Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MNPS School Board Work Session of Nov. 25th

I have not watched this meeting yet and may or may not get around to it, so if you are interested in what happens at the school board, don't wait for me to watch it for you. This meeting is 2 hours and 21 minutes long. I usually watch meetings in 1.5 time or 2 times the speed and lose little content. If you are not offered the option to watch it in a faster speed, see this link for instructions.

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How the Metro Council buckled to the SEIU and voted to continue fiscal irresponsibility.

Last week when reporting on what happened on at the November 18th Council meeting, I reported that RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1269 which would extend the term of the Study and Formulating Committee to March 31st, 2015 failed by a vote of 16 in favor and 17 opposed. That immediately ended the work of the committee because without the extension the Committee had to have their work completed by November 19, 2014. I reported that the work of the committee was  not finished and that the Council staff analysis said the extension was needed.  Every five years the mayor has to appoint such a committee to study and make recommendations on employee benefits. I did not know why the term of the Study and Formulating Committee was not extended; now I know.

At the time I opined:

I wish the employee retirement plan would be changed to a Metro defined contribution plan rather than a defined benefit plan, but I don't think that will happen anytime soon. Most private sector plans, if there is any retirement plan, is a defined contribution plan rather than defined benefit. A defined contribution plan is less risky to the employer. A defined contribution plan specifies the employer make contributions on a regular basis and within a set range of options, the employee decides how his contributions will be invested.
Well unbeknownst to me at the time, the Study Committee was considering such a move and to stop them from making a recommendation to move away from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, the Service International Employees Union Local 205 urged council members to defeat the extension.  If you are still confused by what is the difference between the two retirement plans, a "defined benefit plan" says that after x number of years of service you can retire and draw x number of dollars per month, usually based on a percentage of your salary at the time you retire. 

A defined contribution plan is like a 401K and the city contributes money to it but the plan is the employees and within limits the employee decides where the money is invested and how much risk he wishes to take. No current employees would have been affected by any change in benefit plan policy unless they voluntarily chose to come under the new plan instead of the old plan. Also, any recommendation made by the Study Committee would go back to the Council and would have to be passed by the Council.

According to an article in today's Tennessean, The Study Committee had been working for months with Pew Charitable Trusts to review Metro’s defined-benefit pension plan and retiree health benefits. Pew’s preliminary findings, released in September, raised more concerns with health care obligations than with the state of Metro’s pension system. The city has accumulated $2.3 billion in unfunded costs to cover retiree health benefits.

SEIU feared the study committee would would recommend moving away from Metro’s defined benefit pension plan and was successful in shutting down the work of the committee. Unions like defined plans, because the risk is all born by the employer and it gives the Union power since unions can claim credit for forcing the city to grant generous retirement plans. Also, some employees do better under a defined contribution plan than a defined benefit plan.  Many plans match the contribution of an employee up to a certain limit.  Some employees leave money on the table and do not provide the maximum match.  So, irresponsible employees who are not too bright may be worse off under a defined contribution plan and other employees be much better off.  Unions are generally opposed to different outcomes and want everyone to be rewarded the same regardless of contribution or effort. 

Cities across America are being faced with unsustainable pension obligations and the problem is only going to get worse. Cities will be forced to raise taxes to meet retirement health care and pension obligations. The responsible thing to do is to phase out defined benefit plans and phase in defined contribution plans.

Below is how the Council voted. A fiscally responsible vote was a vote to extend the life of the study committee. The names of Council members in red text are those council members who I normally think of as the "good" council members, several of them self-identify as Republicans or conservative or have usually voted in a responsible manner.
“Ayes” Barry, Garrett, Tygard, Matthews, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Bennett, Claiborne, Allen, Langster, Weiner, Evans, Blalock, Dominy, Todd (16)

“Noes” Harrison, Hunt, Hagar, Glover, Stites, Stanley, Tenpenny, Gilmore, Baker, Holleman, Harmon, Johnson, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Duvall, Mitchell (17).

I hate to say that Megan Barry voted for fiscal responsibility and Robert Duvall did not, but that is the way I see it.  It is difficult to say Peter Westerholm cast a conservative vote and that Josh Stites cast a liberal vote but that is what happened. It seems contradictory to vote against tax increases and then vote for policies that are likely to make a future tax increase mandatory. That is hypocritical and having your cake and eating it too.

Now, I know how things work.  A person who campaigned for a council member may have come to that member and asked for him to vote to not expand the Study Committee and he does so. Or, out of animosity to the Mayor or friendship with the Mayor one may have cast a vote a certain way without regards to the merit of the issue.  Or, if  one was endorsed by the SEIU,  he may feel he owes them.  Those Council members who voted the wrong way have a chance to redeem themselves.  Mayor Dean says he plans to resubmit names of the five-member committee for reappointment, setting up a new council vote Dec. 16. I hope the Council does the fiscally responsible thing and votes to allow the Study Committee to continue their work.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teachers having sex with students

A first-year female teacher at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School is being accused of having sex with a male students.  Details are not yet available.

Is this an epidemic or what? It seems like this is a fairly common occurrence.  One thing I have noticed is that most of the teachers who abuse these poor children are damn hot. When I was in school it seems like I never had any hot teachers. Also, some of the predators are multiple rapist and had more than one student as a lover. Several of these incidents happened here in Tennessee.

Here is a sampling of some of the incidents and pictures of the predators.  Also, keep in mind that these are not clamor shots; some of these pictures may be photos taken after they were confronted about their crime and they may not have looked their best.

Pamela Rogers Turner
Pamela Rogers Turner, 27: Former model and beauty-pageant contestant also taught at Centertown Elementary School in McMinnville, Tenn. She was arrested in February 2005 for allegedly having a three-month sexual relationship with a 13-year-old boy. She resigned her teaching position and was charged with 15 counts of sexual battery and 13 counts of statutory rape. Originally sentenced to 270 days in August 2005, she got in additional trouble in April 2006 for sending text messages, nude photos, and sex videos of herself to the same boy while using her father’s cellphone. In July 2006, she was sentenced to serve eight years for violating her probation, and in January 2007, was given an additional two years for sending the photos.

Sandra Binkley, 35: The Portland, Tenn., High School teacher was charged Sept. 25, 2008, with statutory rape by an authority figure as the result of sexual contact with a 17-year-old boy during school hours. A week later, two more students came forward claiming they had had a sexual encounter, also, on and off campus.

Amy McElhenney
Amy McElhenney, 25: Charged with having a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old male student, the 25-year-old Hebron High School Spanish teacher and former Miss Texas contestant will not be serving any jail time after a Denton County, Texas, grand jury refused to issue an indictment in September 2006. While the age of consent in Texas is 17 years, a state law bans sexual relationships between educators and students even if the student is of legal age and the relationship is consensual. She could have faced 20 years in prison if indicted and convicted.

Angela Comer
Angela Comer, 26: Middle-school teacher from Tompkinsville, Ky., fled with her alleged lover, her 14-year-old male student, before being tracked down in Mexico where she reportedly planned to marry the boy. Comer later claimed she was forced at gunpoint by the boy to go to Mexico. She was indicted in January 2006 for illegal sex acts with a minor and returned to Kentucky. Charges included felony custodial interference, two counts of third-degree sodomy and four counts of unlawful transaction with a minor relating to sexual acts. On May 9, 2007, Comer pleaded guilty to one-count of third-degree sodomy, and was slated to serve 10 years in prison as part of a plea agreement.

Cynthia Horvath
Cynthia Horvath, 45: Former English teacher and cheer coach at Warner Christian Academy in South Daytona Beach, Fla. was arrested Oct. 22, 2008, on charges related to an ongoing sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male student. Police reports say most of the senior class at the school knew there was something going on and it was finally students who told a staff member about the affair and the school told police. Horvath is married and has a 17-year-old son who attends Warner Christian.

Melissa Dawn McCord
Melissa Dawn McCord, 35: Special education teacher at West Carroll
Elementary in Atwood, Tenn., faces several charges, including statutory rape by an authority figure after being arrested on Jan. 29, 2009. Police say a 14-year-old junior high student, who had dated McCord’s daughter, reported the woman had performed oral sex on him at a city park on two occasions. The police report said the teenager’s parents had several text conversations between McCord and the boy in their possession.

Stacy L. Hopkins
Stacy L. Hopkins, 28: Physical-education teacher and basketball coach at Arlington High School in Shelby County, Tenn., was arrested May, 5, 2011, after allegedly having sex with two male students and texting them nude photos of herself. The students, both under age 18 at the time of the alleged incidents, told school officials they had sexual intercourse with Hopkins. The teacher told investigators she taught both students and admitted to the crimes.

Summer M. Hansen
 Summer Michelle Hansen, 31: Special-education teacher at Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., was charged Aug. 13, 2013, with having sex with five students and sending the boys sexual text messages and nude photographs of herself. Hansen faces 16 felony counts and could receive up to 13 years in prison if convicted. Court documents show Hansen was suspected of engaging in sexual intercourse and oral sex with the boys on campus and at one victim’s home as far back as May 2012. All five boys were students at the school, but none was a student of Hansen. One student,17, told detectives Hansen had been exchanging sexual text messages with him, some attached to revealing and nude photographs. The teacher allegedly said she wanted to give him a “prize” for doing well in a baseball game. She kept him after class in Saturday school and, after all of the other students had left, began kissing him, and engaged in sex acts, the boy claimed. Hansen, through her attorney, has denied the allegations.

For dozens more stories of this nature, follow this link.

I can't fathom what would make an attractive women such as Pamela Rogers Truner want to have sex with a 13-year-old boy. Is it a mental illness? Is it stunted emotional development? Has this always happened and just not been reported or is this a new phenomenon?

I know that situations of this nature are treated the same as if the sexes were reversed and it is just as much of a crime if a 31-year-old female teacher like Summer Hansen has sex with five male students as it would me if a 31-year-old male teacher had sex with five female students. I, however, do not feel the same about it.  If a 31-year-old male had sex with five female students, I would feel outrage and want him to go to prison for a very long time. Pamela Rogers Truner's victim was only 13-years-old. If a 27-year-old male teacher had sex with a 13-year-old girl, I would be feel very differently about it than I do Pamela Rogers Truner having sex with a 13-year-old boy.  If I had a 13-year-old daughter who was a victim of a male teacher's sexual advances I know I would feel differently about it than if I had a 13-year-old son who was Pamela Rogers Truner's victim. I know there may be emotional damage to the 13-year-old boy, but somehow it just does not seem as bad. If a male teacher took advantage of my 13-year-old daughter, I would want to kill him.

I know that we cannot condone any teacher of either sex having sex with students and I don't, but I admit I have a double standard about this.  We are supposed to pretend that we are equally outraged regardless of the sex of the predator and victims and it is just not politically correct not to think the crime is equally reprehensible regardless of the sex of the parties involved.  I can't always explain my double standard but I admit it.  In many ways I think male and female are different. I think a double standard may be rooted in nature. I am going to say something totally politically incorrect but I bet I am not the only male who feels this way:  When I was a teenager, I wish I would have been a victim of a teacher like Pamela Rogers Turner or Summer Michelle Hansen.

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Rick Womick says Beth Harwell has "compromised our trust," and has been "insincere" and "unethical."

In his campaign for Speaker of the House, Representative Rick Womick has come out very critical of  current speaker Beth Harwell. In a letter to fellow members of the House of Representatives he says she has shown "a lack of accountability to the members of the Caucus," that she has "compromised our trust," and has been "insincere" and "unethical." Below is the letter. The underlining is mine.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

First Tuesday Guest Speaker Metro Nashville Police Chief STEVE ANDERSON !

From Tim Skow:

1ST TUESDAY Members and friends,

Let me apologize for being tardy getting to you this late, but a scheduling conflict has brought about a need for a change of Guest Speaker for our DEC 2nd meeting.... Given the most timely issue of the day.... and with what is dominating the news across the county... I feel proud [and VERY thankful ] to announce that our Guest Speaker on Tuesday will be none other than Metro Nashville Police Chief STEVE ANDERSON !

 NO question.... our city has been experiencing a great of growth....and great Press lately... But with so much good news also coming some serious GROWING PAINS.... Chief Anderson and the rest of "Nashville's Finest" face that side of our city every day..... and every night.

 THEN.... with what's on TV [seemingly endlessly ...].... is Nashville prepared for something like this?

2015 RACES for Mayor, Vice Mayor and 40 Metro Council members are a mere 9 months away.... Here's a chance for you to a get a 1ST-HAND look behind the curtains and learn what you will want to ask candidates about !!

As usual...join us at WALLER LAW... 511 Union Street -- 27th floor for this highly informative event!

 Doors open at 11AM for Coffee and Social time. Several candidates for Metro Council in 2015 will be join us. Lunch is at 11:30 and the program will start promptly at Noon. Chief Anderson is testifying that morning, but will be staying after our Q&A ends at 1PM to meet more of us and answer questions that you may not have had a chance to ask.

 Lunch is $20 for Members and $25 for Guests. Visit our 1ST TUESDAY website, click on the Shopping Cart - and secure seats for you and your guests !!

REMEMBER.... the Nashville Republican Women...and the TOY DRIVE !!! Those who bring a check for $50 or more will have their 2015 DUES waived !!!

See you on TUESDAY !
Tim Skow

 PS --- some GREAT NEWS for 1ST TUESDAY will be announced ! YOU are gonna love it !

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Mayor Karl Dean on President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration

Press Release, NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mayor Karl Dean today released this statement following President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration.

"I am proud that Nashville is a welcoming place that recognizes the many contributions of the New Americans who have chosen to make our city their home. Immigrants and refugees make Nashville stronger and more vibrant. Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but until they do, the President's action will allow some families in Nashville to participate more fully in our community.

From a local perspective, our Mayor's Office of New Americans will work with our nonprofit partners to help immigrants access the information they need. In the coming months, we will have resources available at New Americans Corners that are located at Metro branch libraries and community centers throughout Davidson County."

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The Weekly Standard examines Common Core

I knew about Tennessee's Race to the Top education reform effort before I knew it was part of the implementation of Common Core. As a close observer of current events I have known that education has being reformed as long as I can remember. I remember Governor Alexander's reform effort called "Teacher's Career latter" or something like that, that encouraged teachers to go back to school and get more education. I remember when phonics was dropped and the prevailing wisdom was that students should learn to read before they learned the alphabet. I remember an experiment with open class rooms where students from different grades and classrooms were in one very big room without walls dividing the class rooms. I thought that was one of the dumbest ideas of which I ever heard. And, of course, we all know about George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind." Despite constant education reform, American education has continued to decline. While at one time America was near the top as one of the countries with the most educated population, our educational ranking in the world has continued to drop. 

When Common Core came alone I was all on board early.  Maybe it is because of my own experience as a child. In my first five years of school, I was in five different schools.  On my first day of school in the fourth grade, the teacher handed out a math work sheet.  This is easy, I thought. I completed it but did not know that it was multiplication instead of addition.  In this south Knoxville school, they had learned multiplication in the third grade; in the school I had attended in the third grade we had not been exposed to multiplication. It was a humiliating and a scary experience for a nine year old boy.

We are a very mobile society.  It seems to make sense to me that their should be some standard that says, in this grade you should learn this. Also, the standard should be high so that America's place in the world does not continue to slip. We need an educated work force. Our standards are too low and many do not graduate ready for a career or college. Common Core seem to me to beef up the standards and requires a uniform minimum standard so that a student in Alabama is learning pretty much the same thing that a child in Massachusetts is leaning in a specific grade.  The standards also require critical thinking.  I also liked that the standard was voluntary and that it originated with the states and not the federal government.

When the political campaign against Common Core started, at first it seemed that it was being led by the populist conspiracy-theory-prone right wing fringe and I did not take the criticism seriously.  After the Heritage Foundation and other more mainstream conservative groups began campaigning against Common Core however, I took a second look.  I have read the criticisms bit still do not find a legitimate reason to oppose common core. So much of the criticism of Common Core appears misplaced. An inappropriate reading selection or a teaching method is discovered and opponents of Common Core point to that and offer it as an example of what is wrong with Common Core. Often it has nothing to do with Common Core.

The populist right united with teachers unions appear to be gaining ground in defeating Common Core and Tennessee seems to be on the verge of abandoning Common Core as have several other states.  While most on the populist right are waging the war on Common Core, the mainstream conservatives are, for the most part, acquiescing, and not defending it.

I was pleased to find this article by Andrew Ferguson who is a senior editor at the Weakly Standard that defends Common Core and explains the battle against it.  The Weekly Standard is a major conservative publication. Below are excerpts. I encourage you to follow the link and read the full article.

The Common Core Commotion 

Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.

The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”

......The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.

Coincidence? Many activists think not.

The conservative case, as seen in videos and blogs posted on countless websites, relies heavily on misinformation—tall tales and urban legends advanced by people who should know better. Revulsion at the educationist project predates Common Core by many decades. It is grounded in countless genuine examples of faddish textbooks and politicized curriculums. For the last few years, however, Common Core has been blamed for all of them. Textbook marketers and lesson-plan designers are happy to help. Their market, after all, isn’t parents but fellow educationists on state and local school boards that control purchasing budgets. Once Common Core was established as the future (for now) of education, the marketers knew the phrase was catnip. Every educational product imaginable now bears the label “common core,” whether it’s inspired by the Standards or not. A search of books for sale on shows more than 12,000 bearing the words “common core” in their titles. Many were produced long before the Standards were even a twinkle in an educationist’s eye.

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Davidson County Young Republicans meet Tuesday Nov. 25th.

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