Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sanity Reigns

It must be the weather, but sanity reigned at a recent "Smart" City Council meeting. Specifically, the tax intended to fund the effort to buy the Georgia Music Hall of Fame was rejected. It is interesting to note that the Mayor is earning quite the reputation as an advocate of increasing taxes as he is now two for two.

The best objections were based on principles and trust. One Councilor, you can probably guess which one, noted that the Convention Bureau had not followed the requirements of transparency. Such shenanigans are always suspect. Another Councilor questioned the veracity of those who claimed "we will drop the tax if we do not get the GMHoF" by probing whether the real plan was to immediately borrow against the allegedly "potential" future taxes. Very likely that is exactly the plan. Behind closed doors, naturally.

The lame justification of a tax increase is smarmy, but 100% unadulterated Dunwoody, and is based on belief that it is righteous to tax everyone but ourselves. As if any tax we don't pay really isn't a tax...maybe that's the way smarter folks see it.

As for the GMHoF...the Dunwoody proposal, even just as a document, was by far the worst of the bunch, a rather sad sandwich of souse between stale white bread. Starting with a chorus of "listen to us, we're smart" it ends with a crescendo reprise of "how great we art". But in the middle we find little of substance and what is there is rather unappetizing: no recognition of the importance of certification and conservancy, no explanation of the synergies with existing music venues (there are none and no plans for any), the rich heritage of artistic incubation (we have none), just a feeble appeal to greed with a plan to pick into children's pockets with field trips.  This earned Dunwoody a well-deserved last place.

If Dunwoody were serious about music we would already have our version of Chastain Park Amphitheatre, perhaps smaller, perhaps "on the lawn", perhaps at Brook Run, maybe even in conjunction with Perimeter College. Or perhaps even a bandstand in the village--even if only used for the Fourth of July parade. But this is Dunwoody. The public outcry regarding traffic, late night noise and lights would be deafening. And heaven forbid it require trimming a tree. Fact is Dunwoody voters want a sleepy little burgh, and when we want to see a show we'll go to Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Vinings or Gwinnett. Maybe even the Fox.

This scam was always about getting OPM into Perimeter Center. Fine. Let them acquire the land,  and pony up the dollars, and build their "music center", and update the proposal. If successful, PCID will be to music what Helen is to alpine villages.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

School Punch-Down List

We return to our regularly scheduled program...

These are presented without colour commentary or supporting argument. This may be provided at a later date if page hits indicate interest.

Though some items are related these are in no particular order.
  • Eliminate tenure.
  • Novice teachers have two years before they can be fired.
  • Non-novice teachers can be fired with neither notice nor cause. 
  • Convert all defined benefit retirement plans to defined contribution plans.
  • Eliminate all out of system transfers for children of employees.
  • Institute random, no-warning, suspicion-less, post-employment drug testing. 
  • All teacher CV available online, including transcripts covering all for-credit study and training programs.
  • Reorganize schools into four levels: pre-k thru 2nd grade; 3rd thru 6th; 7th thru 10th; and 11 & 12th grades.
  • 11 & 12th grade programs are either pre-college or vo-tech.
  • Pre-k thru 2nd grade and 3rd thru 6th grade students have the same Primary Teacher year to year (AKA: looping).
  • 7th thru 10th and 11 & 12th grade students have the same "Home room Run" class teacher who is responsible for those students' academic achievement. 
  • Primary Teachers and Home Run teachers coordinate meetings between subject matter teachers, tutors, administrators and the student and parent.
  • Primary Teachers and Home Run teachers act as in-school disciplinarian on behalf of the parent.
  • Allow parents to bid on teachers thru a Dutch Auction with proceeds going to the General System Fund to offset taxes.
  • Replace high stakes end-of-year tests with high stakes start-of-year entrance exams.
  • Performance on start-of-year entrance exams factors into Primary Teacher and Home Run teacher evaluations.
  • Entrance exams are created and administered by a state agency, proctored by junior and senior college students preparing to become teachers.
  • De-skill Pre-k thru 3rd grade "instruction": hire high school graduates, give them two years of training and pay commensurate with that position.
  • De-skill administrative positions and significantly cut pay ranges.
  • Eliminate "golden parachutes."
  • Pay "interims" their current salary unless they are selected for the permanent position at which point they are retroactively compensated at the new rate.
  • Eliminate all "Curriculum Development" and related positions.
  • Eliminate School Resource Officers, using local law enforcement as necessary.
  • Eliminate school psychologists/psychiatrists, social workers, grief counselors and other such soft social services. 
  • Replace education colleges' hyphenated topic-education degrees with a dual degree (subject matter and education) degree program. 
  • Recognize credentials from accredited programs only.
  • Accept a license from any other state which has outperformed Georgia on nationally normed and recognized academic evaluations in three or more of the last five years. 
  • Recognize only those credentials in a legitimate and directly applicable subject matter or education area.
  • Create state curricula--require its use.
  • Eliminate the use of vendor supplied texts and related material.
  • Require, as a condition for tenure in Education Colleges and as a consideration for tenure in subject matter Colleges, participation in a State-level organization to design curricula, create all course planning and presentation materials (including, lesson plans, texts, ancillary/supplementary material, multimedia material, test banks, etc.), design and supervise the administration of start-of-year entrance exams and perform random, unannounced education audits.
  • Create and make available online the Georgia version of E.D. Hirsch's "What your n-th grader needs to know".
  • Publish all State-produced educational material under the Creative Commons "Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives" license.
  • Focus on knowledge and skills before "soft topics" like "learning concepts".
  • Eliminate "Smart Boards".
  • Eliminate the use of computers outside of the library.
  • Eliminate the use of calculators outside of science and finance/business courses.
  • Install 3 cameras in each classroom: one at the back and two at each side in front. 
  • Record all classes and make recordings available to the public in digital form upon request with a maximum 24 hour turnaround.
  • Eliminate basketball and football programs.
  • Eliminate school lunch, cafeterias and associated employees.
  • No bus stop within 2 miles of school.
  • Employ no near-relatives, to include spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins or any of these prefixed with "ex-", of any exempt administrative personnel, board members or any in-school, non-teaching staff.
  • Tax increases must be subject to a referendum.
  • Eliminate elected boards of education.
  • Costs for all activities not part of core instruction are covered by fees to be paid by parents or guardians of the participating students.
  • Make all meeting minutes, call logs, emails, letters, administrative documents (budgets, RFI/Q, bids, etc.), expense reports, vendor reports and any other business document available to the public in electronic form within 24 hours of a request.
  • Maintain and make available online an accurate catalog of all documents.
  • Make detailed budget data available in spreadsheet form.
  • Make all GIS, demographic and planning data available online. 
This should be a good start.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    We Interrupt This Program...

    ...for a news flash: "There are lousy politicians everywhere".

    This should surprise no one, but this week brought a trifecta at the state, county and city level.

    Under the gold dome we have a senator who has presided over bank failures that have drawn the attention of the FDIC who alleges gross negligence. No problem, right? Even the governor has a "history". Well, it turns out the senator in question chairs the Banking Committee. It gets better. The fellow senator heading the committee which appointed our innovative banker-senator feigns ignorance: "I know nothing about this. I need to get informed before I comment on it". On exactly what criteria did this most knowledgeable senator conclude his colleague was fit in the first place? Or, is there a polaroid somewhere showing someone doing something illegal with a chicken? Like feeding it in your backyard.

    We head on over to the county for the next bundle of dysfunctional synapses, where we have DeKalb's Homicide Unit featured on "The First 48", a reality show following investigators during the first 48 hours of homicide investigations. The show's producer selected DeKalb because of the the DPD's superior effectiveness at investigating murders. The plan was approved by the department, supported by the CEO and a contract is in place. Now the County Commission has their collective knickers in a knot. Why? Because some of them think this makes DeKalb look bad. To quote one pointy headed politician: "We're not proud of our murder rate and I'm not sure why we would want any visibility on homicides." Duh? How about so we can address these crimes and get them under control. Given that this commissioner uses the no-see, no-hear, no-say approach to governance he probably hasn't noticed that a significant bit of violence occurs every Sunday at "clubs". Perhaps a bit of attention would reveal a simple solution to at least some crimes. Maybe even something the County Commission could do. Other than pretend there isn't a problem.

    Closer to home, we end our second year as a city with the inevitable call for taxes from our unelected mayor, ostensibly for parks. This confirms that our city founders did not and do not have a viable financial plan: we can't afford police that will check out a reported fire; we cannot keep our roads from degenerating into cobbles; and we cannot even care for the parks we have. But we have a plan that includes taking private property, perhaps by force of imminent domain, for citywide trails and linear parks. To do this the city needs money, your money, your tax dollars to pay for it. And keep in mind, this call comes from the same mayor whose wife's sensibilities were offended by a deck built by the neighbor behind them. So. Not in their backyard, but what the hell, if they want to they'll take your backyard.

    At the end of the day, it isn't just the hypocrisy. It's the arrogance.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    WTF?

    Seriously now folks, pointing out the flawed personalities that have driven DeKalb County Schools to a state of irreparable dysfunction and near collapse is not all that interesting and it certainly isn't surprising. Nor is it, or the public school system, all that important. Think about it. If the schools were really that important, you think we'd have let them deteriorate like this? Don't you think people would have put aside their petty self-interests long ago to support the common good?

    Yet based on page traffic, almost as much in 48 hours as the site normally gets in a month (except the time it was suggested Dunwoody might land freaknik), one would think The Other Dunwoody had posted the secret of turning lead into gold.

    To what can this be attributed? Are delicate sensibilities offended at the F-Bomb? Is that offense somehow titillating? Or, has America's Sacred Cow, public education, been once again exposed for the Bull it really is? Given the furor over the notion that [Tiger] Mom Makes A Difference, and a significantly smarter and better educated child, let us agree it is the latter.

    Given that, and now that we have your attention, The Other Dunwoody would be remiss were it not to offer common sense actions that improve the efficacy of education, particularly the fundamentally flawed public education system.

    Stay tuned for the upcoming post.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    SOS: Save Our Schools

    If you simply cannot tolerate the wonderful Christmas movie, "The Ref", because Denis Leary drops the F-Bomb like it's part of the attack on Tokyo, then you might want to leave this post right now.

    Seriously, if you think drastic measures are not called for, if you believe we can just talk it over and things will be just fine, that all we need is a little compromise to reach consensus or that consensus if even part of the solution, then you should check out the whiners here or here.












    So, you are either determined, or curiosity has bested you.

    First, the problem with our schools is not what you would suspect. Anyone the least bit in touch with reality knows that by any objective measure, and by that we mean nationally normed evaluations, DeKalb Public Schools are an educational train wreck. But that is not the problem at hand. A more important problem is looming and as you might imagine, it is all about money. Apparently DCS had built schools in high growth areas (that would be the south) in anticipation of a growing student body, at the same time starving the stable, but overcrowded schools in the north though they are in much need of resources. Then the real estate bubble exploded, the schools not only did not fill, but found themselves with so few students...and here's where the money comes in...that they were not eligible for significant state funding. Given the  administrative bloat of DCS and the fact that anyone occupying the superintendent's office, no matter how briefly, must be given an obscene pay and benefits package,  it should come as no surprise that even a small disruption in the money stream is of the utmost concern.

    So how will DCS solve their money problem? Re-districting and school closings. This will put the right number of arses in the right clarses to ensure that DCS gets maximum drain from the state coffers. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Apparently way too many groups of folks have something other than achieving the best possible educational outcomes as their top priority. This seems to include job security and pay, property values, and racism and classism.

    How best to silence this cacophony of competing narrow interests? Glad you asked.

    Here's the answer--some folks simply must have a nice steaming hot cup of Shut the Fuck Up and let the adults solve this problem. This is no time for petty jealousies, nor for the greedy and self-interested to re-enact the tragedy of the commons playing fast and loose with How about a nice cup of Shut the Fuck Up?
    our school system and with flagrant disregard for education outcomes.

    These obstructionists include, in no particular order:

    Those who seem to think that schools, particularly the ones near them, exist for the sole purpose of increasing, or in today's climate, maintaining, their property value deserve a full cup of Shut the Fuck Up.

    Other folks, probably with no direct interest in education but who nonetheless  pontificate on the moral imperative of proper classroom diversity, as only they can define it, need a grande cup of Shut the Fuck Up.

    Those suggesting that folks living in apartments are somehow inferior, and if educated as a group simply won't get an adequate education have earned a really hot cup of Shut the Fuck Up.

    Parents who think those same apartment dwellers' children will give their little darlings cooties, or that the only benefit these other people offer are some basketball moves, well, they too get a cup of Shut the Fuck Up--two lumps, no cream.

    And, if you're a mop pushing janitor who now feels entitled, as if you're somehow critical to a good education, then yes, you are entitled. To a nice cup of Shut the Fuck Up.

    And what about those administrators who justify their bloated salaries and gold-plated benefits by comparing their position to what they (and virtually no one else) considers an equivalent private sector position? Well, they'll need their Shut the Fuck Up in a to-go cup because we're calling their bluff--they need to hit the bricks and prove the value of their immense skills in the private sector.

    Teachers, by their self-aggrandizing re-labeling of "educator" and their made-up, neither here nor there hyphenated degrees, have worked diligently, day and night for what has heretofore been a mere sip of Shut the Fuck Up. But have no fear, you'll not be asked to crawl down from that cross you climb up on every time you get a public forum--you just stay put and we'll have someone top your cup off. To the brim. Free refills.

    And finally, parents who think they have a bigger say in how schools are run because their darling little one's are in school get as big a cup of Shut the Fuck Up as they need, but not a drop more.

    Now, everyone good? Great! Will the remaining adults please finish the job in such a way that each student gets an education that maximizes their individual potential while reducing per-student cost by 20%?

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Never Say Die

    After reviewing Dunwoody's proposal to relocate the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to a recently closed women's shoe outlet at Perimeter Mall, the GMHF board has spoken: Dunwoody scored a well deserved dead last and barely scored half of the top score. And even the top proposal was rejected.

    Normally that would be considered quite a setback, even "game over". That would be to underestimate what makes Dunwoody such a Smart Choice. Ego alone prevents the realization that a proposal beginning and ending with repeated résumés might have been off-putting if not outright arrogantly self-aggrandizing. Perhaps worse was inserting the peculiar notions that preservation is not the mission of a museum and that a retail outlet is somehow an ideal location for priceless artifacts. The latter is allegedly based on the assertion that a mall is where children want to go and the revenue stream is largely based on laundering parent and taxpayer money through students via school field trips. It is unlikely that any teacher was consulted on the desirability of chaperoning 5th grade field trips at a major shopping center.

    None of this will deter the power(s) that be behind this rather queer effort to whitewash Dunwoody as a music mecca and Georgia music as perhaps not indigenous, but somehow aligned with Dunwoody. Their take-away from the Board's vote is simple: we need payola--taxes, and preferably from folks who cannot vote in Dunwoody elections.

    Hence, the proposal being advanced is to increase the hotel tax and spend the money subsidizing the Sid and Marty Kroft version of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. We are left to wait with bated breath to see if the Dunwoody Docents can commit enough of Other People's Money by the April 30 deadline to move from worst to first.