generate a lot of public spending, which in turn obviates the need for a lot of superintendents and administrators.

Brooks and the rest who are charged with plotting the course into the twenty first century, are conflicted.

They can create and maintain systems that feed them, ensuring their continued employment, or they can do what's best for students.

They are not one and the same.

It is time for open and honest public discussion about the direction APS will take into the future; the same old, same old, or something new; something effective, efficient and far less expensive; something in the best interests of students and the best interests of the community that APS administrators and board members serve.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, April 08, 2013

APS eCADEMY, finally

APS' Policy and Instruction Committee will meet tomorrow night.  On the agenda, link,

Proposed Virtual High School (Discussion)
Presenter: Shelly Green, Dave Wells
  • Disc brief Virtual HS.pdf, (link)
  • eCADEMY Board Presentation 2013-04 Short.pptx, (link)
Presenters Wells and Green are looking for approval of their proposal; offering a full time online high school with face to face support for students.

Currently, they accept only students who are retaking classes.
They propose accepting 150 full time students next year.
They will grow to 350 students over the following two.

eCADEMY argues, they will have a "positive financial result" over three years.

They will offer;
  • Asynchronous online classwork, but paced by teacher
I confess, I looked up "asynchronous" just to make sure.  Asynchronous means they won't all be on the the same page, in the same book, and the same time.  Students apparently, won't have to join a "thought choir", sitting in five rows of six, thinking and learning in unison.  I hope the flexibility applies to the content as well; subject of course to the myriad of applicable standards. regulations, policies and who know what else.

What a great idea!  I suspect they will be overwhelmed by students.

Which brings us to the threat e-schooling poses to brick and mortar education; the bread and butter (quite literally), of institutions like the APS.  When eCADEMY talks about "positive financial results", they're talking about the not-spending of millions and millions of dollars.  Spending to which the leadership of the APS and their friends in local industry, have grown quite accustomed.

It will be amusing trying to watch them stuff this genie back in the bottle.

As is their want and custom, the meeting will not be videotaped.
There will be an audiotape made, but they don't post it on their award-winning website; you have to file a request for public records with APS' Custodian of Public Records.  If there's nothing too damning on the tape, you should be able to buy a copy within the fifteen days allowed under the law.

Else, expect that it might take considerably longer.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

APS graduation rates, smoke and mirrors?

The industry of education creates a lot of data.  Some of that data is useful in determining whether a school district is more or less successful in their endeavor to prepare students for life after high school.

APS is pointing currently, to their graduation rates and how they're gradually creeping up.  The assumption is students who graduate are actually prepared for work, training or further education.

Some would argue, a better measure of APS' performance would be to look at graduate test scores.  There are problems for sure, with using test scores to measure performance, but if the tests are reliable and fair (therein lies the rub), graduate testing is arguably the best indicator we have.

Which leads us to an interesting report, link, from EduFact, link, about APS' declining scores on one of the leading measures of college preparedness; the ACT, wikilink.

It is a small wonder then, why APS and their friends at the Journal don't give as much play to APS graduates' declining ACT scores, as they do to APS' supposedly improving "graduation rates".

Update; in a review of posts gone by, I stumbled upon; Graduation rates increasing? or smoke and mirrors, link.  If nothing else, at least I'm consistent.

photo Mark Bralley

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

APS just can't seem to lead on open meetings notice

The leadership of the APS would have interest holders believe that they are abundantly transparent.

One measure of transparency of institutions such as the APS is the notice they give on public meeting agendas.  As measures of transparency go, it's a pretty good one.

The institutions who care the most about making sure their constituents are as informed, do more than the law requires; they post their agendas "as built"; as soon as they know it's on the agenda, interest holders know it's on the agenda.

The institutions what care the least, like APS, post the agendas at the last minute allowed by the law.  Witness; there is a school board meeting tomorrow, and the agenda, link, is not yet posted.  I suspect that on the agenda, is discussion and action on their open meetings resolution.

In their open meetings resolution, they declare how they intend to comply with the law.  They will declare their intention offer 72 hours notice as required by law.

The law changed recently, thanks to Rep Jim Smith and Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, who jointly sponsored legislation requiring 72 hours of notice on public meeting agendas.

It is such a simple thing to do, one has to wonder why the board strained so long and so hard to finally offer such a simple accommodation of the interests of the community members they serve.  Why take the PR burn for such apparent insensitivity to meeting goers; except to give dissidence as little opportunity as possible,to coalesce.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, wikilink

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, April 01, 2013