Donna O'Connor

This arrived in our mail box this morning and we wanted to share. Not many candidates can enthuse this many volunteers to go canvassing on the last, cold, Saturday of a campaign. Let alone a first time candidate for the Ohio House. But that's just what Special Ed teacher Donna O'Connor has been able to do every weekend.

Volunteers tell JTF that they have been recieving an incredibly positive response to Donna's message from everyone they speak too - and they have spoken to a lot of people. Well over 30,000 in fact!

Crisis and recovery in Chardon

We were lucky enough to snag a copy of OEA's latest "Ohio Schools" magazine. Reading through it yesterday, we came to this incredibly powerful and moving piece on the Chardon shootings. Here it is.


On February 27, a 17-year-old student sat down at a cafeteria table at Chardon High School and pulled a gun from a bag. Then he stood up and began shooting. Minutes later, those at the 1,100-student school said they heard screams, as the first 911 calls were made, teachers locked down classrooms, and students started sending text messages to friends and parents.

Student Daniel Parmertor, 16, died of his wounds hours after the shooting. Student Russell King Jr., 17, died early February 28; and Demetrius Hewlin, 16, died later that day. Wounded students, Joy Rickers, 18, and Nick Walczak survived that attack.

The defendant in the shootings, T.J. Lane, a sophomore at Lake Academy, an alternative high school for at-risk students, was arrested after being chased out of the cafeteria by a teacher. He later confessed to authorities that he fired 10 rounds from a .22-caliber pistol and had chosen his victims at random.

Lane has been charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated attempted murder and one count of felonious assault. His next scheduled court hearing is on April 3, when the judge will determine whether he should be tried as an adult. Under Ohio law, if the Geauga County Prosecutor can show probable cause that Lane committed the crimes he is charged with, the teen's case will move to adult court where Lane could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted.


As the students, educators and residents of Chardon have struggled to understand the nation's deadliest shooting at a high school in six years, each has been part of the critical recovery effort that began on February 27 and will continue for a long time to come.

The response to the tragedy involved the collaborative and careful response of first responders, school administrators, the Chardon Education Association (Local President Tammy Segulin), Chardon Association of Classified Employees (Local President Ferd Wolfe) and Auburn Career & Technical Association (Local President Bob Hill), OEA Labor Relations Consultants (LRCs) Todd Jaeck and Kim Lane (Mentor office) and the OEA Crisis Response Team.

Immediately following the shootings on February 27, high school students were evacuated one room at time with assistance from law enforcement. Parents were notified to report to Maple Elementary School via ConnectEd and staff organized a sign- out procedure to reunite students with their parents. Parents of the injured students were privately notified.

Later that morning, Chardon High School staff met with the administration and law enforcement for updates on the injured and on the suspect.

On February 28, a District Response Team including building administrators, the district communications director, heads of law enforcement, mental health professionals, local clergy and local association representatives assembled to outline plans for the remainder of the school week.

Two days after the deadly shooting the district called faculty and staff together for updates from the administration and law enforcement and for grief counseling. On March 1, staff returned to the school buildings and parents and students were invited to return to the high school for a walk- through and to meet with counselors. On March 2, all schools reopened.

As the Chardon tragedy unfolded, 0EA's 16-member Crisis Response Team began its work with locals and made preparations to meet with staff when they returned to work. A group of OEA staff and one school counselor, the Crisis Response Team is trained to provide intervention services for education staff in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or violent incident that occurs while students are in school or that is otherwise related to a school or campus site.

Although school staff and students had practiced lockdown drills and evacuation procedures with local law enforcement during the past three years, they had hoped that these would remain drills. Local leaders like Chardon Education Association President Segulin explained that they had never practiced how to handle the aftermath of a real crisis.

On March 5, team members Kim Lane, Bill Pearsol, Cindy Petersen, Tom Williams, Lori Morgan and therapy dog, Bella—assisted teachers and education support professionals at Chardon High School and at the Auburn Career Center as they began the healing process. Key to their work was offering resources and emotional support to help restore a sense of safety and security within the schools and community.

"Many of the members were still in a state of disbelief and running on pure adrenaline," Lane said. "Individually, they shared their feelings of anger, grief and a sense of helplessness."

The following week, Crisis Response Team members Lane, Betty Elling, Suzanne Kaszar, Morgan and Bella continued to assist staff at both the high school and middle school as the reality of the incident was beginning to sink in.

"Many times a major crisis starts to emotionally break down a staff to the point where members leave the building or profession altogether," Segulin said. "Members of the Crisis Response Team were stationed in several of our buildings and were able to discuss personal matters as well as reassure members that being together is an important part of the staff's long term healing and cohesion. Students eventually graduate and move on, yet the school staff that remains must foster the positive growth and healing well after the tragedy."

Through the end of the school year, local law enforcement will be present at the high school and grief counselors and therapy dogs will be on site to assist students and staff. Substitute teachers will also be available for any teacher who needs time away from the classroom.

Segulin shared the gratitude of the locals for the help of the OEA Crisis Response Team, LRCs Jaeck and Lane, OEA Communications and Political Action Consultant Gary Carlile and the NEA for their assistance and resources. She said the NEA Crisis Guide, has proven especially beneficial and that the Chardon administrative team, communications director, mental health professionals and teachers have since incorporated its guidelines and ideas into their crisis plan.

"While there is no perfect model for handling a crisis," Segulin said, "the guidelines provide a meaningful and thoughtful approach to helping Chardon heal and memorialize our fallen and injured students."


For those who teach and work and learn in Chardon, an unspeakable tragedy has been met with an unprecedented outpouring of compassion and support from both neighboring and distant schools and communities and from the nation at large.

Messages have arrived daily from people around the world. Sympathy cards and words of encouragement line student lockers, signed banners stretch through the school and flowers and potted plants offer color and cheer. A red-and-black paper chain made by Chardon elementary school students extends down each hallway.

For staff, Segulin said, "We had no idea that simply being together was most important on our grief journey." They are grateful to fellow teachers and community agencies that provided breakfasts, lunches and goodies that allowed them to replenish their bodies, sit down with one another, listen and make plans for the future.

No one knew whether students would be strong enough to face their fears and return to the building. "That was dispelled three days later when the Class of 2012 and their parents led a school-wide march from the Chardon town square to the school as a symbol of solidarity," Segulin said.

Neighbors lined the streets, cheering as the students entered the building and cafeteria with tears streaming down their faces. Staff greeted them with applause and hugs. "Parents thanked us for keeping their children safe," Segulin said, "as we thanked the students for having the courage to come back."

An Unfair Editorial

The Plain Dealer had a terribly slanted and unfair editorial titled "Cleveland school-reform bill needs teachers' input". From the title it sounded as though some were finally calling for collaboration, before a rush to legislation. Alas, that was not the case, as the editorial demonstrated, first with a straw man argument

When the usually reserved Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says he would trade his office for "quality education for our children," all of the other adults involved in the high-stakes discussion on school reform ought to determine what they would give up as well.

So far, judging from the Cleveland Teachers Union's tepid response to the mayor's Cleveland-only school reform package, the answer appears to be little or nothing.

One should hardly be confused by the empty rhetoric of a politician and then compare it to actual sacrifices working people ought to make on the basis on that rhetoric. So straight away we knew this editorial was headed south.

The mayor says that despite hours of meetings with union representatives, he has received no written reply to his wide-ranging draft legislation on school reform.

The draft legislation was only made available less than 24 hours ago as of the writing of this editorial! People have barely had chance to even read and digest it, let alone craft some policy response document in considered terms.

If the Mayor and the Plain Dealer truly wanted teacher input, why didn't they seek it during the crafting of the actual legislation, then they could have rolled it out with a lot more support and a lot less controversy. To now blame teachers, yet again, for his own failing to collaborate with critical stakeholders is very unfair.


If you are a corporate education reformer, with the requisite pathological desire to want to fire educators, having educators stand in your way, blocking this deep seated desire is something that must be overcome.

We therefore see a secondary policy preference expressed by those wanting to privatize and corpratize public education. Policies designed to remove the collective voice of educators.

SB5 is a very clear example of this, and while publicly it was couched in "reform rhetoric", the governor has already expressed his desire to "break the back of organized labor in the schools". Scott walker in Wisconsin, Mitch Daniels in Indiana, and the legislature in New Hampshire have all tried similar approaches to removing educators voices.

But even with SB5 massively defeated, corporate education reformers like the Fordham Institute continue to push for such approaches

Teacher unions are among the most powerful political actors in America on a wide range of issues (just ask Terry Moe, Paul Peterson, or Mike Antonucci). It’s not a given that that should be so, however, or that union intervention in partisan elections is always (or even often) good for teachers as a whole. Rhee and other education reformers would do well to add paycheck protection to their toolkit of reforms to increase parent power over education policy – and protect the rights of teachers to spend their paychecks on political issues they believe in, not on the agenda of labor leaders.

We left the following comment on their post "this is a very ill informed post.

Teachers can opt out of funding unions and pay only fair share to cover the costs of professional services. Political advocacy of candidates is NOT paid out of any dues, but instead is paid by VOLUNTARY contributions by educators, typically into the Fund for Children and Education (FCPE).

One would hope that a "policy fellow" would at least avail themselves of some basic facts and understandings before espousing an opinion on a topic they clearly have no understanding of.

But the folks at Fordham aren't the only ones who would like to see educators slip quietly into the background. The Columbus Dispatch often published opinion pieces that echo these desires, and did, publishing a piece by Pat Smith, titled "Expert panel could revamp education in Ohio"

An expert panel in Ohio could identify similar savings and direct them where they’d do the most good. Such a panel ought to include certified public accountants, economists, futurists and technologists and perhaps be chaired by Ohio’s state auditor.

We're not sure what a "futurist" is, but we are sure educators are not on that list, indeed educators get a special mention - "It should welcome input, but not control, from educators..."

We asked Ms. Smith "Curious why you do not include any teachers/educators in your list of people who would serve on your proposed expert panel?". She was kind enough to respond, and her response included this

No one is more supportive of teachers than I am. I come from a family of teachers: mother-in-law, aunts, sister-in-law, my daughter and, of course, my own experience - four different systems under five different principals. But, I think the kind of expertise we need to improve the productivity of the entire state system has to come from those with different sets of skills: technology gurus, numbers crunchers, data experts, demographers, futurists, etc. Yes, as I said, they need to have input from educators (the editor edited out the adjective "strong" before "input.") But, you know as well as I do, much of the decision making in education circles revolves around ideology and not about what really works. Also, the educators tend to wear down others on panels. My worry is that there is only a finite amount of resources that is going to go into education and that we must make the very best use of those resources and that educators don't know or agree how to do that. For example: should we fund early education or lower class size? Yes, a surgeon has the expertise to operate, but not to run the hospital where he performs the surgery.

We're not sure what's more insulting, the mistaken belief that educators have no expertise in these matters, or that they constant pointing out of ill-conceived ideas wears the purveyors of those ideas down. But at least in this exchange we can see why educators simply must be silenced.

According to ODE statistics, Ohio teachers have an average of 15.08 years experience, giving them a combined 1,560,379 total years of experience. Each day they add almost a million hours of experience to this massive total. Who else in the state has this amount, depth, and level of expertise in public education?

Anyone who doesn't recognize that educators have earned a central role in education policy reform isn't serious about reforming education, they are instead more interested in partisan politics.

What's John Kasich hiding?

It's being widely reported that Governor Kasich and his legal team are refusing to fulfill a public information request made by legislators.

State Reps. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, and Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, said yesterday that they are considering legal action after being rebuffed in a public-records request, filed April 6, for 17 items of information related to education funding.

Kimberly Kutschbach, Kasich's assistant chief legal counsel, said Monday in a letter responding to the Democrats' query that the governor's office "does not have any public records responsive to your requests" for 16 of the 17 items.

This is becoming a commonplace response from the Governor. We have heard from many sources that their requests receive the same response. We too received a similar response recently

Your request for emails, spreadsheets, memos, documents from "said" employees is vague and overbroad. Therefore, it is denied.
However, you are welcome to amend your request so that it is more specific.
Thank you,

Lisa Iannotta
Chief Legal Counsel
Department of Administrative Services
30 E. Broad Street, 40th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 728-3475 Direct Dial

We had simply asked for "a list of employees who provided the analysis and generated this report, a copy of all emails, spreadsheets, memos, and documents from said employees regarding this report. Thanks" in reference to the DAS SB5 savings report.

What information is the Kasich administration now saying it doesn't have?

Among the items Kasich's lawyer said the administration didn't have: research that shows Kasich's new school-funding formula will improve student achievement; a copy of the formula itself; a list of charter schools in academic emergency or watch; and projections of cost-savings from eliminating the "last-in, first-out" rules for educators.

A request for communications to and from the Fordham Foundation, a pro-school choice think tank, was deemed too broad to fulfil.

What is more troubling? That they claim not to have this information in order to obfuscate legitimate requests, or that it genuinely doesn't exist?

If it is indeed the latter, it's an admission that they intend to blow up public education in Ohio and have done no research or analysis as to the effects, nor what they are planning to replace it with.

Has there ever been a more reckless budget?

Notes from Colorado

We thought this might interest a few people.

Almost a year ago, Colorado passed a controversial bill, S.B.191. The Denver Post gives us this synopsis

The legislation would revolutionize teacher and principal evaluations in Colorado, basing 50 percent of their performance on supervisors' reviews and the other half on student growth on standardized tests and other measures. It also would change the way teachers achieve tenure and make it easier for them to lose that job protection — a controversial move that attacks a core tenet held by the teachers union.

Opponents call the legislation an unfunded mandate that places too much financial burden on cash-strapped school districts. They fear it would create a school system where educators "teach to the test" to save their jobs and one where longtime teachers are picked off without due process.

A play by play of this bill, can be found here.

So why do we mention this now? Well the Colorado Department of Education just released their proposal for implementing this bill. The full details can be found at the link, here's the executive summary.

SCEE Executive Summary

The Colorado Education Association's response can be read here.