Friday, June 27, 2008

Two big ol' events are coming up:

FYYFF It's Black and Gold Forever
A fund raiser for the Ashley Morris Memorial Foundation
at One-Eyed Jack's on Saturday July 26, 8 PM. $10 cover

and - drum roll please -
Rising Tide III
August 22-24

And now it's time to dance and sing and, uhhh...

...sacrifice the Fire King.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I get a call from Senator "Diaper Dave" Vitter. And my first impulse is to hang up on the schmuck.

BUT I listened, just for the hell of it, and realized the man had just given the greater New Orleans area a prime opportunity to ask him ANYTHING. Anything at all. For only two hours. Right then and there in an over-the-phone town hall meeting. Press "0" on the keypad and you could ask the man a question. All he asked of you was to have you say yes or no to a small survey he was conducting concerning a bill he's trying to get passed that would reinsert a provision that the state shoulder less of the $5.8 billion that would be allocated towards 100-year flood protection in New Orleans.

I kid you not.

Granted, I was called and invited to participate at the beginning of hour two, but still...

What follows is a whole lotta live tweeting through the Twitter service (aka, the Tweeter Tube)that I did there to see who else was possibly connected to the call, or, if they weren't connected, to see who wanted to ask Diaper Dave something, and I would try to get the question in. Whether or not he'd answer it was another story.

Anybody else participating in an over-the-phone town hall meeting with David Vitter about the levees? Anybody want me to ask him anything?

This is going on RIGHT NOW, so get your questions in to me now.

Oooh, Vitter's number is 504-589-2753 and he'll rattle some Road Home cages.

Aside from chrisjohnston @liprap I didn't know he did those! is another way to go. Next question is about the insurance premiums - will that be checked?

Ooh, since he lives south of I-10 in Metry, he feels that pain, too.

A woman in NOLA: What message are young women supposed to get when young women hear about you doing an illegal act and hiring prostitutes? The answer to this one from him is the same ol' same ol'. It's in the past, don't dwell on it, get away from me, woman, next question...

Why is Congress spending loads o' dough on a new VA hospital when the old one was only damaged on two floors? Give me in the info, Dave sez

Got your info right here, Diaper Dave: Damn he keeps talking about 100 year protection...

Hasn't Vitter ever been to the Netherlands?

Give land in Pearl River that has been handed over to Road Home to low-income families! says a caller

Why can't veterans use ANY hospital? Why does it have to be the VA? asks a caller.

Aside from NOLAnotes : A recorded Vitter just called my house. I cursed it out then hung up. Ah, release of stress. Wonder if he'll call back so I can scream more.

Aside from me @chrisjohnston : He called me up out of the blue. Seriously.

Trailer problems are being brought to Dave. Folks in Kenner are having FEMA tsuris...

Ohhh, a survey question: Do you favor legislation that would reduce the state's cost share on 100-year levee protection?

Aside from me @NOLAnotes : Too bad. He actually IS fielding questions.

Recovery of NO East - why aren't the people's needs there being addressed? Huh, Dave?

Dave relies on Greg Rigamer for stats. Maybe we need to call on him for RT III.

17th St Canal leak concern from a citizen - AND bring the troops home from Iraq, please.

Vitter is doing some CYA of the AC o' E. And he favors a gradual pullout from Iraq. Start your innuendo jokes now.

Aside from chrisjohnston @liprap At great risk of upsetting people, New Orleans East for a variety of geological reasons should probably not be rebuilt

How to help the soldiers caught up in the subprime mortgage crisis, Dave? Voted against the bill (to help with this) because I thought it bailed the banks out (he said).

SBA loans - will they be forgiven? Workin' on it, Dave says.

Aside from caderoux @liprap Vitter wants stronger harder levees. Hurricanes are Wendy and blow.

Aside from NOLAnotes @chrisjohnston That may be But then the East should never have been developed. Are they to be bought out at a true fair price? Won't happen

Aside from NOLAnotes @liprap Gotta stop reading your twits. Just upsetting me more.

Aside from caderoux @chrisjohnston No real geographic difference between parts of Kenner and the East. Wetlands, drained and filled, lake and spillway.

Oooh, $5.8 billion will go to strengthening the levees, but, should the state shoulder more of the costs? House cut out the lower cost share

Aside from chrisjohnston @NOLAnotes That may be true but shouldn't there be some burden on the buyer for due diligence

House also cut out compensation for businesses relocating from the MRGO and other flooded areas. Vitty wants to put that back.

Aside from WetBankGuy @caderoix Sexy Women Can't Resist Your Higher Stronger Levee!!!

Aside from NOLAnotes @chrisjohnston Seriously? You aren't talking about Grand Isle or the Rigolets. The East was sold as prime real estate that was the new burb.

Aside from NOLAnotes @chrisjohnston It was never discussed that the East was "geographically deficient" UNTIL Katrina.

The event has ended. @dsbnola I did ask about this

Aside from charlotteAsh @liprap upset at Vitter = negative energy expended that can be redirected positively anywhere else.

Aside from charlotteAsh oops meant that tweet for @NOLAnotes

Aside from me @charlotteAsh : I do agree....However, I couldn't pass this up. I just wish there had been more notice...but then I think he'd get folks asking about his peccadilloes.

My apologies to everyone on the Tweeter Tube for my bazillion tweets. If it made you sick, send the bill to Vitter. 8-(

Update: Speaking of Twitter, if, as a frequent tweeter, you've gotten that "over capacity" graphic from the service one too many times, this one from Chris Johnston is for you:

If We Left Twitter To FEMA...


The devil's in 'em. And I am not talking about this, though it is intriguing in its own right.

I'm talking about the Times-Picayune's front page this morning, in which Part 1 of a special education teacher's experiences at a local charter school appears. Tough assignment, indeed.

Go read that tough assignment link. Read it all, now. This blog ain't gonna be deleted or anything.

Special education is a thorny, complicated issue in American public education. Even in the best school districts, tensions flare over which children should be served and how -- and at what cost.

Orleans Parish schools have struggled for decades with such issues, more acute in high-poverty areas. But the city's newly minted charter schools face unique challenges. The schools lack the support of a central office, student records and institutional knowledge as well as the economies of scale that large districts enjoy.

Knowing that last highlighted fact puts the entire article and the struggles of the special ed teacher profiled within it into perspective. This is an assignment Sisyphus would walk away from. Forget trying to do the paperwork all by yourself and teach - better to continually push a boulder up a hill over and over again.

And here's where the print and the online versions of the story diverge as well.

Online version:

In Datchuk's previous job at a university-affiliated elementary school at Penn State University, special education classrooms sometimes had more staff than students. A team handled paperwork. He had heard criticisms of special education at charter schools. He figured that only meant this school needed him all the more.

Besides, the Recovery School District never responded to his application. But Kleban sent flowers when Datchuk's mother was badly injured in an accident.

After seeing them, he called Kleban. "OK, I'm going to come to your school," he said.

Print version:

In Datchuk's previous job at a university-affiliated elementary school at Penn State University, special education classrooms sometimes had more staff than students. A team handled paperwork. He had heard criticisms of special education at charter schools. He figured that only meant this school needed him all the more.

Besides, the Recovery School District never responded to his application. But Kleban sent flowers when Datchuk's mother was badly injured in an accident.

After seeing them, he called Kleban. "OK, I'm going to come to your school," he said. At 26, he was one of Kleban's oldest teaching recruits.

Anybody notice an important tidbit of information missing from's version?

If that bit about Shawn Datchuk being one of the oldest teaching recruits at New Orleans College Prep is omitted, it erodes the import of his story even more. One of the oldest? At 26????? Able to be wooed to New Orleans with a bunch of flowers being sent to his mom? Coming here with the best of intentions? Read on:

In an ideal world, the 14-year-old student who couldn't spell a two-letter word would work with his own teacher or aide, all day, every day. Academically and socially, he cried out for help -- getting into fights weekly.

Datchuk knew he lived with a sister; his parents seemed absent. The Times-Picayune is withholding the boy's name because his parents couldn't be contacted.

But Datchuk already was spread too thin. He frantically worked to test students who arrived with little or no records. The school had started with only sixth-graders, but they ranged in age from 11 to 15 and seemed to read at anywhere from a prekindergarten to sixth-grade level.

Datchuk's personal and work lives began to merge. Most mornings, he arrived at the school by 6 a.m., the only time the copy machine was free. He lived close to the school and showed up there at all hours, often fueled by coffee. Many evenings, he wolfed down Mexican fast food.

Tapping strategies from graduate school, Datchuk devised a program for 53 students reading more than two years behind grade level.

Special education paperwork proved a quagmire of its own. Under state and federal law, all special education students might need to have evaluations every three years to determine their disability. Then, every year, they need an "individual education plan," or IEP, which spells out how the school works with the child.

The teachers at New Orleans College Prep could identify some students who needed special education services, but only one or two arrived with any paperwork. So Datchuk started calling their prior schools, which were spread across the state and country. He seldom heard back.

The students needed an evaluation to get an IEP, and the school needed IEPs to -- officially -- have special education students and get extra state money for them. But Datchuk couldn't do the evaluations: Only a team of an "education diagnostician" and a child psychologist had the credentials.

In a city where thousands of children need evaluations, such teams were in short supply.

"At some point, we ended up saying, 'We are just going to serve these kids and not get paid for it,' " Datchuk said.

I give this poor guy two years, tops. One year if he's very smart and wakes up to the difficulties inherent in trying to get a job at an accredited school when he's taught for a few years at an unaccredited school. Less than one from plain ol' burnout from trying to do himself what was done with teams of teachers and aides at Penn State.

Make no mistake. I want him to succeed. I'm glad Datchuk is being encouraged to teach more and push paper less, but I don't think the overall environment is going to allow him to continue that way. If the school vouchers are fully approved, there will be even less money going towards having more of those special education evaluation teams that are so sorely needed. It doesn't help when experienced teachers who could serve as mentors in these schools are staying away from the charters like they are incubators of some sort of plague - the pay and the benefits are nowhere near what they are in other places in this state or this country.

I'm interested to see the next installment of Sarah Carr's series....minus the idiot stats in a sidebar titled "Unmet Needs" in the print version. You try and make sense of these numbers. Go on. I double-dog dare ya:

Students with special needs Averages based on October 2007 counts

Recovery School District
10% of the students in the district-run schools had special needs
6% of students in Recovery School District charter schools

Orleans Parish Schools
7% of Orleans Parish school students were special needs
4% of Orleans Parish charter school students had special needs

If anybody's got any kind of clue about this, then tell me. Really, I'd like to know.

'Cause right now, it kind of reminds me of this:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

DSB alerts us to the presence of the National Charter Schools Conference in town this week.:

Let me be very clear about how I feel about the school systems in New Orleans: If we ever move away from New Orleans, it will likely be because of profound disgust with the schooling options.

I’m fine with charter schools as incubation chambers for new teaching practices, but such experiments should be limited in scope, not a system(s)-wide approach. From where I sit it looks like charters will lead to quasi-privatization of public schools (if we’re not already there). The charter schools in New Orleans that are deemed “good” schools (that’s relative, btw–the good schools here would be mediocre at best in many other communities) were “good” magnet schools before the fed flood. In other words, it’s change I can’t believe in.

In terms of that quasi-privatization he refers to, I can think of no better indication of this than one course offering in particular at the conference (page 25):

Regulating De-Regulated Charter Schools: Bureaucratic
Creep to Limit Charter School Development
Strand: Federal State and Local Policy Environment
Participants will learn the options for resisting state agency and
school district/city efforts to re-regulate charter schools. Rather than
attempting to alter the rules for the charter industry by legislation and
public debate, many opponents are working behind the scenes to
persuade bureaucrats to impose ‘’rules’’ by fiat. Where do bureaucrats
act unilaterally to restrict the funding, development and scope of charter
schools? What are the strategies being employed in the industry to
cope with this phenomenon?
Presenters: John Cairns, John Cairns Law, P.A.; Elizabeth Evans,
Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

I would think many local charter board members and administrators would be flocking to this one. And we do know why.

And then there's this one:

Teacher Unions and Charter Autonomy:
Are They Compatible?
Strand: Federal State and Local Policy Environment
Teacher unions have historically negotiated one-size-fits-all districtwide
contracts, leaving almost no autonomy at the school level.
Charter schools have emerged as a one building at a time innovation,
placing much autonomy at the site level. Are these different approaches
Presenters: Todd Ziebarth, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools;
Ana Ponce, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy; Peter Murphy, New York
Charter Schools Association.

Right now, the answer to this one is a resounding "no" in these parts.

I wish I'd known about this sooner.

That'll really teach me to go to south Florida....
Questions, folks. I've got 'em.

Look carefully at the picture below, 'cause a short quiz is coming.

What will Fred Radtke do with this, I wonder?

And will we really object this time if he decides to gray-wash this sign?

Just curious.

I'm also curious about this. Perhaps they shoulda advertised it as "Come for the beer, stay for a yank."

Whoops! My bad. Shouldn't have said that. This is a family blog....heh.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, for the record, I like CenLamar and have cited it from time to time in posts on this very blog.

However, I must respectfully disagree with Drew Ward's post in support of the school vouchers that were approved by the state House.

A sampling of the contents of that post:

There is much talk these days about public-private partnerships. Usually these are viewed in a positive light, but in this case the idea is taking a lot of flac. The fact is that government has failed the people and has shown its inability to deliver. In this same field of education in New Orleans private institutions — in particular the Archdiocese of New Orleans have excelled for generations. They have proven time and again their ability to provide among the finest educations in the State and to do so without limiting their educational scope by adherence to religious doctrine.

In this case, private organizations offer a superior product than their public counterpart. They do so at a lower cost, and provide excellent outcomes. When government fails we must look for other alternatives, and when those alternatives are sitting in our laps we’d be idiots not to embrace them.

Actually, state government has been failing the remnants of the Orleans Parish public schools for nearly three years. Before that, it was the local school board and folks like Ellenese Brooks-Sims who saw the schools as perfect candidates for shuffling money around for their own profit and to hell with the communities they were supposed to serve. The approval of a voucher program will, at best, be an avenue of escape in the here and now for kids who are not being served by the state - in the interest of taking a little pressure off the RSD while it gets some sort of act together.

From what I have seen, however, the best-case scenario I have described is not going to be the case.

Lamar White, Jr., says it best in his comments on this post:

5. How do private institutions provide education at a “lower cost” when public education is TUITION-FREE for every single American child?

6. Past failures should never be an excuse for future failures, nor should they become ground to allow for the quiet privatization of the public school system, which, in our democracy, should be considered a fundamental right of all Americans.

7. The legacy of the Diocese in New Orleans may be commendable, but ultimately, this is a short-term proposal that will only divert money to benefit a select few– at the expense of funding public education and at the expense of incentivizing private/public partnership to benefit public education. However commendable the Diocese is, taxpayer money should not be diverted to educate people, from a very early age, in a particular religious doctrine. (At least if you’re serious about fixing education, because I cannot envision how a long-term, massive privatization is, in any way, an option on the table).

I think the first part of benefiting way, waaay more than just a select few is transparency...which is sorely lacking when FOIA requests are denied to those who have every right to see them.

For those who ARE able to get the pertinent documents, there are indeed some suspicious omissions that hint at either secrecy, stupidity, or both in tandem.

And, as for Lamar being unable to envision "a long-term, massive privatization" of our schools, I invite him and Drew Ward to come on down and see what's doing here. Take a look at some past posts on this blog and on those of others who have been involved with these issues for quite some time. I know I'm missing some people in this. If you're reading this and you too have been keeping tabs on the charterization of the schools here, let me know in the comments.

Maybe it's 'cause I just visited the Space Coast in Florida, but it occurs to me that, contrary to what RSD, BESE, and our state officials would have us believe, failure is most certainly an option with regards to the New Orleans public schools - or what is left of them.

And I do hope Greg Peters' latest comic is up soon for all of y'all to see...because it has some pointed commentary on how little the legislators in Red Stick think of education in general in this state - not to mention what a doormat our guv'nor is with regards to the lege's pay raises for themselves and to other acts of"fiscal discipline". Roll over and play dead, Bobby. You might as well. the way...this oughta teach me to go to south Florida for a weekend. Somebody tell me when Dick Cheney's birth certificate expires. Maybe then I'll plan a trip back to the Sunshine State...

Monday, June 23, 2008

You are under no obligation to do anything stupid.
- attributed to Warren Buffett

Stupid was seeing a guy in a red car a few spaces ahead of us hydroplane on the wet highway and end up in the wall. The stupid piled on as Dan called 911 to report the wreck and was put on hold by the state highway patrol. I hope the driver is okay.


At 8 AM, Dan left the room to attend one of the first meetings of his conference, and, infuriatingly for me, he slammed the door, which I should have known he'd do. It woke up the little guy, who instantly started in on the track he'd been on the day before.

"We're going to the beach, right, Mom?"
"Uuuurrrgggghhh, yeeeesss...but you have to get dressed."
No problem there. It takes this child a half-hour to three-quarters of an hour to get his underwear on. Maybe I could sneak a little more sleep...
"Okay, Mom, I'm dressed! Let's go!"
Oh, dear God, he is, and it only took him two minutes.
"We need to get breakfast first, kiddo."
My son the Energizer bunny hops his way to the elevator and we head down to the breakfast room for something to eat. I give him his bagel and something to drink and think, okay, he'll take a long while here, too.
"Mom, I'm done! Beach, beach, beach!!!!"
"'ve only taken a few bites of your bagel..."
"Let's go to the beach, Mom!!! Today!!!"
And so we go. We spend four hours on the sand until I drag the child off to the hotel for lunchtime. It is then that I discover the burn of a thousand suns on my upper back and the backs of my thighs, where the sunblock spray apparently did not reach. Let's hear it for the third stupid move of the weekend. Thanks ever so much.

So glad we left on Sunday.


I seem to have been surrounded by those who have lost much these past few days. A young girl my son's age with nothing beneath her shins. A man frolicking in the surf with his family, his artificial leg lying on the beach for him to recover when he had had his fill of the water. A pretty woman in a bikini enjoying the beach with a friend - and the woman had only one arm. At first glance, these folks might look to be fairly disabled by what is thought to be the norm - but my son and the girl were having a ball climbing on all the playground equipment at the fast food place. The man and the bikini-clad woman were having a great time with family and friends.

And then, there's my husband.

We walked out of Magnificent Desolation at the IMAX theater at Kennedy Space Center and deposited our 3D glasses in the proper bins. "Well, I was able to discern the parts that were supposed to be 3D okay," Dan said with a grin.

I'd never really thought much about Dan's depth perception (or complete lack of it) before. The green-to-hazel color of his eyes, yes. What he could actually see with them, no.

"Huh," I said. "Sooo, if they had initially tested 3D movies on you back in the '50's, you'd have rained on their parade. 'This'll never work! NOTHING's jumping out at me!' " We both had a good laugh.

NOTHING holds my husband back, either.


Oh, you know a vacation is gonna be one to remember when your son is remembered for singing the Kinks at the beach first thing and some Tom Lehrer when he leaves. It will also be remembered for a great tour of NASA's Space Center in Florida, conducted on large tour buses playing informational videos about everything from what you'll see at shuttle launch pad 39 to the nifty creatures you'll be seeing at the wildlife refuge on which the space center sits (the alligators must get seriously pissed when a rocket blasts off - be happy you're watching most of the launches from home, America!). You won't forget the nifty Shuttle Launch Experience simulator that make your neck feel as though it is having the flesh pulled off it. Seeing the nice model of the Ares craft that is supposed to be sending astronauts to Mars in the (hopefully) near future is memorable as well ("It looks like it could be a Cross pen!" Dan comments on looking at a small metal model of the Ares). Checking out which books were omitted from the Space Shop is certainly noteworthy.

But the best moment comes when the little guy selects his purchase from the gift shop.

It's not a Saturn V.

It's not a space shuttle.

You guessed it...What did we expect? Nothing was blasting off pad 39 either day we were there. Nothing was landing at the strip nearby. The Saturn V on display took a backseat to the flocks of large, black, vulture-like birds amassed just outside the building in which it was housed. And hey, we haven't gone back to the moon since the early '70's.

Pull back and go, people. In 10, 9, 8....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yesterday, E begged somebody, anybody to head to the hastily-organized Recovery School District status meeting at the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.

Amy Lafont complied, and I'm glad she did.

Tonight at the hastily-announced RSD update meeting, I asked Paul Pastorek who was working on the return of schools to local governance. First, he said no-one was, then he said Bob O’Reilly with the Greater New Orleans Education Foundation. Mr. Pastorek further said that we must first define what type of system we want, then he said we cannot return the schools to a local system without the capacity to manage them.

I have heard of GNOEF before, not in a positive light (and not really since). Let’s look again:


Criteria for Board Selection :

Business, political and university leaders with strong interest in public education reform were chosen to lead the Foundation in its objectives and policies.

Executive Board :
Robert D. Riley (Co-Chair) - Vice President, The Reily Companies

Alden J. McDonald, Jr. (Co-Chair) - President & CEO, Liberty Bank and Trust

C. Ray Nagin (Vice-Chair) - Mayor, City of New Orleans

James Reiss, Jr. - Reiss Companies, LLC

Kenneth E. Pickering (Finance Co-Chair) - Partner, Pickering & Cotogno

Elizabeth Rack (Finance Co-Chair) - Former OPSB Member

Paul G. Pastorek - General Counsel, NASA

Dr. Gerri Elie - Retired Professor, Dillard University

R. King Milling - President, Whitney National Bank

Herschel L. Abbott, Jr. - Former President, Bell South-Louisiana

Dr. Brenda L. Mitchell - President, United Teachers of New Orleans

Florida Woods - President, Professional Administrators of New Orleans Public Schools

Policy Board :

Dr. Scott S. Cowen - President, Tulane University

Dr. Norman C. Francis - President, Xavier University

Dr. Alex Johnson - President, Delgado Community College

Rev. William J. Byron, S.J. - President, Loyola University

Dr. Timothy P. Ryan - Chancellor, University of New Orleans

Dr. Press L. Robinson - Chancellor, Southern University of New Orleans

Dr. Paul T. Caesar - President, Our Lady of Holy Cross College

Notice all the higher education folks on the policy board - and note that only one of the schools represented on the board has had the AAUP censure lifted. I wonder what sort of hiring practices will become a part of the RSD as a result of their judgments on policy?

Read the rest here. It goes into greater detail about key members of the movers and shakers behind the demise of public education in this city. And that final plea of hers is quite serious:

Too many lawyers, no parents. No hands-on educators, for that matter, either.

Can people who actually are a part of the public school system please have a voice in it?

Why are we begging? Haven’t we been through enough?


From the department of "Dear God, I'm so glad somebody outside of this city has been keeping tabs on the evisceration of our public education system." -

I admitted to someone recently that I was late to the words and findings of this woman's important work concerning what is going on in New Orleans. Leigh Dingerson was no doubt quoted in a recent Washington Post article on the charter schools here in part because she works out of the DC area, but also because she knows her stuff. A more recent version of the "Narrow and Unlovely" article that was published by Rethinking Schools last year is in an important book that ought to be required reading for educators, parents and administrators all over this country.
Keeping The Promise?: The Debate Over Charter Schools wouldn't be here without the help of these folks, either.

From Dingerson's Epilogue, January 2008:

...troubling aspects of chartering are beginning to emerge. In September 2007, the governing board at Lafayette Academy ousted Mosaica Education as the school's management company, charging that Mosaica had failed to live up to its promises to align the school's curriculum with state standards, and to create Individualized Education Plans for disabled students, among other things. Over 20 teachers and 200 students had left the school after its inaugural year.

On a broader scale, evidence is emerging that New Orleans charter schools, like a number of charter schools elsewhere, are failing to accept and/or to provide services to special needs students. The Times-Picayune reported that towards the end of the 2006-07 school year, the city's charter schools had lower percentages of special education students than the average, and that the Recovery district was serving a disproportionate number of disabled students.

Concerns around "push-outs" at charter schools - where charters pressure parents to "voluntarily withdraw" their child and to enroll instead in a traditional public school - have increased. Anecdotal evidence has been compelling enough that a national public television documentary is being developed to look at the issue.

The assessment scores in New Orleans in 2007 were, as expected, mixed. Some charter schools did well, others did not, and overall more charters showed declines in their test scores than showed improvement. Meanwhile, students continue to flood back into the Big Easy, many with physical and psychological needs that make it crucial that the city's public education system serve them with fairness and purpose. (boldface mine)

Can the market do that? The evidence so far clearly says no.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I have many, many thoughts going through my brain these days, almost to a point of utter confusion for myself. It can be difficult for me to concentrate on one thing at a time. I have trouble finishing many of the things I am starting. I am doing my best to put off sleep in a futile effort to keep tomorrow from ever arriving.

I know what these are symptoms of, as I once encountered them before twelve summers ago, for five days out of each week. It took a great deal of strength and a lot of talking about it to trusted friends and relatives for me to slog through it. I went through that hell and I kept going. Deep down, I know I will get through this one. But it will be hard, because, in the end, each time is different.

I cannot resist comparing times past to right now. It is a manner of coping. It is a constant battle to try not to be condemned to repeating history. It is an effort to head into a breach armed with an arc-welder instead of duct tape - sure, it might be overkill, but it at least marks a better effort to be prepared.

But, in the end...prepared for what?

My father and I talked about the torrential rains that turned my street into a river this morning. I had called to wish him a happy Father's Day and we ended up reminiscing about street flooding we had known in Houston, where I had grown up. The time when the water rose to our front steps. When Dad decided to tackle a carpooling trip to school one morning through a horrific downpour only to be turned away by the fire department only blocks from school, much to us kids' delight, because the water was higher than his '79 Ford Bronco. When Dad was driving home in his Trans Am in a flooded street and realized the tires weren't touching the asphalt.

"Your mother thinks a lot of water is headed down your way," he said, referring to the floods inundating Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

My first impulse is to say yeah, same ol' same ol', but I hold that back.

It's not the same as a hurricane possibly bearing down on your home. It's not the destructive power of a storm surge pressing its way up a man-made funnel and pushing back what we thought were carefully engineered barriers that would withstand that pressure. It's not going to expose in the same way how much our infrastructure has broken down, or how much our current so-called leadership is failing us daily.

And yet, we are all bound by water. By its power to hurt. By the unpredictability of its flow. By how much that is grossly underestimated on a regular basis.

This is a fine line we walk, this line between "I told you so" and "How can we help?"

It is the difference between despair and hope.

Between misery and uplift.

Brokenness and healing.

How do we balance this?

It is questions such as these that have plagued human beings from time immemorial...and the ones that seem to have come up with the best answers to those questions are the ones who put aside the comparisons for another day - a day when as many people as possible are out of harm's way.

R'fuah shleimah goes out to the people of these river cities from me.

Please be safe and strong and become imbued with the strength to recover and rebuild.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The SMD continues...

Came back from an important exploration of an employment opportunity this morning to find my son in a vegetative state in front of Ratatouille for the fifty-bazillionth time. I thought of taking him to the new Insectarium in town, but my Audubon Institute membership doesn't cover it. Fifteen dollars (ten for the little guy) is a bit too steep for my blood - plus, the only thing he's really fascinated by, bug-wise, is the forearm-sized millipede, which really gives me the creeps.

"When will they include the cost of it in with the membership?" Dan asked on hearing the cost of the tickets.

"When hell freezes a thousand times over," I said.

The sky opened up and rained down on us instead, keeping us inside. It treated us all to the spectacle of my husband going through my son's books, isolating most of the board books and/or the stories he'd clearly outgrown, and then clearing them with the little guy. One particular grouping had a JayJay the Jet Plane board book, Little Bear and Safari Sam, Is Your Mama A Llama?, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Guess which one the kid wanted to keep, much to my husband's chagrin?

"I want the JayJay book," the child says. "Put it on my tab."

"What??????!!!?!?!?" I said, laughing heartily.

"Uhhhh....I mean, my bookshelf."

More small groupings are run by the little guy. Guess How Much I Love You goes. A Clifford lift-the-flaps book is a keeper, as is The Monster At The End Of This Book. A Blue's Clues push-button sounds book is kaput, thank God. The keeper that causes the most hilarity amongst us cruel parents, however...

"He's keeping it?" I say, giggling uncontrollably.

Dan holds up Time To Pee and grimaces. "I think he's just keeping the largest books he sees, now, " he says.

"Well, that one might be a keeper due to sentimental value..." I say, and Dan snickers.

Yes, the child is potty-trained, and that book was used to aid in that training quite a bit...but I think all those mice on every page holding up encouraging signs have imprinted themselves on my son's brain and invaded his imagination. He sees imaginary mice in movies, TV programs, and in the car on occasion, along with the leopard penguins, Curious George, and various other imaginary creatures. If all these things were real, my home would be a smelly mess...or, at least, one that would make the smelly mess that is currently my home even smellier and messier. Whatever...

I surf the web for curiosities on the CompUSA Special as Dan checks out some opportunities of his own and we all watch the "3 Ring Government" video on Schoolhouse Rock. "It certainly is," Dan says.

"That's the truth!" I say. "I think about that every time I see this! Life imitates art, huh? Then again, this was done post-Watergate, right?"

"Mom, I want cucumbers for dessert!" the kid declares. We have no choice but to comply, since trying to get the little guy to down even halfway healthy foods is a tough order these days.

"Today, the books. Tomorrow, the toys!" Dan says as he slices up a cucumber, and I become a little sad for the fifth time today. Things are changing very fast for us these days. The boy is definitely growing up. Big changes are coming for Dan and me in the employment department...

...and now Dan is back from the ice cream parlor.

So, so glad he didn't come back with that candied bacon and cinnamon flavor. Seriously pukeworthily treif, that stuff...

Friday, June 13, 2008

On the one hand, I count myself very lucky to have gotten the little guy into a good school. A confluence of events has us paying very little for a quality education. I'll be the first to tell anybody that we got everything lined up just perfectly - applying just after the storm for a place we already knew was good pre-8-29 and remained so, getting the then-three-year-old guy tested for pre-K entry, getting all the ducks in order, and then settling down to pray, knowing that, if worse came to worst, we'd pay for the preschool he was already in. The planets aligned and the earth smiled upon us, because he's been in the school we applied to for two years.

On the other hand, any parent who has a smidgen of empathy for what other families are going through knows that things could be otherwise. The situation in these parts is fast making the advice I gave in previous posts and to other parents fairly untenable and overly optimistic.

Like shifting sands, the elementary and secondary educational landscape is changing so fast that, by the time one whips his/her head around to see what moved, one is up to his/her neck in complications. Unaccredited schools. Move-as-we-go-along types of nonexistent plans for rebuilding physical buildings and traditional public, locally-run schools.

And now...lotteries designed to keep diversity in check.

A few weeks ago there was some controversy over Audubon giving first preference to French nationals, but the Times-Picayune and school officials concealed much more than that. Not only is preference given to French Nationals, but siblings of current students are also given preference—a practice that the Justice Department has forced other schools to stop because of racial discrimination. Moreover, to qualify for the "tier one" lottery, students have to have attended a private French Language academy or a private Montessori school. To prevent low-income students who might have found a free French or Montessori school from getting in the lottery, Audubon actually lists only ""approved/accredited" schools on the last page—all expensive private schools. This may be the only "open enrollment" public school in the U.S. that makes genetics or a private school education a condition of admission. You can bet that no one in the "second tier" ever gets in.

And some more loopholes being exploited:

Note also that the school passed itself off as Katrina victims and got the Eagle Scouts and Americorp to expand the current playground. All this while the school raises $26,000 for a vacation in France and schools like Carver Elementary, an RSD school, are housed in trailers and have no playground so children have no recess.

No, this isn't strictly news. This has been happening for a while.

As someone who got lucky, as a family who got a foot in the right door and managed to pry it open wide at the right time, I feel I have an obligation to put this longtime happening out. As parents, we need to be better educated about what is going on...and it's giving us all whiplash, figuratively speaking, and making the odds against our children getting a quality public education grow to gigantic proportions, I know...

...but we have to keep up. 8-29 provided the perfect opportunity for many, many decisions to be made without the input of parents concerning the educational system here. If we continue to keep our heads down once we take care of our own and fail to question what is going on, then everyone fails. It's as good as signaling the current decision-makers of the whole "system of schools" here that we are putty in their hands to be molded in whatever way they choose.

Got to say, though, this only contributes to the summer of my discontent.

Fine, fine. I'll just have to suck it up...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm entering a summer of my discontent - for a number of reasons.
  1. I'm no longer camp counseloring. I really didn't think I'd miss it all that much, and deep down, I don't. My son is kind of bewildered that I'm not working there, and I hope he doesn't decide to freak out this summer as a result. I think he'll be fine overall - if he doesn't mind the two and a half weeks we'll be taking out of that camp time to visit family, attend a friend's wedding, and just generally do the National Lampoon's Vacation-type road trip thing that only we can do.
  2. I'm freaked out at the prospect of getting my blood taken. Really. It's a routine thing to have done so that I can get my antidepressant prescription refilled regularly, but it gets me into a coma when I see it being done to me - or to anyone else, as was evidenced by my struggle to keep myself from keeling when the little guy's blood had to be taken once. I discussed this with the doc and the prescription for that was: Xanax before I go in to be poked, and the presence of a friend to help distract me while the deed is being done. Oy vey iz mir.
  3. I'm saddened that this went through the state Senate with the help of our state senator: Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, called that a great victory for 1,500 children who she said are more important than doctrinaire allegiance to public schools. "If I can help just one child, that child could be the one who goes on to change the system we're debating here today," said Duplessis, who carried Badon's bill in the upper chamber. ...but I guess that's par for the course these days. I'm also kicking myself a tad for cluing in to the prescient words of this woman a little late in the game. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of a publication of hers - but this is pretty sobering as well. Speaking of the private schools, hasn't anyone told the folks at McGehee that their slogan: "McGehee girls go everywhere", is as old as the hills and may not have the connotations they think it should? To get my meaning more fully, put the phrase "Good girls go to heaven" in front of their slogan...and you'll see what I mean.
  4. I'm feeling the lack of music in my life. This one is pretty serious, folks. Sure, I listen to the radio in the car. About 20 percent of what comes on the stations I listen to is stuff I really love, 50 percent of it I can live with, and the remaining 30 percent has me turning it off. I'm driving the car that has a tape player, and I was using an adapter to help play CDs in the car, but I think what is now needed is a tape head cleaner for the car's player - and that is a piece of obsolete technology in this day and age of MP3s, iPods, and satellite radio. It's true - I've looked around. If anybody's got a tape head cleaner, let me know. Otherwise, I'll just suffer through the radio and dream of being able to play some of the following while I'm being chauffeur mom:

Keller Williams, Laugh: I'm listening to it right now in the kitchen and taking in some "One-Hit Wonder". I'm also anticipating listening to my personal fave of his on the same album, "Kidney In A Cooler". It contains that classic refrain of "Perpendicular teeth/in little America/Deliver the kidney/in my double-decker double-wide". You just...have to listen to it, that's all. I heard that song on the radio just outside of my parents' teeny Pennsylvania town when Dan and I were driving up there for a visit and thought I was hallucinating from fatigue when I heard the lyrics. I then wondered if we were indeed approaching the right town, because I'd heard nothing like it on the radio my last two high-school years in the same town. Wish I had.

Feist, The Reminder: I like the chanteuse vibe she gets - and, unlike her last album, it isn't a total snooze the whole way through, with just one really good one ("Mushaboom") that stands out. I keep coming back to this one again and again, coming away with a different song in my head each time. Lately it's been "I Feel It All", or "Brandy Alexander", or, on occasion, "My Moon, My Man".

Bill Hicks, Rant in E-Minor and Flying Saucer Tour, Vol. 1:'s...comedic..PULL! And yeah, I oughn't to be playing this one while the little guy is in the car, and I don't. Still and all, I think having pro-lifers put their money where their mouths are and block the cemeteries is a hoot, as is the concept that we all need to squeegee our third eye from time to time through ingesting the stuff that grows on the meadow muffins. Great words and thoughts from a Houston boy who died waaaay too young.

Nellie McKay, Get Away From Me: Look at you you're young/Havin' so much fun/gonna be a star/blah blah blah/and click there goes the phone/I don't wanna know/what my horoscope's predicting/Just pour me a drink/'cause I need a kick/I don't wanna think/I just wanna sip... And it gets better from there.

Big Star, Third/Sister Lovers: Thank yoooou friiiiiieeeeeeends, wouldn't be here if it wasn't for yeeeew... The whole thing grows on me every time I listen to it. "Kizza Me" and "Stroke It Noel" are particular favorites of mine.

Ray Davies, Working Man's Cafe: Yeah, his latest. I love "Imaginary Man", and I haven't listened to this one enough. Must remedy that this summer.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights: To longtime readers of this blog, this comes as no surprise. Since I ordered my album early, it came with a compilation Daptone Records' WDAP Ghetto Funk Power Hour CD that I also love, as it also includes a version of this song. And, this Jewish girl cain't get enough of Miss Sharon rockin' the gospel on "Answer Me": "Answer me, sweet Jee-sus, can't you hear me callin' you, Ah-I need you Loord". My mother-in-law thought I'd lost my head when I dragged her into the Gospel Tent at JazzFest one year - and "Answer Me" brings back that feeling we had in there, when she saw the light and I basked in its glow a little.

Bettye LaVette, The Scene Of The Crime: Haven't listened to this one enough, either, which is a complete and utter crime. I loved her I've Got My Own Hell To Raise so much that when Madame Dangerblond mentioned the powers that hold sway over these things were thinking of bringing Ms LaVette to JazzFest this past year, I was torn between lending her the album to pass on and tip the scales towards getting her to New Orleans or hoarding it and keeping it for me, me, and only me to listen to it. The other part of my crime relating to this woman: I had to miss her performance at JazzFest. Yeah, just drag me off to the clink right now, folks. I deserve it.

Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense: Special New Edition: Some guys I knew, who learned somehow that they were staying in the same room David Byrne stayed in when he attended college for a short period of time before he met up with Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz and got the Heads started, managed to figure out which side of the room he'd slept on and they rearranged their beds to get some sort of talent vibes they imagined were emanating from that wall while they slept. They should have listened to the albums instead, like I did all through high school and college. This particular edition of Stop Making Sense is especially good, mainly because it includes a number of songs that weren't on the original album release. I've fallen in love with "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" all over again, as well as "Heaven". Great live album. Period.

Bonerama, Bringing It Home; Ingrid Lucia & the Flying Neutrinos, Don't Stop: Mea culpas all around to these musicians. Haven't listened to these enough, either. Special favorites: "Mr. Go" and Ingrid doing "Mind Your Own Business" and "There'll Be Some Changes Made".

And, last but not least:

Just listen to it. And go see the man live when you get a chance. I am proud to offer my cowbell-holding services to him anytime.

Since I'm in a weird mood, if anyone can guess which of the folks in this series is one of my favorite actors/actresses, I'll pass on a mix of songs from the abovementioned albums, complete with a few surprise songs, to the lucky stiff who guesses correctly. You have until next Tuesday, 6-17, at noon to figure it out.

Hopefully, I'll be a little less discontented by then...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Two must-reads:

Scout gives us an article of impeachment introduced by Dennis Kucinich:

Article XXXI


In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed", has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates, failed to take sufficient action to protect life and property prior to and in the face of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, given decades of foreknowledge of the dangers of storms to New Orleans and specific forewarning in the days prior to the storm. The President failed to prepare for predictable and predicted disasters, failed to respond to an immediate need of which he was informed, and has subsequently failed to rebuild the section of our nation that was destroyed.

Also via First Draft:


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

Somebody, get me Nora Charles. I need to become a very superior 1930's wife whilst taking care of Asta and solving crimes with my husband Dan/Nick/NicholASS (as my disapproving parents call him) as we raise our growing child.

Another must-read: AccreditateGate:

According to the few responses I have recieved and based on prior knowledge from an old Coastal Georgia accreditation situation, applying for accreditation from a regional accrediting organization (such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools [SACS]) is a fairly lenthy and expensive process. Current timelines indicate that an application can take up to 5 years to complete, and that comes after 3 years of data collection at the applicant school or district.

That makes some sense. As I understand it, the district or the school is responsible for proving to the accreditor that they should be accredited. It can take some time to prove that you adhere to the appropriate standards to recieve the stamp of approval.

But 8 years is one hell of a long time, especially if the RSD started operating as a blank slate in 2006. That means it could take until 2009 for the very first RSD schools to start applying and the first RSD schools won't recieve accreditation until 2014 at the earliest.

I have also learned that the individuals most affected by a school or district's accreditation are high school seniors applying to colleges. If you are going to a college or university that is regionally accredited, your admission is aided if you went to a high school that also had regional accreditation. If your high school was not regionally accredited, you may face additional hurdles when attempting to go to college. For the record, most of the recognizable colleges and universities have regional accreditation.

In response to this, many high schools require the GEE to graduate. This is a standardized exam that aids a passing student in proving to a regionally accredited university that the student's education has met certain standards necessary for admission.

Another way accreditation affects students is when it comes to transfer credits... Many accredited schools will not accept transfer credits from non-accredited schools. This again becomes problematic for students as they may have to repeat classes based on what schools they end up attending in different years. I can also forsee this being a problem for students who attend RSD middle schools who then attempt to attend OPSB high schools that maintain accreditation. Let that roll around for a minute.

I have no current evidence that this has happened, but I wonder how many parents have been or will be told their children can't attend Lusher, O.P. Walker, Ben Franklin or Warren Easton not based on grades or LEAP scores, but because their children didn't attend an accredited middle school. (I also wonder how long it will take voucher-supporters to begin using this argument to further their cause.)

If y'all need me, I'll be taking advantage of the world's biggest time sink. I don't know whether to thank the Cajun Boy or whack him for the introduction...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Via a comment on Schroeder's latest post on Paul Alexander's excerpt comes this lovely bit of smackdown. Bill Moyers turning some tables on The O'Reilly Factor's producer, who is doing his damnedest to get Moyers on the show.

More on this here.

This also came down the pike today. And it begins with a man whose school is doing this for its teachers, when they don't even have enough textbooks for the kids :

Alford, 33, launched Langston Hughes Academy for kindergarten through sixth grade in a stately, yellow, peachy-red Mid-City school building that withstood eight feet of floodwater after the August 2005 hurricane. One day this spring, he strolled a third-floor corridor that had fresh paint, student work and college banners on the walls. "Thinking about my kids keeps me up at night," he said, "but the larger mission is there -- like, wow . . . we will never have this chance again, and if it is successful, other cities should do it, too."

Other things I found interesting about this article:

Some critics call the charter invasion of New Orleans a challenge to democratic values. Writing about New Orleans in a new book, Leigh Dingerson, education team leader for the Center for Community Change in the District, says Louisiana school authorities have "opened a flea market of entrepreneurial opportunism that is dismantling the institution of public education in New Orleans."

But most educators and parents here are not taking sides in the ideological war over charters. An October teachers union report warned against "destructive rivalry" between regular and charter schools. Christian Roselund, spokesman for the United Teachers of New Orleans, said "the jury is still out" on how schools of any kind are going to perform. Regular schools are changing, too, and some state officials want to give tax-funded vouchers to help students attend private schools. Eighty-three percent of New Orleans public school families have low incomes.

Before the flood, New Orleans usually ranked near the bottom nationally in reading and math. This spring, results from the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program tests show modest gains for schools here, but overall achievement is still poor. There is no data yet on how charters compared with regular schools. About a third of fourth- and eighth-graders flunked the latest state tests. Sixty percent of sophomores failed in their first try at English and math tests that they must pass to graduate.

As we have seen here before, educators and parents can't afford to take sides in this right now. For educators, it means their jobs...and much more. For parents - let's look at that statistic again: Eighty-three percent of New Orleans public school families have low incomes. They can't afford to be shopping around. And they are only being further shortchanged by the fact that most of these schools being discussed are in the unaccredited RSD.

Dingerson faults Louisiana authorities for allowing charters to pour into New Orleans after the hurricane with "no coordinated vision or plan for how the system they were building would serve children well and equitably."

Charters snapped up rent-free school buildings, she wrote, recruited students they wanted and shut their doors to other applicants. Regular public schools had to admit any student who showed up during the school year, despite disruption to classes. "The city's regular schools now struggle to serve a disproportionate number of students with special needs," she wrote in an e-mail.

More on all of this here from someone else who knows.

Oh, and as for Langston Hughes Academy, these words coming from the Harlem Renaissance poet himself come to mind:

Maybe it was just that I was getting older and straighter and saw more of what was really happening. Maybe Harlem had really changed. At any rate, I saw that to even have a Harlem in 1965 was insanity. I didn't feel guilty and ashamed, I just felt sad and angry.

Langston and I spent most of the afternoon talking about his poems. I talked about Harlem with him too, how I'd noticed that it seemed different to me.

"I'm sure you're seeing a little clearer," he told me, "but it has changed. All those hundreds of years of bitterness and frustrations are beginning to overflow. We've been promised so much for so long and now there's so much to be had, a lot of the young people figure if they don't get it they're going to go out and take it. I'm a different generation. You see, I love Harlem. I've lived all over the world and I still find it's one of the most beautiful places I know. But the younger people don't feel this way. History is finally catching up with America. Still, I hate to see the anger in the young faces all the time - it's even hard for me to write my Simple stories anymore. There's so much bitterness and anger that they don't seem to be as funny as they used to."*

History may be catching up with America. It probably did a while ago and we fought it with all our might and are still fighting it. Problem is, I think we are doing our damnedest to beat it back with the use of money, centuries of corruption, loopholes out the wazoo, wars, the manipulation of our sense of what is right through the way things really are, and, still, discrimination - a stealthy, underground, "oh no, not me", "but that's illegal!" sort of discrimination.

When do we start to really overcome?



*from Vibrations by David Amram

Update, 11:59 AM: More on this article from Hurricane Radio

G-Bitch details more of what teachers go through.

E directs us to a Times-Picayune article on Paul Vallas.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Although the day before was, overall, a good one, this one was shaping up to be an achy disaster. I felt like I'd been through a wringer, and, atop that feeling, I had to find ways to amuse my son, who was in his second full day of summer vacation.

As the day went on, we were both getting frustrated. I made the decision to drag us both out into the heat and have an outing at the local dog park. It ended up being a literal drag, as the kid wanted to head over in chunky style in his plastic red wagon. We opened the door, I yanked the wagon down our front steps and beheld her, standing by the fence, imploring me with her bleeding hand, "Baby, please, I need me a paper towel or a Band-Aid."

The shock of sudden sunlight and the waves of humid heat lapping at me made this woman at my gate seem almost like a bad dream. "Okay," I automatically said. I admonished my son to stay put in the wagon and I stomped upstairs to get both the paper towels and a bandage.

I instantly realized I'd probably made some kind of mistake. I'd left a five-year-old child down there with a woman I didn't know at all...but our dog was down there with him, so I guess that was all right. What the hell was I doing, anyway? I pushed those thoughts out of my head and concentrated on getting what this woman needed, as well as seeing how bad this injury she had really was.

I came down the steps and took a closer look at her as we wiped the blood off her hands and found that it was only a small cut on one of her fingers, something that could easily be covered with the average-sized Band-Aid I put on it. "Thank you, thank you," she said, and I saw that she looked older than she probably was. She wore a purple t-shirt from a volunteer organization operating in the city and some dark shorts. And she was standing on the burning pavement in bare feet.

"Got any shoes, baby?" she asked.

"No, I'm so sorry," I said, knowing that my feet were too small and any spare shoes I had wouldn't fit her. I could have kicked myself for thinking, much later, that she probably could have used a pair of my husband's shoes.

"S'okay," she said with a small smile. "I am just so thirsty, so if you have some water..."

"Wait right here," I said, thinking to myself, here you go again. Fine, then. I'm leaving my son downstairs with her again. He was taking all of this fairly quietly, although, when I came back down with a squirt bottle full of ice water for her to keep, she was giggling softly at something he'd said to her.

"Here, keep it," I said, giving it to her. She thanked me and walked down the street.

I instantly felt ashamed at my impatience at wanting to get my son to the park through the two treks up and down my stairs. I kept looking back at her as I pulled my son and my dog towards the park in the opposite direction from her, watching to see where she went, wondering what I ought to do from there. I was torn in two.

How could I have helped her more?

Should I go back, or keep going?

Dammit, I should have grabbed a pair of my husband's shoes! They would have fit! I turned back one more time, and she had vanished.

I was sad. I still am sad.

How can I help everybody effectively when I feel like such a mess?

And if I'm feeling this way...what must all the people who are working every day with folks like the woman at my gate be feeling?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Comment on Pat's latest post:

and now...the punchline!

The best/worst part about this whole thing, is that you basically can't use this on your resume as 'teaching experience' as you did not teach in an accredited school system. That means you, and anybody else who's been in the RSD teaching, likely will have a hell of a time explaining what exactly you've been doing with your time, teaching for un-accredited schools.

This will impact anyone currently teaching for the RSD who wants to move to a job in an accredited school system, as most/all of these systems want to see x number of years of experience in an accredited school.

Oh, yeah, this just keeps getting better.

Especially when one considers some other instances of people doing well by their fellow human beings lately and nearly three years ago.

Going back under my rock, now...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Feedback on yesterday's post:

This list (also from SACS) has only 9 schools in Orleans Parish listed. But those are for the Orleans Parish School Board.

Check down the list further, and you can see that the Archdiocese of New Orleans maintains 55 accredited schools in the Parish.

St. Tammany maintains 52. Plaquemines has 7. Jefferson Parish maintains 44.

None are RSD schools. I even checked down the list to see if the RSD counted as a seperate district as SACS rules go. Nope.

I was thinking about this just the other day, too, as I was going through old papers of my Pre-New Orleans life, and the big thing we were dealing with in Glynn County, Georgia was being put on probation by SACS.

Just. Fing. Wow.


Am I missing something? The child is already in a private (accredited?) school and they need to go to summer school (why?) that is accredited (but not the same school). And there aren't any public accredited schools in New Orleans, so they would have to go to a private accredited school in New Orleans but instead they are going to a public accredited one in Kenner (can you even do this if you live in New Orleans?).

My response:

Well, this is another reason why I'm opening this up for discussion. I think she had her kids enrolled in private school in Kenner for the past school year and discovered, upon needing to enroll 'em in summer school, that there are few accredited schools in Orleans parish that are NOT private schools. I believe another part of the plan was to transfer the child to a good public school closer to home after this stint in Kenner.

Applying for a private school here or schlepping out to Kenner will be costly either way. What will be just as costly for more people than just this mother is if there are only nine accredited public schools in this city and the elementary and secondary student population keeps growing.


Yes, Leigh, you got it and thank you for posting it as such.

My son failed Spanish. My family put my kids in that school upon finding us in the same sort of bad straights we are in now. I would love for them to continue there but I can't afford the transportation and time away from work. It is "unsustainable."

I was lucky not to be raised in Southeast Louisiana my whole life, and I have attended some great public schools elsewhere. I had really hoped after Katrina that this was possible here for my children, but these hopes have all but died. It won't happen with Pastorek in charge, I assure you.

Every year since my kids were born, I have resolved enrollment a year ahead of time, getting my kids into mac16 and Lusher and really good nursery schools back in the day. If I had a great public neighborhood, I could put so much energy into it. Instead we have been treated very poorly. (bold and italics are mine)

I'm so mad, and sad, and tired. I don't know what to do. Why aren't more people speaking up? Alot of people say its so much information, it's hard to keep up with. And we keep getting told things after they happen.

For instance, did you know that the RSD accepted a grant from the notorius Walton Foundation back on Feb, to re-design all the school programs? They are paying Vallas asshole consultants $48,000 year to be appointed heads of committees for schools, where local stakeholders are piecemealed and marginalized. The whole thing is fake, I saw it all happen. Frankly I'm disgusted.

Check your schools here. Raise some hell about this. This is truly our children's futures at stake in this region...and this is a diminishing return on a too-sluggish recovery from 8-29-05. Yeah, that's right. Very few accredited schools can equal little to no lasting recovery in struggling neighborhoods all over this city.

I'm gonna crawl into a hole someplace and weep for a while. I'm also gonna wish I'd thought to check this out before this happened. Even if the Paultards Vallas and Pastorek had creatively weaseled their way out of answering the question, at least it would be out there.

Update, 2:47 PM: Coozan Pat weighs in with more.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Oh. My. Lord.

Dear Friends,

While enrolling my son in summer school, I was mandated by his private school that he could only take classes from an accredited school. My research led me to discover that the RSD and its charter schools are not accredited. I am upset considering the ramifications for this. I don't understand how this situation (RSD) can continue unchecked.I cannot afford to continue to drive to and from Kenner twice a day to bring my kids to school. I have not re-enrolled them there for next year. We don't have any acceptable options for next year, after having exhaustively searched, again and again. Right now they are not enrolled anywhere, and I don't know what's going to happen to us.

I hope to God this is wrong, wrong, wrong. If not, this city is in serious trouble.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Ashley Morris' Superdome seat is for sale. Chef Who Dat has a great idea:

How about fellow Who Dats get on board and buy that second seat for Hana? Then, she can do as she likes . . . bring a kid or two . . . bring a derby girl . . . bring a friend, etc.

I'm in for $38, which buys me the sponsorship to the home opener vs. the Bucs. Any sponsors for the other 8 regular season/pre-season games?

Sounds like a plan. Keep Hana in her spot in the Dome, and chip in, if you can!
UPDATE: Seat is GONE And Emily Litella comes to mind...

E informs us of Gerrick Lewis' insightful look at the New Orleans public schools post-storm. Have a read. Lewis gets it right.

Francine Stock has been doing some great work on her arguments for the preservation of modern architecture in New Orleans over at XXNO::Regional Modernism: her nomination of New Orleans' modernist public schools made the New Orleans Nine Most Endangered Properties list for this year. To see the current conditions of some of the sites she discusses, check some pictures out.

Off to take the little guy in for his last (half) day of school until August/September. I'll also be taking a break from the litany of questions about "Do cars/jets/buses/airplanes/boats need engines?" and Do cars/jets/buses/airplanes/boats need washes?"

Answers: "Most of them" and "Occasionally" over and over and over and over and over and....

Monday, June 02, 2008

A point-by-point critique of Jarvis DeBerry's latest column on school vouchers by Coozan Pat raises an important point about standardized testing:

In order to teach at a public school, I had to take a training course. I had to take certification classes. I've been around Master of Education classes and I took certification classes waay back at UGA for my first major. Every single one of these "how to be a teacher" programs stressed the idea that not every child learns in the same way. They all stressed that there will be students in my classes who are not on the same level. Every single class drilled into me that there was no "one size fits all" model in education. Every. Single. Class.

So, why the f**k do we force our students to endure "one size fits all" testing? No comparison in the world would be 'apples to apples.' Hell, comparing the testing results from the school I taught at this year to the testing results from other schools wouldn't even be considered 'apples to apples.' More like 'apples to orange soda.'

These tests aren't even designed to compare apples to the same apples! They exist in a vaccum of assuming every student shows up in the 4th or 8th grade with the same amount of pre-knowledge from the 3rd or 7th grade, regardless of their 3rd or 7th grade iLEAP scores.

And Princeton Review keeps makin' that money!!

Well, yeah, they are....despite needing to do their own financials a tad more carefully, and even then, they came out well. It's a bottom-line gain that must be great for company stockholders, and it makes for an interesting twist on the arguments against all the standardized tests - it's not just about privatizing the schools, it's also about who's really raking it in in all of this mess.

Let's see who else might be profiting off the standardized testing frenzy:

* Tutoring provisions divert money from classrooms that most need it, giving assistance to the few at the expense of the many. Tutoring focuses on test preparation and rarely connects to the curriculum. Student attendance is often low. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) paves the way for private firms to reap huge profits but does not hold the firms accountable.

It works this way in Canada too, apparently.

And then I came across one teacher's test protest, which highlights everything that is wrong about what is going on in the schools today. The whole thing is a must-read....just replace the WASL with the LEAP, Texas' TEAMS test, or any other high-stakes test you can name, and it still rings very true. I've quoted some sections of it below:

On April 15, I refused to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to my sixth-grade students at a Seattle Public Schools middle school. I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents.

It is important for me to note that my disobedient action was not directed at any individual. I love being a teacher; my students are fantastic; my fellow teachers collaborate with and help me every day in numerous ways; and my school administration has always shown a willingness to listen to and support the teachers. I understand that my action has caused people pain, and I am truly sorry for that, but I could no longer stand idly by as something as wrong as the WASL is perpetrated on our children year after year.

Though my act of civil disobedience was individual, I do not stand alone in my strong beliefs. Any Internet search for high-stakes testing will reveal highly regarded educators, distressed parents and sensitive teachers with a wealth of thoughtful writing and case studies supporting my views.

The WASL is bad for kids.

To my mind the measure of successful childhood is that each child learns about who she or he is and how the world works, gains an assertive and confident self image and feels safe, well fed, and happy. Schools, along with parents and communities, need to contribute wisely to this goal. Unfortunately, the WASL creates panic, insecurity, low self esteem and sadness for our children....

  • When I was a teacher at Graham Hill Elementary in Seattle, a number of my students received their WASL scores to find that they had "failed". When I looked at the notices being sent to their parents I saw that each student had come to within just a few points of actually passing and that their scores were well within the gray area, or "margin of error," for the test. The "test scientists" aren't sure whether the student passed or failed, yet the school tells the student he or she failed. These students cried when they saw the results.

  • When I first started teaching, Graham Hill could afford Americorps tutors, numerous classroom aides and had money for field-trip busses and ample supplies. By the time I stopped teaching there, Americorps was gone, there were no classroom aides except for parent volunteers, and everything else was in short supply.

  • Teaching and testing during my last year at Graham Hill was challenging. I was on my own in a room with 29 students, 10 percent did not speak English, 50 percent of them spoke another language at home, several of them were homeless, and many of them had severe emotional challenges due to parental pre-natal drug use, violence and abuse.

  • No one ever asked me or any of the teachers I know whether high-stakes testing was a good idea. In fact, we teachers are made to jump through seemingly endless hoops to prove our worthiness to be professional, certificated educators. Public school teachers are responsible for the educational lives of over a million students in Washington state, yet, in the end, no one actually wants to listen to what teachers have to say about what is best for the students in our care.

  • Oh, and don't miss the EdWeek online chat tomorrow at 2 PM CST with Pauls Vallas and Pastorek (info courtesy of G-Bitch). Got any questions for 'em? They are accepting submissions...

    All questions are screened by an editor and the guest speaker prior to posting. A question is not displayed until it is answered by the guest speaker. Due to the volume of questions received, we cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered, or answered in the order of submission. Guests and hosts may decline to answer any questions. Concise questions are strongly encouraged.

    but who the heck knows if they'll even be asked? Or answered? Submit some queries and find out!

    Update, 4:34 PM: Ms Maitri, in her sick-as-a-dawg state, alerts us to the nifty New Orleans Public Schools mashup map put together to help monitor the recovery of the schools. Feel better, madame! Perhaps a special spoon might help...

    Anudder update, 7:39 PM: If this measure to LEAP test the kids who are in private schools with the help of school vouchers goes through, everybody might want to explore an en masse opt-out...but then, we probably ought to just educate our kids in another state or country, since the LEAP is required for promotion in the public schools here. Ugh.