At Least She’s Not Your School Board Member…Oh, Crap

Great way to introduce yourself to your fellow board members. As The Denver Post reports:

Newly elected board member Andrea Merida caused immediate controversy when she refused to wait until after the reform vote to be sworn in with two others.

Instead, Merida went to a district court judge hours before the board meeting, armed with certified results from the Nov. 3 election, and took her oath.

“I hated to do this,” Merida said. “But the people have spoken very clearly. I wanted to make sure they had a voice.”

Minutes before the board meeting began at 4:30 p.m., Merida showed an affidavit signed by a judge and demanded to take her seat.

“We have had a really disappointing situation transpiring today,” board President Theresa Peña said in the boardroom that was filled to capacity. “One of our new colleagues was sworn in today at noon. She is now a sitting board member. Michelle Moss will not be able to finish out her term. Michelle, I am incredibly sorry.”

Moss tearfully left the dais.

“I find it to be one of the most disrespectful, underhanded political maneuvers that I have ever seen in my life,” Moss said in the hallway as Merida voted. “Denver is in serious trouble. It’s a clear indication that they will stop reform and do whatever it takes. It’s a sad day in Denver.”

John Kechriotis, a DPS attorney, said Merida was acting in accordance with the law.

“Certainly, it was not a professional move to make, but it was within her rights,” he said.

Merida’s “no” votes didn’t halt the reforms, which went through with minor changes.

Getting a court order to be seated early and not even allowing your predecessor to finish out her final day on the board, as tradition has long held? Andrea Merida couldn’t have been more inappropriate and disrespectful if she had showed up in a “Fuck Denver” t-shirt. And all of this was for what? At the end of the night, her vote didn’t even make a difference.

91 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

    • Libertad says:

      Come on, she’s a tool of the organized policy leadership group that has brought us a 50%+ drop-out rate and the appointed Senator.

      • Middle of the Road says:

        Spring Seafood Stew

        Poaching is an excellent way to cook seafood, since the cooking liquid makes a flavorful base for sauce. This recipe features a French technique called monter au beurre (to mount with butter), whereby chilled butter is whisked into the cooking liquid at the last minute to ensure a satiny sauce.

        Yield

        4 servings

        Ingredients

        • 1  teaspoon  olive oil

        • Cooking spray

        • 1  cup  thinly sliced leek (about 1 large)

        • 3  garlic cloves, minced

        • 1  cup  dry white wine

        • 1  (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

        • 3/4  pound  medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

        • 3/4  pound  large sea scallops, cut in half horizontally

        • 2  tablespoons  chilled butter, cut into small pieces

        • 1 1/2  cups  chopped plum tomato

        • 1  tablespoon  minced fresh tarragon

        • 1  teaspoon  grated lemon rind

        • 1/2  teaspoon  salt

        • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper

        • 1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper

        Preparation

        Heat oil in a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add leek and garlic; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add wine and broth; bring to a simmer. Stir in shrimp and scallops; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 3 minutes or until shrimp and scallops are done.

        Remove shrimp and scallops from pan with a slotted spoon; keep warm. Bring broth mixture to a boil; cook 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add butter, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in chopped tomato and remaining ingredients.

        Divide shrimp and scallops evenly among 4 soup bowls; spoon 3/4 cup broth mixture into each bowl.

        Nutritional Information

        Calories:

        287 (29% from fat)

        Fat:

        9.3g (sat 4.1g,mono 2.8g,poly 1.2g)

        Protein:

        34g

        Carbohydrate:

        10.8g

        Fiber:

        1.3g

        Cholesterol:

        173mg

        Iron:

        3.3mg

        Sodium:

        817mg

        Calcium:

        93mg

  1. Laughing Boy says:

    Link.

    527s in DPS race

    While Gamel’s donations appear to put Seawell, Garcia and Jones ahead of their opponents in dollars raised, a political group called Coloradans for Accountable Reform in Education is working on behalf of at-large candidate Christopher Scott, Andrea Merida in southwest Denver and Nate Easley in northeast Denver.

    Scott, Merida and Easley have been endorsed by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the teachers’ union.

    The group, which goes by CARE, is a 527 political organization that is receiving funding from the DCTA and the Colorado Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, among other groups, according to CEA spokeswoman Deborah Fallin.

    But, “It’s not our 527,” she said. “It doesn’t belong to us.”

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      Should be feeling a little less-than-proud. But don’t lump other people like Easley in with her just because they were both supported by the same group.  

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      Once again the unions view the school board as a jobs program for their members rather than the body responsible for improving the schools. Self-interest over the needs of the children.

      This is why I’m willing to consider vouchers – because the existing system is too corrupt.

      • Gorky PulviczekG Pulviczek says:

        Prove it.

        Yes, unions have self-interest.  But, given the level of pay that teachers and non-certified school employees get, they need to assert their self-interest.

        Prove that any of those board members will do things to advance the interest of those “evil” unions instead of considering the educational welfare of their students.

        I could be wrong.  But I’m tired of random numbskulls throwing around the stupid talking point that the system is “too corrupt.”

        • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

          zero.

          The school boards have worked hand in hand with the unions to insure that job security is absolute. To a large degree this is because the teachers carry enough votes to select the winners in the elections.

          • Steve Harvey says:

            But the alternative, by itself, wouldn’t improve the quality of education (and would probably diminish it), because administrators would simply have more freedom to fire those teachers who place at risk the mind-numbing, keep-it-as-inoccuous-as-possible ritualism of public education. Your assumption that administrators, whose own interests are not in reality so well-aligned with the retention of the best teachers and dismissal of the worst, would magically act with such benevolent wisdom is similar to Alan Greenspan’s assumption that the executives of financial institutions would automatically act in their shareholders’ best interests: Both are wrong for the same underlying reason (perverse incentives).

            Not only that, education currently attracts a large proportion of exceedingly bright but highly risk-averse people: Though their intelligence embues them with a market value far in excess of what they receive as teachers, their risk aversion makes the profession particularly appealing. Take away that attraction, and you will lose a large share of the disproportionate number of overqualified people who flow to the profession, in part, for this very reason.

            The relatively high quality of the majority of teachers given the high demand and limited resources with which to pay them, is the strongest asset public education has right now, and is not where its fundamental problems are to be found. If you want to improve public education, reduce drop-out rates, and improve the vitality of communities in general, all at the same time, create a stronger nexus between the community and the school, with programs designed to bring in retired and professional volunteers from the community, and to help parents become better teachers at home. No that would have a real effect.  

            • sxp151 says:

              but I think you nailed it.

            • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

              Ed majors tend to be statistically equivalent with the student body at large – see http://www.stcloudstate.edu/co… and http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWeb… – so no brighter (or dumber) than your average student.

              As to risk adverse principals, yes there are some and they also are a problem. But there are also a lot of principals who are trying to do the best they can and are severely constrained by the hiring rules.

              The quality of the teachers follows the bell curve. The inability to fire the worst, and to use the possibility of firing to encourage poor performers to improve, means the entire curve shifts downward.

              I’m not saying the ability to fire the disasters is a magic cure. But the present system gives everyone an excuse for inaction from the top down.

              Meanwhile the union’s first priority is job security.

              • redstateblues says:

                They’re not talking about widening the bell curve though, David. They want to get rid of tenure entirely, remove teacher autonomy from the classroom even more than they already have, and make it so teachers can be at the whim of the administration.

                The union is there to protect its members. That’s hardly news.

              • Steve Harvey says:

                Ed majors are statistically equivalent (on average) to the student population as a whole, though they except pay considerably below the average of what that population accepts. Furthermore, those who go into education by other avenues (the significant proportion who were never ed majors, and sometimes came to teaching after other careers), are generally higher achievers than ed majors, which raises the average level of those in the profession above that which you cited. You would not get this higher-than-expected level of quality if you took away one of the principle attractions to it.

                While their are lots of dedicated administrators striving to do the best they can, to ignore the real incentives they face is to make the most common fatal error in any policy analysis, one whose consequences we have repeatedly seen. Your bell curve analysis, too, is linear in a non-linear world: You ignore how your proposal would adversely shift the entire distribution of the curve, so that gains within it may well be (and I think probably would be) more than off-set by more generalized losses to it.

                • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                  Then Russia should have out-produced the U.S. as their entire economy ran like school districts. Look, the private sphere is not close to perfect, but it does generally operate better than the public sphere. And we definitely should try to bring across those approaches that would benefit the system.

                  The trick is to make everyone in the system measured by results, paid by results, and retained only if they meet the minimum requirements.

                  The bottom line is our public schools are failing our poor children and minor tweaks won’t fix that.

                  • Steve Harvey says:

                    which has some characteristics that make it atypical, and thus not completely comparable to an economy-wide analysis:

                    1) It is treated, thankfully, as a public rather than a private good: It is not available on an open market for those who are able to afford it, but is free (and compulsorily, in theory) to all.

                    2) It is difficult if not impossible to produce precise and accurate measurements of the quality and quantity of its productive output in real-time. Most reasonably meaningful measures of the quality of educational services come years after the services were provided, when the lessons taught germinate (or not) in the matured minds of those who received them. This is why it’s more important to try to impose quality control on in-puts (getting and keeping high quality teachers) rather than outputs (making decisions based predominantly on scores from standardized tests which are overwhelmingly determined by unstandardized environmental factors).

                    3) your proposal is equally devoid of market signals as the current status quo: Instead of trusting to the benevolence and talent of flawed teachers with too much job security, you trust to the benevolence and talent of flawed administrators in a non-market (and not easily market-restructured) and (most importantly) highly politicized environment. That latter fact is why you are completely mistaken: Decisions will be made for local political reasons (mostly pandering to all of the myriad and frequently dysfunctional implicit and explicit demands of parents) rather than quality-control reasons.

                    My proposal is a less minor tweak than yours: Currently, we relegate education to a particular building during particular hours. If we want to fundamentally improve the quality of educational services we deliver, we need to reconceptualize education as something that occurs in all places at all hours throughout a lifetime, and use schools as the focal points of organzing and catalyzing that process. That’s not a minor tweak.

                    In fact, it addresses the real problem that standardized tests indicate: That differing environmental factors are more determinative of educational outcomes than differing personel choices in particular schools. Therefore, if we really want to address the problem, we would be much better off addressing it where it lives.

                    Even beyond that error, your approach is the exact opposite of what would function in the particular sector we are talking about, because it is an even more reductionist approach in an enterprise in which a far more holistic approach is required. Education is already structured according to an archaic and obsolete assembly-line conceptualization of delivery of the service, and, by structuring it that way, we have largely reduced it to a ritual of uninspiring, demoralizing, spirit-killing agony rather than an opportunity for hungry young minds to feast on a world of wonders available to them.

                    We can do better, but not by doing an even better job than we already do of turning our children’s minds and souls into soylent green.

                  • Steve Harvey says:

                    is the exact opposite of what you say: Make it a more appealing profession for people who have the qualities that make for great teachers. Those people attracted to pursuing their fortunes in a competitive environment will always have more attractive options available to them than anything we can offer in the field of education. We will not, in the foreseeable future, be willing or able to offer the kinds of salaries that would attract such people. (The salaries now offered are only as high as they are because of the unions you see as such perfect obstacles to educational success). If the teaching profession reverts from providing a modest income off-set by enormouos job security to being a profession that has the possibility of providing a marginally less modest income with vastly reduced job security, far fewer highly qualified teachers will be entering the profession.

                    The irony here is that I agree with some of your premises: Unions are exlusively focused on protecting the interests of teachers and not at all on ensuring the quality of educational services, and it neither should nor must be that way. Attracting and keeping higher quality teachers is an integral part of a complete strategy for improving public education. But those premises do not necessarily lead to where you decided to take them.

                  • Stagarite says:

                    Look, the private sphere is not close to perfect, but it does generally operate better than the public sphere.

                    The difference is merely that private industry operates behind the corporate veil and is therefore less transparent. Given the antidemocratic nature of the corporation, screwups are far more easily hidden from public view. Spare us the Chamber of Commerce boilerplate.

                    The trick is to make everyone in the system measured by results, paid by results, and retained only if they meet the minimum requirements.

                    This begs the question of what counts as substantive results. A little bird tells me that you want a system that trains compliant employees,not one that nurtures the kind of critical thinkers that see through wage-suppressing management rhetoric.

                    • RedGreenRedGreen says:

                      Private industry also has the option to fail — companies go out of business all the time, often at great expense to the taxpayer. It’s usually not a disaster to the public because there are competitors able to step in. Do failing companies operate better than similar endeavors in the public sphere?  

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      I think that David and Stargarite, while both making some valid points, also both miss the mark. To insitutional economists, the more precise distincition than “private” and “public” is “markets” and “hierarhies,” with both governments and corporations falling into the second category. One difference between governments and corporations is that corporations have a duty to shareholders fulfilled through profits generated by the sale of goods and servics to customers in a market, while governments have a duty to constituents who are simultaneously share-holders and customers (though one could argue that the Chinese have become major shareholders at this stage) served by acting as their collective agent (sometimes, essentially, as their buyer in the marketplace, sometimes as the direct provider of the particular good or service).

                      The point of that is to refocus attention: We have instituted a system of universal free and compulsory public education that can either be provided by the government, or bought on our behalf by the government from private providers. Either the government or the private providers will hire employees to perform the required tasks. The challenge to the public, interested in ensuring that our children are receiving the best education possible, is the same in either case: On what basis do you select from among (implicitly or explicitly) competing models? How do you measure quality? How do you train and incentivize quality performance by teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the public, in this enterprise that involves them all?

                      Most of the solutions conventionally discussed, including David’s, simply don’t address that question in a very effective way. This is an enterprise in which wheel-spinning, both within the profession, and among its observers, is astronomically high. And, as a result, we really don’t do a very good job of addressing the challenges at hand.

                      It is so mind-bogglingly apparent, by all available evidence, that the overwhelming bulk of the challenge lies outside the school building, and outside school hours. If we want to improve education in America, that is where we have to focus our efforts, redesigning schools as vehicles for including that neglected component in their mission. All the rest just pales in comparison.

                    • Stagarite says:

                      You’re repeating misinformation about the corporate veil. Incorporation creates a new, free-standing entity. This means that employees will not be personally liable for actions done within the scope of their employment and that investors will not be personally liable for the acts of the company. The corporate entity limits the liability of employee and investor alike. Moreover, the employee’s fiduciary responsibility is owed to the company, not the shareholders. After all, limited liability works because he’s the company’s agent, not the shareholder’s. The company-shareholder relationship is merely a debtor-creditor relationship. This is clear in bankruptcy proceedings in which the shareholders are treated as unsecured creditors and are the last to be paid off. Thus, it’s misinformation to suggest that the corporate manager  is “working for the shareholders.” He’s working for the corporate person, and those dealings are hidden behind the corporate veil. While the corporate form might offer a good investment opportunity, it’s hardly the best way to organize activity that serves the common good.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      That opening paragraph was a quick survey of the formal similarities and differences between government and corporations. One theme you will find consistently throughout almost all of my posts is that I never assume that anyone does or will act in any interest that has not been made consistent with their own self-interest (extended to varying degrees to those with whom the individual has bonds of personal affection) through institutionalized incentives (often to some extent internalized, such as in the values we are socialized into). In this very thread, I’ve repeated that a couple of times to David, pointing out that his assumption that administrators freer to fire teachers will do so according to a benign algorithm of teacher quality is flawed for that very reason.

                      As for your summary of corporate structure, I think you are replacing one set of veils for another: Everyone within the corporation is working in their own interests, and those interests are framed by institutionalized relationships and consequences. In fact, the human beings that corporate executives are most answerable to are the shareholders. The corporate entity cannot act independently of human agency, though the legal fiction that underlies the modern corporation does affect, in some of the ways you’ve suggesed, the incentives facing those agents.

                    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                      I’ve spent my most of my career in high-tech start-ups. Compliant employees are a disaster in that environment.

                      Nope, what I want is better than a 50% graduation rate in DPS and other districts serving poor families. I want schools that train students for the jobs that exist today and will be created tomorrow. I want a district that prepares 90% of the students for college and sends 70% of them on to graduate from college.

                      I want people to stop bitching about how any evaluation system is imperfect and takes some effort and instead gets its butt in gear and creates a good system for evaluation – and then improves it year over year.

                      I think we can take a lot from how the private sector because, Steve Harvey’s blotivating notwithstanding, the private sector has come up with the most productive system in the history of the human race. Imperfect yes (as is democracy), but superior to the alternatives tried to date.

                      I absolutely think that minor tweaks will not get us any substantive improvement. And the present system is so horribly ineffective for poor families, that we need to bring substantive change – throughout the system.

                      And while some of us push for fixing the system, the unions and their supporters reply – leave the teacher’s jobs secure. When did school’s primary function become job security for teachers instead of educating the children?

                    • Stagarite says:

                      And while some of us push for fixing the system, the unions and their supporters reply – leave the teacher’s jobs secure.

                      Like a typical management  guy you’re attacking the people who actually do the work without actually engaging in anything beyond office politics yourself. Why you associate yourself with the Democratic party is beyond me.

                    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                      I’ve had numerous jobs where I was a plain old developer with zero management responsibility. I had the exact same opinion about the school system, including the teacher’s unions then.

                      I also spent years on one of the main BVSD committees – and constantly saw how the system worked in practice. As well as having three kids go to public school.

                      As to my job today – I spend well over half of it working – from programming to grunt work around the office.

                      Why don’t you speak to the issue of our failing schools rather than try to cast aspersions to avoid the subject? Because it’s not very liberal to sentence children of poor families to a lifetime of economic poverty because their schools suck.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      the same logical fallacy that you recently criticized another poster for making: You are treating identification of the problem as proof of the merits of your proposed solution. No one is disputing the problem, and your repetition of it does nothing to support the merits of your proposed solution to it.

                      I’ve already pointed out the differences between public education and the for-profit sales of a discrete product or service which is sold on the market to those who are willing and able to buy it. You continue to base your argument on a disregard for those differences.

                      You characterize a proposal to reconceptualize schools entirely, from being the time and place to which education is relegated, to being the agent through which eduction is coordinated in multiple times and places, as a “minor tweak,” while insisting that insisting that increased firing authority to school principles is a major overhaul. Uh, not so much.

                      The private sector is good for accomplishing many things, and is not adequate to accomplishing several others. Vibrant markets require elaborate regulatory architectures to function, and reliance on markets for certain purposes have proven quite disastrous: The attempt to restructure retail energy markets in California, for instance, to move from a regulatory to a market regime, resulted in the California energy crisis of 2000-2001.

                      In all such challenges, offering up a single tool as the solution to all problems is the blind ideologues folly, a folly you do not usually seem so committed to. To treat some broad brushstroke justification of a proposal (“it’s a private sector solution, so it must be good”) as a good argument should be left to the teabaggers and other extremists: Those interested in discussing, advocating, and implementing good, effective policies should be willing to get down into the details of how they would function in the real world, and what proposals would best accomplish the desired ends in the real world.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      in all of my “bloviating,” I have never suggested that I oppose private sector solutions to problems. I consider markets to be one of the most robust tools in our tool kit, and suitable to many productive ends. But the private sector very clearly is not the solution to all problems: If it were, we could eliminate government altogether, and live in the libertarian paradise that I don’t think you really believe in. So, we all agree that the private sector accomplishes some things well, but is not sufficient in itself to accomplish all things we are challenged to accomplish. At the point of such agreement, it is probably more useful to stop referring to it as the decisive issue in the argument, and instead look at the actual dynamics of public education, and how different proposed policy solutions might play out within the context of those dynamics.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      Of course, David, your proposal isn’t a private sector proposal at all: It’s a proposal to give certain administrators in the public sector more discretion to fire employees at will. There’s nothing inherently “private-sector-esque” about that. For instance, the Civil Service Act (not sure of its actual name, but that’s the jist of it) decreases the politicization of civil service jobs (and thus, arguably, makes them more “private-sector-esque”) by protecting civil service employees from being fired simply due to a change of political party in the office overseeing them.

                      That’s really the aspect you are missing: The politics of decisions made by education administrators. Those decisions are much more incentivized by local political considerations (pandering to parents) then by considerations of who’s doing the best job.

                      I never critiqued your supposedly generic private sector proposal for being a private sector proposal, but rather I critiqued your specific (and not particularly private sector) proposal with specific identification of its flaws, and specific recommendations of how to address the specific challenges we are talking about.

                      I do not necessarily oppose changes that would make the firing of teachers easier, but only in the context of reforms that would eliminate the dysfunctional qualities of such reforms which, under current conditions, would overwhelm any benefits they might provide. I don’t have any specific commitment to exceptional job security for teachers, per se. I only recognize the entire framework of incentives, and the negative consequences of altering those incentives in the one way you’ve proposed without altering them in an entire set of others as well, and the logistically impossibility, at present, of accomplishing the latter.

                    • dwyer says:

                      What happened to the million dollars the old Denver Board of Education gave to Lake Middle School in the last four years?

                      That was in addition to its regular budget.  Why did the last “reform” at Lake Middle School(i.e….the IB program) result in Lake becoming the “lowest performing school?”  

                      Why is Lake the lowest performing school?

                      What happens emotionally to students when their principal and all their teachers are fired???  You should know.  It has happened frequently in DPS…what was the result?  How is North High doing….you know the last high school to have a “reform” where all the union teachers were fired and the principal terminated……oh. North is now the lowest performing high school…or fighting with Montebello for that honor…another school which has undergone multiple “reforms.”

                      The fact of the matter, David, is you don’t have a clue about DPS.

                      I appreciated your suggestion that I interview the candidates for DPS and I got no response from any of them….perhaps because this forum is so political…

                      But, PLEASE, when you talk about DPS, cite facts.  It is not fair that an urban school district becomes the dumping ground for everyone’s favorite prejudices.

                    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                      First off, no I don’t know much about DPS. I do however have a lot of experience at BVSD, both as a parent and having been on a major committee up here for years.

                      Second, you bring up some good points. But in that case, let’s hear an alternative. The present system is a total disaster. Small tweaks won’t correct that. So instead of posts like Steve Harvey’s defending the status quo, lets hear some proposals that have a prayer of real improvement.

                      Third, I wish you had tried more to get those interviews – they would have been very helpful. I can say that it takes 15 – 30 requests to get an interview with most politicians. I don’t think they’re hiding or anything like that (in most cases). Rather it’s that they’ve got a million things to do and they are unsure about how useful this new blogging thing is.

                      Would you consider asking all the sitting members for an interview? Just keep pinging them every 2 – 3 weeks for awhile.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      instituting a program which better integrates the resources of the community and the school is not “the status quo.” It is one aspect of a series of ideas I have to improve our public education system. As I’ve said here and elsewhere, there are three fundamental challenges that schools must address:

                      1) improving the quality and quantity of encouragement and support that students receive outside of the school,

                      2) improving the “student culture,” such that kids encourage one another to engage in behaviors that are conducive to learning, and

                      3) improving the incentive structure that teachers and administrators face, so that educating kids replaces avoiding problems as their top priority.

                      These can be addressed by

                      a) reconceptualizing schools as centers from which the educational mission is pursued rather than as locations and hours to which the educational mission is simply relegated,

                      b) creating opportunities and incentives for parents (particularly of at-risk kids) to receive support and education regarding how most effectively to support their children’s education,

                      c) using established programs, such as “positive behavioral support,” and other innovative ideas, to give positive reinforcement to kids not just for engaging in educationally conducive behaviors, but, even more importantly, for encouraging other kids to engage in educationally conducive behaviors (I have designed an experimental program that attempts to accomplish this), and

                      d) working to depoliticize educational curricula, and ensuring that the best in-coming teachers are not weeded out by the hostility that educational administrators have to truly innovative approaches. (The attrition rate for new teachers in their first four years is about 50%, and I am strongly convinced that they are disproportionately the best new teachers leaving the profession).

                      A promising initiative, which I enthusiastically support and would work hard to implement, is to promote and facilitate increased community involvement in neighborhood schools, particularly the utilization of professional and retired volunteers who want to come in, give their time, and help both struggling students to succeed, and highly motivated students to pursue their interests.

                      I have also designed a detailed program which rewards students for helping other students, creating incentives for more mutual support within student subcultures.

                      This is not a defense of the status quo: This is a program of fundamental educational reform designed by a former teacher who has given a great deal of thought to the underlying dynamics at the heart of our educational deficiences, and to what kinds of initiatives would address those underlying dynamics.

                      What is a defense and extension of the status quo, and an idea contrary to what evidence and reason recommend, is the suggestion that just by creating an even more administratively authoritarian approach to education we would magically solve all of our problems. In fact, the rigidity of the current hierarchical structures in school districts (particularly large ones) is a major part of the problem, and increasing that rigidity is most certainly not part of any effective solution.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      and add in one concrete example:

                      David has dismissed my critique of his proposal by repeating two assertions:

                      1) my critique fails because it is (allegedly) anti-private sector, and

                      2) my critique fails because it is (allegedly) a defense of the status quo.

                      I have responded by debunking both of these assertions:

                      1) a) my critique is of David’s specific proposal rather than of the private sector, and b) David’s proposal has nothing to do with the private sector since neither the private nor public sector has a monopoly on the hierarchical authoritarianism he recommends, and we are in fact talking about implementing it in the public sector (from an institutional economics point of view, such hierarchical forms of organization are by definition non-market solutions);

                      2) I have outlined the ways in which my detailed alternative proposals deviate far more dramatically from the status quo than the systemically oblivious suggestion that increasing the already extensive institutional ossification of public education by increasing its hierarchical despotism will cure all educational woes. In fact, that ossification is at the heart of the failure of our educational system, and increasing it is most likely to increase the extent of that failure.

                      Teacher quality, on the other hand, while always massively improvable, is actually one of the strongest assets and least problematic features of our public education system. Given the number of teachers we require, the already enormous costs of paying them the salaries they currently receive, and the need to keep attracting the highest quality of human capital possible within those constraints, David’s suggestion would undermine the strongest asset American public education currently has going for it: The ability to attract high quality teachers with benefits (e.g., exceptional job security) which off-set accepting a wage inevitably lower than their earning potential.

                      David’s suggestion would probably work if the interests of principles were aligned with the long-term real interests of students and the public. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, principles’ (and district level administrators’) interests are framed by how well placcated parents are, whose primary source of feedback regarding their children’s progress and behavior comes from the school itself. The school (i.e., the principle) is most highly motivated, therefore, to strive to create the impression of good progress and good behavior, regardless of whether the reality exists.

                      For these reasons, teachers who do not inflate grades, turn a blind eye to cheating and other misbehaviors, and do not teach to the standardized exams, are often subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) subjected to administrative disfavor and its consequences (and, in fact, administrators can make a teacher’s life a living hell).

                      In David’s authoritarian paradise, the teachers who would be the first to go would be the ones with the high level of personal integrity and commitment to their students’ real interests that they refuse to engage in this subterfuge.

                      All of this has to be emphatically qualified by acknoweldging that there are very many highly dedicated administrators who, to varying degrees, try to buck these systemic pressures. But the pressures do exist, and do have a cumulative, systemic, and decisive effect on administrative decision-making.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      1) David’s defenses of his proposal, even had they not been debunked, are irrelevant: Even if I had been defending the status quo, or criticizing the public sector, that would have told us nothing about the value of the proposal being defended.

                      2) The criticism that an objection to a proposal is flawed because, by objecting to the proposal, you are defending the status quo, is simply remarkable: By that logic, if the proposal had been to napalm all of our schools, with the children still in them, then an objection to that proposal would be, by David’s logic, a reprehensible defense of the status quo.

                      3) For managerial discretion to serve the interests of clients and other stakeholders, the interests of the managers making the decisions must somehow be aligned to the interests of those clients and other stakeholders. To the extent that the private sector does frequently (though not universally) accomplish this, it is due to factors being in place that effectively accomplish this alignment, and to nothing else. To then argue that because, under very specific and identifiable conditions, managerial discretion works in the private sector, then it must be a good idea, in the complete absence of those same specific and identifiable conditions, in the public sector, is just utter nonsense.

                      4) Furthermore, it does not always work even in the private sector: Enron and AIG are just two examples from recent history when managerial discretion enriched the managers and left everyone else royally screwed. Why? Because the mechanisms that align the interests of those managers with clients and share-holders were not in place, just as they are not in place in public education.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      Magical panaceas are rarely a good idea. when contemplating the social challenges that face us, nothing takes the place of a thorough analysis of the particular challenge, the structural context of that challenge, and the specifically targeted responses to that challenge that would work in identifiable ways for identifiable reasons within that context.

                    • dwyer says:

                      First of all, I can’t ask to interview now because I have already expressed  my opinion, loud and clear, and I would not be objective and it would not be fair to those BOE members with whom I am not in agreement.

                      Quite frankly, David, at this point, you would be in a better position to interview the BOE members. You have a record of fair interviews.  And, you could solicit questions from this gang and god knows, I would be glad to contribute. Also, most of the BOEs are democrats, so there might be some basic agreement on principles.

                      Now, specifically about the problem at Lake Middle School.

                      The reporting of the issue has been atrocious.  These are the facts, as objectively as I can get them.  

                      1) In 2003, Denver voters passed a mil levy increase to provide $20 million ANNUALLY to DPS for “revitalization.”

                      It was designed to allow individual schools to compete for the money to change strategies at low performing schools.

                      2) Brown Elementary, after three years of planning and discussion, some of it contentious, installed an IB (International Baccalaureate) at the school. I believe that the scores have improved.  You also need to know that the neighborhood is gentrifiying.  So, you have low income minority parents and affluent Anglo parents  involved in the schools in North West Denver.

                      3) A group of parents and community people wanted the elementary kids from Brown to have an IB program to enter when they went into Middle School.  They were successful in getting that program at Lake.

                      4) The Lake Middle School IB program is only three years old.  It is certified by the international Baccalaureate program. Evidently, DPS spent a million dollars training staff and instituting this program.

                      5) Achievement scores did not immediately improve. DPS contents that Lake is the lowest performing Middle School. One board member, on Monday night, questioned those statistics and asked for time to look at the data more comprehensively.  The old BOE  REFUSED to give him that time.

                      6) At the infamous Monday meeting, the OLD Board voted to radically reduce the IB program at Lake, including replacing the staff (all or some of it I couldn’t tell), to put a brand new Charter Middle school in the same building. The OLD board(and Bennet) was responsible for putting in the IB program, authorizing the expenditure of all that money and now rather then accept responsibility for the IB reform and following through with finding out why it is not working, they want, in effect, to shut it down.

                      7) Under Bennet and the old BOE, the IB programs were the “reform of the day.”  A departing board member, Jill Conrad, said that the IB programs are not working in any of the middle schools.  Why? No one has bothered to evaluate why.

                      8) A group of parents and ALL the elected officials in the NW area (state and local) opposed the plan and asked for more time to evaluate.  They were NOT anti-Charter nor anti-reform.  They were concerned about the impact on students of losing the teachers who knew them. They were also concerned about the plan to pit the new charter against :Lake Middled school in the same building.

                      The so-called “community process” consisted on the OLD BOE telling parents what was going to be done at Lake and then inviting comment.  This consisted of a public meeting, conducted not by OLD BOE members or even a staff member of even the Superintendent.  NO. The OLd BOE hired a consultant from your neck of the woods, David, an previous member of the BVSD and now a private consultant to conduct the meeting. The meeting did not result in consenus.

                      Merida was one of the candidates who ran on a platform of emphasizing neighborhood schools AS WELL as charter schools.  SHE WON.

                      The OLD BOE set up the agenda so that they OLD BOE could approve all their changes, INDEPENDENT OF THE ELECTION RESULTS.

                      Still with me, David.? This is just one of the 17 changes

                      which the OLD BOE voted on Monday night with a view to dumping on the new BOE.

                      So, Merida was successful in getting seated, LEGALLY, and voicing concern.  She was not able to change the vote from the OLD BOE.  She was successful in getting the BOE to reconsider the placement of yet another charter school in the same NW District.  The staff will have 30 days to evaluate the best place for that charter in context of all the other middle schools in NW Denver. Wow, that was a real “underhanded, dirty” act on Merida’s part. Right?

                      So,the media machine has landed on Merida. She has gotten more print in three days than the Post devoted to the whole problem at Lake.  

                      Your turn.

  2. deadbolt871 says:

    But saying “the people have spoken very clearly” when you won by 116 votes seems to be pushing it a bit.

    Seems a little like 2004 all over again…

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/

  3. Gorky PulviczekG Pulviczek says:

    Had the school board certified the results of the election before she went to the judge?  If not, then the judge’s affadavit was incorrect.  The Denver Post article does not detail this.

    Also, as far as I know, there is nothing in statute or constitution that limits what the sitting board may or may not do at the meeting prior to certifying the election results and swearing in the new members, as long as the agenda is appropriately posted and board members notified.

  4. Genius says:

    Merida doesn’t strike me as the type to come up with this on her own.  Was this some plan by Jeannie Kaplan?  If so, seems to have backfired as she lost the election for Board Chair.

    Seems to me like Kaplan and Merida managed to alienate themselves completely from the rest of the board with this insane move.  

  5. Stagarite says:

    Getting a court order to be seated early and not even allowing your predecessor to finish out her final day on the board, as tradition has long held? Andrea Merida couldn’t have been more inappropriate and disrespectful if she had showed up in a “Fuck Denver” t-shirt.

    Translation: “Andrea Merida is mean and doesn’t play ball the way I want her to, and so I’m throwing an impotent hissy-fit.”

    The fact of the matter is this: Andrea Merida felt strongly about a matter of policy and acted within her legal rights to prevent it from being enacted. Good on her.  

    • Gorky PulviczekG Pulviczek says:

      See above.  Did the Board of Education certify the election results or not?

      • Ralphie says:

        But I think the results need to be certified by the “designated election official.”

        Typically, the County Clerk serves that role.  The School Board is just the customer.

        Let me know if that’s different in Denver.

        • Gorky PulviczekG Pulviczek says:

          Per CRS 22-31-103 the BOE “governs the conduct of all school elections in the district”

          It really depends on how the DPS BOE structured the election.  In some districts I’m familiar with, the BOE requires itself to accept the designated official’s results before they are “official”.

    • Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

      Getting the court order is one thing. Not even letting your predecessor know, so she wouldn’t have to travel to the board meeting and be prepared to take action, is a totally dipshit, unclassy, and DISRESPECTFUL move by Merida.

      She’s saying “Fuck my colleagues.”

      And she shouldn’t be surprised if they say “Fuck you, Andrea” right back. Any chance they get.

      • Stagarite says:

        …they need to be voted off at the first opportunity. All will be forgotten within a year. On a personal note, I have to say that I dig the affronted status quo vibe on this thread. If Merida has already occasioned this much hall monitor angst, she’s probably doing something right.  

        • droll says:

          Except Moss stepped down and helped Merida get elected, I guess childishness doesn’t fall far from the endorsement tree.  Anyway, angst or not, non of this did anything, her vote didn’t matter.  It does seem like she’s hurt her standing with the Board, which will make it more difficult to sway other members.  Good work!

        • Middle of the Road says:

          Grownups call it being an adult. Amazing how some folks advocate incivility when it’s a Dem and then ding the Republicans for it every chance they get. Hypocrisy is super awesome, isn’t it?

          • Stagarite says:

            …do you want a functioning board or a bunch of eggshell egos pursuing vendettas against one another? At some point they’ll have to stop whining and get to work. And, yes, accusations of hypocrisy are both childish and logically fallacious (tu quoque) in that such talk is not relevant to establishing substantive fact.

            • Middle of the Road says:

              And by behaving the way she did, she certainly made that more difficult, now didn’t she? Because if there was ever an outward display of pursuing a vendetta, this is certainly a prime example of it.

              • Stagarite says:

                Then you’re justifying bad behavior on the basis of (purported) bad behavior. That’s a classic example of the tu quoque fallacy. Educate yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T

                • droll says:

                  I’m a little lost on the bad behavior that triggered the (purported) bad behavior in this case.

                  You’re justifying bad behavior, I guess, on the assumption of future bad behavior.

                • Middle of the Road says:

                  Which really isn’t much of a surprise since your defense of this bullshit behavior doesn’t make much sense, either.

                  She behaved badly. She got called out on it. I live in a small town and perhaps we just treat each other better here than you all do. We serve on boards with our fellow neighbors, friends, acquaintances, employers and city officials. We don’t pull shit like this because we respect each other enough not to.  

                  • Stagarite says:

                    …interfere with your thinking. Given the choice, it’s obvious that you’d prefer to nurse your grudge rather than support a rational and constructive way forward. If this is the attitude prevailing on the DPS board, no wonder they have to call in the headshrinkers.

                    • Middle of the Road says:

                      I don’t live in Denver and I don’t have a grievance. Wow, maybe you ought to read your own wiki link, darlin’.

                      I just take issue with good “progressives” such as yourself who can’t quite seem to figure out how to walk the walk. Educate yourself, indeed.  

  6. Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

    Without input from DPS?

    Without notice, even?

    Seems pretty fishy.

  7. dwyer says:

    I believe the BOE hires the Denver Election Division to run the election, and I presume that the Division certifies the results and that certification is accepted by the BOE. Denver Public Schools is a governmental unit separate from the City and County of Denver.

    Now, it is absurd that the old BOE waited 11 days to sit the new members.  I believe that this is the longest interval between the actual election and the swearing in. If the new members  had been sworn in on November 19th, they would have had time for at least one working session to look at the proposed changes and get information from staff before voting on the so-called reforms.

    Listen up gang, that election was precisely about so-called reforms and the outrage is coming from community members, who were handed a done deal and then told to comment.  Merida and Eastley ran on a platform calling for an emphasis on neighborhood schools and more transparency.  They won. Why shouldn’t they have been seated in a timely fashion?

    The old BOE presided over a 50% dropout rate and did not begin to close the achievement gap.  The old BOE is responsible for the abandonment of the Manuel students who had been guinea pigs for the Gates Foundation.  That old BOE closed the school with no good planning for what was to happen to those 500+ minority and low income students.  Those kids fared horribly. The old BOE “reformed” North High School by firing the staff and principal…..how’s that working out, gang??  

    The old BOE closed eight schools. The Superintendent said that those kids are just doing fine, however, when Arturo Jimenez, a current BOE member, asked for time to get more specific data because he had some real questions about whether or not the numbers were adding up, the old BOE refused to vote him that time.

    BTW,of the old BOE,  Pena, Moss, Conrad, Patterson, were all endorsed by the Denver Teachers Union. I think that Kaplan and Jimenez were also endorsed by the DCTA, I am not positive, nor do I know about Hoyt.

    Give me a f&*$king break.  This is the Obama/Bennet machine gearing up to make gd sure that Bennet’s record at DPS is not too closely scrutinized.  That is what is politicalizing the situation.

    I do not believe that BMD is going to allow “uppity Hispanics” like Merida and Jimenez to challenge the control which I believe BMD has had over the BOE all these many years.  No, BMD wants “nicey nice” Hispanics like Guzman and Pena who do exactly what they are told.

    I live in Denver, I vote in Denver, I am familiar with DPS. I am not a teacher, nor am I married to one, nor is anyone in my house  of many colors, an employee of DPS.

    I would request that the rest of you at least identify where you live before you attack  a very brave woman.

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      And there is nothing brave about what she did.  

      • dwyer says:

        I do.  As much as I applaud your efforts with this blog, I simply do not accept Colorado Pols as the final arbitrator of courage.  

        When the subject of DPS comes up, most bloggers throw in their favorite bugaboo and then move on.  “It’s the teachers.”  ” It’s the union.”  It’s the parents.”  “There is not enough money.” and then move on.  I do think it makes a big difference if you have lived in Denver, caught some of the meetings and know what is going on or at least what are the ins and outs of the issues.

        DPS has major problems which call for a hellva a lot more than “tsk, tsk, she wasn’t polite.”

        Did you catch the letter in the Post from the League of Women Voters deploring the delay in seating the newly elected Board?  

        • Stagarite says:

          If we’re dealing with the sensitivity brigade, all that’s afoot is hurt feelings and hissy fits. That’s childish and won’t help the board move forward. If we’re dealing with faux moral outrage, then what we’re dealing with is a bad faith, kneecap the incoming board member agenda. The thing about moral outrage, however, is that it’s unenforceable against its target and a tacit admission that the aggrieved party has lost. Andrea Merida was within her rights and exercised them. The  reaction of the civility cops is, “How dare she! Where’s the smelling salts?” Their response tells me more about them than about Merida.

          • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

            Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

            This isn’t a political or policy argument – it’s a common decency argument. What Merida did was a shitty thing to do. Whether she had the “right” to do it is irrelevant. Other newly elected board members had the “right” to do the same thing, but they chose not to do it out of respect for the Board and their predecessors. The fact that Merida did it to someone who supported her during the campaign makes it even worse.

            There is a time and a place for acts of irreverence and bullishness, but this was not that time. Merida’s act was completely pointless because it didn’t change any votes, so why do it? Just because you can?

            • Stagarite says:

              …arguing that it was inappropriate because, well, you think it was inappropriate. So what. Merida’s constituency has a longstanding sense of being rolled over, and a lame duck board was seeking to encumber the incoming board. So all the aggrieved innocence on this thread sounds more than a little contrived. At this point, one of two things is afoot: (1) the wound-licking irrationality one encounters at Palin ralies or (2) a cynical attempt to kneecap an incoming board member. You tell me which it is.

        • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

          But you can’t say that you don’t get to have an opinion if you don’t live in Denver. That’s silly.

          • dwyer says:

            I did not say

            you don’t get to have an opinion if you don’t live in Denver

            I asked people to identify themselves by location as indication if they knew something about DPS personally or if it was just a foil for their pet peeves. Also, I thought it fair to identify anyone who was employed by the District. I gave a disclosure.  

            An elected board member’s first responsibility is to his/her constituents …..not to other board members…..for god’s sake, it is not a greek social club.  

            The real egos here were the retiring board members, who certainly had the option of retiring early so that the new board members could assume their seats for the all important vote on the school changes.  The election, in many ways, was a reputation of the BOE’s actions.  It was petty not to recognize that, and to cling on long after one could leave with dignity.  

            I do not believe that all change is “reform.”  DPS is a graveyard of failed “reforms.”   What happened to the one million dollars DPS spent, in addition to the regular budget” at Lake over the last four years??? What the  hell happened to that??????  What went wrong?  Why isn’t that question being answered.  

            I don’t like kids being hurt.  This BOE has hurt the futures of a fair number of DPS kids…..the real rule which needs to be implemented, is not some version of “kissy face,” but, “First, do no harm.”

            • dwyer says:

              Caplis just drooling over the chance to denigrate teacher unions, etc.  IMHO, Moss mischaracterized Merida’s position as anti-charter and anti-reform. l

               As a fellow cancer survivor, I know how tough the year of chemo can be, so I can emphatize with Moss, but I do not think that Moss is acting responsibly and I think she is being exploited. If she is so emotionally distraught, maybe she was in no condition to cast any vote and perhaps should have resigned earlier because of her illness. Moss supported Merida, but that doesn’t mean she owns her.

              Hey, 760 is going to have Andrea Merida on at 4:45 PM….I am glad she is going to get a chance to defend herself…

    • Gorky PulviczekG Pulviczek says:

      The DPS BOE should be excoriated for this 11-day delay.  It creates the appearance of nefarious intent.  It probably precipitated the board member’s actions (which now look to me to be legal).  Board members should be seated as soon as they are certified, and, by law, the board organization (President, Vice President, etc.) established very shortly after that.

      • RedGreenRedGreen says:

        The secretary of state certifies state election results in November or December (at the latest) and the new legislators aren’t sworn in until January. No one needs to be excoriated except Merida and there’s nothing nefarious, just rude.

        • Stagarite says:

          …the lame duck board was attempting to encumber the incoming board and Merida comes from a constituency that sees a pattern of decisions imposed from the top down. Given this context, all the hanky-wringing on this thread seems to be more than a little contrived. One person’s rudeness is another person’s gumption. So long as all the parties are acting within the bounds of the law (and Merida has the advantage of a judge saying that she has), then let a thousand corpse flowers bloom. When people have frank discussions–as opposed bloviating or trying to prescribe how the other party addresses them–these things tend to resolve themselves.

          • RedGreenRedGreen says:

            The lame-duck Republican Congress impeached President Clinton — rather encumbering the incoming Congress — in 1998. There’s nothing illegal about what Merida did, it was just oafish and rude and didn’t accomplish anything except getting herself off on a bad foot with her colleagues.

            • Stagarite says:

              It’s interesting how enfranchised parties tend to turn into etiquette cops when they think outsiders are pursuing their interests too vigorously. As I’ve said in another post, the “off on a bad foot” argument presupposes pettiness and immaturity on the part of the other board members. Maybe you’re right, and that’s why they’re headed down to the Broadmoor to consort with headshrinkers.

            • dwyer says:

              School Boards routinely swear in new members their first session after the election is certified.  DPS is the last board in the state to swear in new directors, and they waited until the very last day.  

  8. Froward69 says:

    Thought only board members got the free doughnuts. What a pushy broad!

  9. RecallMerida says:

    We should begin a RECALL of Andrae Merida. She only won by around 100 votes.  The people have spoken????? Really.  Lets try to get i rght this time.  www.RecallMerida.com should get thins started.  She is a discrace.  Not surprised!!!!

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