Archive for May, 2012

Vanderbilt chancellor has to be cringing at coach’s comments about good looking wives

UPDATE Friday morning: As we expected, an apology was issued by Vandy coach James Franklin about his comments on only hiring assistants with attractive wives. The AJC is reporting that Franklin took to Twitter to say: “My foot doesn’t taste good. I hope I did not offend anyone … attempt at humor obviously fell a few yds. short. … I clearly used language that doesn’t reflect my view on women and I am SORRY!”

Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor of athletics, David Williams, said he told Franklin that his statements were “inappropriate.” “He clearly made a mistake,” Williams told USA Today. “And clearly what he said is not how he feels and not how we feel.”

Here is my original post:

Can a college noted for its academic excellence keep a coach on staff who says something as bizarre as this: He won’t hire an assistant coach until he checks out the man’s wife to ensure she is good looking.

Anyone doubt that Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos cringed when he heard these comments …

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DeKalb whiz kid/speller in national finals. Watch Simola today.

UPDATE from AJC.com:

Simola Nayak knew how to spell “cisele,” but stumbled on the word for an Irish irregular soldier or bandit. The 13-year-old DeKalb County girl fell out of the semifinal Scripps National Spelling Bee Championships today when she misspelled “rapparee,” in use since 1690, according to Merriam-Webster.com.  She “did DeKalb proud,” school system officials said on their official Twitter feed.

Simola, who just finished eighth grade at Henderson Middle School, was carrying the weight of the state on her shoulders. Officials, including U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and U.S. Rep Jack Kingston wished her well on their own Twitter feeds. In March, she correctly spelled “tautologous” to win the 51st annual Georgia Association of Educators State Spelling Bee. That victory earned her an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. this week to compete in the national event.

Here is the note this morning from DeKalb Schools about its champion speller Simola Nayak, …

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New digital divide: Lower-income kids waste more time with their gadgets

When technology first began to infiltrate American childhoods, there were fears of a digital divide; children from lower-income families would not have access to the emerging new technologies because of the cost and thus fall behind their more affluent peers whose families could afford cell phones, computers and video game systems.

However, now that access to cell phones and other electronics is widespread, there are fears of a new divide: Poorer kids are wasting more time on their assorted electronic and computer gadgets than more affluent peers.

“Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” said Vicky Rideout, author of a decade-long Kaiser study on online patterns, in a New York Times story on the issue. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.”

Closing the digital divide is not improving the …

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DeKalb homeowner to school board: ‘We have no more money to give.’ Expect many others to agree.

UPDATE at 6 p.m.: Getting word that new property assessments in DeKalb showing big jumps in some areas despite collapse of housing market. A neighbor saw a $300,000 jump — $400,000 to $700,00 — and has not added onto her house. Is there a glitch in the assessments? Anybody else seeing that sort of rise in their house’s value?

A DeKalb homeowner sent this strong letter in response to the DeKalb school board’s proposal to raise taxes. I thought I would share it here.

I expect the school board members will be getting a lot of similarly unhappy responses to their plan to dig the system out of its financial hole by a tax increase, teacher furloughs, a shortened school year and larger class sizes. Here is the letter:

Here we go again. DeKalb County, this time the school system, is in trouble and we property owners and taxpayers are asked to put in even more money. Our family loves the public education system, we are both government employees, too, but the taxes in this county have …

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DeKalb school board: We can save Fernbank and middle school sports but only with a tax hike

The AJC reports that the DeKalb school board spent four hours last night debating how to close a $73 million deficit. Teachers won’t like the proposed solutions. Nor will many parents. And probably few taxpayers.

As has become the strategy of most ailing metro districts, DeKalb Schools will dig itself out of its serious financial bind by raising class size, shortening the school year, dumping teacher aides and adding teacher furlough days. It will also make employees pay more of their health care tab.

However, DeKalb is also looking at a $30 million tax increase in a county coping with record foreclosures, high employment and increasing frustration with the cost and size of district administration.

According to the AJC:

One by one, the board members went down a list of 33 potential cuts. After several tries over about four hours, they theoretically balanced the budget. A majority wanted teacher furlough days, fewer teacher positions resulting in higher teacher-student …

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Did these Atlanta teachers cheat? You read the GBI transcript and decide.

crcted.0920 (Medium)Atlanta Public Schools is still in the process of trying to fire teachers implicated in the test-cheating investigation, a task that becomes more difficult as the cases and circumstances become murkier.

APS went after the most egregious offenders first, those who confessed to copying test booklets and erasing student answers. Now, it is pursuing those educators who made admissions to the GBI of far less overt actions, such as strongly suggesting students recheck answers.

In these less blatant cases, the question becomes what defines cheating? The AJC obtained the tapes of the GBI’s interviews with some teachers through the Georgia Open Records Act. After you read them, you decide. Cheating or not?

The first case involves Dobbs Elementary teacher Derrick Broadwater’s practice of telling students to “check your answers” and helping them with words they didn’t know.

GBI: At the time you were doing this, did you think by doing the kind of prompting you were doing with …

Continue reading Did these Atlanta teachers cheat? You read the GBI transcript and decide. »

Report: What does Fernbank really do and for whom?

In 2005, the DeKalb school board appointed a blue ribbon task force to recommend the future direction of the Fernbank Science Center. The final report delivered to the district in 2006 apparently never led to any real action on anyone’s part.

The charge to the task force from then school chief Crawford Lewis was to “…review Fernbank’s programs, services and facilities along with the needs of all the stakeholders in our community…”

A year later, the task force reported back to the school board that it was stymied in its efforts and could not create that future blueprint. (For a strong view on keeping Fernbank open, read this post.)

Here is the summary letter from Sally Sears, who was chair of the executive committee of the Blue Ribbon Future of Fernbank Committee. As you read this letter, you get a better sense of why the DeKalb school board is now giving serious consideration to closing Fernbank.

Here is the summary letter:

This final report contains strong recommendations. …

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Ecologist: Many reasons to keep Fernbank Science Center open

Fernbank costs DeKalb $4.7 million to operate, a luxury the system may no longer be able to afford. (AJC)

Fernbank costs DeKalb $4.7 million to operate, a luxury the system may no longer be able to afford. (AJC)

The AJC is receiving many pleas to save the Fernbank Science Center, which is operated by the cash-strapped DeKalb County School District. Last week,  the school board’s budget committee recommended closing the decades-old institution.

As the AJC reported last week:  Fernbank Science Center, which includes a planetarium, is near the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, which is operated by a separate nonprofit. At an annual cost of $4.7 million, the building and its 56 full-time employees now are looking like a luxury to school officials. They are struggling with a $73 million deficit, and may have to cut teachers and school days to balance the budget.

Here is one of the pleas to keep the center open. It is from ecologist Al Tate,  an instructor at the Fernbank Science Center

By Al Tate

There is so much misinformation about Fernbank Science Center appearing on the …

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Gainesville City Schools benefits from lessons from Hurricane Katrina

Gainesville superintendent Merrianne Dyer

Gainesville superintendent Merrianne Dyer

Merrianne Dyer, superintendent of Gainesville City Schools, has been telling me about a successful wrap-around program to help at-risk students.  Dr. Dyer felt that the program was worth sharing with other districts in Georgia. (I am hoping to get more educators on the blog talking about what works, per the many requests from readers.)

I asked her to tell us what Gainesville is doing. Here is her detailed account.

By Dr. Merrianne Dyer

Gainesville City Schools found our best school improvement initiative in the wake of a hurricane.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina left the Gulf Coast devastated. In the hard days that followed, schools were challenged to re-open buildings and focus traumatized children on learning. Rhonda Waltman, an assistant superintendent for student support in Mobile, AL, asked, “How can we get these children around the barriers that this disaster created and get them back to school?”

She found her answer in a …

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Are introverted children hurt by classroom focus on participation and group activities?

Education Week has a fascinating story on introverted students and whether today’s classrooms are hospitable to such quiet, reflective children.

One comment struck me in the piece: “The kids who are bouncing around the room and punching people in the face need to be addressed right away. In a classroom of limited resources, that’s where the resources go,” Mr. Coplan said, adding that the quiet students often get ignored.

It made me recall a former co-worker who had her baby in a child care center with video cameras so she could log on from work and watch her baby. What she saw was that her baby was quiet and contented and, as a result, ignored for most of the day. The child care staff picked up and coddled the babies who cried or fussed. My colleague realized that her very quiet baby was not commanding any attention in large child care center and ended up hiring a home sitter instead.

Her quiet baby girl grew up into a quiet child, and my colleague would tell me that her …

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