Sunday, December 25, 2011

Can Santa Be Black?


Can Santa Be Black?

It happened in the kindergarten class,
Right at the table where they were having snack.
Joanie asked the question and they all sat back:
"Mr. Slater? Can Santa Claus be black?"

Poor Mr. Slater didn't know what to say,
Christmas vacation was twenty days away.
There were snowflakes to cut and
Window wreaths to be hung,
Christmas cards to be painted,
And Christmas songs to be sung.

He hadn't time to think
What Christmas was about,
In twenty more days,
School would be out!
Why couldn't they wait
And ask their questions then,
When mommies and daddies
Were home to answer them?
"Mr. Slater? Can Santa be thin?"
"Is Santa Clause always a him?"

Mr. Slater looked at twenty pairs of eyes,
Twenty children of every shape and size.
He ate a bit of cracker and finished his drink.
"Children," he said,
"I'll need some time to think."
As soon as class was over,
He ran down the hall,
Skidded 'round a corner,
Crashed into a wall.
Ran up the steps to the second floor,
Rapped on the window of the principal's door.

"Ms. Frazer, Ms. Frazer, what can I do?
The children asked these questions
That now I ask of you:

'Can Santa Claus be black?'
'Can Santa Claus be thin?'
'Does Santa always have to be a him?'"

"Mr. Slater, it's a difficult task
To find answers to the questions you ask.
I think with these I'll need some assistance,
But I'll get you the answers with a little persistence."

Ms. Frazer turned in her swivel chair,
Picked up the phone and dialed Mr. Dare.
Mr. Dare was the head of the P.T.A.,
He called for a meeting the very next day.

"Thank you for coming,"
He began with a greeting.
"I'd like to get right to the point of this meeting.
Mr. Slater, in charge of the kindergarten class,
Needs the answers to some questions
And he needs them fast."

"'Can Santa be black?'
"'Can Santa be thin?'
"'Does Santa always have to be a him?'"

The parents didn't know what to say,
Christmas vacation was nineteen days away.
There were cookies to bake and lights to string,
Gifts to wrap and carols to sing.

They hadn't time to think
What Christmas was about,
In nineteen more days
School would be out!
Why did children have to ask questions when
Parents had no time to sit and answer them?

"Well, Parents?
Are there any suggestions?
Do we have any answers
To these difficult questions?"

"Who knows best
What Christmas is about?
Let's ask Santa!"
Someone called out in a shout.

The secretary of the P.T.A.
Sent a letter to Santa the very next day.
The reply came back very, very fast,
Addressed to Mr. Slater
And the kindergarten class.

Dear Mr. Slater, Dear Girls, Dear Boys,
Once a storywriter caught me bringing you toys.
The year he spied me opening my sack,
My skin was white, my boots were black.
You probably know how that story goes . . .
I laid a finger aside my nose?
All these years, needlessly,
That story worries children who don't have a chimney.
All year long I listen to the news,
Read people's thoughts, see people's views.
At the end of the year, when I see what's needed most,
I take that shape, like a Christmas ghost.
I can pass through keyholes, windows and locks,
Apartment buildings, hospitals, tents, and trailer lots.

One year I used a wheelchair in place of my sleigh,
Once I was blind and had to feel my way.
It's hard to understand when I don't leave a toy:
You can't unwrap a gift like hope or health or joy.
My skin has been black, white, yellow, red, brown;
My eyes have been slanted, crossed, and round.
Sometimes I have been a she:
All these things are a part of me.
You may not believe all this is true,
But that's okay, boys and girls, because . . .
I believe in you.

—B. J. Wrights

Friday, December 16, 2011

Teach For America Five-Year Contract Approved 7-2

Dallas ISD Trustees approved a five-Year contract with Teach for America.

Voting for the five-year contract:

  • Lew Blackburn
  • Bernadette Nutall
  • Mike Morath
  • Nancy  Bingham
  • Edwing Flores
  • Adam Medrano
  • Eric Cowan
Voting against the five-year contact:
  • Bruce Parrott
  • Carla Ranger

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Teach For America spin

“… The goals of corporate reform are privatization and deprofessionalization.
By deprofessionalization I mean that it is the idea that anyone can teach.  You
don’t need any particular credentials or training – just maybe five or so weeks
and you are a teacher. Sometimes not even that – just fill out the papers …”
Diane Ravitch – February 24, 20110.

At the Board Briefing two weeks ago I requested that the Teach For America item be pulled for a separate vote.

Since Trustees Lew Blackburn, Bernadette Nutall and Mike Morath recently supported another policy change requiring two Trustees to pull an item for a separate vote, I did not expect this item to be pulled.  I was prepared to vote against the consent agenda - if necessary - or abstain. 

The price of such a policy is that Trustees can play games.  Anything on the consent agenda does not reflect a specific vote; Trustees can claim they voted for the consent agenda as a whole, not the specific item of public interest. They can even claim unanimous support because the item was on the consent agenda.

Such policies undermine democracy.

Each elected Trustee represents over 100,000 citizens.  Individual members of the Dallas City Council can pull an item for a separate vote.  Individual members of Dallas County Commissioners Court can pull an item for a separate vote. But not individual Dallas ISD Trustees - we cannot pull an item of public interest to the citizens who elected us.

Be careful who you trust with power.  People get in positions of power and set things up to exclude the public interest. They set things up for their self-interest.

Teach For America (TFA) has become a part of the top down corporate reform movement that is destroying public education.  Study after study has documented the failures of the top-down corporate approach to so-called education reform.

Teach for America is not an education reform - it is a part of the political movement of education toward private entrepreneurship and increasing control of education by private groups.

The highest performing education system in the world (Finland) doesn't use Teach for America type programs. Neither does Highland Park ISD.

Students from Finland outperform peers in 43 other nations – including the United States, Germany and Japan – in mathematics, science and reading skills. There are no yearly mandatory tests or exams. They have invested in the teaching profession as a career. 

I have no interest in the current corporate privatization model of public education.

The spin is that TFA teachers perform better than regular alternative certification teachers.  Anybody who knows anything about education at all knows that teaching is a career not an experiment in first year test taking in two subjects.

Give our other first year alternatively certified teachers the same $30,000.00 of first year training received by each Teach for America recruit from private sources and there would be no spin possible. 

I would rather spend the funds on developing good training for our own first year teachers who intend to make teaching a career.

As was stated elsewhere:

"I do not defend the current trend of sending recent college grads with just five weeks’ training and just a two-year commitment to teach in our nation’s most struggling schools which already suffer from high teacher turnover. But that is the model for  Teach for America, Inc. a multimillion-dollar enterprise that is now funded by the Obama government to the tune of $50 million-plus and is arguably de-professionalizing the teaching profession.

Five weeks training does not make these uncredentialed grads “highly qualified,” despite the recent shenanigans by Congress."

See More Here

Looking Past The Spin: Teach For America

"What I have come to appreciate is that things that matter take time. We live in an era when it is rare to meet people in their 20s and 30s who have stayed with something for more than a few years. And certainly, in some cases the right thing is to experiment and move on. But in many cases, the right thing is to stay with something, internalize tough lessons, and push yourself to new levels of knowledge and responsibility. Deep and widespread change comes from sticking with things."
-Wendy Koop-TFA Founder

 The Lesson: High Stakes Testing = Mis-Education

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam to Lie in Repose at Fair Park's Hall of State

There will be a public viewing for Honorable Kathlyn Joy Gilliam at Fair Park's Hall of State from 3:00 9 P.M. on Thursday, December 15, 2011.

Services will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Friday, December 16, 2011 at Christian Chapel CME "Temple of Faith" Church, 14120 Noel Road, Dallas, TX 75254, 972-239-1120. Dr. Jerome McNeil, Jr. is the Senior Pastor.

Immediately after the service, interment will be held in her hometown of Campbell, Texas - 60 miles East of Dallas (I-30).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam - a dedicated educational and community 'servant leader' departed this life

"This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built." Robert K. Greenleaf - The Institution As Servant

On this 11th day in December a dedicated educational and community 'servant leader' departed this life at her home in her beloved sunny South Dallas, where she lived and served for decades.

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam was one of the longest serving Trustees in the history of Dallas ISD - 23 years.  She was the first African American female elected to the Board and the first African American President of the Board.

Her Motto:  "The only successful products of any school system are well-educated children."

We honor and praise Kathlyn Joy Gilliam for her life of service and advocacy on behalf of children and those left out and left behind.

May she rest in peace.

May her family and friends be comforted by the good news that the joy of her service and the dedication of her life will live in the memories of all who knew and will now remember her with thanks, love and appreciation.

Services will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Friday, December 16, 2011 at Christian Chapel CME "Temple of Faith" Church, 14120 Noel Road, Dallas, TX 75254, 972-239-1120. Dr. Jerome McNeil, Jr. is the Senior Pastor.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Teach for America's push into the political side of education

 Teach for America: Elite corps or costing older teachers jobs?

"TFA alumni Nathan Carlberg, who for two years has taught alongside Turk at Cherry Hill, agrees. He says TFA's push "into the political side of education" could make a huge difference.

"Once we get people who have experienced and gone through TFA as union heads and secretaries of education and presidents of school boards," Carlberg says, "then we will see the large systemic change that is needed in this system."
USA Today-7/29/2009

How Board non-resignation ended

This is how the issue of my non-resignation by email dated Friday, August 26, 2011 came to an end on Wednesday, August 31, 2011.

I was informed by the Dallas ISD General Counsel on Friday, August 26, 2011 that my email resignation was not valid under Board Policy BBC-Legal and that I would need to submit the resignation in the proper format before any official Board action to accept a resignation could be taken.

The decision was mine alone - to resign or not.  If I decided to resign, it must be done in the proper format.

I also spoke with the Board President by phone on Saturday, August 27, 2011, and he clearly knew that under Board policy there had been no resignation.

Over the weekend many requests from District 6 residents and other concerned citizens were received asking me to continue as District 6 Trustee.  I listened to their feedback and was humbled by the statements of support. 

These requests were the primary reason I reconsidered and decided not to resign. Also, new information was reported in the Dallas Morning News on the possible doubling of the expense of an election because of a missed deadline. 

Even though I had not officially resigned and that was clearly understood and had been discussed with both the General Counsel and the Board President, on Monday, August 29, 2011 a Called Board meeting was scheduled for Thursday, September 1, 2011 a 6:00 P.M. "to Take Possible Action to Accept the Resignation of Board Trustee, Carla Ranger, District 6."

On Tuesday (8-30-11) I asked my Board Assistant to inform the Board of Trustees that I would not be sending an official resignation.  I assumed that should end the matter but it did not.  There was more.

The next day (Wednesday, August 31, 2011)  I received the email below from the Board President Lew Blackburn  and I responded to his demand that "you personally send a written statement of your intention to retract your resignation." 

My board assistant, at my request, had already informed the Board of my intention not to resign on Tuesday. 

There is no requirement to personally retract a resignation that the General Counsel and Board President had already confirmed did not meet the requirements of Board policy and was not a valid resignation.

It was reported in the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday, August 30, 2011:
"Though Blackburn still had not received the document by Tuesday, trustees called a meeting for Thursday to accept Ranger’s resignation. Blackburn had said if he had not received a written resignation from Ranger by then, the board would ask its legal staff if Ranger’s e-mailed resignation could suffice as notification." DMN Click Here
Trustee Blackburn already knew the answer to this question and so did I.  He had confirmed to me personally on Saturday that the email resignation could not suffice as notification. There was nothing to ask. The General Counsel had already answered that question.
I saw where this was going and decided to respond.

Email from Lew Blackburn to Carla Ranger
Wednesday, 8-31-2011 - 12:14 P.M.

Trustee Carla Ranger,

On Friday, August 26, 2011, at 3:58 p.m., you sent an email message to several Dallas ISD employees (Deno Harris, Executive Director, Board Services, Alan King, Interim Superintendent of Schools, Jack Elrod, General Counsel, and Delisa Proctor, Board Assistant).

The email message indicated, "Via this email, I am today submitting my resignation as District 6 Trustee effective on the earliest date of Board acceptance. It is my hope that the Board will appoint a replacement until the next regularly scheduled election date. Immediate acceptance and appointment of a new Trustee prior to the September Board briefing would be appreciated."

The same message was posted on your website at at 3:59 p.m.

On Saturday night, August 27, 2011, at approximately 10:45 p.m. when you returned my call, you indicated that you understood the policy requirements of Policy BBC-Legal; "A Board member may resign by delivering written notice, signed by the Board member, to the presiding officer of the Board. Election Code 201.001.

On yesterday, August 30, 2011, trustees received an email message from Delisa Proctor indicating, "Trustee Ranger has asked me to inform the Board of Trustees that she will not be resigning as District 6 Trustee."  I also received notifications from several media persons, and television and radio newscasts that you had retracted your resignation.

Carla, you did not personally inform the Board of Trustees of your intention to resign your position last Friday.  Still, you have not personally informed the Board of Trustees of your intentions to retract your resignation yesterday.

So that we are very clear about your intentions, please communicate with me as President of the Board of Trustees.  I am asking that you personally send a written statement of your intention to retract your resignation.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

With Regards for Children,

Lew Blackburn, Ph.D.
President, Board of Trustees


Email reply from Carla Ranger to Lew Blackburn
Wednesday, 8-31-2011 - 3:35 P.M.

Good afternoon.

I certainly did request Board Assistant, Delisa Proctor, to inform
the Board that I would not be submitting an official resignation.

Please indicate the section of the Board policy that requires any specific
retraction of a resignation that was not valid in the first place.

I see no such requirement in the Board policy.

It appears you are violating the Board policy in making such a demand that is no
where stated in the policy of the District.

The status appears to be there was no valid resignation.  Therefore, an official
resignation was not and is not before the Board.  If this is correct, there is nothing to retract.

Also, I am not aware of anything in Board policy that would authorize the setting
of a Board meeting prior to receiving a resignation that meets the requirement of Board policy.

The General Counsel previously informed me that the resignation email I sent was
not a valid resignation under Board policy.

It would be helpful to receive the General Counsel's clarification.  I am
requesting that clarification from the General Counsel. I will certainly follow
whatever the General Counsel indicates is required by Board policy BBC (Legal).

Thank you for your assistance.

For the Children,

Carla Ranger

This ended the matter.