Monroe County School District: core belief vs. reality

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When there is no new post at this website, there probably is a new post at www.goodmorningkeywest.com, as that’s where I live and mostly stir the pot at this time.

Meanwhile, from Larry Murray of Big Pine Key:

Larry Murray 2

I submit the following to you for your information and for consideration for publication.

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Lawrence Murray <citizenlarry007@yahoo.com>
To: Ron Martin <ron.martinsb@keysschools.com>; Andy Griffiths2 <andy@fishandy.com>
Cc: Mark Porter <mark.porter@keysschools.com>; Ed Davidson <captecoed@aol.com>; Rob Smith-Martin <robin.smith-martin@keysschools.com>; John Dick <john.dick@keysschools.com>
Sent: Sunday, June 1, 2014 3:47 PM
Subject: Election 2014 and The Future Of Mark Porter

An Open Letter To Ron Martin and Andy Griffiths
June 1, 2014

Ron and Andy:
The Monroe County electorate owes both of you a big “Thank You” and I could not agree more. Three seats on the school Board are up for election and it looked as if it was going to be a very dull, ho-hum campaign. There did not appear to be any captivating issue(s) in the individual races or the election as a whole. That being the case, it would not be an easy task for the voters to decide how they were going to cast their ballots.
Fortunately for us voters, you two have taken the proverbial bull by the horns and singlehandedly created an issue that will surely excite the voters. The worst kept secret in Monroe County is your joint decision to ask your associates on the School Board to extend Mark Porter’s contract as superintendent before the August election. Bear in mind that Porter’s contract does not expire until July 31, 2015, fourteen months from now. Phrased differently, Porter is barely halfway through his initial three year contract.
As the little boy supposedly said to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson when Jackson was accused of helping “fix” the 1919 World Series: “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” Ron and Andy, tell me it ain’t so. Tell me that the Coconut Telegraph has gotten it all wrong with the reports that you intend to induce a lame duck School Board to extend the contract of a superintendent who has done precious little to suggest that he deserves an extension.
Please hit the “Reply All” key and tell us if the rumor mill has gotten it all wrong and you have no intentions of recommending to a lame duck Board that Porter’s contract be extended over a year before it expires. I would like nothing better than to apologize profusely for purveying misinformation. Conversely, please hit the “Reply All” button and tell everyone that it is your intention to go forward with a renewal initiative prior to the election.
It would be very interesting to hear now your explanation and justification for the premature extension. Regardless, it will become a significant, perhaps the most important, issue to the voters. At least two incumbents, yourself, Ron, and John Dick, will have to explain your votes, whatever they may be, to the electorate. That will take an otherwise moribund election season and add some real spice. Voters who may have been otherwise disinterested in the School Board races, may have even stayed home, will surely pay attention to the campaign rhetoric.
Ironically, a similar situation exists in Marathon. The city manager has resigned and a temporary appointee is running things. The City Commission discussed the situation and determined that the appropriate thing to do was to continue with a temporary city manager until the Commission elected in November took office. Their posture was that a lame duck Commission had no business saddling the new Commission with their choice of a city manager. Rather, they thought that the new Commission should decide. I could not agree more.
Perhaps it would be best if this year’s elections for the School Board are treated as a referendum on Mark Porter and the concept of an appointed superintendent of which he is the first. I have heard it said that the leadership emanating from the Henriquez Building is so bad that perhaps Monroe County should return to an elected superintendent.
I have also heard that the extension of the ½ cent sales tax for capital improvements is likely to fail. The argument is that voters are dissatisfied over the financial and recordkeeping fiasco on the HOB project in particular and the absence of quality leadership in general.
In any event, I want to “Thank You” for bringing to the fore an issue that will surely rivet the attention of the voters. Perhaps the give and take over retaining Mark Porter will be the foundation for a more spirited election than we have had in years. Thanks again.

Larry Murray

“Illegitimati non carborundum.” -St. Lawrence O’Toole, Bishop of Dublin, and a favorite quote of Jimmy Hoffa

Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Activist

I inquired:

Did you get a reply from MCSD to yours?

Larry wrote:

Nothing as yet. The absence of a ringing denial, interpret as you will.

I wrote:

Hi, Larry -

I thought blaming Coastal Construction for the School District not keeping good and proper, if any, financial records on the construction of Horace O’Bryant K-8 was, still is, sensational campaign fodder in this year’s SB races. Proved once again the school board and the SD administration are terminally dysfunctionally insane. The .5 percent tax might prove out to be a terrific campaign issue in this year’s SB races, if any candidate has the balls to tell the voters not to pass that referendum. Maybe Porter has leaked to SB members than he wants assurance of being kept on, or he will start looking elsewhere, and make that yet another sensational campaign issue in this year’s SB races. They didn’t want to hire Dr. Ed Shine, who was head and shoulders above and light years beyond the other school Superintendent of Schools applicants, and Shine didn’t need the job to make ends meet, as became clear when he retired fairly soon after he didn’t get the Superintendent job down here. I don’t see a SD turn-around happening, even if we end up with three new school board members this year, whom you can wholeheartedly endorse, or not.

Furthermore, I don’t see in the SD much, if any, progress toward having MSCD high school students career or college ready on graduation. At the very least, they could have required all students, by end of lower school, to be reading and writing fluent in Spanish and touch typing. That would have helped thousands of Keys school kids get ready for life in the big bad world, given many Keys residents having Spanish as a first tongue, thus their children, too, and given how important touch typing still is in computers, the Internet, IT systems, etc. During his public interview by the SB, Dr. Shine said his school district in rural NY had instituted Spanish as a second language. It didn’t use any of my grey matter, if I have any, to understand why; given how many Spanish-speaking live in USA, with more pouring. There was a time, according to the history books I once studied in grammar and high school, when all of what would later become the American Southwest, counting Texas and most of California, was populated by Spanish-speaking people. Maybe that “karma” is coming back around? Maybe, no maybe.

Or course, Standardized Test scores remain the SC’s top priority; the article in today’s Citizen is peachy. I bet the KWHS sophomores are thrilled their under performance made the local coconut grapevine. Maybe, though, that will encourage high students to head toward being job ready on graduation from KWHS, instead of shooting for going to college and that low percentage crap shoot to success, which often end ups living with their parents, flipping burgers, cutting bait on boats, doubling and even tripling up in apartments, living at KOTS, or on the street, going the booze and/or drug scene, the crime career, final destination: morgue, prison, US Military, prison, morgue, nut house.

I suppose when I post these flailings to www.goodmorningfloridakeys.com later today or tomorrow, youse and meese will trample flat Andy’s beloved Griffiths Rule again: “Praise in public, criticize in private,” perhaps better depicted by this arrival in my Facebook account today, perhaps special angel delivery. Maybe Andy’s silver lining is the charter schools didn’t come off all smelling superior this year, so far; to the contrary, some of them.

core belief

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Sloan Bashinsky sometimes also called denial, brainwashing, and worse
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Monday, June 2, 2014
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Writing scores drop in preliminary FCAT data
High schoolers’ scores and names leaked
BY TERRY SCHMIDA Citizen Staff
tschmida@keysnews.com

Ouch.

Many school district administrators and board members spent the weekend scratching their heads and trying to make stunned sense of preliminary FCAT results that show the district sliding by more than 20 percent in the area of writing.

At the same time, the administration of Superintendent Mark Porter was in damage-control mode, admitting to the media in an email blast that the district had inadvertently revealed the names and FCAT scores of a number of Key West High School sophomores.

The district’s 21.33 percent drop in FCAT writing scores reflects a shocking setback for the teaching of the discipline in many district schools, especially the charters, which registered the steepest declines of all – in absolute terms. The downward trend in writing appears to defy any geographical or ideological grouping, as an explanation for the implosion.

At the bottom of the heap, is the Big Pine Academy charter school, where the number of students who passed the writing test dropped by 40 percent this year. Their closest competitor for the unwanted designation of “last” was Treasure Village Montessori. That charter school has until now been regarded as a local showpiece by many area advocates of the charter school movement.

On a positive note, both the traditional and chartered Key West high schools improved their writing scores: Key West High School had 3 percent more passing grades, while the charter Key West Collegiate Academy increased its number of passing scores by four percent. However this proved to be the exception to the rule.

Across the state, third- and fourth-graders also dropped 3 percentage points from last year in the FCATs. Eighth-graders dropped two points.

The preliminary scores released last week are the tip of the iceberg, datawise, representing a small portion of the final scores, expected to gradually come out as the full results are tallied. The writing portion of the test is only given to fourth, eighth and 10th graders.

Still, Superintendent Porter today faces public relations fiascos on two fronts, even as he himself is being evaluated/graded, by the board that hired him three years ago.

“Obviously the results of the FCAT writing [exam results], particularly for the fourth grade, are of great concern to us,” Porter said Friday, before the email blast revealing the information leak was sent out. “There was also a statewide drop, but nothing like we’ve just seen in this county. We’re taking a diligent look at the reasons for these outcomes. The work we have seen teachers provide certainly indicated a stronger performance than what the results show.”

Porter pointed to writing scores at Stanley Switlik Elementary School as part of the reason for his confusion.

“Switlik has been kind of a district leader in fourth-grade writing, and they dropped from 70 [percent of students passing the test] to 48 percent this year,” Porter said. But what’s noteworthy is that an additional 47 percent of these students are at the 3.0 level, so we don’t quite understand how there is such a disproportionate number of students immediately below the proficiency level.”

Porter also acknowledged the county-wide scope of the problem.

“It’s across our entire district . . . even the charter schools,” Porter said. “We’ve all got to look further at what’s happening here. We’ve working pretty hard to identify what’s going on.

“I do have some concerns about the scoring,” he added. “And I’m sensing some similar concerns as I’ve spoken to other superintendents across the state”

Porter didn’t return a call requesting additional comment on the leaked names and scores memo as of presstime Sunday afternoon.

Also, neither School Board Chairman Ron Martin, representing District 5, or Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Theresa Axford returned calls on Friday requesting comment.

Director of Accountability and Assessment Christina McPherson said on Sunday that she and her colleagues are making a serious effort to find out what went wrong.

“What the district is doing right now is conducting an analysis of the scores,” McPherson said. “There were significant drops, across the district, and especially in fourth-grade. We’re working with the fourth-grade writing teachers to assess what the areas of weakness were. The individual student papers will be analyzed when returned next month, so we’ll have actual samples of the writing to work with.”

District 4 School Board member John Dick on Sunday added his two cents.

“There are a lot of disappointments in the scores,” Dick said. “There are some bright spots here and there, but I don’t think anybody’s really satisfied. I know the superintendent and his staff are going to delve into this and find out what went wrong, and what they need to do to correct the problem.”

Dick also said he wasn’t sure how many of the Key West High School 10th graders were affected by the info leak.

“I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t really know what he’s talking about,” Dick said. “However, these things do happen, and as [Porter] said in his email, he’s going to get to the bottom on it.”

tschmida@keysnews.com

Larry wrote:

Thanks for your commentary. Haven’t heard from you in a long time and always enjoy your observations.

I replied:

My remembrance of my observations about the SD/SB is they were like pea shooter peas bouncing off a rhino’s hide. I still think each school should vote itself to be a charter school, and get out from under the the “regime” at Trumbo Point. And, I still think the SD offices should be moved to Marathon. But like I said, pea shooter peas and rhino hide. Hope all going well with you and your lady.

Sloan at Coco's

Sloan Bashinsky
keysmyhome@hotmail.com

About Sloan

That's what this website is about, also goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com. If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.
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