Thinking about teacher’s child porn trouble and my old school’s website

Today, I found out some news about someone who went to school with me, pretty much since kindergarten. In fact, I think he lived two blocks away. I probably haven’t seen him since junior high, which is what we called middle school in those days.

He was very smart and probably could’ve done anything. Eventually, he became a teacher in Florida, near where we grew up. That, I knew. Nothing else, since we hadn’t kept in touch.

Now, I found out he’s in big trouble, pleading guilty to a count of child pornography possession. He’s not the first person I knew, and also not the first teacher.

Don’t ask me what I think. I don’t know the guy. I know what I read, and you can look it up if you have any interest. (I won’t share anything else because what I read made it clear there was electronic possession, and it came from outside this country. Therefore, there’s no threat nor need-to-know in this blog post. Anybody who’d need to know already does.)

That got me thinking about the school where I started teaching. Regular readers know I did way too much there and was taken advantage of. That included figuring out how to be webmaster of the school’s old website. I was assigned that responsibility since I had my own site for my classes throughout that time.

I know since I left, the school had a big web problem and apparently had to pay to get the job done. (It’s funny how they finally found money when they had nothing for me, but I got the last laugh through education, experience and respect.)

lenny michael charlot
June 6, 2012: Honored at the Teacher of the Year luncheon

All this thinking got me to check out the school’s website and I was not pleased.

Below is the email I sent to Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent, the board chairperson, and the board member whose district includes the school.

Keep in mind, the school is between North Miami and Miami Shores. The majority of the school population was Haitian when I was there, and I have no reason to believe that changed over the past five-plus years.

(I kept the web links in for time purposes, and so you can see for yourself how things are being done and what I’ll be discussing. It’s exactly like the email I just sent.)

email

Hi! Please take just one moment to think about the importance of getting complete, accurate information out to all of your stakeholders, at all of your schools, and looking professional in the process.

I know Superintendent Carvalho recognizes the significance of not just appearing but also being competent, and would think he, the Board Chair and District 2 Board Member will feel as badly as I do after seeing what I just saw on the website of the school where I used to teach, run the website, serve as grade chair, electronic gradebook chair, EESAC secretary, Rookie Teacher of the Year, Teacher of the Year, and too many other things.

Today, I was shocked by what they’re showing the world on the internet.

First, on the District’s information page on Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy http://www.dadeschools.net/schools/schoolinformation/school_details.asp?id=5141, the Principal’s Message writes the old school name (Hubert O. Sibley Elementary) which was changed years ago. He does it *three* different times in one single message. His message is not timely. There is no year on it. How long do you think it has been since he updated it? (And just wait. Keep reading and you’ll see I found it at three other locations!) The picture on top has that old school name on it. And there’s a link for the 2012 bond referendum still up. What grade are the children who were born that year in now?

Clicking onto the school’s actual site (which redirects to https://www.hubertosibley.org/

On the homepage:

The Principal’s Message https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295193&type=d on the right side is exactly the same as I wrote about above, with the wrong school name.

elementary on homepage

“Who is Hubert O. Sibley?” on the left side should be “Who was” since he’s dead. Also, a phrase inside the link https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=297771&type=d looks more like an old phone company than a correctly-spelled description. (I’ll explain it to you later in this letter, if necessary.) A more recent picture of him would also be nice. I know the school had a painting when I was there. Personally, I think the students at the school would relate more to him as an old man in a suit, rather than what they’d consider an old picture of someone in a strange-looking uniform.

who was

phone company

While you’re there, look at the directory of links on the left side. There seem to be two links on most pages on the site and that’s bad, because I don’t think the first link works any of those pages and the second links to one particular person (a math coach) who is listed on every faculty and staff page, and more as you’ll see. FYI: It should probably link here https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/staff/, but that page isn’t totally up to date.

Back to the homepage:

The “Food Menu” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/food_menu/ has a blank calendar, like they’re not serving anything for breakfast or lunch. My first thought was that the page could link to a District page since schools tend to serve the same foods. Don’t worry. I found where it should go: http://nutrition.dadeschools.net/#!/rightColumn/193. I would actually separate the District menus page from the “To Apply Online for Free and Reduce Price Meals” page. (It should really say “Reduced.”) I’d also add the page to pay for lunch, which is right there, and could save time in the lunch line.

The PTA page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295215&type=d looks very old and I don’t think any of the teachers listed have taught at the school in years. Furthermore, Ruth Robert’s name is spelled wrong. It’s not “Roberts” as you can see in her email address. (She’s one of those former Sibley teachers.)

The “Mission Statement” underneath is complete right there, so why do they begin another sentence (which never ends) and wastes the reader’s time to click a link when the new page simply restates that mission statement?

mission

Don’t forget, the homepage is the most important one you have.

Look at the top, and the “About Us” section:

There are at least two errors in “News and Announcements” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/. The first link there (Middle School Mock Trial Virtual Competition, https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=524303&id=0) has a hyphen where there shouldn’t be, and the paragraphs ends referring to “finals rankings.”

bad hyphen and finals rankings

The third link (Social Media Toolkit, https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=520826&id=0) needs no explanation. Just look at it, and notice the repetition and lack of proofreading. I remember teaching the students to proofread. Also, there’s nothing to click where it says, “Please click here.”

repeat and no click

In “Upcoming Events” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/events2/?id=0&v=1&m=9&y=2018#today, there is nothing planned past October? When did you publish the school calendar? (We’ll get to more on that.) And why not post the whole school year on one page instead of separating by month? Wouldn’t that be more reader-friendly?

In “School Improvement Plan,” (redirected to https://www.hubertosibley.org/pdf/5141.pdf), is 2014-2015 really the latest available? How many more recent ones were finished but never posted? I know a thing or two about this, considering I used to sit at the former assistant principal’s desk instead of teaching my students, and typing, doing math and coming up with ideas to write. I also went to a session at another school for administrators on how to do the SIP when again, I should’ve been teaching. We’ll get to more on the assistant principal. Until you get there, think about who gave him permission for me to not do my job.

In “Photo Albums” (plural in the menu but singular on the page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/album/), the “School at a Glance” is no more than a glance because there are two pictures and one is fake! https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/album/#!albumREC_ID=105733&s=0

In the “Video Gallery” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/video/, there seems to have been no videos uploaded in two years. I’d consider deleting any whole section with nothing but old material to avoid embarrassment. The reader won’t miss what he or she isn’t trying to find.

Now, to the “Academics” section:

The “Classes/Homework” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/classes/ shows there are zero classes offered at the school. Make that “0 classes” for every subject.

The “Departments” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/departments/ is similar with “0 classes” for every subject, but staff member numbers are listed and they’re NOT zero.

Also in “Departments,” the Principal’s Message is the exact same old one from the District’s info page, the school’s homepage, and in the “About Us” section. That means it’s wrong in three places the school controls (and that message, in turn, gives the wrong school name three times in each of those places).

That math coach I mentioned earlier, after Mr. Sibley’s biography, is listed in addition (like that math phrase?) to the folks who actually work in each of the other departments (like cafeteria, custodial, security, etc.)! Check them all out.

But more importantly, check out Administration https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=297881&type=d. Yes, she’s there too, but worst of all is the page includes the former assistant principal I referred to earlier who was the subject of many news reports, including the links I’m about to show you, and who will continue to serve time in federal prison for almost the next two years! (Go to bop.gov and look him up.)

clippinger bop

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/public-school-assistant-principal-sentenced-58-months-prison-and-25-years-supervised

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article161855528.html

https://www.local10.com/news/crime/assistant-principal-granted-200000-bond-after-arrest-on-child-pornography-charges

https://patch.com/florida/miami/miami-beach-assistant-principal-allegedly-went-666prv

https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Miami-Beach-Assistant-Principal-Accused-of-Child-Porn-Leaves-Jail-412607673.html

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/former-florida-assistant-principal-gets-nearly-years-for-child-porn-charges/vlpCjTWGq7EaIA1SvIyFgJ/

https://www.local10.com/news/crime/family-supports-assistant-principal-arrested-on-child-porn-charges-at-hearing

https://wsvn.com/news/local/assistant-principal-arrested-on-child-porn-charges-faces-judge/

https://www.briansilber.com/don-clippinger-miami-florida-arrested-allegedly-downloading-child-pornography/

https://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/02/02/bond-set-for-assistant-principal-charged-in-child-porn-case/

https://www.facebook.com/FDLEpage/posts/1648494785191744?__xts__[0]=68.ARDRJOdCWkzwN6bUPoYBJY6OnIo7yovY3-U9pjp4R8GI4FyLDYXW2EU3L3mEhlZIFatYBlM2YGEfOeu6RATypuiXVkes62s7-A6o_FsXuH-Hq–0rAGR-8-EICrjVyJzSseUyLlAp6Nek0H8WsTgT2DKagWVvAPCZB2kTUKEJgFEsXlzP9N7IMdqJ2lCj-FAhWojhOqi8HvUxW2HJdqov6T3o7Q&__tn__=-R

I don’t know how this happened. You’d think somebody would’ve/should’ve noticed!

Continuing in the “Academics” section:

The Bell Schedule (singular in the menu and plural on the page, which is the exact opposite of the Photo Album mention from earlier) https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/bell_schedules/ lists bell times for two prior years but nothing for this year. Why would anybody care about an old bell schedule? (You’re making me think of Mrs. Sibley, a belle rather than a bell!)

Now to the “Students” section:

Under “Student Links” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295194&type=d, you see that same math coach again! As I mentioned earlier with most pages on the site, the directory of links on the left side is a waste because the upper link doesn’t work and in this case, the content that the lower one links to could actually be on this page! (Remember about being reader-friendly?)

Go to that lower link https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295194&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=links and you’ll see the first two items are old school calendars! You’ll remember I asked about this year’s school calendar, when discussing the About Us/Upcoming Events page. Old, outdated information confuses people, whether it’s on calendars, bell schedules, the school’s name, or anything else you can think of outside a history class. You want to inform, not confuse.

Under “Clubs and Activities” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/departments/clubs.jsp, look at Fairchild Challenge https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295204&type=d and you’ll notice information about 2008 and 2009! I was teaching at Sibley *Elementary* in 2008 and 2009 (this page has the school’s name with Elementary four times, which shows how outdated it is) and even volunteered to chaperone the afterschool trip down to Fairchild for the awards ceremony! Again, what grade are the children who were born then in now?

I see they’ve decided to call Reading https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295201&type=d a “Club and Activity” and even though I haven’t seen the old school website I ran for years for free, since the principal could never find the money, I could swear they took my writing verbatim and copied and pasted it over. Has the Suggested Summer Reading List changed in about the past decade? I know my writing, and the introduction probably hasn’t. Were any new books written in all that time?

They did the same with Science https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295202&type=d and listed a 2012 event as one of two short paragraphs. That second paragraph may also be my writing because I remember trying to get the former science coach to give me something to write. By the way, in 2006, I got former WTVJ-NBC6 chief meteorologist Paul Deanno to Sibley for Saturday School. We’ve been friends since my first TV stint in Philadelphia. I still have the picture I took, even after 12 years. Do you want me to send it, to show what Sibley is doing in science, these days?

Just beneath “Clubs and Activities” is the “Food Menu” again, and I already mentioned it.

Finally, to the “Parents” section:

The “EESAC Info” page redirects to the District page, so it doesn’t mention any names of people at the school. It should, in addition to minutes and a schedule of future meetings. I was EESAC secretary for about seven years. The school is supposed to be recruiting as many stakeholders as possible, and I remember how difficult it was to get a quorum.

I mentioned the PTA page earlier.

The “Intervention Opportunities for Math and Science” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=301576&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=563974 looks like part of a memo from the District to school administrators with no explanation for parents (which would be the point of it being on the website, right?). It lists a website without a link to it, and that page only concerns science. On top of that, it looks scary at first glance, with so much on there, especially to parents who don’t know English so well. If the information in what looks like a memo is so important, then why not link directly to each resource described? That would mean taking time to go to the District page, finding the resource among so many other things, and linking right to it. Are “Intervention Opportunities” important enough and therefore worth the time and effort? I’d think so! Then, the school’s page (or the memo) ends with email addresses for science supervisors in elementary, middle and senior high schools, but no links to click to write to them. And it’s a dead giveaway the page was copied and pasted sloppily, like others I mentioned, because Sibley is not a senior high school!

And last, the “Parent/Student Handbook” https://www.hubertosibley.org/pdf/2018-2019%20School%20Parent%20Student%20Handbook.pdf is a mess. Look at the spacing for the name of the school.

spacing

The District’s mission statement on page 3 is different than the school’s, which has been around since I worked there.
There’s no year listed on the handbook until the top of the Superintendent’s Message on page 4, like any letter would have.
The Principal’s Message on page 8 is the same wrong one I mentioned three times earlier. This makes four occurrences. I mean, the name of the school is different on the Principal’s Message than it is on the cover! Who’d sign their name to that nonsense?
On page 9, one assistant principal gets the name of the school correct. The other doesn’t mention it, but spells “Miami Dade” (referring to the County School District) without a hyphen.
On page 11, Mrs. Sibley is referred to as a “Southern bell” again. That’s almost like Ma Bell, which became BellSouth and now AT&T.

I can go on and on, as you can imagine. My first big thought is DISAPPOINTMENT. My second and third are lazy and cheap. That goes completely against the school’s mission statement, which is “Develop ourselves to be better people and professionals so that we may develop better students.” I put everything I had into my work at Sibley – we were even an ‘A’ school for a year when I was there – but I left at the end of the 2012-2013 year because I knew something there wasn’t right. I was right, and it’s still there.

I know you want to see your stakeholders getting complete, accurate information – so students will be better educated – and it’s obvious they’re not. You need people who can do better, at least at Sibley.

Thank you for reading, and please do the man justice. You named the school after him, and he can no longer help fix problems down here.

Lenny Cohen
Formerly employee #280155, if I remember correctly

Click here to visit the section 2006-2014: Teaching Time.

message
How nice this was changed on Monday, Oct. 22! I can only imagine the curses.

Also, the “Food Menu” was replaced, the “Bell Schedule” was updated and the “Administration” section it its old state was removed.

These are other changes I noticed midday on Tuesday, Oct. 23:

Keep up the good work! I know you can do it!

Please leave your comments in the section below. I’ve never done this, but there should not be any names mentioned in the comments here. And don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like this, this, and this. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

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The case against us all paying for private schools

Several times a year, before elections, a man in Florida emails me about who to support in elections down there. The goal is to receive money (Isn’t that everyone’s?) for private schools. In this case, it’s Jewish religious schools. And that’s despite public schools being free for everyone – Jews too – and paid for with everybody’s tax dollars.

So don’t tell me there’s no alternative when public schools are required to bend over backwards to meet all students’ needs.

school student AThe first time I got the email, I wrote back, asking the nephrologist (a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases) how he got my name and my email address. He was very polite and offered to take me off. I said it wasn’t necessary. I really wanted to read what he had to say. Information is power and I was a teacher for eight years, spending several lousy months at a Conservative Jewish day school.

The private school was the worst of my experiences and probably the least educational of the three schools where I taught, including public schools in two Florida counties.

Most of the parents whose children I taught at the religious school wanted special programs, and they wanted their children in those programs with people of the same culture. There’s absolutely no question in my mind.

I briefly compared the different teaching experiences when I wrote about why I left the field in general, on the eve of my Florida certification expiring in late June.

hochberg

 

religionsSo the problem I had, personally, was “class” and not religion. I actually liked listening to the religious lessons, from attending the second grade morning prayer service daily, to sitting in on the religious classes in my classroom, while planning and grading papers. I didn’t have to, but I know the religious teachers appreciated it, since my presence helped the children’s behavior.

Yes, many students had behavior issues, just like at any other school. The only differences I noticed were race and their families’ wealth.

From what I saw, the parents paid tuition in the five-figures and knew they could get away with anything. There’s a true saying that children learn in three ways: by “example, example, example.” In other words, they watched their parents (children notice more than many adults believe) and were raised to feel entitled.

Keep in mind, I’m writing about one school. It was a Conservative Jewish one, and Conservative (with a capital C) meant that stream of Judaism was started to “conserve” religious practices, about 100 years ago, that the older Reform movement had given up. So Conservative doesn’t mean the opposite of liberal. It allowed egalitarian seating and the use of microphones (electricity).

In fact, these days, Conservative is pretty much considered liberal since Reform has been bringing back some tradition. It has become the most popular in America, taking Conservative congregants who want shorter services, musical instruments during services and intermarriage (usually as long as the couple promises to raise Jewish children). There’s also paternal lineage (Reform considers children with a Jewish father Jewish, as long as they’re raised Jewish), usually more English during services, and absolutely no questions about egalitarianism or same-sex couples getting married.

Of course, whatever a Jewish person’s thoughts are, they have to be comfortable with the specific synagogue they attend and that includes the clergy, other congregants and financial obligations. A school setting is similar.

Orthodox schools vary greatly, but most separate the boys and girls into different classes at some point. I don’t know whether religious schools or any private schools require teachers to be certified by different states, or whether they have to teach the state’s curriculum or administer standardized tests, but I’m pretty sure it varies.

Grown-ups whose parents had them attend some Hasidic schools are now angry and feeling hopeless, since they know Jewish law and are good at Yiddish, but illiterate in English! There is hardly any secular instruction. See recent articles here, here, here and here, one of which says a New York state senator refused to sign off on the state budget unless Hasidic schools in and around NYC

“were given more autonomy over curricula.”

That’s despite the article saying most of the students

“are doomed to a life of struggle and poverty.”

Of course, religious schools are free to teach anti-gay hate, or that men and women have different roles, or that evolution is science fiction. That’s the case and if you don’t believe me, look at Congress or too many state legislatures!

So this morning, I got this email with the subject line,

“The Future of the Florida Jewish Community Will Be Decided November 6,”

since we Jews are always scared of the worst possibility.

email

Keep in mind, there are plenty of issues with Andrew Gillum but they involve separate subjects. Ron DeSantis is far right-wing. I’ve told plenty of people I’m happy to not have to choose in the Florida governor’s race.

Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D)

For U.S. Senate, he endorsed the current two-term governor who has his work cut out for him with Hurricane Michael, and will for awhile. How he performs may change some voters’ minds, but the Florida Democratic Party claimed Rick Scott “oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history” and PolitiFact Florida rated the claim Mostly True. Still, he was elected twice since then. Senate incumbent Bill Nelson is running for his fourth term. As for the Iran deal, which I was also totally against, I don’t think the reference was appropriate for endorsements on a single-issue. The author basically said so when he mentioned his group’s mission at the end.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D)

Right: A liquor store in Panama City Beach around landfall.

I don’t know enough about the state attorney general candidate but am glad the current one is finally stepping down, and I’m impressed the endorsed CFO candidate is a Democrat, simply because they rarely get this guy’s recommendations. Every good cause should have bipartisan support, as party majorities rotate from one to the other, and back. The only variables are how often, and how wide the margin is.

I had some questions and wrote back, specifically about tax money from the public going to rabbis.

i wrote

And as he did some years ago, he politely answered. I honestly can’t challenge him since seems to know the subject and how to explain it, having studied it for years.

his answer

I can’t say I agree with laundering public tax money so it goes towards religion. That’s different that paying a religious organization for doing secular work.

Jeb Bush's Facebook page
from Jeb Bush’s Facebook page

This is the land with the legacy of Jeb Bush, who accelerated the number and importance of standardized tests more than anyone could imagine. He and his friendly legislature also found ways to get millions of dollars for money for school choice. (Sounds great, doesn’t it?) Count the ways you can take advantage, here.

And then there are charter schools that are public – paid for with money taken from school districts and required to administer state tests – but run by outsiders, often companies, out to make money. And studies have gone back and forth whether they get better results than traditional public schools, despite being able to turn away students, pretty much at their will. (That’s as if test scores are the only surefire way to judge education.)

The man who emailed represents a group called Jewish Leadership Coalition and its Facebook page says it’s “a non-for-profit 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organization comprised of various Jewish leaders and organizations that have joined together to advocate for greater public funding for secular education in Jewish day schools.”fb jewish coalition

It gives a website that doesn’t seem to work, and doesn’t come up in searches, but this 2013 article announced that it started and who would benefit from the money.

ou jlc
https://www.ou.org/news/jewish_leadership_coalition/

The families whose children go to these schools tend to have more kids than the average American family, and they eat only kosher food. The costs add up. So do the number of students!

Other states with large Jewish populations have groups similar to the one above. This website helps parents in six states get government money to pay tuition that public schools don’t charge.

teach advocacy
https://teachadvocacy.org/

I understand parents with strong religious beliefs want their children brought up in their faith and to have extensive knowledge of it. That’s very difficult in a 24-hour day, where students receive a well-rounded education so they can become professionals who can contribute to society.

clock school

Outside of school these days, “free time” seems to be the “in” thing. Competing with that are all the extracurricular activities parents sign their children up to do, even at the school where I taught. It was a way to make money. Perhaps some of that has to go. Nobody can have it all.

money dollars

The rich make teacher unions look like the boogeyman, as you saw in the response to me, as if all they do is take money. Unions don’t want to protect bad teachers. (I’ve been a shop steward, but it wasn’t my idea.) They want good teachers and to see that those good teachers get the protections like a fair contract and the due process they deserve – to avoid being taken advantage of by bad administrators, not to mention parents who think they know more about education than the supposed experts.

In May, a religious friend conducted this Facebook poll:

Facebook poll

I think the principal was out of line and probably ruined his relationship with this “special needs” student, which may have been hard to build and would probably be harder to rebuild.

I responded.

Facebook response

The man who simply said “They listen to their parents” has a wife who is Director of Special Programs at – you guessed it – a (different) Jewish day school!

It’s natural in every financial transaction that the buyer wants to pay less, while the business (or school) wants more. There has to be a fair solution.

And for years, I’ve had what I consider the perfect solution.

I think public school teachers hired by the district should go to the private schools and teach English, math, science and social studies. Perhaps also electives like physical education, music and art. That would be half the day, and it would be paid for the same way public schools pay for educators and materials. Any tuition crisis would be instantly alleviated!

In my solution, the religious side could teach its material during the other half of the day. So half the school would study religion, and the other half would do secular studies, and then they’d switch!

half

What about religious holidays, like half the month of September and the entire eight days of Passover? The schedule could be adjusted. The public school teachers would volunteer to teach at these schools, especially those who take off for all the holidays anyway. It would be a blessing for the religious school parents to have their children in school while they prepare for the holidays, rather than watching over them because school is canceled, so their teachers could take off to prepare for their own families!

Also, the public school teachers would teach the public school curriculum with no interference, and students would take the same tests as the rest of the general population (without overkill for anybody). Plus, the students would be exposed to people who don’t all look, sound or believe like them.school crossing sign

I want to know what you think about this.

It would also eliminate the worst thing that happens: Parents not sending their children to public schools, but taking the scarce money devoted to education away from them. Which state’s legislature pays enough for quality schools? What school system has enough money to really do its job right? Who pays their teachers what they deserve as professionals? What district gives every one of its poorest students equal access to a quality education at their neighborhood school?

In February, USA Today published a list, ranking the states by the quality of their schools. (Eight of the top nine, and ten of the top 12, are states between the mid-Atlantic and New England! Take that for what it’s worth.) Florida ranks number 29 and the lead to the article on the Sunshine State is pretty grim:

“Florida’s public schools receive some of the lowest funding of any state school system in the country.”

Read the article for the state rankings (luckily all on one webpage) and the results of being too cheap when it comes to educating children, but there’s one I have to share: Florida is 48th out of 50 in the percentage of adults, ages 25-64, with incomes at or above the national median. In other words, you get what you pay for and this is pitiful! Imagine who in the U.S. is behind Florida, despite all the visitors who go there and spend money!

I’ll tell you that your child’s teacher is most important person in the school, besides the students, and every school in every state has good ones and bad ones. Hopefully those bad ones don’t last long but the good ones can be convinced to stay, and we all know money talks.

So do you think my compromise idea would work? Is it at least worth a try? How would you tweak it?

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

Certification expiring, definitely done teaching

The first thing I have to say is this blog was planned for today. It doesn’t have anything to do with Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision on public unions. Instead, it has to do with the calendar.

teaching certificate

The reason, as you see in the picture, is that my Florida teaching certificate expires tomorrow and since tomorrow will be Saturday, that really means today. I never had any intention of returning to a classroom, and never took any courses to do so. In fact, I left Florida, and it’s a lot harder to transfer teaching licenses from state-to-state than it is for driver’s licenses. Instead, I’m happily in the company of former teachers, some of whom left the classroom decades ago for their own reasons, and moved on with no regrets.

I became a teacher because I’ve always tried to help people. Before starting in 2006, I spent more than ten years successfully selling TV newscasts and web articles to the public, so they knew what was going on and became better citizens. I’ve worked all shifts at all hours, depending on resource needs and breaking news.

I may have come from a unique background but I did a whole lot more than spending eight years as a public school teacher in a large urban district. I became well aware of school districts’ needs, including the students, parents, teachers and other employees that depend on them.

I worked most of that time in Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest school district in the country. Broward County, where I worked briefly, is the sixth-largest. I found out how things get done in large bureaucracies. Those neighboring places are among the most diverse areas of the country with many needs ignored in the state capital, as I wrote in Wednesday’s blog.

2008-11 fall fest wild things are
Nov., 2008: classroom door after studying “Where the Wild Things Are”

My opportunity to teach came two years after returning to Florida from Philadelphia for family reasons. I was pretty much thrown into the classroom at Hubert O. Sibley Elementary (now Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy, named after the longtime president/CEO of the South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union) in the middle of the year. The regular 2nd grade teacher was about to go out on maternity leave. I had no formal training and scrambled to pick up as many of the regular teacher’s routines as possible, but my colleagues — who became like big sisters — helped by explaining lesson plans, while I knew how to make photocopies for them. Our relationship strengthened from there!

hubert sibleyThat was during the day. At night, I spent the next few years driving to schools around the district, taking the education classes I didn’t take while in college. It was hard work, and long days and nights, but I had students to use as examples while studying for my official teaching certification, and luckily the classes were sponsored by the district. That’s how much they needed teachers.

I moved to 1st grade for my first full year and got my students from the start. The one-year age difference was big for those children and they were out to please. I also benefited from a new team of teachers and best practices. My colleagues in all grades voted me Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Eventually, teachers moved or retired. I wasn’t the new guy anymore. Instead, I was grade chairperson.

My nights changed, as well. Instead of going to certification classes, I was getting busy getting schooled for state endorsements in English for Speakers of Other Languages and Gifted.

science projects sibley
Science projects my classes voted to do, and did according to the scientific method, included “Which kind of drink cleans pennies best?” and “What kind of laundry detergent removes dirt stains better: liquid or powder?”

Due to my different background than other teachers, the administrators “asked” me to figure out and run the school’s website. When we switched from actual gradebooks to putting in attendance and grades online, I was the point-person for any teacher with problems. In the middle of every quarter, I stayed hours late, printing out progress reports for every student in the school and dividing them up by teacher to be distributed. At the end of every quarter, I stayed hours late again, printing out report cards for every student in the school, and dividing them up by teacher.

smoke safety
Fire officials had students walk through a special trailer to teach them the danger of smoke.

That wasn’t it. Every year, I was removed from class to help administrators with the school’s annual School Improvement Plan. I sat at the assistant principal’s desk, in front of his computer, offering assistance with typing, technology and math. Eventually, after a few years, I spent days before that out of the classroom and in another school’s auditorium, full of assistant principals learning the district’s new procedure for that year.

May, 2007: my father teaching my class about dentistry at Sibley Elementary's Career Day
May, 2007: my father teaching my class about dentistry at Sibley Elementary’s Career Day

It was around this time the principal chose me to run a 12-month after-school/summer program if only we’d win the grant, so I spent more time away from the classroom, in an office with a computer, writing text and filling in blanks. The principal insisted that even if the money came through, he’d see to it that I stayed grade chair for 1st grade. Unfortunately, the grant wasn’t made to be.

I stayed too busy as grade chair for 1st grade, secretary of the school’s Educational Excellence School Advisory Council (EESAC, a Florida thing), and point-person for its annual Career Day.

Fall, 2006: I brought WTVJ NBC6 meteorologist Paul Deanno visited Sibley Elementary's Saturday Academy to teach about weather
Fall, 2006: I brought meteorologist Paul Deanno visited Sibley Elementary’s Saturday Academy to teach about weather

Separately, I got then-WTVJ meteorologist Paul Deanno to speak to children attending the school’s Saturday enrichment classes. (Paul is now chief meteorologist at KPIX in San Francisco.) Also, WPLG news anchor Calvin Hughes did a question and answer session with some of our 5th graders in the studio, through the school’s closed-circuit TV station. When things seemed to be going slowly, I quietly passed a handwritten question to the student interviewer. The assistant principal noticed and looked amazed! (I’d worked with both Calvin and Paul at Philadelphia’s KYW-TV.)

June, 2012: receiving my "Apple" for winning Teacher of the Year, the first to say Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy
June, 2012: receiving my “Apple” for winning Teacher of the Year, the first to say Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy

Then, I was elected Teacher of the Year and was told on the afternoon of the banquet in my honor that I was so good, I was being moved from 1st grade gifted to 3rd grade inclusion. Those were the lowest students, most in 3rd grade for the second time. Some reward!

Then, when I had to change classrooms for the first time in years — upstairs for the first time ever — I was made the union’s shop steward. I tried my best with each one of my growing responsibilities (including grade chair for 3rd grade, despite working with much more experienced teachers who actually knew the 3rd grade curriculum!), but decided that was probably going to be my final year at that school. There was only so much one person could do.2012-06 Teacher of the Year marquee

I’ll never forget the cries, up and down the 3rd grade hall, when the results of the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) came out. If a student failed the reading section, that student would probably have to redo 3rd grade because that’s when a students stops learning to read and starts reading to learn. The test was so important, absolutely nothing got in the way before it. Any extra resources were directed towards 3rd grade, not to any younger students, as if reading comprehension doesn’t take years. Were those younger students supposed to suddenly rise up in 3rd grade after pretty much being ignored for years before? When I taught 1st, the principal asked all teachers of younger students to give up our last hour of the day, which was our planning time, to help the 3rd graders.

I couldn’t tell whether those children’s cries up and down the hall were happy or sad. Teachers were given a list of 3rd graders, not by whose class they were in, so we had to read the names in alphabetical order to ourselves, pausing until one of our students’ names came up, and then let that student know his or her future. What a way to be told! I think a full quarter of students were held back at Sibley each year.

Since then, the assistant principal transferred to the same role at another school and is now in federal prison for child porn possession. (It was not school-related.)

As for the principal, I’m surprised he’s still there. The exact moment I decided to leave Sibley was when his secretary asked me, as EESAC secretary, to sign a paper. Let’s just say there were issues with that paper. Too bad I had no chance to take a picture with my phone, but I warned the EESAC president at the time, who was also going to be asked to sign. Then, the principal called me back downstairs in the middle of a 3rd grade teacher planning meeting I was leading to explain why he wrote what he wrote. There was no excuse and I told myself I’d never be associated with anyone like that again.

I hear nothing but complaints from former coworkers who haven’t transferred out to where their talents and energy would be appreciated. The school’s grade has been C for the past three years, a D before that, and C for the five years before that. But the year before, I was proud to say we actually earned an A.

No, I don’t have a master’s degree. It would be nice, but there was no time. Instead, I think I’ve seen more things and done more jobs reliably without extra pay (other than for being grade chair) than most public school teachers anywhere have.

One was the funeral of a 1st grade student’s mother. His estranged father had dressed up as Santa Claus and knocked on their door. That’s when he shot the mother to death. The boy transferred out, to a school in Fort Lauderdale.

In 2013, I switched to a Jewish private school that happened to be at the synagogue where I grew up. (Actually, it merged with another and this was their new location.)

hochberg classroomMany of the parents were respectful but too many were gung-ho about all the supposedly latest technology and a teacher who was a TV producer, etc. It was such a change from parents who were mainly poor Haitian immigrants, simply happy their children would have a positive American male influence. And it was such a disappointment!

So much for smart kids! There were certainly some, but way too many were needy and wouldn’t have made it in public school. Of course I’m generalizing, but the only advantage in life they had was that their parents were rich. When you’re that rich, and there’s a train coming while you’re being driven to school, there will be an announcement not to mark any students late that day. Are there excuses like that in real life?

mandatory meeting
Mandatory meeting with three hours notice? What was so important? What if somebody actually had plans?

I had no problem with the religious aspects but the way teachers were taken advantage of never ended. That’s what’s in contracts when parents are lawyers. They pretty much owned the teachers.

hochberg turkey tango
Nov. 19, 2013: 2nd grade teachers Mrs. Guttman and I doing the Turkey Tango at a schoolwide show. That was the year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided.

I left in January, 2014. If not, I would’ve had to come up with an idea for a program and offer it to students, whose parents would pay extra for them to stay after school, with the school and me splitting the extra tuition money.

The school isn’t there anymore. No website. It ended up merging with another school. Not even schoolwide shows like above could save it. Good riddance!

The last place I taught was Colbert Elementary in Hollywood, FL, after taking a few months off in early 2014.

I started as a permanent substitute as the place was renamed Colbert Museum Magnet Elementary. The name and curriculum changes were tries at improving the school, or at least the test scores. I hope it worked out. Remember, this was Florida.

colbert classroom
April, 2014: my Colbert classroom

As I remember it, each grade had to choose one thing from the curriculum per quarter and show it in museum form. That meant decorating the halls, for one, and inviting everyone to visit for an evening. We in first grade did aquatic life at the end of the 2013-14 school year. I was fairly new but got by. Unfortunately, the walls weren’t too good at holding tape and probably had to be repainted several times since then.

colbert museum

I had a great summer in Israel but didn’t have it in me to keep teaching. I had just had enough. It wasn’t the school’s fault. There was a great principal, Patricia Yackel, who was able to recognize every student in the entire school by name. Amazing! I didn’t care much for the assistant principal.

It was the day after Labor Day, 2014, early in the school year, and I’d known I couldn’t take it anymore. When I left, I told the assistant principal because Ms. Yackel wasn’t in the building at the time. That was a shame.

Despite all I’d been through, I still feel better about public schools and think every child should have a good one near his or her home.

Also, I’m against those “school choice” advocates trying to take money from public schools and let for-profit charter school companies run some. They can decide who they let in and refuse, while public schools can’t do that, so charter schools have a distinct advantage when it comes to test scores.

I also don’t care for private schools since they can also admit who they choose and don’t have to follow the same requirements other schools do. Besides, they lobby state legislatures for money they wouldn’t need if the children simply went to public schools, which most can. Others go for religious issues, which I understand. Then, there are those who have, or claim to have, special needs and require special settings. Meanwhile, the school takes the money to supposedly lower tuition but as I wrote, require more of the teachers, who usually make less money.

Wednesday, I got an email from a Florida doctor with an agenda. You could say I stay on his list for an education, even though I don’t know how he got my name. This is part of what he wrote:

“The outcome of the Primary Election on August 28 and General Election on November 6 will determine the future of our community for generations. One outcome could lead to expansion of vouchers to the middle class. Another outcome could threaten the $20 million we currently receive. We have arrived at the crossroads and all you need to do is vote. …

“Jewish schools received more than $20 million this year from state and federal programs but middle-class families will not experience tuition relief until the Florida Legislature passes an Education Savings Account (ESA) which will provide every Florida family an annual per student scholarship of about $7000 for use in paying tuition at a private school, irrespective of income level.
“This year’s elections are a tipping point. Immediately after the election, the new Governor must appoint 3 new Supreme Court judges. A Republican Governor will appoint judges who favor school choice programs. Judges appointed by a Democratic governor will create a majority that will support lawsuits that block vouchers and even threaten current funding.
“If we maintain a pro-school choice majority in the Florida House and Senate, ESA’s are a likely reality within the next 2 years.”

His endorsements will come and we can bet who they’ll be, at least in the general election.

Then yesterday, I got this from a national group writing about its efforts in Pennsylvania:

“We have helped secure millions of dollars for Jewish day schools through government advocacy.
“This includes funding for EITC and OSTC (Scholarships Tax Credits), enhanced security, school specific grants, and more. ALL of our children have benefitted over the past several years. And, our budget successes this week continued that trend.

“There are 8 communities with Jewish day schools in Pennsylvania, and we aim to serve each and every one of them.
“But we simply cannot do it alone. Your support will make a real, lasting impact on our children and families.”

So the point here was to ask for money.

But despite the emails I receive, please don’t think of this as a Jewish issue. It’s one area where Jewish and Catholic schools come together, and public schools don’t get the money.

Some parents and politicians have their own agendas.

As for me, I missed writing the news, took a wonderful managerial opportunity in the Tri-Cities of VA/TN, but couldn’t turn down a chance to return to my beloved Philadelphia. (I don’t regret the return; just the workplace.)

Back home, I’ve written news about the school district, listening and writing about budget issues, cuts made in the past, getting money from the state, and finding (and paying) lots and lots of new teachers. Click here for an example of one of my articles. I loved doing this and long-term projects such as the Democratic National Convention and NFL Draft, because most articles involved shootings, crashes and fires.

Enough already, and onto something meaningful. This former teacher hopes to make an announcement soon.

Click here to visit the section 2006-2014: Teaching Time.

Please, if you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

The necessity of public unions, now no chance for compromise

NOTE: Shortly before publishing, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he’ll retire effective July 31.

scotus trump usa flag

According to Axios, that’ll give President Donald Trump

“a chance to pull the court significantly to the right for decades to come. This is seismic — for politics as a whole, for the court and, ultimately, for the millions of Americans whose lives are shaped by its rulings. Replacing Kennedy with a more conservative justice would likely lead to new limits on abortion and LGBT rights, and could easily be the most consequential act of Trump’s presidency. … The confirmation battle will be intense. Republicans have just a one-seat majority in the Senate, and Democrats will be under enormous pressure from their base to try as hard as they can to block Trump’s nominee. Both sides are already prepared for a brutal fight.”

Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, but has long been the court’s swing vote. Winning him over was often the only way to build a majority.

Anthony Kennedy
Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Back row: Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. Credit: Franz Jantzen, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

I was always a union member while teaching in Miami. Florida is a “right to work” state (that phrase makes no sense) and I didn’t have to join UTD, the United Teachers of Dade – but I did anyway for the benefits, protection, and because it was the right thing to do since they negotiated my pay in accordance with crushing state laws.

For example, in March, the Florida legislature passed new collective bargaining rules into law. It doesn’t target all public unions; just the teachers who spend more time with the Sunshine State’s children for most of the year than their parents. And the schools that feed many of those kids breakfast and lunch at free or reduced prices, while their parents let them starve or eat garbage all summer. According to the Tampa Bay Times, it requires

“local unions to prove they represent a majority of the teachers in their districts. The measuring stick: Having at least half of all employees eligible to be in the union paying dues.

“If they fall short, they could lose their authority to negotiate working conditions and pay with the school boards. And many might find themselves in that spot: Some larger districts including Miami-Dade and Pasco hover just below the level, as do some smaller ones including Calhoun.

“The big question is, what would happen next? Are unions that miss the mark dissolved, and their contracts along with them? … The answer remains unclear.”

So much for attention to detail and consequences, two things members of the Florida legislature could be taught! And most teachers are women, who these lawmakers are more likely to take advantage of. But I have to say, it also did the right thing on guns, the same month, and the NRA is suing. Details on that below.

But not being a union member would’ve made me a freeloader, and I write that with love and respect for many or my co-workers who chose that route. Some teachers complained about the money, and they may have had bigger families to support and student loans to pay back, but they would’ve made less if it wasn’t for the union. Now, that’s in dire jeopardy.

Earlier, as a member of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (before its merger with SAG, the Screen Actors Guild) in Philadelphia TV, I knew what I was getting into, just as the public union employees did.

I believe AFTRA did the right thing and had the perfect solution by letting some members pay less, so their dues did not go into any political fund and did not influence elections in any way.

I was hoping a compromise like that could withstand today’s Supreme Court ruling that public unions cannot collect fees from non-members, but no.

Axios reports,

“The court struck down so-called ‘agency fees’ that unions collect from non-members. Those fees can only be used for collective bargaining, not overtly political activity.”

But the Court, by a 5-4 vote, sided with critics who

“say that because these unions are bargaining with the government, their bargaining is inherently political.”

Now, Axios predicts

“without agency fees, unions won’t be able to afford the lawyers and other staff who drive their negotiations, making membership ultimately seem like a worse deal.”

I’ll add, this seems lopsided, and a fair deal for workers – not too much but also not too little – ultimately helps everyone. Fewer union members mean less money for Americans and more people on welfare. Is that what we want?

Besides, to the justices of the Supreme Court, aren’t most things inherently political?

We all pay taxes for schools, even if we don’t have children attending. We pay for police and fire departments, even though we hope we never need them. (I wonder what percentage of the population actually uses their services annually.)

It’s not a good day to be one of your town’s finest or bravest. Its leaders are naturally going to try to take your pay and benefits!

There’s also paying for parks we don’t go to, and roads we never drive on.

But nobody can opt out of those taxes because they are needed for society and the future.

The critics claim membership in a union violates their First Amendment rights but money is not speech, unless you agree with the Citizens United case. (Wikipedia says back in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled “the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.” That gave nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations Constitutional protections that had gone only to actual, real people for more than 200 years, since the time of this country’s founders. Is it right they gave the rich more say and to do it secretly?)

us constitution
Article I of the Constitution, not to be confused with the First Amendment

Plus, the critics claim public unions aren’t fair because the workers vote, urge others to vote and then negotiate with the people elected. But don’t ordinary citizens have those same rights, the ability to assemble organizations and make requests of leaders on all levels?

A year ago, Forbes reported, “Across most developed nations, labor union membership is getting rarer.” It didn’t mean just the U.S.

Wikipedia reports the four countries that gained union worker percentages from 1970 to 2003 were Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium. Those aren’t countries you see on any “bad places” lists.

Finland Sweden Denmark Belgium

Here, our nation’s government was built on a system of checks and balances. No government nor private employer wants to pay their workers more, and the people don’t want to pay any more taxes.

Already, too many states and municipalities are in the red over pension obligations that added up over the years. It’s not fair politicians from the past gave away too much in order to keep their own jobs on Election Day. Blame them, not the workers. (Compare it to how we’ll leave climate and the environment to our children and grandchildren).

Wikipedia goes on to say, in the U.S.,

“Public approval of unions … declined to below 50 percent for the first time in 2009 during the Great Recession. It is not clear if this is a long term trend or a function of a high unemployment rate, which historically correlates with lower public approval of labor unions.

“One explanation for loss of public support is simply the lack of union power or critical mass. No longer do a sizable percentage of American workers belong to unions, or have family members who do. Unions no longer carry the ‘threat effect’: the power of unions to raise wages of non-union shops by virtue of the threat of unions to organize those shops.”

But we know good teachers need raises (along with support from administrators, etc.) or they’ll leave the profession, while athletes arguably make too much money. (And yes, educators know what they’re getting into.)

what teachers do Facebook
Facebook

So what do the citizens of this country plan to do to make things fair and right, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling?

The Tampa Bay Times quoted the president of the Association of Calhoun Educators in northern Florida, which was formed just two years ago. Until then, there was no collective bargaining unit to support teachers.

“We had no contract. … They would say, yes, there is money for a raise or, no, there isn’t. Whatever they decided, went.”

That doesn’t sound like a place where people who value themselves or their profession would want to work, unless they have no other choice. Perhaps that’s what the good folks of Calhoun County wanted. That’s too bad because I can’t imagine a bright future there, with jobs and rising property values.

Union Yes Wikimedia Commons

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, wrote:

“With its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court today turned its back on American workers—the educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and public servants who make our communities strong and safe.

“The Court’s ruling is a massive gift to the special interests and billionaires who already benefit from a system that is rigged in their favor and against the rights and freedoms of working people. They brought this case to silence our voice and make it more difficult to join together to advocate for our students and communities.

“But make no mistake: we will not be silent. We are organized and determined to stand together and fight for the resources our students need to succeed.

Take the #RedForEd pledge and stand with NEA as we continue to build a strong union that advocates for the opportunity students need to succeed.

“As we saw earlier this year in state after state that went #RedForEd, educators—joined by parents and community members—are a force to be reckoned with. We will do what it takes to roll back years of funding cuts and to make sure our students have up-to-date textbooks, desks and chairs that aren’t broken, the latest technology, and adequate school buildings.

“Now, we must continue to build this movement by coming together to advocate for students like never before.

So whether you are an educator, parent, or community member, please show your support for strong public schools by taking the #RedForEd pledge today.

“Thank you for your continued involvement with the National Education Association. Your support of great public schools for every child matters more and more every day.”

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten wrote:

“The Supreme Court may have ruled against us today, but don’t count us out.

“The right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court showed their true colors today. Their thirst for rigging the economy toward the powerful trumped the aspirations and needs of communities and the people who serve them. But, despite this decision, workers are sticking with the union because unions are still the best vehicle working people have to get ahead.

“Our union comprises some of the hardest-working and most compassionate people in the country. Every day, we care for patients, educate and support America’s children, ensure high-quality public services, and provide a world-class system of higher education. Together, through our union, we fight not just for ourselves but for the people we serve. When the Supreme Court overturns 40 years of precedent in an effort to weaken our ability to bargain for what we need, then we have to recommit ourselves to standing together in solidarity.

“Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner are celebrating right now. The best way to take the wind out of their sails is to show the world that, despite their attacks, we’re sticking together. Let them know you’re sticking with the union.

“Let’s be clear, the Janus case was about defunding unions. It was about who will have power in our country—working people or big corporate interests. That’s why the case was being funded by wealthy donors and corporate interests. First, they pledged $80 million to ‘defund and defang’ unions. Then, the Kochs, after receiving the Trump tax cut, upped the ante with $400 million to undermine public education and ‘break’ the teachers unions. Why? Because unions fight for a better life for people, and corporate interests see that as a threat to their power.

“Strong unions create strong communities. We will continue fighting, caring, showing up and voting to make possible what is impossible for individuals acting alone. And we will continue to make the case—in the halls of statehouses and the court of public opinion, at our workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box in November—through organizing, activism, and members recommitting to their union.

“When we fight for resources for schools, we’re fighting for students. When we fight for safe staffing standards for nurses, we’re fighting for patients. When we have the resources to do our jobs, all of society benefits. We may be a threat to the power of wealthy corporate interests, but by sticking together, we are stronger than their attacks.

“Throughout the day, union members have been sharing selfies and videos on social media. Let’s show the world that we’re proud to be union members. You can start right now: Tell them you’re sticking with the union. Show the people attacking unions that you value your freedom to have a better life and your freedom to have a union.”

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who you knew as Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills 90210 but now serves as a vice president on the AFL-CIO’s executive council, said:

“The Court made the wrong decision; a decision in favor of increasing the power of employers at the expense of their workers. Without engaged workers, union protections become more vulnerable. This ruling is a direct attempt to weaken unions, the very organizations who allow workers to speak together as one, to have a voice in their wages, their safety at work, and their healthcare and retirement. The Supreme Court’s decision directly overturns a decision made by the Court in 1977. Have workers lives improved so much that unions can now be so blatantly attacked? Are workers all better off now? Are employers sharing in their success with all those who make them successful? No.

“This shameful decision only serves to strengthen our resolve to find ways to protect working families in this country. Now more than ever as professionals, we must come together and renew our commitment to speak as one. To be strong in the face of all attempts to minimize us. We know that fighting for a better life for you and your family is what unions do. It’s time for unions, and the workers who make them vibrant and strong, to show this court and those who would attack and diminish working people that this is unacceptable. When workers come together, workers win, and that did not change today.”

beverly hills 90210 wikipedia
Beverly Hills 90210 characters: Center: Dylan McKay; Clockwise from far left: Kelly Taylor, Steve Sanders, Andrea Zuckerman, Brandon Walsh, Brenda Walsh, Donna Martin, David Silver (Wikipedia)

WATCH: Florida Evans arguing with her husband over working as a black maid on Maude.

MORE MAUDE: Carol is passed over for a promotion due to gender discrimination.

AND THE MOTHER of all Maude labor episodes: Walter angry after workers at Findlay’s Friendly Appliances decided to unionize. This one starts with the classic opening theme!

It should be noted, also in March, the Florida legislature enacted “significant gun control measures in the state for the first time since the GOP took control … more than two decades ago,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The historic moment happened weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people – 14 students and three staff members.

Furthermore, Gov. Rick Scott – described by the paper as a “staunch Republican and longtime National Rifle Association member” – did not use his line-item veto authority to remove money from the sweeping $400-million school safety bill “for what many consider the most contentious part of the legislation – a program that allows school employees to bring firearms on campus.”

“The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, imposes a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and bans the sale or possession of ‘bump stocks,’ which allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic machine guns.

“The NRA almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of banning people under the age of 21 from buying firearms.

“Under Florida law, Scott could have used his line-item veto authority to reject the funding for a $67 million ‘guardian’ program that would allow some teachers to volunteer to carry guns after undergoing 132 hours of firearms and 12 hours of diversity training.”

rick scott bill nelson
Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) vs. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)

It should also be noted Gov. Scott is expected to be running against longtime U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

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In defense of Emma González, not that she needs it but deserves it

I have a lot more on Marjory Stoneman Douglas hero Emma González, not a hero for surviving but for her activism after. She has probably suffered more than her surviving schoolmates after February’s shooting massacre.

Steve King facebook
Facebook

In late March, USA Today reported Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King drew criticism when someone from his campaign team mocked González’s ‘look’ in a meme published to King’s official Facebook page.

According to the paper, “It’s part of a wave of recent attempts to discredit González and other survivors as they call for legislation to address gun violence.”

It described

“an image of Gonzalez with tears streaming down her face at (the) March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., as she recalled the 17 lives lost at her school. … The accompanying text criticizes Gonzalez’ Cuban heritage, seeming to reference the Cuban flag patch seen on her sleeve.”

It was posted on March 25 and was STILL UP moments ago.

You can see, the post says, “This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don’t speak Spanish and ignore the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense.”

The New York Daily News reported,

“King’s page later denied that it was bullying the teen, who has been the victim of right-wing vitriol over speeches remembering her classmates and calling for stricter gun laws, and said that it was strictly focused on communism in Cuba, whose flag Gonzalez was wearing on her arm.”

Maybe except the part about, “after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense.”

 

analytics

Just so you know where many Americans stand, Facebook reported the post got a lot of attention: about 3,400 likes, 2,200 angers, 459 laughs, 154 loves, 114 sad faces, and 110 wow/shocks.

According to a Univision profile, González’s father escaped from Fidel Castro’s Cuban regime and moved to New York in 1968.

You know criticism of the congressman’s post came quickly.

comment

But “Team King” and his supporters stood by the meme.

responses

(Pretty classy! Does this change your opinion of politicians?)

King even angered Cuban-Americans who wrote in an article, “The Cuban flag has nothing to do with communism.”

Nelly Cuban flag

Even fellow survivor and activist David Hogg tweeted his senator, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, to address King.

As far as I’ve seen, Hogg got the same response as a third survivor and activist, Cameron Kasky, when he asked Rubio during a CNN town hall to refuse contributions from the National Rifle Association: no answer.

2018-02 kasky rubio tapper cnn town hall

But he did better when calling for somebody to challenge Leslie Gibson, who was running unopposed as a Republican for the Maine House of Representatives. Gibson had described González as a “skinhead lesbian.”

He got not one but two other candidates, and Gibson dropped out of the race in response to public reaction critical of his comments.

Even well-meaning Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago, who defended González, started out,

“As soon as she walked on the March for Our Lives stage clad in an olive green jacket, a Cuban flag patch on her right arm — the words of another student ‘Welcome to the Revolution’ still ringing in our ears — I knew that the optics wouldn’t favor Emma González.

“Ugh, good thing she didn’t go for the Che Guevara beret, too.

“I’m a gun control advocate, but I am also a Cuban-American marked and wounded by a revolution turned into one of the world’s longest-lasting dictatorships. The men who seized power and repressed — who burst into homes to search without warrants and confiscated businesses, homes, lands, and guns – wore olive green fatigues.”

González did get a complete thumbs-up from Gloria Estefan, who certainly understands the situation in Cuba more than her.

View this post on Instagram

I also stand with Emma! 🤝✌️Our brave young people are trying to make our beautiful country a better and safer place in which to live. I support them 100%! #Repost @hereisgina with @get_repost ・・・ #movementmondays Emma Gonzalez is an 18-year-old American activist and student with Cuban descent. Gonzalez was a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida in February 2018. This led her to become the co-founder of the gun-control advocacy group Never Again MSD. She gained national attention after her “We call B.S” speech at the Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation in Fort Lauderdale in response to gun laws, calling for advocacy, and empowering young people to speak out against school shootings. She has continued to speak against gun violence to Florida legislators and a nationally televised town hall, Glamour Magazine call her “the face of the #NeverAgain movement.” In March 2018, Gonzalez and other fellow activists appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. On Saturday March 24, Gonzalez and other students organized and participated in the nationwide March For Our Lives. At the rally, she went on stage, listed the names of the 17 students and staff gunned down, and then went silent for the remainder of her 6 minutes and 20 second speech. It was her way of showing the world how it felt to be crouched in a school room for that length of time while a murderer carried out his shooting spree. Gonzalez wrote in the Harper’s Bazaar, “Adults like us when we have strong test scores, but they hate us when we have strong opinions. I’m constantly torn between being thankful for the endless opportunities to share my voice, and wishing I were a tree so that I’d never have had to deal with this in the first place.” In March 2018, the Florida Legislature passed a bill titled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in response to the student activists making their voices finally heard. This isn’t the end but only the beginning! I stand with Emma!

A post shared by Gloria Estefan (@gloriaestefan) on

North Miami City Councilman Scott Galvin – who taught middle school U.S. History for a decade, and spoke when I had to organize Career Day at a nearby elementary school outside city limits – wrote about meeting Emma, “and she was polite and warm.”

But later, he recognized a teachable moment and escorted about 70 students from the city’s North Miami High and Alonzo Mourning High for a bus ride to Washington for the March of Our Lives.

Councilman Galvin emailed,

“As she strode on stage, however, she was all tiger. Wow. She emotionally swung into her speech. Then, suddenly, tears streamed down her face and she went silent.  It seemed to me that she had frozen.  I thought that the pressure of the last six weeks had caught up with her.  But I was glad no adult rushed on stage to bail her out.  There hadn’t been an adult on stage the whole day, outside of performers. I didn’t want them to start now.

“But her silence continued.  One minute.  Two minutes.  Three minutes.

“At this stage, I was now hoping for someone, anyone to wrap their arms around Emma and save her from this emotional shock.  But no one did.  I was getting increasingly uncomfortable.

“Suddenly, after four minutes of silence, I heard her watch alarm go off.  NOW I understood.  Emma allowed her speech to last exactly six minutes and twenty seconds, the exact amount of time that elapsed as a gunman cut down her friends back at Douglas.

“She then told the audience that they needed to stand up for their own lives before someone else had to do it in their absence.

“Wow.  What a speech!”

galvin

The National Education Association quoted González saying “This was not the end. This is just the beginning” in an email urging members to make their voices heard until Congress passes legislation to stop gun violence.

nea

I mentioned on April 25, The Washington Post reported,

“A doctored animation of González tearing the U.S. Constitution in half circulated on social media during the rally, after it was lifted from a Teen Vogue story about teenage activists. In the real image, González is ripping apart a gun-range target.”

emma tear gun ange target NEVER AGAIN

This tweet from Teen Vogue’s chief content officer, Phillip Picardi, shows the absolute difference but he apparently doesn’t know exactly who’s responsible.

And even Kanye West, who has been making news for all the wrong (or controversial) reasons this week – as you see here…

… — took time out to tweet his admiration for González, calling her a hero like I did in the April 25 post.

Then, 18 minutes later, West wrote he’s “inspired by Emma.”

Nice thoughts, but her response seemed to show she doesn’t feel the same about him.

At the exact minute of West’s second tweet — 9:27pm on April 28 — González sent this out: “my hero  James Shaw Jr.”

Shaw was eating at a Waffle House near Nashville when police said a gunman wearing nothing but a green jacket opened fire outside.

He charged at the man with the rifle. They fought. Finally, Shaw said he managed to wrestle the barrel of the rifle from the gunman and tossed it behind the counter. The suspected shooter got away for a day, and Shaw got a trip to the hospital.

James Shaw waffle house

Maybe González’s problem with West is his friendship with President and Second Amendment defender Donald Trump.

(I had to throw in that last one, but can’t neglect this:)

Speaking of Second Amendment defenders, click here for details on why USA Today said Congressman “King made a name for himself criticizing immigrants.” (Oh, and a bit about a Confederate flag on his desk, despite King being a native Iowan and Iowa being a Union state.)

You can have your say in a more private way. King’s phone number is 712-664-5097 and click here for his campaign website. He’s up for reelection in November.

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Tiffany Trump’s trouble, what unions could do to Amazon and the media

us constitution

It’s nice when Americans exercise their First Amendment rights (freedom of religion, speech, the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances) with good intentions, and that should be encouraged.

Last Saturday, many in the country were shocked after March for Our Lives rallies were held all over (more on that in a blog post coming up) and apparently caught Tiffany Trump making her political views known — and they were against her father’s, according to People magazine.

tiffany twitter

No, the daughter of President Trump and Marla Maples didn’t just support the thousands of students taking to the streets around the world, calling for stricter gun control in the U.S. after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman High in Parkland, Fla., in which 15 students and two teachers were killed.

That would be “relatively” easy.

Instead, People wrote, she “appeared to ‘like’ a photo from her verified Instagram account showing a protester holding a sign that read ‘Next Massacre Will Be the GOP in the Midterm Elections’ at the New York March.”

Ouch!

tiffany instagram
Tiffany Trump’s verified Instagram account

Look at the picture below. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Ms. Trump’s ‘like’ there, and neither could others, but People showed somebody apparently did on Twitter and put a red rectangle around her name.

It appears to be true because Ashley Feinberg, with a verified Twitter account, posted the picture from Julia Moshy’s Instagram account (above).

Anyone can see Ashley Feinberg’s Twitter page. I know because I did and I don’t follow anybody I’m writing about here, on any social media.

tiffany julia

I also figured out Tiffany Trump follows the picture-poster Julia Moshy’s Instagram account (above), so she must’ve really seen the picture on the account. I didn’t know who Julia Moshy is, but she has 18,500 followers!

julia moshy instagram

Turns out, she has been described as “a fashion instagrammer with some legit street cred” and also “the daughter of … someone who didn’t believe in spankings” so the follow doesn’t surprise me.

You’ll also notice near the top Tiffany Trump’s Instagram account is tiffanytrump — one word, all lowercase — and the same after “liked by” in the red rectangle. (You should see who else she follows on Instagram! Click here, and then click where you see the number of accounts she’s following.)

ashley feinberg twitter

As for Ashley Feinberg, her verified Twitter account says she works for The Huffington Post and I can see she tweets a lot. (What looks like the latest tweet is really pinned to the top.) I clicked on her website that’s listed, which is a WordPress blog like this one, and got to the most bland page I’ve ever seen — especially for somebody whose Twitter account says “Graphic design is my passion.”

She described herself on her website: “Ashley is a Senior Reporter at HuffPost. Before that she was at Gizmodo Media Group’s Special Projects Desk, and before Gizmodo Media Group’s Special Projects Desk she was at Gawker.”

feinbergs on instagram

There are several Ashley Feinbergs on Instagram but I got lucky. She was listed first and her web address was a dead giveaway.

feinberg instagram

I wondered how Feinberg saw Moshy’s picture on Instagram that Tiffany Trump liked there. We established the connection between Moshy and Trump, but noticed as I’m writing Feinberg follows Trump but not Moshy.

That may not have been the case earlier in the week. Also, don’t look into Jeb Bush on the list. Feinberg, as a journalist, follows people and groups from both sides of the aisle, and Bush just happened to follow this Trump. (To see who else Feinberg follows on Instagram, click here for her account, and then click where you see the number of accounts she’s following.)

feinberg follows tiffany

So if Instagram is anything like Facebook (and earlier this week we discussed the repercussions of Facebook owning Instagram), then you will see that friends/connections liked something a stranger posted — which may be how Feinberg saw Trump liked Moshy’s picture. (Of course, Feinberg and Moshy may have dropped their direct connection this week.)

Back to the subject at hand, People wrote “Social media users were happy to welcome Tiffany to their side” and gave various examples. Tiffany, 24, is a Georgetown Law School student right there in Washington, DC, but has kept a relatively low profile. You know with law school and all.

Too bad she may have felt the need (or pressure) to remove her ‘like’ from that picture. It goes against her First Amendment rights but People points out from one of its sources,

“She says she is not guaranteed anything (from Donald Trump’s estate when he dies), which is one of the reasons Tiffany and Marla have been so respectful of her dad and tiptoed around so much.”

Money talks.

Speaking of money and TrumpWednesday, I wrote (and published minutes into Thursday), “Sources told Axios Trump has talked about changing Amazon’s tax treatment – using antitrust or competition law – because he’s worried about mom-and-pop businesses being run out of business.”

I also mentioned his theory Amazon abusing the U.S. Postal Service.

Thursday morning, the president tweeted this:

Let’s get a reality check, published Friday morning, from FoxNews.com of all places. The author’s bio on the site says, “Peter Morici served as Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission from 1993 to 1995. He is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.”

Morici starts with, “President Trump’s claim that Amazon is a tax scofflaw, subsidized by the U.S. Postal Service and an unfair threat to small businesses and malls, is absurdly wrong and dangerous.”

He follows immediately with the details, “Amazon is an online platform that markets products for thousands of manufacturers and smaller merchants. It’s also a retailer in its own right by distributing directly from its own warehouses.”

Then, some background:

“The company has branched into brick and mortar groceries with the acquisition of Whole Foods and is also building out its own package delivery system and entering a host of other businesses.

“Amazon may not pay a lot of income tax but a good number of companies don’t because of how Congress chooses to write the tax code. That was a problem long before Amazon came along and will continue after it is gone.

“Generally, online retailers enjoy an advantage over brick and mortar sores by not collecting sales taxes on shipments to states where they don’t have a physical presence. However, Amazon has warehouses in 45 states and collects sales taxes.”

After that, Morici goes into the Postal Service.

“It’s congressionally granted monopoly on your mail box comes with a requirement that it deliver six days a week to every address. … No matter how remote the location, the Postal Service charges the same 50 cents to deliver a first class letter. This just about guarantee it will lose money on mail service. In recent years, the Postal Service’s salvation has been in providing the last mile to large package delivery companies on less than urgent shipments. This means that Fedex, UPS and others can drop packages at your local post office and the Postal Service sends those out with your letter carrier.”

His bottom line: “Taken alone, neither business would be viable. … Mail delivery can’t be viable without package delivery, and running the last mile for delivery services would not be possible without mail delivery.”

Finally, he goes off on “What makes Amazon so menacing is that it is so efficient” and describes situations including Amazon beating out other companies, how brick-and-mortar stores and local governments reacted by imposing costs, and how Amazon only has a 4 percent market share of retail sales, much less than Walmart, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And then he takes on Trump. A good, short read after getting the background.

Don’t think Amazon treats its employees right? That thought has been around for years, while dozens of locations are competing to be the home of its second headquarters, and offering pots of gold (or rather huge tax breaks) among other things to win.

Are Amazon employees union members? Sure wouldn’t hurt if they’re not!

Look what West Virginia teachers got by striking. Now, teachers in other red states are noticing.

According to the Associated Press, “A teacher rebellion that started in the hills of West Virginia spread like a prairie fire to Oklahoma this week and now threatens to reach the desert in Arizona.”

Good for them, and America’s children! Bad for blindly cutting taxes.

Univision Communications owns satire site The Onion, and The Wall Street Journal reports editorial and video staffers there and and its sister sites, Clickhole and A/V Club, announced they’re unionizing while Univision “is exploring extensive cost cuts at its digital properties.”

According to Variety, the Writers Guild of America East announced “’an overwhelming majority’ of the staff, comprised of about 100 employees, have signed union cards and called on management to voluntarily recognize the WGA East as the collective bargaining representative.”

Onion Inc. spokesman David Ford told the Chicago Tribune the company started discussions with the guild and they “hope to arrive at an arrangement in short order,” according to the A.P. via U.S. News and World Report.

Good for them! From what I’ve heard, Univision isn’t known as one of the best employers out there. It may be having a huge presence in free-for-all Miami, or the prejudice of serving Hispanic and Latino Americans, or being non-union — at least for the most part.

Let’s look at its history.

On Nov. 16, 2016, Deadline reported, “A week after most of the staff at Univision’s Fusion.net voted to join the Writers Guild of America, the company announced sweeping layoffs.”

Earlier, Univision bought unionized Gawker Media and according to its editorial union on Sept. 12, 2016:

“Univision’s first act on acquiring the company was to delete six true and accurate news stories from our archive, because those stories had been the targets of frivolous or malicious lawsuits. This decision undermines the foundation of the ability of Gawker Media’s employees to do our work. We have seen firsthand the damage that a targeted lawsuit campaign can do to companies and individual journalists, and the removal of these posts can only encourage such attempts in the future.”

Ah, money over journalism! How many times have I written about that on this blog? (Click here for a pretty good-sized list, just from the search box.)

I think we have an answer for Amazon employees who want more money and better working conditions from a growing company that will be making more money.

The same would be true for Sinclair Broadcast Group employees. (Notice how I didn’t mention that company AT ALL in my last post!)

On March 11, I wrote that awful company — the largest owner of television stations in the U.S. — trying to buy Tribune Media through unethical methods was forcing news anchors at its 193 owned, or not owned but operated local TV stations in 89 markets (at least the ones that actually produce news) to read a script that offered no news.

Instructions from Corporate (thanks to Esquire):

Please produce the attached scripts exactly as they are written. This copy has been thoroughly tested and speaks to our Journalistic Responsibility as advocates to seek the truth on behalf of the audience.”

Millions of Americans will soon be watching promotions that begin with one or two anchors introducing themselves and saying,

Script:

“I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

Then the anchors are supposed to strike a more positive tone and say that their local station pursues the truth.

“We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”

I tell a lot more in this post, including CNN concluding its description with,

“At the end of the promo, viewers are encouraged to send in feedback ‘if you believe our coverage is unfair’ and ‘Corporate will monitor the comments and send replies to your audience on your behalf,’ so ‘In other words, local stations are cut out of the interactions with viewers. Management will handle it instead.’”

Do you think anyone wanted to look into a camera and read that promotional nonsense during newscasts from the media company with must-run conservatively-bent editorials? I think a union would’ve helped the journalists keep the business people in their place, which is out of the newsroom.

Today, FTV Live’s Scott Jones showed this example of the anchors at KBOI in Boise following corporate directions.

Jones ended by writing, “How these anchors sleep at night after reading this crap, I have no clue.”

jerry springer
Jerry Springer

I wonder when it’s time to jump ship, like WMAQ’s Carol Marin did in Chicago in 1997 when Jerry Springer started giving commentaries on her newscast. The New York Times called her “one of that city’s most popular and respected television news anchors.” Her co-anchor also quit.

logo strip latest

 

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer — which properly discloses “KOMO News and SeattlePI have a content-sharing agreement” — calls that script “the next step in the company’s plan to undermine non-Sinclair outlets.” KOMO-4 is one of Sinclair’s largest stations, after Washington DC, and in a liberal city. Sinclair bought its parent company in 2013.

I’ve had my say in these posts plenty of times — especially here (with a whole lot more reasons and ending with directions on letting the FCC know the danger that Sinclair poses by its size, power and ethics) but also here, here, here, and a few more if you search — so I’ll let SeattlePI continue:

“The claim of balanced reporting is undermined by must-run segments like the one about the ‘Deep State’ that ran during KOMO’s 6pm newscast last week. In the March 21 segment, former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka parroted a Trump talking point regarding the existence of a ‘Deep State’ attempting to undermine the U.S. government.

“That segment was produced by Sinclair’s Kristine Frazao, who before coming to Sinclair was a reporter and anchor for the Russian-government funded news network RT, described as ‘the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet’ by the Columbia Journalism Review.

“Sinclair also requires stations to run segments from Boris Epshteyn, a Russian-born former Trump adviser who now serves as Sinclair’s chief political analyst. Epshteyn recently produced stories with titles like, ‘Pres. Trump deserves cabinet and staff who support his agenda, yield successes’ and ‘Cable news channels are giving way too much coverage to Stormy Daniels.'”

Also, “Sinclair was fined $13.3 million by the FCC in December for running over 1,700 commercials designed to look like news broadcasts without properly identifying them as paid content on its stations over a six-month period.”

And in January, it had some nerve when it “asked employees to donate to its political action committee meant to sway lawmakers.” FTV Live’s Scott Jones leaked the document that called the Sinclair Political Action Committee, “our fund that supports candidates for Congress who can influence the future of broadcasting” — in their interest, of course!

It’s no wonder New York magazine wrote a piece titled “Local news is turning into Trump TV, even though viewers don’t want it” describing — without repeating what’s above — how “Trump’s handpicked FCC chair, Ajit Pai, spent much of last year dismantling regulatory obstacles to media consolidation — including two rules that stood in the way of Sinclair’s desired merger with Tribune Media.”

Then it presumes “Sinclair has repaid this favor with interest” and asks “Why has Sinclair’s programming become more right-wing, even as it has expanded into more left-leaning media markets?”

It answers by saying, “A new study from Emory University political scientists Gregory J. Martin and Josh McCrain suggests that both of these explanations are wrong: The ideological bent of Sinclair’s programming does turn off local news viewers — but broadcasting such unpopular, ideological content is (probably) a good business decision for the company, anyway.”

Specifically, “The researchers found that Sinclair-acquired stations became both more right-wing in their ideological orientation (as calculated by ‘text-based measures of ideological slant’) and more focused on national politics (as opposed to local politics) than their competitors did over the same period.”

And, “they discovered that the Sinclair-acquired stations did seem to pay a price for these programming changes — but not a terribly large one:

“In ratings terms, the shift towards national politics was costly to these stations: viewers appear to prefer the more local-heavy mix of coverage to the more national-heavy one. Nonetheless, there are very clear economies of scale for a conglomerate owner in covering national as opposed to local politics, thanks to the ability to distribute the same content in multiple markets. Given that the ratings penalty we document is fairly small, it seems likely that these cost efficiencies dominate in Sinclair’s calculus.”

So, New York magazine concludes,

“Sinclair’s commitment to substituting pro-Trump propaganda for local news reporting costs the company viewers — but that commitment does not (necessarily) cost the firm profits.”

sinclair numbers
from http://sbgi.net/

It continues that this is happening while the United States is “suffering through a crisis of local journalism. Regional newspapers are either dead, dying, or hobbling along, shedding resources for local reporting with each step.”

 

And since “Americans increasingly view national events through an algorithmically customized, ideological filter — local TV news has assumed a heightened importance.”

In fact, “‘local news organizations’ remain the most trusted source of information in Pew Research Center’s polling on trust in media.”

Click here for the long list of Sinclair owned, or not owned but operated stations. The number would reportedly grow to 233 stations if the Federal Communications Commission approves its acquisition of Tribune Media. It should not.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair’s size without Tribune

And at the end of this post, let’s mark the end of Don Imus’ radio career. The shock jock left the airwaves after nearly half of a century on the radio, Thursday.

I wrote about him a month-and-a-half ago when sportscaster Warner Wolf sued, claiming he was fired in 2016 for age discrimination.

The Associated Press had reported Wolf’s suit claimed, “Imus once said it was time to put Wolf ‘out to pasture’ and ‘shoot him with an elephant dart gun.’”

The New York Daily News reported the Imus-Wolf trouble really started a few months before when Wolf moved to Naples, Fla., and contributed to the show from there.

Imus — who himself left the Big Apple a year earlier, in 2015, to live on a Texas ranch — didn’t like it. (At least they have the Gulf of Mexico between them!) The rest of the crew worked in New York.

Now, The Daily News quoted the I-Man,

“I know in my heart there’s been nobody ever better on the radio than me,” the less-than-modest 77-year-old DJ declared shortly before signing off from his studio in Texas. “Nobody ever did this.”

Imus fought back tears while thanking his listeners and saying “You have no idea how much I’m going to miss you.”

The paper also said he “appeared to take subtle parting shots at past rivals including the Rev. Al Sharpton and the self-proclaimed ‘King of All Media’ Howard Stern.

“Imus in the Morning” aired weekdays on 84 stations around the country.

Why teaching isn’t for me anymore

(Yesterday, I wrote about why teachers have to give so many tests, why students have to take them, the many recent changes to teaching and learning in Florida, and what happened when I had to give results that many 3rd graders and their parents considered life-or-death.)

Fall, 2006: I brought former Miami meteorologist Paul Deanno visited Sibley Elementary's Saturday Academy to teach about weather
Fall, 2006: I brought former Miami meteorologist Paul Deanno to visit Sibley Elementary’s Saturday Academy to teach about weather

I wasn’t an education major when I stepped into the classroom. I’d spent the past 12 years helping put on the news at TV stations. (Truth be told, I did look into teaching in Philadelphia, 2000-2001. I observed a middle school class but didn’t want to go for a master’s degree, and ended up at KYW). Years later, when I was producing Web sites for WFOR-WBFS-WTVX in Miami, a family friend (Lois) said she’d always seen me as an elementary school teacher. I looked into it, and it’s pretty easy in Florida. You need a college degree in anything, and have to pass the fingerprint test. The rest can be taken care of over three years.

May, 2007: my father teaching my class about dentistry at Sibley Elementary's Career Day
May, 2007: My father teaching my class about dentistry on Career Day. Very little on the walls due to 1st grade SAT testing.

I got my start when a teacher went on maternity leave in early 2006, and went to work halfway through the school year. It wasn’t easy. I knew how to photocopy and the other teachers helped me with plans and discipline. (That year, the administrators decided half the class should be good students and the other half, the opposite. Either the high achievers can help the low, or it was a recipe for disaster.)

I came to realize the teachers I respected the most, those who’d been doing it for 30+ years, were frustrated. They didn’t know what they were doing because of so many changes, and they freely admitted it (Sheila). I told a friend of the family (Kenny) who’d recently retired that I was starting to teach, and he asked, “Why?”

Fall, 2008: My class displayed "Where the Wild Things Are" for the school's Fall Festival. Sibley Maurice Sendak
Fall, 2008: My class displayed Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are for the school’s Fall Festival.

There’s not enough time to teach effectively. I totally understand fire drills but have problems with dances in the hope that students will do well (rather than as a reward for doing well) and going ice skating because the Winter Olympics were going on. Students need more time to meet tougher standards, don’t you think?

In many cases during my eight years of experience, the parents were part of the problem. Many didn’t show up at conferences. They didn’t get their children to preschool, so students started kindergarten with zero background. Often (again, from what I’ve seen), they’re too busy with their hair, tattoos, and cars to get their kids to school on time, pick them up on time, or make sure they do their homework — as if the teacher wants more papers to review.

August, 2011: My nephew Logan visited as I set up my 1st grade classroom.
August, 2011: My nephew Logan visited as I set up my 1st grade classroom.

The problem was the opposite at the private religious school where I was in the fall of 2013. It was a class system and it didn’t have anything to do with education, but money. Too many parents thought their kids were perfect and wouldn’t accept the truth. (And that’s why a lot of the kids went there.) I was forced to endure too many get-to-know-you activities, do-overs for bad grades (on teacher-prepared tests), not marking tardy if there was a train on the tracks around the starting time and, of course, Miami Dolphins Day. The list goes on because parents pay a fortune (at least to most of us) in tuition. Then, these students are pushed with after-school activities. They’ll never make it in the real world under these circumstances.  Private schools can get away with almost anything. I respect people who choose to pay for religious instruction, but not those who pay to take the easy way out because their children have issues and wouldn’t make it in public school.

March, 2012: Another of my students' award-winning science projects, "Which kind of laundry detergent removes dirt stains better, liquid or powder?"
March, 2012: Another of my students’ award-winning science projects, “Which Kind of Laundry Detergent Removes Dirt Stains Better, Liquid or Powder?”

By the way, money is the name of the game at all schools — public and private – and all levels of government. Don’t forget that. Look for bond initiatives and contracts for building and buying.

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Unions in Florida are weak, because the land of sunshine is a right-to-work state. About half of the teachers take their union-negotiated salary and benefits without paying any union dues. Things would be better if unions could teach legislatures a thing or two. The United Teachers of Dade tried hard to recruit members. The Broward Teachers Union didn’t.

June, 2012: my name on Teacher of the Year marquee outside Sibley
June, 2012: my name on Teacher of the Year marquee outside Sibley

I taught 1st grade most of the time, but also 2nd and 3rd. We do what we’re assigned, and that could change in the middle of the year. I was lucky. One coworker (Cindy) had to move to a different classroom four times in six years!

Some folks think teachers are lucky to get summers off. No. They’re planning the next year based on new standards, and taking new classes or tests to teach subjects they’ve been teaching successfully for 30 years. That includes one Ph.D., right Dr. G?

Some don’t like teachers getting paid more based on their experience. The thing is, they don’t get extra vacation time based on seniority like in the real world. New laws limit opportunities for tenure and seniority. Right now in Florida, new teachers won’t see a contract for a period of more than one year. Who would work under that?

Bottom line: I’m past teaching. Over it. Totally. Many of my students were nice and tried hard. Some of their parents were helpful and considerate. Even some administrators. I wish them all the absolute best and wish I had answers, but let someone else do the teaching.

Why I’m happy not teaching

Other people seemed to love me being a teacher. They thought things like, “Oh how nice,” “The kids are so lucky,” “You’re a miracle worker,” etc., etc. But for the last few years, I couldn’t stand going into a classroom.

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Do you know what this means?

You probably don’t recognize a lot of those terms and honestly, neither do I. But that’s what teaching has become. And it’s not for me.

I can take criticism. I’m the first to admit when I’m wrong, or when something isn’t right. A large part of my resentment to teaching is how teachers are judged. Teachers can tell if their students aren’t getting it. Can one high-stakes test determine whether the teacher is doing his job well? The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 makes states develop assessments in basic skills to get federal money, but lets the states make their own standards! Are Massachusetts and Mississippi’s requirements anything alike? How does that help?

from Jeb Bush's Facebook page
from Jeb Bush’s Facebook page

Jeb Bush also thinks highly of student testing to judge teacher performance. (On the other hand, I think it should be one consideration out of several. New York is debating that right now. Do we judge doctors on their success rate if their patients smoke? Or dentists, if their patients eat candy and don’t brush?)

Last November, the Wall Street Journal’s Beth Reinhard blogged: “As governor of Florida from 1999 to 2006, Mr. Bush tangled repeatedly with unions over his efforts to link teacher pay and job security to test results, as well as to award grades to schools based on their tests scores, to expand charter schools and to give private school vouchers to struggling public-school students. After leaving office, he advocated those policies across the country as leader of the foundation (the who-could-be-against-it Foundation for Excellence in Education).” Bush won.

The teachers’ union is suing over the voucher program, saying it violates the state constitution by diverting money from public schools to religious institutions. I think, except for a few unusual circumstances, students should go to the school nearest their home and it should have the programs students need – before, during, and after school. A properly funded public school is a constitutional mandate in most places, and the right thing to do in all.

June, 2012: receiving my
June, 2012: receiving my “Apple” for winning Teacher of the Year, the first to say Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy

Charter schools run for money aren’t better. By definition, the almighty dollar is their priority. They pay rent to the owner of the campus (which could be the same person, or a family member) and pay teachers what they want. They’re less expensive. Many can even choose who they admit, and we all know they don’t want special-ed, disabled, and non-English speakers as students. They would hurt test scores. Proponents use positive names, like National School Choice Week, which just ended. Check out what this Washington Post blog says was just learned about charter schools in Ohio.

Jeb Bush’s FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) has been feared by 3rd through 11th graders since 1998 and about to be replaced with new assessments. It was designed to measure student progress on the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) benchmarks. Then came the NGSSS, the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards Then we were trained for the Common Core State Standards, which were pretty-much nationwide and probably better than most of what 50 different states require. Then the state of Florida decided against the Common Core. Many conservatives (but not Jeb Bush) say the CC takes away rights from the states. Either that, or lawmakers in Tallahassee wanted to pay supporters to come up with new standards. Anyway, the new Florida Standards were born. They’re apparently not too different from the CC. With the new standards come new tests: one for each class in each grade. (Kindergarten students already have to hold #2 pencils in some places, including where I used to work, even if they can’t write their names.) This year, the testing is going through its transition. Click here to see what teachers have to work with, by grade level and then by subject. Try to figure it out.

August, 2012: retiring teacher Sheila Cohen (no relation) helping me set up my new 3rd grade classroom, the one she'd vacated the previous fall
August, 2012: retiring teacher Sheila Cohen (no relation) helping me set up my new 3rd grade classroom, the one she’d vacated the previous fall

I’ll never forget the year I taught 3rd grade. Students have to pass the reading portion of the test or be retained. It’s state law (and multiple choice, because computers can do the grading). They get some second chances but most repeat 3rd grade, the year they’re supposed to stop learning to read, and start reading to learn.

One day, the assistant principal interrupted all the 3rd grade teachers’ lessons to hand over the results. Students’ names were listed alphabetically for the whole grade, not divided into classes. I had to slowly go through and let them know what the biggest part of the future of their young lives held. There was screaming all up and down the hallway, coming out of many rooms. I couldn’t tell if they were happy cries or sad. In my room, the inclusion class that had several students in special-ed, the results were mixed. I let the students who passed call home to tell their parents the good news. The others were clearly distraught. This was the only thing that matters in 3rd grade in Florida. (But try getting a class set of reading workbooks!)

The schools and administrators look better if more students pass the tests that were handed down. And teachers get bonuses if their students do well enough. (Late last week, I got a W-2 for $1200 from Miami-Dade County Public Schools that I had forgotten I received last February. These things take time. I hadn’t worked for the district in more than a year and a half.) You can bet the FCAT-tested subjects are given more than their share of teaching time, to the detriment of others. And 30 minutes of physical education every day? In many places, forget about it!

(Unfortunately, the problems go on and on. Tomorrow, click here for more, and details on why I left teaching and don’t regret it one bit.)