Friday, July 5, 2013

George Schmidt Rebuts Defense of Paul Vallas on Ravitch Blog - Updated

Vallas's desire to grab headlines with his dead kid policy only added to the problems at the local schools... a couple of times students came to me in a rage after a death and demanded to know WHO THOSE DAMNED OUTSIDERS ARE! The preacher patronage crowd never asked the school whether it needed them. Vallas simply ordered the school to take their (Christian) services....
Every student who needed glasses got them -- through the union, not CPS. Every union delegate had an application for eyeglasses, and we regularly gave them out to kids' families who were identified as needing glasses. What Vallas did was "invent" a wheel that we already had rolling and then take credit for it.... George Schmidt
George sent this response to the comments posted on Diane's blog defending Vallas by Diane Fager, Director of Policy and Program Development under Vallas at the CPS.Ravitch makes it clear -- it is not she who is defending Vallas but is offering space to a defender. I'm fine with that but I wonder if some of Joel Klein's lackeys send in defenses would they get space too? For in fact, every one of these clowns have people who worked for them who love them. Where else can you make big bucks on the back of children?

(Also see: George Schmidt Rakes Over Paul Vallas: Liar, Crook...). 

Make sure to check the comments at the Ravitch blog which go long and deep with a few more Vallas defenders popping up but not many. And the work of Connecticut blogger John Pelto -- here is one such piece: Even in defeat, Vallas can’t face reality or explain the truth…

July 5, 2013

Norm:

Every one of those programs was bullshit. I was there, and I know the facts. To take one example, Vallas did NOT introduce an eyeglasses program. That had begun by the Chicago Teachers Union during the Great Depression, and the union held a fundraiser every year to keep the "Eyeglasses Fund" endowed. Every student who needed glasses got them -- through the union, not CPS. Every union delegate had an application for eyeglasses, and we regularly gave them out to kids' families who were identified as needing glasses. What Vallas did was "invent" a wheel that we already had rolling and then take credit for it.

The way these items are phrased ("He funded..." etc.) every one of these items bears the stamp of the incredible Vallas ego. 

The most obnoxious example below is the funeral thing. Vallas cut security and undermined security operations throughout his time as CEO. He also began the odious practice of allowing the media to announce the name of the school that a child had attended after the child was murdered. Since the school was seldom involved in the shooting, Vallas's desire to grab headlines with his dead kid policy only added to the problems at the local schools. As to the support stuff that went into the school, it was worse than useless -- and probably unconstitutional. Vallas began a (still continuing) policy of preacher patronage where a group of preachers (always as far as I could identify, Christian) would descend on a school after a "school related" death to provide some kind of "comfort" (often, pompous prayer, almost always when a TV camera was around). I remember a couple of times when students came to me in a rage after a death and demanded to know WHO THOSE DAMNED OUTSIDERS ARE! The preacher patronage crowd never asked the school whether it needed them. Vallas simply ordered the school to take their (Christian) services. 

As you know, I was coordinator of security and safety at Bowen High School from 1996 to 1999. What we needed when we had a "dead kid day" (usually after a weekend when a gang banger had been murdered over the weekend) was the ability to bring the kids into a place where they could mourn with people who knew them (the teachers; counselors; other staff) -- NOT SOMEONE DROPPED IN FROM THE OUTSIDE WITH A PRAYER CARD.

One of the other things that made a difference when a kid was murdered was out ability to catch and prosecute the shooter. I helped with that process after Antwan Jordan was murdered outside Bowen in December 1997 (I watched him die with a bullet through his head and called in the "187" as part of my duties as security coordinator). Our job from that point on was to help the police capture the shooters and bring them to justice -- THEN to help the kids with the mourning. 

We managed to get four kids who had handled the gun, including the shooter, before Christmas that year. 

Paying for the funerals was a nice thing, but far from any kind of solution to the problems of Chicago's drug gangs. If anything, by his bizarre management style -- and the use of high stakes testing to distort schooling -- Vallas did the opposite.

I could go on, but this anonymous nonsense made me angry. 
Ask Diane why she didn't identify the Vallas apologist she is allowing to quote at length here.



New post on Diane Ravitch's blog

In Defense of Paul Vallas

by dianerav
Many who post and comment on this blog have been critical of Paul Vallas. All have their own reasons, but much criticism has focused on the tales of "saving" Chicago, Philadelphia, and Néw Orleans. The latter two turned privatization into a "reform" strategy.
But there is another side to Vallas, which came as a comment by a reader:
As we know, nothing in life is black or white which is how I view Paul Vallas. I worked for Paul at the Chicago Public Schools as the Director of Policy and Program Development. Specifically my role was to identify and obtain non-traditional, sustainable funding for school based social and health services. Why? Because Paul Vallas felt that unless you addressed the holistic needs of children, you weren't serious about students' reaching their full academic potential.
I realize it is extremely simplistic to frame education policy in short phrases but for purposes of making a point, I will take that liberty. One of the most critical debates of our time is how do we effectively educate children/youth- especially those in large urban school districts. On the one hand, there are those that believe that it is all about the "effectiveness of the teachers" as measured by the outcomes of standardized tests taken by their students in one day. On the other hand, there are those of us who believe that unless you address the impact of poverty, the most incredible teachers imaginable will be compromised in their efforts to enable their students to reach their full academic potential.
Since I judge leaders by their actions and not their words, Paul Vallas exemplified the position that educators must address the impact of poverty on students lives. Since Paul knew that some kids were failing because they literally couldn't read the blackboard due to not having eye glasses, he started CPS' Vision Program in which students who failed their vision screenings were bused in a school that had been set up as Vision Center in which students received full exams and eye glasses on site- all for free. The Vision program continues to serve thousands of students at CPS-95% of whom needed glasses. But since Paul knew that students couldn't attend school regularly if they didn't have access to a doctor, he funded the KidCare Program- a school based enrollment program for free and low cost health insurance. School based enrollment in public benefit programs continues at CPS by the Children and Family Benefits Unit who enrolled over 13,000 students in food stamps/SNAP and Medicaid/SCHIP Insurance last year.
Paul was also the first superintendent to fund a school based teen pregnancy program, "Cradle to the Classroom", that was in over 70 high schools. Why did he do that when needless to say, it was not a popular idea in Chicago at the time? Because when advocates showed him the impact of school based programs on attendance and graduation rates as well as the long term outcomes of the teens' babies, he never hesitated. Cradle to the Classroom went on to become a nationally recognized program. Paul also understood the impact of violence on students' ability to thrive and learn.
As a historian, Paul understood the risk of people becoming desensitized to children and youth being murdered or struck down by a stray bullet. So he funded the Youth Outreach Workers to not only mitigate the potential for violence by having school patrols before and after an incident of school based violence but also to address the psychological and economic needs of the victims' families and their peers. Specifically, Paul ensured that students were buried with dignity which meant that when needed, CPS paid for the whole funeral- first with Paul's personal funds and then later with the Childrens' First Fund created for that purpose. To try and help with the grief of the victims' friends and teachers, crisis workers were immediately deployed to the victims' schools and grief counseling was provided. He even funded buses to transport students from their schools to the funeral home.
There are many more examples that I could give but hopefully these few illustrate my point. Paul never wavered in his support for these programs even when others said that with strains on school funding, why should CPS fund social and health service programs? They also criticized him for his prioritization of early childhood education but Paul did not waver since he saw early childhood education as the cornerstone of learning and one of the most effective anti-poverty strategies available to educators.
As some would say- Paul marched to his own drum. In my opinion, as well as the majority of my colleagues then working under Paul at the time, we admired Paul's priorities and guts. Did I agree with all of his initiatives- of course not. But who is perfect which is my very point!! In my opinion, it is not helpful to view Paul Vallas and his legacy through one lens because that is too simplistic and counter-productive in our attempts to learn from history. Compounding that complexity is Paul's willingness when it really counts to admit to his mistakes such as when Paul stated that the messaging of modern day education wan NOT the problem,but rather it's the product that is the problem including a reference to the "testing industrial complex". He even made fun of himself by saying that this might sound like Nixon going to China hearing this from him. Do some of us wish that he had realized and admitted this sooner- of course. But its better late than never and its only one part of the story.

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