Sunday, June 20, 2010

Detroit school board chief resigns amid obscenity complaint

Mathis is also illiterate -- Only in Detroit

Detroit's school board is refusing to reinstate its former president after he was accused of fondling himself in front of the district's superintendent. Board members gave a letter to Otis Mathis on Friday, saying his request for reinstatement was denied.

The 56-year-old resigned Thursday, the same day General Superintendent Teresa Gueyser filed her complaint. In a detailed letter to the board, she says Mathis repeatedly fondled himself using a handkerchief as they discussed school matters Wednesday.

The letter says she "asked him not to touch himself" on several occasions and he eventually apologized. Mathis declined comment Friday. In his resignation letter, he says he "made inappropriate actions."

Messages left Friday at Gueyser's office weren't returned.


Jewish, Muslim Tensions Rise at UC Irvine After Suspension of Muslim Group

Tensions are high at the University of California-Irvine after the school recommended suspending a Muslim student group for its role in the disruption of an Israeli ambassador's speech earlier this year.

Students at the university say Jews and Muslims have been accusing each other of discrimination and harassment, as both sides have embraced campus speakers seen as hostile to Israel or Islam. Now the proposed suspension of the Muslim Student Union for at least a year has made an already hostile situation worse.

The school revealed this week that it had recommended suspending the Muslim group after 11 students were arrested in February for repeatedly disrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who was repeatedly interrupted and called "murderer" and "war criminal" by pro-Palestinian students as he gave a talk on the Middle East peace process.

The Muslim group is appealing the recommendation -- a process that is expected to be completed before the next school year begins.

The appeal comes after more than 60 faculty members at UC Irvine signed an open letter last month condemning what they said was an anti-Semitic atmosphere at the school. "We…are deeply disturbed about activities on campus that foment hatred against Jews and Israelis," the letter read, citing incidents over the past few years that included "the painting of swastikas in university buildings and the Star of David depicted as akin to a swastika." "Some community members, students, and faculty indeed feel intimidated, and at times even unsafe," the letter read.

But a lawyer for the Muslim Student Union said any tensions on campus derive from a Jewish organization that is not connected to the college: the Jewish Federation Orange County. "A lot of the tension and friction is not on the campus," attorney and activist Reem Salahi said. "It's not divided between Jewish and Muslim organizations. There's more tension between Muslim students and these Jewish organizations pressuring the university."

She said Muslim students have been intimidated and harassed and have even received death threats in which they've been called "every type of superlative imagined."

In recent years, UC Irvine has been accused of fostering anti-Semitic activity as the MSU hosted pro-Palestinian speakers critical of Israel. In 2005, the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights found that Muslim students had engaged in offensive behavior, but that their actions stemmed from opposition to the politics of Israel rather than to Jewish students themselves.

Three years later, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to the Education Department expressing concerns that the office decided not to further investigate charges that UC Irvine had failed to respond quickly and effectively to complaints by Jewish students of being repeatedly intimidated and harassed.

But now Muslim students find themselves on the defensive. The university on Monday released a letter from a student affairs disciplinary committee to a Muslim Student Union leader saying the group was found guilty of disorderly conduct, obstructing university activities and other violations of campus policy.

The committee recommended suspending the group for one year, placing it on disciplinary probation for an additional year and requiring the student organization to collectively complete 50 hours of community service, a move that would prevent the group from conducting organized campus events until at least the fall of 2011.

University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the committee's decision will be a binding recommendation to the campus' office of student affairs if the group's appeal does not succeed.

Lawhon said all the focus and attention paid to tensions between Jewish and Muslim students "has largely been generated by the outside community." "There's been a lot of attention on us by outsider groups for whatever reason for things that go on at every UC campus around the state," she said, adding that controversial speakers usually go to all the UC schools in the state. "The only time you hear about it is when they're at UC Irvine."

The Jewish Federation Orange County, which compelled the school to release the letter after filing a Freedom of Information Act, praised the school for its decision. "While we would have liked for the administration to have come to this conclusion more quickly, we are please that after due process, the MSU has finally been sanctioned," Shalom Elcott, president of the group, said in a written statement.

Elcott told that the MSU has been largely responsible for creating an anti-Semitic atmosphere on the campus by inviting speakers who equate Jews to Nazis and rally support for jihad, or holy war. "The MSU has been looking for a battle for a long time," he said, adding that his group is only trying to help bridge the differences between the two sides.

Salahi declined to say whether legal action is being planned in the event of an unsuccessful appeal. But she said students were "outraged" and "disappointed" with the university's decision. "It's unprecedented a university would ever do this," she said, adding that the suspension would "create a really dangerous precedent for shutting down dissent."


Boss of British education regulator given the boot

The education chief responsible for monitoring standards in schools is to be ousted from her post as part of a cull of advisers close to the old Labour regime. Christine Gilbert – the Chief Inspector of Schools, who is married to former Labour minister Tony McNulty – is to quit her £200,000-a-year job as head of Ofsted before the end of her term.

It means the couple will have to make dramatic changes to their envious lifestyle.

Just 18 months ago, before Mr McNulty was forced to resign from the Government over his expenses claims, they enjoyed a combined income of £300,000, chauffeur-driven limousines paid for by the taxpayer and thousands in expenses.

News of Ms Gilbert’s demise follows last week’s disclosure that the country’s most senior military officer, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, would step down early as chief of the defence staff. He had faced criticism over his handling of the Afghanistan campaign.

Ms Gilbert was due to stay on in the post until October next year but has been told she can leave at a time of her choosing within the next few months. The former headmistress and Labour council education boss, became the first woman to head Ofsted in October 2006. But her appointment led to accusations of cronyism because her husband was a Minister at the time.

Apart from her strong associations with Labour, it is unlikely that her views on education policy would have chimed with those of new Education Minister Michael Gove. Mr Gove has made clear his determination to drive up school standards by beefing up the inspection regime. Ofsted will also have a role in monitoring new ‘free’ state schools, which can be set up by groups of parents and teachers, and operate outside town hall control.

One Whitehall insider said last night: ‘It is felt that it is good time for new leadership at Ofsted. It will have vital new tasks to perform under the new Government and it is seen as important that it has the kind of leadership that can embrace fully this change.’

Mr McNulty, the former Labour MP for Harrow East, was seen as a loyal Blairite and was once a high-flyer in the New Labour ranks.

As well as a joint annual income of £300,000, the couple also had chauffeur-driven limousines paid for by the taxpayer. Ms Gilbert’s was provided by Ofsted while Mr McNulty had a ministerial car. But he was forced to resign as Employment Minister in March last year after The Mail on Sunday revealed that he had breached rules governing Commons’ second homes expenses.

Mr McNulty admitted claiming expenses on his second home while his parents were living in it but insisted he made ‘considerable’ use of the property, which was just eight miles away from his primary residence in Hammersmith, West London. Both properties are worth around £1.2million.

Mr McNulty was later forced to pay back almost £14,000 of taxpayers’ money and lost his seat to a Tory candidate in last month’s General Election. The couple are understood to still be living in the Hammersmith house, which records show is owned by Ms Gilbert.

Her style of leadership at Ofsted, which had a budget of around £230million in 2008/09 and employs 2,150 staff, has been relatively low-key compared to that of her predecessors, Chris Woodhead.

While the abrasive Mr Woodhead – the scourge of teachers and trendy teaching methods – was rarely out of the limelight, Ms Gilbert has virtually no media profile. Mr Woodhead said of her management style: ‘Ofsted has become much more mechanical and bureaucratic under her stewardship. ‘There is also less evidence Ofsted has been prepared to speak out in a way that might embarrass the Government, which is what it should be doing.’

Details of Ms Gilbert’s personal life are also sparse. She was educated at a convent school in London and at Reading University before training to become a teacher. She later became headmistress of a school in Harrow, North London, when she was 32 before becoming director of education in the borough. She moved across London to become head of Tower Hamlets Educational Services in 1997, where she was credited with raising school standards, later becoming chief executive of the council.

Ms Gilbert was awarded a CBE for services to education in the New Year’s honours list in 2006.

A spokesman for Ofsted said: ‘We are not commenting on rumour and speculation.’


Private school fees soaring in Australia too

As discipline in government schools continues to deteriorate, the demand for private schools rises

CASH-strapped parents are paying $7 billion more for school fees and education costs than five years ago, putting unprecedented pressure on the household budget.

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph yesterday showed parents paid a staggering $22 billion in education expenses in the past 12 months as private school fees surged to unseen levels due to increased demand for schooling.

That total spend is almost a 50 per cent increase on what parents were paying in school fees in 2005, while inflation over the same period has only risen by a moderate 9 per cent.

The biggest increase was in higher education, where fees and costs surged from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion, mostly in the last 12 months.

Commsec economist Savanth Sebastian said the massive hikes were a direct result of rising populations in a nation that is simply not building enough schools.

Where healthcare services and childcare providers - sectors also feeling the strain of population growth - maintained only minimal growth in fees and costs, schools have been found guilty of blatantly gouging parents.

Given the growing importance parents are placing on education, according to Mr Sebastian, elite private schools and universities know their classrooms will be full whatever price they demand.

"The fact population is growing at the fastest rate in 40 years is adding to the strain on the education system, which warrants the increase in fees because it is a supply and demand issue," he said.

"We have had rising wealth over the past five years, given the commodity boom and improvement in sharemarkets that may have propelled more parents into private eduction.

"But the growth in education fees seems excessive."

Despite a backlash from parents and a Federal Government which was injecting $28 billion into education, elite schools pushed ahead with a 6 per cent increase in fees at the start of the 2010 school year.

The largest fee hike this year was posted by Brisbane Girls' Grammar and East Brisbane's Anglican Church Grammar School which locked in rises of more than 8 per cent.

Australia's most expensive school, Geelong Grammar, lifted its fees 5.5 per cent to $27,700 per student, a step ahead of Sydney's Kings School which increased fees by the same amount to $24,730.


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