Monday, March 28, 2011

Whose 'Noles?

More universities haggling with high schools over trademarks

High schools that share logos with universities may soon find themselves shopping for new mascots.
Florida State, which last week reached a settlement with the Rockdale County Board of Education prohibiting Salem High and Memorial Middle from using the Seminoles logo, isn't the only university aggressively protecting its trademark.
The Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company, acting on behalf of the University of Florida, sent a similar letter to two Palm Beach, Fla., high schools last fall. And the University of Mississippi forced a Tennessee high school to drop its mascot of 50 years, Colonel Reb, due to trademark infringement claims.
I've seen plenty of high school mascots and logos that were copies of collegiate or professional teams' logos. I, like most of you (I'm guessing), assumed the schools had actually asked. I should have known better.

The likely response is "but they're schools".
"It was a matter of principle for me," said [Rockdale] board vice chairwoman Jean Yontz, who cast one of two dissenting votes. "We're not making money off the the Seminoles, but now we're going to have to take money away from education to pay for this."
Making money is beside the point. If a logo has value to the high school, it seems disingenuous to claim that it doesn't have any to the college. In the eyes of the law (which must mean something), co-opting someone else's intellectual property is theft. It the intellectual property owner doesn't protect its right to control how its property is used, it loses that right and the material becomes public domain. The courts have been consistent over this point for decades.

This weekend at APS

What, more problems?

Beverly Hall closely tracked CRCT results
...E-mails, memos and other documents recently obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provide the most detailed look to date at the intensity with which [Atlanta Public Schools' Superintendent Beverly] Hall followed the yearly CRCT results. She parsed scores in detailed exchanges with district researchers. She praised subordinates whose numbers improved. She kept business leaders and other supporters apprised of successes.
Nothing in the e-mails and other material suggests that Hall, Atlanta’s superintendent since 1999, ordered anyone to tamper with test papers or to behave illegally or unethically to achieve certain outcomes. How the district achieved its impressive 2009 scores is at the center of two criminal investigations.
I'm assuming everyone has noticed that reports keep leaning heavily on the item, paraphrased differently from story to story, that nobody is saying Hall knew. Neither am I -- but if she was qualified to sit in that chair, she must have suspected. The best possible spin that can be put on it is that she was too eager to believe unbelievable numbers. Villain or victim, though, she shouldn't become the CRCT scapegoat. There's plenty of clear deceptive intent to go around.

And now what?

APS underfunded its pension plan
The district has underfunded its pension for custodians, bus drivers and cooks by more than a half-billion dollars.
APS has the worst underfunding of any large public pension plan in the state, according to a recent state audit. While it is generally agreed that, at any given time, a pension plan should contain 80 percent to 90 percent of the money it is obligated to pay out, APS has assets to cover just 17.4 percent of its pension promises.
“It’s something that dates from long ago,” ...said Chuck Burbridge, the district’s chief financial officer.
How long? When did it begin? Nobody wants to say.
Most teachers are in a separate state-run plan that is much better-funded. 
Oh, well, then.

Friday, March 25, 2011

This week at APS

APS teachers’ contracts held amid cheating scandal
Atlanta Public Schools notified hundreds of educators last week that their future employment is uncertain, reigniting protests from state investigators who have repeatedly complained about intimidation of potential witnesses in their wide-ranging criminal inquiry into test tampering.
The investigators, appointed to examine cheating in Atlanta after the state found high numbers of suspicious erasures on standardized tests in 2009, told the school district Friday to immediately withdraw letters telling about 450 teachers their contract renewals are on hold.
Anybody besides me remember an old Pete Seeger song about being "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"? Here in the Real World, of course, it's illegal to fire people for whistleblowing. I'm eager to hear why APS thinks this should not be so for them.

Reed wants to appoint some school board members
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for the first time Monday raised the possibility he might try to seek special power to appoint city school board members, as he seeks to speed reforms mandated by the city system's accrediting agency.
I don't think the mayor actually intends to do this, but it must be frustrating dealing with the APS Board.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

APS Ketchup

If we're not careful, the CRCT investigation is going to get misplaced.

Atlanta school board sets path to fix accreditation
Atlanta school board members voted Monday night to accept an accreditation report that put the school system on probation.

APS Put on Probation; Hall Vows to 'Secure' Status

SACS says the Atlanta school system must take six actions to avoid losing accreditation:
  • Develop and implement a long-term plan to communication with and engage stakeholders in the work of the district and to regain the trust of parents and students.
  • Secure and actively use the services of a trained, impartial mediator who will work with board members to resolve communication, operational and personal issues that are impeding the effectiveness of the governing body.
  • Ensure that the actions and behavior of all board members are aligned with board policies, especially those related to ethics and chain of command.
  • Review and refine policies to achieve the mission to educate students.
  • Develop and implement a process for selecting a new superintendent that is transparent and engages public participation. The final choice of superintendent should be determined by more than a simple majority of the board.
  • Work with the state of Georgia to address inconsistencies between the state charter for the school board and system policies.

Schools spent millions on now-optional new math
Some school systems invested millions of dollars in the new and soon-to-be-optional integrated math curriculum for high schools, a survey of metro districts by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed.

APS board members may pursue independent counsel
The motivation for board members Nancy Meister, Yolanda Johnson and Brenda Muhammad is unclear.

Hall's contract may face outside review
City school board Chairman Khaatim Sherrer El brought up the review in the waning minutes of a three-hour "emergency special" meeting, most of which was spent by members behind closed doors. He backtracked immediately afterward, however, as other members crowded around him to protest that the board neither publicly discussed nor reached any sort of consensus on the issue.

APS official believes she’s a scapegoat
The high-level Atlanta Public Schools official accused of telling principals to send "go to hell" memos to state investigators thinks she has become a scapegoat in a systemwide cheating scandal. ...[SRT-3 supervisor Tamara] Cotman was referring to an anonymous letter, sent to the school district in December, that alleged she discouraged a group of principals from cooperating with a criminal investigation of cheating on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. ...She said she did pass out blank "go to hell" sheets — but did not speak disparagingly of state investigators. She said she was right to encourage principals to vent their frustrations — but did not single out the investigators for condemnation.

Atlanta school board hires professional mediator

Mistake costs Atlanta schools $48 million, delays projects
An unintentional paperwork error by the Fulton County school system will cost Atlanta Public Schools $48 million and force the city to delay several school construction projects, in some cases indefinitely. Fulton officials didn't file a form that accurately reflected the enrollments of the city and county school systems, resulting in an overpayment to Atlanta from a 1-percent sales tax used for school capital needs.

ATL school board appoints community panel
The Atlanta school board has formed a community engagement committee to help gather ideas and offer feedback about how it communicates and engages the public. The move aims to help the board meet a mandate from the system's accrediting agency.

APS faces more than $30 million in 2012 cutbacks
Atlanta Public Schools expect budget cutbacks of more than $30 million next school year, resulting in cost-cutting moves that likely include another increase in class sizes (mainly in middle schools), a continued employee pay freeze and two days of involuntarily furloughs. However, officials said they did not anticipate layoffs or a property tax increase.

Group calls for APS board chairman to relinquish leadership role
An Atlanta parents group organized in the wake of the city system being put on probation said Friday that school board member Khaatim Sherrer El should step down in his role as board chairman and that new officers should be elected. The group, Step Up or Step Down, was reacting to e-mails published Thursday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Get Schooled" blog in which a member accused El of making an offensive gesture at her, among other issues. El declined comment on the announcement. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools put Atlanta on probation in January for reasons related entirely to the board's governance.

See also Step Up Or Step Down's Facebook page.