On Boards and Bullshit

From Parents urge SDUHSD Board to hire a superintendent to revamp special education:

Board member John Salazar recommended that a permanent hiring not take place until after the November election so that if a new board member is elected, that person could have input in the selection process because the incoming board member person would have to work with the new superintendent. (Two board positions will be up for election this November — that of Board member Joyce Dalessandro and Board president Beth Hergesheimer).

This is exactly the same “reasoning” used by Senate Republicans who are refusing to even consider filling the open seat on the Supreme Court until President Obama’s term in office is over. They hope that a Republican will be elected, and then they can appoint some right-wing activist judge to the court. It’s pure, naked politics without a hint of a rational justification. It’s bullshit when Senate Republicans do it, and it’s bullshit when John Salazar does it.

Notice that Salazar’s seat is not up for election in November. He is hoping that either one or both of the seats available will go to (a) someone ideologically motivated like him or (b) someone easily influenced like Muir. If that’s the case, then the San Dieguito school board, which has been a model of effective advocacy for students and education for over twenty years, will devolve into a partisan political shitshow that is more interested in destroying public education and public employee unions than in providing a first-class education for students. And at the center of it will be John Salazar and his hand-picked superintendent.

John Salazar’s Very Bad Idea

Karen Billing, Del Mar Times, April 28:

San Dieguito Union High School District board discusses term limits

 

There are bad ideas: deciding to paint your house purple, vacationing in Nebraska, taking stock advice from your brother-in-law. There are pretty bad ideas: drivin703944551g without wearing your seat belt, insulting a Hell’s Angel to his face, eating the spoiled food from the back of the fridge. And then there are Very Bad Ideas. The Very Bad Idea we will be considering today comes from a San Dieguito Union High School District trustee, John Salazar, and its name is Term Limits.

Term Limits has been a popular topic in the United States since the 1980s, usually proposed by self-described “populists” who want to return government to “the people”. Whether or not it has been initiated in good faith, the result everywhere it has been tried has been disastrous for “the people”. Term Limits removes expertise and institutional memory from governmental bodies just when it can be of use, leaving instead neophyte or dilettante office-holders with no knowledge or experience of the job they have been asked to do.

The most charitable interpretation of a Term Limits proposal is that it is a genuine attempt to include more people in leadership. A more cynical interpretation is that Term Limits is an attempt to force turnover in an elected body that cannot be achieved by honest campaigning. An even more suspicious interpretation is that Term Limits is a deliberate attempt to hamstring an elected body and prevent it from doing its work effectively, thus demonstrating the correctness of a core belief that government does not and cannot work.

I leave it up to you to reach your own interpretation. My conclusion is that Term Limits is a Very Bad Idea.

Remedial English Class

Thomas K. Arnold, in the Seaside Courier, April 26:

Superintendent Schmitt Leaving San Dieguito Union High School District

 

I would like to suggest that Arnold, and possibly Trustee Muir, might benefit from spending some time in an English class in one of the San Dieguito middle schools. Things they might learn there:

Muir said she was a bit taken aback by Schmitt’s sudden departure.

“I’m happy for anyone who meets their personal professional goals,” she said. “However, I’m very concerned with the financial challenge our superintendent has left the district with in paying for contractual obligations with no cost containment and it’s indirect impacts on class size, educational amenities, etc.”

(1) The correct usage of the contraction “it’s” as opposed to the possessive pronoun “its”.

(2) Using specific details to back up your arguments, instead of fear-mongering empty words like “no cost containment”, “indirect impacts”, “educational amenities”, and “etc.”

Schmitt’s annual base pay would have spiked to $248,347 on July 1. His executive assistant on that date will see her annual base salary top out at $99,673, while a maintenance supervisor will earn an annual salary of as much as $101,849.

(3) Choosing the right descriptive word for a particular sentence, including using online resources like thesaurus.com to choose a word that accurately conveys your meaning.

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(4) Editing and revising your work to remove details that do not have any relevance to your point, like the salary of maintenance workers in a story about the superintendent.

Some trustees claim the deal was sprung on them with just 24 hours to review, having been negotiated by Schmitt and his team and the San Dieguito Faculty Association…

(5) Using specific language (“Trustees Muir and Salazar”) rather than vague generalities (“Some trustees”).

(6) Checking facts rather than simply reporting claims. Were those trustees accurate in claiming the deal was “sprung” on them? Or are they, in fact, not telling the truth? (Actually, this topic might be covered in a “Reporting 101” class rather than a middle-school English class. Still…)

 

If Arnold (or Muir) would like to spend some time in one of those classes, I believe they could arrange that by contacting the Superintendent of SDUHSD. I recommend doing so before July 1.

Car Talk

By coincidence, my wife and I each needed new cars in the last couple of months. Her car (2007 Volkswagen Eos convertible) had some mechanical problems that were going to be more expensive to repair than we were willing to pay. My truck (2005 Ford Ranger) was a gas-guzzler not suited to my new daily commute to Orange County. As you can see from the model years, we tend to keep our cars for a long time, so this was the first time we were shopping for cars with modern technology (navigation, Bluetooth, apps, etc.) as standard equipment.

We bought her car in mid-March, an Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid. It’s exactly what she wanted: good gas mileage with space for all her occupational therapy equipment easily accessible. I got my new car earlier this week: a Toyota Prius Four. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a hatchback, but it was the best high-mileage car in our price range. As far as driving, efficiency, and comfort go, we are both very happy with our new cars.

Where they differ is in the technology, especially the “connected” apps. As near as I can tell, Audi needs to concentrate on building cars, because their websites and apps are absolutely terrible. There are literally four websites for which I have to have accounts: audiusa.com, myaudi.com, myaudiconnect.com, and etron.audiusa.com. These sites have different requirements for passwords, and do not communicate with each other that I can tell. On one of the sites, our car is listed twice, with different information. When the sales person at the dealership called Audi support to get them to correct that, they were told, no, that’s how it has to be listed. The etron app, which is supposed to allow us to monitor the car’s charging, along with other features, has never worked, six weeks after we purchased the car. I’ve been going back and forth with their technical support by email this whole time. There are two different PINs for the car, one four-digit PIN for the app, which is a completely different number than the 8-digit Audi Connect PIN, which you have to enter in the car in order to use Audi Connect, and which you can only find by a circuitous route through one of the damn websites (I forget which) and which tech support had to describe to me how to find. Whoever designed these systems should lose their job.

In contrast, on Wednesday after I purchased my Prius, I downloaded the Toyota Entune app and signed up. Ten minutes and it was working. Done.

So here’s a mid-90’s Car Song for you:

What is 21C Learning?

21C Learning

When I became a ToSA for 21st-Century Instruction, the first question people asked me, of course, was “What is 21st-century instruction?” Some asked from a sense of irony: “I teach in the 21st century, so by definition everything I do is 21st-century instruction. Har.” Some asked from a sense of confusion: “Oh, OK. But what do you DO all day?” But most asked from a genuine desire to teach in an authentic and effective way for their 21st-century students: “Great! How do I do that? Give me a checklist, and I’ll mark off all the items. Then I’ll be a 21st-century educator.”

Needless to say, I had a certain amount of difficulty with a concise “elevator speech” to answer “What is 21st-century instruction?” I stuttered some things about meeting students where they are, and allowing students voice and choice, and having students produce authentic products, but none of these really answered the question. I had a shorter, preliminary version of the “21 shifts” that I showed to groups of teachers and administrators; they said they really liked the list, but it still was a collection of examples, not an overarching answer. I started to think about what was at the core of learning for our students: what fundamental skills did they need to be successful in a future that we couldn’t predict?

I was interrupted by a phone call from a teacher. “Have you heard anything about the Zambinify* app? It’s supposed to be the latest and greatest app to renobulate** our teaching, and I want to know if it would be good to use in my classroom.” I had never heard of this app, and knew nothing about it, but I promised the teacher I would do some research and get back to her.

The first thing I did was to open Google and search for Zambinify. I found a whole bunch of different resources, including reviews, screenshots, videos, descriptions, and revenue projections. I combed through them, identifying the ones that I thought were relevant, discarding the ones that weren’t. Several of the reviews contained information that conflicted with each other. I had to sort out the contradictions, deciding what was the real story, based on my reading as well as my understanding of the broader context. Once I did that, I had to figure out how well Zambinify would work in classrooms in our district, given the demographics, the technology in our community and in our classrooms, the abilities and preferences of our teachers, and the support of the technology department and of site administrators. Finally, I put it all in a brief email, including annotated screenshots, that explained the app and my recommendations for teachers, students, and administrators.

With that minor digression out of the way, I went back to considering 21st-century instruction.

21C Learning


*Not its real name. Apps have had their names changed to protect their privacy. -Ed.

**Not a real word. I have no idea what Fairchild is doing here. -Ed.