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Educational malpractice Pt. 1: fraud, sex and football in Memphis, TN

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“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that covers up gross negligence among multiple Principals and Senior and Junior District Level supervisors who participate in sexual relationships with teachers/employees/support staff whom they supervise, which directly violates Tennessee law and requires revocation of their license and termination from supervisory positions. This is a common and accepted practice.”

With its headquarters located in The Home of the Blues, the Shelby County Schools system has been singing the blues lately, and for good reason.

It was back in June of 2017, when the trouble really kick-started.  Trezevant High School principal, Ronnie Mackin, released a head-turning, six-page resignation letter in which he outlined a series of complaints against Shelby County Schools, including, among other things:

  • grade-changing (which a three-lawyer panel investigation proved to be systemic);
  • sexual improprieties between faculty, staff, and district supervisors (an issue reported in another area high school as well);
  • breaches in security at the school (one incident was later uncovered on surveillance footage);
  • racist conduct by school system administrators, supervisors, and other district officials;
  • financial mishandlings and possible theft of school funds (SCS later opened a separate investigation into this matter);
  • kickbacks;
  • and pay-to-play for certain athletes.

Mackin closed his resignation letter with a series of powerful declarations, several of which I have included throughout this article in italicized form.

Back in August of 2016, Principal Mackin –  brand new to Trezevant High School – approached Shelby County Schools (SCS) district leadership after uncovering wide-spread grade-changes. Students’ report cards did not align with their official transcripts.

Some students’ grades were changed from failing to passing, while others received credit for courses not taken. This, according to Mackin, put 121 out of 145 seniors at risk of not graduating.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where it is common knowledge that certain schools have cheated to attain “other than normal” achievement gains.”

Trezevant High School’s 2015-2016 graduation rate was 49%, which improved 16% in the 2014-15 school year which remains well-under district, state, and national averages.

As Mackin later elucidated, “Changing grades from failing to passing, artificially raising graduation rates, and falsifying college transcripts have become part of a big business,” noting the compensation structure within the school system which are “based on a mythical system of accountability,” and which ultimately encourage unethical behavior.

An internal district investigation by Shelby County Schools was begun.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that promotes dishonesty, fraud, and misrepresentations of academic progress in order to promote athletic success.”

Because a large number of the grade-changes effected football players, Trezevant’s football team was forced to forfeit all games until the investigation had been completed, which prompted protests from students.

The Trezevant High School football team won the state championship the prior school year.

Over the course of the remaining school year, Principal Mackin’s car was vandalized with racist language (“white boy b**** a**”), and a whisper campaign against him ensued within the community, which according to Mackin’s resignation letter, was instigated by several SCS district officials.

Such incidents included:

  • the implication the Mackin, as a white man, was culturally illiterate and ineffective at his post;
  • a voicemail on a parent’s phone by Mackin’s supervisor encouraging that parent to seek legal action against Mackin “under false pretenses”;
  • and district officials instigating parents to perform a background check on Mackin (which ultimately found nothing).

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where district level supervisors are not only allowed to bully and harass school level Principals, Teachers, and Support Staff, they are encouraged.”

The district’s internal investigation had concluded in October of 2016:

“We have identified 131 students currently enrolled in the district whose transcripts were altered by a staff member of Trezevant . . . All these students were previously enrolled at Trezevant at some point during their time in high school. 92 of these students are still enrolled at Trezevant, 44 of whom are seniors. The remaining 39 (of the 131) are now enrolled in 22 different high schools. Of these 39 students, 15 are seniors. (Other schools will be contacted as needed.)”

Shelby County Schools maintained the stance that the grading discrepancies were isolated to Trezevant High School. The school secretary was fired and the head football coach was suspended for 5 days.

The incident was settled and swept aside.

But not for Ronnie Mackin.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that allows District Leadership to collude, interfere, and influence DUE PROCESS in order to protect employees tied by long standing acquaintance, sexual relationships, and fraternal/sorority affiliations from being disciplined fairly and according to policy.”

After Mackin’s fiery resignation letter was made public, a full 10 months after he had first uncovered and reported the grading discrepancies to the school district, SCS appointed a panel of lawyers to investigate the incident.

Now, the panel’s findings have been released, and the picture painted by the findings is bleak.

As the Commercial Appeal reported:

“At least 53 students graduated from Trezevant without earning their diplomas, according to findings from the report released Tuesday. That increased the graduation rate 14 percent over a four-year period from 2012-2016. During that time, 461 grades at that school were changed from failing to passing.

Kirby High had 582 failing grades changed to passing grades.

After Trezevant, Raleigh-Egypt High had 429 such changes.”

The report called for even further investigations, indicating Trezevant was merely the tip of the iceberg; a recommendation which the SCS board subsequently encouraged. Eight different schools are now undergoing audits.

The state Department of Education also urged the district to investigate further, ordering expansive audits for all Shelby County Schools for the next three years.

In addition, the State has requested the names of all who were involved in altering students’ grades.

“The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office is investigating Trezevant at the request of Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. Those investigators have the freedom to expand their investigation as necessary,” the Commercial Appeal reported.

Shelby County Schools accreditation is even on the line. As Fox 13 Memphis reported, it’s the damning findings found in the panel’s report “that now has AdvancED, the agency that issues and oversees important school accreditations, wondering what’s going on inside SCS?”

The board has also moved to fire Trezevant’s head football coach, who had since been moved to a different area high school.

In a January op-ed in the Commercial Appeal, Mackin put the practice of grade-changing into full perspective:

“Students have become commodities (priced at around $11,500 per student) to some educators who are willing to promote them and get them out of school in hopes for big returns in the future.

This is child exploitation and abuse.”

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where students are the last priority…”

Had it not been for the actions of one brave (and royally ticked off) principal, a man who chose to sacrifice his own 19-year long career for the betterment of our community’s youths and who has continued to speak out, the improprieties within the school system would have never been uncovered, nor addressed.

We may never find out the degree of rot within the adult culture of Shelby County Schools, or just how many bad actors we have employed.

It has only been a few years since Memphis schools were rocked by a teacher licensing-exam “cheating ring” that spanned three states. The mastermind was a 23-year employee, having served as a teacher, an assistant principal and a guidance counselor for the school system. Multiples teacher were indicted.

Dorsey Hopson, who serves as the superintendent of Shelby County Schools, said at the time, “It would be unfair to let what may be 50, 60 or 100 teachers who did some wrong stain the good work of the large number of teachers and administrators who get up every day and go by the book.”

Sadly, there is one thing of which we can be certain: where there is one bad actor, there are many.

Fallen apples don’t rot far from the tree.

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Conservatism

Why forgiving student loan debt for disabled veterans makes sense

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Why forgiving student loan debt for disabled veterans makes sense

The cries are already coming in from the purist wing of the conservative movement as President Trump signs an executive order forgiving student loan debt for permanently disabled veterans. They’re saying this is a precursor to student loan forgiveness across the board. They say this opens the door for a future Democratic President to do the same thing, only so widespread it’ll damage not only the country but forever change the way education is handled in America.

But there’s one important caveat about forgiving student loan debt for permanently disabled veterans that reactionary conservatives missed. It was already done. This isn’t introducing a new stance on student loans. It’s expediting the process because as of now, about 1/5th of the eligible veterans are taking advantage of it.

Trump signs executive order cancelling student loan debt for disabled veterans

The memo Trump signed directs the government to develop an “expedited” process so veterans can have their federal student loan debt discharged “with minimal burdens.” Currently, just half of the roughly 50,000 disabled veterans who are qualified to have their federal student loan debt forgiven have received the benefit because of a burdensome application process.

Under the current process, disabled veterans can have their debt forgiven under a loan forgiveness program, called Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, or TPD, as long as they have a VA service-connected disability rating of 100 percent. As of July, however, only about 20 percent of the eligible pool of veterans had taken advantage of the program due to the complicated nature of the application and other factors.

This is a political move that will affect thousands of Americans at a relatively low cost, especially when compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of loan forgiveness being proposed by many Democrats.

But the bigger reason nobody should be balking at this is because these are people who have served their country and are actually deserving of the “free stuff” offers being made to everyone by Democrats. And by “everyone,” I mean literally everyone. Democrats want free education for illegal immigrants, and some are balking because the President wants permanently disabled veterans to have their loans forgiven? Fiscal conservatives (of which I am one) need to find another battle to fight.

This is a smart move by the President and turns the chants of “free college for everyone” by Democrats on its head. Loan forgiveness for permanently disabled veterans is pittance compared to the sacrifices they’ve made for this country.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Democrats

Bernie Sanders blames high cost of college for seniors going bankrupt

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Bernie Sanders blames high cost of college for seniors going bankrupt

To all of you 68-year-old college freshmen out there, Bernie Sanders wants your vote. He feels your plight. He recognizes the crushing effect of the high cost of college and how it’s making your go bankrupt. All you want is a degree so you can get a job to pay for socialism in your golden years, and the system is against you. But not with Bernie. Bernie will save you.

All snark aside, it’s true that seniors are going bankrupt, but it’s not because of pensions being cut (something that was essentially cured over a decade ago) or high cost of college. It’s true that healthcare costs are a driving force. Bernie got that one right. What he doesn’t indicate is how the five-fold increase in bankruptcies is a direct result of Obamacare’s cost-driving effects on health insurance and medical costs.

This is why the greatest lie the Democrats are seemingly being allowed to get away with is that their plan is what will fix the broken healthcare system. Medicare-for-All and the other proposals are all advancements on Obamacare. They take things further to the left. After seeing what a little progressive healthcare can do, why would Americans want to double down on it? Who wants twice the failure?

It’s hard to tell which is worse: That Bernie blames high college costs for senior citizens going bankrupt or that millions of Democrats are nodding their heads instead of scratching them.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Education

Gen Z needs a real history lesson Mom and Dad

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Generation Z, ages 13 through 22 are genuinely confused. On one hand, many polls find they are quite conservative. The Hispanic Heritage Foundation found the majority of Gen Z voters identified as Republicans in a poll of 50,000 14-18-year-olds in 2016. Other measures show they are more fiscally and socially conservative than either Gen X or Millennials.

The Center for Generation Kinetics found Gen Z are avoiding student debt like mad. They plan to work through college and keep clear of personal debt. Twelve percent are already saving for retirement and 77% earn their own spending money. Their attitudes toward work, the American Dream and the fact that life is not fair, mirror their Gen X parents. A whopping 78% say the American Dream is alive and well. They also recognize that success is not always in direct proportion to how hard you work.

Yet in recent polling conducted by Young America’s Foundation and Eschelon Insights and given exclusively to Townhall, some strange trends occur. According to the article, a survey of 2004 students aged 13-22 found:

  • 46% admit to self-censoring in the classroom, half of the time due to peer pressure
  • Yet 74% feel their teachers encourage a variety of opinions during class discussion

It is unclear from the write-up what is driving self-censorship in the remainder of cases. However, nearly half of students in this age range say there are times they don’t share their views. One-quarter of respondents also feel that diverse views are not encouraged by those educating. Neither one of these outcomes leads to complete learning. As parents, we need to demand open learning environments and encourage our Gen Z’s to use their minds and their voice. Then be prepared to support our children if they experience negative consequences for sharing their ideas.

In terms of basic economics, the results really make very little sense. According to the poll:

  • 80% have a favorable view of small business
  • 73% view entrepreneurs in a positive light
  • 61% have a favorable view of free markets
  • Only 40% have a positive view of capitalism

It is as if they do not comprehend that capitalism is the free-market system that supports business ownership and entrepreneurial activities. It also allows for more income mobility than any other economic system which aligns with their belief in the American Dream.

Given Gen Z’s favorable view of elements of free-market capitalism, 40% of college students have a positive view of socialism. Overall 35% of participants held that view. However, they can’t define what socialism is. Twenty-seven percent who viewed it positively said they did not know or were unsure. Ten percent simply defined it as free stuff.

So my Gen X cohorts, it is time to get to work. It is imperative we contrast the oppression of socialism with the freedom to pursue the American Dream for these kids. We need to get comfortable speaking about the experience of our Cold War childhood. What it meant to us when we saw the Berlin Wall fall. The final symbol of the evils our grandfathers fought crumbling. The millions of young men that died defending their freedom to pursue their dreams and speak freely.

It is clear the school system is skipping over the sacrifices we have made as a nation to keep the authoritarians from our shores. They are also not accurately characterizing the oppression and inequality in socialist societies that are crumbling before our eyes. Cuba and Venezuela are full of modern-day horrors because of socialism. Protestors their age in Hong Kong risking their very lives trying to keep from coming under mainland China.

So as I have said before, it is up to Gen X to save the world. It’s time to bridge the gap in history our children are not being taught.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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