SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for March 2010

The Sup uses the word "blueprint"

Editor’s Note: Blueprint is the buzzword for the re-issue of No Child Left Behind.
Here is the most recent letter from Jonathan Raymond to pink-slipped employees:

March 22, 2010
Dear Colleague:
At Thursday night’s Board meeting, I was thrilled to announce that we plan to send letters out on Monday that will rescind approximately 170 of the layoff notices that were sent out last week.  We hope, in the coming weeks, to rescind even more.  These rescissions mark a step in the right direction but make no mistake – we still have a long way to go.  I understand that this process can be confusing at times and that it can be laden with tremendous anxiety and upset, and my staff and I are available to answer any questions you might have about the status of the process.
The unfortunate truth is that there is no way to avoid some layoffs to balance our fiscal house.  The exact number that will be needed is undetermined at this time, but I can tell you that I am doing everything in my power to have as few people as possible be impacted.
It is crucial that, even while we face the types of extraordinary challenges that we do today, we never stop searching for ways to innovate and improve our children’s education.  It is with this notion in mind that we introduced our “Priority Schools” Initiative earlier this week.  By focusing on bringing the best staffs and most resources to these six underperforming schools, we will be able to create a blueprint for the success of the other schools in our district.  Change at these sites will not come easy.  In fact, it will require us all to take a long, hard look at the way we go about educating our children at these sites and in general.  It will also require us to identify where our strengths are and have the courage to acknowledge our weaknesses.  Cleary, the status quo has not been working for our children and while I am not interested in making change for the sake of change, we MUST be willing take a step back and examine even the most fundamental aspects of how we operate.
As we look at new ideas, innovative approaches and creative strategies, it is important that we leave no stone unturned and no opportunity unexplored.  That is the basis of the Teach for America proposal.  This is obviously a topic that has inspired a lot feedback from many around our district and the full-house at Thursday’s Board meeting is a testament to that.  I truly appreciate and embrace an intelligent and mature dialogue about this – and every – issue.  We won’t all agree on every idea that may lead to improving the quality of our children’s education, but we should be able to agree that we need to work together to solve our problems.
As this process unfolds, I will continue to seek out feedback from all of you regarding where we are, how we got here and, most importantly, where we can go from here.  You have a continuing commitment from me to be open and transparent in this process and I ask that you join me in working collaboratively – not antagonistically – to help us all achieve our ultimate goal: the best education for our children that we can possibly provide.
Sincerely,

Jonathan P. Raymond
Superintendent
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Written by scusdobserver

March 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm

TFA redux

The “now is not the time” response to Teach For America‘s presentation in front of the school board Thursday night seemingly puts the program low on the list of current priorities.

But before we go, let’s read a letter written by a TFA graduate and brought before the board by a community member during Thursday night’s public comments. This young gentleman, who has roots in Sacramento, did his teaching stint in Charlotte public schools and is now pursuing a law degree at Cornell University:

The veteran teachers’ beef always seems to relate to the idea of young, idealistic, mercenaries coming in for two years and stealing jobs from established teachers. Especially with the current economy, their concerns might be legitimate. Thus, to assuage their concerns it is necessary to let them know that high-performing, hard-working teachers will always have jobs and that there are (likely) thousands of teachers that fit the mold in Sacramento that continue to provide the best possible education for their students. But, there are clearly still gaps that need to be filled and Teach for America is a resource that helps to fill them.

While, Teach For America is not a panacea, it is a step in the right direction. The organization’s involvement in each of its regions goes beyond the teachers in the classroom. It creates a necessary piece of the foundation that works toward prioritizing education and remedying some of the problems that face any failing educational system.

Most importantly, education is about the children. TFA teachers, even if only be a small margin, are better than other first year teachers and display a high level of commitment to their students and their schools. Additionally, Teach For America alumni that choose not to stay in the classroom (like myself) become advocates for education and understand the complexities and problems facing the public schools. The hope is that when TFA alumni go on to do other things, they remember their experiences and come back and use policy, law, etc… to continue to fight against educational inequity. That is a powerful resource for any city.

Education is in need of reform, and better teachers are an integral part of the solution. Bottom line: If Sacramento teachers truly want what is best for the children and the public education system, they will understand that this is not about stealing jobs from veteran teachers. Rather, it is an additional piece of the puzzle that can lead toward what should be the ultimate goal: that “one day all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” (TFA’s motto).

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Written by scusdobserver

March 20, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Hmong charter school gets unanimous board approval

At last night’s board meeting, trustees voted to grant the Hmong community school charter petition. Yav Pem Suab (pronounced Yah Bay Shooa) will begin educating children K-6 this fall in the Meadowview neighborhood.

The academy will be a dependent charter, which means its teachers will be district employees.
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Written by scusdobserver

March 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Congratulations to the Adult Education Teacher of the Year

…unfortunately in her acceptance speech before the board this evening, ESLL Teacher Marge Matoba shared that she has been pink slipped. And the adult education programs in the city? Under threat from budget cuts.
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Written by scusdobserver

March 19, 2010 at 5:51 am

SCTA is the problem

Editor’s Note: In the continued interest of fairness and facilitating communication, we print this letter in support of Teach For America, brought to you by a concerned SCUSD parent.

(sent to SCUSD Board Trustees March 18, 2010)

I am a parent of two children in SCUSD and urge you to support Teach for America. SCUSD must support the development of new teachers, regardless of their place of origin. The current system of education is stagnant and our children must have the benefit of new ideas and new people, especially people from outside the region, who can bring different perspectives that will enrich their education.

There are people who believe Teach for America will displace local graduates and/or displace current teachers. This is a misguided belief. Teach for America is not the problem. The current system maintained by the Sacramento City Teachers Association is the problem. SCTA has been unwilling to make any concessions that would protect newer teachers from annual layoffs nor are they willing to protect our children from larger class sizes (which affect younger students now, but also have an impact on learning through high school) and ridiculous hiring practices that can mean newer teachers are displaced several weeks or months into a new school year by teachers with more seniority. This happened to my kindergartner at Theodore Judah in the 2007-08 school year. If we really care about learning, why would it ever be acceptable to change a child’s kindergarten teacher 6 weeks into her very first school year? This flies in the face of common sense and shows flagrant disregard for research about how young children learn–but it doesn’t matter because the SCTA is more concerned with protecting teachers with seniority than creating a learning environment where all children can be successful.

Sacramento children MUST be the district’s top priority, not protecting health insurance co-pays for teachers. These co-pays and other benefits are completely out of line with the private sector and also completely out of line with our current economic climate, where most workers have accepted pay cuts, reductions in hours and more to preserve their jobs and the services they provide. Middle and upper-middle class teachers can afford to pay more and they should. Do we value protecting the status quo for teachers more than we value the education of the many low income, under-performing students in Sacramento who will suffer more in larger classes?

Teachers should be compensated fairly, but they should also be held to high performance standards. Years of service do not always equate to a quality education. Teachers should be evaluated on performance and they should be hired and fired accordingly. We should make it easier for administrators to identify and reward excellent teachers and remove teachers who are not performing. New teachers should not automatically be pink-slipped each year in favor of veterans. In the private sector, performance matters, but my experience as a parent with two children in the SCUSD has proven that longevity is what matters here in Sacramento.

My children attend one of the best schools in the district, Phoebe Hearst, and I have been mostly disappointed, and at times appalled, by the quality of their individual teachers. My children are bright and my husband and I are involved parents and still we have seen our children hurt by ridiculous personnel practices that have derailed their education and hurt by teachers who seem to be detached from how children learn.

I urge you to consider any innovative options that will bring new ideas and new education strategies to our struggling district, including Teach for America, high quality charter schools and other options that enable parents to exercise educational choice. Our precious tax dollars fund this system and we have a right to a voice even though we don’t have Union representation.

Written by scusdobserver

March 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Board Meeting Thursday Night

Here’s what’s on the agenda.
Teach for America placement in the Supt.’s priority schools list

Preliminary review of a new charter school: Capitol Collegiate Charter 
Review and action on the Yav Pem Suab Academy (Hmong) charter school

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Written by scusdobserver

March 17, 2010 at 3:34 pm

The Sup’s Priority Schools

Subject: Superintendent”s Priority Schools
March 15, 2010

Dear Colleague:

Tomorrow, we will publicly announce the “Superintendent’s Priority
Schools” in an effort to help persistently and chronically
low-performing schools.  This effort, focused on improving student
learning at six of our district’s most under-performing schools, will
call for a new, bold approach to leadership at these sites and
additional resources to help put these schools in a better position to
be effective.

All six schools serve primarily economically disadvantaged, minority
populations.  They are:
●       Oak Ridge Elementary
●       Father Keith B. Kenny Elementary
●       Jedediah Smith Elementary
●       Fern Bacon Basic Middle
●       Will C. Wood Middle
●       Hiram W. Johnson High
The staffs at these schools are dedicated, but we are not seeing the
results that our children need at these sites. This urgently needs to
change.  I am committed to moving with “deliberate speed” to working
with each school community—the students, parents, staff and
partners—to create a culture of success. Four of the schools have
failed to meet their federal performance targets for seven consecutive
years, despite interventions and other assistances. Progress has been
minimal, and in some cases, student performance has declined. We will
need to work harder, dig deeper and be bolder to find the right solution
with the school communities to vastly and quickly improve student
achievement at these Priority Schools. We will not continue to fail
these students.

As we battle through these extraordinarily challenging budgetary times,
it is important that we still look for ways to innovate and create
opportunities for growth and increased performance.  I believe that this
effort is a step in that direction.

Thank you for all that you do to provide service to the students and
families of our community. Your efforts make a difference.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Raymond
Superintendent

Written by scusdobserver

March 16, 2010 at 5:09 pm