Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Save Our Schools

ATTENTION New Jerseysans: Englewood is over 70% free and reduced lunch. It is only one of the school districts that will be affected by projected cuts in state funding to high need districts. Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, Passaic, Camden, Asbury Park, and Garfield to name a few will also feel the cuts. 

Please fill out this simple form and tell your legislators to stop Commissioner Cerf's plan to cut state aid that will significantly affect low income children, children learning English, children that are homeless, children impacted by disasters, children who are migrants, children who are neglected and delinquent, and special needs children. Simply fill in your zip code and click submit. (the form requires those seldom used last 4 digits of the zip code) The children desperately need the power of your voice.

Click the link below and input your zip code including the last 4 digits

Monday, January 21, 2013

Do Certifications Matter In Englewood?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Superintendent spoke of School Resource Officers and how the district might hire 1 more.

Principal Marsha Howard (Quarles School) praised the dress code initiative underway at Quarles School. It was made clear that this is not a required uniform mandated by the board and that children who do not adhere to the dress code will not be punished. I do not object to a voluntary dress code. I do object to the advertising of  Marcia's Attic as the preferred vendor. We all know what bids are. This has the taint of malfeasance attached. Families should be informed about the required colors and that the shirts should have collars and leave it at that. White collar shirts may be purchased for less than $5 each in many places. The shirts presented all retailed for $10 and above. She was pleased that staff and parents are happy with the idea. She added that some teachers have considered wearing the prescribed colors. This would be an improvement over some of the outfits I have seen on teachers. Practicing what one preaches always gets a positive nod here.

Calendar Staff:  It was announced that this Committee met 2 times and discussed ways to make up days missed as a result of Frankenstorm Sandy. Middle School students lost more days than the other buildings. One suggestion was to hold school on 3 Saturdays. April 13, 20 and the 27th. It was suggested that these days be used as test support for NJAsk.  June 25 would remain as the last day of school. This has not been worked out with staff yet.

The Board was questioned about the AAU Tournaments and where the money is going. It seems that individual parents pay a set fee that allows the child to participate and each team pays a fee to participate in the tournament. Mr. Caviness wanted to know who pays the officials, if the gym is rented and where the money goes. He also wanted to know where the money goes from the faith based facilities rental. Stephen Brown was a little cute when he said that they have some good tenants, but did not answer the question. There is no accounting of this money that is collected from the Sunday rentals to religious organizations. A concerted effort has been made to market our school buildings. It is a fair question to ask. Where is the money going? EPSD did just fire over 100 people in 2012. Below is a Youtube video featuring Mike Hunken in which he talks about how important it is to rent out facilities space, including classrooms. .He speaks of a fee schedule that he has developed for this rental purpose. Perhaps it is time that the taxpayers got a look at that schedule.

Re-classifications and Transfers were made to create a Technology Department. Members of this Department are as follows: They are all 12 month employees.
Michael Hunken - Director of Facilities & Technology    $124, 163.50 includes $10,000.00 raise
keith Gardner - Network Engineer                                     $73,000.00 includes $1,190.54 raise
Diachi Kono - Technology Specialist                                  $48,500.00 includes $6,848.56 raise
Carlos Otero - Technology Specialist                                 $60,000.00 includes $3,111.54 raise
Rosemary Roche - Technology Specialist                           $71,040.52 includes $2,069.14 raise
Mr. Hunken has been placed in a situation where he must Supervise persons who have more education, experience and expertise in the area of  his assignment than he does. This is a train wreck waiting to happen. It is also not good for morale. EPSD must not use this area as a method to repay favors. It is too important since the entire state is going to administer online Standardized Testing in the very near future. Regardless of what Mr. Brown says, Englewood is not ready. We do not have enough computers to administer this test. The children are also not ready to take it online, especially the young ones. Read what the Superintendent of the Madison, New Jersey School District has to say.  Mr. Rossi attended and testified at the same NJDOE meeting as I on January 16, 2013. He is truthful about his district NOT being ready to administer this online test.  I have nothing against Mr. Hunken, but I do not think it is right that he was given this position and a raise. His present position did not stand up to the OPRA process at the state. Therefore, it is questionable as to whether he held the certification necessary for the position that he already had. Just saying.

These raises, promotions and transfers come at a time when there is a  need for 2 Special Education teachers at the high school. It is very interesting that these 2 positions have been on every agenda for several months. Dr. Carlisle and what remains of the Child Study Team have been trying to hire 2 Special Education teachers since September. These positons are never filled for some reason. Is it punishment for someone? The students and their parents are the ones who suffer. This means that at least 2 groups of special education students have been exposed to a litany of substitutes since September. A different teacher every 19 days so the district will not be forced to pay for a long term substitute. The Superintendent continues to put the 2 positions on the agenda and the need is actually there. What the heck is wrong with this picture? We will never close any Achievement GAP this way. The GAP is getting wider everyday. Why are these children being neglected? A Child Study Team member was stopped mid presentation 3 board meetings ago because she attempted to explain why the positions should be filled. The Board went into closed session in order to discuss these 2 positions, again. It was announced that action would be taken when they returned. We left. The meeting had already gone overlong. Stephen Brown wastes far too much time reading us the agenda. We are capable of reading. It is the students that are having a problem in this area.

Two students from the Academy complained about the Literary Magazine being cut from the budget. This is is a marvel to me. We pay close to, if not more than a half million dollars for the extended day in the Academy. Why is the Literary Magazine not put together during this time? This is an academic endeavor and should be supported. That extended day is beginning to look awful extra. Those students should have their magazine. Not only that, it should be open to participation to students from the North building. 

A parent and President of the PPA (Parent Partnership Association: The Parent organization of the Academy) Dave Matthews made the very strange suggestion that we should look to hire Teach For America young professionals. For some reason he seemed to think they would be better than our present teachers. Stephen Brown suggested that this was being discussed and that working with the Broad Foundation was also being discussed. This is one time when I am glad that we are little fish. The Barracuda's at the Broad Foundation will hopefully find nothing attractive about us. We are too small and would probably get stuck in Eli's teeth. Mr. Matthews failed to notice that we already have Teach For America on the Board in the person of Harley Ungar. The Broad Foundation is a major supporter of Teach For America. One wonders if Mr. Matthews is in closed sessions with the Board comparing notes. His questions always leave room for such long comments from the board President. It should be noted here that TFA describes themselves on Twitter as young professionals who contract into urban districts for 2 years. They are like the Peace Corps or Missionaries who go into impoverished neighborhoods long enough to work off their student loans. They have no allegiance to the district, children, or parents and they do not join the Teacher's Union. Now why would we want to start a partnership there? Keep your eyes wide Englewood. This goes along with abolishing paraprofessionals and contracting out for secretarial staff.

To Personnel: There is no such title as Teacher of the Handicapped. The Title was changed long ago. It is now Teacher of Students with Disabilities.

In School Suspension: When students are removed from the learning environment and assigned to in-school suspension, they are being removed from one learning environment and placed in another. The learning is supposed to continue. Teachers are required to send assignments along with the student. That is the main reason that this smaller learning environment is supposed to be maintained and supervised by a certified teacher. Students may not be assigned here indefinitely. Not even Special Education Students. Please fix that.

                                               How are the children?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Letter That Everyone Should Read!

October 15, 2012

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SWE
Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Secretary Duncan,
We are writing to express our grave concerns about the negative impact of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver on New Jersey’s most vulnerable children.

We understand that the waivers were an effort to return more control to the states to improve educational opportunities and outcomes.  Unfortunately, here in New Jersey, it is quite clear that the NCLB waiver is being used to apply measures that are more damaging than NCLB would have been, particularly to low-income Black and Latino children. 
 Below, we detail our most pressing concerns with the program the State is implementing under the waiver:  1) introduction of a punitive accountability system that disproportionately impacts school districts populated by low-income children of color while rewarding selective schools and those populated by wealthier, majority white students; and 2) a process of State intervention that excludes low-income communities of color from substantive input in the planning or implementation of the proposed interventions.
 To replace the NCLB framework, the State has adopted a new classification system that will reinforce racial and economic segregation and inequity in New Jersey’s public schools.  The classification system uses state standardized tests, graduation rates, and gaps in achievement, to target a group of 75 “Priority” schools and 183 “Focus” schools for dramatic State-mandated intervention, including possible closings and conversions to charter schools.  These Priority and Focus Schools serve overwhelmingly Black and Latino, very poor communities, and educate many students who do not speak English as a first language.  The Priority schools are concentrated in some of the most distressed communities in the state and have a staggering 24% student mobility rate (please see Attachment A).
In contrast, the State has classified a group of 122 schools as “Reward” schools, based on high achievement or high levels of growth on state tests.  These schools, which are targeted to receive financial bonuses, are located in the highest wealth districts in the state, serve a small percentage of Black and Latino students, have low poverty rates, few English language learners, and little student mobility.  Many of these schools are magnet high schools and vocational schools, with highly selective admissions. 
 The blatant economic and racial inequity built into this classification system harks back to the days when such segregation and inequity were policy objectives for our State.
 To accompany the new school classification system, the NJDOE is creating an infrastructure of 5 to 7 Regional Achievement Centers (RACs).  The RACs, which are being partially funded by grants from private foundations, will have authority to take over the management of Priority and Focus schools, completely bypassing duly elected or appointed local school boards and district administrations. 
The NJDOE is giving the targeted schools two years to reach arbitrary new achievement levels or face sanctions.  It is highly improbable that the targeted schools will achieve the increased standards that the State is requiring, particularly as the State is simultaneously imposing severe funding cuts on these same school districts.  Should they fail to achieve the increased standards, these schools will be subject to closure or the imposition of private management, not only without substantial community input, but in direct opposition to the wishes of the primarily low-income Black and Latino host communities.
In fact, this lack of participation or engagement of the host communities is evident in all aspects of the NJDOE’s implementation of the waiver proposal, underscoring NJDOE Commissioner Cerf’s expressed belief that fixing schools “isn’t about consensus and collaboration.”  Not only have those residents whose children attend the targeted schools been left out of the planning and decision-making process, but so have the local boards of education, and the district administrations.  Moreover NJ’s entire waiver plan was adopted with minimal opportunity for public input, no legislative review and without the required regulatory rule-making process mandated by NJ’s Administrative Procedure Act.
 The potential end result of NJDOE’s implementation of the waiver, with its lack of transparency, its punitive attack on high-poverty school districts, and its insidious disenfranchisement of communities of color, is the undermining and possible destruction of urban public education, including the systematic dismantling of any semblance of democratic governance.    
 We also want to highlight the threat posed by the recent granting of an additional Title I waiver to the NJDOE, which relaxes requirements that federal Title I funding be used for its prescribed purpose of addressing the negative effects of poverty on academic performance.   Governor Christie has proposed redirecting some Title I funds among schools without regard to the degree of poverty, an explicit departure from federal Title I requirements.  This diversion of funding flies in the face of the Title I program’s objectives and would further hinder our ability to meet the needs of our most vulnerable students.   
We ask that the US Department of Education immediately suspend its  No Child Left Behind and Title I waiver provisions in New Jersey until there is a thorough review of the State’s implementation scheme, especially as it pertains to disparate racial and economic impact and lack of community input. 
 Time is of the essence. The RACs are due to come on-line this fall and the clock has begun ticking for targeted schools in low-income communities of color. 
 Respectfully yours,
  1.  Reverend Toby Sanders, President, Trenton Board of Education
  2. Dr. Jonathan Hodges, Member and former President, Paterson Board of Education
  3. Rosie Grant, Program Director, Paterson Education Fund                                             
  4. Julia Sass Rubin, Spokesperson, Save Our Schools NJ and Associate Professor of Policy, Rutgers
  5. Frank Argote-Freyre, President, Latino Action Network
  6. William Colon, President, The Latino Institute
  7. Laverne Harvey, President, Camden Education Association
  8. David Sciarra, Executive Director, Education Law Center
  9. Deborah Sagner, Sagner Family Foundation
  10. Junius Williams, Director, Abbott Leadership Institute
  11. Kathleen Witcher, President, Irvington NAACP
  12. Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director, New Jersey Citizen Action
  13. Katie Strom, a Founding Member of NJ Teacher Activists Group (NJ TAG)
  14. Terry Moore, Save Our Schools March, NJ Information Coordinator
  15. Donna M. Chiera, President, American Federation of Teachers NJ
  16. Sharon Smith, Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE)
  17. Michelle Fine, Professor of Psychology, City University of New York
  18. Ras Baraka, Newark Southward Councilman
  19. Rev. Dr. Ken J. Gordon Jr., President, Southern Burlington County NAACP and Willingboro Councilman
  20. Leah Owens, Chairperson, Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus
  21. Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, Chairperson, Newark Public Schools Advisory Board
  22. Arnold Williams, Founder and Chairperson, League of Black and Latino Voters
  23. Jose Delgado, Community Activist and former Camden BOE member
  24. Teresa Vivar, Executive Director, LAZOS America Unida
  25. Trina Scordo, Executive Director, New Jersey Communities United
  26. Gordon MacInnes, Former Assistant Commissioner for Abbott Implementation and NJ State Senator
  27. Donna Jackson, President and Founder, United Parent Network
  28. Naomi Johnson-Lafleur, President, Trenton Education Association
  29. Marcia Marley, President, BlueWave, NJ
  30. Irene Sterling, President, Paterson Education Fund
  31. Elease Evans, Chairwoman, New Jersey Black Issues Convention
  32. Geraldine Carroll, President, Great Schools of New Jersey
  33. Charles Wowkanech, President, New Jersey State AFL-CIO
  34. Mary G. Bennett, Retired High School Principal, Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools
  35. Reverend Darrell L. Armstrong, Founder, Shiloh CDC, Trenton
  36. Paul Tractenberg, Professor of Law, Rutgers & Co-Director, Institute on Education Law and Policy
  37. Wilhelmina Holder, President, and Laura Baker, Board Member, Newark Secondary Parents Council
  38. Willie Rowe, Vice Chair, Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools
  39. Edward Barocas, Acting Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
  40. Kevin Walsh, Associate Director, Fair Share Housing Center
  41. Dierdre Glenn Paul, President, African American Caucus of Montclair State University
  42. Dr. Tamara Spencer, Literacy Graduate Program Coordinator, ECELE, Montclair State University
  43. Sterling Waterman, Vice President, Jersey City Board of Education
  44. Debra Jennings, Executive Co-Director, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network
  45. James E. Harris, President, New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP
 cc:           President Barack Obama             
Governor Chris Christie
The New Jersey Congressional Delegation
The New Jersey State Legislative Delegation
Commissioner Chris Cerf, New Jersey Department of Education
Arcelio Aponte, President, New Jersey State Board of Education

 Attachment A 
Demographic Composition of New Jersey’s Priority, Focus and Reward Schools
Number of Schools
Black & Latino Students
Free & Reduced
Lunch Students
English Language Learners
Student Mobility Rate
Source:  Education Law Center

Tuesday, January 1, 2013