Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preznit takin your turkee

When I said this:

This is also, in a way, the continuation of one way of reading neoliberalism: The privatization of profit and the publicization of risk. Only in this case, it's being done in the open - the risk is being publicized (that is, the bill is being footed by taxpayers) after things went bad.

I didn't think it would be taken so literally:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Saturday formally proposed to Congress what could become the largest financial bailout in United States history, requesting unfettered authority for the Treasury Department to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets.


A $700 billion expenditure on distressed mortgage-related assets would be roughly what the country has spent so far in direct costs on the Iraq war and more than the Pentagon’s total yearly budget appropriation. Divided across the population, it would amount to more than $2,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

All those political philosophy classes I took seem more relevant than ever right about now. Sadly, this is depressing, not exciting.

So I'll say to Bush what I refrained from saying to Hering yesterday: Fuck you.

... if the Dems fold/cave/go along on this one, there's no doubt I'm fucking voting for McKinney. This is insane.

Also, Atrios retains his ability to spell it out like no one else can:

Again, the problem is that lots of bad loans were made, lots of people made highly leveraged investments in those bad loans, and still more people bet on those loans by insuring them. The loans are bad. The mortgages are not going to be repaid in full. Housing prices are not going to magically shoot up 50% over the next 6 months. People gambled and lost and now the Democrats are racing to bail them all out.

In case that I'm not being clear enough, what's happening is that the US government just proposed giving $700 billion to a bunch of companies that knowingly made bad deals. Crony capitalism doesn't even begin to describe it.

UPDATE: Atrios finds this bit in the text of the act submitted to Congress authorizing the spending:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Why anyone in their right mind is going to do anything but kick the ass of the folks who submitted this is beyond me. Nevertheless, I predict that Democrats will take this 'bill' seriously.

Normally when people bury their head in the sand for so long, they suffocate

Shorter Hering: I can't be bothered to actually figure out what's going on with the financial system, so I'll just call for a return to the 1950s (and thereby conveniently avoid mentioning the political party responsible for this debacle).

My only consolation is that there are people writing for a national audience who actually pen stupider things. Not many, but they exist. Call it a silver lining.

Reproductive Health, Lebanon, the FBI, etc.

From the DH story on the loss of the building that housed the Lebanon Pregnancy Alternatives Center:

The FBI says it is investigating the fire jointly with the Lebanon Police Department and has authority to do so under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

Now, at first glance, the name of that act sounds to me like it was written to guarantee access to - let's be honest - abortion clinics (pro-choicers are not exactly notorious for shaming anyone who enters churches, now are they?). Given that 'pregnancy alternatives center' is synonymous with 'anti-choice center that will do everything but provide actual reproductive health,' I was a little surprised that such an act would cover something like the LPAC in the way the FBI is claiming according to the story. So I looked up the act. Check this out:

§ 248. Freedom of access to clinic entrances

(a) Prohibited activities.--Whoever--


(3) intentionally damages or destroys the property of a facility, or attempts to do so, because such facility provides reproductive health services, or intentionally damages or destroys the property of a place of religious worship,

So.... I think it's reasonable to conclude that whoever wrote this act wrote it to include so-called pregnancy alternatives centers, specifically Christian ones (are there any other kind?). After all, why the hell else would a reference to 'a place of religious worship' be in there?

And after all, it's not like such places actually provide meaningful reproductive health services beyond 'here is how to care for your baby once it's born'.

It's an interesting false equivalance, as well: Something like Planned Parenthood provides the full gamut of reproductive health services, including, I believe, information for those who want to remain abstinent and who want to carry to term. Something like the Lebanon Pregnancy Alternatives Center doesn't seem to provide birth control or even mention abortion, much less abortion referrals, as an option on their website (which I will not link to). Clearly, the two are not equal, yet they are treated as equivalent under this law, apparently.


Spontaneous Combustion

Clued in by LT's post, I went looking for a particularly bad Hering editorial. And I found it:

It is a common refrain that Oregon high school students are not good enough in math. But most of us have no idea what we are talking about.

If we did know, we would probably shut up. Because most of us are no good at math either, at least some of the math that high schools try to teach in the junior and senior years.


Here’s the problem with math in 2008: Most people can get through life perfectly well after they forget whatever they learned in trigonometry and calculus. They forget it because they don’t need it.

You need no quadratric equations to work in most trades, professions and other service industries. You can be a production supervisor, a health care specialist, a real estate developer or a politician without knowing the first thing about the properties of conic sections or the zeroes of polynomials.

To say he misses the point is to be far more charitable than I feel at the moment.

Hey, Hering? It's the 21st century. Complaining isn't going to change that. Might as well get used to it.

I have never, ever seen someone write so much about themselves and pretend it's even remotely generalizable.

..... I'm going to stop here, because otherwise it's going to degenerate into me calling Hering all sorts of names not fit for a family blog such as this. Let's just say I agree with LT on this one: This is an insulting and idiotic editorial.

Friday, September 19, 2008

[LCSD] A thought or two about the recall


If I'm Jim Robinson, and the board that wants to negotiate with me over my resignation stands a chance of losing the two members who dislike me most, why in the world would I agree to anything before I find out if said board members will be recalled or not?

Similarly, if I am Fisher, Shimmin or McUne, and I also know there's a chance that Alexander and Wineteer will be off the board in three weeks, I would be damn loathe to do anything that might end up in a lawsuit and/or have other consequences that I'd have to deal with, especially if it was started by the maybe-departing board members. At best, I'd want to own - literally and metaphorically - any decision that was made between now and October 7th, just in case.

In other words, it would seem prudent on the parts of everyone but the two facing the recall to put on the brakes until after October 7th. The opposite is true of Wineteer and Alexander, of course. They have every incentive to get as much of their agenda enacted before the vote as possible, on the chance they get recalled.

By the way, I have no frackin' idea how likely it is for the two to get recalled. I am aware of no relevant precedent, and no one's done any formal/scientific polling on this one. I do know that CARES is putting a lot of effort into this, and I don't know how much effort Wineteer and Alexander and their supporters are putting into opposing it.


From Columbia Journalism Review:

The Associated Press retracted two government-issued photographs last night after a photographer in Texas alerted the agency that the photos in question appeared to be doctored.

Bob Owen, chief photographer of the San Antonio Express-News, notified the AP that the photos of two deceased soldiers, who died in Iraq on Sept. 14, were nearly identical. Upon examining the photos, Owens noticed that everything except for the soldier’s face, name, and rank was the same. The most glaring similarity, Owen told CJR, was that the camouflage patterns of the two uniforms were “perfectly identical.”

Apparently the Army did the photoshopping.

Via Majikthise.

Can't. Stop. Laughing.

While I've been following the recent economic news with my usual mixture of glee and despair, I've also had one thought rattling around in my head just about non-stop the last few days, and it's time to get it out:

When the government buys* and owns things like AIG, it's textbook socialism. When the government announces an even bigger plan (and the AIG buyout cost taxpayers something like $85 billion!) to buy a lot of these failing assets, it's socialist to the core.

I hope the irony of that, and of how hard Republicans and so-called free market supporters are cheering for it, is not lost on anyone.

Also, see this point from Kevin Drum:

...I will, of course, note for the record that if Uncle Sam can afford to spend a trillion bucks or so rescuing Wall Street, it would be nice if they could spend a trillion bucks shoring up all the poor saps losing their homes because they can't make the payments on those option ARMs they were talked into buying during the boom years. We could do it if we wanted to, and the risk wouldn't even be appreciably different from the Wall Street bailout.

Fifty bucks says anyone who brings this up on cable TV gets shouted down and called a Commie, the massive corporate bailout underway not withstanding. This is America, dammit. No one** gets a free ride!

UPDATE: This is also, in a way, the continuation of one way of reading neoliberalism: The privatization of profit and the publicization of risk. Only in this case, it's being done in the open - the risk is being publicized (that is, the bill is being footed by taxpayers) after things went bad. In that sense, it's a big FUCK YOU from political and economic elites to everyone else. We're all going to get our own piece of Big Shitpile©, and there's really nothing we can do about it.

*Obligatory disclaimer: For the purposes of this post, I am agnostic on whether or not the buyouts are a good thing. However, we should at least acknowledge that the so-called free-market capitalism touted for decades by the Republican Party would simply let all these companies fail. The fact that Bush, Paulson, Chris Cox and Ben Bernanke are diving in with both feet means that they don't believe the ideology they push, or are really, really dumb. I'm not ruling out the possibility of both being true.

**Unless you're under 12 years of age or worth more than, say, $500 million.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

[LCSD] Alexander's "public records request"

Also in my inbox this morning: correspondence between Mr. Alexander, Mr. Robinson, and the Linn County District Attorney's office regarding Mr. Alexander's request for copies of the "districts [sic] check register" before every board meeting:

Alexander's letter to the Linn DA requesting the same:

The Assistant DA's letter to Robinson:

Robinson's letter to the Assistant DA:

As was noted in the email to me, writing to the DA on November 2nd because one has not received the check register for October seems like jumping the gun. It's entirely possible the financial records for the previous month had not been reconciled at that point.

In any case, Alexander also said this in his statement:

Twice I had to ask the District Attorney to intervene and obtain supposedly public documents.

Technically true, though I think the additional context of seeing just what he was asking for, at least in the one case, is useful. Although, it's possible that Robinson was going to send the October register along anyway, and simply hadn't yet - I just don't know. Frankly, I'm not even sure what asking for the just the check register is good for. There's a lot more that needs to go along with it to make sense of the district's financial records.

To me, it would seem more prudent to ask for a meeting with the District's Finance Director and have that person explain the budget and monthly expenditures, then ask questions or look directly at the check register if one is not satisfied with the answers. But that's just me.

The other thing I want to note about these documents is that there are multiple spelling and grammar errors in both (rather short) documents sent from Mr. Alexander. I don't care what level of education Alexander has or doesn't have, or whether or not he was actually using a typewriter (it looks like it to me, at least on the letter he sent to the DA); there is no excuse for that.

[LCSD] Information!

My inbox had some interesting stuff in it this morning. First, a graph showing the dropout rate for LHS for the last ten years:

Rick Alexander's statement opposing his being recalled:

School performance is down; drop outs and transfers remain high.

"High," of course, is a relative term. It would be perfectly within the realm of reason to suggest that Alexander believes that 4.6% is still too high, even though it is less than half of what it was a decade ago. However, the use of the word "remain" suggests he doesn't believe it's falling.

You can draw your own conclusion about how informed Mr. Alexander is about the number of students who are dropping out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

[LCSD] Recall Statements for Wineteer and Alexander

These things are pissing me off not as truthful as they could be. I'm going to fisk annotate them (I'm nowhere near Robert Fisk's level of ability). Italicized comments in brackets are mine.

I will say that I have retyped these, and while I hope any mistakes are in the original, there is a possibility they are mine.

Josh Wineteer's statement noting his opposition to being recalled:

Voters concerned about poor school performance, demoralized teachers and an unaccountable administration elected me [and I have failed to buoy teachers and achievement has increased under my nose despite my best efforts]. The recall petition is full of distortions, half-truths and innuendo. [Oh, good line. Too bad he's both wrong and fails to offer any evidence of his claim. From what I've seen, the recall petition was pretty accurate.]

I voted last year with colleagues Alexander and Shimmin to nonrenew Superintendent Robinson. I asked hard questions about abysmal school performance that administrators can't or won't answer - including the high school math "emergency" just declared. [Speaking of half-truths - Wineteer is only aware of the math situation because of a parent. He was not asking hard questions before this - he wasn't asking any questions about school performance at all! Even now, I haven't seen him ask the most obvious question of all: What is happening in other districts, and what are other districts doing about it? Wineteer doesn't seem to know or care.]

True to form, administrators refused at a recent public meeting to allow parents - almost 50% of whose children are failing algebra 1 and may not graduate - to speak. [Again with the half-truths. Parents were not given a chance to speak to the whole group, but were given a chance to speak in small groups. And Wineteer had a hand in hiring Finch! And a 47% failure rate in one trimester is not 50% of parents, which is what Wineteer's written word implies, whether he intended it or not. Furthermore, the 'may not graduate' line is pure fear-mongering.]

Time is running out on our children who deserve a quality education that will prepare them for college and beyond.

By standardized tests and many other measures school performance is inexcusably low. [Really? WHAT OTHER MEASURES, JOSH. NAME THEM. I'm not disagreeing that performance can and should be better, but I would love to see what other metrics he's referring to here. I think he's stretching the truth, because the only other things I can think of are in-district assessments, which are arguably standardized tests, and grades.] Central office and high school administrative staffs are bloated, diverting needed dollars from the classroom. [The high school? Bloated staff? Yeah? NAME THEM. Go ahead. That's right - he can't, unless he actually thinks they need fewer administrators, which would be incredibly dangerous.] The status quo fails kids and thwarts change. [What, like several years of two school board members trying to get rid of a Superintendent, to the detriment of students? That status quo?]

Eliminating independent school board members who press for change will not turn this district around. Thank you for your support. [Josh, are you implying McUne, Shimmin or even Fisher aren't independent? It seems to me all five of you are independent. Independence - from what, anyway? - isn't issue here. Your failure to do your duty as an elected school board member is the issue.]

Rick Alexander's statement opposing his recall:

I was elected on the premise of open and accountable government. The peoples [sic] business should be conducted in public view. [Interestingly, I am not to dispute that Alexander thinks he's seeking this. He is just abysmal at it. As well, the statement is belied by his years spent adding things to the agenda at the last second and then wanting to vote without any public discussion. That's neither open nor accountable, nor is it in public view, unless you think the Korner Kitchen Kounts. It doesn't.] As a board member I asked some tough questions and alarmed powerful special interests. [Does he think he's in the US Senate, for fuck's sake? "Powerful special interests?" "Tough questions?" Alexander's questions are tough to answer because they rarely make sense - and I am at most board meetings to try and hear them. Again, I'm not going to dispute his intent, at least not on this, but if his intent was really to ask hard question, he is terrible at it.] I am an elected official [yes, Rick, this is why you are being recalled. That doesn't happen to appointed officials. Congratulations.], but I can't get answers to many of my inquiries. [I would like to know what inquiries he's referring to. It's certainly possible this is true, but again, I'm skeptical of his ability to ask the right questions - or his willingness to read the documents he gets in response to his questions. 'Bull in a china shop' is not a compliment here.] Twice I had to ask the District Attorney to intervene and obtain supposedly public documents. [I am going to assume he's talking about Freedom of Information Act requests, and that he's being honest. However, that's not a reason to not recall him. Whoops.]

The recall petition was a mixture of half-truths and innuendo. [Where I have heard that before?] School performance is down; drop outs and transfers remain high. [I was told today that all three of these statements are at best exaggerations, and at worst actually provably false - especially the drop-out rate, which I was told has dropped from roughly 11% to under 5% in the last decade or so.] Morale is low [take some responsibility, dude!]; teacher turn-over is high. [Higher than average? Higher than comparable districts? If true, why? Can we get a reason, at least an attempt to link it to something, anything? No? OK, but without something, there's no reason to believe you when you inevitably point the finger at Robinson.] We have lost millions to mismanagement. [And when were you going to clue the rest of the world in to this amazing discovery? Is it perhaps because it has all the provability of a Sarah Palin campaign claim - that is to say, none?] These problems demand that we reconsider the Superintendent's leadership. [I actually like this line, rhetorically speaking.]

The opposition actually paid people to collect recall signatures, which is a first in Linn County history. I serve with no salary and have no economic ties to the district, yet people in the shadows are willing to pay to banish me. [Oh, good writing! Too bad the major donors were named in the DH, and too bad the two things aren't really related, and too bad Alexander fails to acknowledge that many people do not want to be named as opposing Alexander for fear of harassment - I know, I know, people say the same thing about Robinson, but since Alexander is going to talk about his opposition, I'll stick to that for now.] As a voter, you have a choice. [Good. Yes. Frame it truthfully.] The status quo, which is failing our kids, or support a fellow citizen whose sole objective is open, accountable [Oh! Off the rails! No! Bad Rick!] government and educational excellence. I will stand up for our students and against the special interests. Just send me back into the fight.


Look, the most charitable thing I can say about these two statements is that it's entirely possible that Mr. Alexander and Mr. Wineteer believe every word of what they are saying.

That doesn't change the massive gap I see between their statements and their actions, but it does offer an explanation.

A slightly less charitable way of explaining things would be to note that both are making a cynical ploy to the public, relying on the fact that their supporters simply won't believe any evidence offered in opposition, regardless of the source. Or that they both believe they can lie to the public and there isn't enough time between now and the election to get hit with the backlash.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like what's happening with the McCain/Palin campaign - they can lie with impunity, because many of their supporters choose to ignore the word of experts or the press when that word contradicts what the campaign says. Alexander has convinced many of his supporters (not without help from Robinson) that the District Office can't even be trusted to provide basic facts.

Heck, Alexander even stole some stale political rhetoric: "Tough questions" and "powerful special interests."

As an aside, let me note that the phrase "special interests" is a simplistic form of what's called a political dog whistle - it is a reference that provokes a near-Pavlovian response in some people and means different things to different crowds. The fact that the phrase 'special interests' is, in and of itself, devoid of meaning doesn't matter (in fact it is essential) - it is the response in the person who hears it that indicates that the goal has been achieved. Think about it: Special interests are never really defined as anything but a group the listener doesn't like. Certainly Alexander never defines them; he lets the reader decide for themself what they are, which is really convenient; the reader can just plug in whatever group is disliked and convince themselves that Alexander is working against that group. No facts ever need enter into the process. And it can mean something different to everyone who hears it.

At any rate, what remains is that I don't see how those statements bear much resemblance to reality - and, more importantly, neither of them do anything to convince me that Alexander or Wineteer (especially Alexander) are qualified to sit on the school board. Alexander can spin himself as a noble public servant all he wants, but the fact remains that he's been near-piss-poor in his elected position for years. Wineteer is hardly better.

As a rule, I try to offer multiple side of an argument and not refrain from pointing out mistakes where I see them based on the person making them. Certainly I think Robinson has made his share (and Finch is apparently trying to top Robinson in the 'perceived poor communication' department). But, as I've said before, Alexander and Wineteer are not good school board members. They do not even have the credibility to get rid of Robinson. There is no reason to keep them on the school board - remember, they can be replaced with people who really do ask hard questions of the District, but who also bother to read the documents provided by them and learn how to use Robert's Rules of Order, and can understand that legal advice is not given at random, or - gasp! - for whom 'accountability' is not synonymous with 'gotcha'. [Actually, Wineteer has been a lot better since he became Chair and the recall effort was announced. Maybe he's learning.] It's not some strange either/or where Alexander is on one end of the see-saw and a literal tool is on the other. Promise.

Commence flaming.

If I have time tomorrow, I will try and post the recall statements in full, without my comments.

I will also try and find time to address the math question a bit more - someone, I believe from CARES, was passing out data at the school board meeting, and I got my hands on it. No promises, though.

"The Worst Financial Crisis Since the Great Depression"

Nouriel Roubini:

# This is by far the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, not as severe as the Great Depression but second only to it.
# At the end of the day this financial crisis will imply credit losses of at least $1 trillion and more likely $2 trillion. The financial and banking crisis will be severe and last several years leading to a severe and persistent liquidity and credit crunch.

There are dozens more statements just like that, most with documentation backing them up. Roubini spins a very depressing scenario, but not a surprising one. What do you think happens when greed is held up as a value, regulations are shredded, and a Bush is in the White House?

Note to Sherrie Sprenger

Sprenger: Health care access needed

McCain's proposed plan would cause a minimum of 20 million people to lose health coverage.

If Sherrie Sprenger is serious about increasing access to health care, she's supporting the wrong party. The same could be said of a large percentage of her constituents.

Maybe she should try this.

Monday, September 15, 2008

LCSD Meeting Roundup and Analysis

UPDATE 9/16/08 8:35 AM: Check out this comment from Allen:

Or maybe they have been trying to bargain with him and not getting very far. They may have the votes to oust him, as they only need three, but are trying to keep it smooth. They could be trying to put pressure on him by putting it out into the public arena. Robinson doesn't feel the public wants him gone, and the board may be trying to get the public to push for robinson to go.

I received an email that guessed the same thing: That there has been an attempt to buy him out or get him to leave, and it's failed thus far, and that the resolution is essentially the first step in making the effort public by putting public pressure on Robinson. Personally, I doubt it will move him an inch. The other big difference is that the emailer is guessing the board does not have the votes to terminate him directly, at least not yet.


Note: Please, please please comment! I want to know what people are thinking about this, and would love to see an outpouring in the comments to this post. There's certainly a ton to talk about. (One request, though: If you do comment, please pick an alias that's not 'anonymous', just so everyone else can tell everyone apart and when the same person is commenting multiple times. Thanks.)

This post may be worse than usual pretty terrible; I've definitely been off my blogging game lately. Consider yourself warned.

So, as one commenter asked on the liveblog post, what in the world happened at the LCSD board's special session on Monday evening? What does the resolution mean?

First, the basic order of events:

1. The board met in special session at 6 PM to talk about the Superintendent. There were rumors abound, but all I could have said for sure is that it was about the superintendent. My guess is that it was in reaction to the math meeting. The most common rumor I heard suggested the board wanted to oust the Superintendent.

2. As noted in the liveblog, the special session went on for about 75 minutes. At 7 PM, Steve Kelley emerged and told the assembled audience (I'd guess 90% of the seats were filled) that it would be 15-20 more minutes.

3. At about 7:15, the board emerged and began the public part of the meeting; on the agenda was a single action item, dealing with the Superintendent. Russ McUne made a motion to approve a resolution, which he read. Debi Shimmin seconded. There was no discussion, and the vote was 5-0 (Fisher voted for it; I confirmed this.) The audience clapped when the resolution was read and when it passed; otherwise, it was pin-drop silent in the room throughout the whole process (the silence after Wineteer asked for discussion was incredible). It was like everyone (including me) was holding their breath.

4. The board had an audience comments section following the vote. There was one comment, a statement by someone named Dave Champion (I am assuming he is a parent; please correct me if I'm wrong). Many parents had all signed up to speak and were prepared to cede their time to him if necessary. The statement was in regards to LHS, math, and the expectations of parents for the 9/24 meeting; I assume it was written by parents. I don't have a copy of it, but I got a lot of in the liveblog post.

5. With no more audience comments, Wineteer closed the meeting at 7:23 PM.

The Resolution

First, the full text of the resolution:

WHEREAS, the relationship between the Superintendent and the Lebanon Community School District Board of Directors has broken down, resulting in poor communication and failure to work cooperatively on District goals; and

WHEREAS, the Lebanon Community School District Board of Directors is greatly concerned that the breakdown in its relationship with the Superintendent has caused the focus away from day-to-day business of the District as well as student achievement; and

WHEREAS, the Lebanon Community School District Board of Directors believes that the current working relationship is irreparable; and

WHEREAS, the Lebanon Community School District Board of Directors is concerned about the further harm to both the morale of the District staff as well as the well-being of the community; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the Lebanon Community School District Board of Directors that it is in the best interest of the School District and the Lebanon community that Superintendent Robinson and the Board of Directors enter into negotiations toward mutually acceptable terms for an immediate resignation of Superintendent. [All funny grammar in the original.]

But (you're probably screaming by now) WHAT THE $%(& DOES IT MEAN?!?!?

I don't actually know. But I have a guess.

Let's go back, for a second, to the fact that there were all sorts of rumors flying about what was on the executive session agenda: the big one is that it was about the ousting of Robinson. I've heard this rumor three or four times since June, and it's never panned out - things were actually pretty calm on the School Board front over the summer. This time, however, I believed the rumor. The special session, the math meeting, the recall election - all point in the direction of an angry school board with a mind to act. So personally, I think the action item on the agenda was, in some form, the removal of Robinson.

And I think it failed. I think the resolution was what resulted.

Look at it this way: A resolution like that is not Alexander's style, and I could barely believe Wineteer would go for it. It is Shimmin's style, and frankly, probably McUne's as well. It also contains several grammar errors or strange phrasings, which suggests it was written in the meeting itself, not beforehand (though I obviously can't rule out the latter).

My guess: Alexander and Wineteer wanted Robinson gone, right then and there. Shimmin was on the fence. McUne might have been on the fence as well. Fisher was almost certainly opposed to ousting him at the meeting. I place both Robinson's attorney and the district counsel in the executive session (UPDATE: I have been told Robinson was not in the executive session; I assume that means his attorney was not either). Combine that with McUne or Wineteer (I can't remember which) noting that the discussion the board had in private was with the advice of counsel, and I suspect McUne and/or Shimmin (though probably the latter) was persuaded against an immediate termination on some sort of legal grounds, though I'm not sure what they would have been.

So some combination of board members, Dakopolos and Robinson convince the rest of the board that an immediate termination would be worse (and here I drop a rumor: far worse) than the alternative, which turned out to be that resolution.

So that's my guess about the executive session. What about the resolution itself? What does it mean?

Again, this is conjecture - I could be wrong, and I don't have special access to information, so please take my words in light of my reasoning and the evidence I present.

I think it means the board decided on it with little to no input from Robinson. The big question even I have is whether or not it forces/obligates Robinson to enter into negotiations (the rumor is that it does not, but I do not know for sure). If it does, he may yet disappear by the end of 2008. If it doesn't - well, he might still disappear by the end of the year, but his position for negotiating the terms of his disappearance are much, much stronger.

My gut reaction? That the board members who wanted Robinson gone failed this time, and that even if it obligates him to negotiate, it says nothing about how hard-nosed he can be when negotiating the terms of his resignation. And if there's one thing I think Robinson can do, it's be hard-nosed (at least I'd be shocked if he was anything but). Remember, as little credibility as he has with a certain portion of the community, he's done a darn effective job of staying out of the media/public eye recently, and you can be sure the negotiations will take place behind closed doors (if they did not, I'd be floored). And that Alexander has not suggested that he's willing to spend much money to see Robinson gone (or, at the least, that a big buy-out would hurt the district, run contrary to what Alexander says about money, and anger some parents and community members). My guess is that Robinson could just ask for a giant buyout and put the board in a really hard position - and remember, even if it makes Robinson look bad, he'd be gone, and could probably retire. To be perfectly blunt, what would he care if there are people in Lebanon who dislike him? He'd be retired.

What happens next?

Well, either the negotiations will result in Robinson leaving willingly, or not. (As banal as that statement sounds, it's still consequential.) Oh, if they result in his leaving, that part of the saga is over (and everyone moves on to the part where the board tries to hire a new superintendent, which will be hi-larious). On the other hand, if the negotiations fail to result in Robinson's leaving, I can see two reasons (though I'm sure I'm overlooking more than one) for that:

1) Robinson fights it, possibly through negotiations or through legal action. What happens here is anyone's guess. (Though my personal guess is that it will be bloody and my cynical *** will laugh and cry. A lot.)

2) Something else happens - like the recall - that derails the whole 'Robinson-is-leaving' process, and then the LCSD is back to having Robinson as a superintendent who has had his contract non-renewed at least once. Not really sure what happens then, either, though it's a safe bet that some parents will continue to be pissed.

3) Something else. What - I'm not omniscient, and I don't have any more information than anyone else. Your guess really is as good (or better) than mine; I just take the time to post mine online.

In Which I Muse Aloud on What Could Have Been, or Still Be

This is essentially a giant aside. Skip it if you want to stick to the meeting. Keep reading if you want to know what I think Alexander should do if he wants to get rid of Robinson.

One thing that's always bugged me about the last few years of the LCSD Board of Directors' actions is that for all Alexander and Wineteer's talk, they really, really are just terrible at getting rid of Robinson. So, here's what I would do were I in their position and wanted to see Robinson gone.

I would do something like what happened tonight with the resolution, except I'd change the last paragraph from seeking his resignation to setting out conditions for his continued employment.

Then I'd make those conditions some combination of EXACTLY the processes, procedures and programs I wanted Robinson to follow and impossibly high goals. I'd find a way to make it stick (maybe it would have to be done in conjuction with a terrible evaluation and something like a plan of assistance). Then I'd wait for Robinson to either do exactly what the board demanded (in which case the board wins, assuming it really is about the students and not Alexander hating on Robinson), or for Robinson to fail to meet the impossibly high standards (which would give the board, I assume, a legal fig leaf to hide behind when firing him), or Robinson to give up and leave of his own accord.

In two of the three scenarios, Robinson is gone. In the other, the board gets EXACTLY what it wants. Again assuming this is ultimately about education (which is, to me, an increasingly bad assumption), the board wins.

Frankly, I think nothing like this has happened because a) Alexander really has no idea what the hell is going on in regards to education; b) Alexander is not patient enough to pursue this kind of strategy; possibly also c) Alexander cares more about getting rid of Robinson than education, for whatever reason.

In any case, as much as Robinson has angered certain portions of the community, I'm going to keep hammering on the same points until things change: At least the guy's got some idea of the need to face the 21st century when it comes to education. The board, thus far, does not appear to. As well, process matters. If something like removing Robinson is going to stick, it has to be done in a way that doesn't result in - as one commenter alluded to - an atomic bomb being dropped on the district. Again, so far Alexander and Wineteer seem to unable to figure out how to do this within the constraints handed to them.

So that's the aside. Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging.


Well, the recall election and effort is going forward; this much I know.

The effort to oust Robinson (because I do think that's what it was) tonight failed.

There is one more regular board meeting between now and the date of the recall election, scheduled for - do you believe it! - October 6th, the day before the polls close and ballots are counted. Last chances and all that.

There is another math meeting scheduled for September 24th (contact the LCSD for details; I don't have them), which might be explosive, given that all accounts have Finch as not being very responsive to anyone, and that parents collectively demanded answers from him at tonight's board meeting.

The board could always call a special session.

There may or may not be negotiations between the LCSD Board of Directors and Superintendent Robinson over his resignation.

A certain math teacher may or may not still be regretting noting he doesn't grade homework (for what it's worth, I had him as a teacher, and he's phenomenally good and dedicated to his job; it would be folly to do anything but listen to what he has to say).

Word is coming around (expect more on this in the next few days) about some very, very interesting data on the math scores in Lebanon when compared to Sand Ridge, Corvallis, Sweet Home, and the state as a whole.

Oh, and one more thing: If nothing else, I am becoming more and more convinced that LHS Principal Mark Finch needs to start appearing (or actually being) more responsive to parents and the community. It costs him nothing and may save him from a crowd armed with torches and pitchforks - and that's meant literally - even as I note, as I did at LT's blog, that I think mid-September is far too early to call for his head.

Soon: More on the math situation, including, I hope, something like actual data.

Also coming soon: the text of Wineteer and Alexander's statements about the recall. (Remember, they were to resign or submit 200 words justifying their continued presence on the board as a result of there being enough signature gathered.)

My hands are tired, and so am I. That's all you get for now.

Liveblogging the LCSD Special Session

I will try and liveblog the LCSD Special Session that's happening Monday, in case anyone wants to follow along. Consider yourself forewarned.

6:50 PM - Just got situated and online. There is no sign of the board and the room is almost full already. Wow.

7 PM - Kelley came out to announce that Wineteer told him they'd be another 15-20 minutes. Kelley had a really big smile plastered on his face.

7:15 PM - There are a lot of older white men in suits in the room, all carrying leather cases. I could be wrong, but they all look like attorneys. Meeting is starting.

Other notable attendees: Lyndon Brown, Jay Jackson, the Bauers, Tre Kennedy, Joyce Weatherly, etc.

7:16 PM - McUne makes motion "Whereas relationship between LCSD board and Superintendent has broken down, and that breakdown has caused a loss of focus on student achievement, and that etc. etc..... be it resolved that Superintendent and Board enter into agreement regarding negotiations about resignation of superintendent."

Shimmin seconds.

No discussion.

Vote: Unanimous (did not hear Fisher vote).

Room is alternating between shocked silence and applause.

Holy crap.

7:17 PM - Floor is open to audience comments.

Dave Champion - representing a number of parents in the audience. Noted that parents have signed in and ceded time to Dave. Has prepared statement on behalf of parents to read.

.... parents want to engage administrators and staff at LHS in constructive dialogue

List of requests from parents regarding 9/24 public meeting:

1. Linda Denham (??) a chance to speak.

2. Rep from teaching staff share thoughts on parent involvement, student performance, what they need from parents.

3. Group that visited Oregon City and Forest Grove present their findings.

4. List of concerns to be addressed and commented on by Mr. Finch at public meeting.
4a. That the academy system is not helpful.
4b. Cross-academy territorialism and intimidation is a bad thing [Dennis agrees wholeheartedly]
4c. Scheduling is fragmented, and this is problematic, especially for math.
4d. Suggested that forming departments rather than academies would be better.
4e. Early notification of parents. Want active, rather than passive, communication regarding the status of their children.
4f. Class schedules delivered too late. Need before first day of class - want at least two weeks before the start of class - and want staff available to address schedule corrections as required.
4g. Concerned that students are advanced a grade even when underperforming (defined as D or F). Worried about students falling further behind.

Concludes @ 7:23 PM.

Wineteer: Can we have a written copy?

Special session is over. Wineteer adjourns.

Maybe it's time to tighten up that comment policy

DH education reporter Jennifer Moody has a story on the website dealing with dual-language education programs and the possible effects of Measure 58, which would limit the amount of non-English instruction for K-12 students to two years:

Jones will teach her second-graders in Spanish for half the school day. In the afternoon, they’ll move next door, speaking and hearing only English, while Jones works in Spanish with the group who spent the morning on the English side.

Dual-language immersion programs have been a popular option at Corvallis schools for about nine years. But their future is uncertain under an initiative on the November ballot, Measure 58, which would limit the time children can spend in classes taught in languages other than English.

I would encourage you to read the story; it's got some good information. The comments, however, are not as encouraging. There were three when I checked (just scroll down to the bottom of the story):

steveo wrote on Sep 14, 2008 7:38 AM:

" Its a sad day when schools start getting sued for not providing dual language classes, We have a common language to interact with each other and where will this stop 7 or 8 languages more with all this given to diffrent languages what will our children learn so they can make it in the world. It seeems we are becoming a nation to cater and I worry the basics will be lost and in the end more kids lossing the fundementals which they will need but I guess if we can all talk we can be more like our goverment talk,talk but get little done. "

I am tempted to make a comment about fundamentals and steveo's grasp of the written word. Moving on:

btrflygirl67 wrote on Sep 14, 2008 6:20 PM:

" I agree with Sizemore !!! We should be focusing on English. If Parents want their children to learn Spanish- Hire a tutor or HEY BUY A BOOK AND TEACH IT AT HOME!! I worry that we will be voting soon whether or not we have to choose if English or Spanish is our "first" language- C'mon People wake up!!!! "

And, of course, the it's-so-cliche-you-mean-it's-not-parody comment:

gmham wrote on Sep 15, 2008 8:39 AM:

" this isn't mexico or any other country!!!!!!!! this is america!!!!!!!!!!! if you don't like our language, which is english, then get the heck out and go home!!!!!!!!! talk about discrimation, why aren't there classes taught in chinese or russian??? i am sick of my kid coming home complaining he didn't understand things in class because it was taught in spanish..........i think it is about time to sue the school district myself for discriminating against my child for being american and speaking is a bunch of bull....."

I want to be clear about two things:

1) Dual-language programs have basically zero downsides. People who go through them are more employable, more able to move about in different cultures (and different countries), speak two languages, build community with more diverse groups and at younger ages, etc. Yes, it's a struggle to learn another language, but it's also much easier to do at an early age. Have I failed at learning another langauge as a teen and adult? Yes. Do I wish I'd had Spanish/English dual language when I was in elementary school? Heck yes.

2) The comments made about the story are racist and ignorant of history. I wish I could say I was surprised that the DH approved them, but I'm not (sometimes the "let them hang themselves" thing is outweighed by the harm that's done by posting the comments). Furthermore, the comments have little, if anything, to do with the actual story, but are instead reactions to a fear of a generalized Other. One might also call it xenophobia.

Sigh. Between this and the imminent and massive financial meltdown (and it's only Monday), I suppose it's time I retreat to my hideout in the Cascades and start the guerrilla radio broadcasts calling for the overthrow of the remnants of capitalism. I don't know how else I'm going to survive the week.

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