Friday, November 27, 2015

APS discipline data; red herring

In July of this year, APS created a report called Disciplinary Infractions For School Year 2014-2015.  It is not posted on APS' award winning website.   I wouldn't put it past them to have suppressed report while the wheels were coming off the Valentino administration and until the dust settled.

APS produced for, or released to, KOB TV, a copy of the report and KOB followed up with a report of their own link.  I asked KOB whether the district had sent them the report or if KOB had asked for it.  They didn't respond.

The deception begins with the title; it's misleading.  The report is actually of an over-representation of minority students in reports about discipline problems.  The over-representation of minorities appears real (the statistics are unreliable and often invalid) and likely flows from one or both of two springs;

  1. minority students actually do break more rules more of the time, and or
  2. minority students are disproportionately singled out for prosecution by racist enforcement.
Boys are reported more frequently than girls in every category; and begs the same question; are boys
  1. over misbehaving, or is their apparent over misbehaving 
  2. a manifestation of enforcement bias?
As you can imagine, the possibilities stir up some passion, but are not really the point.  Either or both are red herring.

The leadership of the APS would like to distract attention from student discipline in general.  The problem we need to keep our eyes on is discipline in general in schools and classrooms.

Student discipline overall, is getting worse every year.
Disruptive students are getting more disruptive and there are more of them.  They're having an increasingly negative effect on the learning by other students. 

Student discipline in APS is getting worse every year.
(I will bow to controverting data.)

If we want to do anything about student discipline problems, we need data.  The data used in the report in question is flawed in a number of ways;
  • only the most severe of multiple infractions are recorded and only the most severe were considered in the report.
  • in order to create a more manageable format "several infractions have been grouped together" (conflation) and
  • there is little consistency in record keeping* (*Oh yes, by the way,  we almost forgot;
    there isn't any real, reliable record keeping going on).
The leadership of the APS doesn't collect data on student discipline, not really.  They never have.  Student discipline is first and foremost an administrative responsibility.  If there is a failure to keep schools under the control of adults, it is an administrative failure.

That administrators don't keep records documenting their failures is not hard to understand; it is human nature.  In the APS, it is encouraged and enabled by a lack of any real consequences for administrators who don't document their problems.

The data they do collect is often conflated to render it useless.  Once, they conflated bullying and vandalism statistics.  Not because one has anything at all to do with the other, but more likely, in order to render bullying statistics meaningless.  APS has bullying problems they would like not to fully acknowledge.

There is a conflict of interest that comes with administrators reporting disruptive behavior.  The more disruptive behavior an administrator reports, the fewer unhappy parents they have to deal with, and the less likely they are to be promoted, and the worse their school looks.

aps image
The APS Executive Director, Office of Accountability and Reporting Rose-Ann McKernan candidly admitted; "It is impossible to address the issues at the heard of school discipline when the information available is based on variable record-keeping." emphasis added

"Variable record-keeping".  You have to love it.  Talk about bureaucratic doublespeak; administrators not doing their jobs, and instead of being held accountable, it is all excused as "variable record-keeping".

Nearly 28,000 reports were made of "generally disorderly conduct"; defiance of school personnel, disrespect, general disruptive conduct, inappropriate or abusive language, conflict with a student, fighting and general violence.

Considering that only a handful of these acts were reported, the real number of disruptions must be higher.  It is much higher.  I wouldn't be surprised it if were five times higher.

So what are we going to do about 150,000 disruptions a year?

We are going to do nothing.  We are going to do nothing because it is impossible to address the issue unless you have good data, and the leadership of the APS, by their own deliberate choice, will not collect that data.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

KOB dancing around APS cover ups

KOB TV is leading the local affiliates in coverage, link, of the efforts of APS school board members to keep former APS Supt. Winston Brooks' misconduct secret from stake and interest holders.

KOB's current headline;

4 Investigates: Did APS Board break rules in Brooks investigation?
Well yeah, they did.

There is nothing new to conclude from KOB's "investigation".  Aside from specific examples, they have reported nothing that I haven't been writing for nearly a decade;
APS administrators and school board members are not actually, honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence.
KOB is gathering the low hanging fruit.  They could, with just a little more effort, expose the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

The downside for KOB, is that someone is bound to ask;
why didn't you investigate and report on the scandal years ago?

Is there "honest to God accountability" in the leadership of the APS, or not?

Nearly a decade ago, auditors from the Council of the Great City Schools found what they described as a “culture” of fear of retaliation against whistle blower and other complainants.

Nothing has changed.

The premise is easily tested; ask an APS employee at any level;

is there a widespread belief that retaliation will follow filing of a complaint against an administrator?
Their answer will be yes; hell yes.

Whether the belief is justified is moot; perception is reality.
In fact, it is entirely justified.

The test is simple; all you have to do is look at their record (after prying it loose in court). See what they do to complainants.

They're spending millions of operational dollars on litigation and legal weaselry in order to pound complaints into accepting their “admissions of no guilt” in settlements. Filing a complaint against any one of them is a brutal process; ask anyone who has filed one.

Filing a complaint against any one of them is filing a complaint against all of them, and against the APS/litigation industry and all the power and resources they have usurped. They and their lawyers wield power and squander operational dollars without limit and without real oversight.

A culture of fear of retaliation is a useful tool in the hands of the unscrupulous and the powerful; they use it (routinely) to escape accountability for their incompetence and or corruption.

There is no doubt that Winston Brooks created fear of retaliation against complainants. There is no doubt that, rather than admit their hire was deeply flawed, the school board tried to cover it all up.

It is important, in the face of the upcoming bond issue election, to know whether these are isolated instances of incompetence and corruption.

I have argued for decades that they are not. I have argued for decades that administrators and school board members are not actually, honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence.

If I am correct;
  • it would be reckless of taxpayers to trust their stewardship over another $70M tax dollars. And
  • the Journal, according to their obligation to inform the democracy, should expose the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.
If I am wrong,
  • the Journal should expose the honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence within politics and public service in APS. 
The Journal should reassure voters that their continued confidence in the stewardship over millions and millions of dollars is justified.

The editors will at some point, take a stance on the APS bond issue election. They will encourage voters to support a shot in the arm for the local education/construction industry.

What they will not do, is to investigate and report upon honest to God accountability in the leadership of the APS.  Why not? What good and ethical justification can there be?

At best, they are complacent about the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

At worst, the Journal editors and or owners, are complicit in its cover up.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

APS ethics, standards and accountability scandal coming to light

Coverage in the Journal, link, and on KOB, link, might lead a less cynical person to believe that APS' house of cards; ethics, standards and accountability, is about to collapse.

It isn't really so much what former APS Supt. Winston Brooks did, as it is, how did the school board handle the complaints about what he did.  Allegedly.

None of the nine people who filed legitimate complaints against Winston Brooks found due process for their complaints.

They filed their complaints with then School Board President Analee Maestas.  This though Maestas had no place in any legitimate complaint process; she was personally conflicted and officially powerless to oversee, or in fact even be, part of any complaint resolution process.

What complainants were treated to instead, was a cover up of their complaints while Maestas struggled desperately to "fix" them without acknowledging their existence.

That is their modus operandi; cover up problems while solving them.  It's why they are so pathetically bad at problem solving.

Again, and still, none of this would be going on except that the establishment's press (the owners and news editors and directors at the Journal, KRQE, KOAT, and KOB TV) are complicit in, or at the very best, complacent regarding the ongoing cover up of an ethics, standards and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

photos Mark Bralley

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Toulouse Oliver demands transparency

Bernalillo County Clerk and
Secretary of State hopeful
Maggie Toulouse Oliver has
joined a long list of politicians
"demanding" more transparency
in state government, link.

In so doing, she becomes only
the latest to demand;
  • what is not now and 
  • what never has been.

Things are the way they are as the proximate result of human nature; power corrupts and the abuse of power is enabled by a lack of transparency.

There is no reason to believe state legislators will do anything any differently than they always have.  The best predictor of future performance is past and current performance.

Oliver offers no specific plan to address the nature of politicians, except to heighten the demand that it change.

Good luck Ms. Toulouse Oliver;
let us know how things work out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

APS board to ban "sagging". Why?

"Sagging is a manner of wearing trousers or jeans which sag so that the top of the trousers or jeans are significantly below the waist, sometimes revealing much of the underwear." wikilink

Tonight, the school board will approve the Student Dress Procedural Directive, link.  I am assuming it was passed last night during a their policy committee meeting, link; I did not attend.  I am assuming it will pass during the meeting tonight, link.  The procedural directive reads in significant part;

“Prohibited clothing and accessories include, but are not limited to …
  • "Sagging", or the wearing of pants below the waist and/or in a manner that allows underwear or bare skin to show, and "bagging", or the wearing of excessively baggy pants with low hanging crotches.”
This isn't a new policy; sagging has been prohibited on APS campuses for decades.  Enforcement has been a nightmare, link.  If you go to any APS high school, you will see students sagging.  (I will bow as always, to controverting evidence.)

This is not about sagging. 
This is about the permission of prohibited behavior.

The board and senior administration have no intention to enforce the prohibition.  They will do as they have always done; prohibit sagging and then allow and enable it.

This is about telling students they can't do something and then letting them do it anyway, and right under your nose.  This isn't about kids sneaking a smoke behind a building somewhere, it is about a student lighting up and blowing smoke in the faces of adults who told him "smoking is prohibited".

It is in your face defiance.

Who is in charge at these schools; the adults who write the rules or the students who deliberately disobey them?

Students are in charge at any school where kids are permitted to sag.  Students are in charge whenever and wherever they openly disobey rules.

Major stakeholders in any procedural directive requiring enforcement, are teachers.  It is teachers, not administrators and not school board members who bear the brunt of the enforcement burden; instead of teaching!

Had they been asked, they might have advised; without executive and administrative support, enforcement of a dress code is exceedingly difficult, consumes enormous amounts of time and energy, is probably not worth the cost, and not a hill worth dying on in the first place.

All this though the procedural directive reads quite clearly;
Principals shall interpret and enforce the dress code of his/her school. (emphasis added)
The word "interpret" by the way, has its own special meaning for principals.  Every law that gets laid down by the board, comes with a "weasel clause" for administrators use when they want to not enforce a rule.  This particular dress code has it own weasel clauses, but the clearest statement of concept can be found in the Student Behavior Handbook.  It reads in significant part;
Nothing in the following is intended to prevent ... a principal or other administrator from using his/her best judgment with respect to a particular situation. (emphasis added)
A principal or other administrator's "best judgement" is not subject to review.  Whatever the judgement was, however bad, however indefensible, if it was their "best" judgement, it's alright.

The practical effect is that a teacher can bring a student to the office for consequences for their deliberate disobedience of a rule, and the principal can use his or her "best judgement" in providing no consequence.

Why would an an administrator provide no consequence for even deliberate disobedience? 

You aren't allowed to ask that question; "best judgement" is not subject to review. 

If you push it, you end up in a decades long battle battle with an army of lawyers invested in preventing senior administrators and school board members from bearing the consequences of their own deliberate incompetence and corruption.

A lot of people argue mistakenly, that teacher unions protect bad teachers from just consequences.  APS lawyers,
  • underwritten by unlimited access to operational funds 
  • to spend without any real oversight, 
  • on litigation and legal weaselry, 
provide an equivalent service to board members and senior administrators; they keep incompetent and corrupt administrators and board members from feeling just consequences.

Nothing has changed.  After everything that has happened in the last year, nothing has changed.  The board remains oblivious to anyone but themselves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

State Auditor cites APS, Mora and Española schools districts for vetting failures.

"Today, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) issued a statewide Risk Advisory, link, to alert schools and school districts to the risks of non-compliance with the School Personnel Act. The Act covers two key safeguards related to the professionals who educate the children of New Mexico: licensure and background checks. The Risk Advisory provides notice to management and administrators to review internal controls to ensure proper policies are implemented."

“Our state has seen problems with background checks and licenses in school districts in Albuquerque, Mora and Española,” said State Auditor Tim Keller. “Schools need to come into compliance to ensure the safety of children and educators, as well as to safeguard public funds.”

The question is not so much, is APS failing to properly vet employees, but why?  Why after nearly a hundred years in business, why isn't APS getting it right; why can't APS get it right?

Who dropped the ball?

Whose head should roll?

What will be their consequence instead?

Ball is in Reedy's court - we await her response

By way of background;

aps image
Interim APS Supt. Raquel Reedy
is in a bind.  She has inherited a
whole bunch of problems up to
and including a cover up of a
cover up of felony criminal
misconduct involving APS senior
administrators and the leadership
of their publicly funded private police force.

Because there is so much secrecy surrounding problems in leadership of the APS, even Reedy really has no idea how bad things actually are.  She admitted as much to the Journal, link;
“I don’t have the whole picture – nobody does.
Reedy needs to know the truth even if only to help her hide it more effectively.

aisd photo
So she "hired" former APS good ol' boy Michael Houser and a couple of his subordinates to come and "investigate".

In the absence of any evidence to the contrary; Houser's investigative findings are to become "the property" of the leadership of the APS.  They will disseminate them according to their own interests.

If the findings are embarrassing, shaming or indicting, the leadership of the APS will spend operational funds without limit and without real oversight, on litigation and legal weaselry in order to keep the records hidden until their relevance expires.

That is is exactly what they did with the findings and evidence of felony corruption in the leadership of their police force, link.  They hid public records behind an army of lawyers until statutes of limitation finally expired on felony criminal misconduct.

In any event, the Journal editors called bullshit on Reedy's plan in an editorial yesterday; link.

The ball is in Reedy's court; the editors have called her out.  She has only two choices; respond to their call or ignore it; change her plan or plunge ahead with it as is.

Reedy has no choice but to plunge ahead with an investigation that reeks of appearances of conflicts of interests and impropriety.  She has no choice because she has to do some kind of investigation and a real investigation by independent investigators would bring down their house of cards.

Reedy can only afford to "hire" an investigator who is willing keep what they find secret from stake and interest holders.

I expect that what she and the leadership of the APS will do, is to simply ignore the editorial.

I expect that what the editors will do, is to simply ignore her ignoring them.

Else, they would be order up an investigation and report of their own, on ethics, standards and accountability in the leadership of the APS.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who wrote this morning's Journal editorial; what have they done with editors?

In the Journal this morning, link, someone wrote an exposé of circumstances you first read about here last Thursday;  APS wants to "hire" one of their old good ole boys to investigate their current incompetence and corruption*.

*Whatever it is that is wrong with the leadership of the APS, flows from one or both of two wells;

  1. incompetence; misfeasance; people not knowing how to do their jobs, and or
  2. corruption; non or malfeasance, people choosing to not do their jobs.
The 100% effective cure for incompetence and corruption is high standards and honest to God accountability to them.

The are only two kinds of circumstances leading to success or failure in any endeavor;
  1. circumstances beyond control, and
  2. circumstances within control.
By definition, we cannot do anything about the circumstances beyond control.  By definition, we can do something about circumstances within our control.  There are no two circumstances within our control that are more important than standards and accountability.

If the standards of conduct and competence are high enough, and if people are held actually and honestly accountable to them, their endeavor will succeed.  If the standards are too low, or if they are not really accountable to meaningful standards, the endeavor will fail.  It is that simple.

That the leadership of the APS refuses even to talk about their ethics, standards and accountability is "proof" of problems with one or all three.  Problems so bad, so embarrassing, shaming or indicting, that they need to keep them secret from stake and interest holders.

That the Journal is yet assign a competent reporter to investigate and report upon ethics, standards and accountability in the leadership of the APS is I believe, "proof" that Kent Walz and the Journal are part of the cover up of the ethics, standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A broken clock on occasion tells the truth ...

APS photo
and so did the Journal this morning, link, when they reported that APS interim Supt. Raquel Reedy, despite her many, many years in the leadership of the APS, has hired an "independent investigator" to clue her in on "unspecified" problems in the leadership of the APS.

Not the entire leadership of the APS mind you, just the finance, information technology and human resources offices.

Reedy will see the investigative results I assume.  A small handful of others will be "read in" to varying degrees on a need to know basis.

Stake and interest holders will remain uniformed of anything - unless they stumble onto something that looks like good; real standards and honest accountability.

AISD photo
Reedy has "hired" to investigate
on her behalf, ex-APS good ol' boy,
Michael Houser.

Houser is the Chief Human Capital
Officer for Austin Independent
School District, link.

They're all tied together by the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that among other things, conducts investigations for member districts whenever they need investigations and control over the findings.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nobody likes to hear, "I told you so". But I did.

For nearly a decade, I have been writing that there are standards and accountability issues in the leadership of the APS, and by logical extension and for the same reasons, standards and accountability issues in all levels of government in general.

There is now corroboration of those allegations.  A study indicating a situation so bad, even the Journal is reporting on it, link.  A far better report was penned by one time NM FOG Executive Director and journalist Gwyneth Doland, link, on NM Politics in Depth.

Power (whether earned or usurped) and accountability vary inversely;

the more powerful you are,
the less accountable to the rules you become.
As but one example; there really are too many too count;
a local (former) school board member, Marty Esquivel, has managed to spend nearly three quarters of a million dollars in litigation and legal weaselry in federal court already, in what amounts to a non-viable defense of his and a communication directors' egos, and is not finished spending still.
Politicians and public servants are not honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence, even within their public service, by their own deliberate choice.

To believe that the situation is going to be fixed by
the people to created and maintain it is absurd.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Is upcoming APS Supt. Reedy able to create a synergy?

Over the next few months, the APS school board will be out and about, "gathering input" from anyone who chooses to attend one of the "input gathering meetings" they will conduct.  There is no evidence of which I am aware, that they ever used any of this input during the in-secret meetings that characterize the actual selection procedure.

Nevertheless, a list will be created, of all the qualities and traits the next superintendent will possess.

At the top of the list, should be the demonstrated ability to create a synergy in response to a problem.

The leadership of the APS isn't good at problem solving because they still believe in the manifestly ludicrous assumption that there are only a handful of people who know how to solve problems, and all you have to do is to hire one of them as a superintendent.

There is no magic, there are no magicians.  There is no problem a child can have, that there is not someone in the APS already, who knows how to best mitigate.  

Ask anyone in the know, and you will be find that in the APS there are a great number of people who have the education, training and experience to create and execute solutions to the problems they face in educating children.  Among "teachers" alone, there is nearly 100,000 years of ongoing teaching and learning experience.

What those people have never had in a superintendent, is someone who could (or would) bring them together and empower them to make changes.  They've never had a supt. who could or would create a "synergy" among stake and interest holders;

  • a cooperative interaction among groups for an enhanced combined effect.
  • an interaction of elements that produce a total effect greater than the sum of the individual elements and contributions; and a
  • a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
aps image
Has APS Supt. heir apparent Raquel Reedy ever created a synergy on the scale of a school district?

Could she, if given the chance?

Would she, if given the chance?

Until she demonstrates otherwise,
a reasoned assumption would be
that she got where she is in the
leadership of the APS for a reason.

The leadership of the APS is not about creating synergies.  Synergies sap control over power from board members and senior administrators, and restores it to the people who know best how to employ it.

It's all about hanging on to power.

Reedy cannot or will not* create a synergy in response to the district's failing performance.

*A reasonable assumption unless and until she proves otherwise.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Is it just me, or

is blogger Joe Monahan a little crotchety lately?

Tuesday he reamed APD Chief Gordon Eden; called him a poseur.  I bit on poseur, and found;

a person who pretends to be what he or she is not ...
and wondered who of them isn't posing?

The only thing I would add to Eden's evaluation is that he doesn't have the support of the people he "leads".  They're not being led, they're following orders; a distinction and a difference.

I would point to the need for a survey of the rank and file; every last one of them.  We need to know what they think is wrong and how they think it needs to be fixed.  I doubt that their legitimate concerns over compensation are the only problems they would identify.  Is their education, training and experience of no account what so ever?  In whose interests are subordinates not surveyed?

photo GACC website
This morning, Monahan let the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and its perpetual President and CEO Teri Cole experience what looks like his own growing frustration with the never ending bullshit that politics and government have turned out to be - my words, not his.

Monahan photo Mark Bralley

Of what use is the truth if you're too afraid of it to consider it?

There is a truth about ethics, standards and accountability in the leadership of the Albuquerque Public Schools.  It is an important truth because the only protection of the public interests in the public schools are the standards of conduct and competence that apply to the politicians, public servants and their stewardship of the people's power and resources.

That truth could be found by independent examiners.  They could identify every ethic and standard that applies to public service in the APS.  They could identify the processes by which administrators and school board members can be held accountable to those ethics and standards.  They could evaluate the effectiveness of those processes.

The truth they determine will make the leadership of the APS look good, bad, or somewhere in between.

If the truth would make them look good, or even not too bad, they would be pointing to it.

It is because the truth, that there are no ethics or standards to which they are actually and honestly accountable, looks very, very bad, that they need to hide it.

If interim APS Supt. Raquel Reedy is to solve the problems vexing the leadership of the APS, shouldn't she have a really good picture of what they are?

If we are to hold her and the board accountable for their conduct and competence, needn't we have a really good picture as well?

Is Reedy ready?

aps image
All we know about interim APS Supt. Raquel Reedy so far is that she has what it takes to get promoted to the top of APS' good ol' boy oligarchy.

We don't know for example, whether she's willing and able to be candid, forthright and honest with stake and interest holders. We don't know if she will respond in good faith to legitimate questions about the APS.

Is Reedy ready for example, answer a question that no APS supt. has answered, ever?

Is she ready to look us in the eye and promise;
to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the (ethically redacted) truth about the public interests and her public service?

Any answer except yes, means no.

First test question;
APS students are expected to model and promote honest accountability to nationally recognized, accepted and respected code of ethical conduct.

As the senior-most administrative role model of student standards of conduct, will you show them what honest accountability to those standards looks like?
Will you be held honestly accountable to the same standards of conduct that you establish and enforce upon students?

When the question is;
are you willing to be held honestly accountable as the senior-most administrative role model of student standards of conduct?
any answer except yes means no. There is no such thing as an inconspicuous role model; a concept that continues to elude the senior-most executive role models of student standards of conduct; the school board.

Or will you join the rest in spending operational funds hand over fist; without limit and without real oversight, on litigation and legal weaselry to avoid honest to God accountability even to the law; buying “admissions of no guilt” for violating the lowest standards of conduct acceptable to civilized human beings?

Any answer except yes, means no.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Spinning the PARCC results

PARCC test results are finally becoming available.  The "prediction"  from the NM PED and Secretary Hanna Skandera, that the results would be disturbing, has come true.

The upset will be addressed with a poultice of spin and distraction.  Forgotten will be the bottom line; most students are doing poorly in public schools and do more poorly every year - and not because "standards are being raised".

Wherever it is we find ourselves in the effort to educate children, we were led here.  We were not led here by teachers and others who work at the educational interface; where the system and the students meet face to face; the classroom.  We we not led here by those who really know what they're doing.  We were led here by supposed education experts who may or may not have any real, honest to God, teaching experience.

The focus will be deflected from those led us in the wrong direction, and placed on those who were (mis)led.  Teachers will be held responsible for the failure to "properly" implement the latest fad passed down from the supposed experts.

If the PARCC results show any thing at all, it is that decision making needs to include the people who are supposed to implement changes; in particular if those people are the most educated and experienced people at the table.