Chris in S. Burlington | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Chris in S. Burlington 
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Re: “UVM College of Medicine Addresses Diversity

"The advantages of having a diverse student population are clear. Diversity has been shown to lead to creativity and innovation and is key to solving complex problems, said David A. Acosta, chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges."

Undoubtedly true but a complicated truth that goes much deeper. Harvard Professor Robert Putnam conducted in-depth research on this topic:

"IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings."…

Theoretically, this may be overcome as social identity evolves and changes. But it likely requires a social narrative that emphasizes our commonality as Americans and a true melting pot, including immigration rates at a pace that allows for assimilation. The current social narrative, fed by both right and left, is a salad bowl model of splintering apart based on identity politics & surface differences.

5 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 09/20/2017 at 12:52 PM

Re: “UVM College of Medicine Addresses Diversity

So long as admissions is judging each applicant based on their merit and admitting applicants with similar grade point averages and MCAT scores, the amount of melanin or lack thereof should have zero impact on admission. If someone is going into surgery, they want someone who is highly qualified and was admitted to medical school based on their qualifications; not based on what box the person checks on a Census Bureau form.

8 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 09/20/2017 at 12:29 PM

Re: “Burlington Teachers on Strike After Negotiations Fail

This is truly getting ridiculous. School closed again on Monday?!! Are you kidding me?! How are the two sides unable to come to a compromise? You had an independent, neutral fact-finder who made final recommendations in August that required compromise on both sides and the Board rejected these recommendations. Why have a clause requiring an independent, neutral fact-finder; and then pay the fact-finder with people's tax dollars if you are only going to ignore them?

The teachers say the final sticking point is paraprofessionals/teaching assistants should do door duty; lunch duty; and recess duty. The Board says the teachers need to do all 3 because the teachers know the kids best and can spot escalating bullying. General classroom para's that are not assigned 1-on-1 to special ed. kids often know the kids well too. Make a compromise. Teachers do recess duty; and para's do door duty and lunch duty. This really is not rocket science!

11 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 09/15/2017 at 6:17 PM

Re: “Burlington Teachers on Strike After Negotiations Fail

Penelope, the normal classroom size is more like 22 to 24. There are other non-classroom teachers for music, art, physical education, etc., although those classes are also generally 22 to 24. In upper grades, class size is generally similar but teachers have more specialization (history; math; science, etc.) The extra teachers for smaller groups are mostly special education and ESL. One-on-one para-educators for special education students. Huge ESL program for the legal immigrant refugee children.

What this suggests is that per student spending is not equal. That what is currently termed "typically developing" students (as opposed to special education students or ESL students) are getting less dollars per student for their education than others. Mary Jay Mullowney posted a figure of $24,000 per student, based on a budget of $86 million divided by 3,600 students. It would be helpful for the District to provide more transparency and explain per student figure for typically developing students; special education students; and ESL students.

I have no idea what the actual break-down is because I am not aware if Burlington School District discloses the true figures. Just making this up but would it be $15,000 per student for 2,400 typically developing students; $35,000 per student for 900 ESL students; and $45,000 per student for 300 special education students?

The special education law and ESL mandates are well-intentioned to try and give every child the opportunity for an education but there is a conflict in that there are only so many dollars to go around.

16 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 09/14/2017 at 7:52 PM

Re: “Burlington Teachers on Strike After Negotiations Fail

Jim M, interesting point. I did not realize it was a statewide problem. My understanding is under budget pressures to fund ESL and special education, Burlington has cut math classes, to the extent that some parents have tried to organize to teach some of the math concepts Burlington no longer is willing to support. Although this will never truly substitute for the eliminated math classes.

What do you think is the cause of this statewide?

9 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 09/14/2017 at 4:44 PM

Re: “Burlington Teachers on Strike After Negotiations Fail

Unfortunate. Would Superintendent have been more invested in encouraging the School Board to find a resolution if he actually lived in Burlington and enrolled his own children in Burlington schools? Instead of misrepresenting during job interview that he would comply with decades of Burlington law requiring department heads to live in the city? And then, after accepting job, moving to South Burlington, enrolling his own children in highest-paying district in Vermont?

Preventing this exact scenario was the reason for decades of the residency requirement and why Burlington voters rejected its proposed elimination at the ballot box repeatedly. For accountability, credibility and investment for decision-makers in the city. So they would personally live by and be impacted by their own decisions. Yaw Obeng's family did not have to scramble for child-care this AM.

Instead of holding Superintendent accountable for his misrepresentation, City Council chose to go around the will of the voters and weakened the residency requirement. Magically making "must live in Burlington" = live anywhere in Chittenden County.

At least immigration shenanigans seem over for now. Obeng and District lawyers misrepresented to immigration authorities that reason he was coming to the US from Canada was to work as adjunct professor at UVM (and not because he was hired as Burlington Superintendent). UVM cooperated with this nonsense by conveniently hiring Obeng, after-the-fact, when his original visa application for "extraordinary ability" was rejected. And conveniently, when Superintendent & District needed bailing out, UVM never bothered to even post the position nor consider any other candidate. Obeng now has different, 3-year visa, that expires in 2019, and conveniently has left UVM faculty job that was supposedly primary reason he came to US.

Burlington students certainly learning many different lessons from School Board; Superintendent; and City Council.

35 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 09/14/2017 at 2:40 PM

Re: “Burlington Teachers on Strike After Negotiations Fail

Jim M., you cannot blame the teachers for falling test scores. The demographics in Burlington have changed dramatically in recent years, with a large influx of legal immigrant refugee families. These families generally highly value education but there is a language barrier and the standardized tests assume native fluency in English. Not that there's anything wrong with that; immigrants should learn English as part of the assimilation process. But it doesn't matter if an immigrant has been here 10 years or just got off the proverbial boat yesterday - the standardized tests are administered at same time each year. This doesn't mean the legal immigrant refugee children are not intelligent or hard-working but it does mean increased failing test scores.

Also, Burlington generally attracts many lower income demographics because it is the only place in Vermont and the North Country with significant social and nonprofit/charity supports. Charities funded by donations and subsidized by tax dollars distributed from Montpelier help these organizations offer free meals (Red Cross; Food Shelf); free food/groceries; free housing (COTS); subsidized housing (although some other communities provide subsidized housing); discounted, subsidized internet not available to middle class; etc. Certainly not always the case but lower income demographics sometimes have family stability and mental health issues that can challenge child development, and thus lead to lower test scores.

You will see high test scores from elite private schools where politicians send their children in Washington, DC, such as Episcopal Academy or Sidwell Friends, which have very token populations of the above demographics. You may see higher test scores in South Burlington or Essex, which has some of these demographics, but less overall. You may see lower test scores in Winooski, which has similar demographics to Burlington. It does not mean there are not a lot of great teachers in Winooski.

Teachers are not gods and have to work with the student population in front of them. They cannot control family history. It is what it is.

25 likes, 11 dislikes
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 09/14/2017 at 2:31 PM

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