Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Green Energy TV

Many of you may have noticed that for some time there has been a link from my blog to Green Energy TV. I hope of course that by now you are totally addicted to watching it. However, for those of you who need a bit more persuasion, a nudge so to speak, let me tell you a little bit about it. Green Energy TV is an online television channel from Youngstown, Ohio. It is dedicated to airing green videos to people around the world. The folks at Green Energy are passionate about the environment. The videos are informative and great fun! My current favorite show is Garden Girl. Enjoy! and support yet another brilliant idea from Youngstown Ohio.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ohio Hub

The Ohio Hub- A project of the Ohio Rail Development Commission. This isn't your daddy's train!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Youngstown Schools

Thursday's Vindicator included an article, "Charter Schools Top City's in Performance". The article stated that charter schools in the city showed greater yearly academic growth than city schools last year, according to a report prepared by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools (OAPCS). The report is based on something called "value-added" data from the Ohio Department of Education that looks at math and reading performances in grades four through eight over two years as a way to judge academic growth. What this means is that the state is now assessing schools by tracking public educational advancement. OAPCS said its report shows that 57% of the seven Youngstown charter schools met or exceeded the state's academic growth expectations, whereas only 38% of the 16 city public schools reviewed by the state met or exceeded the expectations. So what does this really mean?

What is value added education? Education Week provides an answer. Value added education is based on a statistical analysis which measures the effectiveness of schools and teachers based on the amount of academic progress students make from one year to the next. They track the "value" that schools add to individual students' learning, separate from such background characteristics as race and poverty. My understanding is that instead of comparing one student with others, as norm-referenced tests do, or against an established standard - value-added assessments measure how far the student has progressed at the end of the school year compared with where he/she was at the start of the school year. I see it as a pre-test/post-test type of analysis. I don't believe that this type of analysis tells us much about whether or not a student will be able to pass the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT).

Let me say that I am not a fan of charter schools. I think they serve as a brain drain and a financial strain on the public school system. According to a Vindicator report in October 2007, nearly one out of every four public school pupils in the city was enrolled in a charter school last year. This report also indicated that six of the 12 charter schools in the city of Youngstown are ranked in academic emergency, the lowest rating given by the state. So what the new report from the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools tells me is that someone has designed another measurement technique to justify the continued existence of charter schools. The new measurement technique does not tell us what the child knows, only that the child knows something at the end of the year that he or she did not know in the beginning of the year.

OAPCS said in its report that 57% of the seven Youngstown charter schools met or exceeded the state's academic growth expectations, whereas only 38% of the 16 city public schools reviewed by the state met or exceeded the expectations. I am not a statistician but it appears to me that the statistics are not giving us an accurate picture of what is going on in these schools. In October 2007 there were 12 charter schools in Youngstown. Based on the OAPCS report that means that 6.8 of the schools showed that value was added. The Youngstown City schools showed value added in 6.08 schools.

It is also important to keep in mind that the total student body of the charter schools in 2007 numbered 2,615 whereas the student body of the city schools was approximately 8,200. Also, I do not believe the charter schools in Youngstown included special ed students (exception being the Mollie Kessler charter school). This data does not convince me that charter schools are doing any better than public schools, especially as there are no charter schools on the secondary (High School) level.

Anyone who has ever worked in the education field or dealt with Charter Schools first hand knows the charter school administration can influence, to a certain degree, who gets to attend their schools. First of all, students are selected through the use of a lottery, where their names are literally drawn out of a pool of hopefuls. This has a positive affect on the mentality of the students and their parents. If selected they feel chosen, as if they've won a prize. Where do the "losers" go? The same place most of us did, public school. In addition, at the first signs of trouble, a student can be expelled from a charter school and sent back to public school. Does the public school have that luxury? No, because public schools are where the buck stops.

And after all that- the best kids with the most involved parents competing in a lottery to get in, no pesky union or certified teachers to deal with or pay adequately, no special ed students and the luxury of kicking out problem kids at the first hint of trouble - they have yet to outperform public schools on standardized tests.

Charter schools in Youngstown go from Kindergarten to the eighth grade. The students then leave the charter school system and go to the public high school system where high school teachers are thrust into a position of bringing students up to the level that must be attained in order for the students to pass the OGT. Simultaneously teacher's must deal with adolescent behaviorial problems. To make matters worse, it is implied that teacher's evaluations are going to be tied to the academic achievement of students. Let's face it, there are many students who simply do not care about school or academics,, and there is little that teachers, as hard as they try, can do to change that.

A report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute , speaks volumes. In this report it is noted that data derived from value-added statistical analysis raises questions about how to define success in a school. Seems that some schools with high levels of overall achievement, many from wealthy districts, are failing to show adequate growth over time; while some lower achieving schools are showing gobs of growth over time. My question is exactly what are we measuring? It certainly isn't the quantity of knowledge that students are receiving.

There are glaring flaws in the overall rating scheme. For example, a school that has an excellent rating at, say, 95% will be unable to make AYP unless they go up to, say, 96% which would be very hard and unreasonable to expect. What about the school who is 99%? If there is one? Will that school eventually fall short because they can't maintain 100% forever? Crazy, isn't it?

But here's the bigger problem. Why didn't the Vindicator explain what "value added" data really means? Why didn't the Vindicator ask questions about the validity of a value added education assessment or a report published by a special interest group (Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools). I understand newspapers are supposed to report the facts, but the author of the article certainly seems to have become drunk on the the charter school "kool-aid" if you ask me. Even the headline "Charter Schools Top City’s in Performance" is completely unsubstantiated. What is expressed in the "data" is that city charter schools show a greater increase over last year's numbers when compared to the city schools. Even a cursory comparison of the report cards for Youngstown City and Eagle Heights Academy (a charter school mentioned in the Vindy article) shows that out of 19 indicators for 2006-07 grade level standardized test passage rates from grades 3-8, Youngstown tops Eagle Heights in 14 of them.

According to a report issued by the Ohio Education Association and the Coalition for Public Education, Ohio's public school districts far outperformed the state's chain of publicly funded, privately operated charter schools per the ODE report card data. But alas, if charter schools are here to stay, I believe that it should be a requirement that they provide education K-12, thereby teaching the whole child, and also being held accountable for whether or not the students can pass the Ohio Graduation Test. I believe that any thing less than this level of accountability is just playing hinky with the numbers. The very fact that the state's better schools cannot show "value added" because they can't improve on their AYP which is already good to excellent makes this new "value added criterion" laughable.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Trader Joe's - A Movement is afoot!

There is a movement afoot to convince Trader Joe's that downtown Youngstown should be their next store site. Folks are using the "Contact Us" information request form to ask consideration for an in-town store, and not in the surrounding suburbs. So if you are of like mind, please click on the link to TRADER JOES click on the "Show Me the Form" and use the additional comment box to post your request. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


ART YOUNGSTOWN First Night 2008 Thanks to Shout Youngstown for the great clip. This clip and others of that wonderful evening may be viewed at the blog

Monday, January 14, 2008

Poland Man Shot in Stomach in Youngstown - A Story about Privilege

Monday, January 14, 2007 the Vindicator, reported that a Poland Man looking for female companionship ended up being shot in the stomach over the weekend. Police said that they were called to the parking lot of the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority on Woodcrest Avenue at 7:20 p.m. Saturday for reports of gunfire. They found a 66 year old Poland man bleeding. He claimed to have been shot by a woman. When the police questioned the man after he was treated at St. Elizabeth Health Center , he told them that he was driving through Youngstown looking for female companionship when he met two black females named Ashley and Tiara. The women told him to pull into a parking lot. The women punched the man and took his wallet. The man said he ran and heard three shots. He went to a nearby apartment for help after realizing that he had been shot. Another man who lives nearby was arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arrest. Police said that Raymond Gordon of Woodcrest Avenue was seen near the victim's car when police arrived. An officer attempted to question Gordon, but Gordan starting yelling at police and eventually ran off. Gordon was identified by a resident who lives nearby. The resident said that Gordon came outside only after the shots were fired. Gordon returned a short time later and was arrested by police. Police said he was combative and they had to use pepper spray to subdue him.

Okay folks, what is wrong with this picture? Let's start with the fact that the Poland man doesn't have a proper name. His name is nowhere mentioned in the article, we don't know his address, although we are told that he is 66 years old. We know the names of "the girls from the hood" as they are portrayed, their names are Ashley and Tiara, and we now know the name of Raymond Gordon, neighborhood resident. We know Raymond's home address, his age, and we also know that:

1. Mr. Gordon was curious about the gunshots that he heard and went outside to investigate
2. He doesn't like the police which is why he didn't want to answer their questions and therefore he ran away.
3. That he is known by his neighbors and that they said he didn't go outside prior to the gunshots.
4. We now know that Mr. Gordon has not heard the old adage, "curiosity killed the cat" because after he ran away, he then went back to the scene.
5. This according to the police makes Mr. Gordon guilty of obstruction of justice.
6. When Mr. Gordon didn't agree with their assessment, he got angry. The police also charged him with resisting arrest.

Section 525.08 of the Youngstown Municipal Code addresses Obstruction of Justice.

(a) No person, with purpose to hinder the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for a misdemeanor...shall do any of the following:
(1) Harbor or conceal the other person or child;
(2) Provide the other person or child with money, transportation, a weapon, a disguise, or other means of avoiding discovery or apprehension.
(3) Warn the other person or child of impending discovery or apprehension;
(4) Destroy or conceal physical evidence of the misdemeanor, or act, or induce any person to withhold testimony or information or to elude legal process summoning the person to testify or supply evidence;
(5) Communicate false information to any person
(6) Prevent or obstruct any person by means of force intimation or deception from performing any act to aid in the discovery or deception , from performing any act to aid the discovery, apprehension or prosecution of the other person or child.

So, of course we can see from the above code that perhaps Mr. Gordon may have, by means of intimidation, prevented the officers from performing the act of aiding in the discovery, apprehension or prosecution of the other person or child. However, whether he did so with purpose which is defined as, "intended", is open to question. Perhaps the officers at the scene were not aware of Youngstown Municipal Ordinance 525.07 Obstructing Official Business, or 509.05 Misconduct at an Emergency. This code states that, No person shall knowingly do any of the following: (3) fail to obey the lawful order of any law enforcement officer engaged in the law enforcement officer's duties at the scene of or in connection with a fire, accident, disaster, riot, or emergency of any kind. The legal definition of "emergency" is a sudden, unforeseeable happening which requires action to correct.

In any case the crime is a misdemeanor, as is "Solicitation". However, if you are a man from Poland, you're not soliciting, you're looking for "female companionship". Note that the article does not make mention of the fact that the man from Poland was engaged in a crime called Solicitation, nor is any mention made that he was charged with that crime. My question is WHY? I have known of many persons who have been charged with a crime while in the hospital. The fact that the Poland Man was harmed should not have prevented this, and most likely would not been prevented had he been working class, poor, black or Hispanic.
Section 533.09 of Youngstown Municipal Ordinances states:
"(a) No person shall solicit another to engage with such other person in sexual activity for hire.(b) Whoever violates this section is guilty of soliciting, a misdemeanor of the third degree for the first offense. For the second and subsequent offenses such person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.
(c) If a person is convicted of or pleads guilty to a violation of any provision of this section or an attempt to commit a violation of any provision of this section, and if the person, in committing or attempting to commit the violation, was in, was on, or used a motor vehicle, the court in addition to or independent of all other penalties imposed for the violation shall impose upon the offender a class six suspension of the person's driver's license..."


What is privilege? Privilege is about how society accommodates you. It's about advantages you have that you think are normal. Privilege is pervasive and largely invisible to those who have it. Peggy McIntosh in White Privilege- Unpacking the Knapsack, states, "Whites are taught not to recognize white privilege as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. White privilege is like a invisible knapsack of special provisions; maps, passports, code books,visas, clothes, tools and blank checks." This article clearly portrays the level of white privilege, class privilege, and male privilege that goes unchecked in our area. More than likely had Mr. Poland Man been from Youngstown, and of a lower economic status, he would have been charged with solicitation, although the fact that he is male may still have prevented his name from being placed in the paper . This would be due to the double standard and the fact that sexism is unfortunately still with us. Never mind the fact that Mr. Poland Man's story doesn't hold water. Purely speculation on my part, but when was the last time someone got shot in the stomach while they were running away from the perp. What, was he running backward? How about he was trying to rip off the prostitutes and they got mad? Perhaps too, Mr. Gordon wasn't such an innocent either, perhaps he was their pimp, but in any case, the neighbors said he was not outside at the time of the shooting. I'm sorry that Mr. Poland Man was hurt, I truly am, but why does that prevent him from having his license taken away? I'm also sorry that the headline of the article could lead someone just skimming the paper to believe, "oh my, yet another shooting in Youngstown" never mind that Mr. Poland Man contributed to the incident. Hmm, now that is some food for thought.

Please see below for comments:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Time Bank of the Mahoning Watershed

In my recent blog about Scrooge's Auto Shop I placed a link to the Time Bank of the Mahoning Watershed. Since that time I have been approached for information about the time bank and how it works. The Time Bank is a service exchange program based on Time Dollars, the currency of equality that empowers individuals to utilize their assets to enhance their lives, neighborhood, and community. Time Banking is a community of people supporting each other. The way it works is an individual volunteers to do "X" amount of hours of service performing tasks in which he or she is skilled. The hours when worked are deposited in the time bank. Then when the individual needs a service performed he or she has time dollars to spend. You go to the bank and see who is offering the required skill, contact that person, and make arrangements.
The Time Bank is organized around five core values:
1. Assets- We are all assets. Every human being has something to contribute.
2. Redefining Work - Some work is beyond price. Work has to be redefined to value whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, and make the planet sustainable.
3. Reciprocity - Helping works better as a two-way street.
4. Social Networks - We need each other. People helping each other create supportive communities, strength and trust.
5. Respect - respect demands accountability.

If you are interested in signing up to participate or learning more about the Time Bank, please go to the Time Bank for Mahoning Watershed.

Wine Tasting to Benefit Art Youngstown

The Art Youngstown Inaugural Exhibition was a huge success as you can see from the photo. I don't believe any of us expected the hoards of people that came out for the opening. One thing the success of this exhibit clearly indicates is that Youngstown is hungry for art and a gallery to view it in. Art Youngstown hopes to continue to bring events such as this exhibit to downtown Youngstown and to this end a wine tasting will be held to benefit Art Youngstown on Saturday, February 16, 2008 from 7:00p.m. until 10:00 p.m. at the Youngstown Club. Emerine Estates Winery will be providing ten wines for tasting and hors d'oeuvres. Tickets are $25.00 per person and may be purchased in advance by calling Emerine Estates at (330) 519-5415, and will also be sold at the door the evening of February 16th. There will be a cash bar for spirits and dining will be made available through the Youngstown Club all evening. Reservations start at 5:00 p.m. A silent auction will also be held.

The Youngstown Club

The Youngstown Club is located at 201 East Commerce Street 5th Floor in downtown Youngstown. The Youngstown Club is a century old city club founded in 1902. It offers its members food, service, and an atmosphere unsurpassed in excellence. The Youngstown Club will be giving a 30 day trial membership at the wine tasting benefit for Art Youngstown to all of those that dine-in that evening and show their $25.00 wine tasting ticket purchase. Reservations may be made by calling (330) 744-2177. The club offers free secured parking. Business attire is required to attend the event.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Director of Events, Special Projects, and Community Outreach

Today's Vindicator announced that Phil Kidd will be taking over the position of Director of Events. Special Projects, and Community Outreach. I want to offer my congratulations to Phil Kidd for a job well done! As many know, Phil started this job some time ago, albeit without the job title. He has been everywhere in our community, doing outreach, attending special events, and providing ideas for special projects. I thought it was interesting that the Vindicator article noted that city council still considers the job to be one of unskilled labor. I take issue with this, and think that perhaps council needs to be made more aware of the responsibilities that this position entails, or should entail. This position requires great skill in organizing, knowledge of marketing and promotion, budgeting, and most importantly this job requires a skilled negotiator. I think it is important that council recognize the fact that it is through events and special projects that Youngstown can acquire a reputation for being a progressive city and attract the attention of those who have not in the past made Youngstown a destination for night life or culture.

Although, I think that council needs to raise its awareness of the importance of the position I also commend them on their choice of Phil Kidd for the job . Since he arrived on the Youngstown scene he has devoted his personal time to promotion and support of those working to revitalize Youngstown. I often find it humorous that Phil manages to be in so many places. His attendance at so many events is testament to his level of energy and his dedication. I recall one evening when I was standing outside the Oakland Theater speaking with some friends, when Phil came by, jaunted up the steps, only to come running back down a few moments later, his ever present tie flying in the wind. I stopped him in mid-flight, and asked him why he wasn't staying for the show. He said that he couldn't stay but had wanted to make a donation. Although this is indicative of Phil Kidd's dedication to all things Youngstown, more important is his commitment to creating alliances, and minimizing divisiveness. He is open to new ideas, and truly understands that if Youngstown is to become the progressive city we all want to live in, it will only be created by working in collaboration with one another. We're ready, let the show begin!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year 2008 from Youngstown, Ohio

YouTube - 8 Balls at Cedars - Youngstown, Ohio

The holiday season in Y-town is the best,no question about it! The community in Youngstown is awesome! Every night from December 21 until January 1, 2008 something interesting and exciting was happening in our city. All of the events culminated in a celebration of First Night, December 31, in downtown. The holiday season's schedule of events had an upside which is evident as a good time was had by all, but it also had a downside, the inability to be in more than one place at a time. December 22, 2007 while I was hosting Nut Night, some good friends of mine were having a musical reunion of sorts at the Cedars Lounge. For those unfamiliar with Cedars Lounge it is located on Hazel Street in downtown and has served as the home of Youngstown's underground musical scene since 1981. Its walls are covered with local and regional art and the cafe serves Lebanese and American food. Many Y-towners believe that Cedars is a vortex that everyone should experience, preferably on a summer night when the patio is open, or on a winter's evening, when the place is so crowded everyone is warmed by body heat; or sweating because they have been dancing non-stop for hours. So here as a tribute, I have included video of my good friends the 8 Balls. I wish them all a Happy New Year, and many more band reunions!

YouTube - 8 Balls at Cedars - Youngstown, Ohio