Showing posts from August, 2010



She lifted up the computer and slammed it down on the cart. It was quite an impressive feat for somebody so small in stature. “Whoa, what’s going on Sunshine?” I asked, seeing she was obviously upset. “Oh, I don’t know…” she started, (I think holding back a tear); “it’s either being lied to straight to my face or being treated like a child”. I sighed and put my hand on her shoulder. The teacher in front of me wasn’t just one of my best friends at my school but one of the best teachers the school had to offer, as well, and it hurt me to see her so upset. “Okay, okay - take a deep breath and tell me what happened”, I asked. As she started to tell the story I realized she was just the latest domino to fall from a line that started two years ago.

A week before the ‘08-‘09 school year began, I got a call telling me I would be moved from my Trainable Mentally Handicapped (TMH) classroom to a Varying Exceptionality (VE) classroom to teach Science. I wasn’t happy about the mo…

The Times Union, doesn't get it

The Times Union just doesn’t get it. One of the biggest problems we have here in Jacksonville is that our school system is run by politicians on their way up or way down and casual observers filled with hubris who have at best a tenuous relationship to education. I am not saying they are of bad character or lack compassion and passion. I am saying they are out of their depth and the school system, our children and the entire city suffers for it.

So what does the Times Union do? It endorses a politician on his way down, Eric Smith and a politician on his way up, Fred “Fel” Lee. Admittedly, they do so while giving a nod to two teachers who have been in the classrooms and roaming the halls of schools in the county for a combined 29 years, Becki Couch and John King, saying they wouldn’t be bad choices. However a nod is not good enough.

Just like I wouldn’t turn to a Lawyer to take care of my health needs or a plumber to fly me across country no matter how good they were at their respectiv…

Hello, my name is Al Brennan, I am the principal of Forrest high school and I hate teachers

Principal Brennan didn't actually say that and I doubt he feels that way too. Sadly however that's what numerous teachers heard when he told them at the welcome back staff meeting, if they don't park in their designated spots he will have their cars towed. If they don't turn a room key in, he will say they stole it and words to the effect that he will prosecute them and if they are one minute late they will be disciplined. I wouldn't dream of talking to my students that way, and if I did I would rightfully get in trouble, a teacher friend of mine said.

You know it's a common practice for teachers to start the year strict with their students, that way they have room to lighten up as the year progresses but I have never heard of a principal doing it to his staff. Sadly however this is where we find ourselves in 2010. Principals are told to shake things up as teachers have become the scapegoats for the district. Teachers have gone from valued colleague to someone …

The Bare Minimum

I spoke to the Northeast Florida rotary club the other day. If you don’t know what the Rotary club is, it’s a business/civic group. They like me are concerned about the direction education in Jacksonville is heading. They like me believe that economy, crime and civility or lack thereof all has their roots in education and they like me are nervous.

Even though I was invited into talk about education issues, I started by talking about the city. I talked about how two interstate highways intersect here and how we are on the ocean and have a major river, a port, an international airport and one of the best park systems in the country. I talked about the Jags and how we are close to entertainment hubs. I talked about how we have lots of room for growth and how much of the infrastructure is already in place to do so and I finished by talking about how we are a pro business city, in a pro business state and we don’t have an income tax. I then asked them why we aren’t turning businesses away…

Scheduled Failure

This was run in the 8/10 issue of the Folio

As I passed her in the library she had her arms folded under her chin and a frown on her face. She seemed really down so I asked her how she was doing. Fine, she replied but she did so the same way I do when everything is all but fine.

I considered moving on. If you let too many kids in it takes being a teacher from tough to heartbreaking. All of the children seem to have a story. A broken home there a lack of opportunity here. It can be overwhelming if you let it. This however was a good kid. Where her grades were very average all her teachers liked her as she is always polite and respectful and at least during class never failed to make an effort. During a previous conversation she told me how she wanted to be a music teacher someday and how she sang in a family gospel band. After hearing this and finding out and that she wasn’t taking music I introduced her to the schools music teacher in the hope that maybe they would make a connection an…

Ron Littlepage should chip in too

Ron Littlepage, just back from a week long vacation at the beach, thinks it’s reasonable in these troubling financial times that public employees take a two percent pay cut. Teachers however, should just loose their raises; after all they buy school supplies for other peoples’ children. Though I guess if you can afford a week at the beach, these times might not be so troubling for some.

Littlepage also doesn’t think, teachers should take the move by the school board to break the contract as anti-teacher. Instead it’s just tough financial times, financial times by the way that have seen the school board hire a public relations person, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants and travel, buy a million dollars worth of new cars, spend millions on the Shultz center, have a middle management, people by the way who on average are paid more than teachers and who don’t work directly with children, that is so big it could dam a medium sized river and start capital projects that ar…

The Devil it’s Due

It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of our school board. I think they are directly responsible for many of the problems facing the district. If you look at the make up of the school board for the most part it is made up of politicians on their way up or way down or casual observers with tenuous ties to education. When I pick a doctor, I pick someone who has been to medical school, not someone who has a cousin who is a doctor or who has watched three seasons of Grays Anatomy and thinks to themselves, hey I could do that. With that being said, it would be disingenuous of me, not to “give the devil it’s due.”

When superintendent Pratt-Dannals, at the last possible moment, asked the school board to declare financial urgency in order to breech the contract with teachers, three board members voted against it. When it passed teachers were outraged and four members of the school board were sent scrambling to justify their positions. In a way this was also a very rare occurrence, not that te…