Saturday, February 23, 2013

Now THAT is good service

‘special needs kids should be kept in special places.’

And when Michael Garcia, waiter at Laurenzo’s in Houston, Texas, heard that remark from a family that was irritated at a nearby child with Down syndrome, he flatly refused to serve them.

I’m not going to wax eloquent about Mr. Garcia’s risk at losing his job (which he did not).  Instead I’m just going to say that more people really need to step up and do simple things like to make things in the country go the right direction.  Could you have refused to serve the family?  If you’re the guys boss, could you have kept him employed? 

This is what “social justice” is supposed to be about, not some raving egalitarians that insist the world is against them in a quest for ultimate domination.  It’s little injustices that people don’t just look away from.  It’s those injustices that we can eliminate without help from Congress or the President, or any other group that people blame because they are too gutless to take action themselves.

Well done, Michael!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A raise it is…

After a year and a half of contentious negotiations, the teachers of Ukiah Unified have a raise in salary.  Ok, more like many years of contentious negotiations but who’s counting? 

Before you get all “A RAISE IS AN ABOMINATION AT THIS ECONOMIC POINT”, please understand that I totally support it.   You might say “of course you would you selfish bastard”, except that if you go back and read previous blog posts you’ll find that I’m actually very tempered in my opinion on raises.  I don’t jump out of the chair and scream at the top of my lungs when times are tough and we need to start being fiscal conservatives.  This was not one of those times.  I won’t get into it because that would not be a good vent to have on this blog.  Just realize this needed to happen. 

But it just wouldn’t be me not to have some complaint about something revolving around the world of education, even a raise.

“……starting salary will be $40,000, and the highest is now $77, 432, with 25 steps in between. Previously, the salaries began at about $36,000 and ended at $71,000.

"Our goal is to create a salary schedule that allows people to retire when they're ready, and also allows us to attract new teachers," she said (District Super Debra Kubin), adding that the agreement has "retirement incentives to motivate those who are getting ready to retire."

The first incentive is a cash payment of $20,000, paid over two years, to teachers who agree to retire this year by March 8, according to the joint report prepared by the UUSD and UTA. The second incentive is a $10,000 cash payment to teachers announcing”

I think the forty grand at the beginning of the spectrum had to happen.  You might think that rural Mendocino County is cheap, and you would be wrong.  Rent here is high, and fuel and food costs are rising at a very strong rate.  We might be rural but we are a rural Northern California wine growing area that even in a recession has pretty significant land value. 

Notice also the top of the pay scale got a nice bump, plus a little something extra for those that decide to bolt, which if you listened to many teachers lately, seemed like quite a bit from the stink many near-retirees were making.  So the bottom got some, the top got some more.  The rest of the middle?

We got less.  Somewhat less than the first years (which I’m ok with) and quite a bit less than the top enders.  The idea is that if you pad the top of the salary schedule that it will (with the incentive package) provide the necessary push out the door and thus help pay for future district programs.  Even more interesting, the entire teacher raise agreement is based on a certain number of teachers retiring.  So who is going first?


Oh cool.  Well if the raise doesn’t go through because not enough people retire, the vast majority of the rest of the staff is going to have to go through this all over again, only this time there might be physical incentives to people to get out the door, not just financial. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Over again

Basketball season is finished.  Well not totally finished.  I’m still helping the varsity with a play-off run and I’ve got some paperwork to fill out.  However for the most part the really big driving and responsibility part of the job is finished, and I can breath in my classroom for awhile.

The hustle and bustle was still there this year; lots of floor diving, lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm for the game, only the record was not the same.  I personally don’t care too much for overall records because I’m the JV coach and the JV coach’s job is to prepare kids for the competition of varsity play.  Hell, nobody really cares about the Fresno Grizzlies if the San Francisco Giants are running over people.  So we went 12-14 and finished in the middle of the pack in our league.  We did it with a tougher schedule, the first fourteen games on road, and with out best player moved up to varsity in the middle of our league season.  We were blown out twice; once by an Oroville team that I think lost only once all season, and once by a Montgomery team that lost once in league.  We had that same team in the second game and gave it up in the end.  Everything else was close, which is good for everything except blood pressure and bottles of wine that might be drank when getting home from said events.

And now I get to work with varsity post players, open gym, and another season next year.  June is fast approaching.  

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Everyone wants to go to a UC

Someone has figured out that skills and knowledge equal income, and that one of the best places in the world to acquire that skill or knowledge is the University of California system.

“The University of California has again received a record number of applications for undergraduate admission, attracting strong interest from inside and outside the state….”

Budget woes be damned, it looks like more and more people still see opportunity in the Golden State, even with tuition increases, a campus in Merced, and this guy:

It my job to analyze this phenomenon with a clear mind, a steady heart, and a rich cabernet. For instance, Latinos were the largest group ethnicity to apply for California residency admission as freshmen. If you are involved in public education in California this should surprise no one. In my classes, women dominate academia, and Latinas are quickly becoming a powerful force in the realm of intellectual capital.

But what about the actual schools themselves? Why the massive increase in the number of applicants to the U.C. system at specific universities? A few thoughts….

Everyone wants to go to UCLA because it’s UCLA. Look at all the freshmen who applied, most of whom don’t even realize that UCLA is located in Los Angeles. Actually Westwood might not be Los Angeles, just a little Lost style island where occasionally there are time jumps that remind you that Bill Walton once actually sat down in the street and blocked traffic. Very few students from Ukiah get accepted to UCLA, and most come from families that are second or third generation immigrants that realize that hard work is harder than trolling Facebook while half-assing your English paper.

Berkeley is considered by many to be the best public university on the planet. This is horribly unfortunate because it’s located near one of the nastier neighborhoods on the planet. Staying on campus will allow you to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that you won’t be accosted by stoned vagrants that inhabit Telegraph Avenue. It’s a little safer to walk out in Berkeley during home football games because then everybody is acting like drunk vagrants, only most are wearing Blue and Gold thus making them easily identifiable. Few students from Ukiah get into Berkeley, and those that do usually come from families that have Mafioso type connections to the Cal-Berkeley elite, who in turn enjoy fooling everyone into believing that they are really a progressive university (see Haas Business School, and the crazy salaries the Deans receive).

Look, it’s U.C. San Diego! Those people that actually want to excel in high-level academia while sitting on the beach in somewhere not as shitty as Los Angeles go to UCSD. While Westwood has things like basketball, Beverly Hills, and it’s name; San Diego is one of the leading schools in medicine and engineering. And it’s not Los Angeles. Very few students get accepted into San Diego from Ukiah, and those that do are usually very serious about their academic rigor and future job prospects, which they focus on right after a summer trip to Tijuana that usually involves mas cerveza and a donkey.

Bwahahahaha! I bet you honestly thought that kids apply to U.C. Santa Barbara because of the academic programs. Yeah, right. And Isla Vista is actually a man-made island off the coast of Newfoundland that’s owned by a skinny Samoan named Reginald. Kids that apply to UCSB are thinking beach, ragers, and the possibility that at least one time in their life they might get a bang one of those girls that the Beach Boys always talk about. Or was it Katy Perry? I see a whole lot of kids apply to UCSB and a decent amount are accepted. Usually about half return because their arms are too sore from keg stands or the local suppliers found a better connection for NorCal Kush.

U.C. Irvine is a university that no one wants to go to because A) the name sounds like a Grandpa from the 1930’s, and B) the mascot is the Anteater. Those that do their homework find that U.C. Irvine might possibly be one of the most underrated universities in the country. They have strong academics, friendly students, a safe location, all a bunch of other things that make it totally unassuming and therefore to many college students, boring. Very few students even bother applying to U.C. Irvine because U.C. Irvine just doesn’t sound cool. It would be cooler to rage in Isla Vista, or bike around the cow pastures of Davis.

If you want to go to U.C. Davis you probably want to become a veterinarian, wine maker, or you have a real strong pull back to the comforting womb that is Northern California. The former is unlikely because most people that want to be a vet will have to take organic chemistry, and that alone will make a person question their life choices. The second is also unlikely because you don’t need to spend your life’s fortune living in a dull valley to learn about wine. You can go to Walla Walla instead. No, most people (including those from Ukiah) apply to U.C. Davis as their “back-up choice”, which in reality is their first choice because they can stay close to home while partying with old high school friends and mooching off of parents. It’s a good school except for the fact that you will forever have to deal with the UCLA and Cal elitists that will insist that they are more intelligent because they are better, for some reason.

Yes, that is a banana slug.  So U.C. Santa Cruz has been getting a large influx of Ukiah grads as of late. The reason for that is that UCSC is a lot like the “progressive” population that resides in Ukiah. Students that go to Santa Cruz will adore the campus (the most beautiful in the UC system), smoke a lot of weed, engage in a few protests, and then wake up one morning and realize that they are spending a whole lot of money things they can do without going to U.C. Santa Cruz. This is why I’ve seen more students leave UCSC than any other UC. Students are looking to go to college, not demonstrate in a permanent Occupy Movement. This is not to say that the college is bad by any means. It’s just not the epitome of the “college experience”, unless your idea of the college experience is really progressive. Note: Berkeley students hate UCSC because Santa Cruz is actually progressive, not “Couture Progressive” that includes necessary trips to trendy outlet malls before protesting at Sproul Hall.

U.C. Riverside’s motto is “College is what you make of it.” This is especially true for the students that have decided to go to a university that is well versed in smog and poverty, and that is located in the desert. If you can get by the fact that U.C. Riverside sits in a community that could be considered one of the most impacted by the 2008 Great Recession, then you’ll probably do ok. The university does have a very good engineering program and the business program is supposed to be up and coming. And apparently the prospects of getting a job right out of Riverside are pretty darn good. Of course, that means you must actually attend Riverside. I think one or two students went to Riverside over my tenure at Ukiah, and I really hope they are ok.

The main reason someone drives to Merced is to go through it on their way to somewhere else; whether that be Los Angeles, Sacramento, Yosemite, or anywhere. I’m still trying to figure out why the U.C. system chose Merced as a location to build a university. I’m thinking that it had to do with a lost bet, or a practical joke gone wrong, or something having to do with Ashton Kutcher all of the sudden screaming “YOU’VE BEEN PUNKED!” from behind a building. Guess what. If you are going to Merced you’ll find really new and cool buildings. And rice. I’ve had students apply and get accepted to U.C. Merced. I think I’ve seen their faces on the back of milk cartons but I can’t confirm that just yet.

Now much of this review is done tongue-in-cheek, unless it really isn’t and I’m just a Chico State graduate with a really low self-esteem problem. Nah. I’m still of the opinion that the “where” you go to college is more inconsequential than what you actually do with college when you attend. The amount of serious research that students do for their college choices is actually tiny, and usually is word of mouth from friends that already attend a certain institution. For the cost of the investment, I recommend that parents get a hold of themselves when considering “the college experience” for their kids, because the debt load on the other end really isn’t worth the rager on Isla Vista. You can rage anywhere, and often get just as much out of the academic end as well if you actually look around.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The ACLU is racist.

Dammit.  It didn’t work, did it.

Every time something comes out about English Language Learners not receiving services from school districts or government programs it seems like the reports are tinged with “stop picking on Spanish speaking children you racist pig” elements.  I figured since Ukiah Unified is being painted in that light by the ACLU that it might work in the reverse.  You know, accuse the ACLU of attempting to allocate a massive amount of funds to a disproportionate minority population simply based on skin color.  That’s racism.

But apparently that would be non-politically correct so we need to get to the root of the problem, which is that Ukiah High School is one of a few schools on the North Coast that is not meeting the needs of its English Language Learners. 

“Windsor, Geyserville and Ukiah have between 9 and 12 percent of English learners not being served, according to the report.”

What that means exactly is that these schools are not providing any English Language instruction for students where English is a second language, or where English isn’t spoken at all. 

This presents a problem of assimilation that I’ve talked about many times.  I’ve been reading about a variety of school districts that are befuddled about the accusations from the ACLU, especially when budget cuts have made entire class options disappear while they are forced to focus en masse on making sure that ELL students do much better on standardized testing.  It seems like the issue isn’t that ELL students aren’t being educated, it seems like there is a strong disagreement about how that education is taking place.  For instance, take the following commentary from an ELL student from Oxnard,

"They put you in the same class as everyone else regardless of your English level, whether you speak a little or not at all. It’s very frustrating,"

"School counselors don’t want to talk to you in English because you aren’t proficient, or in Spanish because there aren’t enough bilingual staff,"

Students are mainstreamed because A) the exposure to English is a good thing,  B) the pace of the class is necessary to meet the needs of idiotic standardized testing, and C) schools are sometimes accused of providing inadequate instruction by placing kids in language classes that don’t focus on stronger content.  This puts the school district in a catch-22 because either they can’t provide the instruction, can’t provide the language support, or fail to meet the needs of other students because so much time and energy is spent on English Language Learners.  No, that’s not a knock on ELL students, it’s reality.  And I have my own opinions about requiring that teachers be bilingual in a society where a majority of the population speaks in English.  And I would dare the ACLU to come in and talk to the counselors at Ukiah High School who speak very good Spanish while being insanely overworked due to budget cuts.

“An estimated 85 percent of English language learners in California were born in America.  Most live in homes where English is not the primary language. A survey of districts in the 2010 study “Reparable Harm” for the nonprofit Californians Together by language expert Laurie Olsen found that 59 percent of English learners in grades 6-12 are long-term English learners: those who were in school at least six years in this country, had stalled in gaining English fluency as measured by the annual California English Language Development Test (CELDT) and had failed the California Standards Test (CST) in English with scores of basic or below basic.”

Hey what a surprise.  You mean to tell me that students that are told not to speak English at home are stalled in their quest to become English learners?  There’s a shock. 

So how does this impact me?  Well, the ACLU has succeeded in making me bitter at the fact that I’ll have to sit in useless meetings talking about strategies that I spent an entire year on in college, and that are already used in my classes anyway because it is simply good teaching.  Most teachers are puzzled at the fact that they are focused on English Language Learners so much, while feeling like we are banging our heads against the wall.  And some of us are wondering why people can see statistics that say “Hey, part of this needs to be a focal point within the Latino community” but won’t come out with a loud speaker and actually say “HEY, PART OF THIS NEEDS TO BE A FOCAL POINT WITHIN THE LATINO COMMUNITY.” 

But I guess that would be racist.