Wednesday, April 19

Olio: Hoosier Edition

• The city of Kokomo, which is not a Caribbean island but is an under-appreciated euphemism for sexual intercourse, has been ordered to pay $11,000 in attorney's fees for the legal representation of 16-year-old Kokomo Western High School student Ryan Nees. Attorney William Groth had taken the case pro-bono.

Nees made national headlines last year when he sued the city under Indiana public access law for its refusal to hand over its email list. He had subscribed to the city newsletter, and shortly thereafter began receiving campaign messages from Mayor Matt McKillip. Kokomo lost that case earlier this year. Nees said he actually favored keeping such lists private, but that if one party had access to them for political purposes, other parties should as well.

Never one to ignore public concerns, America's Third-Worst State Legislature™ promptly amended the law to keep email lists private. An amendment to the bill which would have prohibited political use of such lists was...defeated.

• The four juveniles detained in the Johnson County Little Columbine case will not be tried as adults. Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner, who originally jumped at the chance to announce his office would seek to try the four in adult court, while simultaneously missing the opportunity to inform the public the four were special education students, told the Star the decision was based on the just-returned psychological evaluation of the boys and their criminal histories:

"In these cases, none of the kids had any significant juvenile record," Hamner said.

Although the psychological profiles are confidential, the information in them would impel a court to retain the cases in the juvenile system, he added.

Incidentally, I had an email exchange with Paul Bird, the Star reporter who wrote or co-wrote most of its coverage. Specifically, I asked him why it took nearly three weeks before the information that the boys were special education students came out. I was not particularly blaming the paper, and my email mentioned that the prosecutor, the sheriff, and the Center Grove principal had all failed to mention that fact while fanning the initial flames. Mr. Bird wrote back to tell me that information had been in the original story. I wrote back to him saying that I had copies of the original story, the later online update, and the next day's longer coverage, and it wasn't in any of them. I think at that point he misplaced my addy.

• Meanwhile, on Monday local teevee news caught up with the story that Indianapolis Public Schools ordered the elimination of forty-two percent of the teachers at one high school, and 35 percent at another. None of those teachers was informed whether they'd have a job next year. Channel 8's Leslie Olsen (who my wife says is the best of the locals by far) says that IPS has tried to keep the story quiet.

Or until Tuesday they did. The spur apparently found someplace tender, as Channel 13 was reporting at first that layoffs might not be a large as feared, and then that someone downtown had used the wrong figures and the numbers were out of whack.

We'll see. Official pink slips must reach teachers by May 1.

Olsen actually took a swipe at tackling the issue head-on on Tuesday, when she covered "teacher complaints" that IPS administration was bloated at a time when teaching staffs were being skeletonized due to budget cuts. Olsen engaged in a little faux-balance, reporting that the state education website showed administrative positions down slightly from last year, but the fact is that new Superintendent Eugene White has added several layers of insulation around his own office, and nobody's been talking about cutting that by forty percent.

It's a massive cluster-fuck in an already troubled and impoverished system, and a prime example of how the real problem in public education, pace John Stossel, can generally be traced to its administration, and that to control by elected officials, not convenient bugbears like the International Teachers' Union Conspiracy.

Naturally I'll have more to say about this, but for now another mention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Small Schools Initiative, which the outgoing superintendent signed IPS up for whole-hog beginning this year. IPS was by far the largest, and the only major urban school district to do so in all its high schools at once.

It's predicated on the idea that dividing large schools into smaller "learning communities" allows teachers to get to know students better and be more attentive to individual needs. It's an $11.3 M project locally, administered by something called the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis.

Okay so far, except for that Operation Infinite Justice moniker. But first of all, the money doesn't go into the classroom. Students won't see a penny of it. It goes for training and conventions and junkets, and the administration of the program. For this we completely reorganized our high schools from one year to the next, which resulted in horrible turf wars at my wife's school, which was said to have been the best-implemented of the bunch.

And it's interesting that now that we're facing an increase in class sizes nearing 50% in a lot of cases, the U of I professor who heads the boondoggle program says that research indicates larger high school class sizes can still work within the small school framework if class sessions are longer. Which you'd think sorta defeated the idea behind "small learning communities", even if you weren't wondering why they didn't just propose making classes longer in the first place, or why a professor of education doesn't seem to know that class time is a matter of law and not amenable to instantaneous change just to keep someone's reputation from taking a hit.

• Oh, and our voting machines are so fucked that school board ballots in 150 precincts will have to be counted by hand. Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler, who has now presided over three screwed-up elections, but, on the plus side, is pretty hot for a County Clerk, tried to explain how this problem, unlike all the other problems which have cropped up statewide during testing, was not the fault of software provider ES&S (Motto: "We're Not Diebold, We Just Have Interlocking Directorates"). Unfortunately, my Gibberish is a little rusty. It sounded like she was saying the school board races were too complicated for the software, and that there would have been the same problem with the old lever machines. Either that, or she was asking for some Valium in Esperanto.


Anonymous said...

Ah, my early-morning cardio-and-hysterical-laughing workout.

Someone needs to make a poster of the ES&S motto. Maybe with a Death Star logo.

I'm hoping your wife hasn't fallen prey to the latest round of purges--when they're economic, talent and skill are not necessarily the criteria for who's kept, and school administrators are notoriously stupid.

Anonymous said...

Just what kind of commie Republicans do you have in Indiana?
"...Doris Anne attended the University of Leningrad in the Soviet Union ..."

Photo here.

She looks like one of those trophy wives we get a lot of up here in Michigan. Which I know is totally orthogonal to any of the issues you posted about, but I just took my meds and I won't be thinking for about another two hours.

Anonymous said...

Uh. That thing about "Kokomo?" I never heard that before.

T.H. said...

bunny, doris anne's bio doesn't say when she was at the u of leningrad (go big red!). maybe it was when gorbachev was the head red; i doubt it was under the reigns of brezhnev, andropov and chernenko.