Archive for January 2010

Tomorrow we honor a man and his ‘Dream,’ but then it’s business as usual   2 comments

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As millions of people across the country prepare to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I can’t help but wonder: How many people truly believe that we are better off because of his efforts and the Civil Rights Movement? How many people will use this one day, out of 365, as an assurance that they are keepers of the dream when in reality, they are dream killers? I am sure that I will strike a few nerves with this post, but c’est la vie! As the saying goes: A hurt dog will yelp. If you cringe while reading this or stop midway then, well..you know.

Almost 8 years ago I made the decision to move to Atlanta. Misguided and misinformed, anxious to leave South Bend, IN behind, I actually thought Atlanta was the place to be! After all, it is the birthplace of Dr. King so of course I expected to meet and interact with some professional, educated, and socially conscious people, Black, White, and everything in-between. (Enter reality, stage left). To say I was and still am disappointed by what I have seen would be an understatement. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that I had stepped inside the DeLorean and traveled back in time by say, oh…..at least 200 years.

Reality #1: Despite legislation, minority law makers, and the educational attainment of many of the African Americans who live and work in the metro Atlanta area, we still have some of the most segregated schools in the country.

Reality #2: Considering the above example, no one is doing anything to change this.

Reality #3: Many high-ranking education officials are aware of the disparities and played-out ‘achievement gap’ but are slow to react, if they react at all.

Reality #4: Too many people are content with their titles, Benz, and house in the burbs. Once they leave the city, they forget about everyone else.

Reality #5: African Americans who admonish others for speaking-up against ‘the system’ for the sake of securing a future in said system. I was once told by an African American administrator, “If you want to move-up in this system, you need to watch what you say.” I explained that I had no desire to move-up in that system. It wasn’t her fault; she didn’t choose how or where she was raised. That’s how I compartmentalized a lot of African American people I met who were raised in the South: They are victims of their stifling and submissive upbringings.

Add-up these realities and the final result = A disgrace to King’s ‘Dream’

Make no mistake: There will never be another Malcolm, Martin, Medgar, Rosa, Huey, Angela, Hosea, etc., but that does not mean the struggles are over. If anything, they are almost as bad as they were back then. Racists and anti-Semitics hide behind media outlets, social media, judges’ robes, bibles, badges, state capitol buildings, etc. They continue to instill fear and ignorance with their off-the-wall claims that people here illegally are stealing jobs from citizens or that minorities are exhausting the welfare system. Those of us who know better need to remain vigilant. If you have been on the fence up until this point, take a stand! As my Granny used to say: S&%$ of get off the pot! You have to choose. Alone we can do so little, but together we can hold people accountable, expose abuse and misuse of public funds, and expose the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots in terms of Education, Employment, Healthcare, and other basic human rights.

Let us not forget that Dr. King was not just a champion of Civil Rights for people of color (that includes Latinos and Jewish people too), but he also fought for equality for women and the poor. Given the events of the past 16 months or so, there are now more of us in the ‘poor’ category then any other. I ask you, will you commit to ensuring that everyday you live is in honor of Dr. King, or are you too preoccupied with getting your next promotion or latest E-Class? Are you a dream keeper or dream killer? Tomorrow is not just a day off, but a day of respect, remembrance, and re-commitment. Remember:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
 
If you say or do nothing, you are just as guilty as the perpetraitor.

Posted January 18, 2010 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

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Is 'educational change' on the horizon for Georgia?   Leave a comment

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog are those solely of the author (that’s me) and are not shared by any parties listed below (at least I don’t think they do).

Those you who have been following my blogs have probably guessed that I am very passionate about education. Specifically, quality public education for all kids, regardless of their zip code, parents’ social/political affiliations, race, etc. Likewise, I believe that quality education should be provided, ‘By any means necessary.’ Whether it’s high-performing, neighborhood charter schools (not those magnet schools, located in affluent neighborhoods inaccessible to low-income students, disguised as charter schools) or a complete investigation and overhaul of the desegregation orders in some states, namely Georgia, to balance access to high-performing, 21st century schools. Sounds overwhelming, but I honestly believe that it will take something this radical to start on the road to repairing our public education system.

Enter politics. I have never been one to mince words, although I have been criticized for my directness-only since moving south though. I am fully aware that politics are necessary to get things done. I also know that sometimes, politicians can cause more harm than good when their personal agendas overshadow the issues at hand. Well, I got a little re-inspiration about the possibility of politics doing something good last night. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Westlake, Democratic candidate for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. The position is currently held by Cathy Cox, who is also running for re-election. I will admit that I didn’t expect to hear from Brian after I sent a rather lengthy and detailed email a few days ago (you all know how I do). Shame on me because he responded and invited me to call him so we could speak on the phone or meet in person. I sent Brian my phone number and he actually called me last night. I certainly did not expect to speak with him for over an hour! Not that the length of the conversation bothered me, it was just not what I expected based on my past interactions (or lack thereof) with politicians and other high-ranking officials. So far, Brian is 2-for-2. That’s pretty good considering the person he has to convince (me).

During the course of the hour, we discussed our backgrounds: Both of us have undergrad degrees in something other than Education and experienced some of the same ‘issues’ during our first years of teaching. We shared a lot of laughs last night. What is most impressive about Brian is that, despite opposition-both then and now, he is committed to making some changes in education within the state. He admits that the level of change necessary will not happen over night or even in the course of 1-2 years. The important thing to remember is that change is necessary and someone has to be the first one to take the steps in that direction, even at the cost of making some powerful and connected people uncomfortable. I haven’t been this excited about a politician since…well, President Obama. Honest. I had really lost faith in local politics, especially school boards and state education positions because frankly, they have been traditionally held by people who neither look like me, know or care about my concerns. Sure, Brian is not African American but he is young, has recent experience working with African American students, parents, and teachers. He now works at Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, probably the most diverse school in terms of populations of international students.

There is a saying that alludes to the obvious: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten (or something like that). While millions of people turned out for the last presidential election, many of us (myself included) have forgotten about exacting ‘change’ on a local level. I am committing to change that this year. I have already told Brian that I plan to share his information and platform with the parent network I have established here in Gwinnett County for our Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I also have a large number of friends who are still teaching and still dealing with the same issues. If we are adamant about change, we must be as adamant about making it happen.

Let’s educate ourselves on those people who want to represent us and make a commitment to making our collective voices heard. The primary election is in July; the general election is in November. I will continue to share information on this race through Twitter and this blog. A change will come to Georgia’s education system. Will you be a do-er or an onlooker?

Is ‘educational change’ on the horizon for Georgia?   Leave a comment

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog are those solely of the author (that’s me) and are not shared by any parties listed below (at least I don’t think they do).

Those you who have been following my blogs have probably guessed that I am very passionate about education. Specifically, quality public education for all kids, regardless of their zip code, parents’ social/political affiliations, race, etc. Likewise, I believe that quality education should be provided, ‘By any means necessary.’ Whether it’s high-performing, neighborhood charter schools (not those magnet schools, located in affluent neighborhoods inaccessible to low-income students, disguised as charter schools) or a complete investigation and overhaul of the desegregation orders in some states, namely Georgia, to balance access to high-performing, 21st century schools. Sounds overwhelming, but I honestly believe that it will take something this radical to start on the road to repairing our public education system.

Enter politics. I have never been one to mince words, although I have been criticized for my directness-only since moving south though. I am fully aware that politics are necessary to get things done. I also know that sometimes, politicians can cause more harm than good when their personal agendas overshadow the issues at hand. Well, I got a little re-inspiration about the possibility of politics doing something good last night. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Westlake, Democratic candidate for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. The position is currently held by Cathy Cox, who is also running for re-election. I will admit that I didn’t expect to hear from Brian after I sent a rather lengthy and detailed email a few days ago (you all know how I do). Shame on me because he responded and invited me to call him so we could speak on the phone or meet in person. I sent Brian my phone number and he actually called me last night. I certainly did not expect to speak with him for over an hour! Not that the length of the conversation bothered me, it was just not what I expected based on my past interactions (or lack thereof) with politicians and other high-ranking officials. So far, Brian is 2-for-2. That’s pretty good considering the person he has to convince (me).

During the course of the hour, we discussed our backgrounds: Both of us have undergrad degrees in something other than Education and experienced some of the same ‘issues’ during our first years of teaching. We shared a lot of laughs last night. What is most impressive about Brian is that, despite opposition-both then and now, he is committed to making some changes in education within the state. He admits that the level of change necessary will not happen over night or even in the course of 1-2 years. The important thing to remember is that change is necessary and someone has to be the first one to take the steps in that direction, even at the cost of making some powerful and connected people uncomfortable. I haven’t been this excited about a politician since…well, President Obama. Honest. I had really lost faith in local politics, especially school boards and state education positions because frankly, they have been traditionally held by people who neither look like me, know or care about my concerns. Sure, Brian is not African American but he is young, has recent experience working with African American students, parents, and teachers. He now works at Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, probably the most diverse school in terms of populations of international students.

There is a saying that alludes to the obvious: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten (or something like that). While millions of people turned out for the last presidential election, many of us (myself included) have forgotten about exacting ‘change’ on a local level. I am committing to change that this year. I have already told Brian that I plan to share his information and platform with the parent network I have established here in Gwinnett County for our Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I also have a large number of friends who are still teaching and still dealing with the same issues. If we are adamant about change, we must be as adamant about making it happen.

Let’s educate ourselves on those people who want to represent us and make a commitment to making our collective voices heard. The primary election is in July; the general election is in November. I will continue to share information on this race through Twitter and this blog. A change will come to Georgia’s education system. Will you be a do-er or an onlooker?

Georgia's Charter School Law: A Tale of Two (conflicting) Reports   2 comments

There is a saying invoked when a person is obviously in over his or her head in their professional role: It’s not what you know, but who you know. I thought about this when I read that Georgia was ranked #4 for its charter school law, by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. This is especially interesting when you consider that the Center for Education Reform’s recent Charter School Report Card assigned a grade of ‘C’ to Georgia. One of the explanations cited for Georgia’s ‘average’ grade was the fact that the newly-formed Charter School Commission is still, in large part, controlled by the Georgia Department of Education. For further explanation on Georgia’s grade, see ‘Georgia’s Charter School Law receives a ‘C.’

Out of curiosity, I visited the alliance’s site to see how Indiana ranked. According to this report, Indiana ranked 29th. I find that laughable considering the fact that the state has had two independent authorizers: The Mayor of Indianapolis and Ball State University. In fact, Indiana was one of the first states to use the mayor of a major city as an authorizer. Furthermore, all charter schools must be non-profits and oeprate as such. This practice has been called into question here in Georgia, as EMOs/CMOs are making up to $1 million per charter school in management fees, facility leasing fees, and professional development costs. The CER report assigned a grade of ‘B’ to Indiana; again, Georgia received a ‘C.’ How can the results from these two reports be so different?

So what’s really going on? Sometimes, peoples actions and motives are transparent; other times, a little digging and connecting the dots is required. I checked the bios on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools board of directors. Interesting to say the least. One of the directors has ties to KIPP; another is the CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Believe it or not, former Mayor of Indianapolis Bart Peterson is also a member. Yes, that is the same mayor responsible for supporting and growing the charter school community in Indianapolis. Damn. That almost makes me want to retract the nice things I said about him earlier. I wonder if he actually read the report and noticed that Indiana received such a horrible ranking? Probably not. Oh yeah, Joel Klein is also a member of the board of directors. One thing positive that I can say about the board’s membership is that it accurately reflects the population of students being served by charter schools across the country; that is certainly more than I can say for the Georgia Charter School Commission, Charter Schools Association, and State Board of Education. Minorities are truly a minority in those arenas.

I guess Indiana should (and probably doesn’t) feel too slighted. Afterall, the CER report is likely more reliable and least likely to be influenced by board members and donation sizes. Besides, it could be worse: They could have received an ‘F’ like Virginia. I guess that explains why Charter School Commission member Gerard Robinson jumped ship and accepted the Secretary of Education position in Virginia. I guess that also explains why he has not extended me the professional courtesy of responding to a letter sent December 12, 2009. Oh well. Upon seeing him interact with the ol’ boys, I knew exactly how to categorize his intentions and motives.

I still don’t know how these two reports could have such disparities in grading charter school laws. But I do know that those who travel in the TFA, KIPP, New Leaders New Schools cults elitist circles certainly look out for each other. Afterall, Andrew Broy is a TFA alumnus. At this rate, I think the charter school movement could put the old-school mafia out of business for good. I guess those who believe that politics make for strange ‘bedfellows’ have never delved into the underworld of public education.

Georgia’s Charter School Law: A Tale of Two (conflicting) Reports   2 comments

There is a saying invoked when a person is obviously in over his or her head in their professional role: It’s not what you know, but who you know. I thought about this when I read that Georgia was ranked #4 for its charter school law, by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. This is especially interesting when you consider that the Center for Education Reform’s recent Charter School Report Card assigned a grade of ‘C’ to Georgia. One of the explanations cited for Georgia’s ‘average’ grade was the fact that the newly-formed Charter School Commission is still, in large part, controlled by the Georgia Department of Education. For further explanation on Georgia’s grade, see ‘Georgia’s Charter School Law receives a ‘C.’

Out of curiosity, I visited the alliance’s site to see how Indiana ranked. According to this report, Indiana ranked 29th. I find that laughable considering the fact that the state has had two independent authorizers: The Mayor of Indianapolis and Ball State University. In fact, Indiana was one of the first states to use the mayor of a major city as an authorizer. Furthermore, all charter schools must be non-profits and oeprate as such. This practice has been called into question here in Georgia, as EMOs/CMOs are making up to $1 million per charter school in management fees, facility leasing fees, and professional development costs. The CER report assigned a grade of ‘B’ to Indiana; again, Georgia received a ‘C.’ How can the results from these two reports be so different?

So what’s really going on? Sometimes, peoples actions and motives are transparent; other times, a little digging and connecting the dots is required. I checked the bios on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools board of directors. Interesting to say the least. One of the directors has ties to KIPP; another is the CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Believe it or not, former Mayor of Indianapolis Bart Peterson is also a member. Yes, that is the same mayor responsible for supporting and growing the charter school community in Indianapolis. Damn. That almost makes me want to retract the nice things I said about him earlier. I wonder if he actually read the report and noticed that Indiana received such a horrible ranking? Probably not. Oh yeah, Joel Klein is also a member of the board of directors. One thing positive that I can say about the board’s membership is that it accurately reflects the population of students being served by charter schools across the country; that is certainly more than I can say for the Georgia Charter School Commission, Charter Schools Association, and State Board of Education. Minorities are truly a minority in those arenas.

I guess Indiana should (and probably doesn’t) feel too slighted. Afterall, the CER report is likely more reliable and least likely to be influenced by board members and donation sizes. Besides, it could be worse: They could have received an ‘F’ like Virginia. I guess that explains why Charter School Commission member Gerard Robinson jumped ship and accepted the Secretary of Education position in Virginia. I guess that also explains why he has not extended me the professional courtesy of responding to a letter sent December 12, 2009. Oh well. Upon seeing him interact with the ol’ boys, I knew exactly how to categorize his intentions and motives.

I still don’t know how these two reports could have such disparities in grading charter school laws. But I do know that those who travel in the TFA, KIPP, New Leaders New Schools cults elitist circles certainly look out for each other. Afterall, Andrew Broy is a TFA alumnus. At this rate, I think the charter school movement could put the old-school mafia out of business for good. I guess those who believe that politics make for strange ‘bedfellows’ have never delved into the underworld of public education.

Higher Ed takes notice of Georgia's preference for privatizing Education   Leave a comment

Monday’s AJC will feature an Op-ed piece by University of Georgia professor William G. Wraga regarding the obvious (my word) move towards privatizing education in Georgia. Wranga acknowledges the ‘intent’ of charter schools, i.e., curricular innovation and greater autonomy for teachers; however, he also addresses an issue of late for the charter community: More charters are increasingly being controlled by for-profit or faux non-profit (again, my word) management companies. I have shared my opinion on this all-too-common practice here in Georgia in this blog as well as this one.

What’s really interesting are the posts from people who, appear to be charter supporters, but do not really read what Wranga has written. They only ‘see’ an ‘attack’ on charter schools. I do not believe that was Wranga’s intention. If I am not mistaken, his concern is the fact that money, and lots of it, has become the main motivation for furthering the charter school movement in Georgia. I will admit to being a supporter of charter schools, but I am also a vocal supporter of quality education, school choice, and including parents in the education decision-making process. Charter schools are supposed to be governed by parents, teachers, and community members; however, many of us know that does not always happen. If you don’t believe me, just Google Imagine Schools and Dennis Bakke. Let me know what you find. It also appears that some people with a great deal of technical knowledge about charter schools are posting comments to the blog, under fictitious names. How do I know this? According to the Charter School Commission, a majority of the groups that submitted petitions did not have the technical knowledge or experience necessary to govern schools. By process of elimination, if the petitioners are not knowledgeable then that leaves the Commission members themselves, as well as the members of the Georgia Charter Schools Association and the state’s Charter School Division. Not a conspiracy theory, just common sense and basic observation. Man-up! Post your rebuttal or argument using your real name, since you attempt to sound like an expert on charters.

Higher Ed takes notice of Georgia’s preference for privatizing Education   Leave a comment

Monday’s AJC will feature an Op-ed piece by University of Georgia professor William G. Wraga regarding the obvious (my word) move towards privatizing education in Georgia. Wranga acknowledges the ‘intent’ of charter schools, i.e., curricular innovation and greater autonomy for teachers; however, he also addresses an issue of late for the charter community: More charters are increasingly being controlled by for-profit or faux non-profit (again, my word) management companies. I have shared my opinion on this all-too-common practice here in Georgia in this blog as well as this one.

What’s really interesting are the posts from people who, appear to be charter supporters, but do not really read what Wranga has written. They only ‘see’ an ‘attack’ on charter schools. I do not believe that was Wranga’s intention. If I am not mistaken, his concern is the fact that money, and lots of it, has become the main motivation for furthering the charter school movement in Georgia. I will admit to being a supporter of charter schools, but I am also a vocal supporter of quality education, school choice, and including parents in the education decision-making process. Charter schools are supposed to be governed by parents, teachers, and community members; however, many of us know that does not always happen. If you don’t believe me, just Google Imagine Schools and Dennis Bakke. Let me know what you find. It also appears that some people with a great deal of technical knowledge about charter schools are posting comments to the blog, under fictitious names. How do I know this? According to the Charter School Commission, a majority of the groups that submitted petitions did not have the technical knowledge or experience necessary to govern schools. By process of elimination, if the petitioners are not knowledgeable then that leaves the Commission members themselves, as well as the members of the Georgia Charter Schools Association and the state’s Charter School Division. Not a conspiracy theory, just common sense and basic observation. Man-up! Post your rebuttal or argument using your real name, since you attempt to sound like an expert on charters.