Mario Burgos

Clear thinking and straight talk from the top of a mountain.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Problem With Teacher Unions in a Nutshell

Times are tough, and when that's the case certain obvious flaws become amplified.  Take for example the challenges currently faced by the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) as a result of the budget crunch.  APS is looking at where to make cuts, and Superintendent Winston Brooks presented one suggestion that seems pretty reasonable on paper.  Cut the double dippers (i.e. those who are already drawing a pension).

But, it seems that the union has a problem with this approach:

Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said she understands why the district is targeting rehires, but that there are problems with the plan. 

She said double dippers "have the same rights as all beginning employees," and that the district should conduct layoffs by seniority, regardless of whether employees are also drawing a pension. 

Seniority.  That's what it all boils down to for the union.  Value to the kids - irrelevant. Teacher performance - irrelevant.  Even that battle cry of the left for the greater good is irrelevant when compared to the union's commitment to protecting the status quo (AKA seniority).


Any wonder that this system continues its downward spiral?

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another Reason Dollars Should Follow Children

Whether a charter school is succeeding or failing in meeting its students educational needs, there is one component that is undoubtedly in play that does not exist at most regular public schools - parental involvement. In order for a child to be attending a charter school, a parent or guardian had to make a conscious choice and effort to get their child into that school. And, in the end, if they are unsatisfied with the results, they can move their child out of the school and to another.

This is a good thing. In fact, parental involvement in a child's education is one of the key factors in improving student performance. Yet, the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) wants to shut down opportunities for more parents to take an active role in their children's education:

Albuquerque Public Schools wants lawmakers to place a moratorium on new charter schools until existing schools are fully funded.

The request is one of the items on the district's legislative wish list, and it aims to help APS deal with a budget crunch.

"We need to stop putting in place new programs or schools that take away from the pie of money," APS lobbyist Joseph Escobedo said.

The theory that moving dollars from one education environment to another is "taking away from the pie of money" is absurd. It is a redistribution of money, but it doesn't shrink the overall pie. Kids are still going to be educated using the same amount of dollars. Actually, maybe I should reword that to say some kids will finally be educated using the same, and quite possibly less, dollars.

Why is it that government entities always support redistribution of wealth from taxpayers to their budgets, but fight tooth and nail when the redistribution is from their budgets to another public entity budget? When that is proposed, it makes the pie smaller. Of course, we all know that it doesn't shrink the pool of money, it just allows it to move to potentially more productive uses. Something that really ought to be the focus of the upcoming legislative session as opposed to taking more from taxpayers. But, I digress.

This is yet another reason that taxpayer dollars allocated for educating our children should follow those children as opposed to making the children follow the dollars.

Disclaimer: Our kids attend a fantastic charter school, Family School. So, I've got an inherent bias here. Plus, it would be highly hypocritical of me to take advantage of school choice for my children, but say from this point forward other people's children should not be afforded the same opportunity.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Mayor Chavez and APS and New Media

If you haven't read Mark Bralley's account of his most recent encounter with Mayor Chavez's security detail, I strongly urge you to do so. Here's a little snippet to get you going:
“You have to leave. You aren’t the press. You don’t have credentials,” APS Police Officer Paul Schaefer said in rapid succession as he took the contact role. “I was told you’re not part of the press club.”

“You’re wrong,” I said.

I looked at a pocket in my photo vest that has a clear plastic front. It’s designed to keep credentials visible yet out of the way. Print journalists often wear credentials on a lanyard around their neck. However, still photographers prefer not to wear lanyards as they interfere neck straps; so the pocket is convenient. I had the pass issued by the Secret Service last week for the Presidential visit to Rio Rancho visible.

“White House Press Pool,” I asked Schaefer, showing him the pass?

“Never heard of it,” Schaefer said.

“Ever heard of the President of the United States?”

Vaguely,” Schaefer said.

“How about the First Amendment,” I asked?

I’ve heard of the First Amendment,” Schaefer said.

“As a matter of fact, when I…” I said, as I dug deeper for my own credentials, which list former and current clients and my own sites; there was also an old State Senate Press pass.

"but I’ve been told this isn’t a public event,” Schaefer said.

“Well it is a public event when you have the Mayor of the City of Albuquerque present,” I said.
Ok, let's deal with the obvious first. Why does the Mayor of Albuquerque need a security detail on the campus of a local school? Especially, a security detail that acts like the Gestapo. Apparently when Richard Romero was on 770 KKOB with Bob Clark, he raised the same question. I didn't hear that interview, but I did catch Clark poking fun at the Mayor on another morning.

Clark pointed out that former Congresswoman Heather Wilson did not find the need to travel with a security detail when she moved through Albuquerque. Although, in all fairness, Clark did mention that Wilson was often accompanied by her former communications guy, Enrique Knell, who is known to pack and shoot a camera. Something that leaves at least one Albuquerque Mayor fearful for his... um, actually, I'm not sure how to finish that sentence.

There is of course irony here. I know for a fact that Mayor Chavez considers bloggers part of the new media establishment when it is in his best interest. Consider this email I received from Brent Blackaby on October 29, 2007:
Hi all—

We’d like to invite you to join us tomorrow, Tuesday, October 30th at 5:30pm MDT for a New Mexico blogger conference call with Marty Chavez, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

We’re anticipating that the call will last about 30 minutes – 10-15 minutes for some introductory comments from Marty, and 15-20 minutes of Q&A from you.

Let me know if you’re interested in participating, and I’ll send along a dial-in number on Tuesday. Also, please feel free to forward this invite around to other progressive New Mexico bloggers that you know.

Thanks – and we look forward to chatting with you on Tuesday!

Best regards,

Brent Blackaby
Chavez for Senate
Of course, it's not just the Mayor who acted inappropriately here. Read Bralley's post and you'll find that APS was also less than tolerant of new media members. I can't tell you how wrong I find that to be on so many different levels.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit I know Mark Bralley. I've even found myself on more than one occasion caught in the crosshairs of his camera.


I don't remember feeling afraid, but maybe, just to be safe, I ought to look into hiring some private security.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Command and Control Management at APS

It's a general rule of thumb now in businesses that a command and control managerial style from the top down is not the best approach - especially for a large business. Instead, you should hire the best people to operate each business unit and then hold them accountable for performance (i.e. failure to deliver leads to job loss).

Unfortunately, it looks like Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is about to go the command and control route:
If the rest of the new superintendent's plans come to pass, the district's central office will have more control over everything from the number of custodians a school gets to the type of reading curricula it may use. And on Wednesday, the board approved a new policy that requires “all major technology related projects” to be approved by the superintendent.

“Site-based management, and APS does a lot of site-based management, is not efficient,” said Winston Brooks, who served his first official day last week as the district's new superintendent.

Some longtime principals say the added authority they've enjoyed under site-based management has paid dividends for their schools.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with Superintendent Brooks dismantling a layer of management by doing away with the cluster system. Nor, do I find his commitment to cutting unnecessary costs troubling. However, I've been in around school systems enough as a parent, as a teacher and as an educational partner to know that high performance schools occur because of creativity and commitment at the classroom, administrative and local community level.

Superintendent Brooks recent actions seem to indicate that he believes otherwise. If that's the case, it's going to be business as usual at APS - new edicts and directions without improvements in student performance.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's What Isn't Stated

Take a look at the Albuquerque Journal today, and you're going to come across an article on the unemployability of students (subscription) that that states:
Seventeen percent of the Albuquerque Public Schools freshmen who took a test to measure workplace skills fell into the "unemployable" category in reading and math.
However, as alarming as that may be, it is really this statement that of the most concern:
WorkKeys, she said, helps give them an idea so they can plan accordingly.

Mary Ann Landry, the district's vocational education director, said APS scores rose slightly when some of the schools retested students as upperclassmen. However, the district did not provide complete data on those results.
Whoa! After a couple of more years of an APS education, the scores only "rose slightly." That's not good. And, what's with not providing complete data. If we want to continue to successfully draw businesses to New Mexico, this is a situation that has to be dealt with immediately, and the school district needs to be more forthcoming with data results.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Education Failures Continue to Increase

It's that time year again. The time when the No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress Reports comes out. Again, our schools are failing to deliver on improvement promises made by everyone from Governor Bill Richardson on down.

Two years ago, I went on a rant about the lack of a sense of urgency on the part of our education administrators and Governor appointees regarding the lack of progress. Then last year, I pointed out that the news had gone from bad to worse with more than 54% of schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress.

And guess what, this year we've fallen even further with more than 58% of the schools failing to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress. How much worse, can this get before we decide continuing along the same path year after year is just not working?

The spin coming from Governor Richardson's appointee (subscription) is nothing less than nauseating:
Statewide, more than 58 percent of New Mexico's schools didn't make adequate yearly progress. That figure is up slightly from 54.1 percent last year.

But state Education Secretary Veronica Garcia pointed out Friday that some schools found themselves on the failing list even though they met or exceeded proficiency standards in reading and math. Garcia pointed out 13 schools labeled as failing, even though they met proficiency targets for all students. Among those schools were Montessori of the Rio Grande and Twenty-First Century, both of Albuquerque.

"To label a school as failing— not making AYP for missing, for example, participation rate in one subgroup— and labeling the whole school as failing is very misleading to everyone," Garcia said. She said while the spirit behind the law is admirable, its implementation can be unfair.
Political Spin 101 is to reframe the issue to shift focus from your failures. If you reclassify those 13 schools the Education Secretary is referencing does that paint a prettier picture? I don't think so. I'm pretty sure it would still mean that more than 50% of our schools are failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress. No matter how you slice it or dice it, this is unacceptable.

And, what does APS have to say about their continued failure:

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the district will scrutinize the designations carefully to ensure their accuracy.

"We are going to go page by page, school by school, category by category," Armenta said.
Oh yeah, that's the problem. The reports aren't accurate. Glad to see you've got your focus in the right place. Speaking of having things in the right place. Don't you think it is odd that APS has a news section on their front page, but fails to provide notification the latest Adequate Yearly Progress Reports have been released.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that APS, as a district, is failing for at least the second year in a row. Now, I'm not a big fan of breaking up the district because research doesn't demonstrate that will change much of anything. However, the time has come to revisit school choice options. Our government is failing, and it is time to give the responsibility of educating our children back to parents.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Putting You Money Where Your Mouth Is

Dr. Beth Everitt is going to "retire" from APS (read: look for another job) when her contract is over next June. And, surprise, surprise, Mayor Marty Chavez has inserted his two cents about the necessary qualifications of the next Superintendent (subscription):
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez weighed in with his opinion Monday.

"We have a school district that's in a crisis," he said. "It's going to require somebody who's not afraid to make enemies, including on the board."
The Mayor has been a big proponent of the City taking a controlling interest in the school district. Something I think is pointless. However, here's an idea... Why doesn't the Mayor apply for the job? You know, put his money where his mouth is.

Dr. Everitt is leaving in June 2008, The Mayor is termed out in October of 2009. Instead of trying to run for the Democratic nomination for Governor against Lt. Governor Diane Dennish, a race he is bound to lose, he could campaign hard to be hired as the next Superintendent. It would be a big pay raise, and he could prove that his ideas for running the district are the way to go.

What do you say, Marty?

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 05, 2007

APS Sues Volunteers

This article (subscription) in today's Journal is very troubling:
For years, Albuquerque students in the band Mariachi San Jose entertained audiences at festivals and competitions across the region.

Now, Albuquerque Public Schools is fighting a group of parent volunteers in court over money raised to support the group and for the right to use the name "Mariachi San Jose."

At issue is whether Mariachi San Jose is a school program or an independent community program.

APS filed a lawsuit against some of the group's parent volunteers last month. Attempts to resolve the dispute through a court mediator failed Tuesday, according to parents and school officials.

The relationship between APS and the volunteers soured last summer, and everyone agrees that students have suffered the most.
It wasn't that long ago that Governor Bill Richardson was on his soap box talking about the need for government to get involved in promoting parental involvement. Now, APS is again in the spotlight for going out of its way to DISCOURAGE parental involvement.

Think about this, you have the state's largest school district, a district with boatloads of taxpayer money, suing parents, who are in all likelihood taxpayers, to keep them from being involved. Something is seriously wrong with this picture. And it only gets worse:
Forming another mariachi group is fine, APS says, but there's no question that Mariachi San Jose is a school-based group because it started at East San Jose.
Since when does a school fight for ownership rights? Isn't the school's purpose to serve the community? So what if the parents started the program at the school? Parents starting a program at a school is a good thing. Does APS really want to discourage this type of initiative by SEIZING a successful volunteer driven programs? It's not like there is any inappropriate behavior occurring:
But [APS deputy superintendent Tom] Savage said a recent audit of the group's activity fund at East San Jose didn't uncover any accounting problems.
Theses actions by APS are sending the wrong message to all volunteers who contribute their time to programs throughout the district that benefit our students. I strongly encourage you to let APS know that suing volunteers is not the answer to improving student achievement. Ask the Superintendent, Dr. Beth Everitt, to stop this nonsense. You might also consider contacting the APS Board.

Labels: , , , ,

 
Clicky Web Analytics