Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Germantown kindergarten teacher accused of political vandalism identified

Wisconsin Reporter has learned the identity of the suspect accused of politically motivated disorderly conduct at last month’s Jefferson County Fair.

April Kay Smith, 38, a kindergarten teacher in the Germantown School District, was issued a disorderly conduct citation for tearing up and stomping on several signs on July 9 at the Jefferson County Republican Party booth after the fair had shut down for the night, according to a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department report obtained by Wisconsin Reporter.

 There were many cases of politically charged vandalism during 2012′s historic recall attempt of Gov. Walker. But it appears those hostile days are back, according to an incident report obtained by Wisconsin Reporter that accuses Germantown teacher April Kay Smith of damaging Walker signs and those of other Republicans last month at the Jefferson County fair.

The incident report, filed by Jefferson County Deputy Heather Larson, states that Smith and her husband, Andrew Smith, 31, originally lied to the officer, despite the fact that a witness, Roxane Stillman, 62, of rural Madison, reported seeing Smith destroy the signs. Stillman, in a July 23 story, told Wisconsin Reporter she followed the suspect around the fairgrounds for more than a half hour, calling out for a police officer.

“… (April Smith) confessed to damaging and ripping out the signs. She stated her husband told her to lie and that she’s just so angry with (Gov) Scott Walker due to the fact that she was a school teacher,” the deputy wrote in the incident report.

Walker’s collective-bargaining reforms, known as Act 10, checked the power of public employee labor unions and elicited the ire of many state and local government workers.

The Jefferson County GOP first made the matter public on conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna’s show a few days after the incident.

Stillman said she and her friend were enjoying some kettle corn on a bench across from the Jefferson County Republican Party booth when she said she saw a young woman who looked to be in her late 20s or early 30s at the booth. She said the woman squatted down, like she was relieving herself, and then began smashing up the signs.

Stillman called out to the woman, telling her to wait, that she was going to call the police. The woman started walking away — then she started running, Stillman said.

“I said, ‘Honey, I’m good for about five miles. If you want to run, that’s OK. I’ll stay with you,’” Stillman said. “When she realized she wasn’t going to outrun me she started walking fast all over the fairgrounds trying to ditch me. Everywhere we walked, I yelled out, “Someone get the police! This lady damaged property.”

Stillman claims that, at one point in the chase, the woman grabbed her arm, squeezed it hard and said, “You must like the Koch brothers!”

When Larson arrived at the scene, the deputy asked Smith about Stillman’s allegations, according to the incident report. Smith told the deputy she had “no idea” what the witness was talking about, the deputy reported.

“(Smith) did appear to have glassy and bloodshot eyes and slurred speech,” the deputy stated in her report.  The report states that Smith tested .06 in a preliminary breath test, under the legal limit of intoxication.

At that time, Smith told the deputy she was a kindergarten teacher from Germantown, the report states.

“I advised her again that I believe she was being untruthful and asked her how she would feel if one of her students lied to her,” Larson wrote in the report. “At this time, she confessed to damaging and ripping out the signs, She stated her husband told her to lie and that she’s just so angry with Scott Walker due to the fact that she was a school teacher.”

Larson told Andrew Smith that she could issue him a citation for obstructing an officer, but she would let the matter go at a warning.

The deputy then asked April Smith to “pick up the signs and together we placed them in a neat file.”

Smith is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m., Aug. 19, according to the incident report. She could not be reached for comment Monday morning.

Stillman told Wisconsin Reporter that she has pressed for the suspect’s identity because she is concerned that someone who seems to be carrying so much anger and partisan aggression would be teaching children.

The Germantown kindergarten website boasts this mantra: “Empower and Inspire Every Student to Success.”

An official from the Germantown School District told Wisconsin Reporter early Monday that the district will be conducting an internal investigation into the matter and will release a statement at a later time.


Elite schools fill Oxbridge places: Five top institutions including Eton send more pupils than 1,800 state schools combined

Five top schools send as many pupils to Oxford and Cambridge as 1,800 state schools put together, a new analysis has revealed.

A small group of elite schools is tightening its grip on the country’s most prestigious universities as wealthy families spend increasing sums on education.

Three well-known private schools and two elite sixth-form colleges supplied 260 Oxbridge entrants in 2011/12 - the same number as 1,800 state schools across England.  

Similar research relating to the previous three years found that the top five schools and colleges produced as many Oxbridge acceptances as about 1,500 state schools. 

The charity behind the research warned of a growing divide between Britain’s wealthiest families and ‘normal’ middle-income pupils. 

Rich families were devoting more of their resources than ever to education because they recognised its increasing importance in landing top jobs and ‘positions of power’, it was claimed.

The five top schools for producing Oxbridge entrants include Eton, which was David Cameron’s old school, Westminster, where Nick Clegg was an old boy, and St Paul’s, which educated George Osborne.

The remaining two schools are large state sixth-form colleges – Hills Road in Cambridge and Peter Symonds in Winchester - which have become the ‘choice destinations for professional parents wanting to maximise the chances of their children getting into Oxbridge’.

The analysis - produced by the Sutton Trust education charity - also shows that just 40 schools and colleges provided about a quarter of all Oxbridge entrants in 2011/12.

The only state comprehensive to make the list is Cherwell School, which is based in Oxford.

In a blog, Lee Elliot Major, the trust’s director of development and policy, said the figures were ‘powerful’ because they show the ‘extent to which a tiny minority of the country’s 2,750 schools and colleges dominate enrolment at prestigious universities’.

This was a ‘sombre message for the 100,000s of students waiting to receive their A-level results this August’.

He argued that despite ‘valiant efforts’ by universities, entry to elite campuses was increasingly dominated by children from the most privileged families.  ‘The concern is that a small cadre of schools and colleges is tightening its grip on elite university places,’ he said.

‘The figures indicate that students from the wealthiest families could be pulling further away in the race for prestigious academic degrees, and the positions of power they pave the way to.

‘This yawning gap is not just a problem for our poorest children but also those from “normal” middle income homes.’ 

Mr Elliot Major added: ‘The social mobility arms race is escalating with each academic year as the richest families increasingly devote more resources to ensure that their children excel at school and university.  ‘They recognise education’s increasing importance in who wins in the workplace.’  

The research is based on the latest available data from the Department for Education, published earlier this year.

Billions of pounds have been spent over the last 15 years on outreach schemes, bursaries and funding aimed at up opening up access to university.

But the analysis shows that the proportion of A-level students attending comprehensives and progressing to the country’s 30 most academically demanding universities fell from 23 per cent in 2008/09 to 19 per cent in 2011/12.

Mr Elliot Major warned that prominent positions in politics, law, the media and the civil service - where an Oxbridge degree ‘remains the passport to success’ - would continue to be dominated by graduates from a narrow range of backgrounds. 

But he also said the figures also highlighted some ‘exceptional’ comprehensives whose pupils are getting the grades and the know-how to get into Oxbridge and other top universities.

The list includes Mossbourne Community Academy, which was built up from scratch by Sir Michael Wilshaw, now head of Ofsted, and sent seven per cent of its pupils to Oxbridge in 2011/12.

‘We know that there are tens of thousands more academically talented children in schools across the country who could be real candidates for university, and even perhaps an Oxbridge degree,’ Mr Elliot Major added.


Exam system is 'outdated and archaic', says Eton headmaster Tony Little

An unlikely opponent of exam league tables emerged today, with the head of Britain’s top public school mounting an attack on the Government’s approach to measuring the success of education.

The exam system is “unimaginative” and “archaic.” And simply measuring exam results “can be misleading” according to Tony Little, the headmaster of Eton, which counts Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Harry among its alumni.

He claims the education system is failing to prepare schoolchildren for adulthood, being based on an approach to exams “little changed from Victorian times, which obliges students to sit alone at their desks in preparation for a world in which, for much of the time, they will need to work collaboratively.”

The comments come as millions of students wait for their GCSE or A-level exam results this month [Aug]. It is unlikely to be a particularly stressful time for Mr Little’s pupils, the vast majority of whom are expected to get A or A* grades.

Writing in the Radio Times today, Mr Little, who is due to retire next year, says: “A sharp focus on performance is a good thing, but there is a great deal more to an effective and good education than jostling for position in a league table.”

And he argues: “Most of us as parents want our children to become capable adults, able to look after themselves and their own families, but we want them to be good citizens, too.”

Mr Little quotes the 17th century poet John Milton, who cited being “skillful, just and magnanimous” as among the virtues of citizenship. “The skills we can, with ingenuity, find ways to measure and assess, but where would justice and magnanimity fit in an exam programme?”

And he concludes: “Let us stand up for robust academic rigour and applaud our young people for their achievements, but let us not confuse league table success with a good education.”

His view is supported by Kevin Courtney, the deputy general secretary of the NUT, who said that “Tony Little is right to warn of the dangers of reducing education to statistics”.

The Government’s “obsession with accountability and testing needs a fundamental rethink,” he added.

And Mr Little’s concerns are also shared by the exams regulator Ofqual. In a statement, an Ofqual spokesperson said: “We would echo Tony Little’s sentiments that there is much more to education than exams and exam results. And yes, there is too much emphasis on just what is likely to be tested, which can narrow learning.”

But they added: “exams and assessment do have a key role to play, and it is important that they provide valid and reliable results that people can trust as a proper record of the student’s knowledge, abilities and skills.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education responded robustly to Mr Little’s criticisms: “We make no apology for holding schools to account for the results their pupils achieve in national tests and public examinations. Parents deserve to know that their children are receiving the very best possible teaching. But all good schools know that there is no tension between academic success and an excellent all-round education.”

They added: “We know constant testing is unpopular and we are ending the exam treadmill by returning A-levels to linear exams at the end of two years. This will ensure students gain a deep understanding of their subjects and end the culture of constant assessment and resits. Our reforms will ensure we have an exam system which prepares young people to succeed in modern Britain.”


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