Buzz about Chain Gang Elementary

News of Chain Gang Elementary has hit the Twitterverse, big time:

Diane Ravitch, the noted educator with more than 20,000 followers, tweets: “Truth or fiction: ‘Chain Gang Elementary’ cuts too close to reality. A novel that reads like daily news.”

Well, I must confess: I made it up, although it is topical and poignant. And I think it reads better than the news.

Ms. Ravitch tweeted this after seeing this excerpt from the book.

Oh, no! Police say principal ripped off PTA in Delaware

It’s a bad sign to begin with when parents aren’t running the PTA.  From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

An elementary school principal is under arrest in Delaware for stealing money from fund-raisers and a PTA account.

Jacob J. Getty, Jr., 43, of Wilmington, stole more than $18,000 from March 2009 through August 2011 while holding the top job at New Castle’s Eisenberg Elementary School, according to state police.

He turned himself in on Sunday after police obtained warrants for his arrest.

Getty was also suspended without pay by the Colonial School District, and sent a letter of intent to dismiss, said spokeswoman Lauren Wilson.

Getty, who had access to the school PTA’s checkbook, is alleged to have taken more than $4,000 for personal use by making 11 pre-signed checks out to himself.

Officials fear darker days ahead for school budgets

A modest proposal: Georgia could repeal the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which siphons tax dollars away from state coffers to benefit private schools, and put the $60 million it regains back into public schools.

From the Associated Press:

Educators across America … are bracing for a tough reality. Even in a best-case scenario that assumes strong economic growth next year, it won’t be until 2013 or later when districts see budget levels return to pre-recession levels, said Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va. That means more cuts and layoffs are likely ahead.

“The worst part is that it’s not over,” Domenech said.

Already, an estimated 294,000 jobs in the education sector have been lost since 2008, including those in higher education.

To read the full article, click here.

Cheating probe in Dougherty yields confessions

The Atlanta School System isn’t the only one on the hot seat. State investigators also have been looking into CRCT irregularities in Southwest Georgia’s Dougherty County.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

State investigators are winding down a probe into alleged test cheating in Dougherty County Schools, having interviewed more than 300 educators and obtained confessions from at least 10, a lead investigator says.

Some of those interviewed have admitted to violating test protocol by either sharing with students the correct answers or changing answers after students turned their tests in, special investigator Richard Hyde told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Now we need to see if those violations rise to the level of a crime,” he said.

In one important aspect, Albany isn’t Atlanta. The newspaper reports:

A big difference in the two cheating investigations  has been the level of cooperation, Hyde said. Tommy Coleman, a former Albany mayor and the school board’s attorney, has been “candid and open to the things that we have needed,” Hyde said.

“Where in Atlanta, we had to fight for every piece of paper we received,” he said.

To read more, click here.

Atlanta school chief firing retirees who hold cushy jobs

In what at first glance looks like a gross act of cronyism, the Atlanta public schools have developed a costly habit of bringing favored retired administrators back to central-office jobs at premium ($30 plus) hourly rates, the Atlanta Constitution reports. While many school systems use retired educators to fill in as substitute teachers, this isn’t that. Superintendent Erroll Davis, hired to replace Beverly Hall, is ending the practice. Firing 7o such employees will save the Atlanta school system $1.7 million annually.

Of course it stinks. To read more, click here.





AAUP: On issue of academic freedom, SCAD won’t do right

(Note: Free e-Book! Go to Chain Gang Elementary’s facebook page for details.)

On to  the story:

The nearly twenty-year-old censure of Savannah College of Art and Design by the American Association of University Professors was on the verge of being lifted this spring when negotiations between the two parties broke down. The censure came in 1993, after a period of campus unrest; two SCAD professors were fired and six were denied reappointment. Financial settlements with several of the professors had been agreed upon, and it seemed all that was left was a visit by an AAUP representative, who would check to make sure that academic freedom reigned over the cool and quirky campus (which doesn’t have an AAUP chapter).

That visit didn’t happen. According to the AAUP’s report, SCAD officials kept delaying the visit, and finally declared that they needed to have complete control of the inspector’s itinerary–including whom the visitor talked to. This was a big red flag to the AAUP staff, which reported:

By way of explaining the conditions for going forward that (SCAD) President (Paula) Wallace now desired, Dr. (Tom) Fischer (SCAD’s chief academic officer) referred to her enduring bitter feelings about disruptions and riots at SCAD two decades ago, her belief that the released faculty members instigated the students and incited violence, and her fear of what these faculty members still might do. The staff members replied that the president, if she remains so fearful of their enmity, would seem better advised to make the settlement payments now than to leave the faculty members with the issue of not getting the payment they were told was being offered to them.

So, the checks didn’t get mailed, the visit didn’t happen, and SCAD’s censure remains. The AAUP staff report concluded:

The unexpected sharply negative developments for censure removal described in this report largely speak for themselves, and a single concluding observation would seem in this case to suffice. Committee A, in considering whether to recommend removing a censure, has been interested not only in settlements of cases and corrections of deficiencies in stated policies but also in the current climate at the institution for academic freedom and due process. An AAUP representative commonly makes a brief visit to the institution for this purpose, particularly an institution like SCAD where an AAUP chapter does not exist and direct contact in recent years with faculty members has been scant. By setting extremely restrictive conditions for allowing a visit to occur, however, the administration itself placed massive limitations on freedom at SCAD to seek truth. The administration’s apparent zeal to control the content of a visitor’s report about academic freedom ironically provided abundant evidence that the current climate at SCAD for academic freedom is sorely deficient.

A SCAD official, in the school’s response to a draft of the report, called it “one-sided” and stated:

While we would have preferred to settle this matter, we find that we can no longer engage in negotiations with your organization. To be sure, the negotiations between our organizations have broken down over your demands regarding the conditions of a site visit; focused on a 19-year-old complaint, they have nothing to do with the high quality education that our faculty provides or with student achievement.

You can see the 3-page report on the AAUP website.