Santa and Grinch visit Sweetwater District meeting

As a teacher I have to say no one I know is using the children like pawns in a custody battle. My professional colleagues and I still do everything we can for kids all day long. I personally stopped doing the things I did out of courtesy to the adults. I spend my prep time grading and planning- not attending meetings. My papers take longer to grade because I don't take them home any more, but they are done quickly and the kids get the feedback they need, though it is no longer in fun bulletin board form. We are not hurting kids and I object to the thought that we ever would. If I don't do extra and it engenders conversation with a parent who noticed, then I have done my job. And as a side note- I was not even a SEA member for over a dozen years. Ironically it was the return of Dr. Brand and in particular the scary principal he gave us that pushed me to join. Heck I was even happy when Dr. Brand came back. I really thought he was one of us and would have our back. Like many I am so hurt and saddened by the direction our district is going. I love Sweetwater and I hate this dissent. If I said to my students that I was going to weigh a test for 20% of their grade, then at the last minute told them it would be 80% of their grade unless they agree to give me their cell phones for the next 3 months- that would be unethical and I would be disciplined. How anyone can defend Dr. Brand using a huge uptick in benefit costs that his own advisors told him was not necessary in order to beat concessions out of his staff is beyond comprehension. Wrong is wrong. Dr. Grier is a proponent of putting money in the classroom. It is an insult to him to compare Dr. Brand's problems to his- Dr. Brand just took back all the money our schools have to help in the classroom (SEI, Title I, LEP...). I have met Dr. Grier and Ed Brand is no Terry Grier. Yes even Bertha is a criminal- but she seems to be the only one who has the backbone to ask a question or stand up for common sense. We will all be relieved when the new board is seated.
— December 16, 2013 7:25 p.m.

The Turks are coming...to a charter school near you - REMOVED PER JH

So why keep her there? The local middle school she would have attended does not start until 7th grade. My daughter is a high-level GATE student who loves math and science. She has been bored out of her mind for the past 6 years of school and already completed a 5/6 combo class at her local elementary school. The elementary offers no GATE program and no differentiation for higher level learners. She was ready to go to middle school and Magnolia was the only option near our house so we applied. Since she has started attending I have seen such growth in her educationally and with "soft skills" such as organization and time management. She is self-directed, does her own homework without nagging or parent involvement. She manages her own learning. Last week she was sick and went online and read all the history chapters she was missing because she did not want to get behind. She has the opportunity to take higher level math, and she is a part of the Science Olympiad team which she loves. She wants to stay after school to work in the garden or help with the talent show. She has unlimited access to tutoring when she does not understand her work. The school offers art, band and foreign language. The principal calls me back when I call him, the teachers respond to emails, and the office staff know my kid by name when they see her. Her class sizes are in the 20's. School lunch is organic and locally sourced. After school care is free. Uniforms eliminate a ton of middle school bullying issues. My child loves school, loves her teachers and is doing rigorous, interesting, standard-based work that finally challenges her. Compare to our local middle school which offers: assigned seating in the cafeteria because the bullying situation is so bad, no foreign language offered - just band. School has a special class just to address bullying issues. Class sizes in the high 30's. All students in the same course sequence- no differentiation. No competitive teams. No tutoring. After school care is $360 a month. Getting to school is through a high-crime neighborhood full of apartments. Tell me- if these were your options- what would you do? Gulenists doing a great job- or public school that is falling apart?
— December 9, 2013 11:40 a.m.

The Turks are coming...to a charter school near you - REMOVED PER JH

I'm one of those parents and I was mainly directing my comments to the allegations made about Magnolia Science Academy in the article, in particular that it is a poor school, an I-9 visa factory, and that it takes advantage of poor-inner city ignorant parents. In my experience none of those things are true about Magnolia, and in fact they border on slanderous. As for the Gulenist ties- I did watch all the videos, and read the websites listed above. Maybe I am delusional or ignorant, but the impression I get from all of them is that A) yes there are ties to Gulen, B) I see lots of circumstantial evidence that they are foolish and somewhat incompetent, but no hard evidence that they are actually stealing money or indoctrinating kids into the movement in any way. If I am being honest- it bugs me. However I went onto the state credentialing website and looked up all the teachers and staff at the school. All of the teachers my daughter has have valid CA teaching credentials. If they choose to donate their salary to Gulen- I don't care. If the whole school system is a front to launder money then I hope they are caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I may be naive, but I have worked at a Charter School and at a regular comprehensive school and have witnessed CA state audits first hand and still believe it is very difficult to launder money in the state of CA. Continued below
— December 9, 2013 11:39 a.m.

The Turks are coming...to a charter school near you - REMOVED PER JH

So my child actually attends Magnolia Science Academy in San Carlos (it has not been named Momentum Middle School for several years.) I read all about the Gulenist ties before applying to the school and to be honest I was kind of freaked out about it. Ultimately I had several friends who had kids at the school and they calmed my fears and I decided that we would try it out and leave at the first sign of anything weird. I am a public school teacher who is not a fan of most charters so I am highly skeptical to begin with. Our experience at Magnolia has been nothing but positive. First of all the makeup I saw at parent night was NOT unwhite, ignorant urban parents being scammed by a cult. In one class the teacher asked if there were any parents who knew anyone in the science field who could come and speak to the class. No fewer than 10 parents raised their hand. In the room were a nuculear engineer, a Scripps researcher, and two M.D.'s. My child is a GATE student and at her public elementary school there were NO interventions or enrichment activities for her. The school's resources were directed towards bringing up the bottom quartile of far below basic students and those students who were performing well on the standardized tests were essentially left out of instructional decisions. As a teacher of at-risk kids I totally understand that but as a parent it is extremely frustrating. At Magnolia my student has 5 teachers. 4 are white. One is Turkish. He teaches Turkish which seems legit. The other teachers are young, but exceptionally good teachers in my opinion. My daughter is writing common-core claims-based essays in her Ancient History class at a level I am struggling to reach with my 11th graders. Her math class is rigorous and challenging. In addition to her Turkish elective (which I grant you is a weird choice)- she is in a Science Olympiad class that she loves where they build robots, and will be participating in the science competition in January. Is it a Magnolia/Gulenist competition? I don't care. She is doing difficult, interesting hands-on project based science and is being challenged at a level she has never been at in all her years in public school. Even with looking for signs of a Turkish mind-control cult I just don't see it. Yes, Turkish is an elective. Yes, it is a kind of stupid elective but it is one semester and really they are drinking tea, eating pastries and learning about Turkey. The Turkish teacher and the AP are Turkish, but both are kind, empathetic and very very responsive. The principal is a white guy. The staff are white and hispanic. The school provides clubs, tutoring, and my daughter says how much she loves going every day. That is good enough for me. The school is accredited by WASC so there is oversight, and the parents are HIGHLY involved professional types who would sound the alarm if things were off, believe me.
— November 14, 2013 12:46 p.m.

Cops kick out public from Sweetwater board meeting

Timtim- though I do not need to explain myself to you, it might blow your mind to know that not all teachers are Democrats. In fact some of us are card-carrying Republican soccer moms who grew up poor and worked our way through college to become teachers. I did not vote for Obama or Filner, and if I lived in the South Bay I probably would have supported McCann until he revealed his true intellect. I wasn't even in the union for more than a decade- it was the graft and corruption and culture of fear that Gandara brought to our district that drove me back to the union for protection from capricious reprisals from my supervisors. I don't know how you can be a conservative and think that reserves below 3%, borrowing from Mello Roos and now buying a FOURTH property for the district office is in the best interest of our district. I would like us to stay solvent, who wouldn't? I even don't mind paying a fair price for my insurance, though I did NOT support the affordable care act by the way. This has nothing to do with the cost of the insurance. This has to do with the district telling its teachers that it would pay a set amount, then deciding, after putting that into writing during bargaining that they had changed their mind and were going to pay a different amount based on imaginary numbers. I have no other insurance that I can add my family to in the next week. Brand knows this and is using my kids as blackmail. Either give in and allow our classes to be in excess of 40 in many places and take no raise for over 9 years- or take the benefit raise. That is blackmail. There is no other word for it. I will join a "mob" with my kids all day long to stand up to that.
— October 23, 2013 5:52 p.m.

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