Tag Archives: James Sherlock

Campaign Finance Reform in Virginia – the New Governor Must Lead

by James C. Sherlock

I consider campaign finance reform the foremost issue facing representative government in Virginia.

We are one of only a few states with no campaign donations limits at all. We pay for that in legislation enacted and not enacted because of the preferences of huge donors. And in the stink of legal public corruption.

It also drives way up the cost of running and keeps good people from participating.

The new governor will have to lead. Continue reading

Redistricting is Working – Sen. Barker Threatens to Resign

by James C. Sherlock

Something must be going right. Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, has threatened to resign. Seems he is unable, at least so far, to pick his voters in the redistricting process.

Virginia’s new bipartisan redistricting commission is working the details with two months to complete its work.

Barker is on that commission. But he lives in Clifton, at the western tip of the current 39th Senate district. Oops.

His current 39th Senate District (pictured above) resembles a golf driver in which he lives in the toe. But his comfortable Democratic margins live in the shaft of the 39th that reaches all the way into Alexandria.

As a matter of fact, the state’s Democrats are packed so thickly in Northern Virginia that geographically compact districts can produce fewer, not more, Democrats in the General Assembly.

So they won’t be geographically compact. But Sen. Barker apparently lives too far from the main Democratic vein to merit an exception. Continue reading

The President Had Somewhere Important to Be

Credit: Getty Images

by James C. Sherlock

The caption of the photo:

“US President Joe Biden looks down alongside First Lady Jill Biden as they attend the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, August, 29, 2021, one of the 13 members of the US military killed in Afghanistan last week.”

I watched.  I am sure I had lots of company.

  • Virginia Veterans — nearly 730,215 — one out of 10 adults.
  • Virginia active duty (89,303) and reserve military (25,977) = 115,280
  • Virginia Army National Guard 7,500 soldiers and 46 armories
  • Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Fighter Wing at Langley AFB Hampton – approximately 200.

In an unblinking story for The Washington Post, Matt Viser exposed a failure of leadership and understanding of the moment that was a direct insult to all Americans.

The President was there to representing us all. He shamed us. Continue reading

A is for Activist

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes the discussions about the ever increasing political content in Virginia K-5 classrooms is hard to visualize. Perhaps this will help.

The Daily Wire discovered the video below posted on a VDOE website by a couple of teachers in Chesapeake public schools as a resource for 3rd grade teachers.

The website is GoOpenVa.org, a site for sharing “digital resources with the end goals of providing equitable access to great learning materials throughout the state, and supporting new approaches to learning and teaching for all Virginians.”

The Daily Wire article explains.

To make it enticing to teachers looking to check off boxes, each lesson on the GoOpenVA platform is marketed as fulfilling certain state educational standards.

By instructing students to liken Black Lives Matter to Martin Luther King (after learning about him from a tumblr account), (this) lesson says teachers can take credit for fulfilling the “Learning Domain: History and Social Science” Standard: “The student will compare and contrast ideas and perspectives to better understand people or events in world cultures.”

Digital content for the students in this lesson plan includes the YouTube video above.

“Great learning materials” indeed.

Coming to a third grade classroom near you.

Retirees Can Help the Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia has 132 school divisions.

I don’t pretend to know what each has done to address the monumental task of teaching kids who have been at varying levels disconnected from the educational system for 18 months.

But I offer a suggestion that some may already be using: seek the assistance — as volunteers or temporary employees — of retirees.

These may include: (1) retired teachers; (2) retirees with some teaching experience and verified subject matter expertise in high-need specialties; and (3) those with special staff qualifications.

Such an initiative will have to be managed carefully and well to ensure the experience is efficient and effective for both the children and the adults and the schools can access the rules relatively easily.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will need to clear the way by organizing and publishing state licensing guidance. Continue reading

Should Large Numbers of K-12 Students Repeat Grades This Year?

by James C. Sherlock

The question asked in the headline is a class 5 hurricane that has come ashore.

School is in session.

The recommendations for whether and how to execute large-scale retention in grade, whatever they might have been, would have proven very controversial but potentially helpful. Such guidelines are now moot.

Work in schools on the assessments of individual children for retention or advancement likely started in June. But under what assumptions? None of the decision makers have never seen conditions like this.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), prone to maddening and useless pontification rather than dealing with reality, has not acknowledged much less discussed the issue or offered counsel. Unusually silent, the top brass has decided to wait out the storm in their Richmond redoubt.

Virginia schools, parents and children are left to deal with the crisis alone.

VDOE can be counted on to tell them later what they should have done. Continue reading

Endeavor to Persevere

Chief Dan George

by James C. Sherlock

Chief Dan George played Lone Watie in the 1976 classic The Outlaw Josie Wales, one of the greatest westerns ever made.

Lone Watie related a story of a visit to Washington. The visit was the occasion on which the Secretary of the Interior told the chiefs that they would have to relocate their tribes far from their homes.

Watie:

“He told us ‘Endeavor to persevere.’”

“When we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.”

The Secretary was callous but at least he was brief as he presaged the trail of tears.

I will give you a taste of VDOE guidance in the current educational crisis. You can choose whether the leadership are in way over their heads or simply blinded in the thrall of their own dogma. Or both.

Not sure it matters. “Endeavor to persevere” would be preferable to what they have delivered. Continue reading

First Morning Bus Delays in Fairfax Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Aug 23 at 5.50 PM

FCPS has published its first morning FCPS Bus Delay list of buses delayed more than 15 minutes.

Remember:

  • This is the first day of school, but certainly there were several trial run days this summer in an attempt to provide sufficient time in the schedules to avoid lateness. Every school district does that.
  • A lot of these schedules required multiple runs by individual drivers, so the delays would have cascaded and been longer the later in the morning the child was scheduled to be picked up and delivered to school.
  • FCPS publishes transportation contact names and phone numbers for each school and center, so I expect they had a very busy morning.
  • The list does not indicate how long the bus ride was scheduled to take before the delays. Nor how many routes each driver was scheduled to drive.    

Roughly a third of FCPS schools and centers were affected. Some schools took the brunt of it.  

The school system is not playing favorites. Langley High is a case in point. Langley serves one of the wealthiest public school populations in America. You would have no trouble telling the student parking lot from the teachers’ lot. But those are just the seniors. Continue reading

Schools Desperately Short of Bus Drivers; Carpooling App Needed

by James C. Sherlock

A Fairfax County Public Schools Twitter message August 19:

“If you can walk with or drive your child (and perhaps a neighbor’s), please do. Also, we ask that you update your transportation status through your school, if you choose to not have your child take the bus.”

WTOP reported that as of Aug. 12, Fairfax County Public Schools was short 190 drivers.

Parents have already made plans and notified school districts if their children will be bus riders. I expect that the interlocking administration and logistics of car pools and buses to T-bone one another because of the late start and lack of preparation for the car pool option at scale. But that is where many districts are.

Driving a school bus is a difficult, nerve wracking and hazardous job. The training required makes them professional drivers. The demand for such skills and the pay and benefits in the private sector are very high and growing because of a labor shortage in the face of increasing demand.

Like pretty much every other type of blue collar work. Continue reading

State Mental Health Plan Too large, Complex to Succeed?

by James C. Sherlock

I really want Virginia’s mental health program to work. It looks like a major struggle, however.

I will recommend a major change: state control of the Community Services Boards (CSB)s.  I think that will be necessary for the plan to have any chance of succeeding.

I have just finished reading a draft 409-page report to the federal government that describes planned efforts to expand and improve the state’s mental health care system. It has been developed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) for the signature of the Secretary of Health and Human resources.

Three things jump off the pages — all of the hard things are to happen going forward, the complexity of the program will be enormous and the state will not have enough control to make it happen.

Continue reading

Marijuana and Casino Legalization Linked to Increases in Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Paul Krizek (D-Pamunkey Nation)

by James C. Sherlock

We know what is going to happen.

Dr. Daniel Carey M.D., Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, will soon apply to the federal government for funding for substance abuse prevention grants.

He knows.

He plans to tell the federal government that additional people, mostly poor and Black, are going to suffer and die from mental illness and substance abuse because we legalized marijuana, casinos and sports betting.

But apparently we did it for a good cause — equity — or so some say.

The opening statement of that draft application reads:

Statewide Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Behavioral Health and Substance Use

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting health impact, uncertainty, social isolation, and economic distress are expected to substantially increase the behavioral health needs of Virginians. Increased alcohol, substance use, including increased overdose rates are key concerns, as well as COVID-19 impacts already evident in Virginia.

Continue reading

What Does Northam’s Masking Order Mean for 70,000 School Kids with Disabilities? Does Northam Even Know?

Governor Ralph Northam…. Oh, our bad, that’s a weasel.

by James C. Sherlock

My own preferred policy for schools is mandatory vaccination for school staff, recommended vaccinations for the kids and voluntary masks for everyone.

One of the advantages of that is that it is executable.

One of the disadvantages is that I have no influence whatever over the governor or health commissioner. Pretty big disadvantage.

But Virginia’s current order for schools is purposely garbled when addressing accommodations for disabled children, and the health commissioner understood that when he signed it for the governor.

The authors of that document had no idea how to handle the mask issue for the over 70,000 kids in Virginia public schools were labeled as “disabled” last year.

So they punted. Continue reading

Shots and Masks in Richmond Schools

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock

Belt and suspenders?

Vaccinations and masks now are both mandatory in Richmond Public Schools. Vaccinations because the school board ordered it last night. Masks because the Governor ordered it last week.

The vaccination order, though many oppose it, has science behind it. Vaccinations work. For the vaccinated, though, the mask wearing mandate is purely political – and political theater. The mask mandate did not presume vaccination mandates.

Cue the squeaking from the “yeah, but” crowd.

Let’s look a these one at a time.

Vaccinations – Richmond

After a vote last night by the school board, nearly all employees of Richmond Public Schools (RPS) must be vaccinated by Oct. 1.

I wish them godspeed.

This policy, with which I agree, is a major experiment with a very short time horizon, an unknown baseline and an unknown outcome. Continue reading

Are We Willing to Require Health Care Workers to Get Vaccinated If There Are No Replacements?

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes reality trumps policy. The headline asks a question for which I do not have an answer.

My personal position is that all health care workers and all school workers should get vaccinated. Reality suggests that changing the verb from “should” to “must” depends on the availability of replacements, the necessity of the service and risks and rewards of both options.

Replacements are the problem in Virginia.

The Washington Post published an articleGet the vaccine or get fired? In Shenandoah Valley, some nurses choose termination.

So, there it is. The stark choice.

But Nurse Journal reports that Virginia has the 9th lowest number of nurses per 100,000 people of all the states/D.C. at 10.52 per 100,000. Continue reading

Virginia Beach and Afghanistan

by James C. Sherlock

It was never a Navy war.

But in this Navy town, it was brought literally home to us again and again. We are home to nearly half of the Navy SEALs, including SEAL Team 6.

Something like 4,000 to 5,000 total plus their families.

SEALs are America’s special operations forces specially trained for undersea, coastal, river and swamp operations. They train on our beaches, in our swamps, bays and ocean. Some of us can hear their live gunfire at night.

Folks in the Navy flight paths hear big transports take off at 4:00 in the morning, guess that’s them going God knows where, wish them well, and try to go back to sleep.

About 15 years ago, I went through physical rehab in a civilian facility here with one of them, a Chief Petty Officer who you would not have recognized as a sailor. He and I were there for different types of injuries.

I was retired and rehabbing a knee operated on for arthritis. He was rehabbing muscle damage from a bullet wound. Affected his trigger finger. Continue reading