DeSoto County Schools – PI and Polygraph Tests for Staff

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FOLLOW UP: DCS Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Weeks hired a private investigator to investigate DCR and DCS staff. At least one employee was administered a polygraph test. Investigator found nothing!

The first picture posted is of the back page of the invoice from the private investigator Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Weeks hired. The investigator did not have an actual company at the time he was employed by Weeks. He is a church member of our superintendent and of the chief instructional technology officer at the county office. I would say it is more than reasonable to believe that’s how this job originated.

I am also attaching the business info of the private investigator along with the Secretary of State’s business filings on the business. You will see from the invoice that he began work for Weeks in August 2013, but he did not file paperwork for the formation of the business until September 2013. According to his LinkedIn page, the business was formalized and officially started in October 2013. Is this normal protocol or procedure?! You can see that it was in fact Jennifer Weeks that signed off on the invoice. The hard copy of the invoice’s front and back pages have been turned over to the proper authorities.

To make matters worse, Meredith Park, former Formative Assessments Coordinator and close friend of Weeks’s, participated in the investigation against certain employees. Park was given the job of one of the employees investigated after that person had enough and resigned. The individual that was given Park’s previous job is the son in-law of Weeks’s administrative assistant. Does any of this sound ethical? Were either of these jobs posted and were other employees given the opportunity to bid on them?

I blacked out the names of the employees interviewed and/or investigated. They did nothing wrong, and that was substantiated by the investigator. They should not have been put through this to begin with, so I see no need to share their names. The employees listed are the ones that took an active role in the investigation, therefore they should not be given anonymity. If this investigation was legal and above board, they should have no problem taking responsibility for this operation. I do think an explanation is needed as to why the school board was not consulted prior to this action being taken.

I am sure the school board felt compelled to approve the invoice due to the fact work had already been completed. Often times the board is put in unfair positions that leave them looking unfavorable in the eyes of the public when in actuality they had little power to do differently. This could all be changed with the appointment of superintendents.

Whether anyone agrees with me or not, a school district has no right to do this to a citizen or employee. Those that oppose Common Core are starting to experience the retaliation and extreme measures our district uses when opposed. This information has been shared with the proper authorities and will continue to be shared until action is taken.

Unfortunately, an elected superintendent has a lot of power. It is a very political position. Unless citizens stand together, it is difficult to correct these situations. The school board has no real power, and often times, they lose sight that they work for the people and not for the superintendent. They want peace and civility amongst board members, but this conflicts many times with what is best for the people. The system as it stands does not give district the proper checks and balances system that it should. This needs to be corrected.

The Nepotism and ethics laws we have in many cases aren’t worth the paper they were written on and remain unenforceable in a court of law. We have approximately 165,000+ citizens in DeSoto County. It is much harder for the state and MDE to get involved in a battle against an elected superintendent since they were voted in by the people. For those superintendents appointed by 5 school board members as opposed to voted in by 165,000+ citizens, it is easier to get officials involved. These are some of the reasons I have used this page to inform the public and make them aware of wrong doing. Things do not change until people become:
1. Informed
2. Educated
3. Aware of their rights
4. Knowledgable of the law

This may have happened to me today, but it could easily be someone else tomorrow. This all PROVES why employees do NOT want to speak out or go against the district. Too many lives have already been destroyed prior to this situation, but many more continue to become collateral damage. Why would any teacher or DCS staff member speak out if this could happen to them? The ones that feel safe speaking out are those that are only speaking in favor of the corrupt leaders. If an educator agrees with them, they can say whatever they want to say, but if they disagree with them, there will be hell to pay! That’s the truth!

Now, for those that think I am worried about going to court, I can assure you I am not! School districts do not go to this extreme if the person that opposes them is simply an unstable person or liar. $5000 on a private investigator and polygraph test are not the course of actions taken for someone that does not have their facts right. Legal matters take time, but I feel safe to say that they may get their wish after all. I look forward to any opportunity to put my hand on a Bible, sit on a witness stand and say the very same things there that I have here!

George Loper, Jennifer Weeks, Meredith Park, Keith Treadway and Van Alexander should all be ashamed of themselves! Treadway, as the school board attorney, proves further why family relationships taint business practices and should not be allowed. Hopefully soon, this will all be changed and corrected! We have way too many good people in our district to let the rotten apples spoil the bunch!

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PLUNKETT: Constitutional Conservatism is about neither blind allegiance nor political jihad.

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Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:

BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett

It is unfortunate to see the misrepresentation going on by Ryan Walters, and his descent into labeling and grouping anyone and everyone who doesn’t adhere to what he perceives to be the “politically correct” way or to worship at the “politically correct” alter.

His latest comes on the heels of some anonymous hack coming after me personally for the unforgivable sin of suggesting politics in Mississippi needs some grownups to enter the room.

I don’t know what the newfound fascination is with me personally. I recall writing nothing that is a departure from the positions I have held and have written about for over a decade. But, unlike the personal attacks of the cowardly whose politics is about gossip mongering and drama, at least Ryan mentions a somewhat substantive position to make his argument and he stands behind it enough to put his name on…

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Educational funds spent on home decor for school?!!!

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There is a big debate all over social media and in the news regarding school attendance and its impact on educational funding in the state of Mississippi. With all of the contests going on in the schools to promote perfect attendance and the recent controversial letter sent home by one school nurse, I want to ask what I feel is a legitimate question!

IF funding is so low and our schools are so desperate for money, WHY would a school, with:
1. one of the highest percentages of reduced and free lunches in the district

2. One of the most poverty stricken schools in the district

3. a school with some of the lowest test scores in the district

4. A school that literally has put teachers in the closets because they had no other classroom space

5. A school with deferred building maintenance conditions

PAY to tear down a wall that was made and paid for by educators, students, community leaders and John Grisham in order to then PAY $4000 to a home decorator to decorate the foyer of the school?!! Is that smart usage of the money?!

To me and others, it doesn’t matter who the decorator is or how well they are liked! It doesn’t matter how cutesy certain leaders think it is. WAS IT NECESSARY and HOW DID THE STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM THAT PURCHASE?!!!! $4000 could have really benefitted the kids with resources that matter!

I do NOT sit around and look for things to criticize, but it is beyond clear that the district is all about the money except when it comes to how THEY want to spend it. Priorities are so out of line, it is ridiculous! A lot of the expenditures are unnecessary and are of no real benefit to the kids!

If money is an issue, get rid of all of the unnecessary jobs at the county office. Lower the pay for administrators. Quit hiring decorators to redo a school entry way or the county office. Quit paying for individual hotel rooms for every employee that travels out of town. Get people to carpool and share a room. Don’t reimburse employees for gas and mileage when they DIDN’T even drive and in fact carpooled with someone else. Quit traveling so much. Quit allowing certain administrators to take 2 or 3 vacations during the school year, taking them away from the schools they are supposed to be running! Quit putting off building maintenance issues until they reach a point it costs the district twice as much to repair. Crack down on out of county or out of area students coming into our schools. Quit hiring private investigators. Don’t pay for polygraphs to be administered to employees. Don’t spend millions on providing Mac Airs to all of the middle schoolers and high schoolers. Quit hiring your friends as vendors so they can make the money and you can receive the royal treatment and free drinks while away at conferences. Quit hiring unqualified people that keep getting the district sued! Don’t employ your family member’s entire law firm! And this is just to name a few things that could easily be done!!!

Our education tax dollars should be for the students and their teachers! PERIOD! Our schools are not show cases for decorators nor are they simply testimonials to promote their educational vendor friends and family! It’s time to get back to what really matters! Put the kids first!!!

The first picture is the before and the other pictures are the after. Cute? yes. Practical, wise financial decision and beneficial to the students? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

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Common-Core Side Effects: Worth the Costs?

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(This is being shared from EdWeek)!

Something is missing in the raging debate about the Common Core. Politics aside, much of the debate has focused on whether the Common Core improves teaching and ultimately student learning. The proponents have been working hard to bring evidence to prove its effectiveness. For example, a survey conducted by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, both supporters of the Common Core, shows that teachers are enthusiastic about CC and they have observed positive improvement in students. Its opponents have garnered evidence to show otherwise.

What’s missing in in this debate is an analysis of costs or side effects. That is, even if the Common Core were perfectly implemented, which is a big question, and student learning indeed improved as measured by CC-aligned assessments in math and ELA, what would have been sacrificed? And are the sacrifices worth the benefits? Might the sacrifices prevent the Common Core from achieving its ultimate goal: college and career readiness and global competitiveness?

Any decent study about the effectiveness of the Common Core should include evidence about its side effects. In 2012, I warned about the potential side effects of education interventions, which can serve as starting point for asking questions about the Common Core:

All medicine has side effects. When it cures, it can harm the body as well. Put it in another way, there is no free lunch. Everything comes at a cost. Education cannot escape this simple common sense law of nature for a number of reasons. First, time is a constant. When one spends it on one thing, it cannot be spent on others. Thus when all time is spent on studying and preparing for exams, it cannot be spent on visiting museums. By the same token, when time is spent on activities not necessarily related to academic subjects, less time is available for studying the school subjects and preparing for exams. Second, certain human qualities may be antithetical to each other. When one is taught to conform, it will be difficult for him to be creative. When one is punished for making mistakes, it will be hard for her to take risks. When one is told to be wrong or inadequate all the time, it will be difficult for her to maintain confidence. In contrast, when the students are allowed freedom to explore, they may question what they are asked to learn, and may decide not to comply. Finally, resources are a finite as well. When a school or society devotes all resources to certain things, they don’t have them for others. For example, when all resources are devoted to teaching math and language, schools will have to cut out other programs. When more money is spent on testing students, less will be available for actually helping them grow.

If there is no free lunch, dinner can cost even more. The Common Core, given its scale of impact and investment, is fancy banquet. What do we pay for this elaborate banquet? Whether you are a teacher, a school leader, a board member, or a parent, please ask the following questions when you receive news about how great the Common Core is:

Has it narrowed the students’ education experience? Has the school reduced time in subjects other than Common Core math and ELA? Has the teachers narrowed their curriculum?

An example: Carol Burris quotes a message from a parent in her Washington Post blog post:

“Carol,

This is excellent. Thank you for hitting the nail on the head. I went to my daughter’s back-to-school last night. On the board was the day’s schedule. Other than going to music and lunch, the entire day was some form of either reading or math instruction. When science and social studies were discussed as other curricular items in third grade, the parents were told that they would be covered essentially through reading passages as part of the ELA prep. Ugh.”

Have your students become more anxious about school? Have they begun to develop a negative attitude toward math or English? Have they become less confident? Has their curiosity declined? Do they ask fewer questions and demand more answers?

An example, the comedian Louis C. K. tweeted (for the entire story, read Diane Ravitch’s blog post): My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!– Louis C.K. (@louisck) April 28, 2014

Could the money for Common Core, which is about $15.8 billion according to one estimate be spent elsewhere? Has the implementation of the Common Core disrupted your school’s planned innovation? Have you had to divert money from other places to implement the Common Core and assessments?

An example, Diane Ravitch wrote:

The money spent for Common Core testing means there will be less money to reduce class sizes, to hire arts teachers, to repair crumbling buildings, to hire school nurses, to keep libraries open and staffed, and to meet other basic needs). States are cutting the budget for schools at the same time that the Common Core is diverting huge sums for new technology, new textbooks, new professional development, and other requirements to prepare for the Common Core.

The questions can go on. You should also ask whether the Common Core has put more stress on teachers, driving some of the best and most passionate out of education; whether the Common Core and accompanied tests have changed your school culture, for the worse; and whether your students with special needs are more likely to be ignored or face unnecessary pressure.

No Child Left Behind has led to a narrowing of curriculum, demoralization of teachers, explosion of cheating scandals, reduction of teaching to test-preparation, weakening of public education, and deprivation of the disadvantaged children of a meaningful education experience. The national standards movement in the U.S. has coincided with a significant decline in creativity over the last few decades. Of course, another side (or intended) effect is the increased wealth of publishing companies, tutoring services, and for-profit education ventures.

The Common Core, however dressed, shares the fundamental spirit with NCLB: standardization of curriculum enforced with high-stakes testing. In fact, the Common Core comes with more force on a larger scale. The side effects will be even more significant.

Yong Zhao’s recent books include Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best and Worst Education System in the World (Jossey-bass, 2014), World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (Corwin, 2012), and Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization (ASCD, 2009). He blogs at: http://zhaolearning.com. Follow him on Twitter.

http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp;jsessionid=5824A0085ACBDE6E743C9C07DA46E7BB.sonny2?cid=25919951&bcid=&rssid=25919151&item=http%3a%2f%2fapi.edweek.org%2fv1%2fblog%2f95%2f%3fuuid%3d42238

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One Idea for Schools to Get Resources WithOUT State or Federal Involvement

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Educational spending is of utmost importance to me. I think it is a concern that has been voiced across the country and especially in our state. I want to take a moment to share with you some of my ideas that would be solutions to some of the issues.

I think that every school in our district and across the state should have an ITEMS NEEDED and WISH LIST section on their school website. What better way to communicate a school’s needs than to post it on the school’s website and social media sites?!

Part of the problem with funding is that we have become too dependent on outside sources for funding. Why not go straight to the source of that money and cut out the middle man?!

For example, elementary schools often are in need of basic supplies: Clorox wipes, tissue, paper and crayons. Instead of teachers having to spend their money on these needs, give the community a chance to pick up the slack. We can’t help if we don’t know our help is needed.

Secondly, schools should have wish lists posted. Schools should register at stores like Walmart, Target or the Sensory Shop (as examples) for items that are wanted or that could be useful to have. Even for bigger ticket items, it allows the community and PTAs or PTOs to know what’s wanted to improve the school.

While speaking with the Sensory Shop this week, I realized just how much could be done to help the schools without it costing the district a dime. Teachers can register for items they need in their classes. Principals can register for items they need for the school. SPED teachers could register for some of the specialty items they need to build their classes and/or sensory rooms. There are many possibilities. Think about book stores, art supply stores, music stores or even Best Buy. Given the chance, great things are possible.

Another area that is important to me is community involvement with our schools. As a parent and citizen, I realize that not all kids have the best home life. I realize that not ALL parents have the ability to be at the school regularly or on field trips due to work schedules. I realize a teacher can do only so much. It pains me to see some of the special reading days in the lower grade schools cancelled because of a lack of volunteers and especially when we have lots of people that would be happy to come read to the kids. There are too many people in the community that would be happy to pitch in when needed, but that message has to be communicated.

If you are in a school that had this problem, you call me. I will get volunteers to come to your school!

When parents and citizens only hear about ‘the money’ needed but aren’t shown the numbers or given the opportunity to help, it doesn’t go over as well. A lot of misinformation and a lack of trust can be cured by improving communication.

Now this post is not to place blame on anyone. We have all fallen short in areas. These suggestions or ideas are just my thoughts on one way to help the schools. Just an idea.

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STATUS FOR MISSISSIPPI’s NCLB WAIVER

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NCLB Waivers: A State-by-State Breakdown
The Obama administration announced in 2011 it would award waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act to states that agreed to adopt certain education ideas, such as teacher evaluations tied to student test scores. In exchange, states would get flexibility from some of the core tenets of the law, such as that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.
Here’s the latest on states’ waiver status—including if they have a waiver and whether that waiver has been extended for an additional year. States where waivers have been placed on “high-risk” status by the U.S. Department of Education are also flagged.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/infographics/nclbwaivers.html

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