Author Archives: sherlockj

Social-Emotional Learning — We Are All Aboard for the Ride

James Lane
Superintendent of Public Instruction

by James C. Sherlock

A new educational theory has been implemented while most were not looking.  

The educational-industrial complex is all-in on Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Behold the circle of life of that complex:  

  1. Many education schools have for a very long time been producing “studies” under government grants awarded by ed school grads that prove that SEL will solve, well, everything – including the poor outcomes of everything they researched and credited with magical powers before SEL. This is called “academic inquiry” by actual educational institutions with fewer closed loop interests and higher standards.
  2. The same education schools teach it.
  3. Virginia education policymakers and graduates of the education schools, have fully embraced it. 
  4. Lots of ed school graduates working as consultants are available to spend all those newly minted hundreds of billions of “COVID” dollars sent to the schools. 
  5. There are lots of new jobs in the schools for SEL staffers, ed school grads all.  
  6. And all of that will last until the ed schools come up with a new silver bullet theory to fix the problems created by SEL. This is done by renaming and expanding it.
  7. Go to number 1, set the money cycle on re-wash and press start.

SEL of course, being a full-service silver bullet, requires its own bureaucracies, teacher reeducation, teacher mentors called “coaches”, curricula, classroom time, lesson plans, “data” that need to be viewed through an “equity lens” and of course money, lots of it.  Continue reading

A Hill for Children to Die On

Virginia Education Secretary Qarni

by James C. Sherlock

I was asked by Dick Sizemore:

“As for social emotional learning (SEL), what specifically in that statement do you disagree with?”

A serious question from a serious man. The answer is quoted from Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

Find the definition of the “process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes.”

A process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

The SEL “process” is defined by CASEL as: Continue reading

The Soul of the University – Still Thinking

by James C. Sherlock

The battle for the soul of the University of Virginia is on writes Jim Bacon, like me an alumnus. There is apparently only one fighter on the side of freedom of expression, reasoned debate and the maintenance of order as key foundations of academic freedom. That is the Board.

University President Ryan has shown himself to be conflicted about those foundations. He has found himself frozen in several sets of headlights trying to maintain any of the three, much less all of them.

The left has replaced reason in education with “social-emotional learning.” Let’s hear from the “Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)” (Did you doubt there would be such an organization?):

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Continue reading

Fire State Officials Who Failed Us in COVID

by James C. Sherlock

If senior members of the state bureaucracies escape accountability for their failures before and during COVID, the agency cultures won’t change and it will happen again.  

I am going to review below the extent of their written responsibilities for pandemic planning and the high quality planning support they were given before COVID struck.  

It is clear that the planning framework, guidance and assumptions from 2012 proved prescient in COVID.  

Those responsibilities were widely ignored within the government of Virginia in the nearly eight years between when the directive was published and COVID struck. Readers can judge for themselves how much it mattered that the required planning was not carried out.

Post-COVID “lessons learned” written by the state bureaucracies will be utterly insufficient if left to stand alone. There is only one overarching lesson learned. Some did not do their jobs and people died as a direct result. Continue reading

Virginia’s Covid Vaccination Plan – Nothing to Exercise

by James C. Sherlock

I have read a lot of speculation here on who is responsible for the mess that has been the distribution and administration of COVID vaccines.

I will try offer some clarification.

On a day-to-day basis, people get flu shots or shingles shots or whatever from a lot of different providers. The normal pharmaceutical distribution system handles the supply chain.

Emergency planning guidance for pandemic emergency distribution and administration of vaccines is contained in Virginia’s famously shy Emergency Operations Plan – HAZARD-SPECIFIC ANNEX #4 PANDEMIC INFLUENZA RESPONSE of 2012.

Planning assumptions included:

– Pre-event planning is critical to ensure a prompt and effective response to a pandemic influenza, as its spread will be rapid, recurring (in multiple waves), and difficult to stop once it begins. …
– Vaccines will not be available for approximately six months following identification of the virus and will be in limited quantities when made available, necessitating the need to develop and implement a distribution plan.

Policies: Continue reading

Certificate of Public Need’s Hall of Mirrors

by James C. Sherlock

Versailles Hall of Mirrors

In Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, everything is reflected hundreds of times.

The mirrors were also a commercial. They represented an effort of Louis XIV to establish for France monopolies on the production of luxury goods.

Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law and regulations represent a similar structure.

Everything in the process reflects back on itself. Those reflections both reinforce the structure and cement monopolies. Though it represents the intrigue of Versailles, COPN lacks beauty and grace. But, in another similarity, neither Louis nor Virginia’s General Assembly tried to represent the interests of the people in these enterprises.

This essay will help explain how COPN works. It would be shorter if the tentacles of COPN were not so completely enveloping and self-reinforcing. This is in its entirety both legal and a scandal, as with much else in Virginia politics.

Two recent COPN decisions affect my home area of South Hampton Roads. Those cases pointed to the systemic roadblocks to successfully challenging Sentara Healthcare’s dominance here which will never be surmounted while COPN stands as is. Continue reading

Virginia Pandemic Emergency Plan Was Never Exercised


by James C. Sherlock

As we suspected, Virginia did not exercise its Pandemic Emergency Plan from the time it was published in 2012 until COVID-19 struck.

I received the following response today to a FOIA request I sent to the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Emergency Management:

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) received your February 13, 2021, email regarding a document request. In that request, you seek:

“Existing VDEM records of Virginia state, regional, and local participation in the National Exercise Program since 2012 at every level of training and exercises that addressed Infectious Disease and Biological Incidents.”

VDEM does not have any documentation that meets the requirements of your request. As a result, pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-3704.B.3, VDEM notes that no records or data exists in response to your request.

Is “oops” a good enough response for the Governor? It appears so.

Sentara and the Judge

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Feb. 23 at 2:15 pm

In an ongoing series of reports, Ray Locker, enterprise and investigative editor of the Checks and Balances Project, has exposed a story with far-reaching implications.

Norfolk Circuit Court Chief Judge Mary Jane Hall sat in judgment on a case, Chesapeake Hosp. Auth. v. State Health Comm’r,  in which Sentara was an included defendant.  

It appears from that reporting that she could have recused herself for two reasons:

  • prior to her appointment to the bench Judge Hall not only had represented Sentara for years in another COPN case; but also
  • the judge’s co-attorney on that previous COPN case, Jamie B. Martin of Williams Mullin, was Sentara’s attorney in Chesapeake Hosp. Auth. v. State Health Comm’r.

From Mr. Locker’s first article:

The Virginia Canons of Judicial Conduct says this about judicial impartiality:

“(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned”

Further under Canon 2,

“The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity and impartiality is impaired.”

My own additional research into published Norfolk Circuit Court opinions shows that Judge Hall sat in judgment on cases in that court involving Sentara as well as on Chesapeake Hosp. Auth. v. State Health Comm’r.  This case was filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court.

The Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, who is charged with overseeing judicial conduct, assigned the case to Judge Hall

Chief Justice Lemons of the Virginia Supreme Court asked Judge Hall to sit by designation in Chesapeake in place of the judges of the First Judicial Circuit (Chesapeake) and hear the case. She accepted. He made the appointment on July 31, 2018.

There would be three possible reasons to import a judge:

  1. Chief Justice Lemons assessed that there were no judges on the Chesapeake Circuit with the experience to hear a COPN case; or
  2. he assessed that the Chesapeake Circuit judges were conflicted or could have been considered so; or
  3. The Chesapeake Circuit had more cases than judges at that point.

There is no indication in the record of why Judge Hall was imported in this case.

Continue reading

COPN – Don’t Leave Home Without It

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes I think we don’t personalize the effects of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) program on individual Virginians in ways that are relatable. Nor do many understand the power of the hospital monopolies.

Many readers here have followed the progress of our reporting of the increasing and relentless suppression of competition in healthcare by COPN. I will offer in this essay a single example that may personalize it.

In 2009, the regulation, not the law, that defined the radius from your home of facilities that would be considered when seeing whether you are adequately served by existing open heart surgery facilities was changed as follows:

Title 12. Health » Agency 5. Department Of Health » Chapter 230. State Medical Facilities Plan » Part IV. Cardiac Services

Article 2
Criteria and Standards for Open Heart Surgery

12VAC5-230-440. Accessibility Travel time.

A. Open heart surgery services should be within 30 60 minutes driving time one way, under normal conditions, of 95% of the population of a the [ health ] planning district [ using mapping software as determined by the commissioner ].

Simple change. Thirty minutes was changed to 60 minutes. You surely did not notice. You were meant not to notice. And your elected representatives were not asked to vote on it. Continue reading

Certificate of Public Need – This Seems Promising

by James C. Sherlock

Democrats, the primary bulwarks for the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law in Virginia, took the opportunity last year to create as part of a major revision to COPN law a new 19-member State Health Services Plan Task Force.  

That group is to advise the Board of Health on the content of the newly renamed State Health Services Plan (ex-State Medical Facilities Plan (SMFP).

I wish the task force luck.  They will need it.

The new task force is apparently a temporary casualty of COVID-19, but it shows how desperate the Democrats (read hospitals) are to revitalize COPN after a 2019 Chesapeake Circuit Court decision and supporting appeals court decision in Chesapeake Hospital Authority d/b/a, etc. v. State Health Commissioner and Sentara Hospitals.  

Both decisions exposed it for what it is — a regional monopoly protection racket that is subjectively applied — and found the administration of the COPN system in Virginia to be incompetent at the same time. Continue reading

The Democratic Coalition’s Conflicts of Interest Cause Much Political Scrambling

by James C. Sherlock

It is tough to be a Democratic politician in Richmond or Washington. Now that they govern, they find it one big game of coalition whack-a-mole.

I have written today of the conflicts between the interests of teachers unions and those of parents playing out in the Virginia General Assembly. That vital Democratic suburban women demo is in play.

That is the tip of the iceberg for Democrats. They have assembled a coalition whose interests are fundamentally opposed. Those fissures are only fully exposed when they have unfettered governance, which they have now both in Richmond and Washington.

The only things they seem to agree on are big government, free money and government regulation and control of nearly everything except their own interests.

After that, it gets dicey. Continue reading

Mandate Teacher Vaccinations in Virginia

Louise Lucas, Chair, Senate Education and Health Committee photo credit: Virginian-Pilot

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote this morning about Virginia SENATE BILL NO. 1303 (Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute) Local school divisions; availability of virtual and in-person learning to all students.

The lengthy Democratic substitute to a one-sentence Republican bill was written over the weekend to provide political cover to the Democrats. Unfortunately, it did much more than that, all of it bad.

One provision states:

“Prior to the start of the 2021–2022 school year, all teachers and school staff shall be offered access to receive an approved COVID-19 vaccination through their relevant local health district.”

“Offered access.” I was asked by a reader whether I would recommend mandating teacher vaccinations.

My answer is yes. Continue reading

Union-Written Bill Fundamentally Redefines Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Becky Pringle, NEA President

Democrats are attempting to rush through a bill to provide political cover from a backlash by parents against the continuing closure of Virginia schools.

Never ones to let a crisis go to waste, they have put union-written provisions in the bill that will permanently change the nature of the public schools for the worse.

So let’s look at Virginia SENATE BILL NO. 1303 AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE Local school divisions; availability of virtual and in-person learning to all students

There are four provisions in the bill that will change Virginia public schools, some forever. Continue reading

Business as Usual in the Virginia Senate – “Dominion Dick” Saslaw Delivers

Sen. Dick Saslaw (D)

by James C. Sherlock

Associate Press headline Feb. 15: “Virginia Senate Democrats kill electric rate reform bills.”

Fish gotta swim, Senator Richard L. “Dominion Dick” Saslaw gotta be Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Virginia Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

Saslaw has received nearly a half million dollars in campaign donations from Dominion Energy and its previous CEO, Thomas Farrell. The Chairman literally would be cheap at ten times the price.

From the AP:

“The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday swiftly killed the last of more than half a dozen bills this session that aimed to reform Virginia’s system of electric utility rate review, which is seen by Wall Street investors as favorable to the utilities and by critics as an example of legislative capture by companies with an outsize influence over the General Assembly.”

Dominion sweeping all before it actually gives some sense of stability to the General Assembly.

Below is a list of campaign donations by Dominion Energy and Tom Farrell to the Senators who voted with Dominion on the closest vote, 8-7 to table Virginia HB1132 Electric utility regulation; initial triennial review, requirements, sponsored by Del. Jay Jones (D). Continue reading

Richmond Schools Chief Proposes Year-Round School

by James C. Sherlock

Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras has proposed that city schools operate year-round next year to help students impacted by learning losses caused by disruptive COVID-related schooling changes.

Unless something changes, Richmond public schools will remain closed to in-person instruction for the rest of the current school year.

From an excellent piece written by Alan Rodriguez for NPR  

Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras is proposing that city schools operate year-round next year to help students impacted by virtual learning and the pandemic.

Kamras’s vision is for the 2021-2022 school year to begin in person in August, and end in late June. It would include four two-week breaks, or “intersessions,” every nine weeks. About 5,000 “high-need students” would receive additional instruction during these intersessions, adding up to 40 extra school days.

Continue reading