GettyImages-182566801-EI would like to wish everyone a happy Equality Day!  August 26th is the date we commemorate (since 1971, thanks to Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY)) the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, giving women the equal right to vote in elections in the United States.   As part of the memorialization of this day and women in our nation’s history, one can still step into the Capitol rotunda and look for a statue of the Suffragettes: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony.  When you find it, you will notice there is still a part of the statue that remains uncarved.

This space is reserved exclusively for the bust of the first female President.

So while we wait, I thought today might be a great time to discuss other smaller ways to demonstrate equality in our midst.  I’ve experienced some great examples of sexism from people who never considered their comments to be sexist.  Here’s my list of things we could do (some individually and some collectively) to promote equality of our sisters, mothers, daughters, partners, and friends.  Enjoy! Continue reading

ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation

On a recent trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to take in the city’s art and restaurant scene, which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for a weekend.  More than just giving me loads of inspiration, the visit called me to reflect/question how a city’s identity is constructed.  Does the run of the mill Jane Smith typically reflect more on the history of a city or the trends of the present before she visits?  And what draws people to each city?  What makes them move there?  What makes them stay?  What drives them away?  Me?  I like low taxes and a great art scene.  I like walkability and commerce.  Others like quiet and quaint, picturesque views and still more love the hustle and bustle of of big city life.  As I focused my lens on Charlotte, I tried to think how my own city projects itself to the world.

Atlanta-rolling-1871Atlanta has a rich history, long before rising from the ashes of the Civil War.  My city, named Terminus, for its rail identity was one that sprang up from necessity of business, trade, and transportation.  Long before she ever became the Gateway to the South, Atlanta was buzzing with people moving to and fro, selling their wares and has always had a more transient population as a result.  Locals here know there are few true “native” Atlantans, as most Georgians coming from small towns move here to either try their hand at making it “big” in the “big city” or to escape the narrowness of living in a small town straight out of Faulkner.  My story was similar: farm girl grows up in Social Circle.  Studies hard in small town and attends the women’s’ college (Agnes Scott College) in small town close to bigger city.

I always like to ask people I meet why they moved here.  I know why I did, but I assume different strokes for different folks.  The resounding answer I tend to get is for “jobs” and the opportunity for upward mobility.  Is this legacy of a business oriented city still true?  Are we really a city that allows outsiders to come in and pull themselves up by the bootstraps to “make it”?  If so, how are we continuing to foster that image and promote growing business?

Atlanta has done a great job of promoting itself as a city “too busy to hate” and a place whose Mayor tries to be responsive to his business community.  Most recently, Mayor Reed had his Bobby Kennedy moment in the spot light as he tried to calm the #BlackLivesMatter movement protests in the streets.  In many ways, he navigated the storm well, with respect for the protestors and the blue line.  The moment Reed welcomed peaceful protests in the streets of Atlanta while asking them to stay out of the expressway was a moment I was truly proud of him!  I wish more people in the nation had the opportunity to see that side of our city.  In a city with a black mayor, a black city council, county commission and school board, we know from the bottom to the top that #blacklivesmatter here.

Mountaintop moments did not end in Atlanta with MLK, Jr. Continue reading “ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation”

A Flicker of Hope

candlesEditor’s note: I really don’t like folks who wear their religion on their sleeve.  It makes me uncomfortable, kinda like when the Deet mixes with your sweat when you’re doing yard work in Georgia in July and you can’t seem to move without everything sticking to you.  Maybe that’s just me.  Both instances leave me wanting to get out of that awkward situation quickly and shower off all the memories thereof.

That said, I am also not one to miss sharing a good word.  Thus in the midst of all the chaos and bad news that has filled my news feed as of late, I am happy to share a light in the darkness with all the readers out there.  I recently moved my letter of membership to The Church At Ponce & Highland. My Minister to Families, Carra Greer, and her husband, Brian Greer offered an amazing word a few weeks ago that spoke to the sadness and frustration I have felt recently, in light of all of the senseless killings of our own people.  Thus, I asked Carra if I might share their sermon with Southern Indeed readers.

It should also be said that Brian Greer is the first man Southern Indeed has featured as a writer- a thing of merit all of its own!

Personally, I really am not into complaining for the sake of hearing myself complain.  Me? I am a doer.  In my mind, there is always an opportunity for a resolution, solution, or way to fix things.  It may not be perfect or pretty, but one of the reasons I have always felt called to policy and politics is because I know in my heart we can always strive to improve.  I am no damsel in distress and you will rarely find me throwing my hands up in the air, looking for someone to swoop in and save me.  For this reason, this particular sermon really spoke to me and in turn, I share it with all of y’all for your consideration of what we may do and how we may find comfort.

The sermon focused on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:20-33.  Rather than focusing on the death and destruction, the Greers focused on the small flicker of light in the darkness.  That’s my kind of theology, but certainly does not have to be yours.  If discussions of faith and God are not your thing, you may wish to wait for the next post.  Conversely, if you would like the audio of the sermon, please click here.  And now onto the good stuff…

Continue reading “A Flicker of Hope”

How Do We Define Open Access?

How do we define open access?

periscopeThe ever present use of social media and the ability to self- report the ground breaking as well as the mundane has caused me to ponder these tools a bit.  I am grouped into the millennial age group, albeit on the older side.  I have recognized my generation’s preference on certain things alters our expectations.   This age group around the globe seems to be less and less interested with ownership of things, or with developing status through accumulating material goods and more the access to them.  Think of Über and Airbnb instead of buying a car or house.  So too, my age group seems to enjoy dabbling in multiple jobs, rather than focusing on life-long careers in one profession or another.

So, if we applied the same principle to politics, what would that look like? 

For my parents, it is important to have access to their elected officials on a city and county level.  For them this means attending meetings in the evening and if need be, catching a moment with decision makers at the local watering hole or breakfast spot.  EVERY small town has a local hangout where the older men sit and discuss the events of the day over biscuits and coffee.  Where you will find a good biscuit in a Southern town, so shall you find folks sitting in clusters discussing the way things “should be”.  My parents’ generation’s expectation of access was determined more by their own efforts, namey because there existed no other options.

Yet as we see so many of the long-held seats being vacated by members retiring, I wonder aloud what the future will bring.  Many of the old guard’s replacements are closer in age to me, if not even younger!  So what shall these young guns bring?  Perhaps more of the same status quo, with little transparency, the same glacial pace of addressing actual challenges faced by Southerners, and little actual informed engagement of the voters…or maybe not.

I remain more optimistic because our options have changed. Continue reading “How Do We Define Open Access?”

“So…What do you do?”

On a personal note….

I haven’t written in some months due to the fact that life got in the way.  An engagement, a house renovation, a move that combined two households, a death of a grandfather, a near death and hospitalization of a grandmother, identity theft, vehicle theft, and loss of health insurance will do that to a woman….even Steel Magnolias bruise and bend.  Yet I am consistently like a bad penny: I just keep turning up and will continue to offer my opinions (for whatever they are worth to others) for as long as I am able.  I intend to spend the next little bit writing through all of the topics I have wanted to cover and yet did not have the time to do so in the last few months, so bear with me as I bear witness and I hope that I can offer insight/ explanation as we go along together.

And now back to the reason you’re here….

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“What do you do?”

People ask this of one another because we search for common ground and for safe topics in small talk.  Alas, my job description usually isn’t anything like that.  People see the term “political consultant” and “lobbyist” as a loaded gun, aimed at their rights, their perceptions of how things should be, or they see me as some sort of elite class.

I repeatedly have to tell them it’s really not anything remotely like what you see on House of Cards. 

I am sincerely not powerful and my work is more on the side of being kind to everyone- even when they are not kind to me rather than passionately debating legislators or playing puppet master behind the scenes.  I am not debating that the Remy Denton types of lobbyists exist, I am just here to tell you: that isn’t me.

I typically answer that question with a shoulder shrug and the factual statement, “I talk to people.”  Many times before I have also asserted that I think a monkey could do my job.  To be honest, there are probably primates that are more fully functioning than a LOT of people in their jobs, but I digress…Now that I have had the fortune of meeting a number of people who are very book-smart but have zero ability to communicate effectively nor manage a filter on themselves, I have come to value my own diplomacy skills a bit better.  Not everyone can take rejection well, nor know they are being purposefully left out of conversations and still try to make a difference.

I would say these are my greatest gifts. 

Hearing “no” is simply part of the process.  Brush it off.  The more important question is always, “what will get you to “yes”?” Continue reading ““So…What do you do?””

Teachers? WE BLAME YOU!

Dear Teachers,

At the end of Teacher Appreciation week, I have three words for you:

Y’all all suck.  Schools?  Your suckage is beyond the pale.  School Systems?  You are the suck, suck, suckiest of all the sucks in the sucky education system in Georgia. The GADOE  and GOSA have done an exemplary job here with the state mandated testing, and the only reason that it didn’t go down well was YOUR FAULT!  WE BLAME YOU!

Disregard the fact that McGraw Hill is hiring folks without any educational background to grade the tests that are so masterfully put together.  If your kids don’t make the cut because a marketing major is assessing your students’ tests,  WE BLAME YOU!

Overlook the pesky detail of some elementary schools starting at 7:30 am.  Should you have an technical emergency, you will have to wait until the IT department in Central Time Zone gets to work at 9:00 am Georgia time.  If there’s a problem with the kids not testing in the mandated window of time, WE BLAME YOU!

Discount the entire day that McGraw Hill shut down its platform for “maintenance” and that it was shut down two days before high school testing began.  If you can’t come to work on a Sunday and make sure your plan to overcome our incompetence ensure the best testing experience ever, WE BLAME YOU!

Never mind that the entire testing platform is stupid challenging; you should be able to figure out, cut, and sort thousands of 2”x3” pieces of paper for online testing, not lose them, and make sure that kids don’t mistake this “secure item” for a place to spit out their gum.  The state wanted to save ink and paper! Printing four tickets to a page and leaving a half page blank is not your concern. The state and the millions of dollars spent on the fools/cronies  trusted government officials creating the tests know what is best;  however, if you lose one of those pieces of paper, or if a child does mistake that tiny piece of paper for his or her gum, you had better go through the trash and find it; otherwise, WE BLAME YOU!

Forget the fact that the Algebra and Geometry tests are 170 minutes long (not including instructions, passing out and taking back materials), and a student with accommodations can take up to 5.6 hours for these tests and that the school day is seven hours long.  WE BLAME YOU!

Fail to note when the computer systems went down;  you should have had an even better plan, an even better solution to overcome the state mandates handed down to you.  Even though the testing platform went down for an hour or so here and there, teachers and schools are expected to test within the window that the state provides, and if the child with the 5.6 hour test is unable to do so because the platform goes down, WE BLAME YOU!

When Johnny is sitting at a test for those 5+ hours and doesn’t get to even go to lunch, but must have it delivered to him because his leaving the test site is against policy?  Well, you better make sure he eats, but quickly, because he has to take the test in the days provided by the state. It doesn’t matter that Johnny has another test the next day that could take the same amount of time.  And if Johnny doesn’t do well after testing for those 5+ hours, you have done a poor job of overcoming the achievement gap. WE BLAME YOU!

Schools:  Your planning around all that could and did go wrong with testing was too little, too late, and could never make up for all of the testing company’s idiocy strategy and the state’s mishaps flawless implementation of said idiocy strategy.  WE BLAME YOU, TOO!

Love,

Governor Deal, The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), and the GADOE.

P.S.

Parents:  We blame you for nothing…ever. We think that your ability to play ostrich with understand high stakes testing is great!  We like it that you are calling the schools and blaming them for our their incompetence.

P.P.S.

Legislators, we blame you for nothing, either.  Really, voting on having three hour tests for third graders under the misplaced assumption that longer=more difficult?  It’s fabulous.  Really it is!  It’s the teachers’ faults that the kids are struggling with the tests.  It has nothing to do with the short testing window, the long tests, or the incompetent brilliant testing company.

P.P.P.S.

Richard Woods, we blame you for nothing, either; you’re off in the great blue skies of Georgia doing…something.

Bring Back the D!

D -
Ah, memories!

Wow!  Lookee here inside of this blog.  It’s been a while…I’ve been testing.

While I was testing, emails were flying around about credit recovery, summer school, virtual credit recovery for students who were failing a class or who failed a class, and these kids need to graduate (not that I was checking my email during testing; that’s wrong, wrong, I say).

“Our College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCCRPI-the nebulous CCRPI) score needs it!  Our school needs it!  These kids need it!  Our graduation rate depends on it! We’re all doomed if we don’t get these kids help!”

All this hysteria got me to thinkin’ bout things.  It got to thinkin’ bout how much money schools spend on repeat and recovery classes.  Then I got to thinkin’ bout how many kids need them.  THEN I got to thinkin’ bout who these kids were.

A while back during the great rush to be Georgia School Superintendent, one of the seventeen hundred candidates in the clown car for the GOP nomination had this idea to lower the passing cut score for classes…I forget which one it was, as there were a lot of clowns in that car.  To pass a class in Georgia, a child has to earn a 70%.  I thought it was stupid when they made that law in the nineties, but I think a lot of things are stupid, so I rolled with it.  I’m sure the thought process was that Georgia was raising expectations.  I guess the folks down at the DOE didn’t think through the repercussions, but they never do, really.

Anyway

Because I’m like a rabid pit bull when I “get to thinkin’ about things”, I ran some data to see how many of these kids at my school failed classes, what classes they failed, and with what grade they failed.

Ninety four percent (94%) of the students who failed did so with a 62 or greater.  Ninety four! All of those kids were placed in some kind of recovery class or some kind of online computer class if they are seniors; the underclassmen are given summer school, for free.  This takes time, it takes energy, it takes teachers, and it takes the cost of computer education software. All that equals money, lots of money, money that could be used for instruction.

Now before you get all uppity and edusnotty, saying that we are lowering the standards in our schools, I suggest you go back to the second and third paragraphs of this little here post.  We are spending millions on kids to take a short test to pass a class that they failed with an, oh, I don’t know, 68%? And  what’s wrong with not being exemplary in everything?  I sucked at math, but I muddled along with my D, graduated, and became the stellar blogger you see here. My life was not ruined with my D in Algebra II.  And for those who care, Calculus was not offered to the likes of me in the eighties, but in today’s educational world, all students  are expected to take it.

And before you continue with your high falutin’ standards, I suggest you look to our brand new Georgia Owned and Georgia Grown Tests, where the real scores were so bad, we lowered the cut scores, which we swore we would never do.  Then look to our neighbor states to the west and south who have higher grad rates than Georgia (Alabama and Florida), and they pass kids with a 65.  And while we are on it, why can’t we have a grade that all but states, “He’s a nice kid and a bright kid, but should never consider math as a career?”  Why can’t a 65 be good enough?  A 65% is good enough in all states that have graduation rates higher than ours. Iowa and Vermont, the  top two highest grad rates in the country, have a 60% pass rate (I was thinkin’ bout that, so I looked it up).

So!  All five of you who read this, I’m hoping maybe one of you is in with the cool kids at the capitol and can pass along The Mensa’s thoughts:  If Georgia really wants to raise graduation rates and save money all at the same time, bring back the D.

And get rid of all these tests for these youngins.  My AMEX shopping bill is directly proportional to how many I proctor…KIDDING…maybe.

The Art of Walking

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Have you ever braked to let someone cross the street in front of you only to have them stroll or sachet, taking their sweet time while your knuckles clench the steering wheel as you rapidly lose patience and grind your teeth?  We all have.  If you ride with my friend Eric you will hear him say (not-so-under his breath), “Knees to chest, friend!  Knees to chest!”

Recently I attended church with Eric’s girlfriend, Lora.  As we were making our way out of the sun-filled parking lot, we found ourselves stuck at an intersection witnessing what Lora described as The White Woman Waddle:  The Ultimate Display of Entitlement.

Continue reading “The Art of Walking”

Rules, Shmules!

rulesToday is the last day of the Georgia legislature, and I am ever the optimistic populist.  So if you are watching from home, or from the galleries and have a bit of confusion about what’s going on, I thought it might be helpful to have your own copy of the Rules.

House Rules

Senate Rules

Click on the links above and you will find the rules governing the chambers.  The Senate Rules are online at legis.ga.gov, but the House Rules were updated back in 2013 and never made it back online.  With the gracious assistance of a transparency-loving House member, I scanned and copied the above for your reading pleasure/assistance before you head to sleep.

While these are the Rules governing the chambers, it would also be helpful to note that the House’s parliamentary procedure most closely follows the American version of Robert’s Rules of Order and the Senate more closely follows Mason’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.  I’m a fan of Robert’s, but Mason’s was explicitly designed for state legislatures.

Here’s NCSL’s take on the differences.

Now the key portions to pay attention to are terms like “germane”, “engrossment”, and paying attention to which floor votes are performed by a show of hands.  These procedures are what make the action on the floor more interesting and volatile.  Transparency is not the populace’s friend on Sine Die, and so I would encourage all Georgians to come out after work to watch the floors, if you want to really know what happens.

Want real time floor notes?  Twitter is your friend.

Senate Press

House Floor Notes

You can also get feedback from individuals and media on legislation by following #gapol on Twitter.

Happy Sine Die, all!

Young Harold Hills in Education

Think men....thinkI’ve been in the education biz for 23 years.  Now that I have officially called myself out for being really old, I have a point to make.  What is UP with districts hiring educational experts who have little to no classroom experience?  We got a bunch of Harold Hills coming into school districts with really nothing more than pretty talk, big ideas, and “The Think System”.

Doctors put in a bajillion hours of field experience, and lawyers work like dogs and tote partners’ brief cases for three to five years before they get a good case.  Business men and CEOs, accountants and others really do pay their dues before they are afforded the corner office with a window.  Even the McDonalds worker has to run the cash register and empty trash before s/he goes into middle management.

Somehow, though, someone decided that school and district leaders don’t really need that.  Someone decided that theory was enough; that The Think System is really going to work in closing the achievement gap.  That’s all it is, too: theory not steeped in practice because no one sticks around long enough to actually make the plan or the practice work. But that is the trend.  Spend, oh, I don’t know, three years in the classroom, and you are qualified to run a school.  And after you run that school for, oh I don’t know, three years, you are then qualified to run a school district, and not even a small one.

Fulton County Schools is doing just that, hiring a superintendent from Oregon with three years classroom experience…in one school and at one grade level.  This guy, Dr. Jeff Rose, is taking the helm at the second largest school district in the state of Georgia with three years classroom experience.  And he’s been hired to close the achievement gap with those three years of experience…in one school and at one grade level. I wonder what Alvin Wilbanks, the patriarch of Georgia Superintendents, thinks about this.

I haven’t asked Dr. Wilbanks, but I’m wary.  No, I’m reticent.  When I was coming up, the principal’s job was something that was awarded teachers who did their time, were excellent in content and pedagogy, and who were steeped in the community.  That’s where the best teachers, who did their time, went to die.  They had the experience in the classroom to understand that teaching is hard, and kids are different.  They had the experience in the schools to know that some parents are just more difficult than others, and the experience to know that some teachers can be straightened out with a stern conference, not a letter of direction.  They knew that central office was only for those who retired and were wooed back from retirement into the fold.  They had the experience to see education for what it is, warts and all.

Nowadays, counties are hiring these young pups who have little to no classroom experience and the same degree pedigree that I have, except my degrees came from real live universities (they didn’t have online education back in the day…and the Broad Institute for Superintendents is sketchy…sketchy I say!).

How are these youngins going to know the ropes or deal with the real life things that happen in school?  How can anyone without boots on the ground, nights in trenches, late practices, rehearsals, mock trials, rivalry games, or open houses know what it’s like in education?  They don’t. They think they do.  They have the theory, the think system.  They come in, make grandiose promises, and then high tail it out of town for the next Professor Hill to come in with a new plan, some new system, with little experience, and with no plans to stick around.

And the achievement gap remains.  And the kids still suffer from grown folk Harold Hills and hubris.