Saturday, December 8, 2007

"This is Your Brain on Violent Media"

Via Slashdot, this press release:

Although research has shown some correlation between exposure to media violence and real-life violent behavior, there has been little direct neuroscientific support for this theory until now.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center’s Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Research Center have shown that watching violent programs can cause parts of your brain that suppress aggressive behaviors to become less active.

I've long been of the opinion that repeated viewings of violent media do desensitize one to real-life violence. I consider this evidence for that.

UPDATE: The writing on the rest of this post is horrible. It's been deleted until I figure out where I went wrong.

My Web Traffic

I am pretty fascinated by this week's web traffic stats.

As you can see, there was a huge spike in traffic for a few days starting the day after LCSD Board meeting; my usual daily tally for unique visitors is somewhere near 40.

The spike is not uncommon; the same thing happened after last month's meeting.

I'm taking this as evidence that people are very interested in what's going on.

Any thoughts?

Disney Gets in on the Noose Business

Via Offsprung... this is unreal.

Good Video on the WGA Strike

Kindergarten and Social Class

From a recent story in Willamette Week:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo has made a huge mistake and now she wants the Legislature to fix it.

A key piece of Castillo's advice: to consider charging tuition for full-day kindergarten programs. Historically, public schools have provided free kindergarten for a half-day but more parents over time have asked districts for full-day services and Castillo was eager to meet that demand.

Castillo green-lighted the change without seeking a legal opinion affirming that pubilc school districts had the right to charge tuition. That was a mistake.


"A district school board cannot charge tuition for either an extended kindergarten program or a program that supplements a kindergarten program," acting legislative counsel Joan Robinson wrote Courtney in a Nov. 30 letter.


In Portland Public Schools, parents pay about $300 a month for the extra half-day. If students attend school for eight months, that's $2,400 per student and for 6,000 students the cost statewide would be $14.4 million. (In 2006-07, more than half those kids were in Multnomah County.)

Mayhap the reason charging tuition for public school became illegal in the first place was the giant class divide that it created between parents who could pay for their childrens' education and those who couldn't? Not to mention the fact that everyone pays taxes, so how could you justify the differing treatment?

It strikes me that charging parents for an extra serving of education is in the same vein - it will create two classes of students, to boot.

Bad idea. I hope the Leg doesn't make it legal.

Can you imagine if a local high school starting charging students for any classes taken after noon? It would be an outrage. I don't understand how this situation is different enough to justify the different treatment.

h/t CA.

The Age of Apple Commences

Professional-Quality Hating

From a local news station website in Denver, something so stupid I can't even be mad. I am just shaking my head in wonder:

DENVER -- A Dacono, Colo. councilwoman resigned this week over what some branded a racist e-mail, but Sandra Tucker said she won't apologize for posting it.

In the e-mail, Tucker, 61, said that being a Democrat is worse than "being a black disabled one-armed drug-addicted Jewish queer" who has a "Mexican boyfriend."

She posted the e-mail on a local Web site and said she thought it was funny.

"I'm sick and tired of all of this political correctness," Tucker told The Denver Post. "I'm not going to apologize if you don't have a sense of humor."

For the record, the person who sent this to me (thanks CM) labeled it a "bat-shit crazy email" and I think I agree.

It is racist - and sexist, and heterosexist, and ableist, and just full of hate and discrimination in general.

Because, you know, those things are funny.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Reader Writes in Regarding Jay Jackson

Excerpts from a reader's email (who happens to have some experience with the law) on the pros and cons of Jackson's disciplinary history:

The firm I work for has like 25 attorneys, and I am almost absolutely positive that not one of them has even one disciplinary action on their record. And I work with some very busy attorneys who have been practicing for a long time. One violation might be a fluke, but Jackson has had three! Not someone I'd want representing me!


[Disciplinary actions] really just are [a big deal]. An attorney holds a fiduciary duty to their clients. It requires diligence and care. Expecting that an attorney gets back to their client within a reasonable time is not an impossible standard. It just seems like Jackson doesn't get it. All attorneys I know have other things going on in their lives- but when a client contacts you, you get back to them. If you can't represent them, you resign as counsel, return the files, and move on.

To play the devil's advocate - it does appear that Jackson had some difficulties with his family over a relatively short span of time. Because the violations are so close in time, and since he hasn't had any since, maybe I'm being a little hard. And, if there is one thing I've learned over the last couple of's that findings, cases, and police reports always make the situation look much worse than it was. When you hear the people explain the situation it is usually at least somewhat less egregious than the record reflects.

There you have it.

Jay Jackson's Legal History

If you'll remember, in this post I noted that Jackson has two disciplinary actions against him from the late 1990s by the Oregon State Bar Association.

I had assumed the content of those complaints was confidential.

I was wrong - some enterprising soul sent me the links as to where they can be found online.

Warning: The links are to a larger document, the Disciplinary Board Reporter, which appears to be a summary of all discipline actions for the year involving Oregon attorneys.

You will have to look for the specific item pertaining to Jackson; I suggest looking on pages 201-203 as well as 223-224 in the 1996 report and pages 164 and 182 in the 1999 report.

Here is a link to the 1996 report.

Here is a link to the 1999 report.

Both are PDFs. The items themselves are a few pages long; I'm not going to print them all out here, but below are some short excerpts from the 1999 item.

[Note: the text copied over that way; I will change it later if I have time.]

Findings of Fact and Conclusions


On March 4, 1997, Dyer, through his wife, delivered to the Accused a written
request for an accounting of the $1,000 retainer and another request for return of his
documents. The Dyers notified the Accused that they would come to his office the
following Thursday to pick up the documents. The letter states:

“Jay, these are the items we still need.
1. German documents for both boys (2 papers)
2. Letter from U.S. Army
3. Copy of tapes from deposition (Approx. 6)
4. Copy of German papers read at deposition that were not in your file.
(Not sure which exhibit #’s, possible 2 or 3 of them)
5. Month by month statement billing for $1,000 retainer.
One of us will be in Thursday to pick them up. Bill & Sharon Dyer 3/4/97”

The Accused acknowledges receipt of the letter. He states that he did not read
the Dyers’ letter to suggest that they had needed the items and still needed them, or
place any significance in the phrase “we still need.” The Accused states that in
response to the letter, he asked a receptionist to copy the file and deliver it to the Dyers when they returned. The receptionist originally, when interviewed by the Bar, did not recall copying the file. However, later at the hearing she did recall copying the file. However, she did not recall giving a copy of the file to Dyer in response to the March letter. Regardless of whether or not the receptionist did or did not copy the file, the Accused did not provide a copy of the file. Mrs. Dyer arrived at the Accused’s office as scheduled, but did not receive the documents or a statement accounting for the retainer. Additionally, in the months that followed, the Accused did not at any time send the documents or a statement accounting for the retainer to the Dyers.

On July 10, 1997, Dyer sent the Accused another letter. In that letter, Dyer
again requested that the original documents be returned. Further, he requested a copy
of the Uniform Support Affidavit of Respondent, final paperwork of their case after
it was signed by the judge, and tapes of the depositions. The Accused acknowledged
receiving that letter and further acknowledged that he did not provide the client any
of the items requested. The Accused states that he did not return the client’s property at that time because he believed that the client’s property had previously been returned. Having heard all the evidence on this issue, the Trial Panel finds that the Accused never did return to the client the documents or pay stubs that Dyer gave to the Accused in early August 1996. The Accused failed to promptly deliver to his client the client’s property in his possession. On December 12, 1997, the Dyers filed a complaint with the Bar concerning the Accused’s conduct. The Bar then forwarded a copy of the complaint to the Accused.

The Accused then sent a response to the Bar’s inquiry by letter. With his
response, the Accused provided the Bar with what the Accused alleged were
monthly billing statements for the Dyer account. The billing statements were dated
for August through December 1996. The Dyers were subsequently shown the billing
statements. The Dyers had never before seen the billing statements. Based on the
testimony of the Accused and the Dyers, the Trial Panel finds that the monthly
billing statements provided by the Accused were never sent to the Dyers. The
Accused did not at any time render an accounting to his client in violation of DR

Disciplinary Rules Violated

1. DR 9-101(C)(3) of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Accused failed to maintain complete records of the client funds provided by client Dyer and failed to render appropriate accounts to the lawyer’s client regarding them.

2. DR 9-101(C)(4) of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Accused failed to promptly deliver to client Dyer property in the possession of the lawyer that the client was entitled to receive.



A. Duty Violated. The most important ethical duties are those that the
lawyer owes to his or her clients. Standards, at 5. The Accused violated his duty to
his client by failing to promptly return client property and failing to account for the client’s funds.


The evidence established that the Accused acted with knowledge. He knew
what the client asked him to do. The client and his wife made several requests for
the documents and the accounting. Requests were made both in person and in
writing. The Accused acknowledges receiving the client’s letters. However, he failed
to respond to his client’s requests.


The Accused’s prior record of discipline and his conduct in the current case
demonstrate a pattern of misconduct. He has been admonished on two matters for
failing to attend to his professional obligations to his client and to his profession. He has recently been reprimanded for violating DR 6-101(B).


The purpose of lawyer discipline is to protect the public in the administration
of justice from lawyers who have not discharged, or are unlikely to properly
discharge, their professional duties. In this case, the Accused clearly failed to
account to his client for client funds in a timely manner and failed to promptly
deliver the client’s property as requested by the client. Drawing together the
Standards and aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the Trial Panel finds it
appropriate that the Accused be suspended from the practice of law for 30 days.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

One More LCSD Post Tonight

From another Express story:

Alexander scoffed at Fisher's call for his resignation. “This is a democracy and he's entitled to his opinion. As long as I'm doing what my constituents elected me to do, I'm not worried about what Chris Fisher thinks,” he said.

Really? Alexander thinks his constitutents elected him to lie in public and get rid of Robinson by any means necessary while openly advocating for PIE even when such advocacy undermines the very district he was elected to oversee?

That's news to me - one hopes it is news to his constituents as well.

I can't decide which is worse: That Alexander fabricated that quote with an intent to deceive or if he actually believes he's on some sort of mission to rid Lebanon of Jim Robinson.

At this point, I'm not even going to guess.

Sand Ridge Renewal Packet Now Available Online

It can be found online here (warning: PDF, 7.4MB)

Memo to Hering: The DH is Not Your Private Diary

The funny thing is, I think there's a broad sense in which I agree that the direction of technology in closed markets (like cell phones) does not always coincide with the wishes of the consumer. But that's not what Hering wrote. He used his platform to make a personal complaint, which is actually pretty common for him. I just wish he'd stop assuming that what he thinks is a universal concern and learn to make an argument that relies on more than bland assertion:

The world no longer needs a good five-cent cigar. What the world needs instead is a cell phone technology that works and is applied to all such calls.

If you receive a lot of telephone calls from various people and locations, and if your hearing might have been better a few decades ago, you know the frustration of the modern age: the lousy quality of the acoustics in far too many calls.

Many calls are marred by interference. Others sound as though they originate inside an empty 50-gallon drum. Still others give you every second word and the the first half of each word in between.

There is, in other words, good reason for the ad campaign that asks: “Can you hear me now?”

The answer is no. Or just a little. Or, well, I missed the last few words because you must have gone through a tunnel. Or stood under a tree. Or turned your head sideways.

Voice communication by telephone used to be a wonder of the modern world. We have made it more ubiquitous but less reliable. Progress? No, it’s going backward. (hh)

More on the Specious Claims Made Regarding School Board Business

Rick Alexander in the Lebanon Express:

Alexander said he too was not given the district's recommendation until Nov. 30.

"We're supposed to make a decision with no time to study," Alexander complained.

Bullshit. Table the motion to renew until the next meeting (leaving time for discussion!); that is a perfectly viable option. I know he knows how to do that, at least, which means he is failing to tell the truth.

No wonder the students I work for (not a typo, but a hope) have such creative excuses for breaking the rules - they are getting lessons in lying from a school board member!


Moving on:

“If you simply renew the existing contract you essentially have taken away your ability to say how things go from here,” Robinson said.

Oops. That one's true - and it was the point of Alexander's actions. Strange how he hamstrings the board's choices, but then wants the board itself to be the negotiating team. It's almost like he wants to the LCSD to suffer. And that he has a specific plan he's not sharing with the public...

There's more:

Jackson said he felt the administration's report was an incomplete picture and in some instances inaccurate. The district reported that there were no personnel at Sand Ridge trained to dispense prescription and non-prescription drugs as required by law.

“Those individuals are properly trained,” Jackson said.

They might be now - but Jackson did not say they were trained when Jan Zarate checked. Why didn't Jackson or someone from Sand Ridge let the district know that this particular issue had been resolved?

I don't know, but it allows Jackson to imply that there's something wrong with the Administration's Report. I'll bet he hopes to discredit the whole thing based on one item that he almost certainly could have had removed from the report had he made an effort. It's very good dirty politics.

Unless, of course, he's lying about the training, but I doubt it. That's too easy to check out. Though it is possible he just doesn't care, since his audience is the Sand Ridge crowd and he could care less about what Greater Lebanon thinks as long as they don't show up to Board meetings... hint hint.

One last thing from this story:

Board member Alexander said the issues presented by the administration would be addressed in the new contract, but expressed doubts about the accuracy of Chastain's financial report, saying the schools recent audit showed no problems.

“On the co-mingling of funds you had auditors look at that. Did the auditors fail to do their job?” Alexander said.

Sigh. More shifting of the blame - while it is possible that the auditors missed something, notice how Alexander implies the problem is with them and not with the fact that money was shifted improperly in the first place.

It is also entirely possible that the transactions in question happened after the auditors checked, or that they were hidden from the auditors in the first place. PIE has not been forthcoming about anything else; why should anyone trust them about this?

And why does Rick Alexander, a LEBANON School Board member, have far more to say about SAND RIDGE, a school run by the PIE Board?

Maybe Alexander should sit on the PIE board instead and let Lebanon get some actual work done.

Jay Jackson: Giving Attorneys a Bad Name Since (at least) 2007

I'd like to take a second and look at a recent statement made in the pages of one of our local newspapers.

My new favorite, Jay Jackson:

Questioned about the validity of Robinson's accusations, Jackson said he was only informed of the issues at the Nov. 30 meeting and was not given a chance to respond to the charges at the Lebanon board meeting.

I think the date in this sentence is an error, but I'm more interested in the claim that Jackson was "not given a chance to respond to the charges."

1. He had a chance to talk - in a breach of Robert's Rules of Order, Sprenger let him have the mic for a few minutes while there was a motion on the floor (the motion to renew the charter, in fact). Jackson could have talked about the charges then if he liked. She only did this after pestering from both Alexander and Wineteer; the former about the two-step process and the need to vote right away (though his urgency was never explained and I suspect never will be, since it was mythical in the first place) and the latter about how unfair it would be to not let Jackson speak; never mind that doing both and following established board procedures would have been impossible. It was a very well orchestrated multi-prong attack (heck, the two even sit on opposite sides of her). It's almost like Josh and Rick and Jay planned it. Hm. Imagine that.

2. The board meeting where the results of the finished report are presented is not the time or place to "respond to the charges." It's not a court, and no one was on trial (sorry - that nagging guilty feeling in the pit of your stomachs is probably because you are afraid of getting caught colluding). The time would have been when the report was being constructed and Donna Chastain and Jan Zarate were digging around in the files of PIE and Sand Ridge. Perhaps if Jackson had asked what violations they were finding and then helpfully corrected them as to how he had fixed the violations the mere listing of them would not have taken an hour...

But no - this way he gets to complain about how unfair Big Bad Robinson is to his supporters at Sand Ridge.

Please. More and more, it looks like he is playing the parents of the students under his care like a fiddle.

I have a T-shirt that has three pictures on it. Under each picture is a word. It goes like this:




Sounds like Alexander and Jackson's M.O. regarding the Lebanon Community School District: First they indoctrinate a bunch of folks as to the superior moral character and trustworthiness of Alexander and Jackson, then they alienate them against Robinson and the District by making false and misleading claims, then they go on a quest to eliminate Robinson as an obstacle to power using the dislike and distrust they created as a substitute for evidence for his wrongdoing.

I suppose it's possible that Jackson and Alexander got their start by cashing in on the bad blood created by Robinson's dictator-esque leadership style, though that would make them opportunistic shysters. But hey - I'm just speculating out loud. What do I know?

I know that Jackson is misrepresenting the truth - again - on this issue, and doing so in such a way as to give the illusion that the problem lies somewhere else.

I thought America was the land of individual responsibility. When is Jay Jackson going to take some responsibility for the failures of PIE to abide by their legal obligations? After all, as PIE Board Chair, the buck has to stop somewhere. How come it never, ever manages to stop anywhere near Jay Jackson (or Rick Alexander)?

PIE Board Moves for Direct Negotiations With District

When I wrote my gigantic post on the Sand Ridge renewal debacle, there was one thing I suggested that I hoped would not happen.

It's happening. Or, at least, Rick Alexander, Josh Wineteer, and Jay Jackson are doing their best to make it happen.

I said this:

One other possibility is that Alexander will try and micromanage the contract [emphasis added], or at least give directions to the negotiating team that undermine the interests of the district.

Turns out Jackson and Alexander convinced the PIE board (though who knows how much convincing it took; they may have been on the same page already) to do this:

By an unanimous vote Tuesday night, the People Involved in Education (PIE) board of directors approved a resolution to negotiate directly with the Lebanon Community School District School Board over Sand Ridge Charter School's new contract.

I am rendered speechless at the audacity of this move. The politics of brute force, indeed.

There are a couple of points to be made about this:

1. It fits that 'rejection of expertise' mentality I had wondered about.

2. It definitely counts as micromanaging... I had wondered how Alexander planned to get himself on the negotiating team; I guess he intends for the team to come to him.

3. Of course, it is also clearly designed to cut the Superintendent and his staff out of the process as much as possible. Interestingly, I wonder if the goal is to get the lawyers out of the process? I would remind Alexander (and everyone else) that there is a reason lawyers are involved in complex negotiations: They are certified experts and have to resolve the messes contract violations (and sloppily written contracts) create. They are not just for show.

Speaking of lawyers, I see that Jay Jackson is an active member with the Oregon Bar Association... with two disciplinary actions against him in the last 11 years (click the "Show Disciplinary History button). I wonder what they were for... and whether or not he, as chair of PIE, will be the head of PIE's 'negotiating team'.

I predict that PIE does indeed want the respective counsels out of the room (assuming they are scheduled to be there in the first place) since it still leaves Jackson in the room.

Wait.... on second thought, I'll amend that. PIE and Jackson (and Alexander and Wineteer) won't care if counsel is present, since they will simply ignore any legal advice they don't like. Who needs the law, anyway?

Alexander and Wineteer (and sadly, Shimmin, though since she never bothers speaking in public who knows what she really thinks) will almost certainly meet behind the scenes with Jackson and the PIE board to arrange for the terms of the contract to be incredibly favorable to Sand Ridge, so much so that they will provide for little to no accountability, oversight or enforcement mechanisms on the part of the district - which will guarantee that the long list of violations will not get fixed. This is my prediction.

Remember, it's illegal to collude with other board members outside meetings for the purpose of planning action. This whole episode is starting to reek of it.

As a result, I would like to see the Lebanon community turn out and convince the Lebanon School Board not to accept the PIE Board's offer of pistols at dawn direct negotiations. Doing so will most likely further hamper the LCSD to do its job, and in the long run, that will start to affect what happens to not only the Sand Ridge students, but the students in the rest of the district as well.

This is another step in a play for power (and public money without concurrent accountability) on the part of Jackson, Alexander and Wineteer that comes at the public's cost. When will the public decide they have had enough?

Further comment on the article will come in another post to be written after I recover my equilibrium. Watching this district face the demise of its own functionality in slow motion is getting to me.


Via Feministe, this excellent essay on agape love in Islam. I'm going to go ahead and give away the punchline, but please do read the whole thing:

Mahabba differs from agape in one crucial respect: because serving and approaching the beloved is a form of ongoing personal struggle, mahabba is a form of jihad. A far cry from the violent and indiscriminate ‘small jihad’ preached by militants, mahabba is a form of el jihad el kebir, the greater jihad, or jihad against one’s own ego. [emphasis added] It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that in an age of lesser jihad mahabba has fallen out of practice and almost out of memory; so universally neglected that when Islam is accused of lacking a concept of divine brotherhood, few Muslims have the intellectual wherewithal to protest. But Adhaf Soueif is right: at the heart of all things is the germ of their overthrow. The struggle to serve God out of love, and one another out of love, is the jihad of human potential against the jihad of violent ideology; if resurrected, it has the power to change the world.

Notice how jihad means a lot more than 'holy war'? Me too - I have been told many times that, properly translated, it means 'struggle', of which struggle against others is merely a small part. The biggest struggle is always internal, against and with one's own self.

Also, I think Adhaf Soueif is exactly right as well, in both a deconstructionist way and the way in which every idea, properly understood, includes its limits and opposition.

Tom Tancredo

Step back for a second and marvel at the fact that this man is running for President of the United States on a major-party ticket and no one is batting an eye:

Pretty scary, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

LCSD: A Clarification on Charter Renewal

LT gets at something that's been bugging me all day:

RW faults Jim Robinson for not being familiar with Oregon law enough to know that the charter process has two steps. Here's the way we see it. Contrary to the comments from Josh and Rick, the recommendations were not nine solutions to be applied together, it was nine alternatives, each one a separate solution. (This distortion of the recommendations was either intentional or reflected that they didn't even bother to read or listen to them). There was a reason to consider them as possible solutions at this stage of the renewal process. THE DIFFERENT RECOMMENDATIONS GAVE THE CHARTER TO DIFFERENT ENTITIES. There was sufficient reason, given the abuses of PIE, to elect not to renew the charter with PIE. That option has now been eliminated.

I knew there was some reason Robinson ignored the renewal process statute and kept insisting that the board use the list of recommendations as a jumping-off point - he had to know about the statute, so it wasn't simply a matter of ignorance. (I still want to know why he didn't have a more direct response prepared when Rick kept asking about the 2-step process.)

LT hits it on the head: Some of the options he came up with required that PIE's charter not be renewed. (How did I miss that?!) Given that, automatically renewing the charter, as Rick desired, arbitrarily and unnecessarily removed those options from play.

Instead, Alexander very effectively framed the argument as a choice between renewing the charter right fracking now or not at all. It was - and is - a false choice, as Robinson's recommendations clearly demonstrate, but Alexander sold it quite well.

On the other hand, this does sort of tip the hand of Jay Jackson and PIE as to what they want - freedom from responsibility and oversight.

Is that what Sand Ridge parents want?

Go read LT's post; it has a bit more on the collusion angle than I included.

Jay Jackson and The Truth: Passing Acquaintances At Best?

There's two stories in the DH today regarding Monday's board meeting.

From the one dealing with the disputes between PIE and the LCSD:

Current contract language states both sides must agree on language regarding the administration issue. Lebanon says this hasn’t happened because PIE has not responded to repeated district requests.

Jackson said it’s impossible to come to terms if Lebanon won’t tell PIE what its concerns are.

This absolutely reeks of bullshit. If nothing else, Robinson, Kelley, Dakopolos, Chastain and Zarate spent an hour on Monday going over in excruciating detail what their concerns were. Even assuming that Jackson had no warning of any of the items mentioned (a claim that is not even remotely possible considering it must have taken Chastain weeks of contact with Sand Ridge to formulate her section of the report), he sure knows now - which means he has a way forward.

I find it hard to believe, given how many times I heard one of the aforementioned district employees note their inability to get a response from PIE, that it was actually the district who was non-responsive. It reads more like Jay Jackson is publicly blaming the district in the pages of the newspaper because it will play well with his supporters.

On the other hand, maybe Jackson was just posing a hypothetical cleverly designed to look like a comment with substance.

Moving on:

* PIE opened both Sweet Home and its preschool, and expanded Sand Ridge to two campuses, without formally notifying Lebanon as the contract requires.

Jackson concedes written notice was not given. However, he said, Robinson was the one who suggested the property that eventually became Sand Ridge’s second site, and that both Sweet Home and the preschool were mentioned in public meetings.

1. So what if Robinson suggested the property? It's not license to violate the terms of the contract. What kind of garbage is that? Besides, I suspect he suggested that either Sand Ridge move there or that Sand Ridge open a second campus as part of the same school - not that Sand Ridge open an entirely different school. Why would Robinson suggest that PIE violate the contract - and even if he did, why in the world would Jay Jackson listen to him? For that matter, notice how Jackson totally dodges the question when it comes to explaining why PIE gave no notice to the district?

2. As Sherrie Sprenger noted at Monday's meeting, it's not the job of the Lebanon Community School District to babysit PIE. PIE knew that it needed to give notification, and didn't. There is no reasonable expectation for any LCSD staff to constantly check on PIE. At the same time, there is an eminently reasonable expectation for PIE to fulfill the terms of its contract in a good-faith manner. PIE did not. As a result, PIE is likely in material violation of the contract.

One last thing:

Lebanon officials said they were unable to find evidence showing PIE has met state requirements on a host of issues, including whether proper payroll accounting is being done, whether services are being provided for English Language Learner students and whether employees have received training to administer medication.

Jackson said not finding evidence doesn’t necessarily mean evidence does not exist.

It reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld's "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" line - while technically true, it is, on a practical level, bullshit. It's trying to prove a negative, which is impossible. Wikipedia even has an entry for it - turns out it's a logical fallacy. I thought Jay Jackson was an attorney?

And besides, there comes a point at which it is reasonable to cease looking for evidence. In this case, it should never be necessary for that point to be reached, because PIE should be volunteering information to the LCSD, not withholding it in the most passive-aggressive manner possible. This is childish.

Jay Jackson's careful parsing of his words throughout the entirety of the story suggests a desire to mislead the public, including his supporters. In other words, he is getting as close to lying as he can without crossing the line.

No wonder Bob George - a former wrestling coach and definitely not a thin-skinned person - quit after two weeks under this guy.

Heck, at least George could quit - imagine what Jim Robinson feels like, having to be nice to Jackson. I don't think I could maintain civility in the face of such blatant dishonesty and disrespect for the community and the truth.

Given that Jay Jackson apparently can't tell the DH the truth, why should the DH print anything he says? That's my question.

More Bruce Schneier

I like this paragraph, I think, even if I end up disagreeing with it. At the least, it's a useful way to think about the issue:

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

MySpace Passwords

From an old post of security expert Bruce Schneier's dealing with MySpace passwords:

Common Passwords: The top 20 passwords are (in order): password1, abc123, myspace1, password, blink182, qwerty1, fuckyou, 123abc, baseball1, football1, 123456, soccer, monkey1, liverpool1, princess1, jordan23, slipknot1, superman1, iloveyou1 and monkey. (Different analysis here.)

What in the nine hells is blink182 doing as a top-20 password? Not only that, but it's the fifth-most common password on MySpace as of late last year.


This is how emo stereotypes get started.


This paragraph is just awesome:

All of this is easily explained by [the neocons'] history (although I must admit that a right wing Trotskyist vision of permanent revolution takes on a mind bending hallucinatory twist in light of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine." It's kind of the ultimate Straussian joke.)

Go read the whole thing for context.

Digby (along with the departed Billmon) are easily the two best writers in the blogosphere for my money.

Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff

A great, concise, and clear explanation of global capitalism and its effects on the environment (which includes the human body):

The Story of Stuff

Check it out and pass it on.

Lebanon School Board Meeting: Sand Ridge Charter School

Continued, basically, from last night's post... only this one is really, really long.

Part Six: Sand Ridge (the battle of Sand Ridge?)

Up until this point, the entire board, including Rick Alexander, had been getting along fairly well both between themselves and with the D.O. staff. Bear that mind.

There were officially three items on the agenda that dealt with Sand Ridge: The Administration's Report, the "Notice of Intent on Renewal" and something titled "Determine Renewal Status of Sand Ridge or Set Meeting to Do So."

Perhaps a little complex, but nothing too crazy.

Sprenger started off by noting the three agenda items and proposed that they start with the Admin Report and follow with a discussion. No one objected.

Robinson, rather than go through everything himself, broke down the report and had various people cover their respective sections. He went first.


He covered the remarks made at the public hearing. There were lots and lots of positive comments about Sand Ridge, which he applauded. My favorite: "the only option for students who are struggling elsewhere." (Possible translation: Have been expelled from other district schools.)

There were also lots of negative comments from the public hearing about the district as the "enemy," which he deplored (and rightly so). He was very clear about wanting to get to the root of that perception and correct it by building relationships between the Sand Ridge and LCSD communities. Unlike other times I've seen him try to be generous and welcoming, I thought this was very, very genuine. (Apparently Robinson is a fan of charter schools, so this makes sense.)

Robinson ended his remarks about Sand Ridge with the line "Sand Ridge must - it must - continue to operate." He was, frankly, passionate and fired up. I'd never seen him like that in a board meeting.

At that point, he shifted gears, noting that the district had "major and significant issues" with PIE. (While he did not elaborate, his staff later did.) Robinson then alluded to a list of nine recommendations his staff had developed that he wanted the board to choose from and that would be presented at the end of the admin report.

Steve Kelley:

Kelley talked about the history the district had with Sand Ridge and PIE in terms of the district trying to ensure that Sand Ridge complied with the terms of the contract between PIE and the LCSD. Basically, he went over a timeline of instances and ways in which PIE had failed to respond (literally not returning phone calls or emails) to LCSD concerns regarding both compliance with state law and the contract. I was also impressed with Kelley's open tone and lack of hostility - though it makes sense, since Kelley himself noted he'd been the principal of a charter school before he came to Lebanon.

Paul Dakopolos:

Dakopolos started with something that I thought was important: That PIE's failure to notify the district of its intent to open another school was a material breach of contract that could result in the termination of the contract if not corrected. Interestingly, none of the Sand Ridge supporters seemed to care. Dakopolos was clear to say that the Board could choose to either change the reality on the ground or the contract, but it could not do nothing. "The toothpaste is out of the tube," he said.

He was very, very careful to note that the contract was something the Board wanted and owned, and that it was the Board's choice to change it or not.

After that, his two related concerns were liability and money.

1. Liability: Basically, the issue was the PIE, in violation of the contract, had opened both another charter school (in Sweet Home) and a fully private pre-K school in Lebanon. He was concerned that since PIE was "one nonprofit running three schools," there was no way to keep separate Lebanon's interests in Sand Ridge and PIE when it came to a lawsuit or other legal action against PIE.

This is an obviously legitimate concern from a legal point of view. To suggest otherwise is to deny reality.

2. Money: Arm-in-arm with liability, Dakopolos was concerned - and thought the board should be concerned - that PIE does not track funding received from different sources separately (this was echoed in no uncertain terms by Donna Chastain). In other words, Dakopolos was worried that Lebanon dollars were being spent on the other two schools operated by PIE - and that there was no way to know when this was happening, or to what extent.

Again, an obviously legitimate concern. Frankly, I'm a little shocked that this was at all controversial, though again, the Sand Ridge supporters in the room didn't bat an eye.

Dakpolos was also careful in noting that having one nonprofit run two charter schools is legal - he just wanted the board to consider whether or not it was a good idea. His recommendation was to change the contract to require a separate entity for Sand Ridge to provide "operational assurances."

Rick looked like he wanted to attack Dakopolos when he said that. I have no idea why.

Donna Chastain:

She spent a looooong time going through a list of contractual and state law violations related to Sand Ridge and PIE's policies and procedures. I won't rehash the whole list - I didn't take notes on all of it anyway. I did think that her presentation was simultaneously very effective on merit and very counterproductive in terms of building a bridge between PIE and the LCSD. I think it came across to the SR supporters as an attack - but all of Chastain's points were simply her trying to get SR and PIE to comply with the law & contract. I wish she would have pointed that out more often and more clearly. Sometimes professionalism gets in the way.

There were a few things I wanted to note:

1. Chastain had found an "us vs. them" mentality in the meeting minutes of the PIE board.

No crap. However, since the PIE/SR folks obviously think the district hates them, I would suggest an approach that doesn't bring up conflict (doing so being tantamount to acknowledging the truth of the Sand Ridge approach, as counterintuitive as that might sound) but instead publicly ignores it in favor of simply offering to be the first to give something up to bridge-building.

By the way, I think Robinson did just that with his whole approach and presentation. It was just Chastain who mentioned it. Again, she's correct on the merit, but LCSD School Boards meetings are their own alternate reality, so she loses on political grounds.

2. Chastain noted that PIE fails to inform the district about a whole host of things that are required by contract & law, including the presence of more than one sexual harassment case as well as the possibility that SR had improperly denied overtime to classified (custodial?) staff through misclassification of their job status.

The total of the content of Chastain's recommendations can be summed up as follows: 1) Develop a procedure governing [problem X]; 2) "You'd want the auditors to come and look at that."

Again, she was professional, but the effect was to have a district representative eviscerate SR, which did not play well in the proverbial Peoria of the crowd.

The cumulative effect was to make SR's operations more professional. I am starting to wonder if the SR supporters explicitly or implicitly reject that, setting it in opposition to perhaps a DIY ethic or even an anti-government/old-school libertarian ethic.

Whatever the merits of either of those, I would hope that PIE can at least acknowledge the legal realities of modern U.S. society. I'm starting to think they can't.

Also, I wonder if they reject the Enlightenment model of professional expertise on something like an unconscious epistemological level - the "we have always done it this way and we don't need anyone from the city to tell us what to do" model of knowledge.

While there are good things to be said for such a rejection, it at least needs to be a nuanced rejection that allows for learning from the expert in a controlled fashion. I see a wholesale refusal.

Jan Zarate:

Zarate's advice was short and pretty simple, but was in the same vein as Chastain's: Here is a list of things you're doing (or not doing) that violate state or federal laws; here are some ways to correct them.

One example of the lack of Individual Education Plans (IEP) for students, which is a violation of IDEA .

I think she also mentioned the lack of training given staff around the dispensing of medication, something else that's obviously illegal.

Robinson Part Two:

Robinson had a wrap-up piece, which was to present the list of nine choices for the board. Robinson was very clear that two options were eliminated a priori from the list: (1) Simply not renewing the charter and (2) renewing the charter without changing it at all. I think that is an eminently fair and wise idea given the long list of ways in which PIE failed to meet both the contract and state law.

The Recommendations:

1. To not renew but let PIE resubmit with PIE controlling just Sand Ridge.

2. To not renew but let PIE form an offshoot to resubmit for control of Sand Ridge.

(Basically, to have someone resubmit with Sand Ridge being independent of the other two schools currently being operated by PIE; this was an attempt to get at the liability and money issues raised by Paul Dakopolos.)

3. Renew the charter contingent on PIE's willingness to offshoot the other two schools.

4. Renew the charter contingent on PIE's willingness to form a separate entity to run SR.

(These are variations on 1 and 2, respectively.)

5. Have PIE and the LCSD agree to a nonrenewal, with the district agreeing to take over SR and operate it "as is."

This was going to be incredibly unpopular and Robinson had to know it. It might have been bad politics to include this, but it is at the least a sign of his professionalism that he included it since it would be a viable option in a more functional environment.

6. Renewal of the charter with PIE signing a management agreement with another organization (again, to get around the liability issues, I think).

7. Renewal of the charter but have the LCSD become a 'signee' of PIE... I'm not sure what this one would entail.

8. To have PIE disassociate with the LCSD as the oversight or sponsoring entity, and instead have PIE work directly with the State Board of Education.

I can't see this one going over well, since PIE is so insistent on a total lack of oversight. But it again speaks to Robinson's professionalism that he included it; if selected, it could almost not help but be read as an admission that PIE and the LCSD couldn't get along.

9. To have PIE withdraw the application for renewal only to form a new nonprofit and have the district expedite the application; this would be designed to get SR run as its own nonprofit and not have to close down for any period of time. It was also suggested by Jay Jackson.

Robinson stated clearly that the board was free to choose from the options or reject them and pick their own; I think he had intended to provide guidance and a starting place for discussion.

Up to this point, it seemed clear to me that there was going to be a discussion, but that everyone in the room wanted to see Sand Ridge survive. It was just going to be a matter of establishing a way forward that was amenable to all parties. I was actually sort of happy about the way things had gone, because Robinson and the D.O. staff were clearly offering not just the olive branch but the whole damned tree. They had planned out some really good process and even presented their information in a way that I thought made it clear that they supported the existence of the charter school. All the setup had been done, and done well; it was time to get down to business.

Sadly, Rick Alexander was not interested in talking or building relationships or any of that other hippie crap. As soon as he had the opportunity, he made a motion to approve the renewal of the charter without asking a single question. He also failed to give Jay Jackson, head of PIE and principal at Sand Ridge, a chance to weigh in - which suggests to me that this was very clearly planned beforehand. Why else would Alexander not want to hear from Jackson?

This is where it all goes downhill. Like a landslide.

It was clear to me that neither Robinson nor Sprenger had any intent to deny the renewal of the charter; they just wanted to have a conversation about how to best work through the legal and communications issues they had discovered before they voted. Again, I consider this to be good process, and sensible. Robinson had made just about every effort possible to make it clear his intent was to see the school survive.

Alexander had other plans. He started blathering on about a charter school meeting he'd attended and some guy named Randy. According to Randy, we have to do it this way, Alexander said. It was very clear.

This was a revelation to me. I had thought it was a revelation to the admin types as well, but I found it later it almost certainly wasn't (see #2 below).

Turns out that Alexander - for once - had found something that actually stuck; he had found ORS 338.065, which governs the renewal process of public charter schools. It states that there are two parts: Renewal of the existence of the charter, and subsequent negotiations over the content of the charter. Alexander's explanation made no sense to me - I had to read the statute for myself to figure out what he was talking about.

The thing is, he still used it like Robinson and Co. were attempting to deny renewal. They weren't. They just wanted to talk first - and besides, the D.O. staff does not vote on renewal; the board does, and the board had showed no signs of opposing the charter renewal.

I was a bit flabbergasted, actually. It seemed so obvious that Alexander was going to get what he wanted - renewal - and that playing nice would not cost him anything.

Boy, was I hopelessly naive. That and I had been lulled into a false sense of security, I guess.

By the way, the vote was 4-1 with Sprenger dissenting on the grounds that the process was bad. Also, Debi Shimmin never said a thing or asked a question and voted yes without hesitation. I consider this another sign that she, Wineteer, and Alexander had planned this out beforehand, which is in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the law here.

As far as I can tell, there were three things going on:

1. Grandstanding

There were lots (100+?) of SR supporters in the audience. Rick was playing to them, showing off by being all tough with the school district.

This was pathetic. It reminded me of a little kid who insists on disagreeing with his parents even when his parents are suggesting ice cream or something the kid really wants - the important part is to appear independent and strong even if it is counterproductive. (Or to put it another way, the goals of appearance of toughness and getting what you want conflict and the former wins.)

I am beginning to think it worked, since there was a loud round of applause when Alexander's motion passed. It also suggests that the audience either a) didn't actually understand the admin's report at all (which can also be summarized as "follow these recommendations or be in violation of the law and liable to get sued") or they just didn't care - they just wanted to see their school stay open and the district lose at any cost. I'm waffling between the two, but I suppose it could be both.

2. ORS Statutes/Legal Process

Since the LCSD went through this during the last renewal process, they should have known about it. Yet nowhere did Robinson or anyone else from the D.O. acknowledge them, and Rick Alexander was very successful in beating the district over the head with them. Yes, he was correct on the law, but - and here I agree with Robinson and Sprenger - he severely undercut the developing process, thereby eliminating a rather large and important opportunity to start to develop a better relationship between the LCSD and PIE.

Obviously Rick has no intention of doing that. Apparently his supporters are OK with that.

What I don't understand is why the D.O. didn't have a better rejoinder to Rick's insistence that his method was the law. It obviously was - why not just admit the point and have the discussion? I was surprised that the D.O. had not anticipated Rick's move of instantly motioning to approve.

It made the D.O. staff and Robinson look either unprepared (strange, considering the comprehensiveness of the report) or like they were trying to somehow weasel PIE.

Sadly, I think they just might have got caught trying to do the latter, at least in the eyes of the SR supporters. I suspect, given that Robinson knew about the process, that he wanted to have the conversation before approving the existence of the charter because it would have resulted in a much stronger negotiating position for the district (which, by the way, is a completely appropriate position for the Superintendent of the School District). He lost, and as a result the district's negotiating position is compromised. It should go without saying that this is good news for Alexander - why the public thinks having someone on the School Board who hates the district is acceptable is beyond me; certainly it's possible to provide meaningful oversight to Jim Robinson and still play well with others.

The district's entire presentation was based on getting PIE to follow state law and their contract - both of which are consistent with a district who likes Sand Ridge. For Alexander to be so hostile is a slap in the face of just about the nicest thing I've ever seen Jim Robinson do. He bent over backwards to illustrate his commitment to Sand Ridge and to the process. What happened poisons an already-polluted well even more, and this time, Alexander needs to take full responsibility for that.

I've blogged before about my skepticism that Robinson has or will change his approach. His method of dealing with the Sand Ridge renewal - with the possible exception of the ORS flap - was fantastic. I was very impressed with his willingness to work with the folks that have dumped on him and his dedication to building a relationship. So kudos to him and his team for that.

3. Accountability

In retrospect, the actions of Alexander and PIE are designed to avoid any meaningful accountability or oversight. They simply want to take public money and spend it how they want. Neither do I see any indication they have any intentions to follow relevant laws.

This is, to put it politely, crap. It will catch up to them eventually. None of the recommendations I heard from the D.O. staff infringed on the pedagogical independence of the school. I wonder how many of them realize they just made it less likely that Sand Ridge will survive in the long run, not more? I would have thought having the district work quietly with you to fix contract and legal violations would be infinitely preferable to getting sued or having the state come down on you (the state being far more likely to subject SR and PIE to punitive measures as well as provide additional and unwanted oversight).

Or do PIE and Rick Alexander really think the law does not apply to them? Do they think the contract with the district can be ignored forever and without consequence? One certainly hopes not, but that was the behavior on display at the meeting.

I'm also beginning to think that Alexander and PIE are part of the black helicopter/New World Order crowd.


The ball is in PIE's court. They got what they wanted - renewal of the charter's existence - but at what cost?

The next step - someone correct me if I'm wrong - is renegotiating the charter contract. If I'm Jim Robinson, I'm going to do the same thing I was going to do before: Insist that the revised contract take into account all the problems the district found and otherwise act in the District's interest. This is going to be a giant thorn in PIE's side, since - if the D.O. has any sense - it will mean the inclusion of much more specific language in the contract regarding the consequences of PIE's failure to abide by the terms. In other words, it will mean placing increased accountability and oversight in the contract rather than work it out in discussion, as Robinson obviously wanted to do at the meeting.

One other possibility is that Alexander will try and micromanage the contract, or at least give directions to the negotiating team that undermine the interests of the district.

I wonder if it takes a board motion to break the contract based on material breach? For PIE's sake, I hope it does... though the board discussion surrounding that, should it become a reality, should be hilarious in a War of the Roses meets Mad Max sort of way.

In any case, it may not matter. The LCSD may report - as per the law - legal violations it discovers to the relevant state and federal agencies if PIE is not willing to work with the LCSD to correct them. That will create a much larger headache for PIE than Jim Robinson ever could (it will also create another headache for the LCSD as the overseeing district, which has got to be one of Robinson's motivations throughout all this).

(Very) Long story short: Power politics rules again in Lebanon, much to the detriment of students.

This time, however, it was near-unilateral.

I hope people stand up and take note of this, especially you folks who have been making blanket condemnations of the board.

This was not an all-around mess. It was one faction reaching out in good faith and having their efforts rebuffed in a needlessly hostile manner by another.

This is why I post these insanely long meeting summaries. I think they are more revealing than the space-limited DH or LE stories.

Word Count: 3796

Monday, December 3, 2007

Lebanon School Board Meeting After-Action Report (Except for the Stuff on Sand Ridge)

Interesting meeting.

They usually are.

Unlike the last time, I'm going to attempt to summarize this one a bit more concisely, mostly because it wasn't as long and I didn't stay for the whole thing. Frankly, it was also less eventful from my perspective.

Part One: Public Comment

There were only five comments that I saw (I might have missed the first one). Four of them were in favor of appointing Dick Behn as interim Social Systems Principal at LHS.

The last one was Mel Harrington telling the board "not to have agendas."

That's rich.

Harrington also got an ovation (albeit not a standing one) for suggesting that board members should resign if "they don't have an agenda... of working for kids."

I am always curious when a comment like that gets applause, since every board member has, at one point or another, claimed to have the best interests of kids in mind (and for all I know, they may honestly think they do). Therefore, Harrington's comment was hot air and little else.

The arguments made in favor of Behn, on the other hand, were pretty strong, including his quickly-developed rapport with students, parents, and teachers. Jennifer Walter made the point that Behn was not allied with anyone, which is as close as I've seen to someone making an explicit reference to the presence of factions among the LHS staff.

Connie Schmidt also made the point that hiring an existing teacher just created another space to fill. I hadn't though about that; it's a fair point.

I have to wonder if the ongoing conflicts the board is dealing with have had a positive, if unintended, effect: More people feel OK speaking during the public comment time. I've not been a regular attendee to board meetings, so I don't know the long-term picture, but it would be interesting if they had.

Democracy - even with a little 'd' - is messy. C'est la vie.

Part Two: Consent Agenda

Josh Wineteer moved to have Behn's hiring shifted from the HR section of the agenda to the consent section (where it was originally before Alexander threw a temper tantrum last time). It was seconded and passed without comment.

Josh then moved to approve the consent agenda minus the evening's agenda. That also passed, though there was some confusion over his insistence that the agenda not be approved. Things were made clear when he motioned to add an item to the HR section focusing on Robinson's annual review/evaluation.

Chris Fisher argued against it, noting that he's getting tired of seeing items added to the agenda at the last second, a move that denies both board members and the public a chance to prepare for them. I think this is an eminently reasonable argument, and in fact I'm sure much of the reason Rick and Josh don't add things to the agenda until the meeting starts: it is precisely to deny their opponents on the board and in the District Office a chance to prepare. Rick and Josh obviously prep their supporters beforehand.

It's pretty pathetic behavior from the viewpoint of democracy, but a neat political tactic if one is Machiavellian about it - and Rick is nothing if not a follower of The Prince, even if he doesn't know it.

At any rate, Wineteer got what he wanted. A discussion item was added to the agenda regarding the timeline of Robinson's evaluation process.

Part Three: The Superintendent's Report

This is generally listed without any sub-headings; it would be nice if Robinson would add them or ask Sprenger to add them, as just about every other section on the agenda contains subheadings detailing the topics to be covered.

Robinson did note that any board member is welcome to contact him and request that particular topics get covered in his report, a move that is both smart policy and smart politics. I'm curious as to who, if anyone, takes him up on it.

Robinson had three topics to cover in his report:

First, Steve Kelley introduced Dick Behn, who got a pretty good round of applause from the crowd who were mostly Sand Ridge parents and supporters. I found it interesting - the applause, while not as loud as that granted to Alexander when he wins, actually sounded meaningful to me. That, coupled with the fact that Rick and Josh both voted to approve Behn, suggests that they had given up on that particular fight. I wonder if someone suggested that would be a good idea to them, or if they figured it out all on their own?

In either case, there was no indication of regret or apology for not hiring Behn at the last meeting, despite nothing have obviously changed about the situation.

Second, Robinson asked the Board about the Continous Improvement Plan. This was a sore subject at the last meeting when Alexander threw a temper tantrum about not getting to read it beforehand & before it was turned in to the state, claiming - as Chris Fisher did earlier - that he, Alexander, needed time to prepare. This time, Robinson had given them copies in advance.... but they had no questions. Not a one.

I took it as more evidence that the temper tantrum last time was pure grandstanding on the part of Alexander.

Third, Robinson and resident tech guru Brian Bray talked about the pending shift from the existing Student Information System (SIS) to something new. The district wanted to shift to something called ESIS, which is apparently used by 55% of students statewide, though the emphasis on number of students vs. number of districts, coupled with the noting of Portland, Eugene, and Bend as ESIS users, suggests that it's concentrated in urban districts - I wonder what rural districts use?

The board chatted about this for a bit, maintaining a surprising bit of civility. The shift was necessary due to the massive inadequacies of the current system (it's so old it uses a black screen with green letters!), Robinson and Bray pointed out, and cost-neutral when it came to paying for ESIS or going with the "homebrew" (to use Wineteer's well-chosen word) setup the LBL ESD was cobbling together. As much as I hate contracting out services on such a large scale, the idea of a unit as small as the ESD maintaining such a custom system seems pretty daunting. Coupled with the fact that Bray pointed out that ESIS was the most feature-laden of the choices, well, I have to agree with him.

Also, Bray wins the prize for the most interesting corporatized phrase of the night: "an environment that is as task-saturated as Lebanon."


Part Four: School Achievement Report.

This was on Cascades. I don't really have anything to say about it other than this bit of pure political speculation:

Is the fact that all the reports are upbeat and positive going to start affecting people's opinions of Jim Robinson? Should it? It sure seems like he's getting results and happy principals...

Part Five: Human Resources

This is where Josh had inserted into the agenda a discussion item regarding the timeline for Robinson's yearly evaluation. Earlier, Sprenger and Wineteer had gotten into it over this, since Sprenger had had a hand in creating the timeline in the first place, and knew that the Board was doing just fine in keeping to it. However, this was mercifully short.

Part Six: The Administration's Report on Sand Ridge

I am going to give this section its own post. Said post will probably be longer than my summary of the rest of the meeting put together. With any luck, it will be up tomorrow. And it will be a doozy, I think, as Sand Ridge was the main source of conflict at the meeting.

Also, I left after this agenda item, so this is the end of the summary of the meeting. More things may have happened - the RFP for legal services, which was another contested issue last time, was on the agenda.

It was suggested to me that there was an new undercurrent floating around - that people are getting tired of the grandstanding and shenanigans, and just want the board to get to work. Looking back, I think there might be some truth to this. On the other hand, the behavior of almost everyone but Robinson during the Sand Ridge items seemed the same as it's always been; certain people seem to be typecast or are typecasting themselves. More on that later...

Anyone have any reactions to the meeting?

Feminist Movement Appoints Man As Leader

I've shared at least one post that links to this bit from The Onion, but it's too good not to post on.

Some of the best satire I've seen in a long time:

"All the feminist movement needed to do was bring on someone who had the balls to do something about this glass ceiling business," said McGowan, who quickly closed the 23.5 percent gender wage gap by "making a few calls to the big boys upstairs." "In the world of gender identity and empowered female sexuality, it's all about who you know."


Update: Major changes to this post, that's for sure.

Rumor has it that Lebanon School Board member Rick Alexander has discovered that I sub at LHS.

I am highly amused.

Everyone knows who I am.

Everyone, apparently, except Rick Alexander.

Someone should tell him about teh intertubes.

Given that I've received multiple and conflicting bits of feedback to the original post, let's clear the air a little:

I applied for, and was granted, a temporary substitute teaching license (officially labeled an "emergency" license, I think, which limits me to 60 days total work per academic year) to work in the following districts: Lebanon, Sweet Home, and Central Linn. This happened early in February 2007.

The license is granted by the state and requires endorsement in the districts I wished to substitute in. I asked for and received that endorsement through application to each district's HR office.

Upon receiving the license, I began to work in both Lebanon and Sweet Home. The majority of my work is in Lebanon. I chose to work in Lebanon because I attended HS there and I knew other people who were doing the same thing.

That's it. That's the entire story.

Any questions?

D'Souza's Rhetorical Tricks Regarding Free Will

I was following the links over at the recent Philosopher's Carnival, and I ran into this post (warning: Incredibly long and wonderfully dense) which led to this op-ed by Dinesh D'Souza.

I don't really like what I've seen of D'Souza - my impression is that he's been fed, clothed, and housed by the wingnut welfare machine since his time at Dartmouth - and what I just read doesn't do anything to disprove that notion.

D'Souza's claim, at face value, is that the idea of free will somehow leads to the existence of the immaterial world. It's a wonderfully readable argument (he is a good writer) designed to prove a negative and then sell it as a positive.

I'm not buying. In fact, I'm sort of insulted. But I'm not surprised...

[Puts on hip waders and digs in.]


There is a powerful strain of atheism that teaches that human beings are nothing more than matter. In this materialistic view, the soul is a fiction, a "ghost in the machine" that has been invented by religion for its own purposes. After all, we never encounter this ghost within the material frame of human beings.

What we do encounter is brains, arteries, blood and organs. These are all made up of the same atoms and molecules as trees and stones and are assembled by a process of evolution and natural selection into this intricate machine we call Homo sapiens. From this perspective, man is a kind of intelligent robot, a carbon-based computer. Consequently, man should be understood in the same material terms that we understand software programs.

I've heard of this, mainly from a friend of mine in a PhD program in the snowy north. D'Souza's labeling of the position "atheist" is a rhetorical move designed to set it in opposition to the "Christian" position (not "religious" - D'Souza is all about Christianity) even though the two positions are not really all that opposed. His labeling of the position "powerful" is designed to make the reader impressed when he "defeats" the position.

I'd also call it a rather simplistic explanation better attributed to determinism. I would call what D'Souza describes "scientific determinism."

The point is that D'Souza is already arguing, arguably, against at least a partial strawman; he's working on one small corner of belief and then claiming a victory against all atheism.

Moving on:

Morality is an empirical fact no less real than any other experience in the world.

I was going to add the context to this quote, but I realized it still makes no sense. How is morality an empirical fact? Only from the perspective that what we perceive as real is real - and that's a perspective that I can almost guarantee that D'Souza, who argues for a Platonic understanding of reality, does not buy into. It fits one of my crazy Sociology profs, who repeated it constantly, better.

Some consistency would be nice.

Here's what really got me:

Kant follows this train of reasoning to its remarkable conclusion. We enjoy at least some measure of freedom in the operation of our will. This freedom means doing what we want to do or what we ought to do, as opposed to what we have to do. Freedom implies autonomy, which Kant distinguishes from subservience to natural inclination. So at least some of what we think and do is not governed by the necessity imposed by the laws of science. If I give a dollar to a man on the street, the movements of our bodies are determined by nature, but my choice to give and his choice to take are free decisions that we both make.

It follows that there is an aspect of our humanity that belongs to the world of science, and there is an aspect of our humanity that is outside the reach of scientific laws. Simultaneously, we inhabit the realm of the phenomenal, which is the material realm, and also the realm of the noumenal, which is the realm of freedom. It is the noumenal realm, the realm outside space and time, that makes possible free choices that are implemented within the realm of space and time. Materialism tries to understand us in two dimensions, whereas in reality we inhabit three.

Notice the jump between the paragraphs?

Actually, the latter does not follow from the former. D'Souza just proved that there is something we don't currently understand (does he really think his scientific determinist atheists don't have a rejoinder to his simple argument? No - he's omitted any obvious counterarguments to make himself appear smarter), not that there is something we can't ever understand. Good lord, does he think scientists are done discovering new fundamental parts of the material world?

D'Souza seems to think that by proving the existence of something we can't fully explain using existing Western science - free will - that he has in fact proved the existence of the soul and the spiritual world. Nope. Sorry.

I'll say this: He's written a heck of an undergraduate essay on Kant. See Duck at DuckRabbit for why D'Souza gets Kant at a very simplistic level.


Via friend CA, this BBC story:

The natural "high" produced by exercise could one day be available in a pill that targets a gene in our brains.

The Yale University experts say that experiments on mice could show why regular exercise can help people suffering from depression.

Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, they say it could lead to more effective drugs.

Mental Health charities in the UK already back exercise programmes as a way of lifting depression.

I would like more context - is this to be proposed in addition to exercise? Because at face value, it seems like exercise itself would be a good antidote.

Plus, there is some irony in the creation of pills that mimic a result of exercise... though I do acknowledge the legitimate use of the proposed pills.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Professionalism, Special 'Teacher Standards' Edition

From an anonymous emailer:

Education goes beyond that though. You are expected to be so wholesome. Teachers, even today, may find themselves in a conversation with the person who performs their evaluation if they are reported to have been seen leaving a bar, smoking a cigarette, buying a lottery ticket, or any number of other legal activities that are nobody's business when away from the workplace.

I think this is correct. Unlike many other jobs (even other public sector jobs), K-12 teachers are - still! - expected to have stellar private lives, using a relatively conservative set of criteria. They - we? - are expected to achieve a "higher moral standard." (Note: I am not advocating what the teacher at the link did; I am noting that the school district in question specifically stated that they expected teachers to be held to a higher moral standard.)

This raised lots of question for me; I will list the questions in bold and my answers in italics. If you have answers to the questions, or simply want to comment on my answers, please do (and please indicate which question you are responding to).


If we can be specific, what are the components of the "higher moral standard" that teachers must meet?

Well, I know someone who keeps their tattoos covered...I don't see many teachers with piercings outside their ears, though I can think of one person with a facial piercing...I don't know of any teachers personally who are openly LGBT, though that may be a function of the district I am in...I also imagine there are social sanctions for being non-monogamous/in an open relationship or marriage...finally, I imagine teachers must be incredibly circumspect about smoking/drinking/gambling/etc. The point is that teachers must be careful when doing anything that's not in line with the dominant cultural paradigm.

Are they written down anywhere?

Probably varies by district. I'd imagine they are to some extent, but more likely is the inclusion of a broader phrase or guideline such as "maintain a professional relationship with students" (i.e. don't talk about one's personal life) that doesn't allow or deny specific behaviors (though I suspect that enforcement of specific guidelines would be difficult as they may be found to infringe on free speech and other personal freedoms).

Is there a uniformity to them, or do they vary?

See above answer.

If they vary, from where to where and how much?

I would imagine they reflect the dominant culture of the region. For example, standards in Texas and standards in NYC are probably going to differ substantially. In fact, I wonder if the urban-rural split could be the dominant determinant.

How do we divide up the public/private split for a teacher's life, and is that division different than other public sector folks?

I think it is different. I think teachers are expected to remain much more circumspect about their personal lives (politicians possibly excepted, and even then I'm not sure), with the motivation perhaps being that one cannot create a neutral learning environment if one's students know too much. However, I think this is unfair to both teacher and students - it forces teachers to essentially act like something other than human beings with thoughts, feelings, and emotions while in the classroom (of course, we ask this of students regularly as well; I'm also amazed at what happens when I convince students their personal life is not only off limits, but a relevant source to draw on in relation to the material of the day). It forces the people in the classroom to act like Its rather than Thous.

I am of the belief that what is important is not always what the teacher believes, but whether or not the teacher creates an environment in which a student can disagree with a teacher without fear of retribution. To be honest, many of the students I encounter refuse to speak freely on the grounds that they fear getting in trouble. This says some disturbing, but typical, things about the way in which the teaching profession as a whole views the idea of power.

And I'll preemptively say that anyone who comments to claim that we should ask teachers to remove themselves from the equation while working will be published. Just don't expect me to politely agree with you.

Do classified and/or administrative staff get held to the same standards as teachers?

Tricky question. I'm not sure. Anyone takers out there?

If they don't, is that fair?

Ummm... see above answer.

Are the standards teachers held to fair, or just, in the first place?

No, for all the reasons I've already stated.

And at the least, U.S. society needs to discover some consistency in what we expect from teachers and education staff: Is it strictly academic? What about moral/ethical/personal development? What about "instilling values" in students?

I know this is an ongoing debate and that there's no real answer, but some open discussion and a shared understanding of the issues, if nothing else, would be nice.

Stop the Presses

Hering writes something I completely agree with... or, at least, enough so that I'm actually willing to paper over the very minor differences in opinion I have with it:

In the words of NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, the report “confirms — without any serious qualification — the central importance of reading for a prosperous, free society. ... Whatever the benefits of newer electronic media, they provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading.”

Don’t blame the schools. Ninth-graders nationally are doing better on reading than they used to. It’s among 12th graders where there’s a drop, but also there’s been a decline in reading comprehension among college graduates and among people with advanced degrees.

Though, as always, I wish he'd dig a bit deeper.

That last sentence suggests a direction to dig in, even.


Sadly, I am not talking about Christmas. From the LA Times:

Even strongholds of sartorial liberalism have not been without their hosiery flare-ups. Last summer, a 25-year-old Berkeley woman (who did not want to give her name for fear of her in-laws) was accused by her new mother-in-law of "indecent exposure" for failing to wear hose on her special day.

The mother-in-law might find solace in the fact that her views are supported by the president of the United States. One of his first actions upon taking office was to reinstate the White House dress code requiring, among other things, that women wear stockings in the West Wing. Exhibit A, Condoleezza Rice, the fashionable secretary of state.


Then again, I guess I'm not really surprised so much as disgusted. From later in the story, another ridiculous display of male privilege:

Katie Couric has been one of the most stalwart and high-profile bare-leggers, bringing her tanned gams into living rooms every day with the TV news. But the sight of bare legs is so repulsive to some that a forum has emerged on, a website for stockings fans, dedicated to persuading the chipper news anchor to wear pantyhose. Fundraisers, bribes and beatings are a few of the strategies discussed. One man lamented that he'd been forced to switch to Fox, where the legs are rarely naked.

About 70% of the impassioned commenters on are male, according to site founder David Bradwell. Their push for hose is about making "ladies" look sexy.

"It's about leaving something to the imagination," he said. "A gift which is wrapped and can then be unwrapped is better."

He also admits he's never tried to wear them.

Look, kids! Women - even news anchors like Katie Couric - are like presents to be unwrapped I mean, sex objects fit for male viewing bound by the patriarchy!

The misogyny on display is mind-boggling.

Note: I couldn't find the aforementioned thread on the stocking website... I wonder if they took it down?


I find steampunk fascinating, but I don't really know much about it. I vaguely follow all sorts of discussions that float around the interwebs, but this particular essay caught my attention:

It is my understanding, poor, un-hip child that I am, that steampunk correlates precisely with cyberpunk, substance of choice of the last generation: literature which addresses and delineates anxiety (hence the punk, also ubiquitous, also nearly meaningless now) concerning new technology, computers in the first case, steam power in the second. Yet in almost everything I’ve ever seen called steampunk (besides the powerfully adequate Steamboy film) that eternal gateway drug, there is no actual steam power to speak of, and precious little anxiety. Because we, in our current, painfully neo-Victorian culture, think all that old-fashioned stuff is so damn cool, well, the actual Victorians must have loved it, too, right?

Dare to tell your wee wastrels that it’s not all quaint manners and cufflinks–steam technology caused horrific scalding and often death, thrilling explosions and the utter terror and unfathomable joy–and which one often depended entirely on whether you owned the factory or worked in it–of a world which was changing so very fast, devouring itself in an attempt to lay just one more mile of railroad track. Again, I return to seriousness as a necessary addition to fantasy: if you want Victoria in your coat pocket, if you want the world that comes with her, all that possibility, all that terrible, arrogant, gorgeous technology, take it all, make it true, be honest and ruthless with it, or you’re just gluing gears to your fingers and running around telling everyone you’re a choo-choo train. Get punk or go home–and think, for just a precious second, about what punk means, the rage and iconoclasm and desperation, the nihilism and unsentimental ecstasy of punk rock. I’ve heard the punk suffix mocked soundly by everyone I know–but we should be so lucky as to live up to it.

Good stuff.

There was also this comment, which I was damned impressed by. An excerpt:

Steampunk as a lifestyle is necessarily an aesthetic… A psuedo-revolutionary fetishizing of the Victorian era, and more particularly, the Victorian working classes. But in that sense, Steampunk is highly Punk, since Punk is nothing more than an aesthetic in which the enfranchised classes of today fetishize poverty.

Not that I necessarily agree with it, mind you, but I've never heard that particular critique of Punk before and I was struck by it.

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