Not a Keeper

Image result for fisherman small catch fish
Smiling for the mug shot.

Every angler knows that the size of fish that may be kept is regulated. For example, in South Florida, speckled perch under 10 inches in length caught in Lake Okeechobee must be released at once. In salt water, such as would be found around the Florida keys, a red snapper must be at least 20 inches in length if caught in the Atlantic Ocean or 16 inches in length if caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

Someone needs to explain this to the Dennis Ward, the State Attorney of Monroe County (Florida.) From a news network in the Keys comes the story of the arrest of a 10-year old girl for the act of being terrified of a school shooting and bringing a steak knife to school with which to protect herself.

Not a keeper: she’s too small.

“This was an unfortunate incident, but it was handled quickly and professionally by our School Resource Officer Robert Bulnes and school officials,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “I’m grateful this young girl did not threaten anyone and that did not appear to be her intent. I’m also grateful to report that the incident was handled jointly with our law enforcement and community partners who decided what the appropriate criminal measures should be going forward.”

That gurgling sound you are hearing is air in the school-to-prison pipeline. In Monroe County, they need to fill it up and any size will do.

For the rest of us, we have to question the wisdom of this decision. The 5th-grader had no intention of threatening anyone, even less than to harm anyone. Why an arrest? Why proceed with criminal charges?

What is the point?

It would be better to proceed with restorative practices, to address the young girl’s fears, and to explain to her why she made a bad decision and how it impacted others.

Why is this so hard nowadays?

Yesterday, a young lady walked out of my room. Many teachers might have immediately written a referral, but Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) did not. She walked out for a reason and, until GOT knows what that reason is, he cannot decide upon the best reaction. GOT planned to call her mother during his planning period and ask her to talk to her child, but he had an opportunity to talk to the student at lunchtime. She explained why she left the classroom and GOT had the opportunity to explain how he had to work as the teacher in the room. The issue was resolved; no punishment needed.

Do not tell GOT that the 10-year-old couldn’t get counseling services to deal with her fears unless she was given a juvenile arrest record and entered the justice system. There are ways of doing that if services are needed without an arrest.

We have become a harsh nation indeed if we have lost the qualities of mercy and grace. The authorities determined that she did not threaten anyone or intend to.

Image result for fisherman small catch fish

She’s not a keeper. Put her back in the water, Mr. State Attorney, Mr. Sheriff, and all others involved in this terrible decision.

Quick Draw McGraw

Note to Greatly-Appreciated Readers: Grumpy Old Teacher is a reflective blog. GOT doesn’t try to break the news or be the first to opine. Rather, GOT allows himself time to ponder the meaning of what is happening in the education world and then to express his thoughts, sometimes funny, sometimes odd, sometimes with the crowd, sometimes not. Thus, GOT is only now getting around to last week’s news about the Commissioner of Education saying that schools should arm teachers and dismiss their School Resource Officers.

Commissioner Corcoran brings back memories of childhood.

“In 10 years, every single school in the state of Florida will have guardian teachers,” he said. “It’s coming. It’s going to happen. It’s volunteer. It’s the safest, most absolute best outcome practices that you can have.” Thus said the Commish.

Is he for real? GOT supposes this is how our esteemed Commissioner views school security and the need for professional, trained personnel:

Love that dog biscuit at the end. Is there any better way to grasp how Florida’s politicians treat Florida’s teachers?

What could go wrong? Don’t reply everything–you would be correct, but the man from Lake County, which gave the state the shameful Willis McCall and his many outrages of miscarried justice and outright murder that Lake County residents were too cowed to effectively stop, believes himself to be the law and the law to be whatever he decides.

Let’s take a look at what the Commissioner has in mind:

At least school guardians get 176 hours of training, the equivalent of five weeks,
oh wait, that’s what TFA teachers get. Is this a coincidence or a farce?

GOT admits you may find this piece ridiculous, but that’s about all you can say about arming teachers in schools. But in this age of T…. (not gonna say it or the haters will troll me ad infinitum), anything seems to be accepted.

If you needed a visual of how Guardian Teachers … or custodians, secretaries, cafeteria workers, anyone else working in a school, would be expected to perform, go into the mine with Quick Draw.

And if you think this is a serious solution to school violence, don’t come out. And please, pretty please, pretty please with a cherry on top, take Corcoran with you.

A theme song for the Commissioner. He ought to open every Florida State Board of Education Meeting with it.


Dear Lenny, it’s never a good idea for a politician to tweet in the wee hours of the morning.

Lenny, Scott Shine will fill you in.

From First Coast News, we get the exchange: A local teacher responded to a Curry tweet complaining about the air conditioning in his classroom. The mayor took the bait and responded that he would see that repairs would be made if the teacher told him where he taught and his classroom number.

Apparently sometime later, another teacher urged all teachers to send their maintenance needs to the mayor’s office.

Lenny, you enthusiastically responded. You thought this was a great chance to show up the school board and the superintendent as incompetent. The hero mayor to the rescue! Lenny will see it done.

Mayor, you’ve been had.

The idea for teachers, parents, and students to drown your office with emails about needed maintenance has been kicking around for about two months giving your obstruction over the sales tax issue and your willing accomplices on the City Council following your orders.

The many activists who want to see the referendum on a ballot never took up the idea.

Until now. How many emails are you getting? If very little, it only means that as a protest against your bullying ways, people realize it will have no effect.

Or, since you have invited the emails as a propaganda play, teachers et al. are too savvy to fall for this.

Lenny, last week a teenager refused to take his headphones off in class and stop listening to music. When I insisted, he tried to stare me down. Do you think I would take the dare and engage in a staring contest? That would pull me down to his level. No, I am the adult and he is only a child. I quickly established that fact and the child put his headphones in his book bag as I told him to.

You are acting childish. You are cutting a ridiculous figure as you think you can one-up the school board and the superintendent. That is what a child would do.

As GOT (Grumpy Old Teacher) said, early AM tweets are never a good idea for a politician. Far better would be a good night’s sleep. You need about eight hours a night, and your tweets indicate that would mean you need to stay in the sack until about 10 AM–far after the time you should arrive for work.

Yes, Lenny, go to bed. Stop embarrassing yourself.

All you have shown the city is your partisanship, your desire to rule all, and the rest of us are collateral damage.

If you really wanted to fix the AC, you would not have tweeted. You would have called Diana Greene in the morning and told her you would move ahead with the repair of schools.

In the Crosshairs: Diana Greene

“The School Board should have let us choose the new superintendent.” –The Civic Council

Jason Fischer led off by amending his J-bill to change the Duval County School Board from an elected body to a mayor-appointed one. Now he wants to make the Superintendent of Schools an elected position.

The Charter Review Commission has taken up the idea and they are brooking no opposition. In an astounding confusion over how a Jaguars game should end and how a public commission should end its meeting, the Chair, Lindsey Brock, gaveled an end to yesterday’s meeting at 12 Noon sharp, not only depriving attending citizens of their right to public comment, but also cutting off two commission members who were going to dissent.

The idea was first floated by Jacksonville’s mayor, whom Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) affectionately calls ‘Boss Curry.’

To understand all this, we have to go back to the Nikolai Vitti years, when the now-Detroit superintendent was running Jacksonville’s schools.

One of the puzzling aspects of Dr. Vitti’s leadership was that he didn’t seem to regard the elected School Board as the persons who hired him and to whom he was accountable. He seemed to act like the persons he really answered to were the unelected wealthy and political elite of the city, who (at the time) controlled the entity Jacksonville Public Education Fund and worked out their desires out of the scrutiny of the public through the private organization known as the Civic Council, whose point man on education is Gary Chartrand, the Ponte Vedra businessman who has pulled strings in Jacksonville for over a decade.

We learned this in a moment of candor when a former mayor, John Delaney, said, “For what it’s worth I’ve been warning Gary (Chartrand) and others for years that Vitti’s weaknesses need to be managed.”

After Nikolai Vitti resigned to take the superintendent job in Detroit, the School Board began the process of hiring a new leader for Jacksonville’s schools. It was at this time that the Civic Council intervened as they argued that a school board election was six months away and that the new board members should be the ones to hire the superintendent. In the meantime, they would do the city a favor by conducting a search for candidates themselves and selecting the person who should be hired.

To say it displeased Gary Chartrand and his Civic Council pals as well as others in the elite that the School Board ignored them, went ahead with a search, and hired Dr. Diana Greene would be an understatement.

It’s not personal, but she won’t answer to them. She works with the School Board, the constitutional, elected officers entrusted with oversight of the city’s school system. They cannot stand that and they are out to change it.

The first idea floated was to change the school board from elected to appointed. That would require approval by the city’s voters and the idea is deeply unpopular. If Boss Curry could appoint the school board, he could control it like he does JEA and other city boards and dictate his decisions to them.

But it is unlikely he could gain that control. So the solution is to take the superintendent away from the Board, thus rendering them impotent as far as policy-making goes.

A county-wide election would place the position into large fund-raising needs in order to gain name recognition among the electorate. That favors any candidate put forth by the wealthy elite.

Are you now getting it? Boss Curry, along with the concurrence of the elite, sees that control of the schools lies in being able to determine who the superintendent is.

And they don’t want Diana Greene.

They want to privatize the city’s schools. Greene would revive them, especially in the long-ignored places like the Northwest corridor.

Rebuild schools with a sales tax? They oppose that. They know that Greene’s success in Manatee County in having the voters approve a supplemental tax has resulted in rising enrollment numbers in Manatee’s traditional schools.

Diana Greene is a nightmare for those who claim that the only chance a child has in Jacksonville is in a charter school. (Looking at you, Rory Diamond, and your attempt to walk back on First Coast Connect last Monday didn’t work.)

Don’t believe them when they say that the voters desire to choose is what they want.

They want to get rid of Diana Greene.

They want a superintendent who will turn the city’s schools over to private operators.

It’s about money and control, not serving the needs of the city, its citizens, and its children.

The irony of all this is that the last time Jacksonville had an elected superintendent was during the pre-consolidation days. You remember that time when the schools lost their accreditation.

GOT is only expressing an opinion here, but it seems to him the Boss Curry, his minions, the City Council, and the Civic Council would be okay if that happened.

They could close all the schools and make Jacksonville 100% charter in one move.

The Weather Rebukes You!

48 hours ago, Jacksonville citizens watched a farce unfold in the chambers of the City Council. A few people were unruly; therefore, the chair (Scott Wilson) threw a temper tantrum by engaging in the unprecedented act of clearing the entire council room of all audience members.

The issue at hand was the school board’s request for a referendum on a half-cent sales tax to fund the replacement or renovation of school buildings that are literally falling apart.

Too many council representatives parroted the talking points they received from the Civic Council (a/k/a the business/wealthy elite in the city); among them, that the proposed rebuilding of schools to state standards for school buildings was unnecessary. Charter schools are not burdened by these requirements and they advocated for construction on the cheap.

Along came Dorian … roaring Dorian, slow-moving Dorian, Cat 4 Dorian …

“Gimme the deed to the ranch …” LOL, a bonus to the song that livens up the post. Isn’t that the position of the Civic Council, the City Council, and all others supporting privatization of our public schools?

Back to Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) point. Right after council member after council member questioned the school board’s desire for strong buildings, a hurricane took aim at Florida.

It’s coming, oh yes, it’s coming. Go beyond the official forecast and look at the model predictions. The two best ones are the red (European) and the yellow (U.S.)

Sorry, City Council, but the oncoming storm rebukes you. If you had bothered to pay attention to what the Duval County School Board had said, you would have learned that they said they would meet with the City to discuss what shelters are needed and those locations would be built to shelter standards. As for the rest, well, where do we want to be in a storm?

Even Richard Corcoran, Florida’s current Commissioner of Education, must be taken aback. After his sneers about building Taj Mahals, the question now must be asked:

Commissioner, where do you want to be in the storm? In a Taj Mahal or a under that tree where you said Plato could be taught?

Dorian rebukes you.

Remember that in the aftermath when you want to return to your talking points.

Not Again, Yet We Grieve

Grumpy Old Teacher works at a high school in Jacksonville, Florida. When we experienced the death of a student in a tragic auto accident three years ago, GOT penned this thought. It has happened again.

The Fates [in Greek mythology] were personified as three very old women who spin the threads of human destiny. Their names were Clotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Allotter), and Atropos (Inflexible). Clotho spun the “thread” of human fate, Lachesis dispensed it, and Atropos cut the thread (thus determining the individual’s moment of death). –from Wikipedia

And when Atropos dips her scissors into Clotho’s bag of flax, what then?

A life cut short, too short, a life that never reached its moment to fulfill all that we intended for it.

The thread had not been spun, not completely, but now it is no more.

All that is left is grief and tears and anger and fear and sorrow.

Regret for those of us who are old and would have willingly traded our life for the young one taken too soon.

Shock for those who are young and cannot fathom how their belief, born of their age and development, that they will last forever somehow turns out to be wrong.

Gone. Just gone.

There are no words when a young person dies. It is not the time to philosophize about free will and evil, the choices we make, and the consequences we suffer. It is not the time to rage in debate about God and his creation. It is not the time to fall into nihilism.

It is a time to grieve.

It is a time to love.

A time to remember and be strong for those who despair.

 In Meam Commemorationem (out of respect for the family, I do not list the name.)

A J-Bill

A bill about Js? Don’t get excited; it’s not about cannabis.

What is a J-Bill? It is legislation being considered by the Florida legislature that will amend the city charter of Jacksonville without a referendum of Duval County voters.

According to the Office of General Counsel, ” Under the Jacksonville Consolidation Amendment in Article VIII, section 9 Florida Constitution (1885), as held over, the State Legislature retains jurisdiction to amend or extend the Charter without referendum.” (See slide 16 of the link.)

” The Legislature shall have power to establish, alter or abolish, a Municipal corporation to be known as the City of Jacksonville, extending territorially throughout the present limits of Duval County, in the place of any or all county, district, municipal and local governments, boards, bodies and officers, constitutional or statutory, legislative, executive, judicial, or administrative, and shall prescribe the jurisdiction, powers, duties and functions of such municipal corporation, its legislative, executive, judicial and administrative departments and its boards, bodies and officersbut so long as such Municipal corporation exists under this Section the Legislature may amend or extend the law authorizing the same without referendum to the qualified voters unless the Legislative act providing for such amendment or extension shall provide for such referendum.” (Source: Article VIII, Section 9 of the Florida State Constitution) (Bold emphasis is mine.)

That enables Jason Fischer, the member of the Florida House of Representatives–District 16 (Mandarin), who is attempting an end run around the latest incarnation of Jacksonville’s Charter Review Commission that meets every ten years, the means to introduce a bill that would change the school board from an elected body to one whose members are appointed by the mayor.

Chris Guerrieri, Jacksonville’s long-time local education blogger, has been reporting unfolding events in his posts and uncovered the fact that the source of the proposed legislative change is none other than the Office of General Counsel.

Events are moving so fast in this story that it’s hard to know what to think from one day to the next.

Therefore, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is not going to try. Rather, he is taking a long view based upon Florida/Southern history.

As Reconstruction ended in 1876, the period was marked by a resumption of power by the wealthy planter class, who if deprived of their slaves, was establishing a new means of exploiting the labor and maintaining the poverty of poor black citizens. As they had in the antebellum days, blacks continued their activism in pushing for their rights and the rights of others with whom they felt an affinity, especially the struggle in Cuba for freedom and independence from Spain.

Other events of the times involved the organization of labor that included the cooperation of working class whites and blacks in the struggle against the power of corporate interests. As they achieved some success in cities like Jacksonville and Pensacola, the planter class, now evolving into the corporate class of business owners, struck back.

Beyond the establishment of domestic terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and voter suppression that were diminishing the political power and rights of black citizens, they would work to eliminate unions in the interest of maintaining subsistence wages.

“In 1889, Florida state legislators revoked the city charter of Jacksonville, an act that empowered the governor to replace pro-labor elected officials with a white regime that was controlled by the state.” (Source: An African-American and Latinx History of the United States, Paul Ortiz, Beacon Press, 2018, page 90.)

At the same time, the state legislature revoked the city charters of Key West, where a free society of blacks, Cubans, whites, and others intermingled in all ways, including marriage and sharing of governmental power, and Pensacola, where a pro-labor local government also presented a threat.

Business is better than farming, but I did make my money in wholesaling groceries.

130 years later, and it’s the same story, the Never-Ending Story. (Apologies to the movie.) Wealth brings power and they don’t intend to share either.

Instead of ex-plantation owners, Jacksonville has its Civic Council, not to be confused with the City Council. The City Council is the elected body of local legislators for the city. The Civic Council is not elected, it is a private group of wealthy business owners and politicians, along with a group of carefully-selected executives from city non-profit agencies.

Perhaps the mayor doesn’t trust the stacked Charter Review Commission, the one where education privatizers were selected. Maybe he thought the J-bill option would be faster. The Florida legislature will reconvene in January. Maybe he thought the CRC would choose an option other than mayor-appointed.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Lenny Curry, his slogan “One City, One Jacksonville” really means a silencing of dissent. It really means One Mayor Decides Everything.

Or maybe Lenny Curry is not in control; he is beholden to the corporate class, the wealthy elite that remains in control after all these years. It really doesn’t matter because the struggle is real and the latest J-bill is only one of a long series of attempts to consolidate power into the hands of an oligarchy.

An elected school board, one that responds to the voters and citizens who put them into office, offends the corporate class. They turn to their power in the legislature to stamp democratic resistance out of existence as they have done before.

FB picks up the last image in the post. So I’ll finish with this one. But the dragons in our story are not cuddly and they are not on our side, at least, if you believe in public schools.