SocraticGadfly: 1/7/07 - 1/14/07

January 12, 2007

Final goodbyes/this is it

What a night to load the moving van... I hope it doesn't get worse tomorrow, i.e. the prediction of possible freezing rain. That's the last I need.

I will miss a lot of people personally and professionally. Some people, and things, I won't miss.

I'm going down to Navasota with the most open mind I have. That said, closer friends, especially, have detected less than the hugest enthusiasm.

But, it's that, work for the Focus, which isn't a real newspaper anymore, though it was better at one time, or draw unemployment while trying to network and not be too bored. Especially when you're single, even if you've got a few dollars in the bank account, that unemployment option isn't necessarily that good.

That said, then, this has led me to reflect more seriously on a career change. I'll always be doing something with writing and communications, but that doesn't have to be as a newspaper editor.

And, if not dying, it's not necessarily the healthiest career field anymore, anyway.

I'll write more when I get settled in there, and will continue to post Lancaster news that I hear about, of course!

Smith Bros. no longer coughing in Lancaster ISD

Word is that Lancaster High health sciences teacher Nathan Smith has resigned. Would this have anything to do with his alleged arrest? Will the News run anything on this? I can’t, since this is my last full day in Lancaster, and I’m packing a U-Haul this afternoon.

Word also is that Eugene Smith, the district’s chief financial officer, has been terminated. Indeed, he wasn’t at this month’s board meeting, but that may mean nothing.

But, if true, why? Hope this gets followed up. The News is going to have to get somebody from inside top district admin, from a Level 5 meeting, to start talking.

January 11, 2007

Lancaster Minyard’s IS going Carnaval

At least on the shelves; it’s stocking Carnaval brand goods now, replacing some others.

A thought to Richard Gonzales: Saying you’re sorry would help

At the risk of sounding like I’m piling on …

I don’t have insight inside other people’s hearts and minds, so I can’t make judgment as to whether the fallout from your Colorado decertification did produce the spiritual transformation you said it did.

I’m sure other district staffers appreciate your concerns for any trouble the fallout from this knowledge becoming public has caused the district.

But, it might have been nice, in my opinion, as part of that apology, if you might also have said that you were sorry for what you actually did. There are at least three known instances, over at least two years, in different school districts, cities and states, after all.

Richard Gonzales fallout at Lancaster ISD; special and bilingual ed supervisor reassigned

Due to special education and bilingual education supervisor Richard Gonzales having been decertified due to inappropriately disciplining students elsewhere, he is now reportedly the former supervisor of these programs and is now in a finance position.

There are a couple of at least partially positive points here.

1. He won’t be working directly with children.

2. The school board did something. Of course, it had to do something, really.

That said, I am guessing the board will probably NOT further follow up on the issue not just of Gonzales’ hiring, but district hiring and board oversight in general, as I suggested it do.

January 10, 2007

The biggest problem with the Bush library at SMU

It’s the independent think tank (insert joke) Bush wants to go with the library. That would NOT be under control of the National Archives and Records Administration, but rather a private Bush foundation.

It seems clear that Bush would try to keep as many of his presidential records as possible in the think tank, thus gutting the one halfway worthwhile purpose of this and other presidential libraries/museums.

(Frankly, I think all of them are, if taxpayer-funded, a waste of money.)

January 09, 2007

Texas House Speaker’s battle: Lancaster area possible fallout

Talk is that Rep. Helen Giddings, the “Democrat” who hitched her star to current Republican Speaker Tom Craddick, would lose her slot as chairwoman of the Business and Industry Committee, a reward to her staying in Austin during the federal Congressional redistricting brouhaha of a couple of years past, if Waxahachie’s Jim Pitts unseats Craddick.

If that’s the case, sounds like a good reason to hope Pitts is elected.

As for her worries about clean air in the area, I sure haven’t seen her leaning hard on TXU over its plan for more coal-fired power plants, as far as her using the power of the committee’s chair.

Update, Jan. 10: Well, that was quick. The pre-vote on open votes sunk Pitts, and Giddings voted the Craddick way on that. Yeesh.

January 08, 2007

Blogging the Jan. 8 LISD board meeting

Ed Kirkland had some good insights re the AEIS … asking about what programs the district has tried that don’t work, what the district is doing about phasing them out, etc. He also said he wants Lanc compared with similar size, similar demographic successful districts around the state and even the country.

Carolyn Morris was even more right on, about teacher morale. Good luck actually getting that one fixed.

Lewis later said that he didn’t have more time to address instructional problems until this past year. Well, Larry, shouldn’t you have been doing this before sinking all that work into International Baccalaureate? You gotta crawl before you can walk. Again, nothing wrong with IB, but you gotta crawl before you walk. And it’s hard to crawl with an overflowing plate of overstretched teachers and administrators.

Morris Mosley must be getting ready to run against Carol Strain-Burk. Why else would he be at the school board meeting?

Oh, Larry’s shooting a dart at your lowly (former) newspaper editor. “Many of times you, like the district administration, get undeserved criticism,” he told board members during their recognition. Well, be sure to let me know what the undeserved criticism is, and we will do a line-item discussion.

Oh, while you’re talking about different administration departments, what about all the extra high school cafeteria furniture that’s being hoarded?

“Eight Keys to an Effective Board-Superintendent Partnership.” Sounds like a great book. As published by Lancaster ISD Press, the keys would be:
1. Don’t worry, your superintendent has everything under control.
2. Repeat Key No. 1 seven times.

Just how much did it cost to have the high school band, etc., go to Royce West’s governor for a day event in Austin Nov. 18, and who paid for it?

The district had its best compliance rate ever on a holiday/vacation reading assignment.

Anna Tomlinson spoke in public forum about the board supporting 36 JROTC students going to nationals this year. If the firing range rumors are true, is that going to affect competition this year?

Sorry, but I left before the board got to deciding how to disburse remaining monies from the 2004 bond. The board was still in executive session at 9:30, after more than an hour. It was for personnel issues, even though I didn’t see anything personnel-related on the agenda.

Two guesses:
1. It was about the number of midterm “walks.” Maybe 20 percent was too high a guess, but nonetheless …
2. It was about a district management hire, and the fallout from that.

For Lancaster ISD teachers reading at home …

The following is selected quotations from the resolution of the Level II grievance against the school district and Superintendent Larry Lewis by Connie Fowler and Tanya Kersh:
I acknowledge that employees have a right of free speech provided by the United States Constitution. Employees have every right to discuss matters of public concern with board members and every other elected official. However, there is a fine line between matters of public concern and matters that are of a private or personal nature. Additionally there is a chain of command to which all employees must adhere.

Translation: Connie, Tanya, et al can talk to the board, after going to their school’s principal, then district administration, etc. You still can’t officially talk to the press, though, and since that’s in writing, the district will crack down on that, and perhaps even harder than it has so far.

Of course, I’m not anybody’s press for one more week, and not the local press at all. Of course, I can always pass on credible tips to Kathy Goolsby at the News, since that would mean that district employees aren’t actually talking to the press. Or I could accidentally leave Goolsby’s e-mail contact right here for anybody to accidentally stumble on with their mouse. Or accidentally leave her phone number, 817-695-0370, in plain sight.


Low-ranked schools in Lancaster, elsewhere: will we see more transfers?

Student transfers from low-ranked schools may increase if the Texas Legislature changes state law and requires school districts to fund transportation costs for transferring students.
The Texas Education Agency identified 924 campuses in Texas last month where students will be able to bail out and enroll at another public school if their parents wish. The total was up 12.5 percent from a year ago and constitutes about 12 percent of the state's schools.
Right now, state law does not require districts to fund transportation costs for students transferring to another school.
2006 campuses with 50% or less of the students passing any reading/ELA, writing, social studies, or science test on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills the grades tested at the campus in any two of the three years: 2004, 2005 and 2006

Lanc HS under 50 percent math and science all three years; Intermediate science all three years; jr high, math all three years, social studies 2006, Academically Unacceptable 2006; Rolling Hills, math 2005, 2006, unacceptable 2006; Millbrook, math 2005, 2006. DeSoto was about half as bad, Cedar Hill almost no problems and Duncanville none at all.
Texas Education Agency, Office of Accountability and Data Quality Division of Performance Reporting.

The lil’ old blog that the Lancaster ISD fears — now being blocked

That’s the latest word about what’s happening down at 422 S. Centre St. This blog is being blocked from district computers.

Paranoia will destroy ya …

Especially when it looks like all Superintendent Larry Lewis and others are afraid of is … a little dose of the TRUTH.

(But, you just can’t trust those lying newspaper editors, can you?)

January 07, 2007

Sierra Club clean cities vision doesn’t reach south of the Trinity

The January edition of The Compass, the Dallas Sierra Club’s newsletter, has a nice article on Richardson signing the U.S. Council of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. (See here for more about the program.)

The story then talks about future presentations, in various stages of planning, to make in cities like Addison, Carrolton, Grapevine, Plano, etc.

Notice that none of those cities is south of the Trinity. Guess it’s just not so cool to be down here.