Regarding race as an issue in discussions concerning the behavior of the President of the Washoe County Schools Board of Trustees, the District Superintendent

Regarding race as an issue in discussions concerning the behavior of the President of the Washoe County Schools Board of Trustees, the District Superintendent, and the Board Chairperson’s ability to deal reasonably and objectively with the Superintendent.

Sensitive issues cannot be discussed with proper sensitivity unless sensitivity and its affects on discussion are considered.  For in fact, many an important discussion is impeded and impaired by sensitivity to sensitivity.  I have been aware of this for a long time now but have not addressed the sensitivity issue because I believe that I will be found to be insensitive for saying some of the things that must be said.  I believe this because whenever I have begun to broach the subject the response from people I respect has indicated that they are feeling that I am crossing a line and that line demarcates between the places where decency resides and those where indecency prevails.  It is not decent to be insensitive because insensitivity leads to conduct that hurts feelings and it is particularly indecent when the hurt feelings touch upon aspects of character.  To say that another is too sensitive is to be critical of character even when what is said is intended to get at a truth to which another is sensitive because of his or her character.  If one is sensitive to this, he or she will find him or herself avoiding the telling of what he or she understands to be the truth.  Truth is harmed by oversensitivity to sensitivity and sensitivity to sensitivity often results from one’s desire to be a decent person.

The reason I need to speak to sensitivity and issues of decency related to sensitivity now is because recent events force me to do so.  I need to speak to these issues and some aspects of these issues taken me into places and encounters with people where sensitivity has been made an issues and recriminations of indecency for how such sensitive matters are being handled by some involved in the conversation.

 

In this case, the sensitive matter is that matter of race as it figures into discussion of the behavior of members of our local school board, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.  Two members of the Board are African Americans, one of whom is the President of the Board, and they, I am arguing, should provide proper oversight over the District Superintendent who, herself, is African American.  Some in the community who have been observing the public behavior of the President of the Board of Trustees, as leader of the oversight board, and the Superintendent, believe as I believe that the Board President is not acting as a proper oversight leader, that she is too close to the Superintendent to be impartial in performing that role in the best interest of students who attend school in the District.

 

Criticism of the Board President and the Superintendent and concern for the relationship they share influencing unfairly the judgements of the Board President in her capacity as oversight leader.  Being that both are of African American background, some, many of whom are also African American, are accusing critics of the Board President, the Superintendent, in particular, concern for the effect of the relationship on decisions being made by the Board President regarding the Superintendent’s performance, as being racially motivated.

 

The claims of racist judgment on the part of critics gains credibility for they exist in an environment where sensitivity to racism is understood to be, and rightly so, essential to the existence of the decent community.  To say that one who is African American is being overly sensitive, to say that their oversensitivity is obscuring their good judgment is, and for good and historical reasons, seen by many to be an affront to those who have had to endure the hardships that racism, real and vicious, have brought upon them, hardships that have, for a good many have affected in profound ways the lives they have lived in this United States of America.

 

To argue, as one who has not had to endure the effects of racism, that those who have are being overly sensitive in responding to criticism of the Board President and the Superintendent and the effects that relationship is having on decision making at the top levels of the Washoe County School District, understandably appears to some who have had to endure as being insensitive and indecently so.  There is an irrefutable history that does validate in certain ways the claim that the criticism originates with racism.

 

Where I find it within myself to make the counter claim that in this particular case, at least as it originates with individuals who are processing the information and coming to conclusions that necessitate the questioning of the behavior of the President of the Board, the behavior of the Superintendent and the Board President’s oversight of the Superintendent, racism is not an eminent factor.  But race is, not because it is affecting the judgment of the critics but the way in which those judging the critics are responding to the critique.  Race is obscuring the real issues and preventing a proper conversation about those issues and how problems related to these issues can be solved.

 

My problems with Angela Taylor and Tracy Davis are not caused by my racist view of things.  Race only figures in because I do know of their racial background and, more importantly, there are some who are using race, theirs and mine, to diminish, to disrespect, to devalue what I and others have offered as legitimate criticism of legitimate people who deserve to be respected in such a way as to be receptive to the criticism they receive if it is legitimate criticism.

 

 

Addendum to WCSD Bullshit

I just got off the phone with Board of Trustees member Veronica Frenkel who asked me to add to my discussion of recent Trustees’ meetings this, that she was present for the discussions and, during the discussions concerning rejection of the evaluation of the District Superintendent for which the Board had contracted, she had argued against passage of the motion and had left the room when the vote was being taken because she was physically feeling sick to her stomach.

She asked that I make note that there were members who voted against the motion—I pointed to my having included in my piece the lists of those voting for and against and noting her being absent for the vote—and that those members concerns were much like those I had expressed

She called because I had sent each of the Trustees the note I had posted earlier on this site in reaction to the Board’s decision to dispute the evaluation’s results and change the Superintendent’s evaluation rating.

Too light and editorial slap?

The board spent $19,500 to contract with two independent firms to conduct the review process, but the board’s final grade of “accomplished” for Davis seems to have no basis in the data collected by the review. Davis may well deserve to be recognized as “accomplished.” But the process — if it can be called a process — used by the board to arrive at that decision was messy at best, and arbitrary at worst.”

Reno Gazette-Journal editorial, November 4, 2017

Washoe County: The Bullshit makes your school district stink

Headline in Reno Gazette-Journal this morning: “WCSD trustees override review.” Their process, the results their process produced and the Superintendent tells the Board the she has documents showing her achievements. People come to the meeting to defend the superintendent. Those voting to dismiss the $19,000 outside evaluation say that the process they used District money to pay for was unfair. Board members who were shown to have concerns with the superintendent are now said to have been mistaken. The payed for procedure turns out to be bad news for the Superintendent whose rehiring would have been based on the $19,000 report and one of the Board members says “The evaluation method used was even contrary to a standing board policy, calling for an ongoing year-long review as opposed to a cumulative, end-of-year review.
“We’re not doing this fairly guys, I’m telling you,” Feemster said to her colleagues during the discussion portion of the meeting.” Are they going to ask for money back?
 
“Voting for the change were Trustees John Mayer, Angela Taylor, Debra Feemster and Malena Raymond. Voting against were Katy Simon Holland and Scott Kelley. Trustee Veronica Frenkel was not present for the vote.”
 
I think an outside investigation needs be conducted to evaluate the board and a movement to remove those on the board who do with information whatever they want to get their way even if this means discounting as flawed anything that does not support what they wish to support.
 
The relationship of “Trustees” to the administrators whose work they are charged with overseeing also needs to be investigated. DOES THIS BOARD REPRESENT THE NEEDS OF THE STUDENTS OR DOES IT EXIST TO INSURE THAT PEOPLE IT LIKES, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR ACTUAL CONTRIBUTION TO STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT, ARE SERVED BY THE DISTRICT?
 
WHAT A TERRIBLE EXAMPLE FOR STUDENTS WHO, I WOULD HOPE, ARE ASKED TO SEEK AND ASSESS INFORMATION TO ARRIVE AT THE VIABLE TRUTHS TO WHICH HONEST RESEARCH LEADS.
 
Washoe County! Wake up. You are being bullshitted by those you elected to serve the truth.

I am a failed academic and for good reason, I think

 

 

Why is it that I, by job description an academic for twenty-eight years, failed to, then and now resist now writing the kind of academic articles that would have allowed me to advance in my career?

The reason given me and everyone, I think, who serves as member of a university faculty, for the necessity of publishing academic articles, academic because they are published in academic journals, is that by doing so one is helping to advance the discipline with which he or she is affiliated, adds to the research base to push understanding to higher levels of clarity, meaningfulness, and usefulness in solving the problems the discipline exists to consider.  True academic journals, the ones in which academic articles that count toward advancement in career, employ peer review; fellow academics in one’s discipline evaluate submitted work and determine whether or not it is good enough for publication.

One cannot advance in rank in an academic position unless his or her peers approve of the work and, without that approval one cannot continue on in his or her position, two few publications in true academic journals cause for dismissal.

Some, myself included, somehow managed to keep from being fired despite poor publication records, in my case, articles with my name on them appeared seven times in approved journals seven times in my probationary year, and extra year I somehow convinced administrators to give me so that I could make up for what I had not done in the normally allotted time period for showing adequate progress for tenure and promotion.

I kept my job and was given tenure and promotion and then wrote very few academic articles in the 21 years subsequent to my being promoted from assistant professor to the rank of associate professor, a rank below full professor, the rank of highest order of academic standing.

I must admit that during those 21 years I felt lowly but not for the goodness or the quality of the work I did and what I achieved for myself or others during those years.  I won’t go into detail as to what the work was or why anyone should have considered it important work but I will say that I was more involved in projects that I felt to be necessary and essential, more important and more needed than what I could have achieved doing the kind of research that the successful people in my discipline, education, typically involved themselves.

I could have written papers.  My colleagues and my supervisors told me that I was, at least, an okay thinker, and a truly good writer, that what I wrote was pretty good but that what I wrote about wasn’t what a successful person in the field was supposed to write about.  In essence, I was more interested in establishing criteria that could be used to define good education, education that effectively promoted the growth and development of human intelligence.  The research I was reading, research my colleagues were conducting, with great frequency, showed that the methodologies they were testing in there research were effective and the reason why so many methodologies of very different types, types that were often antithetical to one another, could all be effective was because the meaning of effective was different in the one and the other.

I would read “the literature” and most all of the time, find little in it that I could use to change instructional practice for the better because so little was said in the “studies” about the nature of what was being achieved, most of the data being reported in the form of numbers that told me nothing about what it was that was actually going on in the minds of students who were being taught using the methods the papers were reporting and, usually, trying to justify.  Who cares of 90 percent of a group of students scored in the 90th percentile on a test administered as the outcome measure for a study?  Who should care unless the outcome measure was justified in terms of what it measured being an important gain for students (called subjects in the articles) in terms of understandings and growth of intellectual abilities?

Since my peers, those who would have reviewed my articles– had I written them—would be looking to see if I had a proper understanding of “the field,” the research that had been done prior to my writing my papers, since I found little of value in that earlier research, since I was apt to spend most of my time involved in projects that provided me opportunity to work with those who would be subjects, students and teachers, what I knew of the field came from my interactions with those who were being treated through instructional interventions, their efficacy proven by the kind of studies I was so reluctant to read or to take seriously when I did read them.

For all of those years in education, I encountered few treatments that worked well enough for them to in anyway change the manner in which students were being educated, this, in part, because it was typical for any given treatment to last very long as the research sanctioned one.  New interventions were being implemented every few years if not every few weeks and, despite that they were certified effective through the research, subsequent research would inevitably show that they were either not effective or less effective than the newest treatment taking their place.

I came to see the academic, research based approach to education a farce, a farce that stood in the place of a meaningful discourse that could make better an educational system that, considering the constant need for new methodologies to replace the old tried and untrue methodologies, was very much in need of something that was actually good methodology.

I spent my time thinking about what students, to grow up smart, to get ever smarter by way of good education, needed and what they would show themselves to be able to do if they had actually grown from the educational experience.  I talked a lot to teachers and I talked a lot to students, students in the K-12 schools and in those who I taught at the university and I read a lot about thinking, the kind of thinking people seemed to be doing if one talked to them and heard what others were saying about them, what others were writing about themselves and others, how people were behaving in the world and what their behavior might mean in terms of the kind of thinking they were or were not doing.

And I reached conclusions, some with short life span, others achieving permanency, that helped me to build an understanding of what schools might be able to, should be able, could provide students to help them grow their smarts, to behave smartly in response to the contingencies of life on this planet and, more particularly, as citizens of a society that should be democratic and that is only partially that but most definitely capitalistic.

I wrote a lot about what I was discovering but did not publish because my methods of discovery were not properly scientific in nature.  I was never systematic in my approach, my methods more those of novelists and biographers than empirical researcher.  There may have been places to publish my writing, and I tried on occasion to publish—succeeded once in a while—but never tried hard enough to move forward in rank, up through the field.  Instead, I did with my work what I thought would make the work worthwhile.  I tried to build whole programs rather than spend my time with interventions, whole programs that would make use of what I had discovered about learning—the rightness of my findings often confirmed in forms of literature of the non-academic variety—in ways that were substantial and authentic, schools and classrooms rather than lessons that would, because of the principles upon which they were created, offer lessons that would promote substantial growth in thinking ability and meaningful understanding of how intelligent beings go about understanding the universe in which they live and making decisions concerning their lives in that universe that are properly informed and sensible.

I started schools and programs that were based upon the principles of learning I had come to understand as being efficacious, that encouraged individuality (a most important aspect of existence as a human being), individual thinking grounded in good knowledge and sound reasoning, and, yes, high levels of respect for the capacities of humans as beings capable of making good sense of the things they encounter in life and good sense decisions based on that good sense of things.  I worked to create teacher education projects in which the principles were discussed, scrutinized and critiqued by those who were or who would teach so that, at some point along the way, their teaching would be principled, their instructional judgments guided not by edicts and teachers’ manuals, but by thoughtful evaluation of the instructional situation—the teacher-student relationship, the relationship of both to the world, the kind of thinking in which they were engaged and understanding of how to encourage growth in self and in others, student to teacher, teacher to student.

I tried and I went about doing things as I did because I really did care to make better something I knew to be not nearly good enough and I could not do this very well if I would allow myself to be trapped in by a framework and an ethos that was born of others willingness to get with the program rather than evaluate the program and adjust or abandon the program if goals based in meaningful principles of understanding were not being met.  I was not a rebel to be a rebel.  I was not a poor academic because I wanted to be a poor academic.  I wanted to get something done that could only be done if I had a proper platform and proper credentials to get where I needed to be to get at what I wanted and needed to get at.  Academia was the place where the platform was to be found but the only way to make things meaningful, the only way for me to be at all productive was to flout the rules on principle, do what I had to do to keep from getting thrown out while, at the same time, keep from getting thrown out.

 

I have published for years now using this platform and without any expectation that I will be rewarded for the effort.

Donna, Donna, Donna, what will they do to discredit Donna?

They lied and, as it seems reasonable now to believe, they were hired to lie and to the people for whom they should have been working, the rank and file party members.  As it turns out, the rank and file did not have enough money to pay for operatives high end lifestyle but those with ties to billionaires and big and rich corporations did.  Those with those ties were high ranking party leaders who were not at all above misleading and manipulating party members, many of them still members for lack of anywhere else to go.

There is no viable party!

The party and its operatives were not working to keep me informed on issues, to present the real positions for which leaders were advocating, to win elections to further the causes they were telling me they supported.  They cared about my vote and little about how my voting for what they wanted me to vote for would affect me.

What angers me most is the way the democratic party tried, and succeeded, to portray me as a fool for, what it turns out, not being taken for a fool.  I read many posts from people who still try to diminish those who supported a legitimate progressive agenda by calling us Bernie Brothers and attaching to that moniker the image of a dupe who couldn’t understand what a joke Bernie Sander’s candidacy was.  These are people with real influence in the party, members of its leadership and its mainstream.  Even now, as even more comes to light to show that it wasn’t we who supported Bernie who were duped, the respectable people in the party, those who have branded themselves realists are doing what they can to make evidence of their treachery go away, make those producing the evidence seem unreliable if not outright liers.

And this makes me even angrier in light of my experience with democratic leadership at the Nevada State Democratic Convention and the lies told there and afterword that were meant and succeeded in making us, those asking for a fair, by the rules, nomination party look like fools, and worse, out of control and dangerous.

We need a new party.  We need those who continue to support current leadership in the democratic party to reassess, look at the evidence, stop making excuses for those who do not deserve a dollop of respect for what they have done in leading the democratic party.

Angela Taylor piece follow-up: WCSD Superintendent evaluation methods questioned? And ?

From Reno Gazette-Journal today, November 3, 2017:

REVIEW QUESTIONED

Davis evaluation method discussed

Sam Gross Reno Gazette Journal USA TODAY NETWORK

The Washoe County School District board of trustees met to conduct the final public portion of superintendent Traci Davis’s job performance review on Thursday evening.

Issues surrounding the review itself remained a theme throughout the presentation to the board. Issues ranged from a myriad of district strategic goals that were never added to the evaluation, to concerns from Davis on how her success is measured.

The board spent $19,500 to hire two independent contractors to facilitate the review. The rubric and evaluation method itself were approved by the board.

So, now that the public and school personnel-teachers and principals–have given the Superintendent a “minimally effective” rating, teachers ratings amongst the lowest–a controversy erupts over whether the evaluation method, at least that part of it that produced less than flattering results for the Superintendent–questions are being raised over whether the Board chose method for evaluating the Superintendent is problematic?

Would methods be questioned had the public and school personnel rated Superintendent Davis highly?

We need to get rid of ALL the rot!

We will do nothing to change the rotten circumstances of our current political existence unless we do everything we can to get at the truth of matters no matter how painful this may be.  This piece by Donna Brazile needs to be considered for what it is really worth and what it means for those who wish to have a decent party that truly represents the good values that are basic to a good society.
When I was asked to run the Democratic Party after the Russians hacked our emails, I stumbled onto a shocking truth about the Clinton campaign.

Angela Taylor should not be the head of the Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees

A schoolboard’s obligation to those who have elected its members is, first and foremost, oversight, to make sure that the students in the school district in which they serve are receiving a good education.  In the Washoe County School District, the Board of Trustees is led by Dr. Angela Taylor who acts as spokesperson for the Trustees but, as was shown in my last posting, but does not, it appears, always speak to what Trustees are thinking, to their concerns with how the District is operating or to their concerns with the performance of the District’s Superintendent, Tracy Davis.

But the perceptions of the 124 site leaders, including principals and vice principals, and 708 certified staff, which includes teachers, were consistently in the lowest rungs of those who approved of Davis’s job performance.

In the Reno Gazette-Journal article from which the passage above comes, Dr. Taylor is dismissive of the current Board of Trustees rating of the Superintendent, Taylor attributing her lower numbers to there being “a different board this year than last, and so people have different perspectives.”  Why is she working so hard to diminish the ratings that were produced as a part of an effort to collect information for use in the Superintendent’s annual review, this year’s review of particular consequence as it will be used to determine whether or not Tracy Davis’ contract will be renewed at the end of this school year.

Dr. Tayor has on a good many occasions done what she could to interpret data collected by the various entities charged with keeping track of the performance of the District, its effectiveness in offering students a sound education, in ways are intended to mask problems and bolster achievements despite what the data actually says.

I have written several articles pointing to such, an example being when Dr. Taylor responded to a report that scores for Nevada schools on a performance test that the State had mandated were the lowest in the country of schools using this test.  Dr. Taylor responded to this by saying that Washoe County Schools exceeded the State average, failing to mention that “above average” meant a point or two of difference, WCSD still achieving at levels below that of others using the same test.

In the same edition of the paper, November 1, 2017, an editorial piece by Dr. Taylor appears in which she addresses the concerns of some that the District’s reporting of record high graduation rates might be somewhat deceptive for the fact that in the years against which the record year is compared, students in the District, by State law, had to pass proficiency tests in order to graduate.  The pass rate for the year of the record is the first year in recent history when students could graduate without taking proficiency tests.

Dr. Taylor is very dismissive of those who are concerned that the uptick in the graduation rate might have something to do with students not having to take the tests.  Of course they are!  Interestingly, Dr. Taylor makes it clear that she knows that some of those reading her editorial distrust District reporting of student achievement.  She tells readers, “First and foremost, let me state plainly that the WCSD believes firmly in transparency and accuracy. We know that the best way to achieve continued success is to share our data in a straightforward way and engage in critical conversations aimed at improving performance.”  This is interesting because so many know of so many instances in the very recent past when District reporting reflected anything but transparency and accuracy.  Anyone who cares to take the time can find in this same newspaper many an article questioning the forthrightness of the District in regard to such matters as the hiring and firing of superintendents and its reporting of the financial standing of the District.  Deception is a common theme in District dealings with the public.

Now, I am very glad that the State is no longer mandating standardized tests to determine whether students should receive diplomas.  Standardized tests, a standardized feature of District programs for many decades, are rotten because they do not really measure whether or not students have, by the school programs, achieved in ways that are meaningful to living a decent life as individuals and citizens of a democratic society.  On the other hand, Dr. Taylor does not assure me in any way that the current school programs are effective in providing students a sound education.

I do, in fact, have evidence to the contrary in the form of numbers of students leaving the district who require remedial work in basic school subjects when leaving school to enter college.  I have to assume that if large numbers of those students who do go on to college are not proficient in math and language abilities, many of those who do not go on to college suffer from the same deficiencies.  My personal experience with many a Washoe County School District student as college freshmen and as students wanting to become school teachers in the last years of their college programs tells me that District students are not receiving what they need and deserve.

So when Dr. Taylor states that,

“It also should be understood that although our high school students do not have a high-stakes exit exam, our students continue to take assessments throughout their educational journey in elementary, middle and high school to measure progress. State and local large scale assessments, along with end of course final exams are administered at all stages during their K-12 path. Teachers consistently monitor student progress and growth with these assessments in order to make instructional decisions in the best interest of each student”

I take umbrage and ask that others do the same.  Dr. Taylor’s words, because of her history of bending information to suit the role she has decided to play, that of District cheerleader and defender of the superintendent, should be questioned for what she says so that those truly concerned with what is best for students have a decent sense of what is really going on.

The role that a decent Trustee should be playing is that of a truth seeker and a policy maker making policy on the basis of information proven to be good information.  The Trustee needs be, for the sake of student welfare a harsh critic when criticism is due and never on to support any member who acts to hide the flaws that can and do affect the quality of education students receive and the quality of the lives they are able to live.

I think it may be time to consider whether Dr. Taylor is fit to lead the Board of Trustees and I ask for people the people who elected her to the Board was, after all, a good decision.