Author Archives: sherlockj

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Part 2 – Stop Trying to Provide Mental Health Services in School

by James C. Sherlock

In Part 1 of this series I described the current Virginia Community School Framework (the Framework) and found it not only lacking, but counter-productive.

Its basic flaw is that it assumes all services to school children will be provided in the schools by school employees, including mental health services.

When you start there, you get nowhere very expensively, less competently, and with considerably more danger in the case of mental health than if the schools were to partner with other government and non-profit services.

This part of the series will deal with child and adolescent mental health services exclusively.

Public mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse services for children and adolescents are funded by governments at every level. For the federal view of the system of care, see here.

In Virginia, those services are organized, overseen and funded through a state and local agency system.

  • The state agency is the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) in the Secretariat of Health and Human Resources. The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) (Medicaid) plays a funding and patient management role as well;
  • Local agencies funded and overseen by DBHDS are the Community Services Boards (CSB’s) throughout the state.

Some schools and school systems seem to operate on a different planet from their local CSB’s. Indeed, the Framework mentions them only reluctantly and in passing.

The ed school establishment clearly wants to handle child and adolescent mental health problems in-house, with tragic results. They need to stop it now.

There is absolutely no need to wait. Continue reading

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Hubs for Government and Not-for-Profit Services in Inner Cities – Part 1 – the Current Framework

by James C. Sherlock

I believe a major approach to address both education and health care in Virginia’s inner cities is available if we will define it right and use it right.

Community schools.

One issue. Virginia’s official version of community schools, the Virginia Community School Framework, (the Framework) is fatally flawed.

The approach successful elsewhere brings government professional healthcare and social services and not-for-profit healthcare assets simultaneously to the schools and to the surrounding communities at a location centered around existing schools.

That model is a government and private not-for-profit services hub centered around schools in communities that need a lot of both. Lots of other goals fall into place and efficiencies are realized for both the community and the service providers if that is the approach.

That is not what Virginia has done in its 2019 Framework.

The rest of government and the not-for-profit sector are ignored and Virginia public schools are designed there to be increasingly responsible for things that they are not competent to do.

To see why, we only need to review the lists of persons who made up both the Advisory Committee and the Additional Contributors. Full of Ed.Ds and Ph.D’s in education, there was not a single person on either list with a job or career outside the field of education. Continue reading

Senate Privileges and Elections Committee Votes for Virginia to Remain an Oligarchy

Sen. Chap Petersen speaking on senate floor. Credit: Virginia Mercury

by James C. Sherlock

Oligarchy: a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.

The Privileges and Elections Committee of the Virginia Senate has voted down two bills by Senator Chap Petersen that would have restored some semblance of a democratic republic status to Virginia.

Senate Bill 803 would have for the first time set campaign finance limits in Virginia. Part of the bill summary:

Prohibits persons from making any single contribution, or any combination of contributions, that exceeds $20,000 to any one candidate for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, or the General Assembly in any one election cycle.

If SB803 had been signed into law, the contributions of persons, campaign committees, political committees, and corporations could not as thoroughly dominate Virginia politics in the future as they do today.

No more one-stop shopping for $250,000 campaign contributions. For $20,000 I expect my calls to be returned. For $250,000 I expect more.

Senate Bill 804 would have prohibited campaign donations by public utilities. Dominion’s river of ratepayer money flowing to politicians would dry up. What, exactly, do we think Dominion’s take-away is from that vote other than that the bazaar is still open?

The two bills were supported in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee only by Democrats. Just not enough Democrats. And no Republicans.

So we are left with state-sanctioned political corruption. Continue reading

Another Price Virginia Pays for Certificate of Public Need – Mediocrity in Cancer Treatment

NYC’s Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) has ranked in the top two “Best Hospitals for Cancer” every year since U.S. News & World Report began rating hospitals in 1990.

by James C. Sherlock

In an article titled “60 hospitals and health systems with great oncology programs headed into 2023,” Becker’s Hospital Review gives us a glimpse of one of the greatest costs of Virginia’s decades-long Certificate of Public Need (COPN) program.

The hospitals and health systems featured on this list have earned recognition nationally as top cancer care providers and many are on the cutting edge of novel therapies and researcher to improve outcomes and access to care.

The hospitals and health systems below are among the vanguard of cancer treatment and research in the country. Many of them have earned National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center designation and are ranked among the top hospitals for cancer care by U.S. News & World Report.

The list also features cancer centers with busy research institutes, multiple clinical trials and safety designations that exceed national benchmarks.

Hospitals and health systems listed below are dedicated to expanding their oncology departments and regional cancer centers to improve patient care locally and nationally. We accepted nominations for this list. Click here to find the 2023 nomination forms.

Sixty leading cancer programs. Not one of them is in Virginia, the 12th largest state. What we get, to be blunt, is state-sponsored and state-protected mediocrity among the nation’s hospitals in that specialty.

Central planning and lack of competition will produce that result. OK at a lot of things, the best at nothing.

If you want in on a clinical trial, Virginia is not the state in which to look for one.

Look at your leisure at COPN rules.

You will find no exception for excellence. Continue reading

Have Virginia Republican Elected Officials Given Up on Charter Schools?

by James C. Sherlock

Two things we know:

  1.  There is absolutely no question that charter schools run by successful charter management organizations (CMOS) are proven to be the most efficient and effective American public schools in instructing poor urban kids.
  2. There is also no question that many Democratic politicians, having eliminated any doubt about their hierarchy of values, have thrown those kids off the lifeboat in favor of the teachers’ unions.

But where, exactly, are Virginia Republican elected officials on this issue?

The only school choice bill I have seen from Republicans introduced in the General Assembly this session, education savings accounts, does not appear to help poor kids at all.

What is the thinking there?

If Democrats representing those districts — and they are all Democrats — are going to vote against their own kids in deference to the teachers’ unions (and they have in the past) why bother?

If that is it, I urge Republican elected officials to re-think this. Continue reading

General Assembly Democrat Bill Supports Gender Transition at 16 Without Parental Consent

Del. Candi King, (D) – House District 2 Stafford and Prince William (Facebook)

by James C. Sherlock

I note that House Bill No. 2091, with Patrons Munden-King, Clark, Hope, Maldonado, Rasoul and Simon does two things:

  1. It modifies Code of Virginia § 20-124.6. Access to minor’s records to permit health care providers to deny a minor patient’s records to parents if, in the provider’s judgment, providing those records would be “reasonably likely to deter the minor from seeking care.”
  2. It modifies Code of Virginia § 54.1-2969. Authority to consent to surgical and medical treatment of certain minors by adding:

“L. Any minor 16 years of age or older who is determined by a health care provider to be mature and capable of giving informed consent shall be deemed an adult for the purpose of giving consent to consultation, diagnosis, and treatment of a mental or emotional disorder by a health care provider or clinic.”

“Deemed by a health care provider.”

Going out on a limb, let’s take gender dysphoria as an example. Continue reading

Virginia’s Four Largest Not-for-Profit Health Systems and Medically Underserved Areas Next to their Headquarters

by James C. Sherlock

A challenge to Virginia’s largest not-for-profit health systems: just do it.

Take the lead.

Note the medically underserved areas (MUAs) next to your headquarters and flagship hospitals and provide primary care in those locations.

Virginia has federally-designated MUAs in Arlandria (INOVA), Norfolk (Sentara), Roanoke (Carilion) and Lynchburg (Centra). Those health systems are each headquartered in those cities.

  1. Arlandria is four miles from INOVA Alexandria Hospital. It was just designated in 2022.
  2. The medically underserved census tracts in Norfolk (pictured above) are closer than that to Sentara’s flagship Norfolk General Hospital. Those are just the worst of them. Eight more Norfolk census tracts made the list. Pretty much every poor area of the city. I got tired of outlining them. But you get the idea. Originally designated in 1994. Updated in 2009.
  3. Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital is right at the edge of that city’s underserved tracts. Originally designated in 1998. Updated in 2012.
  4. Underserved areas in east Lynchburg are in the service area of Centra’s flagship Lynchburg General Hospital. Designated in 1994. Updated in 2011.

The leadership of those health systems drive through those areas on the way to work.

Not-for-profit health systems conduct community health needs assessments (CHNA) once every three years to meet federal and state requirements. The CHNAs of those four health systems have recognized that those areas are underserved in primary care for a very long time.

Time for them to take the lead to provide primary care in communities a bicycle ride from their headquarters and major hospital facilities.

Then as a state we can move forward into more challenging areas. Continue reading

Virginia Medically Underserved Areas for General Assembly Consideration

by James C. Sherlock

We have a new General Assembly session. With that comes lots of healthcare bills.

I will not examine each one, but I have a suggestion for criteria to be applied by the Senate and House committees that do.

Ask yourselves how, if at all, each bill helps the federally designated medically underserved areas (MUAs) in Virginia.

Then ask how can any bill be a priority for funding ahead of those that do help that problem.

Then remember that providing primary care to underserved areas is proven to save a ton of Medicaid money net where it has been tried, as in Maryland, because of inpatient care avoidance.

Then ask the not-for-profit health systems that serve those areas to testify how, exactly, they can be medically underserved when that is what the health system tax exemptions are meant to prevent, and free cash flows have been extraordinary for decades.

And, finally, if you have no bills that help provide additional primary care to those areas, you aren’t doing it right. Continue reading

Newport News Schools Making Changes After Shooting – But Not Enough Yet

Evolve Technology
Courtesy Kenton Brothers

by James C. Sherlock

Better late than never. Truly.

The Daily Press reported today that the Newport News school board has secured funding for state-of-the-art metal detectors.

State-of-the-art means systems that can detect weapons without the long lines and delays we associate with such systems.

As an example, a 125-year-old company, Kenton Brothers, offers Evolve Technology that combines artificial intelligence with digital sensors that they claim can screen visitors and students 10 times faster that older methods.

Kenton Brothers inevitably has competitors with similar technologies. Perhaps better ones.  These systems won’t keep teachers or kids from getting assaulted in schools, but should reduce knifings and shootings.

Which is something.

But to restore order, metal detectors must be paired with old-school zero tolerance discipline. The long-adopted, utterly failed Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) discipline system must be scrapped in Newport News schools.

Which is something else. Continue reading

McKinsey & Company Has You Covered

Whatever this is supposed to mean. Courtesy, McKinsey & Company

by James C.  Sherlock

Ever feel not only disconnected from, but ignored by central planners?

Do you run a shoe store in Sterling or work for a hospital in Richmond? Use natural gas in your home or work?  Teach in a public school in Wise County? Drive a gas-or diesel-powered vehicle?

In other words, do you do what people do to make the economy run and feed their families? Live your life using carbon-based energy, as does the entire economy?

Central planners have chosen your future. Nothing big, just the entire United states economy.

They acknowledge “headwinds” in that future. Challenges they call “weather fronts.” What McKinsey, the guru of net zero, calls a “devilish duality” that it claims has put “executives” on the spot.

They offer strategies to deal with them:

As net zero has become an organizing principle for business, executives are on the spot to lay out credibly how they will deliver a transition to net zero while building and reinforcing resilience against the certain volatility of ongoing economic and political shocks.

Dominion Energy is all in.  But questions arise: Continue reading

Senator Boysko on Home Defense

by James C. Sherlock

I have a loaded 9 mm semiautomatic handgun in my house for defense against home invasion. Never take it out of the house except to the range.

It is locked up but readily accessible, even in the dark by a 77-year-old.

If my kids were still at home I would still have that loaded gun here, locked up. I would also not be 77.

Virginia Code § 18.2-56.2.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of fourteen. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The Virginian-Pilot reports Sen.-elect Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, will introduce a new bill:

Boysko said her bill would require unattended firearms to be stored unloaded in a locked device or cabinet in homes with residents under the age of 18, or in homes where there was a reasonable expectation that a minor would be present.

It would also require ammunition to be kept in a separate locked device.

Raising the age from 14 to 18?

It will be controversial, especially in rural areas and among a lot of other gun owners. Camel’s nose under the tent. That sort of thing. And they will be right about the nose part.

But if she wants that provision, I recommend not packaging it with the rest of the changes she proposes. Continue reading

Anti-Capitalism Packaged as Antiracism Teaches Failure in Virginia Schools

Karl Marx

by James C. Sherlock

I have spent the last 15 years or so studying and reporting on the decline of scholarship and the rise of censorship at the University of Virginia and other state institutions of “higher learning.”

The enforced closing of minds has been targeted to resurrect an economic system that failed everywhere in the 20th century and cannot work in the 21st.

The decline has been led by UVa’s School of Education and Human Development not only at the University but also, more harmfully, in the policies and pedagogy developed for teaching in the public schools. That school, blind to redundancy, recently appointed an Associate Dean for DEI.

UVa’s School of Education, unfortunately close to Richmond, has dominated the councils of the Virginia Department of Education even under Republican administrations. But it most tragically ran free under Ralph Northam and his two worst appointees, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

Tragically, their tenures overlapped with complete domination by Democrats of the General Assembly and the COVID shutdowns.

The public schools, many operated under school boards in political agreement with the progressive left, will be trying to recover from those multiple simultaneous catastrophes for decades. Many will not recover if they remain as currently configured.

Some schools won’t last long as parents seek choices elsewhere. If true choices are offered that the poor can afford, entire divisions will collapse. Which is why, because too many school divisions are run for the benefit of the adults in the system, they will oppose choices.

Regardless, the steep decline in production of new teachers and the fleeing from chaos of experienced teachers, including those who have not yet been attacked in their classrooms, continues.

That is a classic death spiral. Continue reading

The Shooting at Richneck Elementary – Part 2 – the School

By James C. Sherlock

Richneck Elementary Credit WAVY TV 10

The shooting at Richneck Elementary was a tragedy by every measure.

I am not going to discuss the shooting itself here.

I will instead offer a summary of the school’s state quality data so we can get a sense of the environment in that school.  It is located across I-64 from Fort Eustis in a neighborhood described in The New York Times as “generally safe”.

Fort Eustis hosts General Stanford Elementary, the highest performing elementary school in the Newport News Public Schools system.  In a neighborhood generally considered extraordinarily safe.  Hooah.

Continue reading

R.I.P. Virginia Public Schools

Martin Luther King Middle School Richmond. Credit RCPS.

by James C. Sherlock

I have crafted and will share what I believe to be an epitaph for public education in Virginia.

All of the evidence we see is that Virginia’s public school system, counseled and cheered on by its disgraceful publicly funded schools of education, is crumbling at its foundations.

We start children in school at ever younger ages to give them a head start. We have moved supervision of child care to the Department of Education, thus rearranging the deck chairs.

Many of the adults in the system, and quite possibly many of the students, have given up on education in actual facts. Adults argue about the teaching of history as if, evidence aside, kids were going to learn it.

Displacing traditional course time, teachers are directed to spend dedicated hours to try to instill social-emotional learning that kids traditionally learned at home.

Those kids who already have those skills sit wondering what they have done wrong.

The lessons plans, unfortunately, will tell them soon enough.

But that is just the beginning. Continue reading

The Shooting at Richneck Elementary – Part One

Police and EMS response at Richneck Elementary.  Credit WAVY TV 10

by James C. Sherlock

There is trauma everywhere you look.

A six-year-old boy shoots his teacher in school and we first consider the trauma.

Then we look for ways to minimize its effects.

And we simultaneously ask questions about the event itself. What happened and why?

Unless we are personally involved, and even if we are, we look for all of those answers almost immediately.

This first part of a series is about what is to be done with the kid shooter and how the widespread trauma, including his own, will be dealt with. Continue reading