Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

I'm Not At All Suprised - How About You?

I read this letter on the Internet and thought my readers might be interested too.

For the last couple of years THE BEAST (a.k.a our anger-management disordered Governor) has been going after the NJEA and public school teachers in general. Now one of the new things he has implemented was a brand new evaluation procedure that would evaluate tenured and non-tenured teachers twice to four times a year. The school districts were told that they had to chose one of 4 evaluation models and it had to be up and running by this year. Well in order to do that the districts have to order the specific software that goes with the particular evaluation procedure that they have chosen. Knowing that they have this deadline to beat, they have started looking at particular vendors and have made decisions on which vendors to choose. Now in the middle of trying to find these vendors and purchase this software, the Dept of Education, led by Christie's boy, Cerf, sent a letter to the districts stating that now the STATE dept wants them to buy this software from ONLY THE VENDORS THAT THE STATE RECOMMENDS. In fact there is no way around this. These districts have to pay the STATE recommended vendors or they will be out of compliance.

Now all of this makes me wonder. This is obviously coming from the BEAST so of course that thought evokes a few questions like:
1 Who are the vendors that are recommended?
2. What did the recommended vendors do to become recommended?
3. Are there any kickbacks coming from this decision?
4. If so, who's getting them?

Of course the STATE DEPARTMENT led by the BEAST would probably NEVER answer any of those questions, but I will be thinking them anyway as I count off the last two years that HE will be in office.

- Teri

Friday, 27 July 2012

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Eliminating "Poor Teachers" Is a Poor Excuse

I have posted today's Star Ledger editorial in its entirety and highlighted the most objectionable part - "a tenure system that has protected bad teachers for a century".
What about the good teachers that it has protected? I guess that doesn't count.
Will the tenure "reform" law continue to protect:

Those who speak their minds and are then harassed, poorly evaluated and fired by a vindictive administrator (many of whom have been appointed via political connections and cronyism)?

Those who may be harassed and fired because the relative or friend of an administrator or politician needs a job?

Those who may be harassed and fired because they are at the top of the salary scale?

Those who may be harassed and fired because they have supported the "wrong" candidate or political party?

The old law protected all of these people. Is it reasonable to use the excuse of eliminating the very low percentage of "poor teachers" in order to justify "reforming" tenure and thereby denying the majority of "good" teachers the safeguards tenure now affords them?
Is tenure "reform" the result of ulterior motives? I surely think so!
If the real motive is to remove "poor" teachers at a reasonable cost it can be done without "tenure reform".
Read my posting of Sunday, February 19, 2012 - $100,000 Questions About Tenure

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

What's Wrong Here? Plenty - That's What!

Last Month's Ruling on COLA Benefits for Retirees

The most important aspect of this ruling is that it opens up the door to have the state cut all benefits based on the debt limitation clause in the state constitution yet the Star Ledger reports:

But in a ruling issued Friday, Hurd decided that although the retirees have a statutory guarantee that there won’t be any reduction in their pension benefit, the state cannot be required to pay for the cost-of-living adjustment.

However Judge Hurd, when specifically asked whether the base pension could be reduced, refused to comment declaring that he was “not answering that question. That question is not before me.”

Here we go again- "All pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal than others!"

Monday, 23 July 2012

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Preview of Privatized Education

This article was brought to my attention by Frank Vespa on FB. 
I had already read the previous NYT article 

"An investigation into New Jersey’s halfway houses.
Unlocked, Part 1
As Escapees Stream Out, a Penal Business Thrives
(June 17, 2012)"

and this adds more fuel to the fire. It surely demonstrates the direction privatized education will take once it is firmly established New Jersey.


Finances Plague Company Running Halfway Houses
Published: July 16, 2012 82 Comments

 A company that plays a critical role in New Jersey’s corrections system, running halfway houses as large as prisons, has had such severe financial difficulties over the last four years that it contemplated filing for bankruptcy in 2010, according to newly disclosed documents.
An investigation into New Jersey’s halfway houses.
 Senior executives at the company, Community Education Centers, even feared at the time that they might not have enough money to pay workers, the documents show.

 Community Education’s senior vice president, William J. Palatucci, is one of Gov. Chris Christie’s closest friends and political advisers, and Mr. Christie has long championed the company.

 Not long before Mr. Christie took office in January 2010, Community Education defaulted on its debt, the documents show.

 Since then, the state, while paying the company tens of millions of dollars a year for its services, has not closely examined Community Education’s financial standing or operations, according to the documents, former company executives and state officials.

 If Community Education were to collapse, that could significantly disrupt New Jersey’s corrections system, and if the company remains financially hobbled, its halfway houses in New Jersey could continue to suffer.

 The documents also suggest that Community Education’s chief executive, John J. Clancy, highlighted Mr. Palatucci’s ties to Mr. Christie in an effort to impress investors and secure desperately needed financing for the company.

 The documents were submitted on Friday in federal court in Newark in an employment lawsuit brought against Community Education by a former executive. They portray a company that has been in crisis and trying to fend off creditors, even as it has mounted a robust lobbying and public relations campaign.

 The New York Times, in a three-part series last month, detailed extensive problems in New Jersey’s halfway houses, including escapes, violence and drug use. The system of halfway houses, which the state has long promoted as a national model, handles thousands of inmates annually who are leaving prison or on parole.

 Community Education has dominated the system for over a decade, and more than 15 former workers told The Times for its articles last month that the company had kept staffing levels very low in recent years to save money. As a result, the workers said, the company did a poor job delivering counseling and other services intended to help inmates make the transition to society.

 The company’s financial difficulties have not stemmed from its government contracts in New Jersey, which have steadily grown over the last decade, according to the documents and interviews. Community Education has instead run into trouble after an aggressive expansion foundered in states like Alabama and Texas. The resulting shortfalls have been a factor in staff and other reductions in New Jersey.

 Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Mr. Christie, declined on Monday to comment on Community Education’s finances, referring questions to the Corrections Department.

 Asked about Mr. Clancy’s emphasizing the political influence of Mr. Palatucci, Mr. Drewniak said, “We have no way of knowing the veracity of that assertion, but it would be inappropriate for any company to do that.”

 The Corrections Department, which is part of the Christie administration, said there was nothing about Community Education’s finances that warranted concern.

 “The company has consistently maintained its services under the terms of its contracts with the Department of Corrections and, like all similar providers, was scrutinized for financial stability prior to any contract award,” the department said in a statement.

 In a statement, Community Education said it had been hurt by the financial crisis but was proud of the work that it continued to do. “C.E.C. has never had a disruption of a contract in New Jersey or any other state, never missed a payroll, and never had a basis that necessitated disclosure of a nonissue,” the company said.

 The documents in the lawsuit, including depositions from current and former Community Education executives, show that the company was under threat of bankruptcy in 2010 because it borrowed too heavily for its national expansion and could not make debt payments.

 The company, which is privately owned, received roughly $300 million annually from government contracts around the country in 2009 and 2010. But one projection by the company in 2009 showed that because of its debt burden, it would soon have only $13,702.02 in cash on hand.

 “Everybody in that building was aware on a daily basis that we were making choices of who to pay, who not to pay, “ Community Education’s former treasurer, Frank English, said in a deposition, referring to the company’s headquarters in West Caldwell, N.J.

 “Everybody knew that the company was struggling,” Mr. English added.

 Asked directly whether the company had contemplated bankruptcy, Mr. English said yes.

 He added that the company had hoped that it would not come to that and had always found a way to meet its payroll.

 Nevertheless, another former company executive, Chris Rausch, said in a deposition: “We were short cash. We couldn’t afford any extra head count.”

 “We were cutting heads,” he added.

 On the brink of bankruptcy, Community Education received $235 million in financing in December 2010, at interest rates as steep as 15.25 percent.

 The documents in the lawsuit indicate that the company’s finances have not improved markedly since then. Despite the new financing, the company remained in debt even to its auditors.
Finances Plague Company Running Halfway Houses
 Several documents about Community Education’s current finances — as well as sections of testimony — were not available for review because they were filed with the court under seal.

 After the articles about the state’s halfway houses were published in The Times last month, state lawmakers said the system should be regulated more tightly. The Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, approved a measure requiring the Corrections Department to provide more information about halfway-house operations to the Legislature.

 But Mr. Christie, a Republican, used a line-item veto to weaken the requirements. His aides said the measure was burdensome, but some lawmakers contended that he was trying to protect Mr. Palatucci, the company executive who is his close friend.

 Since the 1990s, the state has allowed Community Education to obtain its contracts through a nonprofit organization that the company controls, skirting a state law that excludes private companies from this work.

 Last year, the office of the state comptroller, Matthew Boxer, raised alarms about this arrangement. After conducting an audit that harshly criticized state oversight of the halfway-house system, the office concluded that regulators were kept in the dark about Community Education’s finances.

 The Christie administration took no action in response to the comptroller’s warning.

 Mr. Clancy founded Community Education in the 1990s, promoting large-scale halfway houses as a solution for states seeking to scale back their prison systems. Since that time, he has courted politicians of both major parties while obtaining government contracts in New Jersey.

 Community Education has a total of 1,900 beds in six halfway houses in New Jersey, which 7,700 state inmates and parolees cycled through last year. The company has hundreds more beds for county and federal inmates.

 The company received about $71 million in the 2011 fiscal year from state and local government agencies in New Jersey, out of total halfway-house spending of roughly $105 million.

 The court documents show that in an effort to forestall bankruptcy, Community Education has had to give investors without substantial experience in corrections a role in running the company.

LLR Partners, a private-equity firm in Philadelphia that invested $53 million in the company with a partner, and other investors have been involved in deciding how to allocate personnel.

 “That’s done in an interest to maximize their investment?” Kevin J. O’Connor, the plaintiff’s lawyer in the lawsuit, asked at a deposition.

 “Yes,” answered Mr. Rausch, who was dismissed in 2009 after clashing with Mr. Clancy.

 The court documents stem from a lawsuit filed against Community Education last year by its former chief financial officer, David N. T. Watson.

 Mr. Watson contends that Mr. Clancy lied about the company’s financial turmoil when recruiting him and improperly fired him in December 2010.

 Mr. Watson and his lawyer, Mr. O’Connor, both declined to comment.

 Last month, responding to questions from The Times about the lawsuit, Community Education vehemently denied that it had experienced financial problems.

 “The company has never defaulted on any payment of debt,” the company said in a statement. “No financial issues existed that would have required disclosure.”

 That denial was described in the first article in The Times’s series, published on June 17.

 In depositions made public on Friday, however, five current and former Community Education executives, including Mr. Clancy, repeatedly acknowledged that the company was in default in 2009 and 2010.

 “It was in default for a lot of that time,” Mr. Clancy said. “It could have been all of that time.”

 Asked on Monday about the discrepancy, the company stood by its previous statement and added: “The referenced event concerns compliance with certain financial covenants contained in the company’s loan document. Those issues were subsequently remedied.”

 The court documents offered new insight into ties between Community Education and Governor Christie.

 In his deposition, Mr. Clancy said that he was a Democrat who supported Mr. Christie and that he was standing with Mr. Christie on the night he won election in November 2009.

 “The correct person won, which should make for a better 2010,” Mr. Clancy wrote to Seth J. Lehr, a co-founder of LLR Partners, the company investor.

 Mr. Lehr responded, “Relationships matter, and that’s a deep one for you and Bill”; that was a reference to Mr. Palatucci.

 Soon after, Mr. Clancy told another company executive to emphasize Mr. Palatucci’s connections to Mr. Christie in the information the company was sending to banks and potential investors, Mr. Clancy acknowledged in his deposition.

 At the time, the company was in dire straits and seeking capital. Mr. Clancy wanted the investors to know that Mr. Palatucci was co-chairman of Mr. Christie’s inauguration committee, and Mr. Christie’s former law partner, according to the deposition.

 Mr. Clancy said in the deposition that he considered Mr. Christie a friend. “ ‘Friend’ does not mean more business,” Mr. Clancy said. “ ‘Friend’ does not mean anything more than we were friends.”

 The depositions also raise new questions about a $130 million contract that Community Education received in 2011 to house federal immigrant detainees and county inmates in Newark.

 Immigrant advocacy groups have long asserted that the contract, which was administered by Essex County, was written in a way to ensure that only Community Education could receive it.

 In depositions, former company executives said Mr. Clancy had been so certain that Community Education would receive the contract that he used it as leverage in negotiations with investors.

 Community Education, which was the only bidder, received the contract. The company said Monday that it had not had an unfair advantage in the process.

Also Please read- NYT article

 An investigation into New Jersey’s halfway houses.

Unlocked, Part 1

As Escapees Stream Out, a Penal Business Thrives
(June 17, 2012)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Education Reform and Reformatory Reform - Are They Really Different?

“This place is like a jail!”
How many times have you heard kids say that about school?
Well, out of the mouths of babes. They won’t be far from wrong in the near future!
Prior to the 1980s private prisons were unheard of !
Since then the privatization of the prison systems with its over two million inmates has skyrocketed.
  I certainly think that privatization of public schools with its over fifty-eight million students (inmates) is not far behind!
I sure hope that I am wrong.

“Mother Jones reporter Suzy Khimm, writing at Ezra Klein's spot, observes that the portion of Arizona's prison population now residing in privately owned and operated facilities is 20% and growing. "Nationally," Ms Khimm notes, "there's been a similar surge in private prison construction as the inmate population has tripled between 1987 and 2007: Inmates in private prisons now account for 9% of the total US prison population, up from 6% in 2000." Should we welcome this development?”
“The move has translated into big business for industry leaders like Corrections Corporation of America (CXW), The Geo Group (GEO) and Cornell Companies, Inc. (CRN) (just last week, The Geo Group and Cornell finalized a merger valued at $730 million).

According to research firm IBISWorld USA, private corrections is a $22.7 billion industry with an annual growth rate in the last half-decade of 4.7%. While growth slowed from 2009 to 2010, projections for the industry remain largely optimistic.”

"States have had challenging situations where they have to look at operating costs. We provide savings of anywhere between 5 to 15% or more [versus a public correctional facility]," says Damon Hininger, chairman and CEO of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the industry's leader.

Private facilities can offer these savings, in part because they don't have to contend with the hefty employee pension and wage obligations that government agencies do.

"Private corrections companies can pay a lower wage or pay fewer benefits, particularly no pensions," says John Roman, senior researcher at The Urban Institute.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Mr. 'Tough Guy' in Action

 It's really easy to be "tough" with State Police protection at your side!
How "tough" would he be without them. With his attitude he wouldn't last ten minutes in a Seaside bar without getting punched in the face or maybe worst!
Give me a cadre of cops (with guns) accompanying me at all times and I'll be  toughest guy in town!
What BS!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Believe It or Not - Practice Makes Perfect

This letter brings to mind a story told to me by a colleague who was teaching physics in a neighboring community.
After a classroom observation the supervisor mentioned to the teacher -
"That was an excellent lesson. How long did it take you to prepare it?"
My friend paused and then replied "About ten years!"
Does experience count? 

I think so!!
Unfortunately, I think for many,  obtaining jobs for those who are connected and saving money counts more!