What Happens To An Incompetent Teacher at Jeffco? Sadly, Very Little. #NotAnotherDimeJeffco


Visitors, last month I published a column detailing the flagrant incompetence of two teachers that my children had to endure at Evergreen Senior High.

That column has netted me several ugly comments, a couple of near threats, and several anonymous, cowardly, lying reviews on Google regarding my early childhood facility, Evergreen Academy.

Regarding the comments, well, words have consequences, but if criticizing me for writing the truth is all you can do, then have at it. Regarding the threats? My course of graduate study could not have been better timed. I’m studying Criminology and Behavioral Deviance at a local university, and a very good name for the McCord-Fritzler-Kwasny crowd (who I am certain are behind the words) is “deviants”. It gives me great joy to now possess the digital forensic tools to track down these criminals, especially if they choose to escalate their behavior beyond harassing me. Wendy McCord, Shawna Fritzler, Scott Kwasny, Michael Blanton, Tina Gurdikian? I’m warning you off, so behave yourself.

Regarding the deceitful attacks through Google reviews? After my brother, John Newkirk, had the safety of his children and family threatened in Evergreen, I stopped being amazed at the lengths this crowd will stoop force their agenda on the Jeffco public. Evergreen Academy isn’t bulletproof, nothing is, but it’s a place full of love, kindness and skilled care for the youngest and most vulnerable in Evergreen. Keep up the lying reviews, anti-reformers, and you’ll likely find yourself at the mercy of a crowd of young parents who love what we do at EA.

Now, to the topic at hand. I’d like you to lean in with me here, Visitors, this is a little complicated, but I have faith in you. Colorado recently enacted a teacher effectiveness law, Senate Bill 191, in an effort to address teacher effectiveness.

In Jefferson County, new teachers are hired on a ‘probationary’ status for three years. Their contracts are year to year, and at the end of each year they can be dismissed for any reason allowed by law.

(For us civilians, that means that budget issues, student shifts, or poor fashion choices could lead to a dismissal during the three ‘probationary years’. Virtually any reason.) According to this law, probationary teachers must have three ‘effective’ evaluations to be considered for tenure.

“Ineffective” evaluations can be appealed, often at Union expense. You can appeal a poor evaluation and keep your job, and this can take months.

So, it hangs on the evaluations. Here’s where it gets interesting, Visitors. According to Senate Bill 191, HALF of the evaluation has to be based on student achievement. Seems reasonable, no? You are rated on all kinds of things: lesson planning, classroom structure, classroom conduct, can you play nice in the sandbox with other staff, and ARE YOUR STUDENTS MASTERING YOUR MATERIAL. Are they even close? Are they making progress from the beginning of the year to the end?

You have three years, THREE, to prove that you know your craft. Regarding effectiveness, achievement scores are NOT available to be included in your annual evaluation. Why is that? Generally, because the scores are returned to schools in July, long after ratings are completed. So, principals and fellow teachers who rate you, do NOT include effectiveness in your scores, even though they are required to by law. Here’s why that should concern you greatly.

jeffco-math-csap-tcap-2014

Where is the emphasis on achievement? Where?! Jeffco has 87,000 of our children, and is UTTERLY ineffective in teaching them math. Grade schoolers, (my favorite population and area of specialty) start out well, likely because of their natural eagerness to learn. Please, Visitors, I’m pleading with you, note the terrible, precipitous drop by high school.

How will we advance? How will our children gain the technology oriented skills they must have without foundational math? Reading and science scores are similarly terrible.

By tenth grade, FAR less than half of our children are NOT proficient in math. Where else can we look besides disinterested teachers? Yet, out of 4,700 teachers in Jeffco, not ONE teacher will lose their tenure do to ineffective teaching. (http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2016/07/14/denver-public-schools-set-to-strip-nearly-50-teachers-of-tenure-protections-after-poor-evaluations/#.V_AUGJMrJE5)

Cheryl Manning is safe.

Dave Myers will keep his job.

Effective teachers, of which there are many, will continue to get lost in a crowd of disinterested, lectern-pounding, ineffective teachers who will keep their jobs until retirement. This must stop.

Again, Visitors, this is just exhausting. Jeffco is a mess.

Here’s what you can do, in fact, this is the only moral thing you can do.

DON’T VOTE FOR THE JEFFCO BOND ISSUE #NOTANOTHERDIMEJEFFCO

VOTE NO! This is a 565$ Million dollar ask for a system that is completely broken, disinterested in student achievement and thoroughly infested with corruption and inefficiency. More on that later.

IT REALLY IS A BILLION DOLLARS

You must, simply must, demand that Jeffco do its job, and that is to educate! This bond issue will take ONE BILLION DOLLARS to repay, while student achievement will continue to decline.

This simply makes no sense. Demand it, visitors. Demand accountability.

We owe it to our kids.

Much respect,

Victoria

The Education Of Victoria Faith


My firstborn daughter graduated yesterday, Visitors, and it rocked.

Victoria Faith was the smallest of my biological crew, weighing at at 6 lbs 12 oz. She had the biggest head of the bunch, though, and makes a habit out of apologizing to me every birthday. This running joke still cracks me up.

That head proved to be stuffed with brains, as this kid talked at about eight months, showed remarkable fine motor coordination early, and not an iota of interest in walking until she was nearly 2. Early childhood specialists know that could be cause for concern, so we had that enormous head scanned to check for problems, anomalies and incubating aliens. Nothing out of whack, just a cantaloupe held up on a fragile neck-stalk, and we had to be careful until she grew into it.

Grad Cap Fits

It normalized, eventually.

Victoria Faith was, of course, one of four reasons why I felt the burning desire to start Evergreen Academy. As most of you know, Visitors, Jefferson County Public Schools is a flaming train wreck, and is getting worse as time goes by. (More on that later)

Jeffco was in bad shape in the nineties, and I simply could not abide the idea of sacrificing my children on that particular altar. Victoria Faith was a case in point. When she was three, she had a preschool teacher that went a little overboard on phonics instruction for preschoolers. Three year olds should not have direct phonics instruction, and I was constantly correcting that particular teacher. That said, Victoria Faith made these mysterious synaptic connections, and one day when she was four, Chris caught her reading Curious George out loud to herself. Fluently. With expression.

Faith’s intellectual development proceeded by leaps and bounds after that. I knew what was going on, and as with all my kids, I handpicked their public school teachers when they entered public high school. Largely, Faith’s public school teachers were a good influence on her, and Chris and I mitigated the influence of the bad ones.

Salutatorian Faith

She rocked the Salutatorian stage.

Chris and I started saving for our children’s post-high school education after they got their Social Security numbers. (With four of them, we knew we better start early. ) When Chris died,  all of the kids really dialed in on the financial arrangements for college.  All of them could see me working hard for that goal, and were hugely appreciative when Poppa wrote the occasional check for that purpose. All of them stayed on task, but Faith’s path was the most torturous, in my opinion. THREE sections of Organic Chemistry? Organic Chemistry FaithThat says “Orgo III Reaction Guide – Wheeee!”.  (I have very sarcastic children.)

Jeep picture with Chris

Victoria Faith was about thirteen when this picture was taken. Chris was diagnosed shortly after.

Chris left us when Victoria Faith was sixteen, and that considerable brain power was knocked cleanly off the rails. Victoria Faith, like all of my children, was devastated.

I have never gotten permission from my children to detail  here what they experienced when they lost their father. Life was shattered for all of them. They loved their dad. Life, though, has this tendency to go on.

Faith End of Freshman Year

Victoria Faith struggled through her first year at DU. She made it.

Fem in Stem pic

She developed her own interests, and her own delightful friend group.

Robin and Faith

Distinctive Thesis Award -Faith

 

 

 

 

She made a wonderful, wonderful connection with this woman, Dr. Robin Tinghitella. Dr. Tinghitella  is a PH.D primary investigator at DU’s Tinghitella Lab, where like minded-scientists study rapid evolutionary change in organisms such as crickets and sticklefish. (http://mysite.du.edu/~rhibbs2/Robin_Tinghitella/Welcome_1.html) With Robin’s rigorous review, Victoria Faith earned a Distinctive UndergraduateThesis award.

All of this with me providing the most minimal, diminishing guidance. Visitors, those of you who , like me, have been visited with loss, remember the days when it seemed like nothing would ever change? Loss is here. It is defining. It rains on my days, it deepens my nights. I will not see the clear light of day anytime soon, maybe not ever.

Mom and Faith Graduation

Faith in auditorium

 

 

 

 

 

Things change, Visitors.

Things change for the better.

 

Like a friend of mine once said – “What are you going to do with it now? ”

Faith and Mom Walking

I’ll keep you posted.

Much love,

Victoria

Divorced Baby Boomer Men and Their Sexuality Issues, With Peppermint Tea


When I was still a wife and the kids were young,  Chris and I were very frank with our children about sex. We never used words like ‘little man’, ‘coochie’, or even ‘banana hammock’ for underwear (which privately I found to be hilarious.) If anything, we were guilty of overexplaining things to our kids, which is kind of hopelessly predictable for a household with two teachers.

Divorced baby boomer men seem to be stuck in some sexuality netherworld. I just can’t figure it out. There is prudishness, where we simply can’t talk to a date about sexuality issues. Of any sort. Or we are hypersexualized, and want me to come over the second date. (Honestly, I once had a delightful date with a retired doctor on the other side of the baby boomer demographic, born in 1946. We had a lovely dinner out. The next night, he called and asked me over to his house to cook me dinner. What. Me and my pistol? What were you thinking? No! You may not ask me to the man-cave on the second date! No!)

What were you thinking?

What were you thinking?

Or we are hyposexualized. One of my dear male friends, not a romantic interest, said he could gladly live without sex, but not his reading glasses. I’m still not entirely sure he was joking.

Or we are oversexualized. Pornography, the ‘victimless crime’, is endemic to Divorced Baby Boomer men, and I could slap them silly. (Check out fightthenewdrug.org for some thoughtful, reasonable, intellect-based commentary, and XXXchurch.org for hipster, rational anti-porn Christian thought.) I’m especially incited to violence by CHRISTIAN men who use this exploitive medium. Honestly! I like my body, it’s popped out four kids, and still lets me skydive, swim, kayak, ski, run around, do all kinds of stuff, and will never, ever measure up to the silicone stick figures you’re watching.

AAAAND by the way? Should I decide to make you my next partner, (namely, my next husband) pornography will AUTOMATICALLY make you boring to me. Keep that in mind.

It seems too, as though divorced baby boomer men haven’t had the reality of a functional sexual relationship. This is actually heartbreaking, when you think about it. A dear divorced baby boomer friend of mine, not a romantic interest, once related to me the affairs of his first two wives. Maynard was ex Army, a firefighter with an actual degree in fire science. He’s a Crossfitter, and a competitive weightlifter, and has built himself up to look like a block of granite at 54.  Personally, I like that look, and have zero problem telling my male friends they look stunning.

Maynard looks stunning. Being betrayed twice in a sexual manner was obviously devastating to a man like that, and Maynard has come to a halt in his sexual development.

“Victoria, you will not believe the kind of people I meet on Match.com.”

(Inward eye roll)

“Victoria, meet my new girlfriend, she’s an interior designer I met on line. Victoria, meet my new girlfriend, she’s a bank executive I met on Match.com. Victoria, meet my new girlfriend…….” and on and on and on. Maynard sleeps with each of them, breaks up with some complicated quasi-Christian rationale, and moves on to the next one who will affirm his damaged sexual identity.

Doesn't take a doctor to figure that one out.

Doesn’t take a doctor to figure that one out.

Go figure.

Another divorced baby boomer gentleman, once a possible romantic interest, related to me how he and his ex wife had a tumultuous sexual relationship, They were in love, or so they thought, but the only time they had satisfying sex was after a knock-down, drag out fight.

No, thank you very much.

Chris was a lot of things, most of you know his history. When he became a Christian, the sexuality issues were suddenly righted into perspective. Not that he wasn’t human, no one is perfect. But sexuality was never, ever an issue in our marriage. It was candy to children.

I wonder if it has to do with this conversation I just had with my son, here in Puerto Rico. I’m here on my ‘vacation’ doing some necessary work. Christopher had to run back to the parking garage to get something out of the car.

Facetime rings on my computer.

“Mom? I’m at Starbucks. You want your peppermint tea? ”

Heart melts. “Yes, dear boy. Peppermint tea with two honeys.”

“Got it, see you soon.” Click.

Gentlemen, listen to me here. (Divorced Baby Boomer men have to have stuff spelled out) My son saw my husband be thoughtful with me for eighteen years. It stuck. When my son marries, his wife will have the joy of a man who (mostly) thinks before he speaks. Who wonders what she’d like. Who uses his words and asks her. Who, most of the time, puts her desires in front of his. Who treats her well.

This, gentlemen, is not learning brain surgery. It’s learning what makes great sex.

Much love,

Victoria

Some Sundays are Like That


This is a picture of Christopher a couple of years ago when he was improving his accuracy skills. “Accuracy” in skydiving, means jumping out of a plane two miles in the air, piloting your canopy to a landing spot, and placing your feet within a three foot circle. In competition, it means stomping your foot on an eight inch circle that sounds an alarm, while the judges mark you for points.

He called me up after this jump, and with his heart in his mouth, breathlessly told me “First off, Mom, I’m still alive.” (Great opener, son. ) Turns out, he had misjudged his landing and collided with an unexpected gust of wind, and had gotten dragged along by his face for several yards. (Later on that year he won a bronze medal in a National Collegiate accuracy event.)

It’s funny, Visitors, how grief can sometimes feel that unexpected. Those of you who are grieving, ever notice that? Things in Lierheimer Land are actually pretty good right now. Christopher’s interning in LA on a massive subsidized building project, Faith landed a competitive yearlong spot in England at the University of York, Abi is buzzing along in Savannah, and Rachael comes home from Warren Tech with the most interesting tales from her forensic studies. (It’s hilarious to watch crime shows with her now. She’ll stop CSI and yell “Wait! No! They’re doing it WRONG! Mom……)

I’ve started Class Two in my graduate sequence in Criminology, with the emphasis in Psychopathology at Regis. It’s utterly fascinating. It’s fast, engaging, a ton of work and very much where I want to be.

I think too, that I’m getting a handle on this single thing. Except when I’m not, like today. Lazy Sunday mornings were a favorite around our house. I’d make banana pancakes, Chris would make coffee, and the kids would laze around until it was time for church.

Now, today, I feel like my son in that picture. Sort of raw. I miss Chris’ warm feet, I miss him stumbling around until coffee, I miss (acutely) telling him what all these kids are doing, and man, didn’t we do the right thing by them (so far, anyway).

Well, anyway. I try and draw something out of this, if not something good, at least something useful. It was a beautiful day when Christopher marked up his face,  and it’s a beautiful day today. I get to go to church with Rachael and Dad, and that’s always a treat.

I suppose I’ll always miss Chris to some degree or another. Were he here, I think he’d encourage me to go out, get the gym, go to church, and not sit gazing out the window and wondering what he’s up to.

Warm regards, Visitors. Much love to you all.

Victoria

On Weddings and Victoria’s Garden


Here’s a picture of a good friend of mine.

Rose was a beautiful baby!

Rose was a beautiful baby!

I knew Rose shortly after she was born. She came in this dress to my wedding, staged right here in 1987.

“Sex Is Not An Egalitarian Pleasure Party”


 

I  wonder if my kids will recognize innocent lovemaking someday.

I wonder if my kids will even recognize innocent lovemaking someday.

 

Hmm. Well, that one certainly got my attention. Most of you know that my three older kids are in college now, and they all  come back with things that constantly startle and amaze. My older daughter is blossoming into quite a feminist, and is walking a line between frothing rabidness and downright insightfulness. (It’s actually pretty funny, she’s self aware enough to call herself trite. )

Still, I listen to her like I did over lunch today, and can’t quite believe what I hear.  We discussed this issue today. The quote titling my column today came from a two year old column by one Jared Wilson, a blogger for an organization called “The Gospel Coalition.” Mr. Wilson wrote a column for the Coalition entitled “The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey.” (He has since taken the column down.) In it, he quotes another author -Doug Wilson, who wrote in his book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:

“Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.”

Now just sit with me for a second.  I have trouble getting over my revulsion about the words ‘conquers, colonizes and plants.’ Much less the violating implications of ‘surrenders and accepts.’

Rachel Held Evans,  an Egalitarian Christian blogger, barely restrains her wrath from these men. I’ll excerpt what she said shortly.

Apparently, there are labels to be had here. The Gospel Coalition types, as I understand them, call themselves “complementarians.” That seems to mean that they accept Americanized-(italics mine) gender roles as God ordained. Men are in authority over all things, women are to submit.

Egalitarians seem to reject this, and accept roles with more liberality. As far as sex is concerned, it kind of boggles my mind that this is even a debate. Here is what Rachel Held Evans had to say: (rachelheldevans.com/blog/gospel-coalition-douglas-wilson-sex)

According to this post, sex is just another avenue through which a man must exert his authority over woman. As with everything else, the man is the boss and the woman is the subordinate. Wilson contrasts this “God-ordained” relationship of authority and submission to that of an “egalitarian pleasure party,” which I can only assume refers to a sexual relationship characterized by mutual pleasure, mutual authority, mutual submission, and mutual respect—which sounds a lot more desirable to me than being conquered and colonized. 

Now, Ms. Evans continues with lengthly reference to Song of Songs, the first chapter, where she describes the Shulamite woman as going out, finding her husband, and initiating the joy of sex with a willing partner. In First Corinthians 7:3-4 the Apostle Paul also teaches about the mutuality of the marriage bed.

I don’t label myself as anything but Scriptural, but I find myself landing with Ms. Evans on this one. How on earth is there anything but mutuality in the marriage bed, as taught in Scripture? Gracious.

Really, to me, I don’t care for any of this theological bickering, only inasmuch as it applies to the people I love. I must say, though, I am concerned. As my children fly out of the nest, they float through a lot of this relational nonsense. Fortunately for me, I was raised in a household that valued ‘hiding God’s word in my heart’ and not much else. It helped a lot when I met Chris, who had been blown about by all sorts of feel good teaching. None of that helped heal the hole in his heart from an abusive family dynamic. Only leaning on the eternal, unchangeable, healing of God’s spirit set him free.

My prayer for my children, as for you, is that we continue to find solid, baggage-free, Scriptural teaching that is not viewed through the lens of the culture or fad of the day. That we continue to dig through the treasure of Scripture and find out what God has to say about matters of the heart, rather than have someone do our thinking for us.

Biblegateway.com is a great place to start. I have great faith in your ability to think, Visitors,  and Biblegateway has a great parallel feature where you can look up what you are interested in, find several versions of scripture, and start asking yourself the important questions. Then go to your pastor, or write me even, and let’s figure some of this stuff out together.

Love to you all,

Victoria

(Note, Jared Wilson has since apologized for the content of his 2012 column.hegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2012/07/20/some-reflections-just-one-explanation-and-apologies/)

Doug Wilson stands firm.

Life, Death and Sandwich Mothering


Hi gang, it’s nice to see you again. I recently made contact with my friend Bird Martin at http://everyonehasastory.me/        Bird has a heroine role in my life. When I first started blogging after my husband Chris died of colon cancer,  Bird Martin was the very first person who made any comment at all on my columns.

It was a revelation. I wasn’t just talking to myself? Egads. Someone else might actually listen, and perhaps, even, BENEFIT from what I had to say? It couldn’t be so.

But it was. Bird and I developed a rollicking friendship, culminating with a visit to Colorado. Over the past year though, life has intruded, and we had fallen out of touch. I determined (or “Purposed” in Christianspeak) to catch up on her blog, and am backtracking. (Bird, dear, I am on October 2013)

Our lives have run parallel courses, and I am wondering how many of you are walking the same road. My dad has been sick too, Bird. Last fall, he fell in his house, and wasn’t discovered for nearly a day. Up to this point, he had refused daily care, accepting only the three hour daily visit from the local Visiting Angels helping agency. My brother and I check on him daily, of course, but his fall happened after all of those ‘safety checks’ took place. Of course.

Can't put 94 candles on that!

Dad just had a birthday. Can’t put 94 candles on that!

So, we went through the tiresome process of rehab, where these sparkling new hospitals treated my father like a number, and we eventually found him a place a mere three miles from our homes, which he seems to enjoy. His intellectual abilities are slowly fading, and he needs more and more care.

It’s difficult to ‘mother’ my dad. Once again I’ve gotten some pretty solid advice from people who sit around and think about this stuff for a living. I’m told as much time as I can give him, I ‘ll be glad I did later. Those of you who’ve been with me for a while, know that at the beginning of victoriasvisits, I wrote a lot about being constantly pelted by death for about 18 months. First Chris, then my dear friend Mickey, then Emily Berkeley, Tom Seedroff, and many others. It got old.

Being around Dad sometimes has that effect. That makes me terrible, I realize. Playing cards with Dad at his new place, and wondering, “Hmm, this could be the last time I play cards with Dad.” How morbid is that? Dad is aiming for three digits, which is cool. I think it would be hilarious to have a centenarian in the family. But I keep on remembering Mom. January 7th, 2010, she gave my daughter a birthday card, told her she looked gorgeous and wished her a happy birthday. That night she blew out an artery in her brain the size of a pencil and was gone in eight minutes.

What to do, though? Not hang around Dad because he could drop at any second? Hell’s bells, he coined that one. “Kids, I have one foot in the grave already, so be aware!” Got it, Dad.

Nope, not an option. I muster up the strength, drive over there, play cards, eat cake, and drop off Engstroms Toffee beside his bed. (He forgets I bring it to him, so his care provider and I joke that he must think the Candy Fairy comes from time to time.)

In the mean time, get a load of this bunch.

Aroo! Down we go!

Aroo! Down we go!

The Lierheimer gang at Vail. Where did these adults come from?

The Lierheimer gang at Vail. Where did these adults come from?

Chris and I used to joke that we’d be poor in our dotage, but we’d have a great bunch of little powderhounds. It’s true! The bigger kids all had spring break at the same time, so they came back from their various colleges and we took off to Vail for a few days.

Chris and I were a great parenting team. Boy, do I wish he were around for this one. See, we believed very much in the power of habits, and repeated activities simply being normal. So, we committed that each kid would get ten years of concentrated ski instruction. (Nothing too intense, Copper has an 8 week program we did for years, then extra family days, of course)

The point being, that when they were done with that, each kid could ski anything on the mountain. Then, when they start to scatter and live their lives, as they are beginning to do, the thought process would go something like this:

“Hmm, what to do with my two weeks paid this year? Huh, a few days in Colorado skiing with the sibs? Sure! Sounds like a blast!” Mothering these kids through this and various other transitions to adulthood takes a lot of intentionality.

Planning to see my increasingly childlike dad is also quite a trip. But right now? I think I’m good with it.

What do you folks think? Sign in below if you’re a sandwich mom or dad, let’s hear your stories.

Much love,

Victoria