Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The state spits in Newark’s face | Bob Braun's Ledger

The state spits in Newark’s face | Bob Braun's Ledger:

The state spits in Newark’s face



Christopher Cerf--the new Newark superintendent


(Editor’s Note: I was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting of the state school board and asked Melissa Katz, a well-known student activist and supporter of public education, to cover the meeting for me. Her report is complete and comprehensive and will give the most thorough  account of what happened at the meeting I have yet seen).
The controversial deal cut between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka bore its first fruit Wednesday when the state school board voted 6-4 to name former state education commissioner Christopher Cerf to take over as the state-appointed superintendent o Newark schools. All six board members voting for Cerf, a national proponent of charter schools and a business entrepreneur, were appointed by Christie; those voting against Cerf were holdovers from previous administrations. No public comment was allowed at the meeting.
Cerf’s nomination had been opposed by the Newark groups that successfully drove out Cami Anderson as state-appointed superintendent after her four years of contentious, incompetent and, at times, tragic rule.  Just the day before, more than one hundred protesters rallied in Newark against the Cerf appointment. All speakers but one–Baraka himself–called for a rejection of Cerf’s appointment. Baraka, clearly angry at those–like this writer–who opposed his deal with Christie–would not criticize the former education commissioner who originally hired Anderson.
What follows is a comprehensive account of Wednesday’s board meeting written by Melissa Katz, a junior at The College of New Jersey, an aspiring urban teacher, and a student activist who has consistently supported the aspirations of Newark residents to run their own schools after 20 years of state rule:
By MELISSA KATZ
In what is usually a regular, monthly meeting at the State Board of Education, the tension in the room could be felt. Less than 24 hours earlier, over 100 people stood on the steps of Newark City Hall, protesting the proposed appointment of Christopher Cerf as the new Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. Equally as many if not more phone calls and emails were made to the State Board President Mark Biedron with the same message: the community of Newark was saying ‘no’ to Chris Cerf.
This morning, that proposal became a reality.
In a 6-4 vote by the State Board of Education, Cerf was appointed as the next — The state spits in Newark’s face | Bob Braun's Ledger:

As Congress moves to strip his power, Duncan is staying until the final buzzer - The Washington Post

As Congress moves to strip his power, Duncan is staying until the final buzzer - The Washington Post:

As Congress moves to strip his power, Duncan is staying until the final buzzer






Christina Waters’s cellphone rang, and she looked down to see that the number was blocked. She knew immediately it was U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, just calling to check in.
It has been that way since Waters attended a 2009 church picnic in Chicago and came away with a bullet lodged in her head from stray gunfire. She suffered hearing loss in one ear, and her college dreams were delayed. But she pushed forward, with encouragement from Duncan, who has known her since elementary school. Now 24, Waters is studying kinesiology at Sam Houston State University in Texas.
Waters belongs to a circle of strivers that Duncan has quietly cultivated, students across the country who are clearing hurdles that would discourage many others. He calls regularly to offer support and advice.
That unfiltered, direct contact has been key in shaping Duncan’s belief that poor students hold the same potential as their affluent peers but face more obstacles to a high-quality education in America’s public schools. Trying to correct that imbalance, Duncan has injected an unusual amount of federal influence into traditionally local decisions about public education.
The result is that most Americans now accept public charter schools as an alternative to neighborhood schools, most teachers expect to be judged in some measure on how well their students perform on standardized tests, and most states are using more demanding K-12 As Congress moves to strip his power, Duncan is staying until the final buzzer - The Washington Post:

Lawmakers Move to Limit Government’s Role in Education - The New York Times

Lawmakers Move to Limit Government’s Role in Education - The New York Times:

Lawmakers Move to Limit Government’s Role in Education





WASHINGTON — Congress on Wednesday moved to substantially scale back the federal government’s role in education, particularly the use of high-stakes standardized testing to punish schools, in the first significant proposed revisions since the No Child Left Behind law was passed 14 years ago.
While there is near-universal agreement that the law should be retooled, the paths to change are starkly different.
The House on Wednesday passed its version, a measure laden with conservative prescriptions that congressional Democrats and President Obama opposed. The Senate began debate on its alternative, a bill with at least some bipartisan support, but one the White House still finds wanting.
No Child Left Behind, which passed Congress by overwhelming margins, had been considered one of the signature domestic achievements of President George W. Bush. But its provisions for using standardized tests has ignited debate ever since.
Those fights have intensified during the intervening years since Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Edward M. Kennedy created their compromise that Mr. Bush signed.
The House version of a revised education bill includes a provision that would permit low-income students to transfer federal dollars between school districts, something the Obama administration has pledged to veto. The bill, which passed, 218 to 213 had almost no Democratic support.
In the Senate, there were calls for cooperation.
“We’ve asked senators to show restraint,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, who is working with Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, on a compromise bill. “Our goal is to have a success, and that’s to get President Obama to sign it. For us back home, No Child Left behind is the No. 1 issue.”
Both the Senate and House versions of education legislation address what critics of No Child Left Behind have opposed for years — a punitive system of testing overseen by the federal government — in favor of more local Lawmakers Move to Limit Government’s Role in Education - The New York Times:

On The Sacramento Bee's soft spot for K.J. - Sacramento News & Review -

Sacramento News & Review - On The Sacramento Bee's soft spot for K.J. - Feature Story - Local Stories - July 9, 2015:

On The Sacramento Bee's soft spot for K.J.

The Bee has been criticized before for its handling of Johnson’s various controversies, and this latest legal dust-up isn’t helping




It’s weird when news organizationsbecome the news. But that’s exactly what happened when Mayor Kevin Johnson filed a lawsuit against the city and SN&R.
The July 1 lawsuit came after SN&R refused to back off its public-records request for emails between his office and attorneys involved in a legal entanglement with the National Conference of Black Mayors. As a result, Johnson sued to block the city’s release of said emails, citing attorney-client privilege—emails that the city attorney had already determined to be public record.
Weird.
Even taking SN&R out of the equation, the lawsuit is odd—and a pretty big deal. When was the last time (if ever) that a mayor sued his or her own city? When was the last time (if ever) that a mayor requested a restraining order against the city he or she governs?
News of Johnson’s landmark legal moves spread fast. By end of day Wednesday, all three major local TV news stations had visited SN&R’s Del Paso Boulevard headquarters to interview publisher Jeff vonKaenel. National outlets such as Deadspin, The Huffington Post and USA Today also picked up the story.
All of which just makes The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the lawsuit all the more, well, weird.
Take its initial report, for starters: After the news broke, the paper posted a short, unbylined brief on its website. That’s not necessarily the strange part; breaking news is a fast beast, surely the paper’s print version would be meatier.
Nope. The Bee’s July 2 print version of the story was buried on page A3, credited only to “Bee Metro Staff.”
How and why, exactly, did Bee editors decide this story wasn’t front-page news?
(Full disclosure: I worked at the Bee from 2000-09 as a features writer and have a pretty good idea of its Sacramento News & Review - On The Sacramento Bee's soft spot for K.J. - Feature Story - Local Stories - July 9, 2015:


Why Mayor Kevin Johnson sued SN&R, what we've learned—and what happens next



“The mayor is completely open and transparent.” That’s what Mayor Kevin Johnson’s spokesman Ben Sosenko told the TV cameras and reporters gathered outside Sacramento Superior Court Room 44 last week.
Shortly before that, Sosenko flatly refused to answer any of SN&R’s questions about the mayor’s use of private emails to do city business. He made it clear that he didn’t intend to answer any of SN&R’s questions any time soon, either.
“It is what it is,” he said with a smirk.
Regular readers know that, last week, Johnson took SN&R and the city of Sacramento to court, in order to block the city from releasing about 100 emails, which the mayor says are protected by attorney-client privilege (read about the lawsuit on SN&R’s Page Burner blog athttp://tinyurl.com/KJlawsuit).
But the bigger story may be that, thanks to Johnson’s lawsuit, we now know that the mayor has actually failed to turn over thousands of emails from his private Gmail accounts. Those emails were sent by city employees, doing city business, and aren’t protected by attorney-client privilege.
Outside the courtroom, SN&R attorney Thomas Burke told the gathered media that Johnson’s use of private email accounts is a way to get around the California Public Records Act. “There’s no way to check whether or not you have access to everything that they’re doing in the public’s business,” Burke said.
Sosenko wouldn’t talk to SN&R, but assured the other reporters gathered that the Gmail accounts, which use “OMKJ” for “Office of Mayor Kevin Johnson” in the address, were no problem, because “the private email accounts are used for things that are not city business.”
Not even remotely true: The OMKJ emails accounts are routinely used for city business. To take just a few examples: Johnson and his staff used outside emails extensively to discuss strategy for the 2013 arena deal. Other OMKJ emails obtained by SN&R show Sosenko responding to an article in the Bee about an anti-gang program, and developing talking points for remarks Johnson made to Sacramento police officers about the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. By using these outside accounts, Johnson has effectively short-circuited California’s public-records law. And no one on the city council, or the city manager or city attorney, seems willing to do anything about it.
Back in March, SN&R requested any emails sent and received using the set of special “OMKJ” Gmail accounts used by the mayor’s staff (see “Special delivery” by Cosmo Garvin, SN&R News, April 23, at

Why Mayor Kevin Johnson sued SN&R, what we've learned—and what happens next


Big Education Ape: Nine things that burn in your brain when the mayor sues you - Sacramento News & Review - http://bit.ly/1HgQb6c

Nine things that burn in your brain when the mayor sues you - Sacramento News & Review -

Sacramento News & Review - Nine things that burn in your brain when the mayor sues you - Feature Story - Local Stories - July 9, 2015:

Nine things that burn in your brain when the mayor sues you

A special Mayor Kevin Johnson listicle





This week was at once weird, unexpected, electric and head-scratching.We got sued by the mayor, what the hell is going on? Only a listicle will do. And, so: Nine things that burn in your brain when K.J. sues you.
1. Wait, did we really just get sued by K.J.? Our attorney reassured us that Johnson’s attorneys likely wouldn’t follow through with their threat of litigation. Why would they? Journalists enjoy a legal right to newsgathering, including the request of public records. It’d be supremely dumb for them to sue us. And yet, it happened.
2. Why didn’t the Bee tell the mayor’s lawyer to buzz off? The mayor’s attorney, David Pittinsky, threatened our writer Cosmo Garvin and Marissa Lang, a reporter at The Sacramento Bee. This attorney was clearly harassing these journalists. Garvin, what with his zero-tolerance policy for empty threats and white-collar intimidation, ultimately ignored Pittinsky. But Lang sort of acquiesced to Pittinsky’s demand, even writing the polite, “Let me know if there’s anything else you need from my end” on her email communique. (In her defense, Pittinsky then totally mischaracterized what she’d agreed to as part of the final lawsuit.) Still, why didn’t the Bee tell K.J.’s lawyer to go burn some popcorn? Their decision is symptomatic of Scoopy’s soft spot when it comes to the mayor, and the Bee’s post-lawsuit coverage of the email shenanigans clearly suggests embarrassment at The Hive. (Read Rachel Leibrock’s essay on page 21.)
3. Someone in K.J.’s office actually gave this the thumbs-up? I keep imagining this scene as a Woody Allen film:
K.J. (in mayoral library reading Nietzsche): “I’m sick of that pesky Cosmo Garvin digging in my emails. Have my attorneys do something about it.”
Staffer (polishing mayoral bust): “Sir, yes sir.”
(Staffer calls attorney.)
Staffer: “Do something about these damn hacks snooping in our emails.”
Lawyer (sipping espresso with pinky pointed toward the sky): “I have the perrrfect solution.”
In all seriousness, there’s clearly information in these emails that will impact the various National Conference of Black Mayors lawsuits. Ironically, suing SN&R makes it even more likely that those messages will see daylight.
4. Nobody seemed to care about K.J.’s private Gmails months ago when Cosmo Garvin was writing about it. What changed? This paper’s been banging the drum about the mayor using secret Gmail accounts for public work for months. We served it up on a silver platter, comparing Johnson’s email practices to those of Hillary Clinton while Secretary of State (we even commissioned the sweet illustration on this page). Yet not a peep from the Bee editorial board or any other news media outlet. Until K.J. made the mistake of suing us—and now it’s front-page, 5 p.m. news. Nice one, traditional media!
5. K.J. says his national profile is good for Sacramento. But how does a “coup” with a black Sacramento News & Review - Nine things that burn in your brain when the mayor sues you - Feature Story - Local Stories - July 9, 2015:





Related stories this week:
The city of Sacramento needs to pause its plan to delete 54 million old emails
It's really bad timing for the city to dump years' worth of public records.

Why Mayor Kevin Johnson sued SN&R, what we've learned—and what happens next
Mayor’s spokesman to SN&R: “It is what it is.”

On The Sacramento Bee's soft spot for K.J.
The Bee has been criticized before for its handling of Johnson’s various controversies, and this latest legal dust-up isn’t helping. 

Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 7/8/15


SPECIAL NITE CAP 

CORPORATE ED REFORM




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